Ed Crosby of Port Charlotte, Fla. served aboard a couple of destroyers, the USS John V. Powers (DD-839) and the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DD-823), during the Korean War era. What he remembers best about his four years in the service is escorting the carrier USS Oriskany around Cape Horn abroad the Powers and making an around the world cruise aboard the Roberts that stopped in 28 ports to show the flag.
His biggest war adventure while serving on the Powers off the Korean coast was splitting a seam in their destroyer’s hull during a typhoon. The crew kept the destroyer afloat with chewing gum and two-by-fours.
“We were a bunch of 18, 19 and 20-year-olds who slept in our lifejackets aboard ship during the storm. It bounced our little destroyer all over the ocean and scared us to death,” the 74-year-old former sailor recalled.
“The typhoon split a good-sized seam on the port side of our ship. Everybody was sent to the PX aboard ship to get some gum and chew it. As soon as we got it chewed the gum was taken to the engine room and plastered on the split hull.
“They kept the gum in place with two-by-fours, anything to keep the water from leaking. Five days later we made port in Pusan, South Korea where the Powers was put in dry dock. The seam was fixed and we immediately went back to sea,” Crosby said.
Sometime after the war, Crosby’s ship sailed into the harbor at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and rendezvoused with the carrier USS Oriskany. The Powers was to escort the carrier around Cape Horn.
“We had to postpone the trip three or four days because waves at the cape were 120 feet high. Finally we got word the sea had subsided to 60-foot waves,” Crosby said. They left Rio and headed south.
“The Oriskany was a huge (Essex Class Carrier) from World War II whose deck was at least 100 feet off the water and maybe more. I remember green water from the ocean going up over the carrier’s deck,” he said. “The sailors on the carrier could only see the mast of our ship when the waves rolled over us.”
Later Crosby learned that the Oriskany was the first U.S. aircraft carrier to ever make it around Cape Horn, at the tip of South America. The Powers was only the sixth destroyer to ever make the trip.
The headline on a large, framed scroll, complete with sea serpents, on Crosby’s living room wall proclaims: “Around The World.” On either side of the big, bold line of type are two globes of the world showing the eastern and western hemisphere. The scroll goes on to note: “To all sailors wherever you may be and to all intrepid world voyagers of the seven seas and to each exulted navigator of the eastern and western hemispheres greetings:
“During the interim between 2 Aug. 1954 and 14 March 1955 the Good Ship Samuel B. Roberts (DD 823) circumnavigated the globe and be it known by all yea earthly mortals, yea sons of grandiose pirates, yea tattooed brotherhood of the deep, yea followers of Ferdinand Magellan, that Edward G. Crosby is entitled to all the rights and privileges of the select few who have completely circled the earth.”
Listed below are the ports of call during the eight-month and 12-day, 25,000-plus-mile cruise of the USS Roberts: New Port, R.I.; Coco Solo; Panama Canal; Balboa; San Diego; Pearl Harbor; Midway Islands; 180th Meridian; Yokosuka, Japan; Sasebo, Japan; Pusan, South Korea; Kure, Subic Bay, Philippines; Manila, Philippines; Hong Kong; Singapore; Crossed Equator; Colombo; Bahrain; Aden; Suez Canal; Port Said; Naples; Ville, France; Barcelona, Spain; Gibraltar, Spain; Points Delgada; Newport, R.I.
On one of Crosby’s many voyages one of his destroyers ended up in Antarctica.
“When we sailed for Antarctica we had no idea why we were being sent, but I recall sailing from Chile toward Antarctica,” he said. “We were told, after we left port, that President Eisenhower would be flying over our route. The U.S. Navy had to supply ships along the President’s flight whenever he made a trip to a foreign country in case his plane ditched in the sea.
“There were Navy ships all along his flight path. It was probably the most important job I ever had in the Navy,” the old sailor proudly explained.
Crosby’s most deadly mission during his four years in the service he knew nothing about until more than half a century after he got out of the service. In the late 1990s he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a particularly deadly type cancer. Treated at a Veteran’s Administration hospital, he was the only one of 13 patients who underwent lymphoma treatment who survived the ordeal.
“They were checking me in 2002 to make sure my original cancer hadn’t returned, when they discovered I had lung cancer. I filed a claim with the VA and after they reviewed my claim they classified me 100 percent disabled,” he said.
“For more than half the time I was at sea aboard the two destroyers I was a pipe-fitter. Many of the pipes aboard a destroyer were high-pressure steam pipes. They were covered with asbestos to protect the crew if they were to burst.”
When they did, which was usually a couple of times a month, it was Crosby’s job to cut away the asbestos, repair the ruptured pipe and recover the fixed pipe with more asbestos. Pipe fitters wore no masks to protect them from airborne asbestos fibers being sucked into their lungs.
Today he is tethered to an oxygen machine at his Port Charlotte home. Because his lungs no longer function properly, he moves with difficulty.
“I am currently under Hospice care. Anyone who knows about Hospice knows what that means,” the old salt said. “I’ve been there before, but between me and my Lord, I’m gonna keep moving forward.”
The original pictures accompanying this story are no longer available. We pulled War Department pictures of one of his destroyers he served on and the carrier Oriskany to replace them.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Sunday, May 20, 2007 and is republished with permission.
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