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Monday, Nov. 24, 2014

"Don't Shoot, I'm Republican"

Posted Friday, February 4, 2011, at 11:40 AM

(Photo)
WW-ll Destroyers, are hard to find these days, so I include this one, much newer, in so many ways. Life at sea has dangers that a lubber never sees, like the nearest land be five mile deep, or 70 foot seas. Praise God, most all of us survive military life.
Shalom, one and all. I was desperately in need of something to lift my heart, today, having missed my monthly breakfast, with my classmates of 1956, because, by the time I had driven almost ten miles of the twenty I needed to drive, already over five minutes late of being on schedule, I realized my chompers (toophs) were snoozing in their little clay fortress, on my bathroom sink, ten miles behind me. Returning, quickly (65 mph), by the time I returned home, I would have been over 30 minutes late, and going would only have been a royal embarrassment, to my old age mind forgetting things.

I do not expect anyone, non-navy, to laugh as hard as did I, but this is one of the best examples of a ship and crew being the perfect example of being """Accident Prone,""" although I know of some others that comes close.

Have a side-splitting laugh, as from what I can see, no one was injured, or killed, from any of the many funny (to me) Boo-Boo's (which had the potential of being earth-changing, disasters).

In Messiah, I praise Him that a ship's nightmare existence, like depicted, did not 'Change History,' as it could have, without HIM being involved with minimizing the damages.

PS: Of Special note, is the torpedo blowing up behind the Iowa. The detonator would almost for sure been a 'contact' device that required a strong collision with something, to set off the charge, primarily so it wouldn't go off when launched from the upper deck of the destroyer, and explode when fired into the water (at about fifty knots, considering the Destroyer would normally be doing Full, or Flank speed, plus the launch speed of the torpedo (fast and hard collision with the water)). I do marvel that the 'water knot' caused by the Iowa was solid enough to detonate the torpedo. (Just a thought)

OK, now enjoy:

Original Story,

Don't shoot, I'm Republican:

From November 1943, until her demise in June 1945, the American destroyer

'William Porter' was often hailed - whenever she entered port or joined

other Naval ships - with the greetings: 'Don't shoot, we're Republicans!'

For a half a century, the US Navy kept a lid on the details of the incident

that prompted this salutation. A Miami news reporter made the first public

disclosure in 1958 after he stumbled upon the truth while covering a reunion

of the destroyer's crew. The Pentagon reluctantly and tersely confirmed his

story, but only a smattering of newspapers took notice.

In 1943, the Willie D as the Porter was nicknamed, accidentally fired a

live torpedo at the battleship Iowa during a practice exercise.

As if this weren't bad enough, the Iowa was carrying President Franklin D.

Roosevelt at the time, along with Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, and all

of the country's W.W.II military brass. They were headed for the Big Three

Conference in Tehran, where Roosevelt was to meet Stalin and Churchill. Had

the Porter's torpedo struck the Iowa at the aiming point, the last 60 years

of world history might have been quite different.

The USS William D Porter (DD-579) was one of hundreds of assembly line

destroyers built during the war. They mounted several heavy and light guns,

but their main armament consisted of 10 fast-running and accurate torpedoes

that carried 500-pound warheads.

This destroyer was placed in commission on July 1943 under the command of

Wilfred Walker, a man on the Navy's fast career track.

In the months before she was detailed to accompany the Iowa across the

Atlantic in November 1943, the Porter and her crew learned their trade,

experiencing the normal problems that always beset a new ship and a novice

crew. The mishaps grew more serious when she became an escort for the pride

of the fleet, the big new battleship Iowa.

The night before they left Norfolk, bound for North Africa, the Porter

accidentally damaged a nearby sister ship when she backed down along the

other ship's side and her anchor tore down her railings, life rafts, ship's

boat and various other formerly valuable pieces of equipment. The Willie D

merely had a scraped anchor, but her career of mayhem and mishaps had begun.

Just twenty four hours later, the four-ship convoy, consisting of Iowa

and her secret passengers, the Willie D, and two other destroyers, was under

strict instructions to maintain complete radio silence. As they were going

through a known U-boat feeding ground, speed and silence were the best

defense. Suddenly, a tremendous explosion rocked the convoy. All of the

ships commenced anti-submarine maneuvers.

This continued until the Porter sheepishly admitted that one of her depth

charges had fallen off her stern and exploded. The 'safety' had not been set

as instructed. Captain Walker was watching his fast track career become

side-tracked.

Shortly thereafter, a freak wave inundated the ship, stripping away

everything that wasn't lashed down. A man was washed overboard and never

found.

Next, the fire room lost power in one of its boilers.

The Captain, by this point, was making reports almost hourly to the Iowa

on the Willie D's difficulties. It would have been merciful if the force

commander had detached the hard luck ship and sent her back to Norfolk. But,

no, she sailed on.

The morning of 14 November 1943 dawned with a moderate sea and pleasant

weather. The Iowa and her escorts were just east of Bermuda, and the

president and his guests wanted to see how the big ship could defend herself

against an air attack. So, Iowalaunched a number of weather balloons to use

as anti-aircraft targets. It was exciting to see more than 100 guns shooting

at the balloons, and the President was proud of his Navy. Just as proud was

Admiral Ernest J King, the Chief of Naval Operations; large in size and by

demeanor, a true monarch of the sea.

Disagreeing with him meant the end of a naval career. Up to this time, no

one knew what firing a torpedo at him would mean.

Over on the Willie D, Captain Walker watched the fireworks display with

admiration and envy. Thinking about career redemption and breaking the hard

luck spell, the Captain sent his impatient crew to battle stations. They

began to shoot down the balloons theIowa had missed as they drifted into the

Porter's vicinity.

Down on the torpedo mounts, the crew watched, waiting to take some

practice shots of their own on the big battleship, which, even though 6,000

yards away, seemed to blot out the horizon. Lawton Dawson and Tony Fazio

were among those responsible for the torpedoes. Part of their job involved

ensuring that the primers were installed during actual combat and removed

during practice. Once a primer was installed, on a command to fire, it would

explode shooting the torpedo out of its tube.

Dawson, on this particular morning, unfortunately had forgotten to

remove the primer from torpedo tube #3. Up on the bridge, a new torpedo

officer, unaware of the danger, ordered a simulated firing.

"Fire 1, Fire 2," and finally, "Fire 3." There was no fire 4 as the sequence

was interrupted by an unmistakable whooooooshhhhing sound made by a

successfully launched and armed torpedo. Lt H. Steward Lewis, who witnessed

the entire event, later described the next few minutes as what hell would

look like if it ever broke loose.

Just after he saw the torpedo hit water on its way to the Iowa and some

of the most prominent figures in world history, Lewis innocently asked the

Captain, 'Did you give permission to fire a torpedo?' Captain Walker's reply

will not ring down through naval history... although words to the effect of

Farragut's immortal 'Damn the torpedoes' figured centrally within.

Initially there was some reluctance to admit what had happened, or even

to warn theIowa. As the awful reality sunk in, people began racing around,

shouting conflicting instructions and attempting to warn the flagship of

imminent danger. First, there was a flashing light warning about the torpedo

which unfortunately indicated it was headed in another direction.

Next, the Porter signaled that it was going reverse at full speed!

Finally, they decided to break the strictly enforced radio silence. The

radio operator on the destroyer transmitted "'Lion (code for the Iowa),

Lion, come right." The Iowa operator, more concerned about radio procedure,

requested that the offending station identify itself first. Finally, the

message was received and the Iowa began turning to avoid the speeding

torpedo.

Meanwhile, on the Iowa's bridge, word of the torpedo firing had reached

FDR, who asked that his wheelchair be moved to the railing so he could see

better what was coming his way. His loyal Secret Service guard immediately

drew his pistol as if he was going to shoot the torpedo. As the Iowa began

evasive maneuvers, all of her guns were trained on the William D Porter.

There was now some thought that the Porter was part of an assassination

plot.

Within moments of the warning, there was a tremendous explosion just

behind the battleship. The torpedo had been detonated by the wash kicked up

by the battleship's increased speed.

The crisis was over and so was Captain Walker's career. His final

utterance to the Iowa, in response to a question about the origin of the

torpedo, was a weak, "We did it."

Shortly thereafter, the brand new destroyer, her Captain and the entire

crew were placed under arrest and sent to Bermuda for trial. It was the

first time that a complete ship's company had been arrested in the history

of the US Navy.

The ship was surrounded by Marines when it docked in Bermuda, and held

there several days as the closed session inquiry attempted to determine what

had happened. Torpedoman Dawson eventually confessed to having inadvertently

left the primer in the torpedo tube, which caused the launching. Dawson had

thrown the used primer over the side to conceal his mistake.

The whole incident was chalked up to an unfortunate set of circumstances

and placed under a cloak of secrecy. Someone had to be punished. Captain

Walker and several other Porter officers and sailors eventually found

themselves in obscure shore assignments. Dawson was sentenced to 14 years

hard labor. President Roosevelt intervened; however, asking that no

punishment be meted out for what was clearly an accident.

The destroyer was banished to the upper Aleutians. It was probably

thought this was as safe a place as any for the ship and anyone who came

near her. She remained in the frozen north for almost a year, until late

1944, when she was re-assigned to the Western Pacific.

Before leaving the Aleutians, she accidentally left her calling card in

the form of a five-inch shell fired into the front yard of the American base

commandant, thus rearranging his flower garden.

In December, 1944, she joined the Philippine invasion forces and

acquitted herself quite well. She distinguished herself by shooting down a

number of attacking Japanese aircraft. Regrettably, after the war, it was

reported that she also shot down three American planes. This was a common

event on ships, as many gunners, fearful of kamikazes, had nervous trigger

fingers.

In April, 1945, the destroyer was assigned to support the invasion of

Okinawa. By this time, the greeting "Don't Shoot, We're Republicans" was

commonplace and the crew of the Willie D had become used to the ribbing. But

the crew of her sister ship, the USS Luce, was not so polite in its

salutations after the Porter accidentally riddled her side and

superstructure with gunfire.

On 10 June, 1945, the Porter's hard luck finally ran out. She was sunk

by a plane which had (unintentionally) attacked underwater. A Japanese

bomber made almost entirely of wood and canvas slipped through the Navy's

defense.

Having little in the way of metal surfaces, the plane didn't register on

radar. A fully loaded kamikaze, it was headed for a ship near the Porter,

but just at the last moment veered away and crashed along side the unlucky

destroyer. There was a sigh of relief as the plane sunk out of sight, but

then it blew up underneath the Porter, opening her hull in the worst

possible location.

Three hours later, after the last man was off board, the Captain jumped

to the safety of a rescue vessel and the ship that almost changed world

history slipped astern into 2,400 feet of water. Not a single soul was lost

in the sinking. After everything else that happened, it was almost as if the

ship decided to let her crew off at the end.

Kit Bonner, Naval Historian


Comments
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"her career of mayhem and mishaps had begun"

So that's how that meyhem guy got started we see on the car insurance ads now-a-days. Somehow, the guy on TV looks younger than he should.

A good laugh for me to start the weekend... Thanks Arley!

-- Posted by Brian Hoag on Sat, Feb 5, 2011, at 7:57 AM


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