U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Donald F. "Don" Slack
Interviewer: Nicholas Perillo
PERILLO: Hi, I am Nicholas Perillo; I will be interviewing Donald F. Slack, “Don” to us. He served on the CL 92. This is tape number one. We are at the 14th Annual Reunion of the USS Little Rock Association. We are in the Wright Room at the Adams Mark Hotel in Buffalo, New York. The date in July 16, 2005.
The purpose of this interview is to get to know Don, and from his recollection learn more about life and duty as a sailor aboard USS Little Rock, CL 92, during a part of its period of service from 1945-1949.
Don, when, where and why did you join the Navy?
SLACK: It was on March 4, 1946 in Worcester, Massachusetts. I was eligible for the draft and I preferred the Navy.
PERILLO: Don, when and where did you report to the USS Little Rock?
SLACK: In Philadelphia in June of 1946.
PERILLO: What was your initial impression of the ship?
SLACK: It was awesome!
PERILLO: After you reported aboard, what was your division assignment?
SLACK: I was assigned to the deck crew; I do not remember which division it was. I believe it was the Third.
PERILLO: What were some of the jobs you had, while you were on the deck crew?
SLACK: Well, swabbing the deck and getting the ship ready for sailing.
PERILLO: I think they used to call it holy stoning or something like that.
SLACK: That is right.
PERILLO: During GQ, what was your battle station?
SLACK: Mount ONE, topside.
PERILLO: Don, can you describe the ship’s employment and operations while you were aboard?
SLACK: Shortly after I got on board we had a good will tour of Europe. We went into Scandinavia and then we went down into the Mediterranean, and became part of the Sixth Fleet. I was in the radar gang at that time. My duty on board was to operate the different kinds of radar equipment. That is basically it.
PERILLO: Describe your living conditions on the ship and the quality of the ship’s chow.
SLACK: The chow was adequate. The living quarters we had to keep spick-and-span. It was adequate, it could have been more spacious but we had those racks crammed in.
PERILLO: Tell me about some of your close buddies. Some of the shipmates that you met in career on the Little Rock.
SLACK: One of the most interesting characters I met was a Marine named Jack Conlin, who was also from Worcester. That is why I happened to hang around with him, and I knew him before he went into the Marines. He was always pulling tricks. I remember one time we picked up some midshipmen and took them out to sea, and they were watching the people washing their clothes in the briny deep, by hanging a rope over the fantail. They thought they would like to do it, and Jacky in all of his wisdom, showed them how to make slipknots. They all proceeded to drop their lines and they lost all their clothes. He thought that was fantastic. We all got a kick out that.
PERILLO: Can you recall any moments of great shock or fear or excitement while you were aboard the Little Rock?
SLACK: Yes, one in particular. We were at Gibraltar, we were lined up at Quarters on the afterdeck, the Marines were facing us, and we had two rows. Our division was facing the Marines. The announcement came over the loud speaker, that there will be no swimming in these waters as they are shark infested. The night before the same, a Marine was down there swimming around. He almost passed out when he heard the announcement.
PERILLO: Do you remember your Skippers, Executive Officers, or other leaders in your chain of command?
SLACK: The one I remember most vividly is Captain H.H. Smith-Hutton. The ship had been in Newport for a short time, and then we were going up to Boston. We were granted liberty, port and starboard. I had the first two days off and I was to report back to the ship. A fellow from New Jersey, I will not mention his name, but he gave me a liberty ticket sending me home for four days instead of two. I got caught. I was in the brig for two weeks. It was not a happy memory of Captain Smith-Hutton, especially since he was reducing the other sentences. When he got to me he said, “You will serve your time.” So, I did.
PERILLO: How long did you serve on the Little Rock and when and where did you detach from the ship?
SLACK: I believe it was Norfolk that I got off in October of 1947.
PERILLO: What was your overall impression of your tour of duty aboard the Little Rock?
SLACK: I enjoyed my world tour. The benefits I got out of it are two years of college, and I developed a new attitude in the Navy about developing goals. I had never had any goals up to this time.
PERILLO: Did you have any other Navy assignments other than the Little Rock?
SLACK: Yes, they were going on another extended tour so I had to get transferred and I did not have enough time to get out. So, at Norfolk they put me on the USS Cambria, it was PA 36. It was just a few months before I could be discharged.
PERILLO: When you got discharged, what civilian jobs did you do?
SLACK: I went to college from there. I spent three years at Holy Cross in Worcester.
PERILLO: When you got out of college what…?
SLACK: I moved to Ohio and worked in production control, at a rubber company. I was there about six years and then I got into sales and I have been in sales ever since. I am still working.
PERILLO: Do you have any family?
SLACK: I do, I have a son and a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren that live in Seattle.
PERILLO: Are you involved in any community volunteer activities or something, such as the VA, or belong to any military organizations?
SLACK: I belong to the Little Rock Association.
PERILLO: How long have you been a member of the Little Rock Association?
SLACK: About ten years.
PERILLO: That is pretty good. That is almost a hundred percent.
PERILLO: Tell me what do these reunions mean to you?
SLACK: Well this particular one, I have mixed emotions. It is nice to see the fellows I used to serve with and meet new people that were on the ship, and share their experiences. This particular time I have two friends that passed away this past year, one just two days ago and one of them about ten months ago. It was a happy/sad affair for me.
PERILLO: As you can see by the sheet you have on there, the last question on there is, “Do you swear that everything you told me is true?”
SLACK: I do, to the best of my knowledge.
PERILLO: I am only joking. Are there any final thoughts or observations you would like to add to this tape? This will be left in the Little Rock memorabilia place, every year they will take it out, and they will put it in the room for future veterans to come and families to come and see. Is there anything you would like, in your own words, to add about the Navy or how you feel about it; what you have done?
SLACK: Well, if I had to do it all over again, I would do it all over again. It has been a wonderful experience. I love to come to these reunions because I like to walk down memory lane. As you get older, you appreciate it. Each year that you age the memories become more important to you and the people become more important to you. That is what it’s all about really.
PERILLO: This ends the interview with Don Slack, tape number one. Don we thank you very much and we hope you are enjoying your reunion here and I am glad we sat across from each other on the ship today for lunch, because I have been looking for you for days. That was remarkable.
SLACK: It must have been meant to be.
PERILLO: Yes, thank you Don.
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