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Jack Belleau

Happenings During My Tour On The COLLETT

Happenings During My Tour on the COLLETT

by Jack D. Belleau, Fireman Deuce 1946-1948


I came aboard in the latter part of ’46 in Yokosuka or Sasebo, Japan, and stayed aboard till 2/4/48 when discharged.


Sometime in the latter part of ’47, the COLLETT was involved in an excursion into North Korean waters just a few miles off the coast of a large city, can't remember the name.  We had the fastest Destroyer in the Pacific, 35 or 38 knots as I recall.  This was the first time I was under fire.  The North Koreans sent a gunship of some kind to get us.  They cannon shelled towards us 3 or 4 times.  None of them hit the ship but the first one hit the water several hundred yards off the fantail then each one thereafter further astern.  (Rather exciting.)


The other time I was under fire, at least I thought I was, was in Tsingtao, China.  I was on the beach with guys from the ship getting plastered in a bar owned by a White Russian.  He was selling us 4 Roses and 3 Feathers whiskey out of OPEN BOTTLES -what dummies we were.


I was THREE SHEETS to the WIND when the first BOOM sounded.  The Russian bartender said it was the RED ARMY advancing on the city, I don't remember if this was ’46 or ’47.  Anyway we dropped our hamburgers and french fries –another mistake.  (Dog burgers or something else you can bet, I think I also had a glass of milk.)  Lord knows what any of that was.  So stupid, I didn't die though.


We started back to the ship (about 3 miles away) as fast as we could, commandeering bicycle rickshaws or any type of transportation we could get.  By the time we reached the ship I was stone sober, it took about 15 or 20 minutes.  I never got a ribbon.


There was also the time the ships purser found Chinese potatoes at a terrific price -we had only powdered in stores.  In a few days everyone had dysentery and the harbor, from shore to shore, was filled with you know what.  All of the ships had to go to sea to make fresh water (the Chinese fertilized with human manure).


Another thing I did on the ship was to overhaul the motor whaleboat.  Boy, did I screw up.  I had taken auto mechanics at school in Indianapolis, thought I was a great mechanic.  I placed the motor on the 01 deck aft and proceeded to dismantle it.  The Chief and several others said that each time it was overhauled in the past there were never any new parts to replace the old ones, so I threw all the SPARKPLUGS over the side, but they were not SPARKPLUGS, they were FUEL INJECTORS.  I guess you know what happened next.  I was sent to the mess hall and was a Spud Coxswain, a Messcook, and a Chiefs Messcook for the rest of my tour.  I was there so long I was made the head of the Messcooks.


As Spud Coxswain I made the best mashed potatoes the ship had had, even the Stewards Mates were sent to the mess hall to get them for the Officers Mess.  We went from 10 or 20 pounds per meal to about 80 to 100 each meal.  Some may remember I had butter in multiple indentations in the pan with paprika on top.


As a Chief’s Messcook I made them Hoosier chili.  They had never had chili with spaghetti.


The First Class Motor Mack and some others did midnight parts runs to the other ships we were tied up with in Tsingtao to secure parts because the neither the Tender or any other ship had spares for us.  There were a few inquiries as to missing boat parts on the other ships, but the whaleboat was repaired.


We came back to the States in the fall of ’47 and tied up in San Diego as our home base.  We were to have a practice fight with another Can, don't remember which one.  We ran at flank speed with the whaleboat over the side to test out the boat, and to recover the dummy torpedo that was to be fired at us.  The ship made a sharp evasive turn to dodge the torpedo.  A large wave hit the whaleboat while hanging there and it bounced in the air a couple times.  But then the bow went down and the motor flew forward like a cannon shell.


I took an early out that was offered by Harry Truman, the President that is.  He said if you’re not shipping over you can have an early out.  I didn't find out till later that because I took the early out, I was again eligible for the draft.


Sure enough, the Korean War started and I was called by my Indianapolis draft board in 1950 or 1951.  I was living in Phoenix AZ at the time, two babies, a wife, deep in debt, and working for the Mountain States Telephone Company.  The Phoenix draft board said the state of AZ didn't want to take care of my family while I was gone (hot darn, I got away with that one).


That's the end of this story.  There are a lot more I could tell but this one is long enough.



(Transcribed by Chuck Kiesling)