From time-to-time we will post letters from shipmates their families and friends, bringing you up-to-date on their lives.
From Stan Packer, HMS Belfast 1950-1953
To All the Veterans: USS Rochester CA-124 and family members of those former crew members who have now joined the association.
Now Hear This!
This is Stan Packer of the H.M.S. Belfast Association sending you his good wishes and hopes you’re doing well today.
It has now been 65 years since: The USS Rochester CA-124 and HMS Belfast and many other ships of the United Nations served together during the Korean War and sadly not many of the crew members are still with us today.
The Korean War is one of the most important and dramatic conflicts of the twentieth century. It remains the only battlefield on which two great powers – the United States and China – have met since World War II. Only in the Cuban missile crisis has America come closer to employing nuclear weapons than she did in Korea in 1950-51.
United Nations troops suffered 142,000 casualties to restore the independence of South Korea after the communist invasion of June 1950. The British Army lost three times as many men in Korea as in the Falklands War, and fought its biggest battles since 1945 – above all on the Imjin river in April 1951, when the Gloucesters, the Ulsters, and the Northumberland Fusiliers staged their memorable sacrificial stand, holding the road to Seoul against the Chinese Spring Offensive.
MONTH IN THE LIFE OF HMS BELFAST
Early 1951 – She enters the Korean War Zone and takes part in the re-capture of Inchon
- 28 Depart from Hong Kong
- 29 Rough seas
- 30 Ship goes into 4th degree of readiness.
- 31 Arrive Sasebo, Japan at 0930 February
- 2 Left Sasebo for Korea in company with USS St. Pauls, a USS destroyer and HMS Black Swan.
- 3 Anchored off Inchon in company with USS St. Pauls and destroyers. USS St. Pauls opened fire on North Korean land convoy. Two aircraft from HMS Theseus shot down – both pilots safe. Can see front line action. HMS Belfast joins bombardment through the night.
- 4 Continue bombarding. We hit an oil dump causing a big fire.
- 5 All day bombardment with 4″ and 6″ guns at troop concentrations, goods yards and important buildings. In close liaison with the British 27th Army Corps. Can see clearly the battle raging tonight. It is bitterly cold. Army slowly advancing. Heavy bombardment throughout the night. 27th Army Corps plan to retake Inchon soon. We land a detachment of Royal Marines.
- 6 Afternoon bombardment with 6″ guns at troop concentrations. British 27th Army Corps finding opposition stiff but made small advances along the entire front. Inchon not yet taken but expected to fall soon. At 1800 we sail further north to link up with HMS Black Swan in block-aid. USS St. Pauls remains at Inchon.
- 7 Still patrolling up north. Disembark three ship’s officers on a small island to ascertain what medical supplies are needed for inhabited refugees. Late night we receive signal to proceed south to secret rendezvous to collect the Admiral.
- 8 Forenoon we arrive at the secret destination – a small island about 15 miles off lnchon. HMS Ceylon transfers the Admiral to us. Proceeding nearer to Inchon. Large fleet and US transports assembling. USS Missouri (battleship) arrives and is laying off 5 to 6 miles out.
- 9 More US ships arriving – something big brewing. We are now patrolling up and down off lnchon. Oiled at sea by British Auxiliary Tanker. Reporting back to Inchon tomorrow. Admiral in charge of Naval operations – a landing expected. Extensive air activity.
- 10 Back at Inchon during the forenoon. Laying off all day in readiness with USS Missouri (Mighty Mo). Other ships in company including US transports loaded with reinforcements – men and equipment. Later in the evening we were informed that Inchon had been re-captured … we were not required after all. Admiral visits USS Missouri in evening for conference.
- 11 Left Inchon this morning with two escorting frigates for patrols north of 38th parallel. Afternoon receive signal to proceed full speed ahead to pick up a US pilot. Arrive on scene at 1900. ROK patrol boat transferred pilot to us – he was dead through wounds, shock and exposure. Continue patrolling through the night. It is freezing cold up here.
- 12 Return to Inchon. Admiral attending conference aboard USS Missouri. Nothing of importance is happening. Everything appears pretty quiet.
- 13 Proceed north on patrols again with orders to intercept any hostile or unknown craft. Temperature remains well below zero.
- 14 Sent away armed boats crew several times during the day and last night boarding junk boats. Nothing found, mostly refugees going back to Inchon.
- 15 Returning south we rendezvous with HMS Ceylon who relieves us and proceed back to Japan. Arrive Sasebo at 12 noon after a forenoon of very rough seas. For the next few days we are on light duties, but expect to depart again on Sunday (18th).
- 18 Sailed for East Coast of Korea Bombardment of Hungnam with Rocket Ships
- 19 The Commander broadcast to the ship’s company that we have been ordered on a ‘special mission’ and will leave before dawn tomorrow. In the early hours of the morning we departed from Sasebo and proceeded towards Wansan – just north of the 38th parallel on the east coast. Mine fields reported and we were told to expect opposition. We reached Wansan early morning in company with an Australian destroyer. Heavily bombarded all day with both 6″ and 4″ guns. No opposition as expected. We were closed up at action stations continuously for 15 hours. In the evening we return to Sasebo.
- 20 Arrive Sasebo late afternoon and immediately commenced re-ammunition, storing and re¬fueling.
- 21 Continue with storing and ammunition. Orders to depart early tomorrow.
- 22 Sailed for the Korean coast.
- 23 Relieved HMS Ceylon north of Inchon and continued patrolling up and down the west coat. We eventually returned to Sasebo after this patrol in early March.
To: USS Rochester Assn.
My father, Ralph H. Clayton, served on the Rochester in the late 1940’s & early 1950’s as a Machinist Mate. Dad was also an accomplished guitarist and singer. The captain at the time supported the formation of a band which became known as the Rochester Ramblers. They were shipmates and friends, and even won local talent contests which was great PR for the Navy.
As a small girl I remember going on the Rochester for a family day. The ship was huge and fascinating to me but my main memory is the ice cubes. They were about two inches square with a hole in the center. I thought that was the coolest thing ever!
Dick Rogers, the steel guitar player, contacted the other Ramblers in 1986 to try to plan a reunion. My husband and I owed a duplex in Nashville, TN and it happened half of it was vacant. The Ramblers decided Nashville was about half way for everyone so they met for a reunion in our duplex. It was wonderful to meet everyone I had heard so much about growing up. They played & sang, and told stories on each other as if they had not been apart thirty years. We even had Channel 5 News come out for a story. The group was able to meet twice more before some began to have health problems.
Dad retired from the Navy in 1971 after a total of 28 years service. Sadly, he died in 2000. However, the memories will live on of these wonderful men, the love they showed for their families and the pride they felt to be able to serve their country. Thank you for the opportunity to tell their story!
Sincerely, Vicki Gaw
Subject: Greetings from the Royal Navy
Hi Joe, I was invited aboard USS Rochester several times in Hong Kong while serving in HMS Salisbury, 1959 – 1961 My mate and I played guitar a bit, and were invited to meet some of Rochester’s crew who played, I cant remember names, but one guy we only saw the once, apparently he went ashore in Hong Kong, and retuned with a half bottle of whiskey tucked down his boot, the officer of the watch found it, and said, “Ill turn my back and I want to hear a splash” He did hear a splash, but it wasnt the whiskey, the OOW checked again, found the whiskey and the guy was under punishment, pity, he was a brilliant guitarist.
We invited several of your guys round at tot time, to share a tot, my love of country music stems from listening to guys on Rochester. Sorry to hear she was scrapped, Salisbury ended her days sunk as a target for an Exocet missile.
When the Falklands war started, the wife and I had gone down to London to see of all things “Evita” when we came out of the theatre there were signs all over London, HMS Hermes all leave cancelled return to your ship, HMS Hecate ditto, both “Old ships” I felt really guilty, I felt I should be going too. but they managed quite well without silly old buggers like me
If any of those old guitar players are still around give them my regards, and every success to USS Rochester website
Eric Beechill Ex AB Radar HMS Salisbury
Subject: My Father
Thank you for the great web site. My Father served aboard the Rochester from ’56 – 60 as a “Gunners Mate”, not sure which turret. My Mother said that I could have his cruise books and all, I just haven’t gone to get them yet. They should tell me which one. His name was Galen “Max” Martin, and he really wanted to attend the Rochester Reunions but health matters wouldn’t allow it. He passed away on 21 Feb 2001. He had alot of great stories about the times when he was in the Navy. Good enough stories that it had alot of influence on me and I joined and served onboard the U.S.S Forrestal from ’81 – 85.
Again, thank you for the web site, Dad would have loved it.
I just finished a great book by James Brady “The Marine”. A novel that covers a lot of the Korean War at the beginning including the Inchon invasion.
The USS Rochester is mentioned several times. On page 233 ,it mentions the bombing of September 17, 1950.
I was on sky look-out covering the port quarter 180 to 270 degrees during the attack. All four lookouts were wearing head phones so we could report all activities. The lookout covering the starboard quarter 0 to 90 degrees spotted and reported the unidentified planes to the Officer in charge. I don’t know what he did. Shortly thereafter we were attacked. We, the lookouts had a grand stand seat. It would be extremely interesting to get their take on what transpired, especially, the one that reported the planes. In any event we were extremely lucky that they missed. I think they were so surprised that they were able to get to our ship without being fired on and got excited and missed. Maybe, if they had been fired on earlier, they would have crashed into our ship, since we were the best target. In any event, I celebrate September 17, as my second birthday and thank the Good Lord I was a Sailor in Korea and not a Marine. Especially in 1950 , they had no chance.
Again, “The Marine” is a great read. Also, “The Marines of Autumn” by the same author.
From Mario Chavez:
I logged in to your website and found it not only very interesting and informative but very well organized. I just started a website for the USS Saint Paul CA-73. I hope I will reach the level of interest the USS Rochester website has. If you like to cruise on the USS Saint Paul website the URL is:
Again, your website is great!
From: Frank Dayak EM2 Long Beach,Ca.
Finally took time to read your 8/23/04 article, “Damn the Torpedoes” There is one operation I feel should have been included, that is the ship providing fire coverage for the Marines that were being evacuated at Hungnam. You’ll recall the Chinese entered the war and were driving the Marines down from Chosin Reservoir. I believe this was Christmas Eve of 51. We were not sure if the MIG 51 would be sent down on us. Fortunately they did not come. This was not a very happy time!
Reply from: Russ MM2 Main Propulsion, Throttleman
We went there the first of December and loaded up with civilians, marines, ROK’s and the royal highland marines. Sailed to Pusan and then back to Hungnam. Loaded up with marines, US army, ROK’s and what was left of equipment and left morning of Dec. 25th. That’s when the Navy Seals blew up the town. The Big Mo was anchored over the horizon lobbing shells over our head. The only weapon issued to me was the marine Bowie knife, which I still have. One night I had the duty to haul marines out of their amphibs as they pulled up along our ship. Talk about mad mean MF that night. We also took on 300 Chinese prisoners and one Russian pilot prisoner. During that time we only had 3 meals a day of beef stew and sandwiches. The civilians where only allowed on the main deck. When we took them to Pusan, they left their poop all over the deck. What a mess. The sailors took fire hoses and hosed the ship down.
To: Ted Hobson and Jim Romig
Dear Ted and Jim (I feel like I know you):
I had to write to thank you for your wonderful account of four young men from Ventura joining the navy and going to war.
Through a Google search on an entirely different subject I happened on the web site for the USS Los Angeles, and quickly became fascinated with it. While there I saw a reference to the USS Rochester – I’ve lived in Rochester all my life and never knew such a vessel existed. So, I had to check that out. That’s when I saw your story. I started it yesterday and finished today (don’t tell my boss). Great stuff, guys — a hell of a story and beautifully written; I loved it.
I never served myself (my dad was wounded at St. Lo; I was born in 1950 and had a high draft number during Viet Nam), but now I feel like I have some idea of what it was like during Korea. Thanks for taking the trouble to share your story, and for serving your country so honorably.
From Stan Packer, HMS Belfast
To All The Veterans: USS Rochester CA-124
Now Hear This:
This is Stan Packer of the H.M.S. Belfast Association sending you his good wishes and hopes your doing well today.
Hi Shipmates: I and many others on H.M.S. Belfast had the pleasure of serving, making friends, and sharing some of our liberty hours ashore in Japan with you guys during 1950-1952 and the Korean War. The memories of those years are still with me, and being a member of the U.S Navy Cruiser Sailors Association, I was hoping that there may some of the shipmates of your ship, that would like to reflect back in time to some of the places that we new, and what we did all those years ago. My Email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and for those that don’t use a computer, my home address is as follows. Mr. S.N. Packer, Holme Croft, Holme Lane, Rockley, Retford, Notts. DN22 OQY England.
My sincere best wishes, Stan Packer. Ex Royal Navy.
From Dee Greenley, (CS Div., 1951-54)
Hello Joe Hill
I have probably met you at one of the earlier reunions but if not my name is Dee D. Greenly. I served aboard the Rochester in the CS div. from 1951 thru 1954. You just never know where an old Rochester sailor will turn up these days but my wife and I are presently serving as Christian missionary teachers at the only Christian missionary school in the country of Romania. We have been serving God’s children at the Bucharest Christian Academy in Bucharest, Romania for approximately three years. We are wrapping it up after this semester ends (June) and will be returning to our home in Morgantown, West Virginia. We have attended the reunions in Boston, St Louis, Las Vegas and the great one in Rochester N.Y. We are planning on making the one in Norfolk this October so will see you there.
The Newsletter is sent to us by a friend who collects our mail for us ( the mail system in Romania is horrible) and I thought it might be of some interest to our shipmates what old sailors can end up doing. When I was aboard the “Rock” I would never have thought I would end up as a missionary.
Your e-mail address was the only one I could find in the newsletter so you got elected and I would appreciate it if you would pass this on to the right person.
Thanks a bunch and God bless
Dee D. Greenly