Mediterranean Cruise 1947–1948

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean, taken from the signal bridge.

1947 - 1948

This page includes copies of Charlie's cruise journal from 1947 - 1948, photos from the cruise, as well as memoirs recorded in 2004.

Most of the memories on this blog came from Charlie's original journal from 1947–1948

How I Joined the Navy

I turned 18 on March 24, 1946, while in my senior year of high school (1945-46). I received the standard draft board greetings, was given a physical, was accepted into the Army and then was given a deferment until July 1, 1946.

Along the way I heard about a Navy program in electronics that was now available with only a two-year enlistment. I went to see the Navy recruiters and was told that I could get out of the Army and go into the Navy.

I took the Navy physical and was rejected for: 1) overbite, 2) flat feet, and 3) scoliosis. They told me about a test they had (called the Eddy test) and if I did well they would request a waiver for me. I took the test. It was almost identical to the "ham" license test that I had taken a month before. My Eddy test results were very good, and they got my waiver in four days instead of the usual two weeks.

I joined the Navy on July 15, 1946.

Navy Schooling

I went into the Navy as an apprentice seaman, electronic technician. Boot camp started out as a six-week program. At the 5th week, we were told it would be eight weeks. The last two weeks were pretty screwed up.

Our boot camp company comprised electronic technician apprentices, and we all started a 27-week Primary Electronics School program together. The program was excellent. Long days, lots of homework, and no goofing off. When this was finished they selected a much smaller group to go on to Secondary Electronics School, a 15-week program dealing with radar and other advanced types of gear. Primary school was given at Great Lakes, Illinois (north of Chicago), and Secondary was at the Naval Research Lab , Bethesda, Maryland (just outside Washington, DC).

Wiring hasn't changed much in 50 years!
The first day of school, an old Navy Chief (Chiefs run the Navy) gave us a short talk.  “You are entering one of the finest electronic technician schools in the country.  When you finish your schooling you will be well-trained.  I’ve had a lot of active duty and I can tell you, I don’t want the guy who thinks he knows it all – when the chips are down he will fall apart.  I want the guy who admits he doesn’t know it all but knows where to find it or look it up.

“I want you to finish this school.  You will be working with electronic equipment that has very high voltage in it.  If you get shocked with your left hand, the current will usually travel down the left side of your body to your feet, passing through your heart on the way.  I want you to put your left hand in your pocket and play with yourself so that any shock through your right hand will go down the right side and maybe miss your heart.”

I came out of Secondary School as a petty officer second class. Formally, I was an Electronic Technician’s Mate, Second Class. I had been in the Navy a total of 14 months at this point.

Welcome Aboard

I had no idea how HUGE the Midway was. I was told at school that it was the largest ship afloat (and would be for ten more years). When I stood at the bottom of the steps for boarding and looked up, my neck hurt. She was docked at Pier 7, Norfolk, the only one where we could dock. It was about October 15, 1947.

When I got topside, I was met by one of the fellows I would be working with during the next 10 months (he was my guide). My quarters and the radio shack where I worked were forward on the starboard side, just under the flight deck.

The electronic technicians were bunked with the signal men. They were all old salts with 10 to 15 years in the Navy and had been on the Midway since it was commissioned on September 10, 1945. Met some nice fellows. They had a special area up on the Island where they hoisted signal flags and communicated with other ships using morse code via very bright signal lights. I could go up there with them, and had a great view.

First Days On Board

Acres and acres of quarters, shops, stores, mess areas, etc., spread over nine decks below the flight deck, if my memory is right.  Once you got below the hangar deck there was no way of telling which way was forward or aft.  On at least two occasions I got lost – really lost – and had to head topside until I reached the hangar deck.
I had a crew of guys (all of whom were older and with much more Navy time than I ) and we were responsible for all radio transmitters and receivers along with their motor-generator systems that converted ship’s power to our special equipment needs; the large pole antennas for the radio gear – starboard side, forward for the transmitters and port side, forward for the receivers; (all antennas had to be lowered during flight ops and raised right after); all teletype equipment; sonar receiver on the bridge and “hi-fi” console in the Admiral’s cabin.
In all of the Navy time before boarding ship, I slept in double-deck bunks with cotton mattresses.  On board we slept in an aluminum-framed cot about 78”x32” that had canvas with eyelets lashed with rope to the frame.  They were three levels high and they could be hooked up for clean-up, etc.  When the Marines came on board, we went to four levels high (more on the Marines later).
The head (bathroom) was one of the biggest surprises.  There were standard urinals, but the toilet was something else.  Picture a long, low metal trough with about six or eight sets of shaped boards fastened to the top of the trough.  A rectangular container at one end of the trough, close to the overhead (ceiling) would fill with sea water and when it reached the top it released automatically and the surge of water went down a pipe, flowing rapidly along the trough and down and out at the other end of the trough.
A favorite trick the on-board guys pulled when the new arrivals were using the “toilet” would be to take a piece of crumpled newspaper, light it, and toss it in the trough just ahead of the water surge.

First Assignment

Photo: Midway in the Mediterranean, 1950s; U.S. Navy photo.

Shortly after I got settled in, a Marine showed up at the radio shack and asked who was in charge. We howdied and he explained that the Captain had sent him to get this “box” fixed. The metal box was a little larger all around than a carton of cigarettes. A little plate on it said “Wire Recorder.”

I had never seen one before. I opened it up, checked batteries (they were OK), and then noticed a very thin wire wound on two small spools. The wire was broken where it was supposed to go through a reading head. I tied the wire ends using a fisherman’s knot and then took a match and annealed it. It worked. I rewound it, turned on “play” and heard the following (paraphrased after 56 years):

“They’re getting ready to fire it”, from one older male voice.

“I think it started – yeah – it’s flaming” from a second older male.

Then shouting: “Christ, it’s coming at the island!”

Then a lot of banging noises, and then: “Thank God, it missed us!”

I contacted the Marine and he listened to the wire and began to laugh. He said that the voices were those of the Admiral and the Captain, and the event they were talking about was the launch of the V-2 German rocket from the aft deck of the Midway just a month before.

The captured V-2 rocket was successfully test fired on September 6, 1947, while off Bermuda. It was the first time ever that a rocket had been fired from a ship at sea. The rocket did tilt toward the island due to heavy swell action, but looked much closer from the island than it really was, as evidenced by many other photos taken by the crew (refer to page 41, Operation Sandy, in Scott McGaugh’s “Midway Magic”; to see the actual video of the launch, go to and click on History and Events on the left panel, then go to Operation Sandy and Pushover and select Operation Sandy and Pushover photo albums, and the video is on Page 3).

Anchors Aweigh

We left port October 29, l947, heading south to Bermuda.  Along the way, and at Bermuda, we spent most days getting the two new aviation squadrons familiar with carrier take-offs and landings.  Temperature was in the 80’s.  Witnessed the first night flight operations ever held on the Midway.  Headed north and dropped anchor at Argentia, Newfoundland.  Picked up mail and some badly needed spare parts.  Very cold.  Water was just a little above freezing and the daily bulletin warned everyone that they had better not fall overboard as you would freeze in a minute or so.

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