This is a continuation of the Mid-Watch in Verse series. A Deck Log from a US Navy vessel chronicles exacting administrative detail regarding the status of the ship, it’s location, speed, etc. However, for a four hour period at the beginning of each year, the Officer of the Deck (OOD) is allowed to be creative by writing the Mid-Watch report (0000 – 0400) in verse if they choose to do so. This series highlights examples of this tradition and the officers who posted them. I focus on WWII era deck logs. For a more thorough history of the practice check out this article from the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The USS Allen (DD-66) was a Sampson-class destroyer with a long history. Commissioned on 24 January 1917, she patrolled the coast of the US and West Indies. When the US joined WWI, Allen escorted convoys across the Atlantic to Europe protecting against the onslaught of German U-Boats. After the war, she continued East Coast patrol duty until 22 June 1922, when she was decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet. Allen was recommissioned on 23 June 1925 and served as a training vessel until being returned to the Reserve Fleet in 1928. With world tensions rising, she was recommissioned on 23 August 1940.
After a short time on the East Coast of the US, Allen sailed to the Pacific, where she remained until the end of WWII. She was moored in Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and claimed to have played a role in the downing of three Japanese aircraft. After the Pearl Harbor attack, Allen spent most of her time based in the Hawaiian Islands helping to train US submarine crews. She served as the submarines’ target during this training.
In September 1945, Allen sailed east through the Panama Canal to Philadelphia, where she was decommissioned on 15 October 1945. She was later sold for scrap. She was considered to be the longest-serving destroyer on the Naval Register when she was sold. She earned one battle star for her service.
Below is the mid-watch verse for 1 January 1943, written by Lt(jg) J. C. Tyler Jr. Click here to see the original deck log. Any spelling or grammatical errors are original to the deck log entry.
Steaming singly, we are returning to Pearl,
Making 14 knots, not bad for an old girl.
AFIRM 7 completed, on 248 true,
Steering 238 magnetic, the gyro won’t do.
Main engines in compound, standard speed 15,
Boilers 1 & 2 lighted, producing the steam.
The gyro’s O.K. now – result of calm sea,
But compare we must – 220 p.s.c.
Approaching Oahu, Makapuu to the right,
What a place for a sailor on New Year’s night!
The old year its troublesome course has run
And the ALLEN’s completed her jobs – “well done”.
But lets’ look ahead, where there’s work to do
And pledge that our ship will always come thru –
Whether it’s EASY or UNIT or an AFIRM to sea.
She’ll do it e’en better in 1943.
Average steam 240, average RPM 245
J. C. Tyler, Jr.,
Lt.(jg)., D-V(G)., U.S. Naval Reserve
Joseph Curtis Tyler Jr. was born on 11 May 1916 to parents Joseph C. Tyler Sr. and Annette Oudin Tyler in Spokane, WA. Joseph Sr was a prominent businessman and Annette was considered a socialite with a talent for acting.
I was fortunate to have located Tyler’s son, Curtis. He provided me with biographical data on his father. According to Curtis, Joseph had a life-long love of being on the water. By the time his family moved to Berkeley, California, he was honing his skills for ocean sailing. After graduating from high school, he took a train to New York City and shipped out on the MS Santa Maria running cargo between New York and Central and South America (This ship was acquired by the US Navy in 1940 and was designated USS Barnett (APA-5)). He also spent time on the MS Santa Elena. After being at sea for three years, Joseph returned to CA and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. He joined the Naval ROTC and won special awards in astronomy and celestial navigation.
In the summer of 1936, Tyler boarded the USS New York (BB-34) as a midshipman on a training cruise from California to Hawaii. While sailing to Hawaii, the crew of the old battleship engaged in navigation drills, gunnery practice, and other tasks that the nascent sailors would sorely need in just a few years after 7 December 1941.
Tyler’s son tells of an event that occurred when Joseph and his shipmates
took a guided tour of the Dole Pineapple Cannery at Iwilei. When introduced to and escorted by their guide, Dad told me many times during his lifetime, that, “It was then and there that I truly met the girl of my dreams.” That girl was Thelma Weeks a recent 17-year old graduate of Oahu College aka Punahou School.
Joseph and Thelma fell in love prompting him to desire to leave school at Berkeley and return to the Islands. His desire to do this was delayed by a 6 month visit to Europe during which his family hoped he would reconsider moving to Hawaii. Letters between Joseph and Thelma strengthened their resolve to be together and eventually, he moved to Hawaii where the two were engaged to be married. As Curtis put it,
Mom and Dad became engaged in front of the Halekulani Hotel on the sands of Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background.
On 6 August 1938, they were married in Parke Chapel at St. Andrews Cathedral in Queen Emma Square…Dadʻs parents, his grandmother and sister were all in attendance, as were Thelmaʻs family and many of her Punahou classmates and close friends.
On 15 May 1941, Tyler received his commission as an ensign in the Naval Reserve, and he was assigned a duty station at Naval Station Pearl Harbor adjacent to the Fleet Landing. With no married housing available, Tyler commuted from Manoa to Pearl in an old 1932 2-door convertible Chevrolet with a rumble seat. When new married housing construction was completed in the fall of 1941 on Halawa Drive, the Tylers were amazed to be assigned to a home just a few doors down from Captain Charles Momsen (later Admiral Momsen, the inventor of the Momsen Lung) and just down the street from Admiral Husband Kimmel, the Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet.
Curtis Tyler related the following to me regarding his father’s entry into WWII at Pearl Harbor:
Just before 0800 on Sunday, 7 December 1941, Dad and Thelma, along with their 2 house guests, her mother and brother (a Navy Seabee), awoke to the sound of planes flying, diving low overhead and in close proximity. Why is the Army Air Corps training on a Sunday AM, grumbled the groggy Seabee….. that is, until he saw the red circles under the wings; “Itʻs the Japs,” he shouted!
Everyone ran out of the house, piled into the ʻ32 Chevy convertible, and headed east. Shortly thereafter, a Zero starting strafing Halwa Drive, and Dad pulled into Capt. Momsenʻs covered, but open, garage, as bullets shattered the pavement.
Thelma and her mother were dropped off and took shelter in the cane fields to the north and below of Admiral Kimmelʻs home, Dad and his brother-in-law headed downhill and gained access thru the Makaslaspa Gate, then reported to their duty stations. As fate would have it the 22-year old boot ensign was assigned to set up the recently-completed Bloch Arena and to take command of the Fleet Landing where many of the wounded and dead casualties were off-loaded and taken to the Arena.
Tyler spent the rest of the war at sea. Over this time, he commanded three vessels: USS Peridot (PYc-18), USS Azurlite (PY-22), and USS Allen (DD-66). He was in command of the latter ship as she sailed through the Panama Canal to the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard to be sold for scrap. According to Curtis, Thelma joined Joseph in Philadelphia for a time, then headed back to Hawaii.
One of the benefits of having contact with descendants of those men who wrote mid-watch verses is the personal information that they can provide to give insight into them and their families. Curtis Tyler followed his father into the Navy and related this experience:
After graduating from Williams College in 1968, I also joined the Navy and attended OCS at Newport Naval Base in RI. On 19 Dec 1968, Dad was in the audience when I was also commissioned Ensign USNR with the very dress sword Dad had worn during WWII. In late January 1969, I reported aboard the USS Maury (AGS-16), home-ported in Pearl Harbor. Once aboard I was assigned the duties of 3rd Division Deck and Gunnery Officer.
Joseph Curtis Tyler Jr, passed away in Kealakekua, HI, 19 Dec 2004. He is buried in the Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery Kealakekua, Hawaii, USA.