U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Walde Lindemann
Interviewer: Don Schuld
SCHULD: My name is Don Schuld and I am interviewing Walde Lindemann who served on the USS Little Rock CL -92. This is tape one, side one, and we are at the 14th Annual Reunion of the USS Little Rock Association here at the Adams Mark Hotel in Buffalo, New York. The date is July 15, 2005.
The purpose of this interview of course is to get to know Walde and his recollections, and learn more about his life and duty as a sailor aboard the Little Rock, during its period of service from 1945-1949.
Walde tell us, when, where and why you joined the Navy.
LINDEMANN: I joined the Navy on February 26, 1946. That was at the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Naval Station. I was sent to Bainbridge, Maryland for boot camp training.
SCHULD: What caused you to join the navy?
LINDEMANN: Most of my cousins were in the service at that time, and they kind of enticed me to join.
SCHULD: Where did you report to the Little Rock?
LINDEMANN: That was at the end of May, after boot camp training, in 1946, in Philadelphia Navy Yard.
SCHULD: What was your initial impression of the ship?
LINDEMANN: It was just awesome. It was so huge and I never realized a cruiser or even a ship that large was there, and I had to serve on it. The biggest thing I ever served on was a rowboat, going fishing out in the country.
SCHULD: So, you were just a kid, 17 years old from Long Island at the time?
LINDEMANN: I was just 17, yes.
SCHULD: What was your division assignment when you got there?
LINDEMANN: I came aboard, and was assigned to the Fourth Division. Of course, they put me on the deck force because I did not have a particular trade, at that time. I had duties like stoning the wooden decks, chipping paint on the bulkheads, and painting areas of bulkheads. We had duties like cleaning the living quarters and also had watch stations that we were assigned to make sure that the ship was secured. Also, on the quarter deck when sailors went ashore and came back in.
SCHULD: I understand that your division, or your job title changed somewhere along the line to aviation?
LINDEMANN: Yes. It took about a year, being on the deck force. I applied for a transfer to the aviation unit. There were no openings at that time. I had to wait about a year. Finally, it came through. I believe it was at the end of 1946 beginning of 1947. Aviation was a separate division of the ship. I became an aviation machinist mate striker. I made seaman first-class. Then when I transferred I became an aviation machinist mate striker with three green stripes instead of white stripes.
SCHULD: What about your battle station, where was that?
LINDEMANN: The battle stations when I was a seaman was on a five-inch 38-gun crew.
SCHULD: As an aviation man, how did your battle station wind up on a gun mount?
LINDEMANN: No, that was prior.
SCHULD: Where was your battle station then, as an airdale?
LINDEMANN: That I really do not recall. We had certain duties to make sure, most of the time the airplanes were launched before battle stations. They were out looking for submarines and so on, so we were in readiness more or less to recover aircraft.
SCHULD: Now, you were kind of like a crew chief for the SC-1 Seahawk, the care and feeding of that plane?
LINDEMANN: Yes. I became a plane captain, some call it a crew chief, but at that time, it was plane captain. The thing that I had to take care of was the plane. I was in charge. That was like my wife or my baby. You had to take care of it. You had to prepare the aircraft for flight. Before the pilot flies the airplane that particular day, you had to go up and check all the instruments out. You had to make sure the flaps; the ailerons were working, the rudders, the elevators. Then you also had to start the engine up to make sure that it was running correctly. At that point you put a shot-gun shell in the cartridge, lock the breach, crank the trowel just a little bit, and push the button and then turn. It fires the cartridge and that in turn, turns the propeller and hopefully the engine starts. It was very difficult, very difficult and you hoped it would start. When the engine is running you have to make sure that all the instruments are working correctly at certain rpm and also at full speed, just for a few seconds.
SCHULD: Then this plane is launched off a long rail?
LINDEMANN: Yes. Before, it takes off I give it the thumbs up and I had to sign my check off list. The pilot comes in then and he checks it out. If everything is okay, he says, “Okay, ready for flight.” The airplane is at the far end of the catapult; the catapult is approximately 72-feet long. When the signalman gives the down signal for take-off there are a series of take-off methods. The ship is rolling; the catapult is out on a 50-degree angle over the ocean. The ship is traveling at about 15 to 20 knots, so it gives it extra airspeed. The aircraft is at full power, and then when the signalman gives his signal for take-off, a hook is released, the plane takes off on the catapult rail, it is fired off just before it leaves the catapult by a 5-inch powder charge.
SCHULD: That must be a loud report.
LINDEMANN: It is a very loud. It is just like 5-inch 38-gun firing. At the upward roll of the ship, that is when it is actually fired off. It gives an extra 10-feet of air space.
SCHULD: Would that plane not make it if it were not for the 5-inch shell firing?
LINDEMANN: This is something that I really do not know.
SCHULD: You do not recall any mis-firings then?
LINDEMANN: It probably would if everything else is right. If there is enough wind and the ship is on a upward roll. The plane takes off and when the plane is over the ocean it just dips down, because it has so much weight. Then it is up and airborne.
SCHULD: Let us talk about the deployment of the ship and the operations while you were aboard.
LINDEMANN: The deployment of the ship, in other words, I really did not realize there were so many job opportunities on a ship. They had barbers, electricians, machinist, they had everything, carpenters and so on, and that was my second love as a carpenter.
I was not assigned to any of those because at 17 I really did not have a trade. My heart was really in aviation. It took about a year after I put in my application to see if there was an opening for the aviation unit and then I was called.
SCHULD: Let us talk a little bit about the interesting ports of call that you made. I know there are many, what are some of more interesting ones in your recollection?
LINDEMANN: Okay, we made interesting port calls, two in Northern Europe and one in the Mediterranean. I would say my favorite Northern European cities were Stockholm, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark.
SCHULD: What impressed you about those cities?
LINDEMANN: Many things, they were so clean, very clean, and friendly people. In Sweden, I never saw so many bicycles that the people were riding instead of in automobiles. Here in America everyone had automobiles, in Sweden it was bicycles.
SCHULD: Since the war in Europe was over only recently, it would seem that a lot of people would have friendly feelings toward the US troops who had liberated so many countries. Did you find that?
LINDEMANN: Yes, they were very friendly, yes. They were so happy when we came. Actually, it was a good will cruise. We tried to bring good will to all the countries and friendliness and everything. We were trying to help them, and they knew this.
SCHULD: Talk a little about the living conditions on the ship, and the food that you ate.
LINDEMANN: Okay. The living conditions were fine. I never complained. Of course I lived out in the country on a farm, and when I joined the Navy I considered those living conditions great. We had three-tier hammock racks that we slept in, quite crowded. We were warm in the winter and fine in the summer. We used to hang the racks up against the wall, all three racks at one time against wall, then it gave more space to clean.
As far as food aboard ship, I cannot say that I disliked anything. I was a young kid at 17 years old, and I remember and mentioned to many of my friends, that I used to go on the port and starboard lines, because I was so hungry from the port side I went over on the starboard side if they had something real good, and hopefully I did not get caught.
SCHULD: So on the port side you could not go back for seconds?
LINDEMANN: No, not on the port, but on the starboard side nobody knew me there.
SCHULD: We all had favorite names for some of the food we ate didn’t we?
LINDEMANN: Right. One particular name I remember. On a certain day, I do not know whether it was Saturday or Wednesday or so on, but it was like bologna day. At that time they called it they called it horse cock.
SCHULD: Yes, I recall that.
LINDEMANN: Then of course it was not like the scrambled eggs we make today; it was powdered eggs. It was not bad. You never went hungry.
SCHULD: Exactly. You obviously had some close buddies, what can you recall of them?
LINDEMANN: I had many friends, and many buddies that I hung out with. One particular friend was Johnny Patito. He came from Danbury, Connecticut. He was a nice guy, and he was in weight lifting. He always used to do a lot of weight lifting before he came into the service. I liked that too, and I joined him. We found a place where we could lift weights, and we got along fine.
We had another fellow, my immediate boss; his last name was Thorsby. He was a second-class aviation machinist mate. He and Chief Storms, I remember that, another joker.
SCHULD: I published photos of Chief Storms in the LITCOMS.
LINDEMANN: We all got along together great. Thorsby was joking around a lot, very happy-go-lucky, and it was a lot of fun.
SCHULD: I bet it was. Can you recall any moments of fear or excitement while aboard the ship?
LINDEMANN: Of course, I would say the greatest fear was crossing the Atlantic Ocean a few times. We hit very serious Atlantic storms. When the ship lists very bad on its side, sometimes you wonder if you are really going to come out of it. It was that bad. You can actually here the rear screws vibrate the whole ship.
SCHULD: Did you have to suspend your aviation activities during that time?
LINDEMANN: Definitely. The aircraft had to be secured down. We did not lose anything.
The other fear was sort of like a disappointment when one of the aircraft came into a landing on a recovery and it came in, not at the right spot. It hit a large swell and tipped over. The pilot got out of the cockpit. He was on top of the main float, and we rescued him.
SCHULD: And the plane?
LINDEMANN: The plane sunk. It was lost; it was upside down.
SCHULD: Well, I am sure many of them were during war.
LINDEMANN: It was a very difficult plane to handle on take off aboard ship with the need to play the waves in the ocean.
SCHULD: These planes were the SC-1 Seahawks, were they not?
SCHULD: There was another type of plane that was flown off catapults, at that time. What was that one?
LINDEMANN: The one that I remember was the King Fisher.
SCHULD: Ah, that was the one.
LINDEMANN: That was the one that I believe that had a very famous pilot...was it Pennypacker...that was saved out in the Pacific.
SCHULD: Who made the Seahawk?
LINDEMANN: Curtiss Company, Curtiss-Wright.
SCHULD: Curtiss-Wright, okay.
LINDEMANN: The King Fisher was I think a Chance Vought Company.
SCHULD: Curtiss-Wright was out in your neighborhood, was it not, Long Island?
LINDEMANN: No, Curtiss-Wright was in Columbus, Ohio. They were built there and they were transported by wheels, landing gears, to the seaport. Then at the seaport they installed the floats on the aircraft.
SCHULD: I see. Do you have any memories of the Skipper and XO?
LINDEMANN: Yes. When I first boarded the ship in Philadelphia, I remember Captain Miller vaguely. Of course I remember his name and I do not know whether I saw him or anything, he was there then.
SCHULD: Never had a cup of coffee with him, did you?
LINDEMANN: No. (laughing)
SCHULD: You saluted him?
LINDEMANN: That is it, mostly saluted him. Then I believe Captain Hutton…
SCHULD: Henri Smith-Hutton.
LINDEMANN: He was aboard the ship for our first Northern European cruise. I believe the second European cruise if I recall was Captain Francis…
LINDEMANN: He was the other Captain. At that time, Rear Admiral George Dyer came aboard our ship after we had gunnery practice and presented the Little Rock with the “E” for battle efficiency.
SCHULD: When and where did you detach from the Rock?
LINDEMANN: This was around September 1948, if I recall.
SCHULD: But that did not end your military service, did it?
LINDEMANN: No. We were sent to Norfolk, Virginia Naval Air Station. That was more or less our homeport for our seaplane. Actually, the last homeport when I was detached from the ship was Newport, Rhode Island.
SCHULD: What was your overall impression of your tour on the ship?
LINDEMANN: It was just unbelievable. There are no words actually for all the ports and countries that I visited. When I told my children and the grandchildren they were just amazed.
SCHULD: You grew up a lot while you were on the ship?
LINDEMANN: Yes. That is right. Yes, we did.
SCHULD: So, your next Navy assignment was Norfolk, and then from that you were discharged?
LINDEMANN: Yes, we had a short tour, I believe for about three months, on the USS Portsmouth, CL 107. That was like a gunnery exercise at that time. Then after that training we were sent back to Norfolk, Virginia and it was October 4, 1949 that I was discharged from the Navy.
SCHULD: December of 1949?
LINDEMANN: No, that was October 4, 1949. The Little Rock went back on a cruise before that I believe.
SCHULD: Now you are a civilian, what did you do then?
LINDEMANN: I came back and I went back as a carpenter. My cousins had mentioned doing that years ago, before I joined the service. I first worked for my uncle; he was a custom builder, for about seven years. After that, being a carpenter was seasonal. In the winter, you did not have a lot of work. My wife, Martha, mentioned to me that I should get a steady job.
So, I applied to Gibbs & Cox. They were naval architects and marine engineers in Manhattan. I applied, was interviewed and investigated, because it was still under secrecy I think. I was hired in their carpenter and maintenance division.
While I was there I had access to all the spaces of the building, and I found out that they were building and making models of United States Navy ships. That was so interesting. You could see the mockups of the bridge, and the wheelhouse, and also short models of aircraft carriers.
SCHULD: How big were these models?
LINDEMANN: Some of the mockups were full size. It was a very big building and very big roof and big rooms. It was an old building. There were full size mockups of the bridge, certain machinery rooms, not the entire ship. These were just full-scale mockups of different areas.
SCHULD: I see.
LINDEMANN: Gibbs & Cox also designed one of the nuclear aircraft carriers that we had at the time, where the aircraft flew off on an angle.
I stayed there for about seven years, and passed an examination for city carpenter in New York City. I spent 25 years with the city. I retired from the city. I retired as foreman carpenter and my biggest title was builders and trade foreman of all the trades.
SCHULD: It sounds pretty impressive. So, you grew quite a bit in that company?
LINDEMANN: Yes, I did. Then I retired in October 1989. I have been with my wife now for 49 years. All our grandchildren came to many of our reunions.
SCHULD: How many children do you have?
LINDEMANN: I have two children, Kathy and Tommy. Kathy is married to Howard; we have three grandchildren from that marriage. One grandchild from my son and his name is Shawn, and he is going now to a naval/merchant marine academy. He just finished.
SCHULD: It is pretty clear to anyone who knows you that you have had some considerable community involvement, or at least volunteer activity. What can you tell us about your model building experiences since the service?
LINDEMANN: I went back to my first love aviation after carpentry and I built many of what they call quarter-scale scratch airplanes and flew them with radio control. This year I scratch-built an 18% percent model of the SC-1 Seahawk and not only that, I just had to build an 18% scale model of the catapult.
SCHULD: Could you tell us for the record the wingspan and length of that plane?
LINDEMANN: Yes, the wingspan was approximately eight feet (96 inches). The fuselage, off hand, I would say about 6 feet (72 inches). Unbelievably, the main float of the airplane was longer than the fuselage and then we had two wingtip floats.
SCHULD: Wow! How long did it take you to build this?
LINDEMANN: In spare time it took about a year and a half.
SCHULD: Is it on display somewhere in a museum?
LINDEMANN: No, I do work for the Cradle of Aviation Museum, Long Island, as a volunteer in the restoration of aircraft. We are working on two aircraft there. We finished the Grumman F3F biplane, which was flown in the beginning of the war. Now, we are on our second Brewster Buffalo. That was a late 1930’s plane built in Long Island City. The second Buffalo we are building right now is for the country of Holland. In the beginning of the war, they were involved with the Japanese. The Japanese were taking over the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies at that time. We sold them quite a few of those airplanes.
As far as the SC-1, Seahawk, I have many requests for speeches about my Navy service. I have spoken to Kiwanis clubs and to many senior citizens and their clubs.
SCHULD: How are you able to transport this plane? You take it to these various sites, do you not?
LINDEMANN: Yes, it comes apart in three sections. The float comes apart, then the wings come apart underneath the fuselage, and it is in three sections. The catapult comes apart also in three sections. The trunion is below the catapult itself. The catapult is 14-feet long, which is fused together by a tongue-and-grove arrangement, then screwed and bolted together. I can separate it and each half is seven-feet long. There are three sections of that, and I have to have a nice pick-up truck.
SCHULD: I will bet. How long have you been a member of the USS Little Rock Association?
LINDEMANN: I was looking up my papers, and I joined in 1993.
SCHULD: You have been to how many reunions then?
LINDEMANN: I would say about ten reunions.
SCHULD: This is the 14th, so you have been to almost all of them?
SCHULD: What have these reunions meant to you?
LINDEMANN: Unbelievable. They bring memories of the late ‘40s with the crew of the Little Rock, and all the adventures that we have gone through. I enjoy the fellows from the old ship, and the new ship now. It is unbelievable how many friends I have made with the CLG 4 now. Everybody greeted us when we came in this morning, “Hi Walde, Hi Martha” and I remember them from every reunion. If my health continues I just will not miss any of them, I hope. I told my grandchildren that they should continue after I cannot make it anymore. They said, “Oh, grandpa, we will, we will.” I just hope they will.
SCHULD: That is wonderful. Do you have any final thoughts, or observations for us?
LINDEMANN: I think I really put it all in one piece, what I just said about the reunion and everything else. I think the running of the reunion with many members putting this reunion together, like you, and our president and the vice-president and all those folks is a tremendous task. I just hope that it continues forever.
SCHULD: We do too, we have evolved into just a wonderful organization since day one. The association just seems to get better and better all the time.
LINDEMANN: It is so interesting when we go to these different cities because I have never been to a lot of these cities before. The last one in Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, that was unbelievable.
SCHULD: That was of course where we went to the aviation museum.
LINDEMANN: Yes, in Dayton, Ohio.
SCHULD: You must have been in Seventh Heaven?
LINDEMANN: I was very impressed with that, I just did not have enough time.
SCHULD: Have you been to the new extension of the Air & Space in Washington?
LINDEMANN: I do not think so.
SCHULD: Have you ever been to the Air & Space Museum?
LINDEMANN: Yes, I have.
SCHULD: Well now there is an annex of that about ten miles away. They have fabulous aircraft.
LINDEMANN: I believe the Enola Gay is there now.
SCHULD: The Enola Gay is there, and they have a B-36 and a B-47 and so forth.
LINDEMANN: They only dream I have not visited is in Pensacola, Florida; they have a seaplane there.
SCHULD: With your love for flying, have you ever flown or piloted a plane?
SCHULD: Did you become a licensed pilot?
LINDEMANN: I became licensed pilot. That was when I was in Norfolk, Virginia when we were stationed there after we departed off the ship. I went to a local airport and took private lessons there. When I became a private pilot I used to fly home to Roosevelt Airfield in Long Island on the weekends. I took my friend Johnny Patito to Danbury, Connecticut.
SCHULD: Well, I think we have a lot of great information from you. We are delighted that you agreed to do this interview. As you know all of these tapes will be transcribed, reduced to writing. They will be compiled with other transcriptions and you will be able to acquire all of these at some point in the future. We have plans to do many more of just the CL 92 for now.
LINDEMANN: I just have one thought in mind, I am sort of honored but I am still looking for more of my aviation friends from CL 92. They are out there. They are probably out on the West Coast. Probably they do not know, like myself. When I joined as a volunteer at the Cradle of Aviation, there was a aviation machinist mate, retired from the Navy in Norfolk, Virginia. We had a lot of good times talking about that, and he asked, “Don’t you belong to the USS Little Rock Association?”
I said, “No, Little Rock, that was a long time ago.”
He said, “It is still afloat.”
This is when I contacted you.
SCHULD: That is amazing. Once again, we are certainly indebted to you for your comments here, and thanks again Walde for the interview.
LINDEMANN: This is all the truth and nothing but the truth.
SCHULD: Nothing but the truth, so help you God.
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