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.
USS Charleston (PG-51) was an Erie-Class patrol gunboat commissioned on 8 July 1936, in Charleston, SC. According to her war history, she made only one transatlantic voyage in 1937, from New York City to Trieste, Italy. Through September 1940, Charleston patrolled around the Panama Canal area as part of the Panama Special Service Squadron. From late 1940 until hostilities with Japan commenced in 1941, she patrolled primarily in the Aleutian Islands area, participating in over 100 escort missions through 1944. Charleston engaged the enemy during the Occupation of Attu, Alaska, by bombarding Japanese shore installations with nearly 1,000, 6 inch/47 caliber shells in May 1943.
After the closing of hostilities with Japan in 1945, Charleston visited ports in Hong Kong and Shanghai before sailing back to the US for decommissioning on 10 May 1946. She was recommissioned on 25 March 1948, and served as a training vessel for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy until 1957 when she was sold to an Italian investor who hoped to make her a floating night club and hotel.
USS Charleston earned one battle star for her war service.
The first of two mid-watch poems in this post was written by Lt.(jg) Norman W. Mautner while aboard the Charleston on 1 January 1945. A copy of the original log can be found here. Duplicating the two-column form in this medium is difficult, so the poem is presented in only one column.
T’was the very first watch
Of the very new year
All through the ship
Was reigning good cheer.
With stbd. Side to
Ten fathoms below
Moored at Duch Harbor
Where the williwaws blow.
The dock was “Dutch Harbor”
The place Unalaska
In case you’ve not heard
That’s in old Alaska.
From stem until stern
“Six inch” to the shore
No. “One” had three parts
Forward breast of three more.
An after bow breast
Was made up of four
Ol “Two” was well slacked
Its parts were three more.
The forward bow spring
Needed many as five
After quarter the same
To make the ship ride.
No. “Five” going forward
Was a spring to the dock
Three parts there were run,
To a newly fixed chock
The quarter had breast
Of manila parts four
Two parts for the stern
To make all secure.
Main engines secured,
One boiler in use
To give us our showers and
The ship was all snug
On “Modified Three”
Condition Baker was set
With a Capital “B”.
The “Pasco” was here
The “Rapidan” too
The “Edward C. Daly”
And Merchants a few.
This was the first “mid”
And we bring you good cheer
Happy New Year to all
On the first of the year.
N. W. MAUTNER, Lieut. (jg), USNR
Norman William Mautner was born 2 June 1918, to William Bela Velvel Mautner and Bertha Batya Klein in Milwaukee, WI. He graduated from Washington High School in 1936 and went to Marquette University, graduating in 1940.
After graduation, Mautner worked in advertising, but with the onset of WWII, he enlisted in the US Navy in early 1942. After a short time as an enlisted sailor, he attended OCS and was commissioned as an ensign in 1943. He remained in the USNR into the 1950s, attaining the rank of Lieutenant.
After the war, Mautner started an advertising agency with friends that continues to exist, albeit with a different name after a merger. He retired in 1986. On 28 December 1952, he married Ms. Helen Goldberg (see wedding announcement here and here).
Mautner participated in Scouting throughout his life, including time as a Scoutmaster for Troop 145 of Temple Beth El in Milwaukee. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout and was awarded the Silver Beaver award in 1975, which is an award for life-long service to scouting (see mention of this in a Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle article). Continuing the theme of service, Mautner served on the board of a program at the Milwaukee Center for Independence designed to give disabled people job skills to enable them to join the workforce.
Mr Mautner died on 15 November 2003, at the age of 85. He is buried in Mound Zion Cemetery, Brookfield, Wisconsin.
I was privileged to be able to pass this deck log along to Mautner’s wife and daughter.
The second mid-watch verse in Charleston‘s deck log comes from 1946. Written by Matthew Andrew Biss; this deck log actually indicates 1945 instead of 1946.
0 to 4
The Charleston lies in HONG KONG BAY
As one year leaves this New Year’s Day.
Moored to buoy BAKER Two
With cheer and song for most her crew;
From her bow nine fathoms of chain
In water of six where others have lain.
Her engines secured one boiler in use,
All fittings are set no sound to abuse,
Save U.S. and BRITISH whose ships are nearby
Anchored and moored where they quietly lie.
Her guns are silent all fighting has ceased,
For over the world once more reigns peace.
M. A. Biss, Ensign, USNR.
Matthew Andrew Biss was born on 19 October 1925, in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, to parents John and Myrtle Biss. Little information about his early life is available online. An online obituary records that he worked for Jeannette Glass Company for an indeterminate length of time. He apparently followed in his father’s footsteps, who worked as a glassblower for the McKee Glass Company, according to a PA death certificate.
Biss joined the US Navy in 1943 and served as an enlisted man and then an officer on the USS Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869), the USS Dubuque (PG-17), and the USS Charleston (PG-51). He eventually resigned his commission at the rank of Lt(jg) after the Korean War in 1954.
According to his obituary, Biss attended both Dartmouth College and Northwestern University before graduating from St Vincent College in Pennsylvania in 1950, with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (See another yearbook photo here). He went on to work for Gulf Oil in Aliquippa, PA, and eventually rose to the position of Senior Research Chemist. It was during his time at Gulf when he met and married Ms. Jean Wood.
Biss died 12 May 2016 at the age of 90. His remains are interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.