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My Remembrances of the USS Rich
Tomas W. Cook, MM 3/c




    I was sworn into the Navy in Roanoke, VA, and was sent to Bainbridge, MD, for my boot camp training. I graduated as a MM 3/c because I was a mechanist and toolmaker for DuPoint in Wilmington, DE. l was not one of the original plank holders at New Orleans but came aboard the Rich while it was in dry dock in Brooklyn, NY.

    My regular duty station was in the aft engine room and my GQ station was loader on a 20 MM aft machine gun. The first explosion on our starboard side threw magazines out of the ready boxes onto the deck. I remember packing the magazines back into the ready boxes and had placed one bolt back into the lid. Then the big one came cutting the fantail off the ship. This was the one that blew me into the air and away from the ship. I thought I would never come down? I knew if I fell back on the ship it would surely kill me, but I hit the water feet first. I thought my lungs would ex p lode before I came back to the surface. I was covered with oil and smoke. I could not see for more than a few feet. I could hear someone pounding the water and screaming. Pretty soon that was over.

    I knew my legs and feet were torn up so I just treaded water hoping to be picked up. In a few minutes the smoke lifted and I saw whaleboat off the Rich. I yelled as loud as I could and the crew heard me and pulled me from the water. In a little while they also pulled Norbert Penner out of the water. Now they went back to the Rich, tied up on the starboard side and went aboard. The ship was listing badly.
I saw Chief Holler on the deck and asked him for some morphine. Chief came down into the boat and gave me and Penner a shot. I asked Chief if he could get my legs from under me. when he bent over and was trying to help me, I saw the ship was going down fast I yelled for him to cut us loose. He dropped me, grabbed the knife from my belt and cut the line. He hit the starter on the boat and pulled away from the ship. We laid off and saw the Rich go down in a very short time. In all probability, the Chief saved my life and Penner's.

    My right leg was broken below the knee and again just above the ankle. The ankle was badly dislocated and still is. My left ankle was blown out through the side of my shoe and my toes were back where my heel was supposed to be. I was in an Army hospital in England and was then moved to a Navy facility in Wales. After a short stay there, we were loaded on a hospital ship and landed at Portsmouth, VA. In a few days was sent to Bethesda, MD. Ward M5. Eleven months there and walked on crutches for two years. I don't know how any of us made it. I am grateful for every day even though I suffered a lot of pain. Hope I can make the reunion, but I am doubtful.

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