~~Forty~~

Richard Esser

USS New Jersey – BB-62

U.S. Navy

In the fall of 1947, at the age of eighteen, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserve; I was stationed at the Naval Training Station in Lorain, Ohio.

With the Korean War starting in June of 1950, I was called to active duty in December 1950. I reported for my thirteen weeks of training at Great Lakes, Illinois. After basic, I was assigned to the battleship USS New Jersey.

On April 5, 1951, I boarded the Jersey, which was moored at Norfolk, Virginia. The following day we cruised out of the harbor, steaming our way to the Panama Canal. Making our way through the canal, we headed to Pearl Harbor then on to Yokuska, Japan, arriving in early May. We then departed Yokuska Harbor headed for Task Force 77—where we relieved the Missouri.

I was assigned to M Division, which handled the four engine rooms. Here I spent a day learning the messenger job, which involved reading the instruments every hour. However, the following day I reported to the mess deck for three months of mess cook duty, which turned out not to be such a bad job. There was a lot of free time, plus I was assigned to the 40mm AA gun on the starboard side.

It was during this time, I met another cook—Robert Osterwind. However, I never got to know him too well. On the morning of the May 21, 1951, the Jersey came under her first encounter with the North Koreans.

On this morning, Bob and I had finished securing from morning mess when several of us cooks gathered top side, aft of #3 turret. The ship was anchored in Wonson Harbor firing ground support. Suddenly, water spouts rose up on the port side from enemy fire; general quarters was sounded. I ran to the 40mm ready room on the fantail. Bob ran forward, on the port side, and started up the ladder to his battle station—he never made it. A piece of shrapnel pierced his chest below his right arm, severing his aorta. He died instantly.

The Jersey saw action in the Second World War, Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf; Robert Osterwind was her only fatality.

* * * * * *

After finishing my tour as mess cook, I returned to the #2 engine room. Here I resumed the duty of messenger.

* * * * * *

The Jersey stayed in Korea, and Japan, until November of 1951. Then she was relieved by the Wisconsin. We returned to Norfolk in early December.

I was discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1954.

* * * * * *

In 1986 I attended my first reunion of the New Jersey. As I was at the registration desk, I noticed a ships clock—with a plague—that was to be raffled off. The inscription on the plague read:

In memory of SA Robert H. Osterwind – Korea – May 21, 1951.

ETC Michael W. Gorchinski – Beirut, Lebanon – October 23, 1983. Comrades and shipmates who have since passed on.

Michael Gorchinski was a sailor from the New Jersey who was among the two-hundred and forty men that were killed during the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.

The clock, and plague, was made by the father of Michael Gorchinski; I purchased ten dollars worth of tickets. During the dinner banquet they drew the winning number—72722; it was mine.

Today, the clock is mounted on the wall above the fireplace in our living room. Every time I glance at it, Bob and May 21, 1951 flash across my mind.

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