Max A. Bates
USS Helena CA-75
1945 - 1946

Story posted 11 February 2008

I am going to try and relate the visit of the Helena in early 1946 to Gibraltar. I hope I get it right but my memory is a little fuzzy on parts of the story.

We had visited several cities in England and perhaps we had made the visit to Scotland. We had taken Admiral Kent Hewitt on board soon after arriving in European waters and became his flagship. I think he was the commander of the 12th Naval District at that time.

Gibraltar was one of the ports we were to visit and arrived there in early 1946. There were two " liberty" sections set up so we got to go ashore every other day. I and some of my buddies decided to climb the "rock" one day and we did so. From the top we could see Africa across the Channel.

There was a local watering hole that accommodated whomever was so inclined and an occasion we spent some time there drinking beer and socializing as did a number of others of our crew. On one of these visits to said establishment, there were also a number of sailors, (we referred to them as Limey's), from an English ship that was also tied up at Gibraltar. Some of our cooks and bakers had served at an earlier time and place during the war, had encountered these same Brits before, and a brawl had taken place. So, I think bad blood was ever present. On one of these visits to the pub, the Brits were there at the same time and another brawl took place.

Some of our sailors that were involved in the brawl were cut with broken beer bottles and had to be patched up on returning to the ship. The next day an announcement over the PA system notified us that all liberty had been canceled and we left Gibraltar soon after that. I left the ship shortly after returning to England and I often wonder if there ever was a time during the remainder of the "goodwill tour" when a similar incident took place with those same Brits. Very doubtful.

I imagine whoever scheduled future "ports" of call made sure the Helena was never there when the English ship was also present.

Information and pictures posted 6 February 2008

The CR division personnel picture was taken
sometime after April 1946 as that was the month
I left the Helena in England and waited for a ride
home. Those of us who left the Helena stayed in
Exeter, England for a few days until we boarded
the SS Colby Victory for the trip home.

The picture of Mike Boccadoro (standing alone)
and, the one of Me, Nat Manfredi and
Jimmy Niland was taken sometime while we
were underway. Early 1946.

Max Bates

Story posted 5 February 2008

We had been to Gitmo on shakedown and left there to return to our home port, (Boston harbor). Soon after getting underway we encountered a hurricane and spent 4 days in it as we traveled north. The ship took on quite a bit of water that was concentrated in the mess hall. Needless to say there was no way the cooks could ply their trade with that water sloshing around as the ship was rolling side to side and pitching forward and aft. Twice a day chow consisted of tins of beef stew handed out as you went thru the line. I think everyone really got tired of beef stew after 4 days of eating it.

One day I decided to go topside just to see how it looked outside. It was difficult to climb the ladders and open hatches, but I finally made it to the bridge. As I came thru the last hatch it looked like the sky was down and the water up. It was a real weird feeling. I think the ship must have been rolling close to 45 degrees either way. However, we survived the hurricane and finally got out of it and made it to Boston. Never having been in a hurricane or knowing just how big they were, I wondered why the Captain didn't order the helmsman to steer the ship out of it. Of course I now know why he couldn't.

Of course we still had to stand our duty thru all this. Jimmy Niland got sea sick every time it got a little rough. He would sit at the typewriter taking coded messages with a gi can between his legs and occasionally heave into it. Also, his bunk was on top and I was right below him. There was a can secured to the rack of bunks and he tried to aim the vomit at the opening but didn't always make it. What didn't make it to the can, some of it would fall on me, the rest of it on the deck. We all were happy when we made it out to more calm waters.

Story posted 4 February 2008

I was in the CR division and my duty station was the radio shack. I was a S/1c when my points came up for discharge,

Being anxious to return home, I got off the Helena while we were in England. I returned to the US and spent the last few weeks of my service aboard the

USS Douglas Fox DD 779.

I remember well that on the "Victory" ship that brought us back home, we had a large group of army veterans that we picked up in Bremenhaven. There was a no limit poker game in the mess hall until it was time to serve a meal. Then the players went topside and a crap game ensued until the mess hall was clear. Then it was back to the mess hall for poker. This went on for 9 days. Some serious money was won and lost in both games.

Manfredi, Niland, Bates, and Boccadaro. We all were in the CR division and were best of buddies at that time. Although we were radiomen we frequently worked topside when so ordered.

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