DD 681 (Fletcher class)
We are seeking information on the USS Hopewell and her crews. Files and photos may be E-mailed to us and we will incorporate them into these pages.
Coffee, Tuna and Pineapples
The 150 or so Fletcher class destroyers were hastily designed and built before and during the war. Of those that weren't sunk during the war, many served during the long years of the cold war. Our Tincan was 17 years old upon completing a Far East tour in 1960, when the crew was notified to prepare the ship for a material inspection by the Inspector General. The objective of a material inspection is to establish the mechanical and material condition of the ship to determine it's capability to carry out it's mission. Very little from bow to stern or keel to yardarm eludes the eagle eyes of the inspectors from spotting deficiencies that would tend to lessen the operational capability of the ship. The inspection included all hull and deck fittings, machinery, electronics, galley and the sickbay autoclave. Manuals, directives and specifications were to be examined to determine if they had been kept current. The only item that escaped the inspectors prying eyes was the crew's health records. The crew had four weeks to prepare for the inspection, Four weeks of their post deployment Rest and Recreation period (R&R). The inspection directive listed which pieces of equipment should be opened for inspection and those that were to be observed in operation. The appearance of the word "rust" throughout the inspection literature alerted all divisions that a major effort would have to be undertaken to eliminate as much of the stuff as possible.
The anchor chain is housed in the chain locker, a small compartment near the foot of the ships bow. The locker is difficult to enter even when all the chain is all payed out and the locker is empty. When the anchor is hauled up, the chain is winched into the chain locker through the hauspipe where it proceed to rust. Then when the anchor chain is run out rapidly, a cloud of dust also comes out of the pipe. To remove the rust and repaint the chain and locker in four weeks was a job beyond ships force capability. The Petty Officer who was in charge of chain and locker was not about to be defeated. He was an experienced cum shaw artist. For a couple pounds of coffee he got the yard crane operator to lift the chain out of the ship and lay it on a flat car. For a dozen cans of tuna, the chain was put through a chain tumbler. A chain tumbler is a large rotating drum that tumbles the chain and knocks off the rust. The chain was then laid out on the dock along side the ship. For a case of canned pineapples the paint shop sent over a crew to apply red lead and a couple coats of black paint to the chain links. Again, for another pound of coffee the crane operator slipped the chain down into the newly painted chain locker.
The inspection party personnel were old over weight Chiefs and Warrant Officers, who through their long Navy careers had steamed past a few burned out lighthouses. They knew all the tricks of the trade for finding faults, including those purposely hidden by the crew. Most of the inspectors found their quotas of rust and made copious notes. When the Chief rust chaser passed up the chain locker, the Petty Officer said, "Hay Chief how's about looking in the chain locker?" "Don't have to, all chain lockers are cruddy with rust." The PO answered, " I've removed the inspection plate, how about shining your flashlight in there and taking a peek." The inspector lowered him self to his knees and stuck his light and head in the opening. Retrieving flashlight and head he stood and said. "Cheez, this the first chain locker that I have ever seen that ain't got any rust." "Real good Chief, make a note of that."
After the inspectors had completed their inspections and put their findings in writing, ,The Admiral, Chief Inspector, held a critique to discus the findings. The Inspection party, Officers, Chiefs. and lead PO's of the Tincan gathered in the wardroom. The reports were and endless list of discrepancies. One guy said that the after deck house would carry away in a heavy sea, because where the aluminum house was welded to the steel deck was eaten away by electrolysis. A PO spoke up. "Sir I've been on board for 8 years and haven't seen any change back there." Exaggerating for effect, another inspector declared that the main engines were about to drop through the bottom of the ship. Listening to all this I felt like I should ease over to door so I could easily step out on the dock should the ship sink at her moorings. The chain locker inspector did comment on he rust free condition of locker. The Admiral turned to the Chief/Staff and asked him to make a note of that. After a few remarks the Admiral then went on. "This destroyer is not safe to go to sea. If it had not been for you and your courageous crew, you would not have brought it safely back to port."
A couple days later after this devastating statement and left handed complement. I was directed to call on Commander Destroyers Pacific (ComDesPac), the Admiral who owns all the Tincans in the Pacific Ocean, When I presented myself he asked, "How are you guys doing over there?" I answered, "Since the Inspector General says were not sea worthy, I have all hands boning up on decommissioning and scrapping procedures." Don't sweat it Commander, Kinney says that about all my Tincans and I don't much attention to him. What I got you over here for is to tell your that CINCPACFLT has but additional requirements on me for more ships, and I have to deploy you three weeks early. We will knock off three weeks of your local sea ops and let you stay alongside. Meeting ended. As I started to take my leave he began."In my 35 years in the Navy I have never known or even heard of a rust free chain locker. How in the world did your crew with all the inspection work do the job in 4 weeks? I had a feeling that he already knew cum shaw was the answer to his question, but I didn't mention that it was cans of coffee, tuna and pineapples.
AND JUST A BIT MORE
We deployed for another 8 month cruise, where in the South China Sea we encountered heavy weather trying to avoid a Typhoon on our way to Hong Kong for R&R. I was relieved of command when we returned to San Diego. The ship remained in commissioned service for another 9 years, and probably made 3 or 4 more cruises, Two years after it was decommissioned, it was used as a target ship. A couple of bombs proved ineffective. They had ti shoot the Tinacn to sink it.
I am glad that I saw the ship (USS Hopewell DD681) where my grandpa boarded. His name is Mariano "Sammy" Sarmiento with a dog tag no. 420-52-46. I got to know the ship through his card "Domain of the Golden Dragon", an international date line card dated 24th Feb 1957 in latitude 37-38 and longitude 180. My mother has been looking for him for 35 years already. My mother, Estela Sarmiento Mallari, tried the Department of Navy, Social Security, Department of Health and Human Services, and Red Cross but they didn't know his whereabouts. My mother received a letter dated July 15, 1993 coming from Social Security Letter Forwarding Service, Office of Central Records Operations Baltimore, Maryland 21201 stating that he passed away last October 8, 1986.
We would like to seek your good assistance regarding the place he is buried. Our fervent wish is to see his grave and pay our last respect to him.
Thank you very much sir.
Gilbert Sarmiento Mallari
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