U.S.S. Little Rock Association
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Roland “Bud” Wooster, Gunners Mate 3rd Class
Interviewer: Nick Perillo
PERILLO: This is Nick Perillo and I will be interviewing Gunners Mate 3rd Class Roland Wooster, Bud comes to us from Chelsea, Michigan. He was a member of the USS Little Rock. We are at the 14th Annual Reunion of the USS Little Rock Association at the Buffalo Adams Mark Hotel. The date is 16 July 2005.
The purpose of this interview is to learn about life and duty aboard the USS Little Rock, CL 92, during its short period of service 1945-1949, through the recollections of Gunners Mate 3rd Class Wooster.
Bud when, where and why did you join the Navy?
WOOSTER: I joined the Navy in March, 1948 in Detroit, Michigan after I came out of service from World War II in the U.S. Coast Guard.
PERILLO: Bud when and where did you report to the USS Little Rock?
WOOSTER: I reported to the USS Little Rock in Norfolk, Virginia.
PERILLO: About when was that?
WOOSTER: I spent about two weeks at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in boot camp while I was waiting for my papers to get organized, and all of our medical shots. Then they sent me to Norfolk to pick up the ship.
PERILLO: What was your first initial impression of the ship when you saw her?
WOOSTER: It was a lot larger than the ship I was on in World War II in the Coast Guard. It was amazing. Whew, how big it was!
PERILLO: Bud after reporting aboard what was your division assignment, you know your job on the ship, your watch station, your battle station?
WOOSTER: I was in the Sixth Division, Deck Force. I had been a gunners mate striker in World War II, so they put me as a gunners mate striker. I was a 40mm mount man. My 44mm mount was located right above our division quarters on the starboard side of the ship.
PERILLO: Bud, can you give us any interesting incidents in making ports of call and what liberty was like in those ports?
WOOSTER: It was really something. I believe we hit every port there was in the country of Greece. I remember Athens and Piraeus were the greatest ports. They reminded me a little bit of Detroit, where I joined the Navy. Some of the other ports were small ports, but they were all fun. We spent Christmas and New Years in Marseilles, France, which was out of this world. There were other ports, but I do not recall them right now.
PERILLO: How about the living conditions aboard the ship and the quality of the ship’s chow. Can you give us some comments on those two items?
WOOSTER: Well, living aboard the ship was good and it was clean. The crew that was in my division they were swell guys. It is unfortunate that I have never run across one of them yet, that I was with and we used to go ashore on liberty. I do not know if they are still alive or if they have passed on.
Chow, there was nothing wrong with chow, except Sunday night. Boy, I do not know why, but nobody liked Sunday night chow.
PERILLO: We will leave what they called that off of this transcript, okay.
Bud was there a barbershop and ice cream parlor and soda fountain and things of that nature on the Rock?
WOOSTER: All the ships that I was on, they had what they called the “Geedunk Stand”; that is where you got your ice cream and you could get other stuff down there. In the same area you could buy your personal things, soap, shaving stuff, toothbrushes and candy bars and things like that.
PERILLO: You mentioned close friendships with some of the Little Rock shipmates. How about any recollections or colorful characters that always make up a division, a mess hall or compartment.
WOOSTER: In the Sixth Division, when we would go ashore even in foreign ports we had a pretty good baseball team. I can remember one fellow who was a buddy of mine from Columbus, Ohio. Dudley Barber was his name. I have often wondered whatever happened to him. We were great buddies on liberty and aboard ship.
PERILLO: You know Little Rock was a first line man-of-war. Can you recall any moments where the fear of God, or hair standing on your neck or great excitement made the day that much shorter or that much longer for you while on board?
WOOSTER: I guess the greatest excitement aboard the Little Rock, and it was really something, was during peacetime, of course. It was in the summer of 1948. I would like to tell you what happened. Newport, Rhode Island was our homeport at that time. It was a nice sunny afternoon, and we were anchored in the bay at Newport. We received word that all ships should get underway and leave the area as soon as possible because of a hurricane.
About 2/3rds of the crew was on liberty so that left the other 1/3rd to prepare for sea. I was in the Sixth Division, gun captain of the 40mm mount starboard side above where our quarters were located. I secured the locking-pins and also lashed the manual training wheels down tight. I remember they got one seaplane below decks, but they did not have time to get the other plane below. They secured it to the catapult.
It was about 12 o’clock midnight, we hit the storm, or the storm hit us. Either way it was rough. We were laying on our stomachs in our bunks hanging on to the bunk rails with the bunk straps over the top of us to keep from falling out. The mess hall was right below our quarters, and we could hear everything down there going in all directions. Most of all the soup bowls and the coffee cups were broken.
The next morning the seaplane on the catapult was gone, and the two catapults were damaged. There was one large lifeboat on the port side that was gone, and the lifeboat davits were twisted. Most of our life rafts were gone. My 40mm gun-mount had broke loose and was swinging around like a wild monkey. The ammunition gun-tub that goes around the gun-mount was caved in; the diamond plate where the number one loader stands was bent upward. There was a lot more damage done than what I remember, because we went straight to Brooklyn Navy Yard and into drydock for repairs. It is hard to believe what happens when wind and water are combined in a storm like a hurricane. The next time the Little Rock went into Brooklyn Navy Yard’s drydock was when we decommissioned her in June of 1949.
PERILLO: I recall that, because I live in New Jersey only about 25 miles from Brooklyn and I was able to get home every night while the ship was in drydock.
Can you recall your commanding officers, executive officers, or any division officers, you know leading chiefs highlight their interactions with the ship or the crew?
WOOSTER: No, Nick I really do not remember those in command. I was just kind of a low profile fellow. I had a lot of fun with my own crew and our division. We used to go ashore and play ball or go to a beer garden or something.
PERILLO: How long did you serve aboard Little Rock and where and when did you detach from the ship?
WOOSTER: I came aboard the Little Rock, I think it was in April of 1948 and I left the Little Rock in June of 1949 when we decommissioned her in Brooklyn Navy Yard. I was then sent to Norfolk, Virginia to wait for a ship, my next assignment, which was the USS Shay, DM 30. It was a destroyer converted over for mine laying. My homeport then with the USS Shay was Charleston, South Carolina. I stayed on the Shay until March of 1950 when I got a personal discharge to go back home and help my dad, who was in building construction of houses. He was in bad health and needed help. I went into business with him.
PERILLO: What was your overall impression of your years of duty aboard the Little Rock?
WOOSTER: It was great, because like I said before it was the largest ship I had ever served on. I had been on larger ships but I was not assigned to them. There was one time I went aboard the “Battle Wagon” USS Missouri. They took me down in number three 16-inch gun turret. It was amazing. I could not believe what was there.
PERILLO: After you left the Navy and you returned to civilian life, could you give us a little bit of what you did during your civilian life that you gained from the Little Rock?
WOOSTER: I was always handy with my hands and my mind. One thing that did not happen in younger days; I did not graduate from high school. I went into the service, US Coast Guard in World War II.
When I came out I went to work in construction, building with my dad. I was in that for a while then I went to Ford Motor Company in maintenance. I was in maintenance there at Ford Motor Company for 33 years. During those years I also worked 25 years with my dad part-time.
I got married in July 1949 after the decommissioning of the Little Rock. That was in Norfolk, Virginia waiting for the Shay. I skipped home, got married, came back, and our honeymoon was in Norfolk. What a place. I have been married to my wife now 56 years a week ago. Fifty-six years we have been together. We are having a ball. We had three children, two boys and a girl. We lost our oldest boy, Gary, at the age of 26.
PERILLO: When you look back on your period of Naval service, wherever you served, what one thing would you sight for your progress and motivation in dealing with life’s experiences?
WOOSTER: Nick, I really do not know. I was never one to be afraid to be away from home. When I was little I grew up in the country on my grandparents farm every summer. I left home at 17, went into the service, come back out, went back into the service again. I love traveling, and I told my mom when I was little, “I am going to see the world, you watch.”
My mom is gone, but she often mentioned, “You sure did keep up with your word.”
PERILLO: Are you a charter member of the Little Rock Association?
WOOSTER: Yes, I am a life member of the Little Rock.
PERILLO: Have you attended our reunions?
WOOSTER: I first found out about the Little Rock through a nephew of mine who was looking for submarines for his dad. He said, “Uncle Bud give me the names of the ships you were on and I will see if I can locate any.” The Little Rock was the only one he located. He gave me the information, I sent in for the papers. They sent them back. I sent the money, and I joined. I have been a member since 2000.
PERILLO: This is going to be transcribed to be a matter of record in the Little Rock archives, wherever they end up. Are there any final thoughts or observations to make to add to posterity?
WOOSTER: Give that question again.
PERILLO: Oh, sure. Bud, the Little Rock has what they call a work party. Every year they get about ten guys that come to the ship, and you stay on the ship. You clean it and you paint it, and you chip the paint and put the canvases up and all of that. Any remarks you would like to pass about that one?
WOOSTER: I came to one work bee, Nick. I brought a grandson. He was graduating that Spring, in June, a month after we were here. It was the first and it was the only time I have been here to a work bee, but nobody could ever take it away from me. I have wonderful memories from that work bee and the fellows that were here, Nick, Jerry and the rest of them. We had a great time, and boy and I can remember how they enjoyed my grandson. My grandson cannot make it anymore right now. He is going to start his last year of college, and he is going to be a minister. That is something his grandpa did not get into. I used to preach, but not like he does. I wish I could come to more work bees, but I will be 78 here next month and it is kind of rough now.
PERILLO: Bud, the work party, and I was at the one with you and your grandson that year, would you say that this would be a great experience for other members of the Little Rock, to come and spend three or four days and be there with their sons or grandchildren. That would be something that you would like to urge your shipmates to do as you sign of here.
WOOSTER: Yeah. Yeah.
PERILLO: This will end the interview with Gunners Mate 3rd Class Roland, “Bud,” Wooster, and we want to thank Bud very much for his contribution to the Little Rock Archive. Thank you, Bud.
WOOSTER: You are welcome.
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