December 6, 1941
My name is Ensign Malcolm V. Redding and I am 23 years old. I was born in Marshfield, Oregon and have lived there my entire life until the day I left to attend Annapolis.
Marshfield was a decent place for a boy from a poor logging family to grow up, but things had changed over the last few years. My mother passed away 6 years ago from pneumonia and my father died a couple of years later in a logging accident. Without any other family to speak of, I could see no reason to stay in the bay area. I had too many memories that haunted me and there had been too many changes in the area. Heck, they were even talking about changing the name of Marshfield to Coos Bay. Why, I don’t know. It sounded stupid to me.
After my father died, for a lack of anything better to do, I had applied for admittance into the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. I wrote a letter to my Congressman, Frederick Steiwer, asking for his nomination. To my surprise, Mr. Steiwer was willing to nominate me and my application was accepted. I don’t really know why I was accepted….I didn’t have any money nor was I from a family of influence. Oh well, I didn’t really care why. I was just happy that I had something to look forward to and that would allow me to leave the dank town of Marshfield. So, in August of 1936, I boarded a bus to start my new life in Maryland.
The Naval Academy was a challenge. All of that studying…exercising before the sun came up…learning to be a proper gentleman…and of course, learning the “Navy Way”. I have always been pretty good with learning things and the exercising wasn’t much harder then bucking trees or gaffing logs off of a tug. However, the “gentleman” part and learning the ways of the Navy took some getting use to. Anyway, after 4 long years, I was finally able to graduate in June of 1940.
After graduation, I was assigned as an assistant gunnery officer aboard the USS Alywin (DD-355), stationed out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Alywin is a Farragut class Destroyer commanded by Lt. Comdr. Robert H. Rodgers. She is a good ship, but is starting to show some wear. I joined the ship while it was in for repairs at Mare Island. On the 22nd of September, 1940, I finally went to sea with the Alywin as it returned to Pearl.
For the past year I have been learning all of the different positions on the ship. In March ’41 I was assign as the main gunnery officer in charge of the #4 gun and the stern depth charge racks. Shortly after this assignment, the Alywin was a participant in a freak accident.
On March 17th we were participating in a tactical maneuver. There was no moon out this night and the fog was laying low to the water. Near the end of the exercise, the port lookout spotted a ship coming out of the fog. It was the Farragut and it was on a collision course with us. Both ships tried to back emergency full, but it was too late. The Farragut hit us on the port side at 90-degrees and nearly severed our bow. The Alywin immediately caught fire. The flames were as high as our masthead. Everything I owned that wasn’t with me was burnt up when the fire ran through the officer’s quarters….including my old diary. It took help from 3 other ships to get the fires under control that night.
Then, to make matters worse, as we were being towed back to Pearl by the USS Detroit, the tow cable parted. We had to suffer the indignities of being towed into port stern first by the USS Turkey.
The ship was in repairs for 5 months and still has that “burnt electrical” smell to it. Sometimes the smell is overwhelming to the point where it is nauseating.
Well, it is getting late and I have duty tomorrow morning. It will be Sunday, so it should be a fairly slow day. We will be moored and just doing a bit of maintenance on the poor girl. Maybe someone can find a way to get rid of the burnt electrical smell.
"When I said I would run, I meant 'away' ". - Orange