U.S.S. LITTLE ROCK Crew Member's
Oral History given by

Paul L. Anderson, CDR

Page last updated: 15 March, 2020

Old Salts

U.S.S. Little Rock Association

Interviewee:  Paul L. Anderson

Interviewer:  Gus Karlsen

Interview Transcript:

(I am Gus Karlsen) K-A-R-L-S-E-N:  And I will be interviewing Paul L. Anderson, who served in.... CLG 4?


KARLSEN:   Okay.  We’re at the 17th annual reunion of the USS Little Rock Association, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Buffalo, New York.  Today is July 19, 2007. The purpose of this interview is to get to know Paul Anderson and, from his recollections, learn more about life and duty as an officer aboard the USS Little Rock, CLG 4, during his tenure of service from……

ANDERSON:  September 1966 to November 1968.

KARLSEN:  Okay, for background, Paul, could you please summarize your early life, education, and work experience, if you had any, before joining the Navy?

ANDERSON:  Well, I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin, and toward the end of my high school career I happened to have a chemistry teacher that I really admired, and I thought that chemistry was what I wanted to do.  I wanted to teach chemistry the way Mr. Rogers did it.  I went to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota.  I went there because they had a good chemistry department, but more importantly one of my cousins went to St. Olaf.   He graduated in 1941 and immediately joined the Marine Corps.  Unfortunately, he was killed on Guam in 1944.  It was really a shock to me because he gave me my first catcher’s mitt, and I was very, very close to him.  I always knew afterwards that I was going to have to go to St. Olaf and follow in his footsteps.
A similar thing happened to me.  I was at college during ’47 to ’51, and about half of the men there were attending school on the G.I. bill. I would say, since there were a lot of Norwegians and other Scandinavians at St. Olaf, at least half of the men had been in the Navy, and I heard more Navy stories from these men than I could have imagined.  I always thought, if there were another war, the thing to do would be to get into the Navy.
Well, as it turned out I graduated in ’51 and already had passed my physical for the draft, and I had been on deferral until my college graduation, and I said to myself, how am I going to get into the Navy?  When I was home in Racine, I noticed that the Navy had opened an office of Naval Officer Procurement on North Rush Street in Chicago.  So, I took the train down to Chicago to see what it was all about.  They did tell me what the program was all about.  Later, I went to Chicago and took a morning of written tests and then an afternoon of physical tests, and passed all of them.  Then I was told, “You don’t have to worry, we are going to send a notice to your Draft Board saying that you are going into the Navy.”

It did not turn out quite that way, the Army still wanted me.  I received a deferral from the Army until October, and then the Navy came through and ordered me to Newport, Rhode Island, in September.  By the time October came around, I was safely in the arms of the Navy in Officer Candidate School in Newport.

I enjoyed the studies at OCS, particularly things like celestial navigation and the way boilers work. It was fascinating to me.  For a lot of other students, it was either boring or over their heads, but it just seemed like all of these subjects were things that I would like to know.

I was commissioned in January of ’52 as an Ensign in the Naval Reserve, and my obligation was to be in the Navy for three years.  I knew from the start that I would have to serve one more year in the Navy  than if I had been drafted into the Army.

The first ship I was assigned to was a DMS.  At that time there was a new book called “The Caine Mutiny”, about a DMS.  I thought I was getting the bottom of the rung, if I was getting a DMS.  The ship that I was going to, USS Gherardi, DMS 30, was already over in the Mediterranean, and so the Navy flew me over to Europe.  I was in Port Lyautey, French Morocco, for about a week before my ship came into port.  I joined it in Italy in a little town called La Spezia, in northern Italy.
Of course, there was quite an indoctrination on my first ship, coming aboard as an Ensign.  In this particular ship, there were only about three or four regular officers.   The rest of the officers were Reserves, including the Executive Officer.  Many of the department heads were recalled reserves; men who had been in WWII and thought they would stay in the reserves, but never thought they would be in the Navy again.  Now, they were out there on a ship.  A lot of them were very, very bitter about that, but it also made for some opportunities.  If you wanted to work hard, you could get ahead.
I remembered that in OCS they had said that we should have as a goal to become a qualified Officer of the Deck in the first year.  I was aboard that ship for one month, and we were steaming around with the Sixth Fleet, and came into Malta for a port visit.  The day before we left Malta, an underway watch bill was posted, and they listed me as an OOD. I went up to the Operations Officer, and I said, “I think there is a mistake on the watch bill. I am a junior OOD. “He said, “Well, I think it is a mistake, too, but the Captain says he thinks you are ready.” So, then I started standing OOD watches.

An interesting part about the trip was that we were not doing any minesweeping, and the Gherardi was poorly equipped for the assignment of being in a circular screen around the carrier because she had very poor sonar compared to the rest of the destroyers.  However, she was fast.  We could go 37 knots, and most of the other ships could only go about 34.  Also, we had a 36-inch searchlight, and the other ships did not have that.  The combination of these two factors made the Gherardi an excellent ship to have for plane guard duty for the aircraft carriers.  It seemed that we were always about 1500 yards away from a carrier all of the time that we were over there.  We learned a lot in a hurry about taking care of ourselves when operating with a carrier.

KARLSEN: Yes, keeping station and all that kind of stuff.

ANDERSON: Yes, and also the first skipper that I had on that ship was very good from the standpoint of letting me take the ship alongside oilers and other service ships, and none of the other JO’s did that.

When we came back to our homeport of Charleston, I was ordered to the Line Officers’ Ordnance School for eight weeks, at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.  I then came right back to the ship in Charleston, and we deployed the following Monday to Northern Europe.  We were in an operation called Mainbrace, which became famous in those days.  We sailed with many ships from NATO nations, north of the Arctic Circle, and often refueled from oilers and from other combatants, like the USS Wisconsin, and carriers.  In every one of these fuelings, I was given the opportunity to be special sea detail OOD.  I would be standing on the wing of the bridge in freezing weather, keeping a proper distance alongside, and the Captain would be in the warm pilot house, and would say “I think you are getting a little too close now!” or “I think you are getting a little too far away now!”, but he never took the conn away from me.
KARLSEN: What rank was the Captain?

ANDERSON:  The Captain was a Lieutenant Commander.
KARLSEN: Lieutenant Commander.

ANDERSON:  Yes.  It was more experience for me as a junior officer.


ANDERSON:  The second skipper I served under aboard the Gherardi was a Commander by the name of Graham Raht.  He had gone to the College of Charleston before the war, and served on small ships during the war. He was never anything but an XO or CO of these small ships, all of the time during the war. He told me that when the war was over he thought he had to get a job, and his Commodore said, “If you get out of the Navy, you will never be able to bring a ship alongside the pier again.”  Raht thought that maybe he should stay in the Navy.  So, he stayed in and went Regular Navy.  His ideas influenced me quite a bit. He started to let me take the ship alongside the pier.
KARLSEN: Wow, that’s great.
ANDERSON: One of the first times that I took the ship alongside happened to be in Gibraltar. We had steamed with a carrier from Charleston to the Med, and we were told to moor alongside the pier in Gibraltar.  The Captain said, “Do you think you can take the ship alongside the pier?”  I replied that I had never done it alongside a concrete pier, but I would like to try.  I managed to get the ship comfortably alongside the pier, although it was a little tricky with the heavy winds.  Right after that our sister ship moored in front of us.  The skipper of our sister ship came over and said to our CO, “How the hell did you get in?  As soon as I got alongside, the wind blew my stern right into the pier, and I knocked my propeller against the side, and they are going to have to dry-dock me.  How did you do it?”  My Captain said, “I didn’t do it, Ensign Anderson did it.”

KARLSEN:  Well, it’s certainly a good grounding in ship handling.

ANDERSON:  Yes, that’s right.


ANDERSON:  Then he started working on me about staying in the Navy.  I was about to get out toward the end of my third year, and I thought, this is so much more fun than teaching school.  (Chuckle)  I applied to stay in as a regular officer, and I also asked to stay aboard that ship until the board met.  I received two messages back, one saying that they had received my application and they had posted it to the board for review, and the second was dispatch orders to be XO of a small wooden minesweeper in Charleston. That is where I got to know the small Navy.

KARLSEN: I guess so. Was that an MSO or an MSC?

ANDERSON:  MSO.  USS EXULTANT, MSO441.  We made the very first Mediterranean cruise in those wooden minesweepers.


ANDERSON: I’m telling you, that was really something to do.  On the way back from the Med, we were at sea for twenty-two days, from Barcelona, Spain to Charleston, and we never had the wind abaft the beam.  We were bucking rough seas the whole way. About that time, I received the message saying that I had been accepted into the regular Navy.


ANDERSON:  So I stayed as the XO for about two years.  I had a relief ordered in and I had no orders for myself, and I kept worrying about that.  When it became a week before my relief would be coming aboard, I called Bupers and told them that my relief would be coming aboard and I had no orders.  They said that they were planning on ordering me to Bupers to be a detailer.  They could not send me my orders immediately because my records were on the west coast, where a Vice Admiral was looking for an Aide and Flag Lieutenant.  In a few days, I received message orders to be Aide and Flag Lieutenant to VADM Robert L. Dennison, Commander First Fleet, Coronado, California.


ANDERSON: So, I went to Coronado, and that was a real awakening, from the small navy to the big navy and the fleet commander’s staff.

KARLSEN: Wow, that’s good.

ANDERSON:  It turned out that he had been looking for a bachelor, because he wanted to be able to work his aide day and night, and not have any wife be a complication, and that was fine with me.

VADM Dennison was a classmate of ADM Arleigh Burke.  They were Naval Academy Class of ’23.  ADM Burke came to Coronado for a visit, for a week.  The house where ADM Burke stayed was on Shelter Island, in San Diego harbor.  A wealthy gentleman who was editor of one of the newspapers had invited ADM Burke to stay at his house.  Of course, when ADM Burke went calling on people we had to get the barge and go pick him up, he and Mrs. Burke, and take them to various places.  So I was seeing quite a bit of ADM and Mrs. Burke in that operation.
An interesting part about it was that one night we were bringing him back to where he was staying, and ADM Burke came up on topside to approach the second-class boatswain’s mate who was maneuvering the boat, and he said “Boatswain, I request permission to light my pipe.”  The boatswain said, “Yes, sir.”   That’s the kind of man that Arleigh Burke was.  He recognized who was in charge of that boat, even though he was the Chief of Naval Operations!


ANDERSON: The flag and general officers of San Diego hosted a large reception at the Marine Corps Officers’ Club, and I had been in charge of addressing the invitations.  ADM Pride was ComNavAirPac at the time, and his aide was going to be the aide in the receiving line.  I had picked up ADM and Mrs. Burke and I was entering the reception room when ADM Pride waved me over and said, “I want you to be the aide in the receiving line.” His aide was a full Commander!  I thought he should have been in the receiving line.

KARLSEN: What rank were you at this time?

ANDERSON: I was a Lieutenant.  I was helped by the fact that I had addressed all of the invitations, so I had some idea of what their names were and how to pronounce them just from seeing them in print.  Mrs. Burke was the first in line and she said, “Now, I want you to say their names loud and clear.” So I was doing my very best on that, and she told me afterwards, “You were fantastic.  I understood every name all night.”

About two or three months later, there was a change of command at First Fleet and the new Admiral was bringing in his own aide, so I knew I was going to be without a job.  I received orders to report to OpNav.  The Chief of Staff and everybody else said that a Lieutenant going to the Pentagon would be a waste of time, and that I had to turn down these orders.  I didn’t know how to turn orders down.  (Laughter.)  I did call the number at Op-90 to find out what kind of work I’d be doing.  They said, “You’ve been selected to be on Burke’s personal staff.  There are three junior officers, you and two Lieutenant Commanders.  What you will be doing is drafting responses to Burke’s mail.  You’ll get to work on some speeches, like to the Navy League and others.  He also writes a publication called the Flag Officers’ Dope Sheet that he sends out once a month so that the flag officers all have the same information. Your office is going to be in the E Ring right across from Admiral Burke.”

KARLSEN: Holy mackerel.

ANDERSON: Right.  Incidentally, while I was in Coronado I met Admiral Leahy, Fleet Admiral Leahy.  He stayed for a week at North Island, and Admiral Dennison said to me: “You’re his aide for the week that he is here.” I spent all day every day with him, wherever he was.  I had read the book called “The Forrestal Diaries”, in which Admiral Leahy was quoted as saying that we did not have to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. One day I asked him why he had told President Truman that.  He replied that from his intelligence, our submarines and airplanes had made Japan a starving country, and no longer a threat.  He was the only individual who had that opinion at the time.  It was interesting to hear this from him.

Admiral Leahy called on several Admirals, and also had some Admirals visit him in his quarters, including one from the Academy class of 1894. Hearing their conversation was a very educational experience.  Also, it was interesting going through the base gate with a five star flag on the car.  The marines at the gate would always say, “Sir, who is he?”

The First Fleet went into San Francisco twice after major exercises, for fleet reviews, and both times we had Admiral Nimitz, who was living in Berkeley at the time, as the reviewing officer. I would go over to the St. Francis Yacht Club in the Admiral’s barge and pick up Admiral and Mrs. Nimitz and bring them to the ship. I thought, there were only four five-star admirals during the war, and I had met two of them.  For a Lieutenant, it was a great experience.

KARLSEN: So, talk about a golden career!

ANDERSON: Yes, I felt very fortunate.

KARLSEN: Unbelievable. 

ANDERSON: Incidentally, another momentous thing while I was on First Fleet staff, I was introduced to a lovely young lady who was a registered nurse.  We happened to meet with some other people that she knew and I knew.  When we were all going home from this place, I walked her out to her car, and she had a flat tire. (Laughter) So I changed her tire, and subsequently we ended up getting married. (Laughter)  She didn’t know anything about my naval career but she knew I could change flat tires.

KARLSEN: Well, that’s a good start.

ANDERSON: We went back to Washington, D.C. and I had a fantastic job there, and some interesting experiences.  For example, one time I was sent by Admiral Burke’s flag lieutenant to the people in OP-05, the aviators, and Admiral Burke wanted me to write an article for the Flag Officers’ Dope Sheet about the P6M, which was the jet seaplane that we were talking about.


ANDERSON: I went down to OP-05, and this three star looked at me and said, “What are you here for?”  I told him.  He said, “No way am I going to tell you anything about that program.”  So I said, “Well, Admiral Burke sent me down to write an article for the Flag Officers’ Dope Sheet.” He said, “Well, forget about it.  You go back.”  So I went back, and then the Flag Lieutenant called him and said, “We sent Lieutenant Anderson down there, and the Admiral wants an article on the subject he discussed with you.”  So, I went back down there and he shut the door and he gave me the information, and I wrote an article as directed.  That is the kind of thing that I was involved in, sensitive information.  I also flew with ADM Burke in his airplane a few times.

KARLSEN: Fantastic.

ANDERSON: When I had been on First Fleet staff, I was really hot to get into gunnery.  That is what I did on my first ship and I really liked that.  So I applied for the postgraduate school in ordnance engineering.  I received a message from BuPers, saying that I was unavailable for a transfer at that time.  However, it seems that ADM Burke had told the people in BuPers that he wanted to double the number of officers sent to the engineering courses for aviation, ordnance,  and nuclear power, because he was introducing a nuclear-powered submarine force, and he was getting missiles into the surface Navy, and jet airplanes.  He wanted more qualified personnel.  ADM Burke himself was an ordnance PG, from the University of Michigan.  I was assigned to write the speech for the graduation at Monterey.  ADM Burke got angry at BuPers because they didn’t double the number of students immediately.  The BuPers officer said that they could not do that right away.  ADM Burke then said that they should call everybody who had ever applied for the postgraduate school and see whether they are available.  I was one of those people. 

So, I got a message saying that if I would like to go to PG school, I could. (Laughter) So I did go.  I traveled with ADM Burke to Monterey.  By the time I was accepted the housing in Monterey had been filled up, so I went out there and listened to the speech that I had written, and after that the Admiral was busy for the rest of the day.

KARLSEN: How did he do? Did he do all right, reading your speech?

ANDERSON: (Laughter) Yes, he did very well, very well.  He didn’t do as well on that one, as far as applause was concerned, as another one I’ll tell you about. 

After the speech, I went into town and got a realtor and drove around, and found a house that I could rent when I came back out there a few months later, which made that trip really worthwhile.
I was also the flag treasurer of the flag mess on the airplane.  There were some other people aboard and I had to collect all the money, but it was interesting.

The other speech that I was going to tell you about was for an occasion in New York.  He had accepted an invitation to speak to the American Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, and I was assigned as the lead writer for that speech.  I didn’t know anything about that organization.  I went over to BuShips and asked what they thought this group of people would like to hear.  What they said was sort of interesting.  They said that what they really want the people to know is that the Navy is looking for people with good ideas, and that they should bring them to the Navy.  They said that we had sort of a bad situation.  They said that we had one admiral by the name of Rickover who was suggesting that he is doing this nuclear navy in spite of the Navy.  We want the world to know that the Navy sent him down to nuclear power school, sent him to Oak Ridge, Tennessee so he would get some experience there, did all of these things so that when the Navy started thinking about nuclear-powered submarines there would be somebody qualified.  But he never tells you that.  He leaves the impression that he wants twenty more ships and the Navy will only give him ten.

KARLSEN: Yeah, he was quite a self-promoter.

ANDERSON: Yeah.  So anyway, the Admiral gave that speech in New York. I did not attend, but the aide, who was Ray Peet, who later made Admiral, said it was the first time that he saw ADM Burke get a standing ovation.  They really did want to hear that kind of thing, so that went over very well.

Then I went to Monterey, and was picked up a year early for Lieutenant Commander, which was rather nice, too, because I had great fitness reports as a Lieutenant.

KARLSEN: I can imagine, yeah.

ANDERSON: After two years at Monterey I went to a missile ship, the USS Topeka.  I made a couple of WestPac cruises on that.  Then I went to XO of a DDG, USS Lynde McCormick, and did my destroyer command qualifications on that ship.

Then I was assigned to White Sands Missile Range as Test Officer. The Navy had a program called Typhon. BuOrd thought at that time that they were going to bring a new missile into the fleet. They did not. As a matter of fact the whole Typhon program was shut down.  Later on, part of that became part of Aegis, which was maybe five years later.

While I was out there in the desert I was firing about ninety missiles a year. We fired at least one Talos production line missile every month.  Plus, they found some new ideas to use in Talos.  Sometimes when we were about to send up a missile, I would call my quarters on base and tell my wife and children to watch out the picture window of the house, and in a few minutes they would see a missile going up.  They liked to watch that happen, to see what Daddy was doing.

Talos had a feature in which it flew with information coming from the ship, but if it was going against an airplane and the airplane started jamming it, Talos would forget what was coming from the ship and would home in on the jam.  The engineers at Bendix Mishawaka, Indiana figured out that some of the frequencies that the North Vietnamese were using to shoot down our airplanes with their missiles were in the same frequency.  The US Navy could launch a Talos toward North Vietnam and as soon as the Vietnamese turned on their radar, the Talos would home in on their radar.   We tested this theory on the desert.  We got a big old van with a radar in it and they dug a hole deep enough so that only the antenna was above ground.  They dug another hole for the generator which the Army had given us for power.  When the Talos was fired, it homed right in on the buried van and blew it all to hell.  It had great focus.  The missile did not have any explosive in it, but Talos is a ramjet and it had so much fuel on board, it almost looked like a mushroom cloud.

KARLSEN:  No kidding.  Wow.

ANDERSON: We flew the movie of it back to Washington.  Three days later they said they needed another copy because they had worn out the sprockets. (Laughter) The first ship to fire a TALOS in the direction of a Vietnamese installation was USS Oklahoma City.

KARLSEN: Talos, of course, is the missile on Little Rock.

ANDERSON: Yes. The Oklahoma City was the first one to fire one inVietnam, and it worked perfectly.  What then happened was that the US Navy would send a Talos cruiser like Long Beach or Oklahoma City to the North Vietnam coast, and the Vietnamese would never turn on their radars.  So it was like a separate little war that was going on over there.  The Navy didn’t even fire any more over there because the North Vietnamese wouldn’t turn on their radars, which made it nice for our pilots to carry out their missions.

Anyway, when I was at White Sands, I really wanted to get command of a destroyer. I had to go back to Washington for a meeting and I went over to BuPers and they said that there was no way I could get a destroyer, because there were all of these people ahead of me on the list.  So I asked what they had for me.  They said they only had Vietnam.  I said, “O.K., I‘d like to go to Vietnam right now, because there is excess housing at White Sands.  I can leave my family right there.  My next-door neighbor is an Army major, who is going to Vietnam.  Our wives would be in housing together.”

So, I’m waiting every day for my orders to Vietnam.  My orders arrived and were for me to go to Norfolk and be weapons officer in the USS Little Rock.  (Chuckle)

KARLSEN: No kidding.

ANDERSON: It seems that they were having a lot of trouble with some of the Talos ships, including the Little Rock, and they wondered why the ordnance engineers were not being sent to those billets.  The officer I relieved was a commander by the name of Al Brand, who was a very good officer but he was not an ordnance PG, he was more in ASW work. When I came to the ship it was in the overhaul period, in ’66.
KARLSEN: In ’66, huh?

ANDERSON: I was told that Little Rock had ComSecondFlt on board before going into the shipyard and they had gone down to an exercise off Puerto Rico and were going to fire missiles, but they could not track the drone targets with the fire control radars on the Little Rock at that time.  So, they went all the way down there and all the way back and never fired a missile, which Captain Dreyer was a little bit embarrassed about.  Of course, part of the reason that they were in the yard was to get some work done on tracking radars.

So, when I got there in September the ship was just finishing the yard period.  I remembered that in all those missile systems we had a test called DSOT, daily systems operability test, and in the morning we went up and we did this DSOT to insure that everything was there and working.  We started this first DSOT in September, and we went all day long and we still couldn’t complete it.  So then the next day we would start up again, and it was the middle of November before we got the first DSOT all the way through. 

Also, we did not have enough fire control people on board at the time.

KARLSEN: Was this a design failure?

ANDERSON: No, no. It was just problems that were in the system.  The equipment was not working the way it was designed to work, even though the yard had done some repairs on it, nobody had gone through the whole system in a system way to make sure that everything was still going to work.  We would go every day and perhaps find something that took two or three more days to work on, and you’d start again.


ANDERSON: So finally, in November, before we left to go down to Guantanamo, we had finished DSOT’s.  So then once we got underway we were doing these every day.  We passed every test down in Guantanamo, and then we had to go down to Roosevelt Roads where we fired three shots and they were all successful.  Captain Dreyer was very, very happy to have his missile battery working.

KARLSEN: I can imagine, yeah.

ANDERSON: Then we came back to Norfolk.  The rumor was that we were going to be the Sixth Fleet flagship, but nobody knew where we were going to be home-ported.  Everybody was wondering about that for quite a while, and then we finally had an announcement that it was going to be Gaeta, Italy.  Of course, the problem was not anything to do with the ships that were there, it was that DeGaulle didn’t want us in Villefranche anymore.

KARLSEN: Yeah. Well, we got kicked out in '63 or '64, I think, initially.

ANDERSON: Oh, really?

KARLSEN: It seems to me I recall that.

ANDERSON: USS Springfield was there, and we relieved her in Rota, Spain.

KARLSEN: Yeah, because we relieved Springfield for a yard period in ’63, and then she came back in December of ’63 and there was a six-week period again until………

ANDERSON: We left the Monday after the first Super Bowl.  I’d already put my wife and kids on an airplane to go over to Italy, and the Chaplain had gone ahead of them. He and his wife were the only ones that were ahead of my wife and family going over there to Gaeta.  I was staying with a friend of mine who was also from Wisconsin, so we watched the first Green Bay Packer victory in that first Super Bowl, and then that Monday the ship got underway.

We went straight to Rota, and the change of flagship was done there in Rota.  Then, for some reason - I think this had been set up by Springfield six weeks before, we went from there down to Casablanca for a port visit.  After that port visit we went to Gaeta.

In the meantime, because all of this was in January and February, the seas were quite rough.  We arrived in Gaeta, and normally on cruisers the Admiral leaves at the front gangway.  It was so rough there that we couldn’t even make it to the buoy when we anchored, and we put a ladder down the stern for everybody to get ashore. Well, unfortunately the fantail was not shipshape.  There was nothing we could do about it since the weather was so bad.  The Captain was just furious that it wasn’t perfect.  He said, “I want this completely squared away right now, and you are staying aboard until it is squared away.”  The first time I had ever been in hack. (Laughter)

KARLSEN: As a commander?

ANDERSON: As a commander.  LTJG David Rocker and the whole third division stayed aboard. They worked all night long, and the next morning the fantail was perfect.  I wasn’t going to say anything until the Captain got back there and noticed it, but these kids did a heck of a job.  Of course, the next morning the weather was calm enough that they put the normal accommodation ladders at the normal quarterdeck spot. It was one of those things.

When I got ashore the second day, I saw the apartment that my wife had told me that she had placed a down payment on.  It was just three blocks from the Mediterranean Sea in Gaeta.  It was called a garden apartment in a four-story building.  When we got there, it was just being finished.  It was new and there was a lot of rubble, and no garden.  About every week the landlord came with a different set of plans or something. (Laughter)  In about six months, the gardeners came and planted trees and shrubs and flowers, and it was beautiful.  Actually, it was such a desirable place that when the new ComSixthFlt, Admiral Martin, came on board, he rented the penthouse of this same building. So he was on the top deck and we were on the bottom deck.

KARLSEN: Good planning.

ANDERSON: Yes, right.

KARLSEN: So it was a pretty classy neighborhood then?

ANDERSON: Yes, for Gaeta.  Some buildings there were hundreds of years old.

KARLSEN: What was your first impression of the Little Rock?

ANDERSON: Well, I was a little bit disappointed when I first got there, in the shipyard, in that everything wasn’t working right.  That was not the ship’s fault and it not the yard’s fault.  It was just that there had not been any systematic work done on this ship.  They had people working on parts but now we had to get it all together working as a system.  It was very important to get that kind of systems engineering viewpoint into everybody.

Also, we started getting more firecontrolmen on board. The Albany and Chicago were having a lot of work done in the yards, and so they started transferring firecontrolmen to the Little Rock, and we ended up with almost too many firecontrolmen.  We didn’t have thirty when we started out, and we had over sixty at the end. Then the problem was what to do with all these FTM’s?  It seemed like every time we came into a port we would have ten or twelve FTM’s on shore patrol, which was really a challenge, to keep these men with all the talent and expertise they had, working on the missile systems when all night they were doing shore patrol.

But they were great sailors.  All the time we were in the Med, we never had an unsuccessful missile firing.  I used to say that part of that was because the French Firing range was so short.  We had an eighty-mile missile, and the French could not control their drones more than about thirty or thirty-five miles away from us.  We called them long-range shots because that’s what they were, except that they couldn’t get the drones out any farther than they did.  People that I knew from other ships were giving us Bravo Zulus when we had another Talos success.  It was really nice.

KARLSEN: So were you in the Med the whole time of your tenure aboard Little Rock?

ANDERSON: Yes.  The first part was with Captain Dreyer, and I think it was in April of ’67 that he was relieved by Captain Mitchell.  Captain Dreyer was an ordnance PG and he was very happy with the things that we were doing in bringing the battery up to speed.
KARLSEN: Sure. What was the Captain’s name?

ANDERSON: Oscar Dreyer.

KARLSEN: No, the next one? Mitchell?

ANDERSON: The next one was John J. Mitchell.

KARLSEN: Mitchell.

ANDERSON: Dreyer had received some sort of message from Washington about his new set of orders, and he talked to me about it.  He said they wanted him to come back to OpNav and he really wasn’t too happy with that.  He said, well what other kind of jobs are there? Little Rock was his fourth job as a captain and all of them had been command.  He had command of the destroyer division, then the destroyer squadron, then he had command of the Ordnance Propulsion Facility at Indian Head, Maryland, and then he had Little Rock.  I said, “You ought to see if there is another command.”  He asked what one I would suggest, and I suggested the new one out at Port Hueneme, Naval Ships Missile Systems Engineering Station. He subsequently received orders to be commander there, and he retired from there.

KARLSEN: How about interesting ports of call? Anything that struck you?

ANDERSON: Well, we had lots of great ports.  One of the things that I liked was that the Sixth Fleet staff would always set up a room or two in a motel, and they would invite the department heads on the ship to join them.  We didn’t have to join, but we could kick in our money, and then we would have a place to put down our packages and things.  So we really got along very, very well.

One of the Operations Officers was Captain J.J. Paulis, with whom I had lived on the Topeka.  He always made sure that we knew what was going to happen on the staff.  That was very nice.

KARLSEN: How did you find the living conditions on the ship? Food? Ship services?

ANDERSON: I thought they were great.  Of course, as a department head, I had one of the staterooms just forward of the wardroom, by myself.

KARLSEN: Yeah, port side?

ANDERSON: Right, and the OPS officer on the starboard side.  I had no complaints about the services.  I had great officers on the ship in the deck division and the gunnery and missile divisions.  The Marines reported to me and the helicopter people reported to me.  It just seemed that about half the ship reported to the Weapons Department.  With gunnery, missiles and the deck division, it became quite a big operation.

KARLSEN: Yeah, it is.  That’s a lot, compared to OPS.  I was in OPS, and there were considerably fewer there.

ANDERSON: Yeah. I really enjoyed what we were doing a great deal.

Most of us did not have telephones where we lived over there.  It could take over a year before you could get one.  So shore patrol would drive out in one of the vehicles to your house and if you weren’t there, they would post something on your door saying that the Captain wants to see you.  You would then walk down to the pier and wait for a boat to take you out to the ship. 

In September of 1968 there was an unexpected departure of the Executive Officer, and I was asked to take over his functions, while keeping the Weapons Department functions.

On our port visit to Istanbul, the Admiral made his port visit by helicopter because when the boats went in, people were throwing eggs from the bridges onto sailors.  That problem was squared away after a day or two.  The next port visit was Athens, and we arrived there on a Friday.  The Embassy people had invited the King, King Constantine, to come out to visit the ship, and he said he would like to come there on Monday morning.  I immediately got the word that we would paint the ship between then and Monday morning.  (Laughter) They painted it, and they did a heck of a job.

When the King actually came out, the sailors had to be below decks, like we could not let the king see a sailor, and these sailors had worked so hard on the painting. All the wives had to wear hats and be instructed on how to curtsy.  On the day that he came out it was my birthday, October 16, and in the wardroom was a big birthday cake for me.  Some of us ate the cake while his reception was being held up topside. (Laughter) In December of that year his country was going to overthrow him, and he left Greece and went to Italy.  I don’t know whatever happened to him after that.  He never went back to Greece, I was told.

So we went to a lot of great ports.  We went to Lisbon, a great port to visit, which is a little out of the Med.  There were some nice people there who took us out to golf courses and other places.

Another remarkable occurrence was that the Little Rock was involved in the aftermath of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, which was on 8 June 1967.   We received a message from the Liberty about the attack, and we proceeded at high speed to the scene, along with the carrier USS America.  Many of the casualties were transferred to the America.  The Little Rock sent LT John Cochram and his damage control personnel to the Liberty to assist in keeping the ship afloat. They did a fantastic job. The coxswains of second division, under LTJG Mark Lehmann, (who recently served as Treasurer of the Little Rock Association), did an excellent job of transferring the repair people and their equipment to the Liberty. Our crewmembers took numerous photographs of the episode.  The ship stayed afloat and was towed to Malta, where more repairs were done.  It subsequently steamed back to the United States.  One of the Liberty survivors later sent a letter to me in which he said, “I remember looking at the Little Rock off our port side on June 9, 1967, and thinking what a beautiful ship she was.”

KARLSEN: When and where did you detach from the Little Rock?

ANDERSON: The new XO, Commander Fitzgerald, came aboard, and then I was detached the day after Thanksgiving.  My wife had left in October.  She was about seven months pregnant, and so my wife and my two daughters had gone back, and my son was staying over there in Gaeta, and he and I came back together.  We went up to Rome and flew back.

KARLSEN:  That’s great. What year was that?

ANDERSON: That was 1968, the day after Thanksgiving.

KARLSEN: So what was your overall impression of your tour on the Little Rock?

ANDERSON: Well, I think in many respects my duties there were some of the most challenging things that I had ever done, both from working with such a large group of people, and in so many different areas.  What was so rewarding to me was to see the successes in so many areas, such as E’s on the guns, and E’s on the turret, and E’s on the missile battery.  The way the crew responded to being a flagship by keeping everything as shipshape as possible was extremely encouraging.  We received all of our provisions by high line from other ships while we were in the Med.  What was really remarkable was that after the mess of the replenishment, the first division men, under LT Tom Hallinan, would have the wooden deck perfectly ready for the admiral and any distinguished visitors that he might have, by the time we returned to port.

KARLSEN: What did you go on to then?

ANDERSON:  I went to command of a FRAM II destroyer, USS Mansfield. About two weeks after our fourth and last child was born, I took command.  It was a busy time for me and for my wife!  The following September, the ship left for WestPac. It turned out that I wasn’t just chasing aircraft carriers around; I was up there on the gun line all the time.  We really did some fantastic things on the gun line.

KARLSEN: Was this in Vietnam?

ANDERSON: Yes, Vietnam. We fired not only for our troops but for the Australians.

One day, in December of ’69, we were ordered to go about thirty miles up the Saigon deep-draft channel, at night.  The Army commander wanted us to open fire at 0600 for this operation.  Well, in the Saigon channel, the water is wide, the channel is narrow, but there were not good markers to figure out where the channel is.  The navigation officer used everything to make sure that we stayed in the channel.  We got up there and opened fire just at the right time, and we had to move around a lot.  We had to be careful because there were so many sappers.  There had been eighty-six ships that had been hit by mines this way.  I had the gunners stay up there on the forecastle with their jackets on and they could fire at incoming bamboo, because that is what some of the enemy were using for breathing tubes, and attaching mines to our ships.  We actually turned on sonar.  For a swimmer in the water, getting some sonar noise is going to make life miserable for him.  We stayed there for three days, came back to Vung Tau, reloaded ammunition and fuel, and went back up for another three days.  At the end of that, some Army officers came down in a helicopter from Saigon and thanked us profusely.  They said three other ships had been ordered to go there and all had refused the assignment.  I was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V for that.
KARLSEN:  Congratulations.  Yeah, that is true.

ANDERSON: I really enjoyed the Mansfield a great deal.  The Bank of America had checks showing different pictures of California.  When I got the ship it was just after overhaul and we were doing our refresher training in San Diego.  Somebody asked me if I knew that the Mansfield was on the Bank of America checks.  The picture was taken during their port visit at San Diego, and there was the 728 in the foreground. (Laughter) So I immediately shifted my checking account to Bank of America.

KARLSEN: Yeah, I would guess so.

ANDERSON: As far as I know, no other skipper had checks showing a picture of his ship in the foreground.

KARLSEN: That’s pretty nice.

ANDERSON: There were just so many things like that that kept happening on that ship, it was just remarkable.

KARLSEN: Yeah.  That’s fantastic.

ANDERSON: Then after Mansfield, let’s see......

KARLSEN: How long did you have Mansfield?

ANDERSON: It was almost two years.  In 1970 I received orders to NavOrd, and I thought, well, I’m an ordnance engineer, I guess I have to go back to the ordnance command, whatever they do.  I didn’t know what the job was.  It turned out I was being ordered to the Aegis project.  For the Aegis project, they signed the contract for starting the engineering development in December of ’69, and Admiral Meyer, who was Captain Meyer at the time, was ordered there in July.  I came in October, and we were doing the preliminary design reviews.

It was a big job. I mean, the prime contractor then was RCA, which is now Lockheed, but it was up in Morristown, New Jersey, and we were up there two or three days a week, it seemed.  I usually traveled on the Metroliner from DC to Philadelphia with CAPTAIN R.D. Franke USN, who was the Test Officer. We rented a car to continue on to Morristown.  Then we had to go to other plants. Raytheon was a big contractor. General Dynamics was making the new missiles.

I also reported to OpNav-90 and to other OpNav people. I had to go to Congressional and Senatorial committees about a dozen times to justify the annual Aegis budget. They wanted to know everything that was happening and where we were spending all of our money, because it was big money, at least for the surface Navy, to be in a program like this. 

What worked well for us was that we had a companion testing and production program, and as the testing progressed and we were made aware of problems, we could change the design in production. Then things were going really, really, well, to the point where everybody started to believe in Aegis, finally. 

Most of the time I was there I was trying to figure out how we were going to get a class of ships built for the Aegis program.  Every year it seemed to me that we would come up with a different plan.  The staff would say, “Well, that isn’t what you told me last year” and I would say, “Well, we had to change that,” For me it was a lot of exposure, but it was interesting work.  Now there are about sixty Aegis ships, both cruisers and destroyers.

KARLSEN: Yeah, I’m sure.  So did you…?

ANDERSON:  I was supposed to be in that job for two years.  I was there for five years.


ANDERSON: I was unrestricted line. Most of the other officers that I was working with were EDO’s or limited duty.  When I left the Aegis Project, I was awarded the Legion of Merit.

I next had command of the Naval Weapons Station at Seal Beach, partly because they wanted to start the Standard Missile 2 line at Seal Beach.  Also, they were not happy with the results that they were getting from what I later renamed the Fleet Analysis Center, in  Corona, California, which is a part of the Seal Beach complex.  It was called FMSAEG for a long time, Fleet Missile Systems Analysis and Evaluation Group.  That had been a part of a naval ordnance lab, and they moved the remnants of that activity, except for FMSAEG, either to China Lake or to Point Mugu, and left this FMSAEG group where it was.  So they were sort of without any guidance.  I went back to Washington and said that I needed to change the name of it to Fleet Analysis Center.  I wanted to keep the word “fleet” in it, because that gave us the power to go out there and analyze what was really happening. The name change was approved, and the morale just went way up, and the staff did great things there.

KARLSEN: That’s great.

ANDERSON: Then, I was thinking that maybe I would get my command of a ship, after that job.  I received a call from an Admiral who said that the officer who had the command at Dahlgren, Virginia, which was then called the Naval Surface Weapons Center, was selected for Admiral and they had nobody in the pipeline to relieve him.  Dahlgren and White Oak were about sixty-five miles apart, with a combined work force of about five thousand people, but doing comparable work.  Not always the same, but comparable.  The Navy wanted someone with Aegis experience because Dahlgren was being named the lead lab for Aegis.  So they called me and I said I would take the job.  That was supposed to be a two-year job.  It ended up a four-year job.  That is where I ended my career.  When I retired, I was awarded another Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as Commander, Naval Surface Weapons Center, Dahlgren Virginia from August 1977 through August 1981.”


ANDERSON: There was really a great deal of interesting and important work at these two activities, and getting them together to work as one activity was a real challenge.


ANDERSON: Just recently a book was published called “The Sound of Freedom”, and one chapter in it discusses the period of 1973 to 1987; I was there from ’77 to ’81, and it mentions some of the things I did to bring White Oak to Dahlgren and Dahlgren to White Oak.

KARLSEN: No kidding.  That’s interesting.

ANDERSON: Interesting work.  I took my experience and used it with a corporation for another fifteen years.

KARLSEN: Oh, really?

ANDERSON: Yeah.  I was a vice president and division general manager of a corporation.  That was very nice.  They gave me a company car the entire time.  I had seven offices, two on the west coast and five on the east coast, which I had under my domain.

KARLSEN:  Wow.  So that wasn’t all bad either.

ANDERSON: No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t. In fact, my wife thought it was great. (Laughter)

KARLSEN: I’ll bet.  So what about the lessons, outlooks, and values you took away from your naval service that helped you in future years?

ANDERSON:  I was given some very challenging assignments.  While serving as the Aegis Weapons Systems Manager, successful testing of the Aegis Engineering Development Model ashore, and the subsequent installation aboard ship, was achieved.  I was awarded the Legion of Merit for guiding the Aegis program through major budget perturbations while maintaining critical milestones.  The citation cited superb performance, perceptive judgment, and steadfast dedication.  For fifteen years after I retired from the Navy, I tried to use these qualities as a Vice President of a corporation.

ANDERSON: I actually retired from the Navy on the 31st of August of 1981. Two months before that I had no idea of where I wanted to retire.   But my secretary received a call from a woman who asked if I was going to retire in the area of Dahlgren.  If so, she would like for me to look at her house.  Her house was on Machodoc Creek, where I had been taking my teenagers for water skiing.  Machodoc Creek flows into the Potomac River.  Well, I looked at the house and immediately decided to buy it, and in doing that, I settled on where I was going to go to work, as a Navy retiree.  It would be in Virginia.

KARLSEN: So you are right handy to DC?

ANDERSON:  My office was in Dahlgren, and I had two offices in northern Virginia, one in Crystal City and one in McLean, which was a terrible drive all the way from Dahlgren every day.  I mean, you went to work in the dark and came home in the dark.  When I first started it wasn’t bad.  I had a company car and it was not a big deal.  Then the traffic started getting really bad.  It got worse and worse every year.  My wife said that it was time to quit, because every day there was some kind of big accident on my route.  So finally, after fifteen years of that driving, I made the decision to retire, and to spend some time with my wife, children, and grandchildren. The company had rewarded me very well over the years too, with bonuses and everything.

About two months before I retired from PRC, Litton bought PRC.  Then, subsequently Northrop Grumman bought Litton.  So, many of the people that I worked with are now part of Northrop Grumman, and Northrop Grumman is the second-largest supplier of people to the NSWC Dahlgren operation, second only to Lockheed.

KARLSEN: So it sounds like quite a history.

ANDERSON: Yeah. (Laughter) Quite an interview.

KARLSEN: How long have you been a member of the Little Rock Association?

ANDERSON: The Little Rock Association? I don’t know.  I thought somebody said eight years.  I can’t even remember when I joined.  My number is 835; I don’t know if you can tell from that.

KARLSEN: Well, I’m sure you look back with a great deal of pride on your career.  Both careers.

ANDERSON: Taking everything under consideration I wouldn’t have changed many things that happened along the way.  I think I was very lucky in many ways.  I have had three kinds of cancer, but I am currently quite healthy. My wife, Carolyn, has been tremendously supportive of me for the last fifty years, and I have four wonderful children and four wonderful grandchildren.

KARLSEN:  It’s breathtaking, all that you’ve done and accomplished.

ANDERSON: I’m still working, as a volunteer.  Have you ever heard of the Navy retired activities offices?


ANDERSON:  There are seventy-five of them throughout the world.  They’re mostly in Navy bases, but they are also in Naval Reserve centers.  They are a BuPers operation run out of Millington, Tennessee.  It started in 1981, and in 1996 Clinton had drawn down the active duty and there weren’t enough people to do that that job then, so they asked for volunteers to pick this up at certain places.  In our particular case in Dahlgren, I was still working, but the MOAA Potomac Chapter decided to take that volunteer job on, and a retired submarine officer became the first coordinator.  He had it for three years, and then wanted to leave, so I took over.  I am still the coordinator.  I have volunteers standing watches, and we have a library of books, plus a computer, for research into the needs of the clients.  Each day I look through the obituary page of the newspaper and see if there are any military retirees who passed away, from any service.  Then we write a form letter to the widow with an enclosure, a MOAA enclosure that is a check-off list of what survivors must do after a military retiree dies.  The widow is given an 800 number that she can call, or she can come over and see us, if she has any questions.  This has been gratifying for both the volunteers and the widows.  I really appreciate all that the volunteers do.

KARLSEN: Well, that’s interesting.  Thanks very much.  I have to ask you, do you swear that everything you told me is true?  Only kidding. (Laughter)

ANDERSON: I saw that “only kidding“ line.  I think that it is all true.

KARLSEN: Great.  Well, thank you very much.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

KARLSEN: I wonder if you would be kind enough to fill this out.


KARLSEN: It is sort of a legal thing that you agree to donate this transcript to……

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