A Naval Academy graduate (class of 1938), another Naval Academy graduate (class of 1954) and a submarine
"Blazin" Ben Pickett-Rear Admiral (Retired)
It Is Better To Be Lucky Than Rich (Rear Admiral E. M. Rosenberg was a member of the Class of 1938)
A Naval Academy graduate (class of 1938), another Naval Academy graduate (class of 1954) and a submarine
Shortly after World War II, CMDR John F. Bauer, took command of a submarine called the USS Clamagore (SS 343). In 1947, a sailor named Don Ulmer joined the Navy after high school and soon reported to duty aboard that submarine. A couple years later, Cmdr. Bauer, a very bright individual, saw great potential in that sailor. One day, he pulled Don Ulmer aside and told him that he thought the young sailor was "too bright" to spend his career in the Navy as an enlisted man and suggested that he become an officer. "Furthermore," Cmdr. Bauer said, "we need your bunk!" Cmdr. Bauer then wrote a referral for Don Ulmer to attend the Naval Academy. In 1950, Don Ulmer entered the Naval Academy and graduated in 1954. What is incredible is that in 1967, Lt. Cmdr. Don Ulmer returned to take COMMAND of the USS Clamagore! This time he had traded that bunk under that torpedo loading for the captain's bunk!
Don Ulmer obtained the rank of captain and served thirty-two years in the Navy.
Captain Don Ulmer lectures one to two times a month in the Flight Museum in Redmond, Washington about his amazing Clamagore tale. In addition, he tells his standing-room-only audience about another amazing tale. During WWII Cmdr. Bauer rescued the 8 surviving crew members of a downed B-29 bomber off the coast of japan. The crew had drifted 4 hours in their tiny lift rafts waiting for a submarine to emerge. Being so close to the coast of Japan, the airmen did not know if that sub would be Japanese or American. The submarine that did finally emerge was the USS Springer, an American sub! After the 7 airmen had come aboard, Cmdr. Bauer was informed that there was still one more airman (the top gunner, Bob Thomas) who was in the water about a mile away and who may be still alive. His location was only 10 miles off the coast of Japan and the ocean there was too shallow for a submarine to dive. Cmdr. Bauer risked the lives of 80+ men to look for Bob Thomas. A sailor, Goober Blankenship, finally spotted Bob. The biggest sailor on the submarine (Bill Katt) jumped from the deck and swam out to pull the almost dead (but very grateful) Bob Thomas to the safety of the USS Springer. The entire rescue was filmed too, in color!
Capt. Ulmer has written eleven novels about submarines. His latest novel, “Shared Glory”, was dedicated to Cmdr. Bauer and tells the story about the B-29 rescue, plus the reunion that occurred 50 years later between the crew of the Dina Might and two crew members of the USS Springer, Cmdr Bauer and Bill Katt ( the sailor who “fished Bob Thomas from the drink”.
The website containing a brief bio of Capt. Don Ulmer and listings of his eleven novels is:
"Blazin" Ben Pickett—Rear Admiral (Retired)
By Leo C. Forrest, Jr.
Today, we turn our sights back fifty years to rediscover an historic event that occurred in U. S. Naval History—the first time three anti-aircraft missiles were fired at the same time from a U. S. Navy ship. The platform for this event was USS Albany, a ship in reincarnation—the world’s first all missile, no-gun cruiser. And in the spirit of this achievement was an individual who was in command of this vessel that defined the ideals of leadership—a Navy hero who would later write his own chapter at a place now known as Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown, Virginia.
Saturday, March 30, 1963, Pier Five, Boston Naval Shipyard, Boston Harbor, Massachusetts: The guided missile cruiser, USS Albany, with three brooms still suspended at her yardarm and a logbook full of records, has returned to her homeport following two and half months of sea trails that included testing of three different missile systems. Simply stated, the Albany is equipped with the most powerful and most modern defensive armament systems in the world—the first all missiles, no-gun cruiser. And with the brooms in full-view of everyone lining the pier, they gave advance notice that the mission was a “clean sweep”—with the broom being the traditional symbol of nautical jubilation since the days of the great Dutch admirals who had sweep the English Channel of enemy sailing vessels. Capt. “Blazin’” Ben B. Pickett was the skipper of the Albany.
The Albany, designated as CG-10, or guided missile cruiser number 10, is the first of what will be a class of powerful anti-aircraft and anti-submarine cruisers. In January 1959, the ship went into the Boston Naval Shipyard where all of her guns were removed including three triple turrets which mounted nine, 8-inch guns.
When the Albany reemerged from the “Yard,” there were twin-launchers for the 65-mile, long-range, anti-aircraft, Talos missiles—one forward and one aft. A pair of double launchers for the 10-mile range, anti-aircraft Tartar missiles were mounted forward on the port and starboard sides.
For anti-submarine warfare, multi-tube Asroc missile launchers were positioned between the engine room stacks. The Asroc was used to launch anti-submarine homing torpedoes. Two triple-barreled torpedo tubes were also available for anti-submarine warfare purposes—they were mounted on either beam.
Before taking command of USS Albany, Pickett had graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1938 and would later earn a Master of Science Degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He would also graduate from the Armed Forces Staff College and the National War College. Pickett was born on July 21, 1915, and was raised in Pocahontas, Arkansas.
On December 7, 1941, Pickett was at Pearl Harbor onboard the cruiser USS St. Louis. During the Japanese attack, he witnessed all the action as the ship got underway and headed for open sea. It was while moving through the channel the cruiser fired her anti-aircraft guns and after spotting a midget submarine, pounded the bottom with depth charges. St. Louis reached the open sea where she joined in the search for the Japanese Fleet. After failing to locate the enemy strike force, the ship returned to Pearl Harbor on December 10th.
Prior to and during WWII, Pickett would also serve onboard the battleship, USS Idaho and the cruiser, USS Vincennes and take part in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands raids, the Aleutian, Central Solomon and Mariana Islands Campaigns.
Later, Pickett would command the Porter-class destroyer, USS Winslow, and the Gearing-class destroyer, USS Gyatt, and serve as executive officer onboard the heavy cruiser, USS Northhampton, before assuming command of USS Albany on November 3, 1962.
Then, on January 30, 1963, Pickett gave the order that literally launched the Navy into the modern-era of missiles. At 1448 hours, as USS Albany was steaming at 10 knots off the Virginia Capes, Pickett gave the order and looked on from the bridge of the ship as three anti-aircraft missiles were launched simultaneously—the equivalent of an old-fashioned battleship main battery broadside. The salvo was the first such launching by any ship in the world and judged a complete success.
Success. A word that would become synonymous with Capt. Pickett as he took on more career challenges.
On June 30, 1964, Capt. Pickett relieved Capt. Francis Worth Scanland, Jr. (U. S. Naval Academy Class of 1934) as commanding officer of Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown. The timing couldn’t have been better—what came next was a command that left a legacy of achievements.
In 1964, Pickett would cut the ribbon to a 1,250 foot extension to the Weapons Station’s ordnance pier. This work to the York River face of the Weapons Station included a 25-ton portal crane that was placed in-service to move ordnance materials to and from Navy ships.
Then, Pickett had five new railroad safety explosive barricades built. These enclosed bunker-like barricades allowed railroad cars that were loaded with military ordnance to be safely parked in isolated locations.
At the Weapons Station’s three ordnance production plants, Pickett supervised the conversion of these facilities to meet the requirements of a new generation of explosives that could be produced and poured into advance ordnance warheads at Yorktown.
And Pickett was always inspecting the progress being made on the new missile test and production facilities that were being constructed. From these buildings, the production lines included missiles that Pickett knew well—Talos, Tartar and Asroc.
Other areas of interest included the torpedo work being done at Shed 3, while on the other side of the Weapons Station, at Building 467, depth charges were being rebuilt. At these sites, around the clock operations were conducted by a workforce that included hundreds of workers who were well-familiar with these buildings and the Vietnam-era ordnance production years of the 1960’s.
As these projects were completed and brought on-line, Pickett would always be looking ahead. For example, at Building 28, the Navy’s Primary High Resolution XRay Facility would soon be equipped with the latest state-of-the-art m
achines. For the decades ahead and under the direction of Mr. Harry R. Jordan, Weapons Quality Engineering Center (WQEC), and XRay Facility Supervisor, Mr. Gerald Ray Hopkins, they would keep this equipment in-continuous use to spot any imperfections related to explosive loaded warheads.
The “Pickett Years!” It was indeed a time like no other at the Weapons Station.
According to Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown, Executive Officer’s Secretary, Mrs. Joyce Taylor Ashton, the leadership talents of Capt. Pickett were amazing to watch.
“Capt. Pickett was nice and friendly too. And he was really smart—you could tell he was thinking way ahead of all of us. We knew he was really smart and he made admiral, too. And he had a wife who was so beautiful that she should have been a movie star. She was a lovely person, too. When he retired they lived in Gloucester.”
Following his promotion to rear admiral, Pickett would command Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla 12 and later, Flotilla 4, Norfolk, Virginia. He closed his Naval career on assignments to the staff of the commander in-chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet, and the staff of the chief of Naval Operations.
Today, as we return from our expedition that took us back in-time to an event that launched the modern-era of missiles onboard Navy ships, we are reminded of individuals like RAdm. Pickett, who successfully navigated previously uncharted waters. And even today at Yorktown, Pickett is part of the landscape—you can still find his footprints everywhere. Yes, RAdm. Pickett was a Navy hero. Yesterday. Today. And tomorrow.
In 1972, following a distinguished 33 year Navy career, RAdm. “Blazin’” Ben B. Pickett retired to Gloucester, Virginia. He would be one of only 34 from the 438-member Naval Academy Class of 1938 to retire as a flag/general officer. In retirement, his schedule included serving on the Gloucester County Wetlands Board, The Long Bridge Ordinary Foundation, The Patrick Henry Foundation, and for twelve years was president of Ware Academy. He died on October 24, 2000. His son, Ludwell L. Pickett (U. S. Naval Academy Class of 1968) would later work at the Weapons Station. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, he was a WQEC senior engineer who was well-known for his attention to mechanical engineering details. And like his father, they were both individuals who set standards that would inspire others. “Lud” died on December 21, 2011. Both “Lud” and his father were buried at Abington Episcopal Church, Gloucester.
Leo Forrest is a mechanical engineer at Naval Weapons Station, Yorktown. During his 33 year career, his articles have appeared in Naval Aviation News, Logbook Magazine, NASA Researcher News, The Flagship and The Booster. Any questions or comments related to this article can be directed to him at Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, Navy Munitions Command, Yorktown, Virginia, 23691.
It Is Better To Be Lucky Than Rich (Rear Admiral E. M. Rosenberg was a member of the Class of 1938).
by Mackenzie J. Gregory
Having joined the Royal Australian Navy in 1936 as a thirteen year old Cadet Midshipman, the imminent threat of war found me at sea, when WW2 was declared by our then, Prime Minister, Robert Menzies on the 3rd. of September 1939.
Serving in the heavy cruiser HMAS Canberra, I was the Officer of the Watch on her bridge at the commencement of the Battle of Savo Island on the 9th. of August 1942.
We were sunk by a Japanese naval force of seven cruisers and one destroyer together with the American cruisers Quincy, Astoria, and Vincennes.
84 of my shipmates died, including my Captain, Frank Getting and our Gunnery Officer, both on the bridge, another 109 were wounded, 1,000 US sailors died that night, I was lucky to escape unharmed.
USS Canberra named.
In the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered a new heavy cruiser to be named Canberra, after my sunken ship, she was launched by Lady Alice Dixon, wife of Sir Owen Dixon, ( later the Chief Justice of the Australian High Court ) the then Australian Minister to Washington.
Christening on board USSCanberra.
On Mother's Day in May of 1967, with the USS Canberra alongside Station Pier Port Melbourne on her only visit to Australia, the ship's bell was struck from the mainmast, inverted, to be used as the font to christen my only son Raymond. Captain Edwin Rosenberg USN, and Lady Dixon were his God parents.
Seeking out the Canberra's bell in the US.
Meantime USS Canbera had been paid off, scrapped, and her bell had gone into storage as an artifact. When visiting the US in the late nineties, with the help of a retired US Naval Captain whom I had known in the war in the Pacific, we tracked down the bell in a Naval warehouse in Williamsburg Virginia.
On a visit there we viewed it, and I asked if I might acquire the bell for Australia, very coldly I was informed " Under US law, foreigners may not own our artifacts."
I had hit a brick wall!
On to 2001.
In July of 2001 I met with the then US Ambassador to Australia in our National Capital on another matter, before I left I told His Excellency my Canberra Bell story and asked if he might expedite its presentation to Australia. He promised to try, but was off to Jordan on his next appointment in but two weeks.
The Australian Embassy in Washington calls.
Late at night on the 6th. of September 2001, our telephone in Melbourne rang, it was our Embassy in Washington calling, could we catch a plane to Washington on Saturday the 8th to be Embassy guests? On Moday the 10th, at the US Navy Yard the US President, George W. Bush was presenting the Bell from USS Canberra to our Prime Minister John Howard, to commemorate the 50th. Anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS Treaty.
Yes we could, and we did.
Monday the 10th.of September 2001, the day before 9/11.
At the US Navy Yard in Washington with all the pomp and circumstance possible,
the US Navy really turned it on. A 19 gun salute for our PM, in fact the first time he had met George W. Bush. Both the President and the PM mentioned me in their speeches, and we had been told not to expect to meet the President.
As the ceremony ended the President spoke to the Admiral in charge of the Navy Yard, then strode down from the dais with John Howard hurrying to keep up. Denise said : " He is coming to meet you" and rushed off to one side with our camera to get a photo.
The President arrived, with hand outstretched say " Its a privilege to meet you SIR!"
I stammered a response, then he rushed off after Denise, taking her by the arm saying"Come on, you must be in this too." He took the camera from her, handed it to a three star General in the US Marines, wagged a finger at him and said " Take a photograph." Thus we had an historic photograph, Our Prime Minister, the US President George W. Bush, me, and my wife Denise. (we were later through the good offices of the US Ambassador to Australia have the President sign that photo )
Whilst chatting to John Howard, the next day he was off to Arlington Cemetery to visit the grave site of the one Australian buried there, and he invited Denise and I to join him, and we were pleased to accept.
Tuesday the 11th. of September 2001.
Of course the next day became a day in history, 9/11, when the Twin Towers were attacked, and Flight 77 from American Airlines crashed in to the Pentagon.
Naturally the visit with our PM was cancelled, we were stuck in Washington, as all aircraft in the US were grounded.
Luncheon on Wednesday the 12th of September.
On a luncheon given in our honour by the Admiral in charge at our Embassy on Wednesday the 12th. he told us that for our return flight to Australia, Denise and I had been booked on that fatal American Airlines Flight 77 that crashed into the Pentagon killing all its passengers, only because of John Howard's invitation to join him for the Arlingon visit had we been taken off that flight.
The Prime Minister had thus saved our lives, I was later able to say thank you to him for his action, his response " Yes the Embassy told me about that."
Once again that expression " It is better to be lucky than rich." had proven so right.
We flew out of Washington on the following Saturday, and on an American Airlines Flight, to be very thankful to finally touch down at Tullamarine,
Airport in Melbourne, and be home safely.