Happy Research Accident

One of my hobbies is History, specifically World War II. Recently, I started picking up Short Snorters. I have challenged myself to finding as many of the people who signed the individual bills or the chain of bills and trying to relate their story and how it contributed to the progress of the war in general. I am currently trying to research a short snorter that appears to have been signed by survivors of German Prisoner of War Camps. However, there is one name that keeps pointing to the Pacific Theater of the war. Anyhow, one research path for this particular gentleman lead me to the USS BALTIMORE CA68 which served as a Flagship Cruiser in the Pacific Theater of the war. Here, while surfing muster rolls, I accidentally found my Uncle Alvin. I knew he had served in the Navy, just never knew what he did or what ship(s) he rode. Anyhow, it turns out that while on board BALTIMORE he was an ‘F2’ which at that time meant Fire Tender Second Class or what in my time was a Boiler Tender Second Class (now it would be a Machinist Mate). Since I was on a roll, I pushed forward to see where he went after BALTIMORE was decommissioned in 1946. Further research showed that he transferred to the USS RICH DD820 where he was promoted to First Class Petty Officer. This was the end of the trail, and most likely where he mustered out in 1947.

The BALTIMORE served a successful tour in the Pacific War from her commissioning in 1943 through the occupation of Japan after the end of hostile actions with the Empire of Japan. She is one of the few ships to have served the entire time from commissioning to decommissioning forward deployed. However, she was recommissioned for a short period in the 1950’s where she served the Atlantic Fleet. I believe my Uncle reported on board in 1945 when the BALTIMORE was serving in the Occupation Forces. This assumption is based on muster rolls in late 1945 on BALTIMORE and muster rolls from Naval Training Center Sampson NY in 1944.

I was able to find these photos from the only cruise book that was published for the BALTIMORE on her decommissioning. I picked some of the action shots from the war, some of the battle damage shots of the Japanese fleet, some of President Roosevelt’s visit in 1944, and the crew roster that  shows my Uncle’s name and address.

Uncle Alvin’s next ship was the USS RICH DD820 which was newly commissioned when he reported on board in 1946. The RICH was a Gearing Class Destroyer that was commissioned in 1945 and faithfully served the US Navy until 1977. This time around he was serving in the Atlantic Fleet and shortly after reporting to the RICH would have departed on the ship’s maiden deployment to the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea areas of operation. After that first deployment the ship was sent to the New York Naval Shipyard to add modifications and conversions for anti-submarine warfare.

I couldn’t find a cruise book from his time on board so instead I found some random photos to show this beautiful ship through her life.

Here’s the really cool part of the little misdirection on the research path: The USS RICH was named after a pilot who flew from the USS ENTERPRISE during the Battle of Midway. I served on the USS MCCLUSKY FFG41, MCCLUSKY was named after a pilot who flew from the USS ENTERPRISE during the Battle of Midway. If that wasn’t a cool enough coincidence; Uncle Alvin & I also served in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, we both worked on ship’s engines, and we both were “Tin Can Sailors”.

It’s random distractions like this that make research projects so fun and interesting. You start the project with a simple goal in mind – find out just who Fred Dicke is and where did he serve – and while researching a shot in the dark you find a totally different research topic. That topic often opens the door to an unexpected and fascinating story that can cross over into personal lives, in this case I found the history of an Uncle that I barely knew and haven’t thought of in many years…

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