Date: Mon, 7 Jun 2004 10:00:31 -0700 (PDT)
To: Tom Cheatum

I caught up with the USS Gurke in Yokasuka,Japan, having arrived there aboard a liberty ship from San Francisco where I had attended a radar school on Treasure Island.
I reported aboard the ship in the middle of December and soon left to hit several ports in China. After leaving Hong Kong we headed north in the China Sea for Tsingtao, China. This I believe was the ship's first experience with sub-freezing temperatures. The ship looked like a ghost ship, with ice cycles hanging from ever thing on the super structure, railings and gun mounts. It was also dangerous to be topside without hooking to the life line. I know, for we had to go topside and exercise the 5 inch gun mounts to keep them from freezing up while the ship was rolling and pitching in the rough China Sea.
While tied up to the docks in Tsingtao, the harbor froze and we could not leave. Finally, an ice cutter ship came in and opened the harbor so we and other ships could leave. The ship then headed toward South Korea for a short visit and then head stateside to warmer weather.
Arriving in San Francisco, the ships paint was gone from the rough icy weather and needed a new paint. While in San Francisco the deck crew did a quick and excellent paint job. I must say the China visit was the coldest this Florida boy has ever experienced.
After painting and cleaning the ship, we took on reservist for a training cruise to Wrangle, Alaska to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stakeen Gold Rush. Another first for the ship was cruising to Wrangle through the inter-coastal waterway that the steamship lines use for transporting passengers from city to city. we had to have a pilot aboard and only travel in the daytime. I could see why for at times you could reach out just about touch the banks in the narrow passages.
At Wrangle we had to anchor in the harbor the first night, since they had only one dock and was expecting a steamship the following morning. When we tied up the dock was so small the bow and stern lines on the dock were just forward and just aft of midship. When the tide went out the ship would rest on the bottom and stretch the lines to the point that I thought the ship was going to pull the dock down. Ii was a nice venture and was welcomed by the Wrangle population.
On our return, we travel outside and stopped in on Everett, Washington for open ship and then on to Bremerton, Washington for overhaul and refurbishing in dry-docks.
These are some of my experiences and believe the firsts for the USS Gurke while on board. When the ship reached San Diego, I was transfered.

B. W. Clements, Jr.