Esther Revisited

by David Tidwell (Lt. 1953-56)

I enjoyed the poem about Esther in the December, 1996 issue (SCUTTLEBUTT), by Phil Sinfield, a shipmate of mine. Perhaps I may shed a little more light on the particular phase of ORLECK’s history.

The Executive Officer, Don Hanson, wrote an excellent ode to Esther that was permanently attached to the official Esther Log which accompanied the picture of Esther Williams along with the laminated battle copy of Esther which was surrounded by floating gear. I have a copy of the Commander’s log entry, but can’t seem to locate it.

In his log entry, the Exec gave all of us who were involved names which described our attributes or our home towns. Mike Wulf, the ASW Officer was “Mike” the Ludlowite since he hailed from Ludlow, Kentucky. I was “David the Badgerite”. My home post office was Badger, in the Sierras of California, the only town that McDonald’s was able to bring to its fast food ship in a single vehicle (on national TV, yet!)

Jack Caskey, the Chief Engineer from Houston, was :Jack the Whiskeyite” and Sam Waltmier (sp?) was “Slew-footed Sam”.

To give you a little history, the first sight of Esther was off Buckner Bay, Okinawa on a wintry day when her flag was spotted flying from the mast of a British Frigate. The Frigate accompanied our division to Okinawa. The boys from the FLOYD B. PARKS DD 884, were known to be able to handle the booze and the women pretty well, so first thing you know they conned the Brits into letting them come on board for an inspection tour and a Tot lo Rum. They filched Esther from the drunk Limeys and made their getaway in a fast motor whaleboat.

Up until that point, most of us hadn’t heard of Esther. With the PARKS moored alongside at the buoy, we had a long time to think about taking Esther. We knew we could out-man them, even though they had the Commodore’s staff plus the regular complement of officers. Was it really worth it? We were young and idealistic, so we decided to go for it. Their captain was a fine officer by the name of Commander Tallioferro.

It was customary to send a message stating our intentions. We carefully drafted a missal that stated the consequences they might encounter and advised them to have Esther on the quarterdeck. They did not comply.

We organized our forces and proceeded to board the land of the Tallioferroites. The PARKS made one serious tactical error. They divided their forces. About eight officers were on the quarterdeck, the rest were in the wardroom. (One gallant officer, Armstrong, the Gunnery Officer, persisted. I threw him overboard three or four times. The water temperature in January in Yokosuka was blow freezing, so he was really gutsy!)

Mike Wulf was about 6ft 2 inches, 240 pounds, a former heavyweight boxer and football player at Ohio State. I also was 6 ft. 2 in., but only about 225 pounds (then). As Phil Sinfield’s poem states, they had shored up the metal doors in the wardroom with 4 X 4s and had tied the knobs with rope. Some of the PARK’s officers were pushing against the door as well.

Mike and I took turns running down the passageway and hitting the door with our shoulders. The last time Mike hit it, I saw it give a little, so I really hit it hard. It went down like the ramp on an LST! All the gang ran by us into the wardroom. We looked all around until one of the guys found Esther hidden in a maze of wiring in the overhead. He quickly lateraled it to Jack Caskey, who was a track star at the Merchant Marine Academy. With the rest of us running interference ahead and behind, Jack quickly made it safely past the Parks Quarterdeck to the security of the ORLECK wardroom. We were all shouting and slapping each other on the back when someone asked, “Where’s Sam?”

We started back to the Parks when Sham showed up soaking wet and shivering. He had waited too long to get away and had been captured by the Tallioferroites. Being a pacifist, ‘ol Sam decided to avoid another incident, and perhaps torture. He had volunteered to jump overboard, unassisted.

From that point on, the fun ceased. Instead of going on shore liberty, we had to stay and defend Esther. This went on for a month or more. We began to wonder whether it was worth it.

We repelled a number of attempts by other ships to steal Esther, but almost regretting taking her in the first place because we had to stay aboard in port to defend her. Looking back, it was a lot of fun.

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