DONALD L HOPKINS
Service Dates=MAY 1941 TO 1947
I was a boilermaker on the PHOENIX CL46 we had one of the beat crews in the navy to my opinion trained & ets. Even with all the troubles of war the navy was part of the happiest days of my life.I was a lad of 17 yrs.when i enterd the NAVY but came out a man well trained for life.
Yes, we were ordered to return to the buoy, You were not given
permission!! I think it was the Chief Boatswain&Mac226;s Mate who screamed, YOU
SONS OF BITCHES, WE&Mac226;RE TRYING TO SAVE OUR ASS, SOME BASTARDS ARE SHOOTING AT
I distinctly remember the DD Pom Pom guns, borrowed from England and being
tested. They must have hit the nose of a torpedo which the plane, at some
50 to 75 foot altitude, was carrying. It disintegrated.
I also recall later hearing the ship's crew scuttlebutt of a rather new
Ensign being chewed out that morning; MISTER, THIS IS NOT THE NAVY OF JOHN
PAUL JONES, WHEN ALL COMBUSTIBLES NOT SECURED WERE THROWN OVERBOARD! when
he had ordered the starboard mahogany gangway jettisoned!
I do recall Lundquist &Mac246; he was Quartermaster alongside my Cape Cod neighbor
Watertight doors were shut as per GQ standard procedure; one man, doing 20
and with a big gut became stuck in the round manhole of the horizontal
hatch. Men, in a rush to get topside shoved hard and a number above pulled
by his arms. He was pulled thru but had some skin scraped off. (If I recall
correctly he was transferred off the ship three days later when we returned
Arriving topside I viewed the repair ship Vestal slowly steaming past with a
large hole at about her second deck slightly aft of port quarter with smoke
coming from the hole. She was run aground ever so carefully at Aiea not too
far from the Navy landing.
A First Class Gunner&Mac226;s Mate (he passed on a few years ago) drafted me as
pointer on a 3" 50 (the two, port and starboard were no good as anti air.)
As I recall, he had us fire at two distant planes which were at low
attitude, when someone shouted "DON'T SHOOT, THEY ARE OURS"; said GM
responded "@$##! THEM, THEY FLY DON'T THEY?" Some other shipmates (I think;
John Rosati, Don Manning*, Frank Ritter and others of the 5" Battery) and I
pulled down the awnings and opened the ready boxes, two for each of the four
guns with 25 rounds in each box. That was the ammo that I will tell you
about later. Shortly after that, I with others, was at the splinter shield
watching for planes. I was about two feet to the right of the muzzle when
some nut squeezed the trigger&Mac247;-one went off and believe me, a 3" 50 is damn
Everything was local control that day. On our way out of the channel a PBY,
some 200 feet above and coming straight towards us, signaling SUB IN
CHANNEL. I at that time was on a 50 cal and observed a DD coming up on our
starboard side, siren wailing to let us know he was passing. Tom, he passed
us with some six to eight feet to starboard &Mac246; I do not exaggerate! He
passed us and headed for some disturbance ahead, dropping two charges,
obviously set shallow. They went off and we were so close by then that our
foredeck was drenched by the blast. A minute or two later, we saw two to
three waterspouts about a half mile to starboard. A sub had fired fish at
us, but they exploded on the outer reefs.
As per the computer picture you sent, we were doing only a crawl, bodies in
water and passing thru the channel about opposite the drydock where the BB
Pennsylvania was with the two DDs. Someone spotted a man in water; a line
was tossed, he grabbed same and same and some 8, 10, 15 (who knows exactly)
men ran down the deck with the line. I still think that he was pulled clear
out of the water in such a rush that he didn't touch the side of the ship.
His name was Waters GM 1/C from one of the destroyers head of the
Pennsylvania. He had been blown out of his shoes, thru the air, over the
side of the drydock and CAME TO IN THE CHANNEL&Mac247;you figure out the distance!!
A day or two later the ship's doctor discovered that that sharp pain in
Water's buttock was from a needle-like piece of shrapnel.
A bit later, passing what was left of the docks, we heard from a sailor one
of a number there, who shouted "GO GET THE SONS OF BITCHES!" The sub net
signaled C-L-O-S-I-N-G N-E-T -- S-U-B-S" Phoenix replied "COMING THRU"
again;"CLOSING NET"; we replied: "OPEN OR WE CUT IT"; we got out together
with two 4-pipe light cruisers and I believe four or five DD&Mac226;s. As soon as
we cleared the channel, we picked up speed and vacated the area.
I'll always remember that evening when we finally had chow". Our cooks just
tossed whatever they had at hand into the galley kettle and turned the steam
on, resulting in one of the most appetizing bowls of stew I ever enjoyed.
No one went below the second and third decks that night and for one or two
other nights until the captain put out orders that 2nd and 3rd decks must
be kept clear &Mac246; go to your bunk compartments!
I wont go into details about the next three to four months, but operating
out of Freemantle sometime in March/April of 1942, we sortied (that&Mac226;s
Navyspeak for getting underway) out and into the Indian Ocean to, as we
heard later, test our 5 25 Cal. Secondary Battery. We fired some 50
rounds &Mac246; some set for 5 second fuses. NOT ONE WORKED AS FLAK, NOT ONE
EXPLODED ON IMPACT! Then another 50 rounds were fired &Mac246; ZILCH! The only
result was that we, the gunnery gang, had to sponge out and clean all gun
barrels &Mac246; two on starboard and two on port!
I won&Mac226;t bother you with the details as to disposal of bad ammo and later
replacement with good ammo. The crud was put on a barge to be sunk some
five miles off shore. Some 20 months later, after lots of operation as
MacArthur&Mac226;s Navy (I met him personally when he put his hand on my
shoulder, telling me how important my work was) in the SW Pacific where we
fired some 500 plus rounds at Jap shore defenses with no return fire, only
to find out we knocked out coconut logs painted black, we found ourselves in
the Philadelphia Naval Yard. We went to the ammo ship for replacement; some
100 rounds were taken aboard when W.G. Winchell suspected something out of
whack. Quickly returning from the Gunnery Office with the book, then
Winchell erupted with prime Navy parlance - IT WAS THE AMMO THAT WAS TO BE
DUMPED SOME TWO YEARS AGO!.
*Note: Don manning, on liberty in Perth, Australia, at a restaurant ate 12
fried eggs in one hour! He and Ritter passed away some time ago.
I do not recall the date or the month; however it was sometime during, I
believe, 1944 while my ship, the U.S.S. Phoenix, CL 46, Light Cruiser was
anchored in Manus Island Harbor of the Admiralty Islands Group, South West
Pacific during operations against the Japanese that I and my assistant were
attending to required routine cleaning, oiling, and lubrication where
necessary of number 3 gun of the main deck secondary battery. Number 5 gun
of the battery was a short distance of twenty-five to thirty feet aft, to
the rear of gun 3 with a third gun, number 7 an equi-distance aft of number
5, with responsible gunners and assistants performing maintenance as
The Phoenix, being anchored, as were other ships in the harbor, had a
gangway lowered over the side for whatever personnel coming aboard or
leaving the ship. The gangway at that time was lowered on the starboard side
with the top platform some six feet beyond the metal splinter shield of gun
3. The OOD, Officer of the deck, with assistants of Quartermaster, Marine
orderly and Seaman First Class Messenger were in attendance for quarter deck
duties .One was overheard to announce in a clear voice, "Landing barge
approaching the gangway"; then another remark was heard; "Must be the
recruits coming aboard."