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USS Philadelphia
Stars and Stripes Article

Bill Brinkley
(Stars and Stripes Naval Writer)
June 17, 1944


ABOARD THE GALLOPING SHOST --- Once when this cruiser was engaged in battle, fighting off German planes trying to cushion the ocean floor with her, the officer of the deck looked up and on the guy wire leading from the smokestack observed what was unmistakably a pair of woman’s panties.

      “That,” shouted one of ship’s company, raising his arm to full height toward the flapping garment, “is what I’m fighting for!”

     It is good for a ship to have spirit.  The Galloping Ghost is a ship with spirit.

     There was the other time a blue-jacket was thrown against the director by the concussion of a near-miss.  His wrist watch was broken against the face of the director and his wrist watch was broken.

     “Why you sonofabitch,” he said, shaking his fist up at the plane.  “That watch cost me 35 dollars!”

     It is good and also fortunate for a ship to have luck and if any ship around her has had luck, it is this ship.  Several times the Germans have put her to the bottom of the sea with a whisk of the tongue.  Once this propaganda was apparently heard at home because a member of ship’s company received a letter from his wife beginning, “I don’t know whether you’ll ever get this letter, but in case you do…”

     The German female Haw-Haws, of the school of the delightful Sally, several times have worked up special broadcasts for the ship as she came up to some Italian coast to bombard.

     “You boys on cruiser so-and-so,” the voice said one time, giving her number, “you were lucky last night.  We didn’t get you last night but your turn is coming.  You better turn around and go home because we’re bringing up long-range guns to take care of you.”

     The Ghost has not yet turned around.  Her answer has always been bombardment and more bombardment—of tanks, buildings, troop concentrations and heavy artillery positions.  And she is still afloat.

     She is afloat although sometimes people wonder how come, and in talking about her often discuss the question of a ship’s life expectancy of close ones.

     Once after she had been particularly pestering the Germans eight FW-190s made a sneak dive bombing attack in what appeared to be a suicide attempt to get her.  Seven of the planes were brought down, three by the Ghost’s flaming guns, and the eighth tailed for home.  Once a bomb exploded under her fantail and shook her stern out of water.  Another time shore battery shelling tore her rigging away.  And so on.  She has continued to be one of the greatest individual naval thorns in the German’s side.

     “Her crew is on the point of believing that she cab not be sunk – by subs, planes or anything else.  Those are famous last words, of course, but they have helped sustain the crew of the Ghost through many a hard moment.

     The Galloping Ghost, an American light cruiser, has become almost a legend in Mediterranean waters.  Her reputation started in the Sicilian campaign, where her habit of chasing up and down the coast to plaster one enemy position after another brought her the moniker, “The Galloping Shost of the Sicilian Coast.”  She was heard from in a very considerable way at Salerno and more recently her guns again sounded in German ears, this time along the shores north of Anzio.  Here are some stories of the Ghost and a few of the 1,300 men who form her company.


The hangar deck of a cruiser is like a little airfield.  The aviation gang works, sleeps and in general lives here.

     Each of the ship’s planes has a three-man “ground” crew to see that the plane is always ready.  They are used for spotting, anti-sub patrol and in open waters as the eyes of the ship.  The crews have given their planes such names as “4-F Charley”, “A Wing and a Prayer” and “Triple Threat.”

     Once the order comes through to get a plane off or on, matters really move fast.  The plane has to be gotten topside, its wings spread, the plane hoisted on the catapult and launched.  Coming back in, the plane lands on water, the catapult is trained out, the net is trailed off, the aviation crane picks up the plane, the hook draws it in, the wings are folded back, the plane is taken down the elevator and tucked into its nesting place.

     Robert Steen, 20-year-old aviation machinist’s mate third class, Geneva, N.Y., is plane captain for “Triple Threat.”  In high school he wanted to be a pilot.  He didn’t become a pilot although now he gets in his flight time every month.

     The process of launching or recovering a plane usually goes smoothly.  Steen remembers one time it didn’t.

     “Once the hook from the crane caught on the life jacket of a man named William Gardner, who is not here at the moment.  Gardner is an aviation machinist’s mate first class from Jersey City and he was in the plane.  The aviation crane hook is supposed to  catch into the hoisting sling.  Instead it caught onto Gardner’s life jacket and lifted him straight up into the air.  Gardner is six feet three inches tall.  He didn’t say a word, just hung there in the air, held up by the hook.  We brought him on board.  It was quite a sight.” 


     A cruiser is a little city all right—barber shop, laundry, tailor shop, stores, just about everything.  It is also a little city of big contrasts.  Topside you get the Tyrrhenian, peaceful and lake-like at times.  Then down below, almost on the bottom of the ship, you get a place like the Number 4 fireroom and a man like Frank Brannon, Beaugard Parrish, La.

     The fireroom, as might be expected, is about the hottest place on the ship.  Of the firerooms Number 4 is the hottest because it has super-heaters as well as saturated heaters.  The saturated boilers take the steam to about 470 degrees and the super-heaters raise it on up to something like 650.  The hotter and drier the steam the better it is for the engines.

     It is a strange war indeed these men down in the firerooms fight.  The unrated men are called firemen and they stand in front of the various boilers watching such things as temperature, steam pressure, feed and air pressure,  one fireman watching one particular boiler and acting as the need arises.  On a steaming watch there will normally be about ten men in the fireroom.  The watches are generally of four hours length.

     The men in the fireroom never see anything of the war, though they feel a good deal of it from shells exploding under water.  A periscope leads from the fireroom to the top of a smokestack so they can tell if they are making smoke.  Through the periscope they see either a mass of white, indicating no smoke, or black or grey, indicating smoke, and that is the extent of their visual war.

     They work in heat and roaring noise from the boilers.  The day I was down there the thermometer said 105 degrees, enough to make the body wet with sweat quickly.  It is sometimes lower, sometimes higher, depending in part on the outside weather, since blowers bring in air from topside.  Brannon says he can remember times in the North Atlantic when he stood fireroom watches in a peacoat.  This is the exception, of course.

     Brannon, who is 29 years old, is a water tender first class.  A water tender’s main job is to check the water in the boilers.  Brannon does everything from firing the boilers to overhauling machinery.  He came to the fireroom when he first came aboard ship and has been there since.  He now has over four and one-half years in the Navy and previously did a six-year hitch in the Army.

     About his work in the fireroom he says:  “The noise means nothing to me, nor the heat.  Some men ask to be transferred out of the fireroom.  Me, they don’t bother.  Guess it’s what your get used to.” 


This cruiser’s band doubles in brass and 40MM ammunition.  There was the time, for example, when a considerable piece of enemy shrapnel went through the shoe and part of the foot of Tweed Shedden, a musician second class from Salina, Kan., and bull fiddler, while he was engaged as loader.

     When not on watch or rehearsing, members of the band can be found some distance below decks in the band compartment in what is called with a combination of grimness and a remote touch of fondness, “Torpedo Junction.”

     A phonograph was grinding out some swing music.  The band boys listened with a professional ear.

     “We were organized at the Navy School of Music in Washington with all of us signed up for six years in the regular Navy,” said Richard Sowell, Jr., 22-year-old musician first class from the Bronx.

     Sowell, who is handsome, red-haired and lead trumpet man, went on to explain that the band’s duties besides concerts,  colors, physical drills, dances and such occasionally include playing for the loading of ammunition on the ship, the idea being that the men can load better in rhythm to a waltz or a Sousa march.

     The band once gave a public concert in Casablanca especially for the natives, probably the first concert in history given them by a U.S. Navy band.  They had the Arabs jumping with jive says Blackwood.  Besides the Arabs, the band has played for Italians and French.

     “We have played for everyone but the Germans,” said Blackie with a sly twinkle in his eye, “and we hope to play for them soon.”



      In the old-time Navy, recalled Robert Murphy, 31, hospital apprentice first class, when a man came into sick bay and said he was seasick, the pharmacist’s mate would give him a boot just south of his hipbones and tell him to get the hell topside.

     Today, a little more finesse is used, although seasickness is still not in the class of what some of the medical gentry would call “proper” diseases for a sailor to have.  Ray Guy, who is a pharmacist’s mate second class from Morgantown, W. Va., said that now a man may be given a tablet the presumed function of which is to ease his stomach, be advised a bit on his diet and be told to stay out in the fresh air.

     “I always tell them to eat a lot when they’re seasick,” Murphy said.  “Eating seems to keep seasickness down.  When I used to stand crow’s nest watches and the ship went first to one side and then the other, the rougher it got the more I ate.  I never got seasick as long as I ate.”

     “I hate to see the new guys coming,” said Donald Shear, pharmacist’s mate first class, Schenectady, N.Y.  “It just means we’re going to have a slough of seasick cases.  Of course they get over it after awhile.”

     That is, most of them get over it, Shear added.  Now and then there will be a “chronically seasick” man.  An effort is made to get him shore duty.  Chronic seasickness is believed to be tied up with a certain fluid in the ear becoming off-balance.

     Seasickness is one of the ailments that pass through the ship’s sick bay.  Operations are fairly frequent.  The doctor will normally strap himself to the table during operations to guard against jarring caused by the sea.  Ship’s doctors will tell you they develop a sense of timing to the point that performing an operation while a pretty stiff sea is running is only a little more difficult than doing the same operation in a hospital on land.




As everyone knows, the Italian war is truly an international effort, with men of many nations fighting under the banner of the Allied Armies.  But it is even more international than some people think.  There are two seamen second class on this cruiser by the names of Yick Chin Kwong, Hongkong and East Orange, N.J., and Wong Kam Wah, Canton and New York.

     Yick’s mother, grandparents, three brothers and one sister are in China.  He has not heard from his mother in four years now.  His main correspondence is with an uncle in the States.

     Yick can speak English all right but cannot write it well enough yet for a letter.  His uncle speaks Chinese.  Although there are censors aboard who can handle German, French, English and about every thing else there are none who know Chinese.  This created quite an impasse for awhile but now it is solved.     “I get my friend the cook to help me with the letters to my uncle,” Yick says triumphantly.

     The first time he did this his uncle naturally supposed that Yick could now write English and shot him back a letter in that language.  Yick hastily informed his uncle please to write him in Chinese.

     It seems that is is permissible to write in Chinese provided the addressee is in China.  Thus Wong can write to his wife in Free China.

     “Received picture from my wife last month,” Wong said.  He pulled out a billfold and took from it the picture of a pretty girl with long black hair and dressed in a Chinese smock.  His wife’s name is Chan See Ying.  He turned the picture over.  On the back were some Chinese characters.

     “It’s a poem,” Wong said.

     “Can you translate it?”

     “Yes, can translate.  It goes like this.”  And he translated:

This picture comes from China to you.
You are far away;
But now you get this picture
Every day you can see me.

     “How long since you have seen your wife, Wong?”

Wong thought a moment.  “Saw her last October, 1940,” he said, and put the picture gently back in his billfold.

     There was in the group one who had been away from his wife over a year and during the conversation had been about to mention it.  Now he shut up.


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