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Down the Mississippi
Chief Ray Holler remembers the Rich's journey from Bay City to New Orleans

Chief Raymond C. Holler

    We sailed from Bay City Michigan on Lake Huron to Chicago, Illinois, on Lake Michigan. From there to Joliet, Illinois, where they put pontoons on to raise the ship so it would not drag the bottom. They put ballast on one side that rolled the ship to that side then welded pontoons on, then rolled it to the other side and did the same there, raising it higher in the water.

    We could not go on our own power because of the river being not deep enough, but we did run our own generators to supply power or electricity. We lived aboard the ship except for eating. We ate aboard the river boat. The best chow I had while in the Navy. Checkered table cloth and ladies for cooks and waiters.

    Going down the river we were tied to many barges it was like a freight train. At every town we would be tied to a tree or something while they shifted barges. Then they would pick us up and on to the next town. I took the 4-8 watch every morning because it was so quite and cool. The birds would be singing, sometimes we would be tied up to a tree. How many Navy ships ever tied up to a tree? It was more like a cruise. The watch was more of a fire watch than anything except for watching the generators. Frank Ballek stood generator watches some and he can tell you the temperature can change pretty fast.

    This was my second trip down the river. I took PC 481 down about one year before. We made liberty sometimes. The one I remember best was at Vicksburg, Mississippi. I really enjoyed going over the old Civil war battle grounds. Then on to New Orleans. The mast could not be put up at Bay City because it would not go under the bridges. It was put up at New Orleans and there the ship was put in commission.

Editor's note: There are two very good pictures in the Photo Gallery of the USS Rich on the Mississippi. The photographs were supplied by Chief Holler.

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Last update: Sunday, May 16, 2010