A Great Sea Story
by Earl Lanning, 1950-53
I can't remember the date or place, but
the Rochester had put a small force of men in a 50-foot motor launch.
They had been assigned a mission. When the 3rd Div. lowered the launch
into the water, conditions were calm. I can't recall what these men
were doing, perhaps chasing mines. We did a lot of that along the
Korean coast. I do recall an old pal of mine was the coxswain running
the launch. His name was Fred Hancock from South Carolina. The launch
and crew were gone for some time.
While they were out on their mission, a
storm blew up and the seas got terribly rough. As soon as we spotted
the launch, the crane operator swung the crane over the port side to
retrieve them. In case you guys don't remember how this was done, I
will refresh your memories. There were four heavy cables about twenty
feet in length, attached to the gunnels of each launch. These cables
were then attached to a rather heavy, round steel ring. On being lifted
aboard, one of the crew stood on one of the seats, holding the ring and
the cables as far up as he could, and tried to connect the hook, which
was being lowered by the crane operator. In calm seas the crew did this
very quickly due to the expertise of the crane man and the crewman.
But the conditions had changed, and
were getting worse by the second. The ship was rolling and pitching
violently and so was the motor launch. I watched as one crewman after
another fell exhausted trying to hang the large ring over the crane
hook. As the seas getting rougher, Coxswain Hancock was doing a
terrific job keeping the launch in retrieving position. But the
situation was getting desperate. It was to the point we could lose the
launch and all aboard.
There were perhaps thirty men and
officers watching this drama unfold. All of a sudden someone yelled at
me to come and help him. It was the Captain Himself, CAPT Charles F.
Chillingsworth. He told me to help him lay down the fueling lines that
were hanging on racks at the base of turret #3. I had no idea what he
was going to do. More hands fell in and helped us. Before long we had
the lines all joined and hooked to the refueling system. The Captain
grabbed the end of the fueling line and heaved it over the side right at
the motor launch. He ordered that the pumps be started. There was a
loud gurgling sound with blasts of air, and all of a sudden a great gush
of oil spouted into the water around the launch. Like magic, the water
smoothed out into a lake of tranquility. The launch sat almost
motionless in the water. One of the crew dropped the ring over the
crane hook and the operator hoisted the launch and crew aboard.
We were all awestruck. The Captain was
still next to me and I stuck out my hand and said "Congratulations". I
thought only Moses could work miracles with water. He said, "It wasn't
a miracle, son, just old-time seamanship." I will never forget him
turning and walking away with oil dripping from his dress blue uniform.
WOW! I thought I had just witnessed the REAL Navy and what type of man
the Captain really was.
The launch crew seemed no worse off for
the episode. They were soaked with oil and exhausted, but happy to get
some hot coffee in them and be back aboard. I wish I could remember the
date and location, etc., that this occurred. Perhaps some of the
shipmates can fill in the blank spots.
Charles F. Chillingsworth, USN, of Washington D.C., relieved Captain
Smith as commanding officer of the ROCHESTER January 28, 1952, and
directed the heavy cruiser's operations during the remainder of the
Far East tour.
He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and
was graduated from the Naval Academy in 1925. He served in both
submarines and surface craft. During WWII he was awarded the Legion
of Merit and three Bronze Stars with combat "V" while serving with
Task Force II and Task Force 58 in the South Pacific.
Prior to assuming command of the
ROCHESTER, Captain Chillingsworth headed the Plans Development
Section of the Strategic Plans Division in the Office of the Chief
of Naval Oprations.