Norman L. Myers
Norm Myers, the CWO
Norm Myers, the Revolutionary Patriot
Norm Myers, Tim Myers and John Myers at Parris Island, 10-27-06
I'd like to share Norm's cordial email with the rest of the fleet:
|Good afternoon Derick from sunny
Winter Park, Florida:
I too was in the Mine Force aboard the USS Staff AM-114 home based in Charleston, SC 1952-1953. I don't believe that our paths ever crossed but I did really enjoy my two years aboard the Staff. I'm attaching a brief summary of my time on the Staff. My total service was 5 years active and 19 years in the active reserve - 24 years of service. Made it from SR May 1952 at Great Lakes to full retirement as a CWO3 in 1974. The attachment, of course, covers only the two years aboard the Staff. A point of interest that after my retirement from Columbus Ohio's Children's Hospital in 1994 I became very involved in my family genealogical research. Dad's family is now back to 1756 and Mom's to 1500. Because of my third great grandfather's service in the Rev. War I am now a member of the SAR - The Sons of the American Revolution and am currently President of the Central Florida Chapter of the SAR. Being the good Navy man that I am, I just couldn't bring my self to wear the colonial militia/army type uniform so had a custom job made so in all of our public appearance's I wear my 1777 version of Captain John Paul Jones uniform with sword and does it get attention from the young people. In fact my family military history book from the Rev. War to Iraq was just accepted by the Library of Congress. What a thrill this was. I closed the book with a report on my Grandson Tim, now a Marine serving on the USS Tarawa (LAH-1) and just returned to his home port at Camp Pendleton California from a tour of the Middle East. His Dad my eldest served 20 in the Army and me with 24 in the Navy so when Tim graduated from Parris Island Basic Training in 2006, we both wore our uniforms to his graduation -- 3 generations of military in three different branches of the service together at the same time. Well Derick, here comes the report on my Mine Sweeper duty. If I can get the photos together I will send to you separately my picture in both my modern day Navy and Colonial Navy uniforms.
Good luck with touching base with your former shipmates and other navy friends.
The Ole Salt, Norm Myers
PORTS OF CALL FOR THE USS STAFF AM-114
DURING MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE
5 MAY 1953 THRU OCTOBER 1953
by Norm Myers
All aboard for "Boot Camp" at Great Lakes, Illinois – May 12, 1952
USS Staff shipmate Skip Stermer.
(Picture taken 2007 in Winter Park, Florida)
USS Staff (AM-114)
This was probably taken before entering Malta
21 APRIL 1953
1530 Hours: Got underway from Mine Craft Basin, Charleston, S.C. for 6 month tour of duty in the Mediterranean Sea area with the Sixth Fleet.
4 MAY - 9 MAY 1953
After transiting the Strait of Gibraltar and at 0900 Hours on May 4, 1953 COMINDIV 82 arrived at Tangier, Africa. There was no liberty for first couple of days due to weather conditions and the harbor was very rough from high winds. In fact we were dragging anchor because of these conditions. The town was built on a hill. There was a real clash of architecture between the modern and the older parts of the City. Most of the people in the old part of the city appeared to be less concerned about the quality of their appearance. Merchants were out to get the U.S. dollar and they didn't care how they got it. I bought a camel skin handbag and a scarf for Sue. I went ashore one time (which was enough) as a tourist and a couple other times to play 2 softball games with the locals while there .The Old City was quite drab and the streets seemed to be about two arms length wide. One unusual happening, at least compared to U.S. standards, was when we were in taxi going to a softball game the driver encountered young lads playing ball in the street. The driver, after blowing his horn to no avail, st opped picked up one of the boys and spanked his bottom, sat him on the edge of the road and we then went on our merry way.
From Tangier we conducted military exercises during the week and the next weekend we dropped anchor in Assignor, Sardinia. There was no actual fun-type bar-hopping liberty here because the Communists were rallying pretty strong but because some of us were members of the softball team so one could go ashore for games with the other ships. All ships were refueled and stores brought aboard and underway by Monday. Sardinia is an Island off the coast of Italy near Corsica. According to local Lore, this was a really heavy-bombed place during WWII.
What a change, by every type of measurement, it was to make port at Nice, France. We were here from the 23rd of May through the 27th. Nice is a beautiful part of the French Rivera. Here we were able to tie up at piers in Villa France instead of anchoring out like the larger ships. Great opportunity for the crew to do some swimming and sight seeing on the beaches of Nice and what with a sight with all the bikinis on the beach. On liberty day, lots of us took a tour that included a visit to Monte Carlo, the perfume factories, several old castles and other villages high in the mountains. Most of us did get a chance to try some of the French food at sine if the less costly restaurants. The temperature started to rise nicely so it did in fact became extremely hot during the day. The evening hours, however, cooled down and we would show our U.S. movies on the fantail of the ship instead of going below decks where it was quite warm. This always attracted the attention of the local natives who were out walking along the sidewalks. While there I bought some Channel No. 5 and Joy perfume for my lady. Both were the somewhat uncut version of French perfume and the type you could buy across the counter but its aroma was v ery heavy.
On May 27th our Task Force left Nice and cruised on north to St. Rafael France conducting numerous military maneuvers as we went. This was really a nice little town. Hot weather continued. On our first liberty a couple of buddies and I spent the day at the beach. My next shore time was to play a basketball game with a group from the French Army. Man did they stomp us. Their rules, which we didn't understand, were dramatically different than ours and to make the game even worse, the Court was outside on dirt which caused for a lot of dust that made it rough to breathe. We learned quickly that sucking on lemons was the thing to do to quell the dust.
By the way we were not here for just fun and games. Each week we spent time at sea with the other ships of our Group and conducted many military maneuvers and special training. It was just the weekends that we would get liberty in a different port. During this cruise, I spent almost 30 days aboard because of all the ships logs and the mountain of paper work that had to be done. I was unable to keep current because during all of our exercises since I was the Captain's phone-talker on the Bridge. This left very little time to complete my regular duties. The other senior rated yeomen had all been transferred before we left Charleston so the administrative office force was pretty small.
From St. Raphael we did those "anchors aweigh" deals and set sail for the British Island of Malta. Its size is about 15 miles long and 5 miles wide. The local public relations reported that this was the "most" bombed place during WWII and there were still many scars from those battles. At this time many of the buildings were still in ruin. Here we were treated to the hottest temperatures yet. While here, we allowed some forty British Wrens (same as our Waves) aboard for a day at sea with dinner and a tour of the ship. These were the first people who we were able to talk with and understand what they were saying. The fortification around this Island was absolutely mind boggling -- no wonder it held up so well throughout the war.
Then onto Greece. We spent some time in the Cities of Pardis and Patrai. What places -- seems to be made up of totally dusty dirt and extremely hot. The temperature really soared. It's difficult to imagine living below decks on these steel ships with no air-conditioning. Between our visits to these two towns, the 6th fleet together with a number of other countries conducted two major NATO war exercises which I believe were called "Operation Weld Fast near Kavalla & the Island of Tharos and Operation Dragex III in the Kikladres Islands area." A couple of interesting happenings took place during these war games. One involved me and the bottom line was that I almost ran the ship aground. Because of the limited size of our ship's crew and being active for 14 days in these games, many of us were involved with collateral duties with which we were not necessarily trained to do. For example, I was assigned duties with the navigator, which required us to move through mine fields and clear the area so that the rest of the Fleets and troops could maneuver to their battle location. The Navigator and I would alternate taking readings from the lighted buoys on shore in order to plot a course for the Captain to take us through and clear the mines. On one of these nights, late into the exercises, I was complimented by the Captain for the outstanding course I was plotting through the mine fields but alas my joy was short lived because sometime during the night I had shifted my readings from the shore buoys to the lighted buoys were towing on our minesweeping gear. Fortunately we were able to correct this problem just short of running aground.
The other major occurrence while in Greece dealt with some catastrophic conditions. All NATO programs completed and the Group had left Greece for our next Port of Call when we were ordered back near the area we had just left because of a strong earthquake that had hit this area. The entire 6th fleet did an about face and went to flank speed with a course for Greece. While the auxiliary and other types of vessels were assisting with the damage, death and injured, we minesweepers encountered a rather unusual set of circumstances. It seems that the earthquake had caused some of the old WWII mines to dislodge from the bottom of the harbor and float to the surface. There was no question but that the mines were too old and sensitive to recover so our 20MM guns were fired into the mines for detonation. I believe that we had seen our fill of Greece and since we had completed our duties earthquake duties off to sea we went at full speed.
Yahoo, no not the website name, we returned to beautiful Marseilles, France. Weather continues to be hot but nothing like Malta. I believe that I enjoyed Nice and Cannes more than Marseilles but I still was able to have a very good time. Got some pictures and drank a few brews. We tied up right in the center of town so again there was no need for using liberty boats. The modesty here is just about what all the stories have reported – really skimpy clothing and bathing attire. From our dock there are houses or apartment buildings down both sides and some of the sights would get rather unusual. Yesterday a couple came out on their window balcony to view the city wearing only their "birthday suit" and I don't think any of them ever heard about window shades. There were two submarines tied up outboard of us and every now and then they would raise periscope. Couldn’t imagine what they saw until we discovered they were watching the French ladies su n bathe on the roofs of their apartment buildings and, of course, in the nude. We enjoyed quite a time of celebration while here. It was their Bastille Day and our Fourth of July so all the ships, sailboats, yachts, the City and our minesweepers were in full dress with colorful banners. Well, all good things must come to an end but I believe they would get even better since we headed back south to Cannes.
The Riviera, Oh wow, that's the place to be. Cannes is very beautiful and as I recall it is one of the where the famous "Cannes Film Festival" is held. It is also one of the prime vacations spots for people from all over the World. It is without question one of the most beautiful cities that we visited. Here, unfortunately, we had to anchor out some distances from the city. The local officials kept the piers open for all the beautiful Yachts and other personal sailing vessels -- you know how it is those with money get the prime docking space. This was not too bad, however, because each morning many of the Yachts and other pleasure craft would pass near us on their way out to sea for the day and most had their decks covered with beautiful nude women. Not being close to the great beaches, we simply considered the ship to be our beach and dove off the side for a good swim. We had swim-call pretty regular because the temperature was still quite hot. We didn't experience any earthquakes here like in Greece, but did create our very own emergencies. Two Liberty Boats wrecked but fortunately no one received serious injury nor was anyone killed. Okay, it's is once again Monday and time to sail off into the Sunrise.
The week of August 7-11 had us in Messina, Sicily where we arrived at about 0800. The city was older looking that most of the others we had visited. It was time for another ship's party on the beach. The Navy furnished 40 cases of beer that were stored right outside my office door all during the cruise. The food was unlimited. For beach fun we had a healthy football game. Most of us were so sore the next day and had trouble getting up much less walking. On entering this Port, we were able to see sunken WWII ships that were sticking up out of the water … quite a sight. My early remembrances of Sicily concerned the stories I heard from two Uncles who were involved in the big Anzio Beachhead landing. It was interesting that as one walked through the town, you could still see all the shell and bullet holes in the walls and buildings. All of the visited towns and their residents up to this time were very friendly, if you could understand or figure out what they were saying. From here we headed to the land of real pizza.
Italy was our next country and the first Port of Call was Livorno. Don't have much knowledge of this town because I didn't go ashore here. Thought that if I didn't get on with the paper work in my office I would never again be able to get in and sit at my desk. The Deck Logs and other official correspondence that needed typed was about knee deep. I was really saving up for our next port, Naples.
My first order of business after docking in Naples was to find my Springfield neighbor and buddy, Ben Parker. He entered the Navy about a year prior to me and had given me all the ins and outs about "Boot Camp". His advice really paid off. Ben was stationed full time in Naples, what duty … I believe they were actually welded to the Pier. Naples is a very beautiful city along with the neighboring Island of Capri. Touring, eating and shopping took up most of our time. We did have another Basketball game here. We played the USS Macomb DMS-25. Would like to say that we won but we experienced a big loss. I won't even report the actual score. We also played a couple more games while here with teams from the Italian Navy/Army and a local group. Weather began to cool a little, as least it was bearable. We skipped up the coast a short distance to LaSpezia and then tied up outboard of a couple of ships of the including the USS YELLOWSTONE.
Here, again, the Communists were very strong so we had to be very careful of our activities while ashore. I went into the city long enough to purchase a beautiful bedspread and a 400 day clock. We also played a couple of softball games here. Things got a little hairy here one evening. It seems that a cab driver took a package to the quarterdeck of the Yellowstone saying that one of its sailors had left it in his cab. Due to the quick thinking of the OOD, a serious explosion was averted. After carefully opening the package it was discovered that the package contained a time bomb. All ended well --- I did a little more shopping and bought my mother a special clock and a cameo necklace. Speaking of gifts, at various ports I purchased something for most of my family members.
BUM BOATS (about the size of Row Boats) as we called them would be waiting for us to enter the harbor. As we entered every port, the small merchant boats would meet us at the entrance to the harbor and begin begging or trying to sell their wares. Most times they became real pests. In one place they got so aggressive that the sailors of one ship had to use its fire hoses to chase the natives away.
Si Si Senorita. Up the river Quadalquivir and through the woods we made our way to Seville, Spain. Because of having to use the tides to enter and leave, we spent ten days at Seville from the 5th to the 14th of September. It was reported that our trip to Seville took us 60 miles inland and at times the river got very shallow. This, supposedly, was the first time the USS STAFF had ever touched fresh water. What a sight for young eyes from America -- many of the villages along the river were made of mud with thatched roofs and appeared to have no floors. The farm animals just walked in and out as if it was their house and maybe it was. I had never seen sights like this in the U.S. even way down in the country of southern Ohio where I once lived. As we entered the harbor/pier area the locals had to raise their big drawbridge and as we went through they dropped oranges, other fruit and roses onto our ship. As reported in an earlier note, I thought it was getting cooler but we were in for a surprise. On several days here the temperature hit 105. While in Seville, our sister ship and we held open house for the town’s people. Even tho our two ships were small, each staff conducted at least 1,000 people on guided tours.
We played several basketball games with local teams. The newspaper reported that in one game we had defeated their professional team --- it could have been a University or High School for all we knew. Like in other countries, we played outdoors on courts of dirt. Here we remembered our past games on dirt courts and found again that sucking on lemons would keep the dust out of the throat. You can see that I am writing more about out visit to Seville but we were able to do and see more because of the length of our visit. The Crews were treated to a couple of very colorful and but gory "Bull Fights." We sailors created a severe problem at these arenas because we cheered for the bull instead of the Matadors and Picadors. The Spaniards did not take that very well. Several of us went on a guided tour of the area. WOW … it is a "City Beautiful." We got to see the King’s summer Palace, Tomb of the unknown, Tower of Gold, a great Cathedral (one of the largest in the world) together with many many other fantastic, scenic and historical sites. Well, early on the 14th we made preparations for our long and very slow transit of the river that would take us back to the Mediterranean. As when we made our trip up the river, we again had to use a Pilot to get us safely back to the Sea.
One more trip back to France was in order so Golfe Juan here we come. We spent from the 21st to the 25th of September at this location. Basically this was a working visit for supplies and refueling since this was to be our last official Port of Call before being relieved in Sicily. A little shore time and some more sports and we raised anchor and headed to sea and toward the U.S.A.
Palermo Sicily would be our last stop but simply for a Change of Command. We would be relieved by another 6th fleet group that would begin their "good will" trip through the Mediterranean. It was a long, sometime boring five and half months but an experience that I will never forget. For a 21-year-old, I was able to see parts of the world that I may never see again.
Well off we go to join the thousands of beautiful Porpoise, Whales and Sharks for our trip across the Atlantic and back to Charleston, South Carolina.
An interesting personal note: Up to this time we were never quite certain as to when we would be relieved and on what date we would arrive in Charleston. My problem was that Sue and I were planning (or should I say Sue, due to my absence) a November 7th wedding without knowing if I was, in fact, going to be given Leave early enough to make it home for the wedding. I was really going at "full speed", once approval was given I head for Springfield, Ohio in order to join Sue and take our marriage vows. As if the above wasn't nerve racking enough, we walked out of the church into a snowstorm that made our "Honey Moon" travel more hazardous than anything we had encountered in the Med.
To summarize, our Mediterranean cruise included visits to the following countries:
FRANCE: Monaco, Nice, Golfe Juan, Cannes, St. Raphael, Toulon and Marseille
GREECE: Patrai and Paradis
ITALY: Leghorne, LaSpezia, Naples and Capri
SICILY: Messina and Palermo
MALTA: The British Island
Also, we sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar and the Balearic Lands together with the following Seas: Ligurian, Tyrrhenian, Ionian, Aegean and of course, the Atlantic Ocean.
"This is the end of my 1953 cruise of the Mediterranean"
see Norm's ship, the USS Staff (AM-114)
Derick S. Hartshorn -