Total Run this Leg:
Total Average Speed: 5.27 Knots
Hours / Days This Leg: 348.5 hours, 14.52 days
Distance To Go This Leg: 1,110.1 Nautical Miles
Estimated Time Of Arrival: 7:00 a.m., Saturday, October 16
Present Course: 117 Degrees, Southeasterly
Winds: Southwest at 10 Knots
Seas: 1 Foot
Swells: 7 Feet from the Southwest
Barometric Pressure: 1010 Millibars
Air Temperature: 80 Degrees
Sea Temperature: 80.5 Degrees
Visibility: 10 Miles
Skies: Mostly Cloudy
Sea Floor: Depths beneath the USS New Jersey at this point ranges between
1,950 and 2,080 Fathoms, or 11,700 and 12,480 Feet.
USS New Jersey this morning has moved well South of the
international border between Mexico and Guatemala. On her 117 Degree Southeasterly
trackline through degrees and minutes of latitude South, she will soon be on the same
parallel with El Salvador, and later, Honduras and Nicaragua. She is currently 148
Miles due South of the port city of Salina Cruz on the Gulfo de Tehuantepec, Mexico.
Jersey's Massive Firepower For Freedom
As the USS New Jersey's 45,000 ton steel armored shell
splashed into the Delaware River on December 7, 1942, she presented the world an image of
dominance, strength beyond her numbers, and a universal sense of confidence.
Her performance in World War II proved that image
correct, and her subsequent battle stations in Korea, Vietnam and Lebanon reinforced it.
Gunner's Mate First Class Charles P. Thommen, Sr., 77, of
Glen Burnie, Maryland, knew well "The Black Dragon's" force capability. He
responsible for handling one of her twenty, 5 inch, 38 caliber guns. He's a
"plank owner" who began his service aboard the battleship even before she was
commissioned on May 23, 1943.
"When we were under attack," he said in a
recent satellite telephone interview from Sea Victory, "or when we were bombarding, I
had a helmet on with earphones. I was near mount eight on the port side, a 5 inch 38
gun mount. As those 16 inchers went off, the whole ship would move sideways,"
The New Jersey carries nine 16 inch 50 caliber big guns
on two huge turrets on the fore deck, and one turret aft. In addition, during World
War II, she used the twenty 5 inch guns Thommen manned, plus sixty four 40
millimeter anti-aircraft guns in 16 quadruple mounts around the ship, and the sixty four
were increased to eighty in late 1943. Finally, she carried forty nine 20 millimeter
anti-aircraft guns when she was commissioned, which were increased to fifty seven during
the Pacific war.
That's a lot of muscle
What was it like firing those guns, or being around them
when they fired, Thommen was asked. "One time, I happened to be near mount 10
which was the deck above me, on the port side, and I happened to lift up the mount at the
hatch to see what was going on, and mount 10 let those 5 inchers go off and it blew my
helmet overboard and I got two busted eardrums with that," he said.
He's able to hear all right today, but the experience was
probably not unique to him. Under fire, or during bombardments, sometimes day and
night for weeks, the noise and emotional surges must have kept those young men right on
the edge of things. There wasn't much time for recreation. There was none.
Nor did the 2,500 men aboard have a lot
of time to know each other. Everyone had a battle station, and stayed there.
"The problem is," said Thommen, "when we
were at war, or out there, we stayed close to our own gun mounts. If we went down
below on the ship, and general quarters is sounded, and we couldn't get to our gun place,
well, if you opened the hatch during the attack, you could get shot. If something
happened to the ship, you could drown somebody if you had open hatches, so we stayed right
in our own division."
Thommen said he even slept near his 5 inch gun mount in
case general quarters was sounded. "I would run right up the ladder to the gun
mount, we stayed close, very close to the gun.
"We knew who the other men were, but we were never
that close to them," Thommen explained. "If he was back aft on the stern
of the ship, and he was in turret one, and general quarters sounded, he'd have one heck of
a time trying to get to that turret ... all the way up forward, 800 some feet farther up,
and if general quarters sounded and you were down below, maybe three or four decks, and if
they set condition "zebra" - which means secure and lock all hatches - then you
better not open one up because you could get shot. "
The Gunner's Mate said they still made a whole lot of
friends aboard the ship. "When you live with the guys like that, you get very
close to them, it's like a family. We just got back from the reunion in Seattle, and
we had about 12 men from the 4th division, and you talk to everybody."
What did they talk about? We didn't ask. It's
their experience, their memories, their glory and their fear and agony. How can a
generation of civilians, know what they know? Thommen told us of one episode,
though, which tells of the things those men saw, and why the USS New Jersey's memory is so
valuable to honor.
"I think we were off of Saipan at the time, we were
bombarding Saipan, that was the Marianas Turkey Shoot. Well, we were firing our
guns, you know, and we sunk a minesweeper, that was the port side that did that, all of
the 5 inch gun mounts, we were using those on the minesweeper. We sunk it. When we
were off of Saipan, you could see the dead bodies floating by the ship as we were
bombarding ... and it was a lot of American Marines, their bodies were floating right past
the ship ... and we were scared, and I don't think anybody else would tell you that they
weren't scared ... but we did the best we could, that's all.
"And I hope we never have to have another one."
Submitted by Bob Wernet onboard the Sea Victory.