LEE ROY BURNETT
1877 Eighteenth Av
Olivehurst, CA 95961
May 14, 1999
Dear Shipmate Paul Henriott,
I received your postcard today and was pleased to hear from you about the fiftieth Decommissioning Anniversary of USS Oakland CL-95 in Alameda, California.
I shall always treasure the duty 50 years ago aboard the Oakland. We worked so hard, though I thought it was a terrible shame, to put such a well laid-out classy ship out of commission. I recall that preparing the ship for moth balls was very dangerous work and that the ship lost one man during those final days while another received serious burns from the same mishap. The danger was driven home when my friend on the cruiser being mothballed at the adjoining pier told me they had also suffered one casualty as well.
The work progressed to the point where we could no longer live on board and were berthed in barracks ashore in the shipyard, reporting to the ship for our work assignments and to the mess hall ashore for meals.
Being the senior Interior Communication Electrician on board, (IC2), I had charge of the IC gang and all of the intercomms, public address systems, automatic dial phone system, sound powered phones, alarm & warning systems, wind direction & intensity system, rudder angle and shaft revolution systems, the dead reckoning tracer, Engine order telegraph system, Action Cut-Out switchboards, Sound Motion Picture systems (Movies), and most important of all for a cruiser, the two Master Gyrocompasses. One gyrocompass was mounted in the center of the IC Room, our principle place of work for the IC gang, and the other gyrocompass was mounted in the center of the After Gyrocompass Room at the other end of the ship.
Each gyrocompass had its own switchboard and there was a provision whereby either of the two gyro systems could be tied to the other switchboard in case of loss of one system. Underway, IC Electricians stood wat 'ch in the IC Room on the Forward Master Gyrocompass and all IC-circuits that were monitored from there. The gyrocompass indications were not only fed to the bridge for navigation purposes but were fed to the fire control computers for accurate firing of the big guns.
My position aboard the Oakland was unique. I could truthfully say that I was the only enlisted man on board that had his own stateroom. Down in the After Gyro Room, there was a nice built-in bunk aft of the switchboard where I was berthed. A locker (extra large) was beside the bunk and there was a dial telephone within reach of the bunk as well as an extra special flourescent bunklight so I could read in bed if I chose to do so. If any emergency occured anywhere in the vital IC Systems aboard ship, I could be reached at once by phone and get promptly to work on it. The ship's very existence could easily depend on how fast vital circuits were repaired.
I had to move ashore with the rest of the crew when it became too hazardous to live on board. I didn't mind, however, because we had little to do for night duties anymore and the base theater and ship's service fountains were handy.
On the final day, Officers and Crew assembled on the pier beside the ship in sharp military formation as the orders for decommissioning were read. My last official duty was to go back on board and open up all of the circuit breakers to cut off shore power and deaden the ship so it could be towed out to join the mothball fleet.
I always felt bad that I had been the one selected to be the last man aboard. I felt like a heel, dealing the final death blow to a great lady by cutting off all of the power that had made her alive and well. I came back to the formation, taking one last look at the magnificent vessel still resting beside the pier, proud and beautiful from stem to stern.
As we were falling out to return to our barracks to prepare for liberty call, I recalled the many times I had been called upon to leap out of my bunk in the middle of the night to protect the ship from hazzards whenever an emergency arose. A tear welled up in one eye when I thought of those wonderful cruises on the Oakland in the Far East in China, visiting Shanghai, Tsingtao, and Hong Kong, as well as those great liberty ports in Japan at Yokosuka, Sasebo, Kobe, and Tokyo. I - wanted to go back on board and revive her, to undo what I had just done when I had snuffed out all the life in her, and set sail again to those far away places.
Yes, I would very much like to attend the fiftieth Anniversary of that day. I will come alone, but I will need directions after I reach Alameda as I've never been to the place you describe.
I have lost touch with all of my shipmates on the Oakland, but I plan on making the supreme effort to attend the next reunion, wherever it may be.
Hope to see you on July 3 in Alameda.
LEE BURNETT, CWO USN (Ret)
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