CL-41 Tribute Home

USS Philadelphia
Chaplain's Letters to Shipmates

21 October 1944

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Good afternoon shipmates,

It is the sacred privilege of the old and even the not so old once in awhile to look off dreamily into space, take a pull on their pipe, to start off their conversation with the well tried introduction, “I remember when.”

So very much has taken place since we stood out from Toulon that we’re going to avail ourselves of that privilege of the not so old, and reminisce. You should know first that all of this reminiscing mood was started a week or so ago as we bounced and bumped our way over the rocky road to Rome. Picking our way thru some of those ruined towns enroute to Rome, we must have all thought of days of last Spring. Here we approached Formia, for instance where we tangled with that dead-eye-dick shorebattery last March. Remember that nasty guy, the one that ranged on us for a couple dozen salvos, and whistled hot-stuff over and between our smoke stacks and plopped shells to seawards of us? Yes, if my folks ask me where I got my dozen or two of gray hairs, I’ll answer in one word, “Formia”.

Then there was bloody Anzio where those American dog faces of ours were pinned down for five bloody months, where the PHILLY got in some dirty work, likewise a bloody nose and a campaign star to pin on her Bridge. Such were some of our memories as we sped Rome-wards. And before we knew it, so sudden is the transition from country to city, we were honking our horn in the streets of Rome. Now Rome is surely the place to reminisce isn’t it? Where every street and square recalls memories of Neros and Caesars, St. Peter crucified, St Paul beheaded, Michelangelo on a scaffold in the Sistine Chapel, and Young Rafaele fashioning his immortal Transfiguration. You could hear the swaggering of conquering armies, the moan of captives dragged at at chariot whets, Gen. Clark’s 5th army tanks rumbling under the Arch of Constantine, while the haughty statues of the Roman Emperors gazed on a Via Triumphalis. For me personally, the greatest recollection will be that of celebrating Mass at St. Peters.

And so we race back to the ship and saw the Admiral depart, leaving behind him, the affection, admiration of all hands with a secret hope that someday, somewhere we may follow him into action again. Then leaving the Bay of Naples yesterday we recalled too the days and nights of last spring when wither Vesuvius or American Ack-Ack wrote red fire-works in the black sky that we’ll never forget. Nom life has not been too dull for even the most adventurous. For comic relief there was the time a puffing Padre ran thru the venerable ruins of Pompeii rounding up sightseeing Marines as they protested they hadn’t even had a chance to wet their whistle much less see the ancient place, racing them back to the ship as she prepared to get underway for the fire support area. Don’t forget the night of the circling torpedoes, nor the night we limped into Pozzuoli with bow smashed and wondering what would be done with us, the while we thanked God not a soul aboard had been injured. Now as we hurry on to Oran, we recall Mersel-Kebir with its memories of July 1943 when we took off for the first attempt to crack open the walls of Europe, and two months later left this same Mers-el-Kebir for the difference of opinion as to who should hold Salerno.

Yes, as our Admiral said, “We saw it start in the Mediterranean and we stayed to finish it.” No prouder memories can be treasured by any ship. There is so much to remember, isn’t there? Then shipmates, you take it from here on – the way you start is simple – just begin it this way – “Remember When.” Mass at 1630, Mass and General Services tomorrow.

D.J. Burke (ChC)
Lieut. Comdr U.S.N.R.