During the Korea War era—from 1951 to 1955—Arnold LeMoine of Deep Creek subdivision near Punta Gorda served as a machinist-mate 3rd Class aboard the escort aircraft carrier USS Cape Esperance (CVE-88).
“I went to boot camp in San Diego and then I joined the mothball fleet,” the 82-year-old former sailor said. “I got tired of that and put in for a transfer to sea duty. That was the biggest mistake I ever made in the Navy.
“I ended up in the Sea Transportation Service aboard the carrier Cape Esperance. I was a machinist-mate 3rd class and worked in the engine room,” he explained. “It was a hot, boring job.
“Most of the time we ferried people and planes to place all over the world aboard the Cape Esperance. Often we sailed from California to Yokosuka, Japan. We might also take people and planes to Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong, Bangkok or in the beginning Korea.
“When I first came aboard the carrier our ship was making trips to Korea. It was 1952 and the Korean War was still going on,” LeMoine explained. “By the time I sailed to Korea aboard the carrier we were fighting the North Koreans over the 38th Parallel.
“After the war we ferried half an airborne division back to the states. We took lots of people and their equipment here and there.”
The thing he recalls best during his service aboard the carrier was when the ship blew a piston in one of her two steam engines while making a run from California to Japan. It was a big deal.
Making her way on one engine caused the carrier to willow in the rough seas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It was a tough couple of days. The crew of the Cape Esperance existed on sandwiches as the ship rolled badly on her way to Yokosuka.
“It’s funny how you forget most of the things in the service after 60 years. However, I recall the man in charge of getting the ship’s engine fixed was a Chief Thomas. He was a career Navy man who had two destroyers he served on during World War II shot out from under him. The chief knew what he was doing.”
Serving in the engine-room aboard a carrier propelled by a couple of steam engines was a dangerous place to be. The high pressure steam that turned the turbines that moved the Cape Esperance ahead could be deadly if one of the steam lines broke.
“Super heated steam at 275 psi could cut a man in half just like that,” LeMoine said. “Fortunately for me it never happened while I was aboard the ship, thank God.”
Most of his time he was serving on the carrier amounted to various degrees of boring. He would serve a four hour shift on throttle watch in the engine-room, then be off eight hours. Half the time when he wasn’t in the engine-room LeMoine was standing a four hour watch on deck. After that he got some sack-time then it was back to the engine-room for another four hours.
“We were on the move constantly. We just stayed in port long enough to load up and head out again. It was a tough life, we didn’t get to spend any holidays at home,” LeMoine recalled. “It was a life for an 18 or 19-year-old.
“It was five years after World War II and people in Japan were still eating the garbage we left behind in garbage cans,” he said. “All I could think of when I saw that was, if the war had gone the other way that could have been my mother or father. You couldn’t help but have some feeling for those Japanese.
“I’ve heard it said, ‘If you want to help your country, have a war with America. If you lose the war America will build you a brand new country.’
The carrier Cape Esperance and its 860-man crew took part in a number of major battles in the Pacific during the Second World War. Kaiser Company built the small carrier at its shipyard in Vancouver, Wash. She was launched on March 4, 1944.
In November 1944 planes from the deck of the carrier took part in air combat over Leyte and Luzon in the Philippines. In February 1945 the carrier returned to the U.S. and transported aircrafts to Guam during the battle. Some of the planes she transported during the closing months of the war flew missions during the U.S. conquest of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Japanese home islands.
When LeMoine arrived aboard the Cape Esperance in ’52, pilots were flying off the carrier’s deck in F4U “Corsair” gull-winged fighter planes. By the time he was discharged from the Navy in 1955 jet fighters were being flown from the carrier.
He took the G.I. Bill and graduated from Boston State University with a science degree.
“I decided I wanted to be a cop. So I took the test for both the Boston Police Department in the morning and the Metropolitan Police Department in the afternoon. I passed both tests and ended up going to work for the Metropolitan Police Department,” he explained.
“For 28 years I worked for the Metropolitan Police. First I was a beat cop, then I went to mounted patrol, then harbor patrol and finally I worked in the beach district of Boston in an old resort area called Hull.
In 2002 LeMoine and his wife, Barbara, moved to the Deep Creek area. She has one son, Michael, from a first marriage. Tammy, her daughter, died of cancer. She was 37-years-old.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 2, 2017 and is republished with permission.
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