With the conflict in Korea shifting from battlefield to negotiating table during the previous year, ROCHESTER’s 1954 cruise to the western Pacific became one of “showing the flag” at ports throughout southeast Asia. The pages that follow recount highlights of this odyssey, with much of the material presented drawn from the ship’s 1954 Cruise Book.
The mood was more relaxed than on the war-time cruises of previous years. During the six days en route to the Hawaiian Islands, the fantail resounded with country music performed by the Rochester Ramblers, and the crew had opportunities to condition their skin for exposure to a tropical sun.
ROCHESTER docked at Pearl Harbor on 11 January.
At left, six ROCHESTER sailors, lost somewhere on windward Oahu, are directed back to their ship by a local passer-by, while at right a coconut proves to be a tough nut to crack (but ultimately worth the effort). ROCHESTER departed the Islands on 17 January and set a course west by south-west.
ROCHESTER arrived at Manila in the Philippine Islands on 31 January. She had been at nearby Sangley Point during 1950 when the onset of hostilities in Korea precipitated a premature departure. Now, on her return to these Islands almost four years later, it seemed the street vendors were still hawking the same ware.
The sailor in lower left would have accepted the ride, but in downtown Manila he had no idea where to go; meanwhile, the trio in upper right are unauthorized guests at the Manila Hotel pool. ROCHESTER steamed out of Manila Bay on 3 February and headed into the South China Sea.
ROCHESTER dipped below the equator south of Singapore on 6 February, and true to tradition was boarded by King Neptune and all his motley crew. The shellbacks on board joined the intruders in making it a long day for the ship’s many polywogs.
ROCHESTER arrived at a mooring in Singapore Harbor on 7 February, and a landing craft ferried the liberty party to the beach.
The stately stone buildings facing the harbor proved to be a facade erected by British colonists, as a short distance inland the scene was typically oriental.
Some visited the city’s churches, while others got more into local customs. After a 3-day stay, ROCHESTER got underway and headed northward into the Gulf of Thailand.
ROCHESTER arrived off Thailand on 12 February, but was unable to navigate the shallow river that connects Bangkok to the sea. So a landing craft of Thailand’s navy came alongside to transport the liberty party upstream to the city.
After a few hours on Bangkok’s streets, it was clear that this place had been around for a long time. ROCHESTER’s sailors, however, were there just three days. On 15 February she got underway for her next port-of-call, Saigon.
ROCHESTER steamed up the Saigon River with concern that Viet Minh marksmen might be lurking amid the folliage along shore, but she arrived at the city without incident.
The country was at this time was still under French control, and the visit was significant enough to put three of the crew on a page of their home-town newspaper.
Saigon’s dominant architecture reflected the region’s long history as a French colony, but the lucky few getting aboard the flight to Angkor Wat, in Cambodia,visited 8th century ruins that were pure Asian. On 20 February ROCHESTER returned down the Saigon River and headed northward.
ROCHESTER encountered the fringe of a typhoon during her transit northward to Japan.
On 26 February ROCHESTER arrived at Yokosuka and a setting familiar to most of her crew.
From Yokosuka, those with a full day ashore were able to visit such places as the Great Buddah of Kamakura(left) and the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo (right).
Others preferred to stay in Yokosuka, although the sailor on the left appears about to make a bad decision. In reference to an encounter with the trio on the right, he may have written home: “Dear Mom and Dad, last Sunday we met three nice girls at the shipyard chapel”. Or, he may not have mentioned them at all.
With Yokosuka as home port, ROCHESTER made several short excursions to other destinations in the region. During mid March she participated in “Operation Flaghoist”, an amphibious training exercise that involved an assault on Iwo Jima; above left, ROCHESTER’s main battery trains on that Island’s Mount Suribachi. In April she made a run eastward to Korea, stopping briefly at Chinhae, above right.
ROCHESTER’s role as representative of the United States in foreign ports required maintaining an exceptionally high level of appearance, so inspections were frequent (left). The pressure to keep vessel and crew shipshape increased even more when in April COM 7th FLEET shifted from WISCONSIN to ROCHESTER (right).
ROCHESTER spent the rest of April and early May calling at various ports in Japan as 7th FLEET flagship. From one of these, Osaka, some of the crew traveled by train to the ancient city of Kyoto (left). Other ports on the itinerary included Yokohama and Sasebo (right). Then on 10 May, ROCHESTER left Japan and headed south for Hong Kong.
ROCHESTER entered the Harbor between Hong Kong Island and the mainland on 14 May. The region was at that time a British Crown Colony.
The view overlooking Hong Kong Harbor from atop Victoria Peak (left) was spectacular. A later visit to Hong Kong’s Tiger Balm Gardens (right) found surroundings much like the Tiger Balm Gardens in Singapore.
All that walking in downtown Hong Kong contributed to a big appetite satisfied only after crossing the Island to Aberdeen later in the day. The week in Hong Kong passed quickly, and on 21 May ROCHESTER steamed out of the Harbor and headed back to Yokosuka.
The return to Yokosuka on 25 May gave the crew last chances to get ashore in Japan. But the main objective was to transfer COM 7th FLEET to SAINT PAUL, which had arrived to relieve ROCHESTER in WESTPAC. On 29 May ROCHESTER steamed out through the submarine nets at the entrance to Tokyo Bay (above, center), and headed eastward across the Pacific. Hula dancers performed on deck when ROCHESTER called briefly at Pearl Harbor, but all hands were anxious to continue homeward.
Long Beach California, 14 June 1954.