Editor's note: This is the first of two parts.
CV-8 (carrier vessel, used to transport aircraft)
CVA-8 (carrier vessel attack, carrier used to attack)
Robert J. Barrett, U.S. Navy
CVS-8 (carrier vessel submarine)
USS Valley Forge CV-8 (carrier vessel)
During World War II and with no end in sight, coupled with the loss of the Yorktown at the Battle of Midway the United States, a month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the Navy requested that Congress approve funding to build another carrier to replace the Yorktown.
On March 27, 1944, the Department of the Navy ordered the building of the Navy's newest carrier, the USS Valley Forge. Her first keel number would be CV-8, and on Sept. 7, 1944, her keel was officially laid at the Philadelphia ship yards. The Navy launched their newest carrier on Nov. 18, 1945. From her initial purpose, the Valley Forge became CVA-8 and later CVS-8, and last as LPH carrier. The Valley Forge held 3,400 men, 100 aircraft and six helicopters on her deck.
CV-8 Core damage inflicted on the enemy:
Dive Bombers - 28
Planes - 135
Trains - 183
Bridges - 121
Factories - 1,511
Tanks - 32
Artillery pieces - 56
Medals and awards: Navy Occupational Service Medal with Asian clasp, National Defense with Service Medal 3 Stars, United Nations Service Medal, Navy Unit Commendation Bar, Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, 50th Anniversary of Korea Medal, Cold War Certificate of Recognition, New York State Conspicuous Service Medal and New York State Conspicuous Service Star
Robert J. "Bob" Barrett was born March 29, 1930 in Buffalo. Growing up, Robert had only one thing on his mind: the U.S. Navy. He wanted to see the world, with dreams of being on a naval ship and sailing to who knows where.
His Navy days started with Robert enlisting on his 17th birthday, March 29, 1948. What a time to be in the Navy - the war had been over for almost three years and most of the World War II sailors were home starting their families.
The Navy was now a newer Navy, and advancement was everywhere one served. After signing all the official paperwork, Robert boarded a train in Buffalo and headed west to Great Lakes Naval Training near Chicago. Being away from home was a dream come true for Robert. At Great Lakes, he trained for 13 weeks. There Robert was trained in fire control and then was ordered to N.A.S. (Naval Air Station) Cory Field, in Pensacola, Fla. Once there, Robert was assigned to the Firehouse Crash Crew and Rescue, plane crash Navy firefighting. Later, the Navy sent him to Philadelphia, again to another firefighting school.
When school in Philadelphia was complete, Robert was waiting for his next duty station. With the Navy having more than 500 commissioned ships in its fleet, he was gearing himself up for a Troop Carrier or probably a Destroyer. When summoned to receive his next duty station orders, Robert's eyes popped wide open when he read "Report immediately, the most efficient way, to Commanding Officer, USS Valley Forge CV 45." The Valley Forge was the Navy's newest and fasted attack carrier. It was a dream come true; what a break!
Everything seemed great until Bob checked to see where his new ship was docked. When he heard "Japan," he couldn't believe what he was told.
His dream duty was on the other side of the world. He kept thinking it wasn't real, that there was no way the Navy would send him almost halfway around the world! But the Navy proved Bob wrong.
Bob now had to start the journey to get to his new home. That trip began with a train ride to Treasure Island, a Navy base located in the Oakland-San Francisco area. From Treasure Island, Bob boarded the SS General Hieselman, a Merchant Marine troop-converted ship that when boarded with Army, Marine and Coast Guard personnel was a ship so loaded that every inch of it was full. The ship was so packed with servicemen that Bob shared his bunk with two other sailors.
This, in the military, was called a "hot bunk." Each man had eight hours to sleep and the other 16 were spent on deck. In the evenings and when the seas were calm, all hands would be able to watch movies on deck.
Bob recalls the system used for meals, how there were only two meals served each day, breakfast and dinner, because there were so many men on the ship. Bob said that he had to get in the chow line at 0700 hours and it took a good hour to get to the food section.
The men selected their choices and kept moving, still standing, to a countertop along the ship's outer wall, where they placed their trays. Still standing, they ate their entire meals that way, continuing to slide their trays sideways to make room for the men who came after them. With no official way of seeing who already ate, or knowing when the next meal started, it was common to see guys go through the chow line, eat their meals and get right back in line to eat again.
Little if any Navy duties were placed on the navy troop carrier personnel, and only being allowed eight hours of bunk time meant the extra 16 hours of the day were spent up on deck or walking the ship looking for a card game or other games of chance. It was the worst for the guys pulling their bunk time during the daylight hours, impossible to sleep because everyone was up working and banging on the pipes, and unless they had the meal times down they could easily get just one meal per day.
About three weeks into the cruise and looking out of the port side, Robert could see land, it was the island of Japan. The next port was Okinawa, and thinking he was in or at least near Sasabo, Bob's eyes closed in relief. He was told that the Navy booked him on a Japanese freighter to get him to Sasabo and board the Valley Forge. A few hours later, he saw a large ship that stood out among the others docked in the bay. It was the Valley Forge, the Navy's newest carrier. When Bob asked how the freighter would get close to the carrier, he was told that the freighter couldn't get any closer than 2,000 feet.
The freighter pulled into the Sasabo shallow harbor, and Bob then realized that the harbor was too shallow for the big ship. A Higgins boat would have to transport the Navy man to his new home.
Next week: Part two.