Don Jones - 1961
Don Jones - 2008
Don Jones recently wrote to me and shared similar experiences.
Here's what he wrote:
Hi Derick -
I worked for the Navy for 49 years and six months (32 active & 17 plus as a civilian for ONI).
Stories & so-called facts heard about Azuma Island, sometimes called Baka-Shima (you may have heard some of these already):
I can't vouch for the accuracy of some of this stuff, you know how sailor's stories tend to get embellished and more interesting with each retelling. We called your "dock crane," the Hammerhead Crane, because of its shape. Supposedly, during the War, it was used to load small subs (Kaiten?) on the maindeck of large subs. These and some of the others were Classified Ops and poisonous snakes, called mamushi, were put on the island to help scare-off intruders. Sometimes, while I was there, the Japanese grass-cutters would come across a mamushi and there would be quite a stir until it was dispatched. We heard that "Alert Aircraft" could be launched while an aircraft carrier was sitting at the pier. Supposedly, this procedure had been successfully tested. Our sailors on Azuma were more concerned about one of these planes crashing into the oil-tanks on Azuma and starting an uncontrollable fire than they were concerned about an accidental explosion in one of our magazines. I found that a little odd. Thousands of so-called Seahawks roosted on Azuma at night. I learned early-on to run for cover if you were outside when the Seahawks were disturbed by a passing ship and took flight. During their short night flights they would lighten the load by pooping an unbelievable amount per bird. One day while I was on the pier, an Officer came rushing out of the main office and told me to take him in our only LCVP to our headquarters (name?) across the bay. I had never been in or checked out on the LCVP, but after thinking to myself (How hard could it be?) decided to take a crack at it. While the Officer was fumbling with his papers, I was fumbling with every knob and switch I could see. I was lucky, the thing roared to life and I took him where he wanted to go. And that's how I added LCVP operator to my resume.
PS: I also knew/served with Chin Sing (Whidbey Island & Long Beach), Beckwith (Long Beach), and Rebbetoy (Hawaii).
I remember part of a story someone (probably a diver) told me that the Japanese hid something underwater in Yokosuka Harbor that they didn't want the Occupation Forces to find. Navy divers found the object and it was recovered. At this point, I can't remember what it was, but it must have been heavy because it had been placed in the water with one of the large dockside cranes. I wonder if it could have been the Kaiten (possibly scuttled) that is on display near the main gate. I've tried several searches on the Internet, but so far I haven't had any luck.You got any old diver buddies that might know something about recovery of something from the bottom of Yokosuka Harbor?
Believe it or not, I lost a boxing bout in boot camp at San Diego. I was only 17, weighed 150, and my jean size was 30" x 30". They gave each fighter and his corner men a chit-book that you could use to buy goodies at the gee-dunk. So I volunteered to work in the corner for the next smoker. Lots of times, about dark, on Azuma we would use battle lanterns and a long pole with a net attached to catch "blue crabs" along the seawall. It was surprising, like you said, how clear the water was, but the best crabbing was during the incoming tide. Down at the Steam Plant, someone had fabricated a metal box with a lid that would hold a dozen or so big crabs. An attached live steam line with a shutoff valve gave you steamed crabs within just a few minutes. And the Japanese firemen would help you eat them. Do you remember how often they made deepwater ammo dumps and what was the desired water depth? Seems like they were looking for more than 100 fathoms, because we were gone all day long. It makes some sense that they would make the trips as needed, but periodically like once every quarter might work, too. Sailing on weekend duty: Someone had purchased a small sailboat for $50 and kept it on the island. I had never sailed before and was anxious to try it, but I couldn't get anyone to go with me. So "dummy-me" pushed off without a life jacket and no experience. Sailing before the wind was great fun and I ended up over by Oppama. But, getting back to Azuma against the wind was a no-go for a while. Finally, I discovered "tacking" and was actually making some progress, but several large ships moored in the channel kept interfering with the long tacks that I needed. I was getting very frustrated and hours later was actually glad to see someone in the Mike boat coming to check on me. They threw me a line and towed me back to Azuma. And for the next week or so, I was the butt of nasty and hurtful jokes.
Here are some photos Don took. They are probably familiar to many of you.
Hakozaki Army Fuel Depot and FAY base with
the ever-present Dixie (AD-15)
East end of FAY-Yokusuka
taken from the tower on Azuma
Looking toward Oppama with USS Thetis Bay (CVHA-1)
and a Fletcher-class DD (maybe the Fletcher)
Looking toward Oppama with Japanese MSDF LST
Shimokita (LST-4002) or Shiretoko (LST-4003)
Odds & Ends: Piedmont was the name of the main carrier pier right next to our boat landing. The USS Midway was at Yoko while I was there. One night they had a boxing smoker on the hangar deck. I won my fight and while they were making a picture of all the winners, I laid my boxing shoes on the ring apron and someone helped themselves to them. Unfortunately, I had tied my wedding band to the shoe laces so it was gone, too. About 10 of us went TDY from Yokosuka to Okinawa. What a miserable trip. Several of us slept/tried to sleep on benches in the mineshop, but mosquitoes like to have drove us loco. Somehow they were getting inside via the window air conditioners. We worked long days and sometimes into the night trying to finish whatever we were there to help them do, before a certain deadline. We did deepwater ammo dumps from an LCU, several times a year. Leave before daylight, get don't-care-if-you-live-or-die seasick, and come back after dark. We must have dumped half a million bucks worth of overage mine batteries while I was there. Someone looked up mine battery prices in the stock catalog 12067-G, but those numbers have faded from my memory. One day while preparing for my first trip, the question came up as to whether the wooden box filled with mine batteries would sink or float. The weight and cube was stenciled on the box, so knowing that seawater weighed 64 lbs.per cubic ft., there was no doubt in my mind that the box would float. I had to prove it to the E6, by throwing a box of batteries into the water at the pier. It came back to the surface, but we had a rope on it just in case it didn't. Since each battery was inside a plastic bag, someone up-the-chain decided that we needed to punch a hole through each battery with a fire axe. Can you imagine the environmental damage we were doing by all this?
Lamp atop Azuma tower looking toward FAY
IN MEMORY OF VERNIE ALENE JONES - 1926-2009
My beloved wife of almost 50 years, Vernie Alene Jones, died while peacefully asleep at 8:30 PM today, 16 March, 2009. The Drs had ruled out a stroke because there was no paralysis or other signs of a stroke. She did have pneumonia and possibly lung cancer. Back pain from a cracked disc (T-5) masked other more serious illnesses since late January. It took a third trip to the emergency room before they would admit her and get serious about treatment. By then it was too late. Many thanks for your prayers, Don Jones, Sherwood, TN.
These pictures represent a great fishing trip off Hawaii. The the big ones are Mahi-Mahi, 42 pounds each. Don Jones took the photos. Can anyone help identify the unknown guys? [hi-res photos available on request.]
Derick S. Hartshorn -