U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Howard Goodrich
Interviewer: Nick Perillo
PERILLO: I will be interviewing Howard Goodrich, who served aboard the USS Little Rock, CL 92. We are at the 16th annual reunion of the USS Little Rock Association in Buffalo, New York. The purpose of this interview is to get to know Howard, and from his recollections learn more about his life and duty as an enlisted man aboard the USS Little Rock, CL 92, during his tenure of service.
Howard, when did you join the service?
GOODRICH: February 29, 1948.
PERILLO: And when did you leave?
GOODRICH: I left the ship July 2, 1949.
PERILLO: For background, Howard, how about summarizing your early life, your education, your work, before you joined the Navy.
GOODRICH: I went to high school until 1947 when I got a job at Continental Can Company. On February 29, 1948, I went down to the city hall in Baltimore and signed up for the Navy with my buddy. Later on that day, my dad had to come down and sign for me because I was only seventeen. At five o’clock that afternoon they put us on the B&O train in Camden Station, Baltimore, and sent us to Great Lakes Navy Training Center, in Waukegan, Illinois.
We arrived there the next day and I was assigned Company 86 and started my basic training in Great Lakes. I spent twelve weeks there and got my orders to report to the Little Rock, which was up in Newport, Rhode Island, at the time. I spent seven days on leave and reported to her on June 7, 1948.
PERILLO: Howard, what was your initial impression of the ship when you first saw her?
GOODRICH: Well, the ship was at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, for Boy Scout Week when I arrived in Newport, and we had to wait for them to send launches into Newport to pick us up and take us up to the ship. Of course, we didn’t arrive there till after midnight, and in the moonlight I could see the ship coming up. My impression of the ship was that it was the biggest warship I’d ever seen. They told us to grab our sea bags and get up the gangway. I never thought I’d get to the main deck it was such a large ship. The impression it made on me was awesome.
PERILLO: Howard, what was your first division, your department assignment, your watch station and GQ station?
GOODRICH: I was assigned to the 4th Division that night. My GQ station was Mount 6, a 5-inch/38 twin mount. I was also a lookout, so on the first week of training I did lookout duty.
PERILLO: Describe the ship’s cruises and operations while you were aboard.
GOODRICH: Well, we left Newport, Rhode Island in late June and we went to Marblehead, Massachusetts to take the place of the USS Marblehead, that was lost during World War II in the South Pacific. And that was called “Marblehead Days”. We took part in a ceremony for that ship that was lost in the war.
We got back to Newport, went out on several maneuvers, running the ship at flank speed and doing some gunnery practice off of Rhode Island.
PERILLO: How about any interesting ports of call that you made? Didn’t you take a Med tour? Mediterranean?
GOODRICH: Yes. We left for the Mediterranean in early September in 1948, arriving in Gibraltar around the end of the month. We visited a lot of ports in the Mediterranean. Interesting places were Palermo, Sicily; up and down the coast of Greece; Athens; and France. We spent Christmas of 1948 and New Year’s and into ’49 in Marseilles. The ship was lit up like a Christmas tree. We spent two weeks there.
One of the highlights was probably Oran, North Africa, because it looked like the American troops just pulled out of there. The Germans left their submarines there, about forty or fifty of them there, tied up to buoys. It was an awesome sight.
Another interesting place was Crete. We were sent to the island of Crete when the Communists were trying to take it over. They were fighting with the Turks at that time and the Rock was sent there to evacuate all American personnel. We took the Americans that were on the island out to the harbor to relocate them onto some other ships that were more equipped to carry American citizens.
PERILLO: Howard, how were living conditions on the ship, the quality of the food, the gedunks, barbershop, and laundry?
GOODRICH: We had everything aboard. The gedunk stands were great. The food was great on the ship…I had no complaint about that. We had everything we wanted. At the barbershop, you could get your haircut (chuckle) and visit with other people that were aboard the Rock at that time. There was a Marine detachment on board. We had about 120 Marines on there and we commingled with them quite often. Often, they were just sitting around when we were out at sea and just enjoying the sights of foreign lands.
PERILLO: Howard, can you recall any moments of great shock, fear, or excitement on any of your tours?
GOODRICH: Yes. Before we left for the Med we were sent out for work-up training, as the Navy says, but we got into a hurricane in late August, about the 15th. For about three or four days no one was allowed topside. We had a very scary incident because we had taken on more ammunition than we could hold down in the magazines, and we had to store the rounds around the ammunition hoist on the 5-inch mount, Mount 6. We had to tie them up and secure them as best we could. There were about fifty extra projectiles and more powder cases than we could hold. So we had to stack them and tie them in.
During the night they broke loose. After midnight, we heard all this rumbling around up in the gun mount, and the first-class gunner’s mate and another seaman went up to investigate what the problem was with all this noise coming from that gun mount. We found all these projectiles and powder cases just rolling around and busted and all over the deck. and hydraulic fluid was all over the deck. Four of the guys handed the projectiles out and we took them outside the mount during the run of the hurricane. Nobody was allowed on deck, but we had to get rid of these projectiles. They were all broken open and the VT fuses were hanging out of them. The first-class told us to chuck them over and get back to the gun mount and get inside before the next wave hit.
PERILLO: Howard, what was your overall impression of your tour on the Little Rock?
GOODRICH: It was simply great. I was a seventeen-year-old, then celebrated my eighteenth birthday aboard the Rock in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was just a fabulous impression of the Navy life. I loved it. And I think I’d have stayed in the Navy, but other circumstances took over from there, so I couldn’t do it.
PERILLO: Howard, how long have you been a member of the Little Rock Association? And how many reunions have you attended?
GOODRICH: I joined the Little Rock Association in 1993 and I have attended seven of the reunions during my time. I would have attended more but due to medical problems I couldn’t make some of the reunions.
PERILLO: Howard, any final thought or observation you would like to include in this interview?
GOODRICH: I think it’s a good bunch of guys. I’ve loved attending all the reunions and I enjoyed every one of them…Boston; Little Rock, Arkansas; Norfolk; and of course, up here in Buffalo. Where else did we go? I can’t think. The trips back to the Little Rock bring back a lot of memories.
PERILLO: Thank you, Howard. This ends the interview with Howard Goodrich. We want to thank Howard for taking the time to give us this interview and to put his recollection of his tour and time aboard the USS Little Rock. Thank you.
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