U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Jimmie Hair
Interviewer: Jack Force
FORCE: Jimmie. when, where and why did you join the Navy?
HAIR: Well. I was inducted into service at Ft. McPherson, GA. on January 15, 1945. I asked for the Navy. They gave me the Navy. I went straight to Great Lakes, IL, where I did my induction service.
FORCE: When and where did you report to the Little Rock?
HAIR: I reported in Philadelphia to the Little Rock in June, 1945. Of course. we all came from Newport. RI - we all were assembled there in Newport. Our group all came down together. I went from Great Lakes to Newport, RI.
FORCE: So you were on the commissioning crew?
HAIR: Yes. I was on the commissioning crew.
FORCE: What was your initial impression of the ship when you saw it?
HAIR: It was a beautiful ship, streamlined - l loved it I really loved the ship!
FORCE: What was your division assignment, job. watch station. and battle station?
HAIR: Well, I was in the 3rd Division, and we had 5" guns. I was a Gunner's Mate striker on Mount 3. Lou Nelson, I guess you would call him-my boss. We had a great relationship together, and I really liked working on that gun.
FORCE: Was he a Chief?
HAIR: He was Gunners Mate 1st Class. My battle station was a pointer, If you know what a pointer is - a pointer is the one who pulls the trigger.
FORCE: What watches did you stand on the ship?
HAIR: Really. I didn't stand any watches. I was fortunate - (laughter) - we were treated pretty good on that gun mount. I didn't have extra duty. I didn't have to do KP duty.
FORCE: Describe the ship's employment and operations while you were on board.
HAIR: When we went to sea, we went down to the Caribbean and did maneuvers preparing to go to the Pacific. It was near the end of the war, and the little Rock was going to be a part of It. But, it got over before we got there!
FORCE: Did you go to any other places?
HAIR: We went on a goodwill tour of South America. After the war was over, they brought us back to Philadelphia, and they redid the ship - stripped the paint off, holystoned the deck - prepared it for peacetime, and we went on this tour of South America. You couldn't ask for a better duty than that !
FORCE: Can you remember some of the ports you hit there?
HAIR: Oh yes ! We hit some great ports . . . Rio; of course, Copacabana Beach in Montevideo, Uruguay; Lima, Peru. Those are some of the great ports, and we really enjoyed it.
FORCE: Describe the living conditions on the ship and the quality of ship's chow.
HAIR: The food was good until the end of our trip; we pretty much ran out of food. We weren't allowed to pick up food in foreign ports. When we got back to the Panama Canal, we had pretty bad rations at the end of the tour.
FORCE: Tell me about some of your buddies or colorful shipmates. You don't have to tell their names If you don't want to.
HAIR: It just so happened, we had four boys from Dalton (GA) on that ship. One of them was Sam Williams - he was a Radioman -- he passed away. Calvin Fowler - he was in the 4th Division. I was the third one. The fourth one - one night I was on deck, it was dark, and I was talking, and to hear this fellow talking, I knew right away he was from Georgia. I said, "Are you from Georgia?" He said, "Yeah!" I said, 'What town are you from?" He said, "Dalton." I liked to drop my teeth. His name was James Levine, and he still lives here, about 10 miles away.
FORCE: You couldn't drag him off to any reunions?
HAIR: He never would join. I don't know - he didn't want to be a part of it. Of course, Lou Nelson, we went on liberty together, although he was kind of like the papa for me. He was, I guess, six or seven years older than I. I just went in from out here on the farm, didn't know my way around at all. Anyway, we had a great time together.
FORCE: Can you recall any moments of great shock, fear, or excitement?
HAIR: While we were doing our operations down in the Caribbean, prior to our going to the Pacific, our President Truman paid a visit. The Sixth Fleet was in operation. Our ship was picked to give the 21-gun salute. It just so happened that Mount 3 was also picked, so Nelson put the - of course, we used the powder cans - and I was over kicking them out. He'd tell me "fire," and I'd fire the round, and we gave President Truman a 21-gun salute. That's one of the highlights of my being on the gun.
FORCE: Do you remember the skipper, the Exec, or any other leaders in your chain of command?
HAIR: We had what was called this 90-day wonder, Ensign Rabbit. He was a young fellow and real nice. Of course. there was Captain Miller - he was pretty tough.
FORCE: When and where did you detach from the Little Rock?
HAIR: July. 1946 in Philadelphia. Most of us were pretty close to having our time in.
FORCE: What was your overall impression of your tour on the ship?
HAIR: It was very. very good - l enjoyed it. I loved the Navy. Of course, I was just a young boy . but it was great - l enjoyed it!
FORCE: You got out then?
HAIR: No. I didn't have my time all the way in, and I was sent up to the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, there in Philadelphia. I stayed there about four months, and then , was discharged.
FORCE: What did you do, four years?
HAIR: No, no, two years.
FORCE: What did you do after you got out of the Navy?
HAIR: First, I was a postal clerk for about 10 years. Then, with several friends. we went into private business, something related to the carpet industry here. That's where I spent the rest of my years.
FORCE: Can you tell me a little about your life since the late 40's? Your family, community Involvement, volunteer activity?
HAIR: I got married in 1951. We have two boys, four grandsons. Some of the things I've done are to serve as trustee of the local hospital, trustee at our church, I belong to the Clvitan Club, I organized the antique car club. and we are affiliated with the national ACCA. It's very rewarding.
FORCE: How long have you been a member of the USS LITTLE ROCK Association?
HAIR: Since inception; my number is 248. As soon as I heard about it, before the first reunion. I joined and went to the first reunion. I went to every one until 2002 in San Diego. Then my wife got sick, and she passed away. I got to where my legs are a little wobbly, but I've got a good heart but nothing to carry it with.
FORCE: You don't know if you'll be making any more reunions?
HAIR: Unless I can get one of my grandsons to go with me....
FORCE: That would be nice.
HAIR: I thought of that if one would go with me, I'd enjoy going.
FORCE: Yeah, you ought to work on that.
HAIR: I won't say anything - don't know if it will happen or not. Now Eddie Edwards, I don't know if you know Eddie, he's gone to all of the reunions like me. Of course, he didn't go to San Diego, but he's young and chipper. I say he's young; he's as old as I am, but he gets around good. I haven't been able to talk him into going - I don't think he likes to fly.
FORCE: So, you swear everything you told me is true? - laughing!
HAIR: Hearty laughter! I haven't got any of those big yarns yet. Haven't said anything I have to cross my fingers on.
HAIR: We had a hammerhead shark and pulled it on the deck. He came out there and his eyes, I'll always remember his expression of seeing a hammerhead shark. It was still alive.
HAIR: We were in Rio. You know how you see six or seven sailors walking down the deck - we weren't in any hurry. It was just about 11 o'clock, and I think that was probably curfew . Captain Miller was standing up there on the rail, and he hollered down to the Officer of the Deck, "Put every one of them men on report!" - So I had to muster with the P.A.L.'s and restricted men. I don't remember anything beyond that.
FORCE: What was his reason, do you know?
HAIR: Bad hair day ! Laughter!
HAIR: I'll always remember going around the Horn. We got to the Horn, probably in the afternoon, late afternoon. Anyhow, fog came in, and I'd never seen fog so thick in all my life. It was to the point that we were blowing the ship's horn every so many minutes and ringing the bell. And, if you don't think that's a forlorn sound - you've probably seen movies of these old sailing vessels going through that sort of thing. That's the way we went around the Horn.
End of interview with Jimmie Hair
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