Memories from Robert C. Peniston
Captain, United States Navy (Retired)
"Pound for pound SAVAGE was the best ship of four that I commanded. The others were TATTNALL (DDG-19); NEW JERSEY (BB-62); and ALBANY (CG-10).
I will tell you that SAVAGE was a CLEAN ship and operated as well as being clean. I recall RADM R. T. S. Keith, COMCRUDESPAC came aboard in early 1961 to conduct a short inspection. He saw Steering Aft and the Wardroom and said he knew if those places were clean so was the entire ship. I asked him if he would like to look in one of the engine rooms. He said he had to call on CINCPACFLT and did not want to chance soiling his tropical white long uniform. I told him he would not. Whereupon he said OK but if he got dirty it was on my head. He DID NOT and was ecstatic.
I also recall the ship's Bos'n putting rat guards between SAVAGE and another DER. The CO was hopping mad and went to the Commodore to complain. The Commodore told him that when his ship was clean as SAVAGE he would listen to him. Until then, aloha!
I took command of the ship on 10 DEC 1959 and sailed the next day for the barrier. We made it to our station on time even though we hit a big storm and were on the barrier for Christmas. A couple of things here. The sea was unusually calm so we shut down the engines and drifted, but rolling a bit. The cooks were baking pies for Christmas dinner and the rolling of the ship caused them to spill in the oven so the request came to get a bit of headway on to keep the ship on as even a keel as possible until the pies set. Glad to oblige. The ship got a good Christmas present when one of the boilers that made fresh water was acting up. The watch stander was new at the job and ran off looking for the senior BT. Luckily the problem was caught in time so we had a good boiler rather than one that was melted down. The other thing I recall is that we could call home on Christmas on the Single Side Band radio to our families in Pearl Harbor. This was a huge morale boost aboard the ship and in the homes ashore.
After we returned from the patrol I was fortunate to be asked to plant the 75th tree along Nimitz Highway honoring Fleet Admiral Nimitz on his 75th birthday. The tree was planted near the main gate of Hickham Field with the band playing "Trees" as a signal to turn over the first shovel of dirt. I had been the admiral's aide in 1957 thus was accorded the honor of planting the 75th tree. This event occurred in mid-February 1960.
On 27 April 1960, Commodore Jack Lowentrout inspected SAVAGE and wrote this report: 'SAVAGE outstanding and without doubt spaces inspected are the finest observed in any DER. It is obvious that the crew takes great pride in individual work and the ship enjoys living in an atmosphere of cleanliness. The heads in particular are far superior to any observed in destroyer types.'
On the first Sunday in June 1960, the ship set sail for a station 200 miles west of Wake Island. The reason was that President Eisenhower was flying across the Pacific for a state visit in Japan so there had to be a line of ships from the west coast to our station. I know I left Pearl Harbor with a troubled mind because my 7 year old son was to go to the U. S. Naval Hospital, Bethesda, MD for a heart catheterization. My wife and daughter were to accompany him in a military ambulance aircraft.
Sail we did and arrived on station a few days ahead of time. The weather was good so we could do a great deal of topside preservation. And the smooth seas beat those of the barrier several fold. President Ike flew over the ship at 35,000 feet and we exchanged calls when Air Force One checked in with us. I personally gave the response - "This is Lake Charles (Savage's call) on station. Aloha!" From Air Force One - "Aloha, Lake Charles." We picked up the aircraft at 225 miles and could see it as it flew overhead. Once gone, we resumed our leisurely activity.
My wife and family arrived in Bethesda on 18 June with the catheterization done on the 25th. What a relief it was to get a message saying that no surgery would be required!
Then with my mind at ease we headed for a new station because Ike's itinerary had to be changed because of riots in Japan. And we had to do it at a higher speed to get there on time. This meant using more fuel thus permission was granted to go into Midway Island to refuel if necessary. It was not. We arrived in Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning, 27 June with 2% fuel remaining. This gave the powers that be in Pearl some concern because they thought in terms of black oil consumption. SAVAGE could run another day at 15 knots on that amount. No sweat!
On arrival Pearl, we were informed that we had the ready duty so top off with fuel and be ready on short notice in case alled. I am glad to report that my family arrived in Pearl on the 29th safe and sound. This ends the story about the picket duty for President Ike.
SAVAGE was blessed with many outstanding sailors. I should like to mention a very few here. One was Chief Engineman Shupzinski who was a magician when it came to running the engineering plant. He had an engineman by the name of Brown who performed engine repairs in white trousers and skivvy shirt. And was clean at the end.Chief Radarman Oral N. Sallee could fix anything thus the ship had a very high up time figure for the electronic equipment. I recall when we were tracking SUCHAN in April 1960 some special equipment that the security group brought aboard went down. I asked Sallee if he could have a go at it and he eagerly volunteered. The O-in-C of the security group was reluctant for him to work on the equipment. I told him he could have Sallee try or let the piece stay down. Sallee fixed it. Chief Hospitalman Sjogren was tops in the medical department - he was the department. Several times he pulled men through without having to put in to Adak or Midway. Quartermaster first class St. Denis did most of the navigating even though an officer was assigned. One last name I should mention is that of Machinist Mate Kenney who kept the boilers working all the time save for maintenance. A bear of a man, his private life was not the best but I was only too willing to help him with the base authorities on several occasions. I am sure I have left some out but these men were typical of the SAVAGE crew. As I have said before, SAVAGE pound for pound was the best ship I commanded, and I commanded a guided missile destroyer TATTNALL, the Battleship NEW JERSEY, and the guide missile cruiser ALBANY.
I was relieved of command on 17 June 1961, 18 years after being sworn in as a Midshipman, U. S. Navy at the U. S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD.
I retired 30 JUN 1976 and have lived in Lexington, VA ever since. My wife died 30 AUG 00 and my son took departure earlier on 8 APR 1975 when a senior at Washington and Lee University. I worked for W & L 22 years before retiring in 1998." [added March 2005]
"What I have here is another story about inspections. This one occurred on 08 June, 1961 at Pearl Harbor and was conducted by Captain Bernard A. Smith, Commander Destroyer Flotilla FIVE. We knew he was a stickler for grounding of electrical connections so we were ready. Our electricians were top notch. Captain Smith's report on the inspection follows:
'I inspected SAVAGE this date in company with COMCORTRON FIVE. It has seldom been my privilege to inspect such a fine ship. Every single space is spotless, properly maintained. The highest standards prevail throughout. The engineering spaces were uniformly outstanding. The ship's outstanding appearance is matched by her performance. I did uncover a few electrical discrepancies, namely a coffee pot with a "snapper" type ground wire, improperly grounded sewing machine, calculator, and two or three two-wire connections with the ground wire removed. The television set has been disconnected for proper grounding.
Officers and men were smart and spaces properly presented. The is no doubt that LCDR Peniston is outstanding in administration and leadership, and an extremely capable commanding officer.' [signed,Captain Bernard A. Smith]
I should mention that was had a 2nd class gunner's mate by the name of Allen who was really sharp. So much so that I made him the Master at Arms. He was always praised by senior officers as one of the sharpest sailors they had ever seen. I wish I could remember his full name. He did great credit to SAVAGE and the Navy." [added April 2005]
[Captain Robert C. Peniston is a former United States Navy officer. He graduated with the Class of 1947 from the U.S. Naval Academy.
Among other assignments, he served as navigator of the presidential yacht Williamsburg in 1952.
On 27 AUG 1969, he took command of the USS NEW JERSEY. Assuming command of a ship already earmarked for the "mothball fleet," Captain Peniston and his crew prepared for their melancholy task. NEW JERSEY got underway on her last voyage on 06 SEPT 1969, departing Long Beach for Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. She arrived on 08 SEPT 1969, and began pre-inactivation overhaul to ready herself for decommissioning. On 17 DEC 1969 NEW JERSEY'S colors were hauled down and she entered the inactive fleet, still echoing the words of her last commanding officer: "Rest well, yet sleep lightly; and hear the call, if again sounded, to provide fire power for freedom. She will hear the call, and thanks to her magnificent crew, she is ready."
The USS ALBANY (a guided missile cruiser) was re-commissioned in Boston on 09 NOV 1968, after a lengthy conversion period. Captain Allan P. Slaff was the commissioning CO. Captain Robert C. Peniston relieved him on 20 FEB 1970. He commanded her for eighteen months (thirteen of those months were spent in the Mediterranean), being relieved of command on 20 AUG 1971.
SIGNIFICANT AWARDS: Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal]