(The following copied from the USS HELENA 1954 Crew's Book.)
THE HELENA STORY IN 1954
Our story begins February 14, 1954. That day Helena arrived in Long Beach from the Far East. From then on we knew it was only a matter of time before we would be going back to the Western Pacific for the fifth time since the start of the Korean War.
Leave and liberty were liberal while the ship spent six weeks in the Long Beach Naval shipyard for upkeep and repairs. We had been there but a week when commander Paul B. Ryan, USN, relieved Captain (then commander) G. L. Conkey as Executive Officer.
After leaving the yard, Helena entered into the state-side training program, and for the next several months participated in training exercises in the Long Beach-----San Diego area.
May 1, Rear Admiral Ralph E. Wilson, Commander Cruiser Division Five, embarked in Helena, was redesignated ComCruDiv3 with Helena retained as his flagship.
A special day was Memorial Day, when services honoring war dead were held on the fantail.
We participated in a large scale amphibious training exercise June 1-9 off the coast of Southern California. The exercise, which was primarily concerned with atomic defense, concluded with a mock invasion of “enemy-held” territory south of San Diego.
Two days later, Captain Frank M. Adamson, USN, who had become familiar with the ship during the exercise, relieved Captain James E. Cohn, USN, as Commanding Officer.
June 23 and 24 were the dates of the Hong Kong Ho'Down, a two-evening ship's party at the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach. Featured were a buffet dinner, dancing with music by CruDiv3 band. And a floor show.
The long Independence Day weekend was celebrated with general visiting while moored at Pico Street. More than 6,000 persons were entertained on board.
Our next big event was participation in the largest Pacific Fleet training exercises on the West Coast since World War II. Departing July 26 from Long Beach, we joined other units of the Pacific Fleet to escort a convoy to Seattle.
On the way the exercise was interrupted to aid in an unsuccessful search for a downed air Force aviator.
Seattle proved to be good liberty, for it was Sea Fair Week. The ship took part in the parade of ships, and then moored at Pier 91 for five days. Visitors swarmed over the ship each afternoon, while the liberty party enjoyed street dances, the Gold Cup trials and colorful parades.
The fleet exercise continued as the ships returned to their home ports. While we were returning, James R. Russell, SA died on board. Last rites were given him on board as he transferred to a tug near San Francisco.
The next month was spent in the Long Beach Naval Shipyard preparing the cruise to WestPac. Extensive remodeling was necessary below decks to transform the ship into a flagship for the Seventh Fleet. During this period, also, ComCruDic3 shifted his flag to Toledo.
At last the yard work was finished, stores were aboard, and the date for departure from CONUS----September 14----was upon us.
The first day at sea was hectic. We left the Long Beach skyline behind us three times: Once on schedule, a second time after we returned for stragglers, and a third time after we had returned to recover the helicopter, which had flown a sick passenger to the mainland.
But now thoughts of home had to be pushed aside as all hands began looking ahead to the next two weeks when we would go through two inspections. One, the Operational Readiness Inspection, took place just before a week of liberty in Pearl Harbor. With CruDiv3, assisted by Toledo, observing, we scored a grade of “excellent.”
September 24 and 25 were devoted to the semi-annual Administration Inspection, which was given by the same inspectors as the ORI. Despite the fact the two inspections were given back to back, we scored another “excellent” and drew praise of RADM Wilson.
Maneuvers with Toledo and Destroyer Division 112 were conducted between Pearl and our home away from home, Yokosuke, Japan.
The Commander seventh Fleet, Vice Admiral Alfred M. Pride, and his staff were transferred as scheduled, and on the 11th the Captain relieved the St. Paul Commanding Officer as Commander Task Group 70.1.
Inchon, Korea, was our next stop. While there, much of the liberty party made the 20-mile trip to war-torn Seoul, the capital city. It was here, too, that the Helena Revue made its first 1954 appearance. Composed of the chorus and a number of smaller musical acts, it proved to be a hit throughout WestPac.
We dropped into Sasebo the first of many times the 22nd of October. The next day we were enroute to Keelung, Formosa, where for four days conferences were held in the wardroom between the 7th Fleet staff and the Military Assistance Advisory Group stationed with the Nationalists at Taipeh.
Nearly everyone took advantage of the fact Taipeh was only a short distance away and went sightseeing there. However, spirits were dampened by the rain that never seemed to stop.
Our mission in Keelung accomplished, we set sail for Manila, where we spent the last weekend in October. Leaving there the morning of November 1, we stopped at Subic Bay for a few hours in the afternoon while the Admiral conducted an inspection. That evening we were underway for Hong Kong.
But Hong Kong wasn't for us yet. The Chinese communists stepped up their “vest pocket” war, so we were ordered to operate with Task Group 70.2.
Three days later, in the wake of Typhoon Pamela, a man was washed off the forecastle. Quick, smart action by the life boat crew had him out of the water in seven minutes despite the heavy seas. A helicopter ferried the victim, L.C. Manry, from the boat back to the ship.
That same evening we were detached from the force to assist USNS Muskeegom, which was unable to make headway, but before we reached her, the seas calmed and she was able to make steerageway.
We rejoined the task group for another two days of air operations----remember our helo plucking a downed Hornet pilot out of the ocean?----before being permanently detached.
Our destination was Keelung, where the Admiral met with Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek for a day. Even though we were only in a short time and thus couldn't grant liberty, it rained the entire time.
A few days were spent at Sasebo before pulling into Yokosuka November 18 for two weeks of restricted availability and R & R.
Everyone scurried about doing their “last minute” Christmas shopping and, in general, enjoyed the Thanksgiving respite.
Leaving Yokosuka December 2, we spent the 4th visiting Kagoshima, the largest city in southern Japan.
On the 5th we moved to Sasebo, and on the 6th we shoved off for a ten-day exercise in which we (the blues) “battled” with the Reds and the Whites between Okinawa and Korea.
Hiroshima, the city destroyed by the first atomic bomb used in warfare, was visited December 16 through 19.
Then it was to Yokohama for the Christmas holidays. Arriving on the 21st, tours, R & R, basketball and bowling tournaments, and division parties were the main order of business.
On Christmas day 50 orphans were treated to a new suit of clothes, a Japanese variety show, a visit by Santa Claus and turkey dinner. Funds for the affair had been contributed by the crew.
General visiting was held two days, with about 1,100 persons touring the ship.
A week in Sasebo followed right on the heels of the Yokohama visit, then we were underway for Hong Kong once again. This time we got there.
The last weekend in January was spent in Manila. By now nearly everyone was beginning to talk in earnest about going home, for just as it had been inevitable that we would have another Far Eastern tour, so it was inevitable that we return to the United States.
After Manila our operating schedule had us set for a trip to Kobe, nearly two weeks of fleet exercises, and transfer of the flag to our relief, Rochester, the first week of March.
Long Beach was to be in sight March 21.