November 23, 1943 found detachment one aboard ship headed out to the Aleutian chain and what a ship it was. The SS Baranoff a ship that belonged to the Alaska Steam Ship Lines that before the war that was used for cruises along the Inland Passage up on the way to Alaska. It was quite different from the Liberty ship that brought us up to Dutch Harbor.
It had three decks above the main deck and private staterooms to sleep in. each stateroom had six bunks in them, quite a difference than sleeping below decks on the Liberty Ships. On the Liberty ships you slept down in the holes with the bunks stacked 10 high and really jammed together like sardines in a can. When you had to go to the bath room you had to go above on the main deck, that is were the heads were.
The Baranoff also had a dinning room where they had tables that sat 8 and waiters brought the food to us. What a deal and the food was great. We were 3 days out of Cold Bay when just as it was turning dark the ship did a complete turn around and headed back in the direction that we had come from. There was a lot of scuttlebutt going around why are we going back in the other direction? We traveled all that night and all the next day just as the sun was going down we found out why we did the turnaround.
The wind had started to whip up and the seas were starting to roll then about 200 yards off our port bow we saw the stern of a liberty ship (IT HAD BROKEN IN HALF DURING THE STORM) with the stars and stripes flying at half mast and some ladders hanging over the sides. What a scary sight. There were a couple of other ships in the area circling the wreck with their spotlights scanning the immediate area we joined with them in the search for the crew all night long. What happened to the guys that were on that ship? Latter we learned that they were picked up during the night by one of the other ships.
Just before daybreak the full fury of the storm hit us. There are Typhoons, Hurricanes, Noreasters, and in the Aleutians they call them Williwaws. Well Willie did wail, and it was really something, I had never been in rough water like that before and as long as I live I hope I never see anything like that again. The skipper turned the ship into the wind and we rode out the storm for three days before it let up.
As I mentioned the Baranoff had three decks and the Captains Bridge above the main deck and when the ship would plow into the swells with its bow down it would throw the water completely over the top of the whole ship. When the bow went into the waves the Screws would come out of the water and shake the whole ship from stem to stern. And also at the same time the ship would list from side to side and made it virtually impossible to walk below decks. I guess this was the first storm of the year and it really was a beauty I never got sick but just about every one else did. They even stopped serving in the dinning room and made an announcement that if you wanted something to eat just to go down to the galley and they would have something for anyone that showed up. There was no smoking bellow decks so if you wanted to light up you had to go to the stern of the upper decks and smoke there with all the water cascading up and over you. That storm is something that I will never forget and when I think of that Liberty ship I can still see it tossing in the waves with the stars and strips upside down and at half mast.
The storm finally let up and we made our way back to Adak We pulled in just as it was turning dark and did not get off the ship until the next day. Adak was not like Cold Bay, instead of rolling plains of tundra you had snow topped mountains that seemed to jut right out of the sea and No Sun. A desolate, cold, windy god forsaken place. We were put on trucks and were taken to the 85th CB where we were assigned bunks and then taken to the mess hall to have something to eat.
It did not take long until somebody came into the Quonset hut and said the following cooks and baker’s report to the galley. When I reported to the galley the chief baker asked me if I had ever made any doughnuts. If you have not do not worry I will show you every thing you need to know. Well he sure did, we made just about every kind that you can think of and for a couple of days. That is about all I ate until I finally got sick of them, but I still enjoyed making them. The one that I liked the best were the maple bars filled with vanilla cream. In those days there was no machinery to make the doughnuts, everything was done by hand and I really learned a lot about making them.
There were three of us and we did not go to work until 10:00PM every night. Besides making the doughnuts we would also cut up all the bread for the next day. We had powdered milk overseas and it did not taste very good. One of the Seabee bakers made a contraption that was put together like a still. We would put the water and milk powder in a stock pot add a little chocolate put the lid on it and bring it to a boil. It would steam up thru the coil and drip down over a stainless steel washboard and made its way down into a pot which we would put into the frig to cool. It was really great, nice hot doughnuts and chocolate milk
We were starting to settle in on Adak, the winter was starting to arrive, it was turning real cold and it was also starting to snow. We were all given foul weather gear and rubber boots so we could stay warm and dry, this is when I realized that I had it made working in the galley, nice and warm, and the only time that I had to put up with the weather is when my shift was over I had to make my way back to my Quonset hut. Even as the weather turned bad the guys had to work in all that foul weather, I take my hat of to them.
We thought that we were going to spend the winter on Adak but it was not to be so the word came down that CBMU 510 Detachment l was going to move again. We were loaded on trucks and taken down to the docks and loaded on to a couple of YP’s (Yippee’s). We were told that we were going to the Great Sitkin, a naval fueling base across the bay from Adak. Thank god the water was absolutely flat and although it took almost the whole day to get there it was a nice ride and really enjoyed it. The Yippee had a small galley and they really did not cook for us. They had fruit and sandwiches and some cold drinks, It was like going on a small cruise and we enjoyed looking at the islands as we past them.
We pulled in to the Great Sitkin and I can see why they called it the Great. This mountain just rose out of the sea and climbed straight up, and about half way up it was covered with snow and when you could see the top of the mountain you could see that it was letting out steam. We were told that it was a live volcano. We would spend the winter here. This was to be our home for the next 5 months.