Guest Column...Mike Whicker, LST 325 Crew Member

Cooks Joe and Ernie
Cooks Joe and Ernie
Mike Whicker, caught with the goods.
Mike Whicker, caught with the goods.

Mike Whicker just returned home to Evansville after a month long voyage where he served as a crewman on LST 325’s East Coast Voyage. Here is an account of his first “abandon ship” drill aboard the ship.

The Day I Stole the Cook's Life Jacket

On May 30th, after four days in Washington, D.C., LST 325 sailed down the Potomac River, through Chesapeake Bay, then out into the Atlantic. This was the first time in my life I had been on a ship in the ocean. Not long after reaching the open sea, Captain Jornlin ordered an “abandon ship” drill. I joined the cruise in Washington so this was my first drill.

The call came through the ship's intercom: "All hands assemble on the quarterdeck immediately for an "abandon ship" drill. Bring your life jackets."

Life Jackets?

At the time the order came through, I was in the starboard crew quarters. I looked around and grabbed the first life jacket I spied and headed to the quarterdeck.

I was assigned to the "starboard crew." Captain Jornlin assembled the starboard crewmen and everyone donned their life jacket. On the port side of the ship, boatswain Bruce Voges did the same with the other half of the crew. After the captain instructed us in the proper way to jump off the ship, he showed us how to free and inflate a portable life raft. As the captain continued, someone asked a question.

"Where's Joe?"

Heads turned, looking. Joe was the ship's cook and he was not among us. The captain checked his roster; Joe was assigned to the portside crew but was not over there. Just as the captain ordered one of us to go look for our wayward cook, Joe appeared. He was still in his kitchen apron and with no life jacket. The captain asked him about the jacket.

"I can't find it. It's not where I left it."

“What’s the number?” the captain asked. I found out each jacket had a different number so it could be matched to the crewman it was assigned to. For some reason I had slipped through the cracks and had not been issued one when I boarded in Washington.

"Four." Joe said.

"Everyone check their number," the captain ordered.

Each number was painted large and bold on the front of each jacket. All except mine.

"Whicker! You have your life jacket on backwards," the captain said.

Sure enough, I had put my jacket on backwards. And when I turned it around the number was, of course, four.

"Whicker, you don't have to steal the cook's life jacket because he burned the chicken last night!"

I'll never live this one down.