This is my story…. My naval career began at graduation from the New York
Maritime College, June 3, 1952. At that time the Korean conflict was in
full swing, some of my classmates asked for immediate orders. But because
I was recently engaged, I decided to hold off. This decision was soon
reversed by a notice from the draft board, I was to be inducted into the
army, I immediately requested Naval orders. It was Thanksgiving of ’52 and
I reported to St. Albans Naval Hospital for my physical, then on to
Washington, DC on January 30th of 1953.
I was assigned from there to the USS Daly, however for some strange reason
the ship could not be located. I was given a temporary desk position in
the Commanders Selection Board Office where I was told to make myself
useful. Three days later I received orders to report to NAS (Naval Air
Station) at Anacosta for transport, After an hours flight in a C-47 (The
Gooney Bird) we landed in Patuxet River, MD, then on to Jacksonville,
Florida and finally my destination, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, better known to
the navy as “Gitmo”.
After my arrival at 2200 hrs. I learned there was no room to billet a
tired and confused ensign headed for his first sea duty assignment. After
a drive to headquarters a Commander whose name happened to be Commans,
came to my rescue. He found me a bed and a jeep for transportation. I was
to learn later in my life that Commander Commans was a distant relative.
I ended up in AOQ (Aviator Officer Quarters) but was told to check in at
1300. This procedure went on for 5 days while awaiting news of the
location of my ship assignment, the USS Daly. It was finally located in
Newport, RI. Flying back to Newport took several more days of delay, as I
did not have any seating priority. After many days of anticipation &
frustration, I reached Newport, it was February 1953.
The Daly had just returned from Operations in the Atlantic and everyone
aboard was eager to be on liberty, I was fighting the tide of humanity as
hundreds of sailors were coming ashore. In my attempt to find passage to
the ship I hitched a ride aboard a launch owned by the local tailor. We
came along side the stern and I climbed aboard rather than using the
quarterdeck. My visit was short as I was immediately put ashore with a
launch crew to rejoin the ship in Fall River, Mass where the ship would be
My first Quarter Deck Watch was hectic and the only plus was that the PO
of the Watch, who was very helpful, was guiding me through the routine.
I was soon to learn that I was the youngest ensign aboard the Daly and
consequently under the control of the “Bull” ensign, Charley Andrews who
was an Annapolis graduate. That position changed when I learned that
Ensign Andrews received his commission on June 6, 1952. I received my
commission on June 3rd. With a burst of pride I became “Bull” ensign to
Andrews, who was very disappointed. The ship’s Captain, Gordan Thatcher,
in the wardroom at that moment, suddenly turned with a smirk on his face.
He too was not an Annapolis graduate.
My assignment’s on the Daly included “A” Division Officer, followed by “B”
Division Officer, Main Propulsion Assistant and finally Engineering
Captain Thatcher was replaced with Captain A.F. Johnson, shortly before
the beginning of the Korean duty. The Daly departed Newport May 18, 1953
and steamed off to Korea arriving in Japan June 22.
The Daly designated as Flagship for Destroyer Division 302 with Commodore
J.W. Koenig on board, in special quarters below the bridge, was relieved
by Commodore B.J. Semmes in the second month of the Korean tour, July
The Daly served with Carrier Task Force 77, as plane guard, rotating for
R&R in Sasebo, Beppu and Hokido.
One of the more engaging assignments was a shore bombardment mission
requested by Task Force 95. The ship was positioned near “Point Silver”
the northern most point on the East Coast of Korea just north of the 38th
Parallel, where the Marines were holding a position. We were supposed to
land a shore Fire Control Party to spot our fire, however the mission was
scrubbed at the last minute. The word of an imminent cease-fire may have
been the reason. The Armistice came on 27 July 1953.
The Daly completed her assignment in Korean waters and departed Japan in
November 1953, steaming south to complete the journey home by
circumnavigation of the globe. Some of the interesting ports along the way
were, Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombo, Bahrain, and a fueling stop in Aden,
traversing the Suez Canal with a short stop in Port Said. Then on to
Piraeus, Cannes, Gibraltar, into the Atlantic Ocean, crossing the “Big
Pond” to Bermuda and finally our home port, Newport, RI, arriving on
January 15, a cold clear, crisp wintry day to the disappointment of a
“dear John” letter.
After our return, the Boston Shipyard was our home for many weeks during
the installation of the Mark 56 Fire Control System, which supported the 5
inch as well as the newly installed 3 inch 50 guns. I had worked on this
system while employed at GE and I mentioned this to the Captain. His reply
was that I was to make certain the installation was absolutely perfect.
Following the yard time the ship went through a shakedown in “Gitmo”,
testing all the new equipment, then back to Boston via the Cape Cod Canal
when Commodore Semmes suggested to Captain Johnson that I be allowed to
lead the division through the canal as Officer of the Deck. This was my
last opportunity as OOD underway; as of January 1955 my orders were to
report to Boston for discharge,
The Daly had been my happy home for two adventurous years, and I had to
leave. As I stood on the pier bidding her a last goodbye, tears came to my
It was a very moving experience for me.
My Jet Engine Design job at General Electric was waiting for me after my
discharge. I also joined the reserve group, a surface division for several
years then transferred to NAS South Wyemouth, in a Helicopter Squadron as
Maintenance Officer. I requested and received a change of designator, a
transfer from Surface Navy to Air Navy, because of my work at GE
In 1971 the Vietnam war had ended. I was laid off by GE, The program that
I was working on was canceled. There was little room in the industry at
that time for my talents. In response I activated my Coast Guard License
as Third Assistant Engineer. I took a job with Getty Oil Company on one of
their ships. What a change over, I was now standing engine room watches
with two other crewmen instead of 10 or 15 as aboard the Navy ships.
The Engineer responsibilities included the power plant to propel the
vessel, make water, electricity and support the sewage disposal system. We
also assisted in maneuvering the vessel when entering or departing ports
My license was elevated to Chief Engineer, I sailed on many ships, and I
was there in the thick of things during Desert Storm and later on in
Somila. My wife at the time said I lived on the edge.
The best jobs were in the Military Pre-positioning Ships on contract to
the Military. These were civilian ships under contract to the military
loaded with vital goods strategically located throughout the world.
Consequently we were stationed in exotic places like Diego Garcia and
Guam. Our ships were on short notice to go where and whenever the supplies
where needed which were usually world trouble spots.
There was always some element of risk on these voyages, one of the most
harrowing events I experienced was while leaving Singapore on a 700-ft
tanker with a full load of fuel oil for Japan. Four hours into the journey
in the Malacca Straits, steaming at 14 knots we were boarded by pirates.
Their primary intent was to rob the Captains safe of money. Unable to
break into the Captains stateroom they broke into mine. I was abruptly
wakened from a dead sleep to find two machetes at my throat. I was quickly
bound, hand and foot while the pirates trashed my stateroom looking for
valuables. Frustrated they finally left and I was able to free myself from
the bonds. I immediately called the bridge and alerted them of the
incident however they didn’t believe me and accused me of making up the
story. They thought I was kidding; however footprints in the passageway
proved the story authentic. Luckily, I came away unscathed.
Visiting ports of call and going ashore was always interesting. A few
months later arriving in Pusan, Korea on a different ship we had spent
many hours working to repair one of the ships generators. After the job
was completed I decided to take some of my gang ashore for a much-needed
break and treat them to a few social beers. While in the streets of Pusan
all my attempts to hail a cab had failed so I thought of crossing the
street to try the other direction. At the intersection, with the lights in
my favor I stepped into the street and was hit by a motorcycle. The impact
threw me twenty-five feet down the street. The motor cycle had run a red
My shipmates were lucky to stop a cab and with difficulty whisked me off
to a nearby Korean Hospital. I was to learn later that I was jabbering all
throughout the trip. I woke in the hospital and did not recall anything. I
was concerned about my well being in a Korean Hospital so I took measures
to relive my concerns.
Our ship was under Navy Charter, so when I spoke to the Chief Petty
Officer assigned to our ship about my accident and told him I was a
retired naval officer, he provided me with immediate help. Through his
efforts I was airlifted from Pusan to the 121st Medevac Army Hospital Unit
where I was I was given proper medical care and assured of a speedy
When I called home to inform my family of the mishap and the state of the
injuries, the first thing my boys said to me was, “that’s where MASH 4077
sent their patients during the Korean War”. No, Dad how are you… or any
other sentiments. It was not what I had expected.
After my recovery and many more months on the high seas my naval career
ended with retirement in 1996.
Bill Commans Retired Lcdr. From the Naval Reserve , August 21, 1990