Eugene R. Slavin, RD2 (1951-1955)

In order to do research on a ship, one has to start at the very beginning. Ships that are designated to be built are assigned a shipyard and hull number. Later a name is designated for the ship. This is where we will start.

The destroyer 753 was designated to be built at the Bethlehem Steel Company in Staten Island, New York as a Sumner Class destroyer. She was assigned her hull number and was to be the 77th destroyer built there since the start of World War II

Within a minute after the USS Hubbard (DD748) was launched, the hull of 753 was placed. This was 24 March 1944 and she was launched 1 September 1944 and completed 30 December 1944. It took about nine months to build this ship.

It was in the early months of being built that the ship was to be honored by having the name of John Reeves Pierce assigned to it. Appropriately, it was the lost officer’s widow, Mrs. Mary Taylor Pierce, who acted as sponsor at the launching of the destroyer John R. Pierce (DD753) on 1 September 1944. Also present at the ceremony were Commander Pierce’s son Jack T. Pierce, his daughter Margaret Pierce, his mother and his brother. <

USS John R. Pierce is named in honor of Lieutenant Commander John Reeves Pierce USN, who with total disregard for his own safety gallantly gave his life for his ship and his country in action with the enemy. Son of an officer of the US Public Health Service and born on 3 November 1906 in Cristobal, Canal Zone, Lieutenant Commander Pierce was appointed to the United States Naval Academy by President Warren G. Harding as a result of a competitive examination. He entered on 16 June 1924, and was graduated and commissioned Ensign in the Navy on 7 June 1928. Following a post graduate indoctrination aviation course at the Naval Academy during the following summer, he was assigned to the USS Wyoming, in which battleship he served until 17 May 1930. This tour of duty was followed by a course of instruction in Chemical Warfare at Edgewood Arsenal and a later course at the Submarine Base at New London. During this time he was commissioned a Lieutenant (Junior Grade). Following his graduation from submarine school on 12 December 1930, he was assigned to the submarine USS S-39, in which he served in various capacities until 30 June 1932. Following this, he saw service in USS S-26 until 27 March 1935, when he was ordered to the Postgraduate School, Annapolis, Maryland and later to the University of California for a design-engineer course in Marine and Electrical Engineering, which he completed in June of 1938. During this period, on 3 March 1937, he was commissioned as a regular Lieutenant to rank from 1 July 1936.

After completion of this postgraduate work, he was assigned to USS Nautilus and on 23 May 1940 was ordered as Executive Officer of USS Narwhal. Both of these submarines were the largest and most powerful in our navy or any other. From 15 February 1941 to 24 April 1942 he commanded USS S-23 and on 2 January 1942, was appointed Lieutenant Commander, this temporary appointment being made permanent on 1 March 1942.

On 22 June 1942, Lieutenant Commander Pierce assumed command of USS Argonaut, our largest submarine, and continued in this most important and responsible post until she was lost with all hands as a result of a gallant surface action with the enemy on 11 January 1943 in the Pacific Area.

Lieutenant Commander Pierce held the American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp and the Asiatic Pacific Area Campaign Medal. He was awarded The Purple Heart and the Navy Cross with the following citation:

"For extraordinary heroism as Commanding Officer of the USS Argonaut during the third war patrol of that vessel. Upon sighting a hostile convoy escorted by destroyers and aircraft, Lieutenant Commander Pierce, while maneuvering his ship to a favorable striking position, discovered that the Argonaut her self had been detected and had fallen prey to vigorous antisubmarine measures on the part of the enemy. Fighting desperately to extricate his ship and her crew from a critical encounter, he pressed home an aggressive counter attack on the surface, severely damaging a Japanese destroyer before his own vessel, her guns still blazing defiantly, eventually went down under a deadly concentration of enemy fire. His courageous leadership and unyielding devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."

A special note of interest occurred on the second patrol of the USS Argonaut. She was in support of a raid on Makin in the Gilbert Islands that was intended to divert attention and enemy forces from the American invasion of Guadalcanal. The action was conducted in August 1942 with the USS Nautilus (SS-168), another antique converted V-boat. On 17 August 1942, the two submarines landed Lieutenant Colonel Evans Carlson and his Second Raider Battalion of marines on the island. The small Japanese garrison was wiped out or dispersed by Carlson’s Raiders, but 30 of his 225 marines in the strike force were either killed or missing. Nine who were inadvertently left behind were later captured by reoccupying enemy forces. Vice Admiral Koso Abe had them executed as "pirates," having them beheaded, in violation of the rules of war. The Admiral was later tried as a war criminal, and hanged.


30 DECEMBER, 1944


Reading of orders to commission the

John R. Pierce.

By direction of the Commandant, US Navy Yard, N.Y.


The National Ensign is hoisted and saluted.

The Commissioning Pennant and Union Jack are hoisted at the mainmast and jackstaff respectively.

Assumption of Command by the Commanding Officer, Commander C.R. Simmers, USN.

Setting the Watch

Hoisting the personal flag of Rear Admiral F.A. Daubin


Rear Admiral F.A. Daubin, USN, Commandant, US Navy Yard, N.Y.

Commander C.R. Simmers, USN, Commanding Officer, will read a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable James Forrestal.

Mrs. John R. Pierce, sponsor of the USS John R. Pierce.

"Pipe Down"

A buffet luncheon aboard ship followed the Commissioning Ceremonies.

Now the newly floated John R. Pierce was ready for her "sea trials’. The ship was equipped with the most recent developments; the finishing touches put on her fire control, radar and engineering systems. Captain Simmers led his new command through all the rigors of a neophyte ship (compass compensations, calibration of degaussing gear, radar calibration, running the measured mile, etc.) during a trial run around Long Island Sound. On 18 January of the new year 1945 he took her out of New York Harbor and set a course southeast to scenic Bermuda.

Reporting for her shakedown training at Bermuda 20 January 1945 the Pierce commenced her prescribed curriculum in the sunlit "proving ground." For her sailors there was rigorous indoctrination in fighting both fire and sub. Six well oiled 5-inch rifles cracked out in a series of structural firing test. Nestled in anti-aircraft gun tubs, Pierce gunners peppered towed sleeves. In the cramped CIC (Combat Information Center) technicians juggled figures, penciled charts and solved mock plotting problems. Condition Able (all hatches securely dogged, watertight integrity established) was set in record time and damage control problems ably met. Practice torpedo forays were effected, evasive maneuvers were rehearsed continually all under simulated battle conditions. Skipper Simmers soon found the heads of his Navigation, Gunnery, Engineering, Construction and Repair, Communication, Medical, and Supply departments coordinating likes the works of a fine Swiss watch.

Shakedown terminated on 21 February and a sea-seasoned John R. Pierce made her way back to New York, made port on the 23rd. While keel blocks cradled the sleek destroyer in dry-dock, a 2-week post shakedown availability was administered. Minor repairs and realignments made, the Pierce left New York in her creamy wake 9 March, stood down the east coast to Norfolk, Virginia where she reported 10 March to the Commander Atlantic Fleet Operational Training Command.

To Commander Simmer’s slim-waisted Sumner class greyhound went the job of readying crews to man subsequent destroyers of her class. She relieved sister ship DD Alfred A. Cunningham (DD752) of afloat training duties in the Chesapeake Bay and also checked in with the Fifth Naval District’s Commandant for additional duty in connection with anti-submarine hunter-killer group within the Eastern Sea Frontier. When the Pierce was in turn relieved of her non-combatant assignment by the destroyer USS Hugh Purvis (DD709) in late May, she eagerly prepared for a trip to the Pacific. The nature of the war had changed since her commissioning, so she returned to the Norfolk Naval Ship Yards, gave up her after torpedo mount and received 40 mm quad mounts and replaced single 20mm’s with twin mounts. After replenishing and refueling at Norfolk Naval Base she finally left for the Pacific on 11 June.

Pausing for a quick shore bombardment rehearsal at Culebra Island off Puerto Rico14-15 June, the ship continued on through the Caribbean to the "Big Ditch" transmitted the locks 17 June and officially became a unit of the US Pacific Fleet. 26-30 June was spent in San Diego, whereupon the Pierce steamed to Pearl Harbor. Lookouts sighted Diamond Head’s uneven silhouette on 6 July. All of July was spent conducting various training exercises. Also the erratic gyro on the ship was finally replaced.

On 12 August the Pierce left Pearl Harbor with task Group12.3, which consisted of the cruisers USS Santa Fe (CL60), USS Birmingham (CL62) and the aircraft carrier USS Antietam (CV36), plus the Pierce and six other destroyers. Its mission was to hit the already historic island of Wake, directly west. On 14 August after the Pierce’s Armanda had sailed from Pearl Harbor, the electrifying "cease offensive operations" message was received. The Announcement was made by Rear Admiral Deyo at 1300 hrs. At the request of Captain Simmers, a prayer of thanksgiving was offered over the intercom by Lieutenant Tom Austin.

Diverted to Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Task Group 12.3 made port 19 August. From there, the destroyer Pierce and a portion of the group proceeded northwest to Okinawa Jima, dropped their respective hooks in Buckner Bay 26 August. On 9 September the Pierce got under way with Task Unit 56.5.1 which consisted of the USS Makin Island (CVE93), Cruisers USS Cleveland (CL51) and USS Denver (CL58) and four other DD’s. During this passage the Pierce sank four floating mines. Occupation of the surrendered Japanese home islands was the immediate concern of the Allied Chiefs of Staff and the Pierce moved to its support, stood into Wakayama, Honshu 11 September.

The destroyer rode out a howling typhoon, without incurring any damage, which whipped into the Wakayama area on 18 September. The ship started dragging anchor. Other ships were also dragging anchor, but fortunately none collided. Finally they were able to haul anchor, and cruise in Wakayama Bay until the storm had passed.

For the rest of the month she assisted the U.S. Sixth Army in landings around the Japanese Inland Sea, also covered the evacuation of liberated POW’s from southeastern Honshu. A rigorous in-and- out schedule was the lot of the USS John R. Pierce: out of Wakayama on 26 September, in the Japanese naval base at Sasebo on 30 September, out of Sasebo. Reached HiroWan, Japan 28 October. Pierce was the first destroyer to occupy HiroWan Bay. Left on 1 November for Wakayama, mail run. Back to Sasebo 19 November. Escorted a Japanese destroyer and submarine back to base. Left on 21 November to escort a troop transport to Nagoya. Half way to their destination, the Pierce destroyed a floating mine. On Thanksgiving Day 22 November 1945 a dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings was served to all the crew. A list of the menu and all of the ship’s company was published and distributed to the crew. Arrived at Sasebo 25 November. On 1 December on the way to Wakayama, she stopped at Nagasaki for a few hours. Then went to Kagoshima with an Australian cruiser, the cruiser USS Boston (CA69) and the destroyer USS Weeks (DD701). Anchored near a volcano that was smoking and had lava running down it’s side to the sea. Left there and returned to Wakayama on 3 December. Passed Nagashima at night. Back to Kagoshima 5 December picked up some Navy passengers and went to Nagasaki. Back to Wakayama and picked up some mail for the Pierce.

For the next few days the Pierce operated out of Wakayama escorting the USS Boston (CA69) on an inspection of the Japanese islands. Left on 16 December for Nagoya in rough seas and arrived on 17 December. Left 18 December for Kure, which is near Hiroshima and arrived on 19 December. Also that morning sunk a mine that was floating in the harbor. Some of the crew was allowed to go ashore and tour Hiroshima.

Under way for Shanghai on 21 December. After a few hours out the Pierce had to search for a supply ship that had hit a mine. The search was unsuccessful. The ship got to the mouth of the Yangtzee river on 24 December and then up the river 50 miles to fleet landing in Shanghai. Christmas Day was celebrated in Shanghai with the plan of the day calling for optional reveille, breakfast at 0715, 0900 snack bar, 1200 Christmas dinner, which consisted of fruit juice cocktail, turkey rice soup, roast turkey and all the trimmings; for dessert, ice cream, spice cake and cigars. 1300 liberty commenced, 1430 movies in the mess hall, 1700 supper, 1900 movies. Left Shanghai on 31 December for Tsingtao and arrived on 1 January 1946, having spent New Years Eve at sea. After a few days in port the ship went to Taku, a rough trip with heavy cold seas and below zero weather. From Taku the ship went to Jensin, Korea, then back to Tsingtao escorting the USS Springfield (CL66). On 18 January back to Shanghai and arrived on the 19th. On 23 January Commodore Des Ron 21 inspected the ship. Also on the same day a Japanese transport Enoshima Maru carrying Japanese soldiers back to Japan hit a mine outside the mouth of the Yangtzee River. The Pierce was ordered out to look for survivors and to sink the ship, because it was a hazard to navigation. About an hour out the message was received that the USS Brevard (AKA-164) and the LST 1013 had picked up 4200 survivors and the ship was sunk.

Left Shanghai on 28 January for Okinawa and arrived on the 30th. From there the Pierce sailed to rendezvous with the heavy Cruiser USS Bremerton (CA130) at Jinsen Korea. Both ships left Jinsen on 16 February, made the one day trip to the Chinese port of Tsingtao, stopped at Taku on the 20th and Chingwangtao on the 21st. Eagerly waited head-for-home orders were awaiting the destroyer when she arrived in Tsingtao on the 23rd. On 5 March she stood out to sea with the destroyers USS Hubbard (DD748) and USS John Boyle (DD755). Accompanied by the two Sumner class DD’s, the Pierce moved to Guam in the Marianas, put in on the 10th of March and left the next day. Second step on the long haul came on 14 March, when the trio reached Eniwetok. On the 20th of that month the Pierce and her running mates arrived in Pearl Harbor, wasted no time, got under way two days later for San Francisco. 27 March saw the three Veteran Destroyers churning beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Pierce went into Mare Island Navy Yard on 15 August for a complete overhaul, and on 16 January was given a clean bill of health. Moving to neighboring San Diego on 17 January the USS John R. Pierce was placed out of commission at that Californian base on 24 January 1947. Weather-proofed and rust-proofed, she went into the San Diego Group of the Pacific Reserve Fleet on 1 May 1947.

Peaceful rest didn’t last long for the John R. War clouds were brewing in both the East and the West. Eastern Europe was in the tight grip of Communism, fighting was still going on in China, and saber rattling was going on in the Peninsula of Korea. The Pierce along with many other destroyers was ordered to active duty in March of 1949. After a few weeks of de-mothballing at Long Beach, CA, she was recommissioned on 11 April 1949, under the Command of Commander O.W. Goepner. After a few weeks of shake down cruises the ship was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, and left 11 July for Norfolk, VA. She again passed through the Panama Canal, spent a few days in Acapulco, Mexico and arrived on the 5th of August. For the next few months the Pierce operated out Norfolk with Desron 2, Des Div 21, which consisted of the destroyers USS Barton (DD722), USS Soley (DD707) and USS Strong (DD758), made an Arctic cruise, and visited ports at New York, Alexandria, VA, Annapolis, MD, Portland, ME and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Commander John R. Wadleigh relieved Commander Goepner as Captain of the John R. Pierce in August 1950 as she departed Norfolk for her first Mediterranean duty with the Sixth Fleet on August 8. The Pierce made many ports on this cruise which included Gibraltar, Cannes, Hyeres, Golf Juan, Toulon and Cherbourg France, Crete, Algiers Algeria, Augusta Bay and Palermo, Sicily, Trieste, Venice, and La Spezia, Italy, Antwerp Belgium, Oslo, Norway, Copenhagen, Denmark, Portland, and Plymouth, England, and Cagliani, Sardinia. Returned to Norfolk 1 February 1951 and went to dry docks at Portsmouth, VA for repairs. After repairs were completed the ship was sent to Guantanamo Bay for refresher training, and returned in July, picked up new recruits, replenished and then off to Key West FL for sonar training. Had liberty call in Havana Cuba. On 18 October returned to Norfolk. Lieutenant commander O.C. Foote relieved Captain Wadleigh in October 1951. Commander Wadleigh was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1965.

From 18 October, to 20 November the Pierce was in Operation Landflex in the Caribbean Sea, which included gunfire training on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. Returning to Norfolk on 20 November, she spent the Holidays in port. 20 January she left Norfolk for Operation Micowax, a cold weather exercise in the North Atlantic off the coast of Greenland. Rough sea was expected and she got it. On one refueling day, the Pierce was the only ship able to refuel on account of the weather. Many of her former crewmembers still talk about the 63-degree roll the ship took. Returned to Norfolk on 20 February and on 14 March sailed for Savannah, GA, to help celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day where she put members of her crew in a parade. 25 April found her in New York City where she got her orders to return to Norfolk and prepare for duty in the Far East with the rest of her Division. Two quick weeks were all that was allowed for the extensive preparations for the voyage. All hands were allowed four days leave to say good-bye to loved ones and to tie up the loose ends of personnel affairs.

On 15 May at 0800 hrs, the Pierce departed Norfolk with her sister ships the Soley, the Strong and the Barton with ComDesRon 2, Captain R.B.Levin aboard. Old stomping grounds were again revisited as the ships headed for the Panama Canal. As usual rough weather was in and around Cape Hatteras and made it uncomfortable for the new hands. But, with all the "drills" going on, they soon forgot the weather. The division arrived at the locks on the 20th and made their way to the Pacific side and had one day of liberty. Departed Panama and reached San Diego on 29 May. And so, after a pleasant liberty, with much of the crew taking a short trip down south to Tijuana, Mexico, the ships again departed the United States and headed for Pearl Harbor and arrived on 6 June with the US Navy band greeting them at the pier. Attention to port was piped as she passed the mast of the USS Arizona. Two beautiful days were spent in port before departing for Midway Island arriving on11 June and departing the same day. Destroyer Division 21 crossed the International Date Line on 13 June and arrived at Yokosuka, Japan on 18 June after two days of riding out a fierce typhoon Two days were spent replenishing and refueling, and then on to Sasebo, Japan which was the Pierce’s main operating base while she was in Korean waters. It was one of Japan’s largest naval bases in World War11 and at that time housed the United Nations Naval Forces of the Far East. Left Sasebo on 22 June and arrived in the Korean War Zone 23 June and joined Task Force 77, which was continuing its air strikes against the enemy. The Pierce and her division stood plane guard for the fast carriers which were preparing to launch a heavy strike on the Suiho power plant which was the fourth largest power plant in the world at that time (about 400,000 KW). The plant lay on the North Korean side of the Yalu River within sight of the untouchable Manchurian Territory, only 35 miles from the Antung Air Complex loaded with more than 250 MIGs. This area had been deemed untouchable until now. Task Force 77 consisted of four large carriers, the USS Bon Homme Richard, the USS Philippine Sea, the USS Princeton and the USS Boxer. The attack launched at 1400 hrs. was to be the biggest to date of the entire Korean War. The next day North Korea’s electric power was seriously reduced. The capital of Pyongyang was without power; factories on both sides of the Yalu were without power. A miraculous fact of the raid was, not one plane was lost.

Still steaming with Task force 77, planes from the carriers pounded Wonson and Chongjin on 24 June. On the morning of the 25th the cruiser USS Helena and the battleship USS Iowa join TF 77. At 2400 hrs on the 27th the Pierce left TF 77 for shore bombardment duty. She joined TF 95 and held shore bombardment at various targets with the cruiser USS Helena on the 28th. Due to bad weather on the 29th there was nothing going on, but on 30 June she teamed with the battleship USS Iowa, cruiser USS Helena and the destroyer USS Rodgers DD876 to shell factories near Songjin. 1 July she rejoined TF77 replenished, refueled and took on ammunition. She continued her screening for the task force until 6 July when she refueled and replenished at 0600 hrs and at 1200 hrs escorted the USS Philippine Seas and the USS Boxer back to Sasebo, Japan. On 7 July the Pierce was back with TF 77 and on 10 July departed for Sasebo Japan and moored along side the USS Dixie a destroyer tender. She departed Sasebo on 20 July and arrived at Yang Do island on 21 July to join TF 95.22 and to relieve the destroyer USS Southerland DD743 for shore bombardment and patrol duty. On 22 July the Pierce proceeded to Chongjin to bombard gun emplacements and transformer plants with HMS St.Bridesbay. The 23rd of July saw her firing at railroad targets from 0000 hrs to 0300 hrs. On 24 July she patrolled Yang Do and Nang Do islands. She bombarded railroads and tunnels on the 25th from 0000 hrs to 0400 hrs and then repeated from 2000 hrs to 2200 hrs. During the daylight hrs she was gunfire support for 2 minesweepers. She was headed for Chongjin on the 26th, but bad weather forced her to return to Yang Do island. According to Rear Admiral John E. Gingrich in the book (The Sea War in Korea) the cost of a 5-inch projectile in 1952 was $200. The cost of all types ammunition, delivered to the ships in Korea, had been calculated to be $ 1,940 per short ton The savings in cost after July 1952 was more than two million dollars per month and this did not take into account wear and tear on either guns or ships. This was due to reducing the amount of ammunition fired at night and on harassment missions, and emphasizing ammunition economy, an approximate 50 percent reduction was made in the amount of ammunition fired. In early 1952 a system of (Packages) and (Derail) was introduced. (Package) was a shoreline target suitable for both airplanes and ships. Five points on the Songjin-Hungnam railroad were chosen and named "package" 1,2,3,4,and 5. At three of the "packages"1, 3 and 5 were bridges. " Package" 2 and 4 were railroads between two tunnels. At night ships could get as close as 1,500 to 2.000 yards in most cases. The "package" targets were also ones, which would be difficult for the enemy to repair. The plan called for the cutting of the "packages" by air strikes. If the enemy repaired the targets, other air strikes would be called in to destroy the target again. However, when the carriers were replenishing, or when bad weather prevented air strikes, the surface forces of Task Force 95 were to take over and keep the "packages" destroyed by gunfire. In addition, patrolling ships were to fire a specific number of rounds (at regular intervals) every day and every night to hamper and destroy the enemy’s repair efforts.

The second program was code-named "derail". The "derail’ targets were ones to be kept destroyed solely by naval gunfire. There were eleven of them A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J and K. Like the "packages", the "derails" were along the coast, accessible to naval gunfire, and on the main Chongjin to Hungnam railroad. At each "derail" patrolling ships would fire a limited number of shell into them during each 24-hour period. Before this system was employed ships were firing at targets of opportunity with little effect and using up a lot of ammunition.

On 27 July "night hecklers" (aircraft that flew from the carriers up and down the railroad looking for trains or railroad targets) attacked targets northwest of Tanchon. VC-4 detachment (LCDR E. S. Ogle) found a moving train, cut the rail in front and behind, and damaged the locomotive before expending all the ammunition and bombs. A destroyer later destroyed the train by shelling. This destroyer was probably the John R. Pierce, because early in the morning of the 27th she had shelled and destroyed a train at "package" 2 (a 200 yard section of single track of railroad between two tunnels halfway between Songjin and Iwon), the same location. In the afternoon she patrolled between Chongjin and Yang Do islands.

The USS John R. Pierce joins exclusive club. Captain H.E. Baker, CTF-95’s operations officer, organized the ‘Train Busters Club’ of Task Force 95 in July 1952. (Many ships, which had destroyed trains before this, were not included.) The following is a list of members of the "Train Busters Club" and the number of trains credited (not claimed) to each ship as determined by TF 95’s records: Also a certificate was presented to each ship whose gunfire had destroyed a train. It read: "For her contribution to the United Nations cause against Communist aggression by Destroying-Communist train(s). In recognition of a job well done CTF-95."

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1. HMS Crusader 4 trains 10. USS Boyd 1 train
2. USS Endicott 3 trains 11. USS Trathen 1 train
3. USS Orleck 2 trains 12. USS Eversole 1 train
4. HMCS Haida 2 trains 13. USS Kyes 1 train
5. HMCS Athabaskan 2 trains 14. USS Chandler 1 train
6 USS John R. Pierce 2 trains 15. USS McCoy Reynolds 1 train
7. HMS Charity 2 trains 16. Hr. Ms. Piet Hein 1 train
8. USS Porter 1 train 17. USS Carmick 1 train
9. USS Jarvis 1 train 18. USS Maddox 1 train

From 28 July through 1 August the Pierce shelled Chongjin and railroads daily.

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In the northern patrol area (between Chongjin and Yang Do islands) on the 2nd she fired on sampans and troops. On the 3rd and the 4th and 5th she patrolled around "package 2" working over the railroads.

While patrolling "package 2", (the Songjin area) on the 6th she came under enemy fire at 0638 hrs. Over 100 rounds were fired at the Pierce. The first rounds straddled the ship. She was hit seven times with the main damage to both stacks and numerous holes all around the superstructure, torpedo deck and a hit on frame 21, one foot above waterline. She returned fire and possibly silenced one of the guns. According to the deck log of the ship on 6 August for the 1800 to the 2000 watch,"The Pierce was steaming on course when at 1815 hrs enemy shore batteries commenced firing on the ship. She changed course to 135 degrees (T) and changed speed to 25 knots. Called the crew to general quarters at 1816 hrs and at 1817 hrs commenced firing on enemy shore batteries. She was steaming on various courses zigzagging to avoid enemy fire. At 1835 hrs she ceased firing. Rounds expended were 38 rds 5-inch/38 h.c.1835 hrs shore batteries ceased firing." The following crewmembers received Purple Hearts as a result of the wounds they received from the enemy’s action.

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James J. Jones BT3 USN
Donald L. Keach ENS USN
Richard W. Brennan ET3 USN
James C. Callais MM3 USN
Charles J. Simmons DC3 USN

Donnie D. Ford SN USN

William R. Fugitt SN USN

Ernest Sposato SN USN
Lawrence W. Kreske SN USNR
John E. Goetz SA USN
Lawrence R. Hartman SA USN
Ronald L. Grant TA USN
  Ernest J. Weber HMC USN

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She secured from general quarters at 2005 hrs and set condition 3. Then proceeded to rendezvous with the USS Carmick (DMS 33) to receive medical aid. She was then ordered back to Sasebo for repairs and to have the wounded attended to. About this same time two other destroyers were hit, the USS Barton (DD 722) our flagship of DesDiv21 and HMS Mounts Bay. She arrived at Sasebo on the 7th and stayed there until the 20th.

Major repairs were done to both stacks and repairs made to the rest of the damage. It was also a time for a little rest and relaxation for the crew. Two ship’s parties were held at the Cabaret Takarazuka in Sasebo, which were a real success and provided the whole crew with a couple evenings of real fun.

Repairs completed; on 20 August she left Sasebo with Commander TF 95 Admiral John E. Gingrich aboard, to deliver him to Commander TF 77 aboard the battle ship Iowa and then left the area for Yokosuka, Japan. Arrived on the 22nd for electrical repairs. A couple days of liberty for the crew. A few lucky ones got to go to the R/R rest camp at the Shizura Hotel in the mountains south of Tokyo.

On 25 August she was operating at anti submarine exercises off the coast of Northern Japan, where she entered the ports of Hokkaido and Aomori for liberty. She stayed there until 13 September.

Back with TF 77, on the night of 16 September the Task Force was about 90 miles east of Wonson when the USS Barton hits a floating mine. There were some peculiar aspects to the Barton mining said CDR H.B.Seim (from the book The Sea War in Korea). The Barton was the northernmost ship of the Task Force. (The Pierce was next to it.) The Task Force was southbound. It was necessary for the carriers and destroyers directly ahead of us to steam close aboard that mine before we hit it. When the explosion came, I had just finished reading a report on a ship’s vulnerability to floating mines. The report concluded that a ship making ten or more knots was safe, since the bow waves would push a floating mine aside. However the bow wave failed to protect the Barton, for the Task Force was steaming at fifteen knots. The mine hit at 2115hrs continued Seim. It fractured the shell plating from keel to the main deck. The forward fire room was completely gutted and flooded. A hole 40 feet long was opened to the sea. All five men in the forward fire room were lost. Engine room personnel working next to the destroyed fire room were seriously burned.

ComDesRon 2 Captain R.B. Levin, USN and his staff of six officers with all their gear transferred to the John R. Pierce. In order to complete the transfer the Pierce had to stop dead in the water, in the dark of the night not knowing if there were other mines in the water and complete the transaction.

She continued operating with Task Force 77. With mines becoming more frequent and the threat of Communist air attacks increasing, the last month of operations with the task Force passed slowly. Finally the release came on 10 October and the ship headed for Sasebo for replenishments and the necessary preparations for the 14,000-mile trip back to Norfolk. She departed Sasebo on the 14th with the USS Strong for Singapore, the first leg of the journey home.

The Pierce arrived in Singapore on the 21st and after two days of great liberty left on the 23rd. An article in the Singapore Standard on 22 October had two pictures of the John R. on their front page. According to the article six ships arrived in the harbor on the 21st, all under the command of Captain Levin, DesRon 2, his flag ship the USS John R. Pierce, the USS Strong, the USS Porter, the USS Jarvis, the USS VanValkenburg and the USS Kimberley. The USS Soley and the USS Barton were expected in Singapore next week. Lt. Commander John Van Guilder of the squadron staff aboard the Pierce told the Standard that "the boys were going to do the town, they deserved this respite after Korea." There were about 2,100 of them. He also stated "during the whole of the squadron’s operation in Korean waters the destroyers fired a total of about 10,000 rounds of 5x38"calibre and 24,000 rounds of 40mm ammunition."

The group left Singapore on the 23rd under way for Ceylon. Swinging south from the Malaccan Straits into the Indian Ocean she crossed the equator on 25 October at 88 degrees longitude at 2209hrs on course 230, speed 17 knots. The next morning there was strange and unusual events happening aboard the ship. At first glance one noticed the Jolly Roger flying at the mast in place of the Ensign. All hands were called to quarters and Davey Jones was piped aboard. There was to be about 300 unhappy Polywogs that day.

She arrived at Colombo Ceylon on the 27th and stayed for two days. A tour was arranged for some of the crew to visit Kandy the ancient Singhalese capital, about 70 miles inland. Some other crewmembers enjoyed riding the elephants. Under way again on the 29th, she headed for Bahrein in the Persian Gulf and arrived on the 3rd of November. The Royal Navy invited us to use the recreation facilities of the Naval Base located on an oasis near Bahrein. It afforded a pleasant afternoon of baseball and swimming. The 5th of November saw her on the way to Aden for a two-day stay. She arrived on the 9th and departed on the 10th for the Suez Canal. The transiting of the Suez Canal took the ship from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea through Egypt. As a convoy, the eight destroyers were giving priority passage. The ships arrived at the entrance of the canal at 0530hrs on the 14th and arrived at the mouth (Port Said) at 2030hrs. After entering the Mediterranean she arrived at Naples, Italy on the 17th for a four day stay. Many tours were arranged for the officers and men of the destroyers including Rome and the Vatican where His Holiness Pope Pius XII received the group at Castle Gondolfo, his winter residence outside Rome. Departing on the 21st and after a day of heavy seas she arrived at the maritime city of Genoa, Italy on the 23rd. Three days later she was on her way to Villa Franche, then on the 29th she was bound for Gibraltar and arrived on the 29th. This was to be the last port of call on her ‘World Cruise". The Pierce left Gibraltar on 1 December with the other seven destroyers for her homeport of Norfolk, VA.

Arriving at Norfolk on the 12th the squadron was given a gala reception at CE piers. Tugboats were present, with a watery salute for the 2,400 officers and men of the Destroyer Squadron, a Navy Band playing on the pier and a large crowd of family and friends waiting for their loved ones. The Norfolk Ledger gave a front-page story with a picture of the John R., stating that the group, led by the Pierce steamed up the harbor shortly before noon, with their crews in dress blues lining the rails. Tugs escorting them shot streams of water into the air with their fire hoses. It was a colorful sight as the sun, striking the spray, made brilliant rainbows. As the Pierce was docking, the band was playing "Auld Lang Syne". The pier was decorated with an enormous Welcome Home banner. The other ships that arrived were the USS Barton, the USS Strong, the USS Soley of Destroyer Division 21 and the USS Porter, the USS Jarvis, the USS Kimberly, and the USS VanValkenburg from Destroyer Division 262. Rear Admiral Chester C. Wood, Commander Destroyer Flotilla Four to which the destroyers are attached was on hand to welcome them home. After being away for seven months the crew was ready for liberty "at home."

After almost three months stay in Norfolk, the ship left on 3 March for plane guard duty and exercises with fast aircraft carriers in and around the Jacksonville FL. Area. She returned back to the Norfolk area and went into the Portsmouth, VA, Naval Shipyards for a major overhaul on 15 May 1953. Many of the crew that never had a chance to go to various schools now went. The ship was put into dry docks and repaired from the bow to the fantail. The crew that was there lived in barracks.

In late August the John R. Pierce completed her overhaul and renovations at Portsmouth. Her 40mm guns were replaced with the new 3/50 automatics, and some of the temporary repairs due to the damage in Korea were finished. She left for a shakedown and exercise cruise to Guantanamo Bay Cuba, under her new Skipper Commander Raymond Berthrong. While on this assignment she visited the ports of Kingston, Jamaica and Port of Prince, Haiti. After completion of her shakedown cruise she returned to Norfolk on the 26 of October, where she remained until 4 January 1954.

The next day she left CE piers in Norfolk for her second Mediterranean Cruise, which included operating with the U. S. Sixth Fleet. She visited five ports on this cruise which included Algiers, Algeria, Augusta, Sicily, Naples, Italy, Athens, Greece and Cannes, France. She returned to Norfolk on 11 March and remained until 4 May1954 when she left for her 3rd Mediterranean trip. She would again operate with the 6th Fleet which carried her the length and breadth of the sea and included visits to the following ports: Gibraltar, Palermo, Sicily, Hyeres, France, and again to Naples Italy and for her excellency in training and winning a Navy (E) twice, she was awarded a goodwill trip to Northern Europe which included many stops at ports that haven’t been visited by an American warship since WW11. She left the Mediterranean on 6 July accompanied by the destroyer USS Murray DD 576 heading for Plymouth, England and arriving on the 9th. Five days later she was in Douglas Isle of Man for two days and then headed for Londonderry, Northern Ireland until 31 July. The Pierce operated out of Londonderry with the Royal Navy on Anti-submarine warfare exercises for almost two weeks. She left there on 31 July and arrived in Bremerhaven, Germany on the 3rd and stayed for 3 days, and then up the Wiser River to Bremen, Germany until the 12th. On the way she passed concrete submarine pens that had been destroyed by the Allies in WW11. It was said that the Pierce was the first destroyer to go to Bremen since the end of the war. Tours of the ship were provided to the many visitors that came aboard. The visitors told crew members of the many bombings of Bremen. She left on the 12th and was under way for another port of relaxation, South End on the Sea, England, a British resort area south of London. All hands enjoyed this five-day stay. Next it was on to Trondheim, Norway another nice liberty town and arrived on the 21st. The Pierce had her picture on the front page of the local paper with a write up of the ship. Sailing from Trondheim on the 26th she arrived in Dundee, Scotland on the 28th, and also another picture in the Dundee newspaper. She stayed there until the 3 September and the headed for Esbierg, Denmark arriving on the 4th. After 5 days in Denmark she went to Torquay, England and arrived on the15th. From 21 September to the 23rd she was in Boulogne, France. Back to Portsmouth, England on the 24th and on her way home on the 25th, with a one-day stay in Argentia, Newfoundland on 1 October. She arrived back in Norfolk, VA on 4 October1954. Never one to miss a good storm, the Pierce was anchored in Hampton Roads, VA when hurricane Hazel hit with full force on 15 October 1954. The storm was a category four with wind 131-155 mph. The storm surge was 13-18 ft. After dragging anchor for a while, the ship escaped with some moderate damage. In November Commander Garrow replaced Commander Berthrong as Captain of the USS John R. Pierce.

From January through March of 1955 she was in the Caribbean Sea again, making stops at Saint Thomas, VI, Kingston, Jamaica and San Juan Puerto Rico. In April of 1955 she had a three-day stay in Miami, FL. From May through August she operated out of Norfolk on training exercises. In September of 1955 the Pierce went into The Philadelphia Navy Yards for an overhaul and remained until February of 1956. In March she left Philadelphia for a shake down cruise to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which lasted till June. Then on to Mayport, FL for plane guard operations and then back to Norfolk, VA

On 13 August she departed Norfolk for her fourth Mediterranean cruise. On 23 August she was anchored in Gibraltar, on the 28th she was in Augusta, Sicily and on the 3rd of September was moored to the USS Cascade (AD16) at Palermo, Sicily. The Pierce left Sicily on the 5th of September in route to Gulf de Palmas off the coast of Sardinia and anchored in Gulfo di Olbie, Sardinia. One of the highlights of this Med. cruise was the arrival of the USS John R. Pierce in Rosslare Harbor, Ireland on 15 September for the dedication ceremonies and unveiling of a statue of John Barry (the Father of the United States Navy.) The Irish government had requested a US Naval ship for the ceremonies and the Pierce was selected. She was the first US ship to Wexford, Ireland. She left Ireland on the 18th and arrived at Plymouth, England on the19th, then to Gibraltar until the 24th, and then on to the Mediterranean for more exercises with the 6th Fleet.

One of the worst tragedies of the John R. Pierce’s long history happened on 1 October in the Mediterranean 75 miles south of Ville Franche. The ship was on aerial gunnery exercise firing at a towed aerial target, when at 0950 hrs a shell exploded in the breech of mount 53 killing a member of the mount and seriously wounding nine others. Three of the injured were in grave condition and later died. Doctors from the nearby cruiser USS Salem were taken by helicopter to the destroyer and then transferred the wounded to the cruiser at sea. Then the USS Salem took the men to Ville Franche to be transported to Nice Airport, France where a Flying Boxcar ambulance waited to fly them to a military hospital in Frankfort, Germany. One of the seriously wounded was Ensign John T. Pierce, son of John R. Pierce for whom the ship was named. After the wounded were transferred the Pierce went to Cannes, France and arrived on the 2nd of October. She stayed there until the 15th and then got under way for the states. She refueled at San Miguel in the Azores on the 20th and again in Bermuda on the 25th and arrived in Norfolk on the 27th. From there she went to the Philadelphia naval yards for repairs.

Back at sea again in May of 1957 off the coast of New England she was briefly part of the filming of a movie called Windjammer. The movie was about the 231-day cruise of the Norwegian sailing ship the Christian Radich. The movie was filmed in what at that time was a new process called Cinemiracle. The Pierce made a brief appearance in the movie was also in a small picture on the back cover of the book called Louis DeRochemont’s Windjammer, published by Random House in 1958.

Back in the Mediterranean when the communist-controlled Syrian Army threatened King Hussein’s pro-western government of Jordan during August and September 1957, destroyers including the Pierce, patrolled the ancient sea-lanes of the eastern Mediterranean to guard against the possible intervention by Nassar’s Egypt. She was now under the Command of Commander C.O. Williamson.

The John R. Pierce returned to the same area in December 1958 to bolster the security of Lebanon, recently threatened by the Soviet-backed United Arab Republic.

The Pierce’s performance during fire fighting and salvage operations on board the tanker SS Mirador in Iskenderum, Turkey, from18-27 December, 1958 has materially contributed to the accomplishment for which the ship received congratulatory messages from the following: Chief of Naval Operations Arleigh Burke, CINCNELM Admiral James L. Holloway, COMSTS, COMSIXTHFLT Ekstrom, COMDESLANT, E.B. Taylor, and COMDESRON 2. All of the messages cited the crew for their excellent performance and their high degree of readiness for all eventualities.

In March of 1960 the Pierce was once again under extremely bad weather during ASW exercises when her Captain O.C. Williamson sent a message of "Well Done" to her crew for their performance in an outstanding manor, as working as a team in extreme bad weather. He states that "he has seen rougher seas and weather, but never have I seen it so bad for so long." Also in 1960, she had a Mediterranean, Caribbean and a shake down cruise. Following the assassination of General Trujillo 27 May 1961, this versatile destroyer patrolled off the Dominican Republic, thus helping to stabilize a potentially explosive situation. She was back to her homeport, Norfolk on 1 April 1962. Also in April, she took a group of Midshipmen for a cruise to Rockland, Maine, for sea duty and getting acquainted with Navy shipboard life.

On May 24th, under the command of Commander Adrian Lorensten The USS John R. Pierce wrote her own page in the history of space pioneering when she recovered Aurora 7, LCDR Scott Carpenter’s spacecraft, after the United States second successful manned orbital flight. The Pierce steamed at high speed for approximately six hours and 206 miles to reach the spacecraft’s recovery area east of Puerto Rico. She recovered the floating space capsule and delivered it safely to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The astronaut was himself recovered by helicopters from the carrier USS Intrepid.

On 1 July 1962 the Pierce was awarded the Engineering "E" for outstanding engineering performance for the year.

Navy pilots discovered Russian offensive missile bases in Cuba 14 October. Deeming this Soviet capability a threat to our national security, President Kennedy ordered on the 22nd an immediate sea and air blockade to prevent all offensive weapons from entering the island. In response to the President’s call for a "quarantine of Cuba" the Navy deployed ninety ships into waters off Cuba to prevent further military buildup and to enforce American demands that the Russians withdraw their missile threat.

Under the command of Commander J.W. Foust, the John R. Pierce departed Norfolk 22 October, joined the quarantine forces (Task Group136) on the 24th, and during the next five days investigated 13 ships. On 26 October Pierce tracked the Lebanese registered freighter Marucra and reported to the USS Joseph P. Kennedy that she had the vessel and was about to board and search her as previously ordered, when she was told to await the arrival of the Kennedy, which was named after the President’s brother. She arrived after daybreak, steaming on four boilers and almost out of fuel. The Kennedy lowered her whaleboat and came to the Pierce to pick up LCDR D.G. Osborne, Executive Officer of the Pierce. As senior officer Osborne headed up the boarding party. When boarded the captain of the freighter was very cooperative, giving all that was asked for, including opening up of one of the hatches so its cargo below could be visually inspected. The ship was cleared and headed for Havana. Commendations were received from the Chief of Naval Operations, Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet and Commander TG 136 for the Pierce’s outstanding communications and performance during the crisis. She departed from her assigned duties the following day and headed for San Juan and then on to Cristobal, Panama Canal Zone to await the Pacific Amphibious ships that had the Pacific Marine Battalion on board. She then steamed around the Caribbean Sea for a while until the decision was made not to invade Cuba.

14 December 1962 found her back in Norfolk, VA. She departed on 29 March 1963 for the Mediterranean and Middle East for duties with the 6thFleet. After two weeks of maneuvers with the 6th Fleet, she transited the Suez Canal 30 April and commenced an 11-week cruise through the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Returning to the Mediterranean 16 July, she resumed fleet operations. On 14 August the Pierce rescued three survivors of a plane that splashed off her starboard bow while attempting an emergency landing on the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65).

She departed Palma, Mallorea on 24 August and arrived in Norfolk, VA on 4 September 1963.

The Pierce spent the next year, 1964 operating out of Norfolk, and on off shore surveillance patrols in January, she escorted five Cuban boats, which were illegally fishing in U.S. territorial waters, to Key West for internment. Once again on 8 October she departed Norfolk for her eighth and last cruise to the Mediterranean, operating with the 6th Fleet along the western coast of Italy for the remainder of the year.

Upon arrival in Norfolk on 22 February 1965 the Pierce commenced grooming for her new role as a Group 1 Naval Reserve Training ship. On 1 April 1965 the Pierce reported to the Commandant of the 3rd Naval District in Brooklyn, New York for duty. The Pierce’s homeport was officially changed from Norfolk, VA to the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York. Her nucleus crew now numbering about 125 men joined forces with one of the nation’s finest Selected Reserve Crews formally of the USS Sullivans (DD537) to become the integrated Ships Company of the USS John R. Pierce. Her duty now was a reserve training ship. She began a schedule of two-week training cruises for Naval reserves. She made several short cruises up and down the Atlantic coast and one through the St. Lawrence to Detroit MI.

An article in a New York newspaper on 25 December 1966 describes how she was the only ship at the old Brooklyn Navy Yard. Bright colored lights that decorate her steel decks blink a salute to the holiday season bringing a vestige of cheer to a place where Christmas is practically a memory. The article tells how the Pierce is a proud ship, a valiant lady, a veteran of the Pacific Theatre during WW11 and of Korea, gained world prominence in May of 1962, when she recovered Aurora 7, Scott Carpenter’s space capsule. But the article was not about the ship’s past history. It is about her and her crew assuming another role. She is the good ship Santa Clause come to give Old St. Nick a seafarer’s hand in his annual visit to a Brooklyn orphanage.

Her Yuletide cargo, a small mountain of wrapped gifts of clothing, games and toys was distributed among 42 youngsters 3 to 17 years old at the Norwegian Children’s Home. One of the largest presents was a sparkling new Ping-Pong table presented by the "selres" or selected reservists, many of whom come from the Brooklyn, Queens and other parts of Long Island. Scores of other gifts were presented by the ship’s "nucleus" personnel, which comprises nine officers and 143 enlisted men. The article goes on to tell how the children constantly talk about the wonderful fellows on the Pierce. They say that those navy fellows are like brothers to us. The Christmas fete was not the first time men of the Pierce visited the orphanage. They answered the home’s SOS last summer when it issued a plea for help in painting the three-story structure. The story also states that the Pierce is slated to get under way next month for Puerto Rico, with later cruises planned for Bermuda, Jamaica and South America.

On 4 October 1968 Commander Charles L. Meserve relieved Commander Robert W. Hall as Commanding Officer.

Finally after a very long and distinguished career, which encompassed over twenty-nine years, the "Grimm Reaper" finally found the John R.

She was decommissioned on 7 January 1973 and on 6 November 1974 was sold to Aardvark International and scrapped.

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European, African, Middle East Campaign Medal

American Campaign Medal

Asian-Pacific Campaign Medal

World War 11 Victory Medal

Navy Occupation Medal W/ Europe Clasp

Two Navy "E" Awards

Korean War Service Medal W/1 Battle Star

Korean War Presidential Unit Citation

Republic of Korea Service Medal

Combat Action Ribbon

United Nations Service Medal

National Defense Service Medal

United Nations Medal

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal


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I would like to thank the following people who have sent information to me so that I could put this history of the USS John R. Pierce together. I wish that I could have done more, especially during the late 50’s and 60’ and 70’s, but this is all that I had to work with.

Hugh Yarrington, Robert Chambers, Donald Clark, Irwin Polatsek, Ronald Piper, David Cushion, Michael Colello, Arnold Tester, Bradford Allen, Paul Smolarz, Thomas Grace, Rear Admiral J. R. Wadleigh Ret., Capt Dwight G. Osborne Ret., John Biernacki, Captain James W. Foust Ret., Gary Cleasby, Captain O. C. Williamson Ret., Bud Rutter, Steve Astulfi, and Lieutenant Thomas Austin.

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Other articles contributing to this history are from:

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"The Sea War in Korea" by Commander Malcom W. Cagle and Commander Frank A. Manson of the United States Navy.

Articles from the New York Times

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. From the web site of the USS Salem

The Archives Washington, D.C.

New York Sunday News, December 25, 1966

New York Daily News, Saturday, March 25, 1944

Ships Data Section, Office of Publication Information, Navy Department

Biographies sent in by former ship’s crew members


Eugene R. Slavin RD2 1951-1955

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USS John R. Pierce (DD753) Sailors Organization

In August of 1991 a ship’s association was formed for the former members of the USS John R. Pierce. We hold reunions once a year at different cities in the US. Reunions have been held in the following locations:

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Poughkeepsie, NY


St. Louis, MO


Alexandria, VA


Corning, NY


Norfolk, VA


Baton Rouge, LA


Des Moines, IA


Jacksonville, FL


Myrtle Beach, SC


Boston, MA


San Antonio, TX


Atlantic City, NJ


Tampa, FL


Branson, MO




Excelsior Springs, MO


Norfolk, VA


Mobile, AL


Norfolk, VA


Kalamazoo, MI


Charleston, SC


Orlando, FL


Clemmons, NC


Ocean City, MD


Atlantic City, NJ


Tampa, FL

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Wes Kreske, Alfred Lawson, Edward Millett, Bob Chambers,

Ben Bowden, James Diegel, and Charles Twigg