USS Great Sitkin (AE-17)
Winter 2008                                                                                                                                                             1 November, 2008

Association Officers

Ron Zimmerman Sr.
474 SW Prater Ave.
Port St. Lucie, FL  34953
(772) 621-4016

Vice President
Jim Dunno
272 Stone Hedge Row
Johnstown,  OH  43031

Jack Norton
2386 SE Patio Circle
Port St. Lucie, FL 34952

George Kaiser
311 W. Oak Lane
Glenolden, PA 19036




From Our President:  Here it is again, already November, another wonderful reunion is in the books and it is the start of a new year for the Association.  Jim and Joy did a fantastic job with coordinating everything and making sure the reunion ran smoothly.  Well done to them both!
    This edition is the start our new format and also the beginning of reducing the mailing to just those that have been Active Members of the  Association.    We are hoping those that are still receiving this will also help out the staff and submit articles for the newsletter.  All articles will be considered -
2 MAIN Rules…  Keep it clean and NO politics! 

New Finds:
 Gary Underwood, SN, ‘69;  Jerry Thornton, BM3, ‘66 and Robert Riehle, FN, 71.  Welcome back aboard shipmates. 

Web Site: Not a lot new this time.  A couple of pictures of shipmates and the information for the 2009 Reunion is posted.  I also have a couple of projects that I am working on.  One is the pictures from our Cincinnati Reunion and the other is going through a couple hundred slides of cruises provided by John Whitford from his time aboard.  Slides take a lot longer to get ready, but from what I’ve seen in the little hand held slide viewer - WOW!!  What a treasure trove he has to share with us.  I am still looking for names to put to some of the faces so if you recognize anyone, let me know.
     Ron Zimmerman

A word from the Vice-President:    Well here it is time for the 4th newsletter of the year. I have been putting this off until the middle of October but knowing the deadline to get it in the mail is getting close I sat down at the computer to get it done.
    Membership has been coming along with 179 dues paying members so far this year. We had a lot of you pay your dues at the reunion, which was great! But, and it’s a pretty good size But, you all may want to look at the date on your card. A lot of you who are paying at the reunion will notice that your card was dated 2008 which only has 2 ½ more months to go. What I’m trying to spit out is that if you Gentlemen can find a spare $20, send it in and help get 2009 started off on a good pace. There, that’s my quarterly dues talk.
    I’m still in the process of mailing out your pins for continuous years of paying Dues. I have mailed out 24 and have about that many more to go, so you who are due one will be receiving it in the next few weeks. Anybody who hasn’t received one please let me know and I will check the records to send it to you or let you know you forgot to pay for a year or two.

Post Reunion Update Joy and I would like to thank all of you who attended this year’s reunion!  From the mail I have been receiving it seems everybody had a good time. I know Saturday night the whole Inn had a good time because they were all in dancing with us, the other reason is that everybody who usually goes to bed early were still  listening to the band at 10:30!  I think if Joe Theisen had his accordion he would have been playing along with the boys at the Hofbrauhaus.  I am waiting for word from the photography company so I can send the pictures to them to complete the memory book. While speaking of pictures I would like to give a SPECIAL THANKS to Dorothy Hodnichak for taking all those wonderful pictures. That about does it for me, see you next quarter and everybody get ready for Boston!
   Jim Dunno
    Vice-President &  Membership Chairman

Secretary’s Report: Hello Shipmates!
    Well, after all of my plans of being with you at the Cincinnati Reunion, it ended up with my not being able to go, because of my being in New York for required surgery.  We had expected to be back home in Florida in September, but we are still in New York because of a couple of setbacks.  It reminds me of a story that I heard long ago, "Do you want to give the Lord a good laugh?  Tell HIM your plans for tomorrow.
    I would like to thank all the members, who voted at the reunion, for their continued confidence in the current slate of officers.  We have heard from a lot of the attendees that it was a great reunion.  Thanks Jim and Joy, and we are sorry and disappointed that we could not be there.
    Boston, for our next reunion, is really progressing well.  It will be September 9 - 13, which is a few days after the Labor Day holiday.  Our hotel, the Sheraton in Braintree, is located a few miles from Boston and with the excellent rate of $99. per night it should be a great opportunity for all of our shipmates to visit the Boston area. 
    While I am recuperating, Ron has been taking care of things for me - Thanks Ron.
Jack Norton

Repair 3:  Sea story, definition from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia...
    A sea story is a work of fiction set largely at sea. The enclosed setting of life aboard a ship allows an author to portray a social world in miniature, with characters cut off from the outside world and forced to interact in cramped and stressful conditions. Themes can include differences between seamen and officers, bullying behavior, humor or levity, struggles against treacherous weather and sea conditions, piracy, shipwrecks, mutiny, naval activity and battles, adventures set on all manner of watercraft, explorations, etc.
    As we set off on this edition of the Great Sitkin newsletter, my thoughts are again drawn to a good sea story. But, while this one involves shipmates from the Great Sitkin, it isn’t from the years she sailed the 3 seas. So, I did a search on Wikipedia, and I’m thinking my story fits the quals, so here it is.
    About a month ago, the crew of the Great Sitkin were assembled for our reunion in Cincinnati. One of the trips we took was to the USAF museum in Dayton, Ohio. Part of our visit included the memorial service where we remember those shipmates who have departed their earthly voyage during the past year. A new addition this year was a real bugle we were going to use to play “Taps” at the appropriate time. The catch was that the instrument had an electronic device that fit inside the bell, and would play a recorded Taps when a button was pushed, the bugler would then hold the instrument up and appear to be playing, providing a nice touch to the memorial service. I was the bugler this year. Now, those that were there by now are chuckling at the memory of what took place when I was preparing to play. It will be one of the “sea” stories that will be passed along during many future reunions. For those that weren’t at this reunion, you don’t know what you are missing my friends.
    We really did have a great time this year, and I’m sure Jim will cover it all somewhere in this edition. What struck me this year as it does every year is how such a diverse assembly of guys from over 25 years of service on a auxiliary ship can get together, year after year. This year at the Saturday evening dinner dance I started what I hope will be an annual tradition, to toast the memory of the Great Sitkin, the ship we loved, hated, sailed and sweated in, and that brought us all, save 1, safely back to Americas shores.
    As I look around the repair locker, I find I still have a large stock of Great Sitkin gear for you. Along with the polo shirts, we also have a new style ball cap. It is the close fit strap back fashion of the AE17 hat, but this one has the same ships name and silhouette as the mesh back hat. It’s available in navy blue, red, and pink. Ok, why red? In today's Navy, the fire squad wears red ball caps, and seeing how I am a Damage Controlman, and this is Repair 3, dealers choice is to offer a red hat for the firefighter members of the crew! So, get your Christmas lists ready, and get your orders in. Cutoff for Christmas orders will be December 12th this year.
    That’s it from the repair locker. Everyone enjoy your holidays, and keep your calendar open for Boston in 2009!
George Kaiser

The Chaplain’s Corner:  I have been asked by Ron to write a little something for our News Letters and keep all updated on our “Honor Roll List”. I think I shall call it “The Chaplain’s Corner”, for the sake of a better name and will be a regular feature of the newsletter.
    We certainly had a great reunion this year and many thanks to Jim and Joy for their hard work. It’s great to have folks in our association that are so gifted to bring all theses things together.
    As I set and ponder events that are affecting us, our 401Ks, savings,  and retirement accounts,  I’m reminded of what Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:28 (KJV) :  
 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”   It’s hard sometimes to keep in mind that God is still in control of all things, but he is. Let us keep our hearts focused in these dark days and our faith in Him who still has the reigns in his hands and be ever so thankful. We still live in the greatest nation upon the earth.
    We have lost a few more of our shipmates recently. Ron has received word that Doug Wales, DK2, “62 of Acapulco, Mexico who was with us this year and last, has passed away suddenly. Reports aren’t real clear yet but word is that he was robbed and murdered. How tragic this is.  We need to keep his family, and those of the other shipmates, in our prayers.
     Starting in this issue of the mailed out version of the newsletter, if we have them, we will be adding pictures of those shipmates who have passed. 
    Also starting with this issue we will be including the names of the spouses of our Shipmates that have passed to the Newsletter. They are apart of us and we need to Honor them also.

Honor Roll Update: Elmer Pariseau, SK3, '51;  Joseph Bozick, S1c, '45; Douglas Wales, DK2, '62  and Ronald Grams, GMG3

Spouses:  Gloria Reynolds, spouse of  B.J. Reynolds, LCDR,  XO ‘71—’72

      Mark Rucker

Sea Story, November, 1961:  I’d reported aboard the USS Great Sitkin (AE-17) in April 1961, shortly after the ship had completed an overhaul at the Monte Marine Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York. (Don’t bother checking the yellow pages for a phone number, the company went belly up in 1961.) During our shipyard availability period, ALL of the ship’s electric motors had been overhauled, and various valves in the ship’s fire main system had also been removed and repaired/replaced.
    Now deployed to the Med, we were allowed for once, to join the more “glamorous” warships of the US Sixth Fleet in a port visit; among them, the Sixth Fleet Flagship USS Newport News, (CA-148). As was typical for ammunition ships  we always had to anchor out, but in Genoa, so did all the other US warships.
    At the forward end of Sitkin’s CIC was the navigator’s chart table. Before entering port, I’d made a routine tour of CIC to ensure the AN/SPS-10 surface search radar and its associated AN/SPA-4A radar repeater (PPI scope) were operating correctly. Assuring myself that they were, I passed the chart table, and noticed that the posted chart of Genoa’s harbor had a number of circles drawn on it. A Quartermaster told me that each ship in company was assigned one of those circles, and that a radius line from the circle’s center represented the length of the respective ship’s “swing” around its “hook.” The presumption was that each ship would drop its hook dead center in its assigned swing circle.
    Through some glitch, we dropped the hook a bit off-timing, thereby missing the center of our swing circle by several yards. Since all ships in company had dropped their hooks simultaneously (such precision), and all were therefore pointed in the same direction... things looking fine.  Of course, the tide’s flow eventually changed, and each ship rotated around its hook to correspond to that change in tidal direction. Someone noticed that if we continued our swing, our stern was destined to impact the Flagship’s mid-section in the vicinity just aft of their port side’s twin five-inch mount.  Apparently, someone on the flagship noticed that too, and sent us a “blinker” message to hoist anchor, get underway, and correct our positioning. Being anchored out, we of course had a boiler lit off and steam available to get underway....the problem we soon discovered, was in hoisting the anchor. The anchor windlass motor, so recently overhauled by that now out-of-business shipyard, fried itself immediately after it was lit off to perform the task for which it had been designed. We were stuck and still swinging our fantail toward its destiny.  I don’t know how it was explained to the good folks aboard the cruiser, but I watched as they set sea and anchor detail, hoisted their anchor, and relocated to another anchoring berth well out of our way. I remember thinking, “Wow! That cruiser might have had us out-gunned, but we sure out-maneuvered her!”
    Our anchor was later raised through the ingenious expedient of lowering the forward cargo booms to deck level, tying off the hoist cables to the anchor chain, and then lifting the booms back towards the vertical.  As the anchor chain came aboard through this method, it would be “stopped off,” and then the process  repeated. I can’t say for sure that the hoist motors were actually powerful enough to obtain “anchor’s aweigh,” but they probably were strong enough to remove all the slack from the chain. Once the ship got underway, it was able to “pop” the anchor free from the bottom and ready for hauling aboard as before using the hoist and booms.
    After leaving Genoa, the Newport News came alongside for re-arming. Our ship, the hull of which had been fully painted in the shipyard not eight months before, evidently looked pretty shabby to the three-star aboard the cruiser. As punishment for the shame our appearance was now bringing him, compounded by the dishonorable anchoring we’d sprung on him in Genoa, he “exiled” us to the western side of Sardinia, outside of normal shipping lanes, where we could “heave-to” and paint ship. In actuality, it proved futile since we didn’t have sufficient fresh water to “prep” the hull’s surface before applying the fresh coat of haze gray, and the first sea that we encountered thereafter, just sloughed off all that fresh paint.
    I started this article by mentioning that all of the Sitkin’s electric motors had been overhauled. Not surprisingly, every one of those “overhauled” motors got fried before we returned to the States. And those fire main valves? Yep, you guessed it. A Damage Controlman told me that either through incompetence or as a way for the shipyard to cut corners during our overhaul, “fresh water” valves had been installed in place of the correct sea water valves; consequently, every one of those replaced valves eroded, leaked, and had to be replaced.
Tony Fernandez,  ETR2, ‘61

last updated on 11/01/08