U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Donald "Don" Schuld
Interviewer: Gus Karlsen
Date: July 14, 2006
KARLSEN: I am Gus Karlsen and I will be interviewing Donald Schuld who served in CLG 4. We are at the 15th annual reunion of the USS Little Rock Association at the Sheraton Braintree, Boston, Massachusetts.
The purpose of this interview is to get to know Don and from his recollections learn more about life and duty as an enlisted man aboard USS Little Rock CLG 4 during his tenure of service from . . . .
SCHULD: Aboard the ship it would have been June 1960 until December '62.
KARLSEN: Let's just talk about your background. If you could, please summarize your early life, education and work experience, if any, before joining the Navy.
SCHULD: Well it wouldn't be very extensive but I was born in Staten Island in 1940. I moved to New Jersey in '49.
I attended high school in Roxbury Township and almost immediately after high school joined the Navy and off to Great Lakes in December of 1958. We were flown to Great Lakes in what was then known as either a DC-3 or a C-47 depending on whether it was civilian or military.
It was in the winter, only a week before Christmas. I was rather surprised to be called at a week before Christmas. It stumped me as unusual. A week after Christmas would have certainly made more sense to me.
Interestingly enough the plane was forced down in South Bend, Indiana because of ice accumulations on the wings and then we finally made it to Great Lakes.
KARLSEN: Yes. Could you get basket leave for Christmas or anything?
SCHULD: Not that I recall, no.
KARLSEN: Really, so you were stuck at boot camp over Christmas?
KARLSEN: Wow, that's interesting.
How about boot camp? Can you talk about your time there and the assignments and what life was like, or would you rather forget it [chuckle]?
SCHULD: [Chuckle] It was cold and snowy. I remember becoming quite ill. I don't know whether it would have been the flu or actually if I had pneumonia. But as you probably know if you became ill you may very well loose your company.
SCHULD: But I managed to get through that and graduated from boot camp in February of '59 and then subsequently returned to Great Lakes to go to Electronics School for 18 weeks. From there we were granted leave and then we had to report to Norfolk and begin Radar School and Electronic Countermeasures School.
KARLSEN: How long were they?
SCHULD: Well I think Radar School was probably about four or six weeks, something like that, and ECM school may have been a week or so.
So right out of ECM school you were going to report aboard the Little Rock?
SCHULD: Well no, I reported to Newport, Rhode Island to the PreCom detail and of course that was where you got some shipboard orientation and divisions were formed; OI / OE, and you went to various training schools; schools that would train you for shipboard life, whether it be firefighting or some other type of thing. You learned to use fire hoses and gas masks and the like. We were in Newport, Rhode Island for, gosh, certainly it must have been several months at least.
Then I wound up going to Boston and heading to Philadelphia and reported aboard the ship.
KARLSEN: Did you go aboard ship as part of the PreCom orientation or did you go to another ship?
SCHULD: No, there was no other ship. We reported to the Little Rock. It had yet to be commissioned as I recall and we began loading stores aboard the ship and that went on for quite some time, and I guess they were preparing for commissioning, and then of course on June 3rd, 1960 with the commissioning ceremony.
KARLSEN: Alright, what was your first impression of the ship then; was it larger or smaller?
SCHULD: Well of course being a country boy it certainly was an impressive sight to see, you know, 610 feet of ship, not having anything to compare it to. It was certainly big under any circumstances.
Was that.... all I can think of is the pictures of her in drydock with big chunks of ice hanging down the sides. Was that your first sight?
SCHULD: Well no, that was subsequent to the commissioning. We apparently had been out at sea and then it was later brought in to go into drydock. I don't recall exactly when. Some people have great recollection of times, you know, "In May we did this and July we did that", and I really can't pinpoint with any accuracy when that happened. But of course the drydock situation was a pretty disruptive thing to shipboard life because of the Yard Birds and the other inconveniences.
Okay, so your division assignment was already known. I mean it was obvious you were going to OI.
SCHULD: Sure. Of course I had requested a cruiser out of the East Coast on that so-called "Dream Sheet", that one would fill out, I guess at the end of boot camp it must have been, because then they send you to Radar School and so forth. So clearly you already know that you would be assigned to a division of Radarmen, which would be OI Division.
So your job was pretty well something you already had some idea about at least.
SCHULD: Well yes. Of course you knew what you were going to be doing; you were working on radar, but not up until the time we boarded ship did we ever have an opportunity to really lay our hands on a radar repeater and begin to understand the plotting and the techniques that they required.
Your battle station was in Combat?
SCHULD: Yes, it was.
KARLSEN: Can you describe the ship's cruises and operations during the time you were onboard?
SCHULD: Well there was a Caribbean cruise of course and they're always enjoyable, visiting those various ports in the Caribbean. Then there were firing exercises down there and I think that was Culebra.
KARLSEN: Culebra or Vieques, either one.
SCHULD: Yes, Vieques.
And I recall enjoying the movies on the fantail when we were anchored in the Caribbean with a beautiful breeze and seeing the lights of the city off in the distance. That was always pretty nice; visiting the various towns in Puerto Rico and other ports-of -call.
KARLSEN: So after the Caribbean vacation, was that about the time the ship went to the Med?
SCHULD: Well yes, we probably had some leave following the Caribbean cruise and then we went to the Mediterranean and we were there for six months.
KARLSEN: It would have been February '61 to September '61.
SCHULD: Somewhere around there, yes. We may have a Cruise Book with those dates in it.
And of course to anyone that hadn't visited Europe, why it had to be a great time to enjoy Europe. We visited Cannes on the French Riviera. I guess we were there three times and I took a variety of tours. There were always tours available when we pulled into port.
And of course we went to Athens in Greece and Istanbul in Turkey, which I found fascinating. You see in magazines what these people are supposed to look like but not always do they look like what you visualize in magazines.
But there were always places for sailors to go and many sailors took the tours and I took many of those tours and took a lot of photographs; slides, and I still have them today visiting the Casino in Monte Carlo and places like that. I have photographs of that.
I spent some time on the beach on the French Riviera. That was a fun time where you could rent a little mattress to lay on and a little side table and buy a split of cold champaign for two dollars and fifty cents and watch the beautiful French girls come by selling the New York Herald Tribune. I enjoyed that time.
KARLSEN: What about living conditions on the ship; the quality of the food, the quality of the ship's services?
SCHULD: Well I always enjoyed the food. I really didn't find it distasteful. There were always jokes about Navy food, you know the chipped beef on toast and that type of thing, and obviously I'm sure it was as nutritional as it needed to be. And I always enjoyed chow and having the eggs and steak on Sunday morning, that type of thing.
I was assigned as an E-3; as a Seaman. I was assigned to mess duty and specifically the bakery. And so I had to pack up my locker, I had to leave OI Division quarters, and go to where the mess cooks sleep. And of course you didn't know those people and so that wasn't a particularly enjoyable time because you had to get up at some God awful hours in the morning and go to the bakery and so forth.
But it was my good fortune about halfway through the tour of mess duty to be rated as a third class petty officer and petty officers don't go on mess duty. And so I repacked my things and went back to OI Division and rejoined my people.
KARLSEN: And how long were you mess cooking?
SCHULD: Well maybe it was a month or something like that, not very long. I don't know actually how long the tour would have been. I suspect it would have been a number of months at least, you know, three months, four months maybe.
SCHULD: But shipboard life was good. I mean when you live, work, eat, sleep and play with the same group of people, friendships develop pretty fast and it's pretty hard to be a loner, not that I intended to be. But you would have to be a pretty strange duck to not make a couple of good friends and when you do make good friends you spend a great deal time with them. You go on liberty all the time and you kind of depend on one another for favors or whatever.
KARLSEN: Yes. how about some of your best buddies, maybe some colorful characters among your shipmates?
SCHULD: Well certainly I had several good friends, some of which you yourself may remember; Rusty Collins.
KARLSEN: Sure, B-Bop.
SCHULD: B-Bop, that's right. He was a very likable character. Everyone liked the Bopper and he lives out in Colorado now. About ten years ago he and his wife were in New York on business and they came to my house in New Jersey for the day and we had dinner together. He went off, graduated from college after the Navy and got what I believe to be a pretty good job in an industry. But like any other employee, why he ultimately wound up somehow loosing that job, and so he's had some difficult employment I would imagine in more recent years. And he's had a few health problems.
There was another fellow by the name by Louis Desimon. Louis was older by maybe three or four years then me. He was a real lothario; a real lady's man, and to go on liberty with him was quite an experience because he really featured himself as a lady's man; a single Italian guy. His father had money. But Louie was a guy that you could very easily find yourself in trouble with because time and things like that meant nothing to him.
It was he who resulted in us being AWOL at a time when the ship was getting underway in Philly; running out of gas on the New Jersey Turnpike, or the Pennsylvania Turnpike I guess it was. And they delivered us to the ship in the back of the security pickup truck with the rails lined from the main deck to the 0-4 level with men in white uniforms and the CO staring down at me and the Officer of the Deck staring down at me from the main deck as we climbed out of the back of the pickup truck and came up the forward brow. The after brow had already been removed. And we were out with some girls that previous night and we looked pretty bad reporting back to the ship.
SCHULD: And we reported aboard and received an anticipated scowl from the OOD and were immediately placed on report and assigned some duty. I can't recall exactly what it was. But it was an experience with the character.
You also may remember Richard Millen. He and Chet Shoyen came to us from the, oh gosh, another ship. The name will come to me. They were both second or third class. Richard Millen was known as "Slick" and he was a third class with one hash mark and he had been around the block, and a lot young people; sailors, looked up to him because he was certainly an old salt at that time. But he was another fellow too that if you went on liberty he would not return until he had spent his last dollar and yours.
SCHULD: So he was a fellow you could very easily get in trouble with too.
SCHULD: Yes. That's it - the big communication ship - like CG-1.
KARLSEN: The North Hampton?
SCHULD: The North Hampton, yes. They both came to us from the North Hampton, yes.
KARLSEN: Interesting. Yes, there were quite a few colorful characters onboard at the time.
KARLSEN: Any moments that you can recall where you experienced great shock, fear or excitement?
SCHULD: Well I suppose that I had to feel some fear in that particular occasion that I just mentioned about getting out of the pickup truck with a thousand pairs of eyes on you, knowing that surely something would happen to you when you boarded the ship. But I can't recall any particular incidents that I was in fear or much excitement.
I would say that there was a time when there was a crisis down around Guantanamo and this wasn't the blockade because I'm told that we were really in drydock during that time. I think that there was some crisis going on in Guantanamo and all of the ships from the Second Fleet had to get underway and head down there. I recall being on liberty in Florida somewhere and shore patrol were dispatched out into the various towns to collect as many Little Rock sailors as they could because the ship was getting underway in one hour or two hours. And once we arrived there I recall going up on deck and looking out and seeing quite a few Navy ships around and formations of F-4s and A-3J Vigilantes flying overhead off whatever carrier was down there. I can't recall the carrier, whether it was the Ranger or the Forrestal or whoever we were operating with, and that was kind of exciting.
And also, I think a time when there was a problem you'll recall down in the Dominican Republic. I don't believe the United States was involved specifically in it but more in an observational status and we sailed for a couple of days back and forth off the coast while I observed some planes dropping bombs on various things ashore, and as a kid I had no idea really what the hell was going on politically there. Do you? Was Trujillo going to overthrow the government or something, a coup?
KARLSEN: Yes, he had to get out; escape, with the gold is the how the story went. I don't know how true that was. But yes, and it was at Thanksgiving as it happened. Thanksgiving occurred during the time we were patrolling.
SCHULD: Well interestingly enough there was a photograph taken of the USS Little Rock cruising off the beach of the Dominican Republic and that photograph found its way to the front page of the Newark Evening News, which was a major paper in New Jersey at the time.
KARLSEN: Yes, I do recall that.
How about any interesting recollections of your leading petty officer, division officer, skipper, executive officer; other leaders in your chain of command?
SCHULD: Well we had a young kid named Karlsen I recall.
SCHULD: He was a full ensign [chuckle].
We had some pretty interesting petty officers. As you know, Ed Olford was, at one particular time, a second class and ultimately became a first class and a chief after I had departed. But Ed was a little guy. He was a walking encyclopedia as far as Navy facts and information was concerned but a fidgety guy. He talked with his hands all the time. And Ed was, as I always said, the type of guy, if you asked him the time he'd tell you how to build a watch.
KARLSEN: It would run too.
SCHULD: Yes, yes it would. And interestingly enough, some time after I founded the Little Rock Association I contacted Ed maybe in 1991, and he was then working for AT&T, and we renewed our relationship and became very close friends.
Prior to his death several years ago, we spent a good deal of time together at reunions and I would visit his home in Florida and out in Long Island. So prior to his death we became some pretty close friends and his wife today is a good friend of ours and she's stayed at our home on several occasions, and she continues to come to the reunions.
KARLSEN: Yes, quite a lasting relationship.
SCHULD: Yes, he was a nice fellow. In fact, subsequent to his death I flew to Florida to deliver the eulogy at his service.
SCHULD: So he was one character.
I recall we had a - and you will too - Chief Williams; Leuwelard (Sp?) Williams. He was an E-9 chief; Master Chief. Of course I never developed a relationship with him or never saw him again after the Navy. But I did learn a few years ago in recruiting members of this association that he had died. As a matter of fact he left the Navy, got another job as a civilian as I recall; his wife told me, and almost within weeks of his retirement from his second job he died.
KARLSEN: Yes, that was too bad.
SCHULD: We had another petty officer; Mack Shand. You'll remember Mack.
KARLSEN: I do.
SCHULD: An unusual character; a very smart guy, extremely talented and an artist of course. He's the one responsible for the artwork in our cruise book. He was so unusual that if I was going on liberty and he was not, he'd give me some money and ask me to buy him a watch. One day at the NATO exchange when we were in the Mediterranean he said if I was going ashore would I pick up a watch for him. So I bought him a Rolex watch; stainless steel Rolex. A couple of months later he said he didn't think it went with his uniform [chuckle] and so I bought it for $35. That was in 1961 and I've had the watch for 55 years. I still have it. I still wear it and it still runs.
KARLSEN: [Chuckle] That's quite a story. Yes, he was a character all right, wasn't he?
Obviously there was really no opportunity to develop a relationship with officers. That type of thing didn't exist for all the obvious reasons.
So when and where did you detach from the Little Rock?
SCHULD: Well there was a period of time when we were, I believe, in Portsmouth, and my DD-214 does not reflect this and I do not know why. There was an opportunity for any petty officers to be detached from the Little Rock and go to the base motor pool where you would drive sedans for various people, for transportation I suppose. But the living conditions were very good. You had to buy your own food but you were allowed to have all your civilian clothes in a locker there. It's where the base movie supply was so you could watch movies. Every single night there was shuffleboard and lots of things. It was pretty free-and-easy duty and very little supervision.
KARLSEN: Was that the Naval Operating Base in Norfolk.
SCHULD: Norfolk? I keep thinking it was Portsmouth but I can't swear to that.
KARLSEN: I can't remember exactly when we went into the yard but it was probably not too far from December of '62 when you left.
SCHULD: Well I think so and so it's always been rather fuzzy in my mind; the day that I got on some type of transportation to head home. I have absolutely no memory of where I left from. I don't know if I packed up and went back to the ship and then left or whether I left from that transportation pool. It's a strange thing and it's troubled me for years that I can't remember the circumstances under which I actually left for home. I have no recollection of it.
KARLSEN: So what was your overall impression of your tour on the Little Rock?
SCHULD: Well as much as I wanted to leave the Navy, I have to say that I probably enjoyed most things about it. I think perhaps one of the things (that) was a little disillusioning is that sometimes you saw what you considered some bright people working for some dumb people. For example I recall a first - and he wasn't in OI Division - I recall a first or second class petty officer with a few hash marks and he looked an absolute dufus. He looked like the dumbest thing that you've ever seen and I thought, "My God, if he was a second class and you were a third class this is supposed to be your superior? This is not the environment that I want to live in", and that was my impression at the time. I couldn't deal with that and of course that's probably the one thing that perhaps prompted me to leave the Navy. I don't think I ever considered staying. And in our time the pay was pretty mediocre. It wasn't until well after I left the Navy that they began to make fairly reasonable money and of course today there are many people; enlisted people, E-5's and 6's, who make as much or more than their civilian counterparts. The Navy Times shows us that from time to time, particularly the nukes. I mean there are first class petty officers that make $80,000 a year depending upon what they do in the Navy. But no, I guess it just wasn't for me at the time and so I left.
Now did you, as I did, join the Navy to avoid going in the Army?
SCHULD: No, not at all. I joined the Navy because I had just had a very poor relationship with my father. And I suspect, as I've read over the years and spoken to other sailors or anyone in the military for that matter, that they left just to get the hell out of their home and more to go away from something than to go to something.
SCHULD: I had intended to join with a friend and we were both going to join the Navy. He was turned down because of flat feet or something like that and so it was me alone and away I went. Well that was my reason for joining.
KARLSEN: Well that was pretty much it then; your tour on Little Rock and the schooling ahead of time; that was your military service?
SCHULD: Yes it was, exactly.
KARLSEN: Okay. Now what civilian job did you go to after the Navy?
SCHULD: Well shortly after discharge I applied for a position as an engineering technician, not an engineer but an engineering technician at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey and that had a starting salary of, I think, $4,800 a year, something like that. And while I was waiting for that, a friend of mine, a guy that I grew up with in my town, told me that this man that lived by his mother-in-law had asked him to join the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and that he suggested that I call this manager and tell him that I'm interested in the job and so forth. Well I did exactly that; I called him and I met him. You know I think my initial interview must have been possibly prior to my actual separation because I have some recollection of going down to meet the manager of the office in uniform. And he took me to his country club for lunch and so forth and so on, and so I was hired in any event. In February of '63 I was hired by Metropolitan Life as an agent and I spent almost 21 years with Metropolitan Life; four years as a manager. I had my own staff. I left then and I became an independent agent. I was representing Guardian Life but I represented many, many other companies but Guardian was my primary company, and I'm actually still with them today although I have a retired agent's contract. So I've been in the business for 43 years.
KARLSEN: That's quite a record.
SCHULD: But the last 22 as an independent agent, and I have my own operation, my own office, nothing provided by the company. I hire my own secretary and own my own equipment.
KARLSEN: That's quite a record; that length of time, and I'm sure you've done very well.
SCHULD: Well yes. I suspect in a way I'm glad that I wasn't hired by Picatinny Arsenal.
KARLSEN: [Chuckle] So do you feel that you took away from your naval service any lessons or outlooks or values that might have helped you in your career?
SCHULD: Well I think the structure of Navy life probably stayed with me. As you probably know I'm a pretty detailed person. Details in the military and details in many other things in life are very important. To make a memorial service work, it's details. You can't fumble through things because it requires a lot of preparation and timing. Now I don't know whether that was imparted to me by the Navy or my German ancestry, maybe a little bit of both.
KARLSEN: That's a pretty good combination I would guess.
SCHULD: [Laughter] So, I think structure and being squared away. You know you had to be squared away in the Navy.
KARLSEN: Especially on a cruiser.
SCHULD: Yes, you know you didn't have a large living space. And so I'm a squared away person in my business and personal life with things. I don't have a lot of gear adrift as we used to call it.
KARLSEN: That stuff goes in the Lucky Bag.
SCHULD: [Chuckle] Yes.
KARLSEN: Okay, and where have you chosen to live now and can you tell me a little bit about your family life and a little bit about your community involvement, and volunteer activity and so on? I'm sure we can get volumes out of that one.
SCHULD: Yes, I guess you could. Well I live in Northwestern New Jersey by Stanhope and I've lived there for a long time.
I'm involved in the Rotary as you know. I've been in the Rotary for 29 years. I'm a past president and a three-time Paul Harris recipient. I had perfect attendance every week for 29 years.
I'm a member of the Chamber of Commerce. This past year I was selected as the Business Person of the Year for the Roxbury Chamber of Commerce.
SCHULD: I'm a 41-year member of my local professional association; the Northwest Jersey Life Underwriters Association. I was president of that organization in 1975 and a national committeeman for four years, and in 1982 I was voted the New Jersey Life Underwriter of the Year for the entire state of New Jersey.
KARLSEN: That's pretty impressive.
SCHULD: As part of the Rotary experience, I host many people. My wife and I have been to Japan taking 24 students with us. We've hosted exchange students from several countries in Europe and many, many from Japan, so the Rotary takes up a big portion of my time as, of course, does the Naval Order. I'm on the board of directors of the Naval Order of the United States in New York and I'm a life member of that.
KARLSEN: Not to mention the USS Little Rock Association as a founder
SCHULD: Oh yes, the best part of that, of course. is that I'm one of the four founders of the Little Rock Association. It was founded June 21st, 1991. Probably born in the minds of Jim Kays and myself.
It was Jim who called me on the phone after seeing my name in the log at the Buffalo naval park and he lived probably about 30 minutes from me. He came to my office one day and said that he had photocopies of the pages out of the visitor's log and he said, "Perhaps we could have some sort of a reunion". And from that day forward, we began to put an organization together.
An attorney friend of mine in the office next to me drew up some papers and we took the name USS Little Rock Association, filed it with the state of New Jersey. I sent them a check for 35 bucks; filing fee or whatever it was, and we began calling people from that log book who left their phone numbers. And little by little we began to build the association.
There were two other fellows involved, although one was John Sheppard ("Shep") in California and he didn't have an opportunity to do a helluva lot in the building of it. But because Jim was the one that contacted me, I just agreed to.... we had to have some structure and there had to be a President. of course. I suggested that since he suggested it, he should be President for the first year and I would be the Treasurer, I guess I was., Shep was the Vice President.
In any event we opened a checking account, mailbox, and we began to make hundreds of phone calls and then we sent out thousands of postcards and built the association until there were a thousand people in it, and Jim did one term as president and I followed with seven years after that. And I'm very proud of that.
KARLSEN: As you should be. You built up a very fine organization.
SCHULD: I enjoy it not only as a member but also seeing the results of what I had done; that is seeing men getting reacquainted after 20 / 30 / 40 / 50 years. That brought a great deal of satisfaction to me to see a guy who served on the ship in 1945 and hadn't seen his buddy in some 50 years, and to watch them embrace in the lobby of a hotel. It's pretty good stuff.
KARLSEN: Yes, very powerful. Any final thoughts or observations you'd care to make?
SCHULD: Well it's been a great experience. One I could not have believed after leaving the Little Rock - I'm reminded of that often - you walk away from the ship with really no thoughts of ever seeing it or the men again. Sometimes one guy says to the other, "Hey, let's keep in touch". As you know, that probably doesn't happen in 95 percent of the cases. And I just simply couldn't have expected to be where I am and we are today walking away from that ship in 1962. Who could have thought you would subsequently have such great friendships 45 years later, that you would be so close to certain people 45 years later. It was unthinkable then but here it is.
KARLSEN: Here it is, by the proof is in the pudding, isn't it?
SCHULD: I guess so.
KARLSEN: Okay, now I have to ask you this. Do you swear that everything you told me is true?
SCHULD: Almost everything.
KARLSEN: Almost everything.
SCHULD: Yes [chuckle].
KARLSEN: Okay, last chance. Anything you'd like to add?
SCHULD: No. I've done some interviews but this is the first time I've been interviewed and it's nice to have your thoughts reduced to writing.
KARLSEN: Thank you Don
KARLSEN: This ends the interview with Donald Schuld. Thanks Don.
SCHULD: I appreciate it. Thank you, Gus.
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