How The Gurke Changed My Life


boxblue  Lou Einung
Gurke Alumni: January 1960 to June 1961

Just before I left the ship in June of 1961, I was up on the bridge making an ass of myself by swinging my little short-timer's chain and bragging about how great life was going to be in the civilian world. Finally, Pappy Beeler had heard enough and he walked over and grasped my arm in his unbelievably strong grip--he looked at me with his blue eyes and weathered face and quietly said, "I know one thing Lou, you'll never forget this ship or your shipmates." I had no idea how prescient that statement would become.

The main thing I accomplished in the Navy, and particularly during my two years aboard the Gurke, was to acquire the confidence needed to make a success of life as a civilian. When the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln visited Santa Barbara in 2003, the skipper was quoted by the local newspaper as saying that most people don't know that ships like his are run by teenagers. What he was saying was that the military relies extensively on teenagers to utilize and maintain many millions of dollars worth of equipment, equipment that can have life or death consequences. For me, the effect of that was to instill confidence in my ability to do important things in other walks of life.

Those of us who served aboard the Gurke also learned a few things about enduring hardships. The youngsters who serve on modern Navy vessels probably can't imagine what it is like to live on a ship with no air conditioning and very little fresh water while enduring the heat of equatorial regions. Each specialty had its own problems to deal with. Those of us in electronics had to work with cheap, mostly worthless test instruments and radar and communications gear that had long ago succumbed to the ravages of salt air. We probably griped about that but in truth it mainly had the effect of turning us all into a "band of brothers." Notwithstanding hardships, we worked hard and most of the time found creative ways to get the job done.

I'm sure that everyone who ever served aboard the Gurke has lots of sea stories to tell, but that's exactly why serving on the old ship was so important to us. Those sea stories recollect a period in our lives where we seemed to be much more alive than at any other time. We did things we'd never consider doing in civilian life. Of course, some of those things were foolish and some were even dangerous, but that's why we remember them so vividly and why sometimes we wish we could go back and take one more ride on the Gurke. It seems inconsistent to think of time spent in the military as a time where we were less conservative in our behavior than in later years--given the reputation of the military for imposing discipline--but nonetheless, that's exactly what happened with most of us. Afterwards we went from being hard working, hard playing, beer drinking, cussing swabbies, to becoming very normal people who just happened to have some very rich memories of our Navy escapades during a time way back when other kids were mooching off mom and dad to go to college. But we didn't ignore education. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that a very high percentage of Gurke alumni managed to acquire college degrees after finishing their service obligation. I did and most of the guys in the ET gang I served with did as well.

Lastly, I'd like to give some credit to the officers on the Gurke. During the time that I was aboard we were blessed with a great bunch of officers. I won't go into any details about them individually, but I can certainly say that the ones I worked with gave me a lot of inspiration to better myself after leaving the service. That came about as the result of having the experience of interacting with them in the course of performing my duties. A mutual respect develops which is truly exciting when you are only nineteen. In boot camp you think all officers are gods, but later you learn to respect them not because of their rank but because of their leadership skills.

It's amazing how often in later years I became involved in situations where I'd find myself applying skills learned in the Navy to solve a problem. People would ask if that was something I learned in college and I'd respond by saying that no, it was something I learned in a much higher educational facility, the USS Gurke, DD783. In that regard, it is interesting to note that in my home office (I'm retired) the only picture on the wall in front of me is one of the Gurke rounding Point Loma.

Thanks for the memories Tom.

Lou Einung
Gurke Alumni: January 1960 to June 1961


boxblue  Thomas G. Cheatum 1952-1955

I enlisted in The Navyin March of 1951. After Boot Camp I was enrolled in a Fire Control School at the Naval Training Center in San Diego. Being single and not from the fleet I was treated as a scab during the 14 months of training. This treatment continued during my voyage to Japan and train ride to the Gurke in Sasebo. Once aboard the Gurke I was treated with respect but had some difficulty giving the ship my best effort resulting in my nick name of Tireless Tom. And then one day during transfer of ammunition to the Gurke I noticed that  my peers were working their butts off while I faked it. From that day on I did the best I could.

Being responsible for the Fire Control Radar I had the opportunity to work closely with technical engineers from Westinghouse. The engineers would open their briefcases, locate instructions and tell me what to do. Near the end of my stay on the Gurke I asked one of the reps what their education was. From that day forward I pursued a career in Electrical Engineering with the GI Bill.  I graduated from Oklahoma University with an EE Bachelors degree and a few years later with a Masters Degree in EE at Southern Methodist University.


boxblue  H. Clark Wright
Ensign and Lt (jg) (Supply Corps) aboard USS Gurke from 1957 to 1959

I joined the Navy in January of 1952 because I had been drafted and did not want to go to Korea -- which shows that I am not entirely stupid.

I had a I GCT (75), so they sent me to Communications Technician School, which was a terrible mistake. They didn't look at my Mechanical Aptitude score, which I believe was 35. I couldn't figure out what was going on and eventually was kicked out of the school.  This time I wound up in a Helicopter Antisubmarine squadron in Ream Field, south of San Diego. After two lackluster years there I made
AK3 and made a cruise with a detachment to the Far East and got acquainted with shipboard life and the Orient. The latter was more fun.

Shortly before I was to be discharged, I made AK2 and was then offered an opportunity to attend OCS in Rhode Island, which I accepted. After being on the team that decommissioned the Curtiss (AV4), I was transferred to Gurke as Supply Officer. I met the ship in Pearl Harbor, was initiated into Neptune's Realm when we crossed the Equator, and was now familiar enough on Gurke to put my plan into action. I had experienced food aboard the Badoeng Strait (CVE116) with my helicopter detachment which was nearly inedible. As I said, I was an AK3 at that time. In Pearl Harbor we were detained by airplane problems. During that time we got a new Commissary Officer. From the day he took over the General Mess, everything changed in the General Mess. The same food that had formerly been
rendered nearly inedible by the inaction and indifference of the prior Commissary Officer, but with the same cooks as before, we began to eat as though we were staying at the Waldorf Astoria. I got a good understanding of the importance of doing a job the way it should, and could, be done.

I implemented my plan on Gurke to make it the best feeder in the Pacific Fleet. With Captain Norton's approval I purchased the Navy Food Preparation Manuals, including recipes, preparation techniques and secrets from some of the best chefs in the U.S. Even at that time (1957) these manuals cost nearly $500, which we paid from Ship's Stores profits. I convinced the cooks to cooperate, except for the CPO, whom I told to stay in the Chief's Quarters and leave the cooks alone to do the work. It was only a short time before our entire Division had heard about our Sunday brunches that lasted from 0500 to 1230 hours, with all hands welcome to eat all they wanted of the
food we prepared, including, for instance, blueberry pancakes, waffles, eggs to order along with steaks to order, rare, medium or well done. All of this was done within the limits of the ship's rations and brought great credit and admiration of all the crews of the other three destroyers. Our meals were as good or better than the wardroom's. I ate in the General Mess two to three times a week.

I tell this story because in a way it changed my life. I realized that a person can accomplish spectacular successes if he can introduce the plan and convince those who would be required to implement it to join in willingly, as ours did. It was a real eye-opener and
confidence builder for me.

Several years later, I left the Navy as a Lieutenant and, after getting my Master's Degree, went to work for a large corporation that manufactured turbine engines, both as auxiliary power units and propulsion engines. I advanced in my position of Contracts Negotiator to become the International Business Manager of our entire Turboprop line. I knew what to do, how to do it and how to get my people to
research their responsibilities, take responsibility and we all had a great time and were rewarded financially and personally.

I trace what success I had to what I learned could be done aboard Gurke. I found out that crews can be content to work their buns off if they realize their efforts are appreciated and if they are taken care of when personal problems arose. These lessons carried me over.

And I owe a great deal of my happiness and satisfaction with my civilian job to a Commissary Officer on the Badoeng Strait, who later won all kinds of honors for his work on other bases and ships, inspiring, I am sure, others like me to learn what could be done if they worked and applied the lessons they had learned.

I loved the Gurke. It was genuine U.S. Navy. The officers and men responded to all emergencies and changes to schedules which might affect their leave plans, willingly, with good, rough humor and an almost undefinable comradery.

I would like to think that things like the hot meals for the mid-watch and first-watch as well as other pluses, helped make the Gurke a happy ship and me to do better with my mixed talents and shortcomings.

These are examples that made Gurke change some things in my life for the better.


H. Clark Wright


Elmer G. Slaughter 1963 - 1966

I joined the Navy on February 19, 1963 and left New York for Great Lakes Naval Training Center (I had asked for San Diego). After boot camp, I was sent to Radarman School, also at Great Lakes.

After graduation I was assigned to the USS Gurke in dry dock in Bremerton Washington. I was late in reporting aboard because my plane was delayed because of bad weather in New York, and the last ferry had already departed, also, nobody had ever told me to report to the Shore Patrol in situations like this. When I finally did get to the ship I was met by a chief Bosuns Mate that made me feel as if I had committed murder in the first.

Ever since I got my orders, I had been dreaming about the ship that I was going to call home, of course the closest I had ever come to a Destroyer was on a TV or Movie screen, so I was disappointed when I was taken to a barracks instead of a ship and the next morning was just as bad when I first saw the Gurke for the first time, and then the big shock, me a graduate of Radarman School was asked to chip paint, I was looking forward to working with the gear and showing off my knowledge of Electronics, not to happen for awhile.

Now I've always had a bad temper, and because of it I was in a lot of fights in High School, now I've got people yelling at me, asking me to get stupid things and having a good old time while I'm running around trying to find things that don't exist, some idiot thought it would be funny to lock me in
a crawl space that I was never able to find again, and to top it off my uniforms were always filthy, I'm hot, and I'm tired, so one day riding back to the barracks with some other guys in OI Division I was sitting in the back of the car and my foot got caught under the front seat, it was a two door, and
this RD3 sitting in front thought it was funny and started bouncing against the seat back, well I lost it big time, I told this RD3 what was going to happen to him once we got out of that car, I don't remember exactly what I said but I've been told I have a filthy mouth when angry, I do know that I called the legitimacy of his birth into question.

Have you ever heard the saying God looks out for fools, well it's true, another RD3 took me aside and had a quiet talk with me, and never raising his voice, showed me the error of my ways. From that day on I started taking things in the spirit they were meant and stopped looking for the hidden meaning in everything, needless to say I started to enjoy the work, the ship and it's crew and when I left I left as a RD2 on my way the Radarman school where I got interested in computer. Upon leaving the Navy I went to School and studied Computer Languages and became a Computer Programmer, that was 1971, I still program Computers but the title has changed, I now a Software Engineer, and to this day, I still
incorporate the lessons learned aboard the Gurke in both my personal and professional life.

E. G. Slaughter
EGSoftware Zone


Paul McGee MM2/C 1958

I reported aboard the Gurke DD-783 on 26 May,1958 in San Diego, cal. upon
being transferred from the Fechteler DDR-870 out of Long Beach, Cal. because I didn't have sufficient time left on my enlistment to complete the forth coming Wes Pac Tour on the 870. I had a 48 hour time frame to travel from Long Beach to San Diego which I made via Tijuana, consequently when I did arrive aboard the 783 swinging on a buoy in San Diego harbor I had a monumental hangover. Shortly after arriving on board it was deemed necessary to shift to a berth along side a dock.
I was assigned to the forward engine room being a MM2/c and learned I was leading P.O. in that engine room as the CPO and 1st. class that were suppose to be there were both on leave or in school. Lighting off the main plant was a normal routine too me but made difficult by the fact that much was wrong with the plant ie. gauges didn't work, steam leaked out of valve stems and packing glands. When the chief engineer came down to the engine room to man the sea detail to shift berths he asked me what I thought of the ship and the engine room in particular. In my hangover state of mind I sounded off about the deplorable condition of the machinery, where upon he asked me if I wanted a sympathy chit ! I told him if I thought that would do any good I'd give him a hundred of them and turned and walked away from him. I expected repercussions right away for my disrespect but none were forthcoming. That is until the next day the 1MC called for McGee MM 2cd. to lay to the chief engineers state room. I humbly knocked
on his state room door with my white hat in hand fully expecting a royal reaming. Instead he informed me that he had been allocated $5,000.oo dollars for the engineering department and to order all the necessary equipment to make the repairs to the system that needed doing. Also any paint or other parts that were needed to get the place working and looking like a ship should. WOW! was I surprised and pleased at that news and immediately set to work to get everything done for the forth coming cruise to South America in a little over a month. The admirals inspection before departure on the cruise was particularly a proud moment for me when the admiral told the chief that the bilges in the engine room were the cleanest he had seen in all his time in the Navy and the chief told him he had the best 2cd. class working for him in all his time in the Navy.
Paul McGee ex MM2/C