U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Allan Yoder
Interviewer: Nick Perillo
PERILLO: I will be interviewing Allan Yoder, who served on the CL 92. We are at the sixteenth annual reunion of the USS Little Rock Association in Buffalo, New York. The date today is July 20, 2007. The purpose of this interview is to get to know Allan and from his recollections learn more about life and duty as an enlisted man aboard the USS Little Rock, CL 92, during his tenure of service from June 1946.
Al, when and where did you join the Navy? Briefly describe boot camp and any schools or other assignments you had before reporting to the USS Little Rock.
YODER: I was a farm boy going to high school. I worked at Burnham Boiler making cores for hand grenades in my spare time.
PERILLO: Al, when and where did you join the Navy? Briefly describe boot camp and any schools or other assignments you had before reporting to the USS Little Rock.
YODER: Joined the Navy in Zanesville, Ohio. I went to boot camp at Norfolk, Virginia.
PERILLO: When and where did you report to the Little Rock?
YODER: It was June 1946 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
PERILLO: What was your initial impression of the Little Rock when you first saw her?
YODER: I was impressed. She was a very handsome ship, and immense.
PERILLO: Al, what were your division and department assignments, jobs, watch stations, and your battle station during GQ?
YODER: I went onboard as a seaman apprentice and advanced to fire controlman second class. I did various jobs in Sky One and Sky Two as range finder, and in Sky Plot as a computer operator. My watch station was in the pilothouse as a helmsman.
PERILLO: Al, describe the ship’s cruises, the operations, or any interesting ports of call when you were aboard.
YODER: We made the best cruise of all, I think. It was the one right after the war. We went to Plymouth, England, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, and through the Kiel Canal in Northern Europe. Then we headed down through Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean to Malta and all those Med ports.
PERILLO: Al, describe the living conditions on the ship. You know, the quality of the food, the ship’s service, the gedunk, barbershop, and any onboard recreations that you remember.
YODER: You could get a haircut in a hurry, I remember that. Gedunks were good. The living conditions were very good, I thought. The bunks were not bad for a 150-pounder. The clean bunks, and everything were great.
PERILLO: Al, tell me about some of your close buddies, some colorful characters among your shipmates.
YODER: Two of my shipmates are being honored tomorrow at the memorial: Jim Cavanaugh and Carl Bergman. Other friends were Frank Vieira, Joe Diaz, Gus Warren, Al Clark, Al King, Luther Farrar, R.C. Brothers, and Norm MacKenzie, to name a few.
PERILLO: Al, can you recall any moments of great shock or fear or excitement while on board?
YODER: Yes, memorable was surviving a hurricane in 1947 that caused so much damage that we had to go into a shipyard in New York for at least two months. I found out later that the ship had a fairly good crack in it; that we were lucky we made it.
PERILLO: Al, do you have any interesting recollections of your leading petty officers, division officers, executive officers, or other leaders in your chain of command?
YODER: The officers I recall were the gunnery officer, Commander Middleton; and the navigator, Commander Hoeppner, I think it was. We had a warrant gunner named Beaty. My division officer was Ensign Smith and the chief was Princz, P-R-I-N-C-Z, I believe.
PERILLO: Al, when and where did you detach from the Little Rock?
YODER: Let’s see. One other thing I should mention, I guess, is that we brought the remains of Admiral Marc Mitscher back from the Mediterranean in September in 1946 at thirty knots, so we cut that tour a little bit short. We then spent some time in New York, which was good.
After mothballing and decommissioning the ship, I was detached.
PERILLO: Al, what was your overall impression of your tour on the ship?
YODER: It was great. I kind of grew up on that ship in those three and a half years.
PERILLO: Al, after the Little Rock did you have any other service?
YODER: Yes. I was transferred to the USS Charles S. Sperry, DD 697, home-ported in New Orleans. She was about a month late arriving there, so I was standing by at the OGU, I guess it was. They had me on color guard during a football game at the Sugar Bowl in 1949, which was good. I was honorably discharged on December 16, 1949.
PERILLO: Al, what civilian job did you return to after the Navy?
YODER: Well, as a result of standing the lee helmsman and helmsman on both Little Rock and Sperry I became interested in marine operations. After discharge I worked as a marine contractor on the Great Lakes and obtained a U.S. Coast Guard able seaman’s card. Later, in Miami, Florida, I became involved with a marine operations and engineering company that converted ex-U.S. Navy vessels, i.e., minesweepers, sub chasers and later higher-speed PCs and patrol gunboats, into vessels for use in research and development of U.S. Navy and Environmental Protection Agency projects. These included sonarbuoy development and testing, towed array development and testing, torpedo recovery and testing, submarine and ship signature recording, water sampling, to name a few. When higher speeds were necessary, we acquired several ex-U.S. Navy gas-turbine patrol gunboats with speeds exceeding thirty-five knots, which we converted for research work, i.e., submarine towed arrays, helicopter towed minesweeping development and testing.
I then attended the U.S. Navy PCO/PXO Patrol Gunboat School in San Diego, California. I also acquired a U.S. Coast Guard master’s license.
I became a senior vice president and director of the company’s marine division where we did a lot of classified projects. Some of the stuff was outlined in Tom Clancy’s “(Hunt for) Red October,” which was highly secret at the time.
After company retirement in 1997, I acquired a small sixty-five-foot vessel that I operated as a research vessel mostly out of South Florida and the Bahamas. We did U.S. Navy projects, some connected with AUTEC, Atlantic Underwater Testing and Evaluation Center, in the Bahamas. In 1999, I sold the vessel and delivered it to a company in Louisiana and retired for good.
PERILLO: Okay, Al. Tell us a little bit about your family, your residence, community involvement, volunteer activities, or things.
YODER: I live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We have four children and seven grandchildren. Now, I’m busy with home maintenance and church work and looking after all those grandkids.
As a hobby, I’m the proud owner of two classic automobiles that I restored from the ground up. One is a 1936 Ford 4-door convertible that won first place in class at the Punta Gorda, FL national meet of the Antique Automobile Club of America in 2007. The other is a 1961 Corvette.
PERILLO: Al, how long have you been a member of the Little Rock Association?
YODER: Well, I attended the first reunion in 1992. My member number is 97.
PERILLO: And about how many reunions have you attended?
YODER: I would say three or four. I clearly remember the one in Boston when we went onboard the USS Salem.
PERILLO: Al, any other final thoughts you’d like to add to this interview?
YODER: We had an incident on board the Little Rock during night operations in company with other fleet units and with observers on board. The ship was blacked out and at general quarters, I think. All of a sudden the searchlights came on and off, and on and off, and no one knew how to stop them. I don’t remember the date or time of this incident, but maybe others will.
PERILLO: Thank you, Al. This now concludes our interview with Al Yoder, and we thank you, Al, and hope you’re having a good reunion.
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