GUNBOAT HELENA BROUGHT
TO LIFE BY OLDTIMERS
April 27, 1955
(Extract from page 6 of The Lookout. Helena's Newspaper.)
Three crew members of the heavy cruiser HELENA'S two predecessors were wardroom guests early this month.
Representing the gunboat---HELENA---were Mr. J. B. Nealon, USMC (ret.) and Mr. C. Kortright, an ex-fireman. Capt. L. J. Baird, Commander Destroyer Division 192, told of the light cruiser HELENA.
The get-together April 7 was promoted by Mr. Nealon's desire to give to the ship a water color painting of the gunboat old Chipping Hammer as it was called.
The 73-year-old former gunnery sergeant served on the HELENA foe several months back in 1904.
I was one of 16 Marines, he said. Our duties were varied, and we even passed coal.
She was known as the chipping hammer, he remarked. Her flat bottom and single stack gave her that appearance.
The gunboat was not known for her seaworthiness, either. Rolls of 40 degrees were not uncommon. A sister ship, the Wilmington, logged a roll of 61 degrees.
A Marine at 15 and 1906 Middleweight Champion of the Army-Navy-Marines, Mr Nealon put his training to good use in civilian life, spending 30 years with the William Randolph Hearst newspapers as a bodyguard for Hearst. He is now in retirement at Baldwin Park, California.
Mr. Kortright served on the gunboat during WWI as a fireman.
The gunboat spent WWI in the Philippines and its major action was participation with the Wilmington in the seizure of two Dutch ships carrying German cargo at the entrance of Manila Bay, across from Corregidor,
Leaving the Navy in 1920, Mr. Kortright is now assistant chief engineer with Alhambra.
I put the second HELENA in and out of commission, remarked Capt. Baird. He was a LTJG on board when she was commissioned in Brooklyn in July 1943. He served on board continuously until she was sunk in the Battle of Kula Gulf, July 7, 1943, after 13 major engagements with the Japanese fleet.
We didn't claim everything under the sun like some ships. . . but she did her bit.
Air defense officer in the final period, Capt. Baird said it appeared that her secondary battery fired at more ships than planes.
Capt. Baird commented that there are---about 700 former HELENA crew members who jealously guard the name of this ship.