The USS Rochester steamed into Pearl Harbor with me aboard as a teen-aged electronics technician fresh out of boot camp in San Diego and Navy Electronic School in Treasure Island—It was December 1954, and, as I remember it, the sky was clear and the weather warm.
The hulk of the battleship Arizona was lying at the bottom of her berth near Ford Island in the harbor. There was a flag flying from her superstructure, which was clearly visible to us across the water. It would be another 6 years before a memorial was built above the Arizona to commemorate the 1177 sailors who died aboard her when a Japanese armor-piercing bomb caused an explosion that sunk the giant battleship on Dec. 7, 1941.
The Rochester and her crew were sailing to Yokosuka, Japan, where we would relieve the USS Los Angeles and bring aboard the Admiral of the 7th fleet. My job was to keep up and repair the radio transmitters that the admiral used to communicate with the mainland and other ships of the fleet.
No one seemed at all concerned that I was 18 years old, had never been to sea before and had not been trained on the radio transmitters used aboard ship. That’s the military way, or at least that’s how it was in the 50s. We were expected to learn the equipment from the manuals, and by trial and error.
Seamanship, however, we learned from The Bluejackets’ Manual. Carto’s Library has a copy of the 14th edition of the manual that was issued to sailors in 1954. On the first page is printed the words of the The Star-Spangled Banner, and on the opposite page is the US flag (with 48 stars) flying from the stern of a smaller ship that is being followed by a battleship. Perhaps it’s the Arizona.
Here’s to remembering the fallen sailors of the Arizona.
Day 84: The Bluejackets’ Manual, U. S. Naval Institute (1950).
Note: Bluejacket. The first uniform that was ever officially sanctioned for sailors in the Royal Navy was a short blue jacket open in the front. A generic name for a Navy enlisted person.