UDT PERSIAN GULF CRUISE - 1948

by E. L."Spike" Field

Spike Field

 

After spending parts of January and February 1948 swimming in the ice and slush off Kodiak Island, Alaska, Underwater Demolition Team One (UDT-1) returned to Coronado, California, and was in the process of unloading gear when someone said we were going to Arabia next. It seemed like a joke; it turned out to be fact!

Team 1 was to leave the West Coast and go to Little Creek, Virginia, join Team 4 and undergo intensive training before shipping out to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. It was planned that Team 1 would survey beaches on the Qatar Peninsula, south of Bahrain, and Team 4 would recon beaches at Kuwait. In addition, Marine recon detachments were to survey from the high water mark inland at each site. We were told that this voyage was initiated by invitation from King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, following up on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's meeting with him, which occurred in December 1943, immediately after the historic "Big Three" conference at Tehran. Although the planned cruise was announced as a "goodwill" voyage, UDT operations were not publicized and we were sworn to be silent about our part in the operation for at least three years.

On the Silver Strand at Coronado preparations for the cruise were started. We did our usual go-for-broke swim, run, and volleyball physical conditioning, and took a short trip to San Clemente Island to practice explosives skills. In preparation for the Persian Gulf operation we were introduced to a "flutter board" device functionally similar to a survey chain. These flutter boards were floated with bladders and had reels with 350 yards of marlin mounted on them. The marlin line was marked with tags (similar to a lead line) spaced at 25 yard increments so that accurate distances from the high water mark could be recorded for each sounding measurement. Ordinarily, flutter boards would not be practical for most combat reconnaissance operations because the line had to be staked on the beach and soundings made by swimmers as they pulled the board seaward. However, for this peacetime operation, flutter boards would clearly result in more precise hydrographic data.

Because the waters of the Persian Gulf are relatively shallow for long distances from the shore, depth measurements beyond the limited areas covered by swimmers were to be accomplished using Landing Craft Personnel Reconnaissance (LCPR) boats equipped with Fathometers. The relative location of each measurement would be determined using handheld sextants. Simultaneous sight-readings of the two angles between three separated pylons mounted on the beach would pinpoint Fathometer sounding locations for later charting of depth measurements. The pylons were to be erected by Marine Corps recon troops who would simultaneously survey areas inland, while UDT was to work the seaward side starting from the high water mark.

 

At the time of this cruise, Underwater Demolition Team One was below its authorized strength of fifty men and five officers. LT (jg) Alfred R. Sears was CO. Other officers included LT (jg)'s C. R. "Bob" Hinman, Royal "Roy" Baker, W. L. "Wild Bill" Thede, "E. P." Smith, and Ensign Marion Tigert. Noncommissioned personnel included: BMC George Rush; HMC "Doc" Hendrix; GM1 Kenny Ryland; BM2 Walter H. "Spook" Otte; BM2 Emil J. Barta; GM2, John E. "Stinky" Reinhart; EN2 Fred "Tiz" Morrison; YN2 William N. "Willie" Roach; EM3 Tony Provenzo; GM3 Allen J. Glasie; GM3 Robert W. "Bob" McKee; BM3 C. E. "Bo" Bohannon; EN3 Edward H. "Foots" Carter; QM3 James P. "Dempsey" Donovan and FN William T. "Bill" Donovan (twins); SN Mel Dyal; SN Jim Frazier; SN E. L. "Spike" Field; SN C. N. "Paul" Whitehouse; SN Martin T. "Choppers" Watson; SA K. W. "Robbie" Robinson; SA Francis A. "Willie" Wills; and about 20 other teammates.

After preparing and packing team gear, we boarded an LST in San Diego harbor in late May 1948 for transport to San Pedro where we boarded the heavy cruiser, USS Columbus, CA-74. From then on we had a lazy, slow-rolling voyage down the West Coast to the Panama Canal Zone. While aboard the Columbus some of us were introduced to the "holystone", an ancient tool used to sand and clean teakwood decks &endash; an assignment obviously intended to keep us busy and out of trouble! Traversing the Canal was interesting, but not a spectacular event. After dropping hook at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, we transferred to the USS Missouri, BB-63, for the short haul to Norfolk, and then by bus to Little Creek, VA. During our brief association with the famous battleship, Big MO, we "liberated" a life ring marked with the ship's name and hull number, which was later hung in our Coronado barracks.

At the Little Creek Amphibious Base, near Virginia Beach, we resumed operational training and physical conditioning. After many practice recons off Hampton Roads, it was generally agreed that the surf at Coronado was much more interesting, cleaner, cooler and better fun. Chesapeake jellyfish must have been spawning since we couldn't swim five feet without having to take evasive action. In contrast, back home in the waters off the Silver Strand, we rarely encountered the indigenous Portuguese man-of-war, a potent variety of jellyfish. The "Creek" area was muggy-hot, quite unlike our relatively cool homeport, but East Coast heat was nothing compared to what we were to experience later in the Persian Gulf. Finally, the majority of UDT-1 "Frogs" went aboard the USS Carpellotti, APD-136, for a shakedown cruise and welcomed sea breezes. Aboard, we were billeted as "Second Division" sailors, and were reminded to be silent about our part in the coming Persian Gulf Operations.

It was a good thing that we made those trial runs off Hampton Roads because the ship's evaporators were found to be fouled and did not produce the quantity of distilled fresh water needed for ship's company and us "passengers". No one wanted water rationing, especially on that cruise! Carpellotti next put in at Portsmouth where a new engineering officer solved the problem &endash; we never had to ration water again during the whole voyage! In addition, one of our more talented teammates welded "requisitioned" lockers to the inboard bulkhead of the port troop compartment. This convenience made shipboard life easier by not having to live out of sea bags. Finally, we all turned-to and completely painted our new quarters, deck and all. APD's needed that kind of refurbishment. Leave it to Frogmen! UDT occupied the port troop compartment and the Marine recon detachment, which had accompanied us from Coronado, was assigned to the starboard compartment.

Carpellotti put out to sea on 7 July 1948, clearing Hampton Roads on a cool, sunny morning. This was, in retrospect, a good omen because until we got to the Indian Ocean, the rest of our voyage was as smooth a run as one could expect. Carpellotti was part of Task Force 128, led by the USS Pocono, AGC-16, and was also accompanied by escort aircraft carrier, USS Siboney, CVE-112. All of UDT-4 and a detachment from UDT-1 were aboard the USS Pocono, headed to Kuwait. The core element of Team 1 was aboard the USS Carpellotti, going to the Qatar Peninsula.

Carpellotti's officers included CO, LCDR A. L. Gallin; XO, LT Russell Jonson; First Lieutenant, LT (jg) Leonard Bogue; and Chief Engineer, LT (jg) Harry Pine. In addition to ship's officers and crew, two civilians were aboard to perform "oceanographic research": Glen Krouse from the Department of the Navy and Bill Briggs from the Scripps Institute. Captain Gallin recalls the voyage as the "Truman Good Will Cruise to the Persian Gulf" which was intended to somehow show force in the region during a time of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. However, it was obvious that U.S. oil interests were the major factor in view of a potential Russian threat to the Gulf region.

On 19 July the task force made landfall at Gibraltar, one of the oldest and strongest fortresses in the world. After mooring at "His Majesty's Dockyard", liberty was taken in two sections to see the sights while Carpellotti took on 15,500 gallons of fuel from the British port authority. That proved to be a mistake, because soon after we got underway the next day the ship's boilers started to act up &endash; the fuel was apparently contaminated with seawater! There we were in the blue, placid Mediterranean and the whole load had to be pump over the side. Carpellotti refueled 13,372 gallons from Siboney the following day. Imagine dumping all that fuel into the sea now, fifty years later, what with all the environmental restrictions and Greenpeace around!

The next port of call was Naples, Italy. Now, there was a real liberty town! In '48 Italy was still recovering from WW II. Although evidence of the late unpleasantness was obvious, the streets were clean and the people seemed to throw out the welcome mat. For Pacific sailors, this was our first glimpse of Europe. We drank wine at sidewalk cafes and inspected museums. Some of our demolition crew got to visit the Isle of Capri, Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. Carved cameos were the big sidewalk sales attraction, and even though most were of poor quality, we bought them anyway. During our five days at this ancient port, bum-boats offered pistols of questionable origin and other contraband for as little as two cigarette cartons. It was an interesting port!

Athens, Greece, "Queen of the Aegean Sea", was our next port of call. The day we dropped hook in Phalerum Bay, off Piraeus, the weather was balmy and the water was warm, azure and clear, just as portrayed in travel brochures. Liberty started immediately. As the first liberty boat approached an old stone quay at Piraeus, local Greeks crowded around, possibly curious to see how well American sailors could handle a boat. We pulled alongside that quay "real slick" with EM3 Tony Provenzo serving as cox'un, showing them how! Before going ashore, we'd been told that Commies had shot-up parts of Athens a few days before, so naturally we took notice of pockmarked walls as we strolled about. The people of Athens were cordial, but did not seem as outgoing as our hosts at the previous port. What was really great, and the dream of a lifetime, was climbing the Acropolis and seeing the Parthenon. Athens was the sightseeing high point of the cruise. Indeed, the whole city seemed to be a huge museum.

 

The next port of call was Ismir, Turkey. Before going ashore, we were told that the Turks were a proud people, fiercely loyal to their country but relatively poor. Consequently, we were told to be prepared to see a more Spartan way of life, as compared to that in Europe and America. What we found was a very friendly population, eager to please its visitors. Shops were scrupulously clean and freshly whitewashed, although not very well stocked with goods for sale, just as we had been told. During the last evening in port, one of our liberty boat crews was waiting at the quay for shipmates to return when two Turks approached the LCPR showing interest. One had lived in Brooklyn and spoke some English. EN2 "Tiz" Morrison had a "ball" explaining the features of the Gray Marine engine and BM2 Emil Barta showed them special landing features such as the small ramp (personnel only) at the bow. The Turks responded with smiles and gave us a large melon in appreciation for the short tour. Our liberty in Ismir was a good experience, and a friendly welcome to Asia Minor.

After two days laying-off Ismir, we steamed southeast toward Port Said and the Suez Canal. While underway, an alert was received that there might be floating mines in the area resulting from sweep operations, but none were seen. USS Siboney Marine Corps aviators got some flying time, and UDT was assigned plane-guard "swim" duty. Pairs of "Frogs" were assigned to stand watch in front of the bridge deck dressed in trunks, ready with swim fins and facemasks, as Carpellotti trailed behind the baby carrier in case a plane got wet. Fortunately, we were not needed. Aviator rescue duty was serious business, as evidenced by the fact that one of Siboney's pilots was later lost at sea in the Persian Gulf when arresting gear failed. That accident happened after Carpellotti had left the convoy to proceed independently toward its assigned operational site.

Nearing the southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, as the task force slowly approached the ship channel through the Great Bitter Lake (entrance to the Suez Canal), Carpellotti passed a Russian ship which did not return the honor of dipping colors - bad form. Then, for some unexplained reason, hoped-for liberty at Port Said did not mature and we pressed right through the canal to the Red Sea without stopping. It was during this slow, all-day passage through the canal that we got our first taste of Middle East summer heat - with desert on both banks, the sun glaring down, no air conditioning onboard, and no breezes! As we made way through the canal, ship's company erected canvas awnings to cover deck surfaces exposed to the sun. This welcomed shade helped reduce absorbed and radiated heat felt below decks, as well as shielding personnel from the sun's intense rays. Of historical note, the day Carpellotti approached the Suez Canal on 8 August 1948, a Danish "Count", who was acting as a UN peace negotiator between the Israelis and Palestinians, was shot down and killed over Palestine; another casualty of that Middle East war.

On 10 August Carpellotti left the Suez Canal and entered the Red Sea. Immediately, fresh breezes were a welcomed relief and the sea was smooth, with no swells. We hadn't been underway very long when an urgent radio message requested assistance to aid a heat-exhaustion medical case from the SS Argo, a merchant ship of Greek registry. Carpellotti's boat crew received the patient and transferred him to the Pocono for transport to Kuwait, its next port of call and Team 4's planned operational site.

When we left the Red Sea and entered the Gulf of Aden, the weather changed, temperature dropped to about 80 degrees F, the sea was choppy, sky overcast, and the wind blew steadily. We also looked down in amazement and apprehension at the many snakes swimming on the surface. Nowhere had we seen so many snakes - hundreds, even thousands! These were the infamous Indian Ocean Sea Snakes, which reportedly have a poison similar to a cobra's venom, which attacks one's nervous system. This reality led to speculation as to what we might find in the Gulf waters.

While the three-ship task force steamed through the Indian Ocean headed to the Gulf of Oman, we drew alongside the Pocono to take on fuel and transfer a ship's company medical patient via breaches buoy. As previously stated, Team 1 was aboard the Carpellotti and Team 4 was aboard the Pocono. It was common knowledge among the Teams that East and West Coast units had a vituperative attitude toward each other. So, during refueling operations some of our teammates, led by QM3 "Dempsey" Donovan, engaged in some unauthorized and less than complimentary, semaphore messages (sans flags) with Team 4 counterparts across the way - all in good fun, but the action earned a severe reprimand from our skipper. The Admiral aboard the Pocono may have been reading those same messages.

On 15 August after steaming through the Gulf of Oman, we cleared the Straits of Hormuz, a narrow body of water that separates the lower end of the Arabian sub-continent from Iran and the Asian continent. From there on it really got hot, and even hotter! After passing through the Straits, Carpellotti left the task force and proceeded independently toward the small city of Doha located on the south side of the Qatar Peninsula. The peninsula extends eastward into the Gulf, and is located midway up the western shore, just south of Bahrain.

We dropped hook about 8 miles off Doha, capital of Qatar, on 17 August. Our ship could not get closer to shore because of the limited water depth. According to the official Navy report, "Carpellotti became the first American warship to reach these shores." A courtesy call on "His Highness", Sheikh Abdullah Ibn Jassin al Thani was to be made the next day by Carpellotti's CO, Al Gallin, and Underwater Demolition Team One's CO, Al Sears. They both went ashore to meet the Sheikh to present a personal gift from President Harry S. Truman - a chrome-plated 30-caliber carbine. Another gift delivered was a 6-man rubber boat, including paddles embellished with woven marlin "Turk's-heads". Demolition teammates spent several days preparing that gift.

In addition to the two CO's, the first boat crew to go ashore included "Tiz" Morrison, serving as cox'un, the Donovan twins - Bill and "Dempsey" - and Jim Frazier. Representatives of the British Petroleum Development (Qatar) Ltd. and the Arabian-American Oil Co. met the ship's party at the Doha quay to serve as guides and interpreters. One of the Arab greeters insisted that all Navy personnel, including enlisted men, come ashore for a meal as guests of the Sheikh. Carpellotti's CO, LCDR Al Gallin, wore dress whites, LT (jg) Al Sears wore tans, and UDT enlisted personnel wore fatigue greens (evidenced by a unique photo taken during the meal by one the interpreters).

Following formal greetings and other amenities, the group was led to a tent for a meal of goat meat, fruits and breads. Everyone sat on a carpet around a very large platter filled with food and proceeded to eat. As an Arab custom, bones and uneaten matter were placed back onto the same platter along with all other food that had been presented, but not yet touched. Fortunately, our skipper had previously coached us about Arab etiquette - such as, food and drink should be touched with the right hand only, not necessarily with benefit of utensils. The left hand, we had been told, was reserved for other functions. Furthermore, alcohol in any form was strictly forbidden. At the end of the meal, the ship's captain, Al Gallin, was "honored" with a pair of goat eyeballs for desert!

 

Sometime during the meal the Sheikh was told that the Donovan brothers were twins. Upon hearing that, "His Highness" became very excited and made it known that their father must have been a man of extraordinary powers to have sired not one, but two males at the same time! Afterwards, the interpreters said that males, particularly, men-at-arms, are universally respected by those in the Arab culture, irrespective of skin color or rank. That explained why all hands, including enlisted, were invited to the "royal" table along with the two officers.

Our Team skipper, Al Sears, asked about local sea critters that might be found in the Gulf since this was a new concern each teammate felt after recently seeing snakes swimming in the Indian Ocean. The Sheikh's answer was unique and one about which a statistician might write a paper. His reply was, "Once in a thousand years a swimmer-diver might be fatally bitten by a sea snake", like the ones we had seen a few days earlier. He then said, "Once in one hundred years a swimmer might be hit by a shark, and once in ten years by a barracuda." Obviously, the Sheikh was talking about that which he knew or heard about from his perspective of the "world" around the Qatar Peninsula. After this probability assessment was provided, our concern was somewhat relieved.

After dinner the Sheikh and his guests left the tent for a short tour of the area. Guards, we were told, would then approach the common platter taking their fill, followed by male servants, and, finally the women in the household. Each group, in their turn, would eat from the same platter and each person would deposit uneaten food matter back onto the communal platter! Finally, the dogs would be allowed to eat leftovers! It didn't take much imagination to surmise that these customs had not changed significantly in that part of the world for several millennia. For homegrown U.S. sailors, the experience was extraordinarily educational.

Following the "official" visit ashore, Carpellotti hoisted anchor to move to another location prior to conducting recon operations. Our ship was about 10 miles off shore and proceeding slowly because of the shallow depths when the ship accelerated slightly and also changed heading. All of a sudden, we heard a loud roar and felt the deck shudder as the ship hit bottom. Immediately the screws were idled and everyone waited in silence until the ship lay dead in the water. At the time, most teammates wore swim trunks, so it didn't take long to accommodate the captain's request - Spike Field volunteered to go over the side to inspect for damage (and cool off). It turned out that the starboard screw had its tips (all three) bent forward approximately 4 inches, parallel to the shaft. Later sea trials determined acceptable vibration levels could be maintained provided speed was limited to 15 knots.

Before getting under way again, all UDT sailors and some ship's company personnel took a leisurely swim. Since this was our first time in these waters we were somewhat apprehensive about meeting the indigenous sea critters, but none showed up. In fact, very little sea life was apparent - probably because the water temperature was so warm. The sea bottom was generally covered with dead coral, and flora was sparse; however, visibility was excellent and we could see about 50 to 75 yards.

The next day UDT and Recon Marines performed the first reconnaissance. We loaded aboard PR's. Most swimmers wore baseball caps with handkerchiefs sewn on to cover backs of necks from the intense sun, like in movie versions we'd seen of the French Foreign Legion ("Tis" Morrison's idea). The long PR trip to the recon site provided ample time to reflect on the coming operation and check equipment. As we approached the beach, we could see what looked like adobe houses beyond the dunes. The shoreline appeared endless in both directions. The sea was smooth and there were no breakers at the beach. As we walked along the water's edge to get into position to start the recon, women dressed in black, wearing head shawls and masks over their faces, watched from a distance. They stared at us Frogs dressed only in trunks and baseball caps, sporting K-Bar knives on belts, and carrying swim fins, face masks, slates and flutter boards. We must have been a really strange sight to these people!

The recon operation was started at the beach edge by positioning two-man flutter boards at 300-yard increments, with two solo swimmers (no buddy system for them) equally spaced between the boards at a distance of about a 100 yards. In this way flutter board soundings were measured accurately from the high-water mark, and areas between the boards were examined for obstacles, reefs or other discontinuities. With eight flutter boards, one recon cycle covered over 2000 yards, or about a mile of beachfront. After three cycles, with each man walking down the beach two more times to new starting positions, a stretch exceeding 3 miles of shoreline was easily surveyed in the morning. Upon completing this work, including the taking of Fathometer soundings to seaward of the swimmer's areas of operation, we headed back to the ship where depth, position data, and notes about bottom conditions were recorded by SN "Spike" Field, the Team's cartographer. These data were later used to draw hydrographic charts of the surveyed areas.

The next day Carpellotti relocated and dropped hook about 10 miles off the second recon beach which, it turned out, had a hill rising beyond the dunes - noteworthy because it was the only high ground we would see along the Persian Gulf coast. This second day of recons was bright and clear, and we completed work in record time except for one minor incident. During the last swim, SN Mel Dyal was measuring depth when his lead line rousted a couple of sea snakes. It didn't take long for him to get to the beach! The team's skipper watched Mel swim the crawl stroke, splashing as he came ashore in record time. (Note that any splashing while swimming during UDT operations is not acceptable because it calls attention to your presence, possibly alerting a potential enemy.) Captain Sears, always the patient teacher, started to give Mel a short "lecture" on the requirement to use the standard side stroke (with no splashing), until he was apprised of the situation. After hearing Mel's explanation, the skipper wanted to see for himself so he borrowed Mel's fins and mask, and in a couple of minutes he also swam back to shore, splashing and using the "forbidden" crawl stroke, convinced of Mel's reason for haste!

The most memorable thing about that summer was the intense heat. Humidity was oppressive and there were few breezes to give relief. The combination of extreme heat and high humidity found in the Persian Gulf area is the worst that can be encountered in any waters of the world, at any season. Temperatures over water and land exhibited a marked contrast. Ashore, sun temperatures ranged from 150 to 165 degrees F, and late afternoon temperatures ranged from 129 to 140 degrees F in the shade. However, the lower relative humidity and higher temperatures found inland resulted in less physical discomfort than the comparatively higher humidity and lower temperatures over the Gulf waters. On board ship, the average temperature in the shade ranged from 95 to 116 degrees F, and sun temperatures during afternoons ranged from 118 to 138 degrees F. Maximum temperatures occurred between 1400 and 1500 hours, and minimum between 0500 and 0700 hours.

Seawater temperatures at beach areas where we worked measured almost 98 degrees F. As in a hot tub, we sweated while swimming but were not aware of it. One of the effects from being immersed in hot water for long periods is a tendency to get dehydrated, lightheaded and lose one's awareness of time and what might be happening around you - not advisable in that situation. While in the Gulf area, one Team officer suffered heat stroke and spent a few days lying on a cot on the forward bridge deck under the canvass awning. In another case, one solo swimmer (positioned between two flutter boards) unknowingly swam almost five hundred yards out to sea, twice as far as required, before realizing it and headed back to shore. He admitted that the sea bottom mesmerized him - but, more probably, had a slight case of "heat apoplexy".

The worst effect of the oppressive heat during our brief stay in the Persian Gulf was difficulty sleeping at night - and we needed sleep badly! Some of us found relief by lying on the steel decks thinking it might conduct body heat away - at least it felt cooler! With side cargo hatches open, the heat was still oppressive, even with a large fan blowing air down the length of the troop compartments. Ship's company personnel staying below decks must have really suffered - especially the boiler room "snipes". By comparison, UDT and Marines had it better when sleeping in their air-shaft like quarters, or in the open on the boat deck or fantail.

The most relief we got during daylight periods was fresh, cool scuttlebutt water. Post-cruise analysis showed that the evaporator distilling plants experienced sharp decreases in performance - as much as 50% normal capacity. Clearly, the stopover at Portsmouth and evaporator overhaul saved our hides because we could take showers after each swim and were able to drink as much cool, refreshing water as needed. Thankfully, rationing was not required during the entire voyage!

After completing the last recon, all teammates went ashore for a short "liberty". Uninhabited desert was on one side, and endless Gulf waters on the other. There was nothing to see except great open spaces! As usual, we wore swim trunks but few felt like swimming, so we unenthusiastically threw a ball around and generally investigated the desert a couple hundred yards inland, which until then we hadn't time to examine. Some of us had cameras to record the event for posterity. It was an uneventful couple of hours and we were glad to get back to the ship.

 

While on a separate beach assignment, GM3 A. J. Glasie rode a Jeep across the desert with a couple others. The desert floor was rough in some places and smooth in others. Unexpectedly, the Jeep hit a bump throwing Glasie into the air. When he landed his arm struck a water tank, crushing bone at the elbow. As there was no orthopedic surgeon aboard Carpellotti, the Team's Chief Pharmacist Mate, "Doc" Hendrix, gave him first aid, but it was obvious that the injury required surgery. When we docked at Bahrain the next day, medics aboard the Pocono decided that A. J. needed to be flown to the States for proper care. He did fly back, but because of MATS' snafus he was held up in Rome for a couple of weeks before getting to a stateside Naval hospital. When he finally returned to the Team a few months later we learned that his bone had fused improperly during the transportation delay. He ended up with a stiff elbow, with his right arm permanently bent at about 120 degrees. For a guy who, in civilian life, was in the shoe repair business, his injury was a tough one.

After completing recon operations, our ship steamed toward Bahrain and tied up at the oil docks in the middle of the night on 25 August. The next day almost everyone went ashore - that is, almost everyone except the Team's CO and cartographer. They remained aboard because the product of the recons had to be recorded on hydrographic charts and delivered to the Admiral-in-Command of the Task Force before leaving port. Carpellotti stayed tied-up at Bahrain for two days and then shoved off, joining the Pocono and Siboney for the voyage home.

Task Force 128 passed through the Suez Canal at night on 6 September; therefore, it was a non-event for those of us asleep. Four days later we dropped hook at Argostalis Bay, Greece, to take on fresh supplies and fuel from Seventh Fleet vessels. After finally getting underway, it was decided that UDT and Marine "passengers" would help paint most of the ship, including portions of the hull above the water line. When the job was completed, Carpellotti looked sharp and we were proud of our part. The rest of the return passage westward was not very memorable until just before we got near the continental U.S.

Nearing the end of September, with only a couple of days to go before putting in at Norfolk, hurricane warnings were received. A storm system was working its way up the coast off the Carolinas. Then, the sea really got rough. Unfortunately, that was the time we had planned to give each other haircuts, but with the ship's rolling and pitching all we got were ragged looking products. At chow we could hardly keep trays on the mess tables due to the ship's violent action. Having already packed sea bags and Team gear, there was only one thing we passengers could do and that was hunker down and ride it out as the ship rolled as much as 40 degrees from null and pitched violently. It seemed as if we were riding a bucking "steel" bronco! To keep from getting thrown out of our bunks at night, we wrapped arms and legs around rack chains - sort of weaving ourselves into and around the support hardware to keep from being thrown out.

The port cargo hatch at the forward end of our compartment was dogged-down tight, but because its seal had been damaged, we shipped a good amount of seawater - enough to slosh all the way fore and aft within the compartment. Before midnight, the storm neared its peak when some of the welds that held our "customized" lockers to the bulkhead broke loose. Those that crashed to the deck were secured in their new positions the best way possible under the circumstances.

To say the least, we were in awe of the raw power of that storm, and when the davits on the boat deck above us started to creak and crack, awe turned to apprehension. None of us got much sleep that night and at dawn we looked out to see the sky clearing and the swells reduced to about 30 to 40 feet. Momentarily, on a crest, we could see the Siboney; and, then, within seconds it would disappear from sight even though she was only 500 yards off our beam.

By 0700 the storm subsided sufficiently to proceed toward Hampton Roads. After getting back on deck, we could see that the superstructure, davits, bulkheads, rails and hull - everything that had been so carefully painted was streaked with rust. As a result of seeing this suddenly appearing oxide, which had been literally generated overnight, the storm's force took on a new reality - visual evidence of its violence! Carpellotti tied up at NOB, Norfolk, about noon and we unloaded all our gear to dockside. Thus, the Persian Gulf Cruise ended on 24 September 1948. Task Force 128 had been at sea 79 days and steamed a distance of 18,261 miles. YN2 Bill Roach gave each of us written orders - some to go on leave and others to go by military-authorized rail transport back to San Diego and UDT-1's homeport of Coronado, CA.

After settling in at NAB, Coronado, we resumed physical conditioning on the Silver Strand, practiced recons and boarded an LST for transport to San Clemente Island where we "burned powder", fished and enjoyed the coolness of the Pacific Ocean. To make homecoming even better, a couple of teammates found an old slate-top pool table and installed it in our barracks. The prized life ring that was "liberated" from the Big MO was hung on the wall above the pool table. UDT was great duty and we had one helluva "Summer of '48"!

Note: UDT Persian Gulf Cruise -1948 was originally written by E. L."Spike" Field in 1993 with inputs from E. M. "Mel" Dyal and C. R. "Bob" Hinman. It is registered at the Naval Historical Center's Library at the Navy Yard, Washington, DC, and is on file at the U. S. Naval Special Warfare Archives Inc., 2100 E. County Rd, Fort Collins, CO, 80524. Originally published in the UDT-SEAL Museum's quarterly edition of Fire in the Hole, dated September, 1993, portions were included in Commandos From the Sea - A History of Naval Special Warfare, by John "Barry" Dwyer, (ISBN 0-87354-960-5), published by Paladin Press. It was once again published in the UDT-SEAL Association's Journal of Naval Special Warfare, The Blast, 1st Quarter 2002, Vol. 34, No. 1. This revision, dated September 2006, includes contributions by Carpellotti's Commanding Officer, Capt. (Ret.) Al Gallin.