Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos

 

Twelve inch guns of Battleship WYOMING, which Jack Barrett operated l922-l923 p41 #321
Capt. H. B.Price ultimately endorsed JaCK BARRETT AS WELL ABLE to direct men firing of WYOMING's twelve inch guns, but when he first reported early 1922 Price wrote:He has slight stature and florid countenance, wears a very small red mustache..His voice is weak. Now he is to be put in charge of a twelve inch turret and division.."Jack carefully replied to Bureau of Navigation:"As to gunnery training I studied Fullan & Hart 1905 edition and "Naval Ordnance l910" in l909, l9l0, l911 & have since read all subsequent editions- fired 3 pr Driggs Schroeder & 3 & 6 pr Hotchkiss guns 11 or 12 years ago & since l917 have had experience with ships' guns from 1 pr to six inch - conducted elementary practice in smaller vessels- controlled fire for a destroyer SRBF and was target observer for others - but except for three round trips from Brest to New York on USS SEATTLE flagship cruiser and Transport Force as watch officer I have not served in larger ships, having spent most of my time as Executive Officer and Navigator of smaller ships. For this reason when I reported on this vessel, I stated that I lack familiarity with heavy caliber guns.SOPHIE text WYOMING CHAPTER -Battleship WYOMING January 1922-June 1923- #85 On the nineteenth of January l922 in the Gulf of Guacanayabo Jack joined the great battleship WYOMING with H.B. Price commanding.He had shore patrol duty February 25-26 , March 1-6, 14, 15, 26-27, 30-31 and April 7-8. By June 26 the commanidng officer was G. W. Laws. The ship was at Yorktown, Virginia June 25, at Hampton roads July 1. August 18 the ship was at Newport, Rhode Island where Jack had shore patrol duty. and on the sixth of December at the Navy Yard, where Jack took fifteen days leave. Jack was the Communications Officer and the Captain was very pleased when the WYOMING answered a signal from the Admiral very quickly and was commended.The WYOMING was the flagship of Admiral McDonald.From the Navy Department we obtained the roster of WYOMING officers in March l923 and wrote to as many of them as we could locate.Captain Augustus Dayton Clark of the Annapolis class of l922 who was an Ensign aboard the WYOMING when Jack was a Lieutenant wrote from New York on June 6, l97l, "My dear Mrs. Barrett, I definitely recall and remember our WYOMING COmmunications Officer. He was a heppy, cheery, hard-working member of the officer staff. My assignment was aide to the Executive Officer, Commander Puleston, whom I might say was a demanding task master and boss but able and efficient.He was for many years a very fine friend of mine.He had a habit as soon as he opened his eyes in the morning to send for me to insure I was up and around.This would be about five AM.Admiral McDonald, whose flagship was the WYOMING, commanded the (then-called) Souting Fleet.He was of the old school, & insisted on junior officer discipline.The junior officer mess was a happy mess, and the whole ship was a happy one.Plenty of spit and polish but all hands were congenial, efficient, and happy. My years in the WYOMING-looking back fifty-nine years - were I believe my happiest. Our winter cruises to Guantanamo were always busy ones - but full of fun, enjoyment, and hard work. Did Jack participate in our rum running operation? We junior officers would organize and arrange a shipment of rum by "bum boat" while in Guantanamo in the wee hours of the night.The junior officers received a gallon or more, and amazingly, many of the senior officers did also.We would arrange for the deck watch officers to be sympathetic to this operation during the middle watch.The bum boat would come alongside a lower port in the junior officers' mess and pass the gallon jugs through the port.We junior officers in turn would deliver these jugs to the various officers' cabins before dawn. This was all on the "Q.T."and never mentioned in conversation.However, I am sure every officer was aware of this questionable operation. Another activity which I recall- all officers and men were obliged while on the southern cruise to qualify in swimming.It required each person to go to the bow of the ship and jump in the water and swim around the ship to the gangway. It was a high jump and for the timid, frightening.However, everyone did it. Coaling ship was an all-hands operation, officers and men.Everyone shoveled while the band played- all were black with coal dust as well as the ship inside and out. Next day - field day. All hands participated.It was fun. If coaling was not completed in one day,many of us would sleep on a coal pile that night. Good experience. Too bad the present Navy does not have to do it. You at least caused me to go back fifty-nine years and recall many of my shipmates in theWYOMING who in later years have been fond friends. Sincerely, -A Dayton Clark" Captain Frederick Holmes of the Annapolis Class of l9l8, who was a junior Lieutenant on the WYOMING in March l922,telephoned twice from Florida where he was spending the winter of l970 as his favorite sport- golfing.Not only was he on the WYOMING with Jack, but he was Captain of the tanker TRINITY l938-9 when Jack was the Executive officer aboard. Captain Holmes talked at length with John junior about the WYOMING and the TRINITY- told John he had been wounded in the hip at Okinawa and planned l970 to have surgery in Boston or in London. He spoke highly of the Lahey Clinic.Since his home was in Newport, Rhode Island,he promised to come to the house to talk to us the next time he came to Boston. But a note from his wife at Christmas l97l told us that Captain Holmes had passed away suddenly in the fall of l970. He had said he had diabetes. His son had a distinguished record at West Point and as an Army officer.On the seventh of June l97l I received a note from Captain Luther B. Stuart from Amissville, Virginia, who was on the WYOMING as an Ensign from the Annapolis class of l922: On October l2, l922 Lieutenant J.B. Barrett was detailed as Beach Master at Yorktown, Virginia under this "Landing Force Order":Battleship Force Landing Force was landed at Gloucester Point, Monday l6 October l922. The WYOMING and ARKANSAS platoons constituted the first company.Ech company will consist of four six=squad platoons.Uniform: Blue service, gray gloves,whiye hats, leggings. The Beachmaster is charged with the management of disposition of all boats and the disembarkation and re-embarkation of the Landing Force, All officers will consider any instructions received from the Beachmaster as emanating from the Regimental Commander."On Sunday, October 31, l97l at 2:20 in the afternoon I had a telephone call from Colonel Archibald, who was in the Class of l922 at the Naval Academy and roomed with Luther Stuart on the WYOMING and is now retired from the Navy.He was assistant Navigator.He was taking a load of passengers in a small boat to the WYOMING when the boat grounded.The passengers were taken off, and eventually the boat was recovered.Jack spent a lot of time telling him what to say if he was court-martialled.But he believes Captain Laws and Commander Puleston were responsible for his not getting a court-martial.He knows Bill Ware of the WYOMING well- also our friends Dan Candlerof the HANNIBAL and Eddie Arroyo of the MARBLEHEAD. On March 25, l97l from Bethesda Maryland, Captain Edward R. Gardner Annapolis class of l922 who was Secretary of his class wrote: "Dear Mrs. Barrett, In July l922 with some twenty other Ensigns, I reported to the WYOMING on the Southern Drill Grounds some ten to twenty miles off Hampton Roads, Captain George Laws was the Commanding officer with Commander William D. Puleston as "Exec.".The latter over many years was a prominent writer and analyst of Naval affairs. The WYOMING was the flagship of the Scouting Force under Vice Admiral John B. McDonald, a large, dour individual. One of his staff (Richmond) Kelly Turner gained great fame as the (Pacific) Amphibious Commander and became an Admiral. The summer of l922 the WYOMING was engaged in training off the Virginia capes, visiting Yorktown, New York, and Newport. At the latter post I was on Shore Patrol= probably at the place mentioned by your husband.The patrol stayed on shore, sleeping on cots in a makeshift barracks, and the WYOMING sent our meals in by boat. The food was invariably cold,the sleeping accomodations miserable, and the Senior Patrol Officer from the ARKANSAS as ass. A rather unpleasant experience.Late in the year the WYOMING went into the New York Navy Yard for overhaul. In January the Fleet went to Guantanamo for three or four months training, then to Panama, transiting the Canal for maneuvers with the West Coast Battle Fleet.Then we returned to the Norfolk area where I left the ship for several months, being assigned to the Navy Rifle Team. I remember Del Valle, Nyquist, and others in the WYOMING and saw many of them over the years.She was a good ship, had a fine reputation, and as I look back now, it was a bright spot to remember. I was the Junior Officer in the Fifth Division #5 Turret, but I don't remember your husband's assignment.. I wish you every success in the memoirs.Sincerely, Edward R. Gardner." On March 25, l97l from Menlo Park, California, Rear Admiral W. Nyquist wrote, "My dear Mrs. Barrett, Your letter of 12 March was forwarded to me by Bupers. I served on the WYOMING from about a July 1921 to about 1 December 1922. In June or July 1922 I was sent to the Naval hospital in Newport, Rhode Island with pneumonia, and I did not get back to the WYOMING until late September l922.I do remember your husband, but I was in the Junior Officer mess and did not have much contact with him.I was in Pearl Harbor on December 7, l94l but spent most of my time at sea in the Guadalcanal area. `-"-Rear Admiral Nyquist. On the 27th of March l97l I wrote another letter to Captain Gardner:"My son John and I are grateful for your detailed and interesting letter, which added many new facts to our supply of information about the Battleship WYOMING.One of Jack's friends, Captain Frank Delahanty of the Supply Corps, knew Captain Puleston well and talked about him in several letters last year.John has several articles by Puleston in Jack's file of Naval Institute magazines.Puleston of course was highly critical of the Gallipoli campaign and ended one article with the comment, "It is doubtful if even the British empire could survive another Winston Churchill." John junior has found detailed coverage of the l925 war games in Hawaii;- it was Admiral McDonald who had the difficult task of attempting to defend Oahu from the superior attacking "Blue" fleet.(p. W257) -258-Jack was briefly a turret officer when he first arrived on the WYOMING in early l922 but most of the time he was Communications officer. On one occasion he was commended for a prompt answer to the Admiral when several other ships failed to answer.Several times he was in charge of selecting crewmen for special training at radio school. In Hawaii during World War II he used to train John in Morse code and various methods of use of signal flags. He was always an enthiusiast for astronomy and navigation, and during the blackout in the early years of the war, he would point out Orion, the Pleiades, and the Southern Cross, which was visible fom Waikiki Beach. We would be interested in details of the Battleship Force Landing Exercises at the Virginia Capes.On one occasion papers here show that Jack was in charege of a shore patrol party in October. One puzzle we have concerns some papers which carefully recorded each time a member of the WYOMING passed in or out of New York Harbor.These records show that Jack passed in or out eight times - probably four times in and four times out.Do you suppose that this had anything to do with qualifying as a harbor pilot or would there be some other reason for the PORT AUTHORITY KEEPING THE RECORDS?Jack was a pilot in the waters from Cape Henry to Norfolk, Virginia and renewed his commercial steam license every five years.Jack spoke highly of Otto Nimitz, the half-brother of World War II Chester Nimitz - Otto was an officer on the WYOMING.I think Captain Laws must have relieved Captain H. B. Price shortly berfore you came aboard. Captain Price(259) was listed in command on June 15, l922 in the program of the USS WYOMING Annual Banquet in the Grand ballroom of the Commander Hotel in New York.The program has a short poem "WY-O-MING" by Lieutenat Tully Shelley, USN.About four hendred enlisted men attended, and Lieutenant Commander J.J. Brady (CHC) and Ensign H. Clarke were chairman and secretary of the Reception Committee.We are sorry that your patrol duties at Newport were so distasteful.Jack did like the fine old houses in the Newport and Jamestown area.While on the WYOMING Jack also had frequent Shore Patrol duty at Caimanera, Cuba, just outside Guantanamo.On occasion he telegraphed his family, using the French telegraph line. Jack had friends in Camaguey Province, Cuba, Edgar and Ora Waterman and their daughters Bonnie and Garda. They had a dairy ranch, and Mrs. Waterman introduced Jack to the Marine writer and artist, John W. Thomason, junior - they saw each other again off Bluefields, Nicaragua Janiuary, 1927, and I met Thomason in Peking in l931. At Pearl Harbor in l943 Jack arranged transportation for Thomason, who wrote to thank him for a veritable "luxury cruise of rest, service, and good food." Thomason wrote many stories of Marine actions in China, Nicaragua, and Chile, and a collection "Red Pants."We were interested to learn that you went through the Canal for the Pacific exercises.That is the first we had heard of it, and John will look up the ship's logs on it.Jack had an old handbook with good photos of the WYOMING- her guns and statistics about her. We understand that the WYOMING was later stripped of some of her guns under the disarmament agreement and turned into a training ship, with classrooms in the forward turrets.-Sincerely yours, -Sophie M. Barrett." #86 WYOMING 1922-3 High Pressure Price #86 WYOMING 1922-3 Wed, 13 May 1998 15:43:44 PDT On June 13, l791 Rear Admiral Alan McCracken of Bethesda wrote, "Dear Mrs. Barrett,I have your recent letter..We have been quite tied up for the past three weeks by the death of Captain Gardner whom you mention after a severe stroke. They were quite close friends and live only a short distance from us, so we have been trying to help Mrs. Gardner through her difficult times. I do remember you husband _ I can visualize him but I can't remember any special incidents that would be useful to you.. I went out to the Orient in the summer of 1941 and took command of the river Gun Boat Mindanao at Hong Kong.We were ordered to Manila, and while en route Pearl Harbor happened.We were anchored off Corregidor a short time before she surrendered, and I was actually on the island at the end, following which I spent thirty-three months in a Jap prison camp.I was rescued out of the Bilibuil prison in Manila early in 1945 and came back to San Francsico via ship, and I do not remember a stop in Hawaii though it seems we must have stopped for something.I wish you the best of luck in working up your book, sincerely- - Alan McCracken" In March-April 1922 Captain H.B. Price wrote under "Remarks" on Jack's fitness report, "Mr. Barrett has technical professional ability since the Department commissioned him a Lieutenant in the Regular Navy.He came to this ship inexperienced in gunnery or battleship duties.I talked with him and encouraged him to take advantage of opportunity to learn.To that end I put him with a very capable Lieutenant who had also been commissioned from the Reserves, in a twelve-inch turret division, who considerately gave him instruction.Mr. Barrett was put on a supervised watch and as soon as possible was put on a regular watch in port.He has been earnest and hard-working.He is of a slight stature,auburn hair, florid countenance,wears a very small red mustache.His voice is weak.In general he has a natural appearance, manner and bearing that is not impressive or officer-like.Now he is to be put in charge of a twelve-inch turret and division and see what he can do.He is decidedly an unusual type, and I do not yet know whether he can be made into an efficient Naval officer. He is being given every possible opportunity and encouragement toward that end.Thus far he seems too innocuous to handle men well."Jack wrote to the Bureau of Navigation regarding the above Remarks by Captain Price."During the period covered by this report 1-l9-22 to 3-31-22 I was away from the ship on Shore Patrol duty not less than 26% of the time.When I joined the ship l9 January l922 I expected to find a cartain amount of routine detail with which I was no longer thoroughly familiar. For that reason I was not surprised at being placed on supervised watch at first, even though supervised by officers of much less Naval experience.This and the fact that I was more readily available for Shore Patrol duty that officers with long experience in important places in this ship's organization seemed but a natural consequence of the fact that I had joined the ship in Cuban waters after its organization had been completed and was working smoothly, but it is submitted that this condition did make it somewhat more difficult for me properly to fit into dhip's organization quickly. As to gunnery training, I studied Fullan and Hart 1905 edition and Naval Ordnance l9l0 in l909, l910, and l9ll and have since read all subsequent editions- fired 3 pir Driggs Schroeder and 3 and 6 pir Hotchkiss guns eleven or twelve years ago and since 1917 have had experience with ships' guns from 1 pir to six inch - conducted elementary practice in smaller vessels, controlled fire for a destroyer SRBF and was target observer for others, but except for three round trips from Brest to New York on USS SEATTLE, flagship cruiser and Transport Force, as Watch and division officer and temporary Navigator (i) have not served in larger ships, having spent most of my tme in the Service as Executive and Navigator of smaller ships.For this reason, when I reported on this vessel, I stated that I lacked familiarity with heavy calibre guns. I have in the past furled top gallant sails,passed coal for full four hour watches, walked over forty miles without a stop and without food, remained on bridge of ship for over forty-eight hours at a time in winter- stood a regular watch in three (4 to 8 AM and 4 to 8 PM) in voyage around the world in merchant service, landed in surf on coast of Maine at Halfway rock, Wood Island, Boone Island, Isles of Shoals and other points in November and December, passed through Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden and Red Sea in latter part of May, all without ill effects.Therefore I fee l that I am physically capable of any ordinary duty.My voice has not previously been considered weak, although I have been trained to minimize loud tones,to eliminate noise and shouting.I have served on shhips where the use of more than a very subdued tone was positively forbidden on the bridge.As to handling men,I began receiving instruction in drill under arms about twenty years ago, have handled companies in close and open order infantry drill many times- have also handled men under various conditions for small arms practice with hand drawn artillery with breeches buoys in surf boats and in ships. i consider myself physically and mentally equipped to handle men anywhere." In May l922 Captain Price wrote to the Bureau of Navigation from the WYOMING: " The report was not intended to be unfavorable within the meaning of the Regulations.I was merely trying to get 'the right man in the right place' in future assignment OF THIS OFFICER TO DUTY. HE HAS BEEN VERY ZEALOUS AND EARNEST, MOST CONSCIENTIOUSLY ATTENTIVE TO his duties and anxious to improve himself professionally. On April 12 he was put in command of a twelve inch turret and division, which position he still holds.As officer of the deck he has been very alert and attentive to duty. Thus it must be observed that he has fundamental quialities of great value in addition to his extensive practical experience outlined in his statement.So it seems probable that his apparent diffidence and seeming lack of forcefulness and self-confidence in handling men will much improve as he becomes more accustomed to the duties and ways on a battleship in the Fleet." Signed,-H.B. Price May 17, l922, USS WYOMING, New York Navy Yard.In the spring of 1922 Jack was one of the watch officers when they referred to the WYOMINHG captain as "High Pressure Price". One day the Captain told the morning watch officer that he expected a senior Admiral to come aboard about noon and wanted him given every courtesy and honor..He wanted him "piped" on board and wanted to be notified the instantt the Admiral was approaching the ship so he could greet him at the gangway.By the time the Admiral appeared in full uniform with two aides also in full uniform, Jack Barrett was the Officer of the Deck, who was surprised to see the Admiral as the previous officer had said nothing to him about the expected visit and had not entered it in the log.Jack escorted the Admiral to the Captain's cabin, where the Captain appeared dismayed.As soon as the Admiral left, Captain Price in front of all the enlisted men and officers present on deck, lit into Jack, insulted him for neglect of duty in the handling of the Admiral's visit. Jack let him rave, but when the captain stopped raging Jack told him with an ironic expression on his face that the previous officer of the deck had said nothing to him of the expected visit by the Admiral.Jack chose his words carefully, and although his attitude enraged the Captain- who was blue in the face, Captain Price could do nothing against Jack, because the words were respectful.Some time later he told Jack he would take no official action against him, and the matter was dropped. Jack survived an unmerciful tongue-lashing, and won the grudging admiration of the Captain, who gave Jack responsible assignments as Turret and communications Officer. This was a crucial point in Jack's Navy career, as he won respect on large ships. He invesstigated alternate civilian employmnt around this time, but stayed in the Navy until l947, retiring withtwenty-six years Regular Navy and over thirty-three years total U.S. government service. Once when "High Pressure" Price was inspecting the crew, with Jack as his assistant, Price told a young sailor his hair was too long and not cut according to regulations. When the sailor tried to tell the Captain that his hair had been cut the previous day by the ship's barber, Price shut him up, told him to get a regulation haircut before the next week's inspection and told Jack to be sure that Price checked on the boy the next week.The boy did nothing. His hair was short and had been cut by the ship's barber.The next week when Jack pointed out the boy as the one told to get a regulation haircut, Price looked at him casually, and said, "That's much better," and dropped the matter.The crew knew the boy had done nothing to his hair and had a laugh at the captain's expense.- In June l922 Jack Barrett heard of several failures of stock brokerage houses and became suspicious when his brokerage Fuller corporation was veryt slow in sending him money fromsale of stock. As the WYOMING was at sea, he had to ask his brother Bill to go to the firm and collect the money in person. Shortly afterward the brokerage failed. Because of this experience Jack always had share certificates issued in his own name rather than having them listed under the brokerage, as has become the general practice since the Securities and Exchange Commissionh came into being l933, and various foprms of insurance have developed. In l922 when Jack's Navy chances of promotion seemed uncertain because of his age and the naval disarmament policy, he made several job inquiries, including one as editor of a technical journal. He had an interview in New Jersey with inventor Thomas Edison in person for one position, but nothing came of it.He was interested in trying to sell International Harvester equipment in Russia or in organizing ascientific expedition to Antarctica. He discussed the Antarctica idea in correspondence with Gershom Bradford at the Naval Hydrographic Office, but the movement of his ship MARBLEHEAD to China l927 interfered with any prospect of organizing something.
Subject: WYOMING 12 inch guns
Year: 1922