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The personal experience and account of
Verner Carlsen

(Ship's Chaplan)

I remember on the evening of Oct. 24 Captain Vieweg called me to his cabin and asked that in my evening prayer that evening over the PA system I might pray a special prayer that whatever befalls us on the next day I might pray, not that we might escape harm and danger, but that we may have what it takes to face whatever may come. Did he have a premonition of what actually happened? It was an indication of the type of person Captain Vieweg was.

I was in the ward room eating breakfast on the morning of Oct. 25 after we had secured from General Quarters when General Quarters sounded again. AI grabbed my helmet and raced to the bridge where my battle station had been assigned by the Captain. I was to give a running account of what I observed for the men below decks over the PA system. I remember seeing the first geyser like eruption as an eerie pink color. Then another came closer of another color. It seemed at the time that all hell broke loose as we felt the ship shudder. I am not sure how my description of what was transpiring came across to the men below decks. I do know that some of them, including Al Hartin, who was one of my roommates, said my battle description changed from an account of what was happening to prayers, and that the voice ceased in the middle of prayers. I do remember that Gunnery Officer Stringer finally told me I could just as well hang up the mike because the line was dead. I have since often hoped that some of those prayers may have reached the wounded and dying in different parts of the ship and given them some king of comfort in a time of dire need.

I remember leaving the bridge to go to the flight deck to see if I could be of help to anyone. My memory is clouded but I do have some kind of recollection of helping some of the catwalk and over the side. When I heard an order passed to abandon ship I ran down the catwalk to pass the word. I did not use a hanging rope to slide down but rather just dropped from the catwalk to the water below.

Dropping from the flight deck to the water below was an experience I shall never forget. I had my helmet on and felt a sharp tug on my neck as I hit the water. It must have been quite a jolt to my body as I hit the water for later someone asked me why I didn't take my glasses off, to which I replied, "I am very near-sighted and don't see well with them off." To which he replied, "Well, you will see as well with them off because you have no lenses in the frame". When I hit the water I kep going down, down, down and finally rose to the surface. All around me were men coming down the ropes, or swimming away from the ship. I saw a number of rafts in the water already with several men aboard them. I took off rapidly for one of them.

I remember that Buzz Borries had taken his place at the head of the raft and stayed there kind of keeping control during those 42 hours. The spam pieces and malted milk balls were doled out at his direction. The water kegs had popped their bungs when the rafts hit the water and they filled with salt water. The lack of water to drink was a desperate situation.

One of the problems that faced us was alternating men from hanging onto the side of the raft to being in the raft. The wounded men we had on the raft stayed there and were tended to as best we could. I do remember a few of the men on our raft. I remember Virgil Fitch and Loren Flood, both of whom I had had counseling dealings aboard ship. I personally stayed off the raft during the entire time. I hooked my arm through a rope and thereby kept myself pretty well anchored. I remember Ronnie Odom, my liberty buddy, swimming over to our raft from another one; I guess just to check on how I was doing.

I seem to have a faint recollection of a person taking off on a small 2 person raft with oars, supposedly for Samar to find help.

A vivid memory is that of the sharks that were a constant menace. To see the fins breaking the surface of the water was awesome. I recall that we tried to keep them away by all splashing water.

I do recall an enemy warship within a pretty good range. With my poor eyesight it was rather a blurred image, but it was a reality. Whether I heard it from someone or saw it, it does seem to me I have an image of the Captain of the ship lifting their guns in salute as they passed by. I have always wondered why they didn't strafe us since they were so close by.

Staying awake and attempting to help keep the morale on a good level seemed to be the primary problem I recall. I know that I dozed off and swallowed oil slicked water because when I got aboard the rescue craft I had such a sore throat from the oil I could not eat solid food for several days. A couple of fellows in our group did swallow too much salt water and temporarily suffered loss of mind.

I recall the occasional rain squalls that were like mercy drops as we opened our mouths hoping for a few drops to somewhat quench our thirst.

What an exhilarating feeling it was when dawn was about to break on Oct. 27 to see the outline of rescue vessel, a PC boat. When they came alongside our group and we started to climb aboard I remember that I was too weak to climb aboard on my own power and had to be helped aboard. I stood on the deck for a moment and then collapsed. I soon gained my strength and found a place just to lie down and fall asleep.






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