Interview With Richard D. Osborne

From the interview with Richard D. Osborne of Sammamish, WA conducted at the Fort Worden History Center by Clio Ward on June 15, 2004. Mr. Osborne served in both world War II and the Korean War. He was stationed at Fort Worden in 1950/51. Here he describes his duties while stationed here:

“We lived in the Officers’ Row on the base of Fort Worden. I was only a Captain. Now, Officers’ Row and any of that activity was fine. Most everybody participated in the activities right here at Fort Worden. My unit was over at Flagler. Every morning at about four 0’clock I got up and walked down to the beach where my M-boat picked me up and took me across to Marrowstone Island and my jeep met me down there and we started our day’s activity. Probably finished around six or seven o’clock. I went back down, got in my little M-boat, brought me back over from the island where I would get home, nine, 10 or 11 o’clock.

At Flagler, I was the executive officer of the battalion over there. But the commanding officer came down with parrot fever–he had never heard of parrot fever before. Apparently, it had something to do with the bird droppings in these ols barracks that were over there and there were a few people, eight or nine, who became ill. He was sent down to San Francisco to the hospital for several months, so while still a nice little Captain, I had the battalion that was assigned over at Flagler.”

When asked about participating in life at Fort Worden: “There were always wonderful activities up at the Officers Club. …There are lots of stories about the club, because the Second Engineer Special Brigade was kind of a wild outfit. They were attached to the military, but they were adjusting to civilian life. When they left for Japan, they took virtually any furniture or utilities, refrigerators or stoves or whatever, out of the Officers’ Quarters and the barracks; all of the silverware that belonged to the unit and everything from the clubhouse. They took it all with them when they were sent over to Japan.”

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Interview With Dave Backman

From the interview with Dave Backman of Port Townsend conducted at the Fort Worden History Center on March 29, 2007 by Patience Rogge. Mr. Backman grew up in Port Townsend, and after retiring moved back to his hometown. He served as treasurer of the Friends of Fort Worden for several years. In this segment of the interview, he tells of visiting a friend whose parents worked at the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center at the fort.

“…My friend’s name was Dave Edwards. His parents came here in 1958 to work as cottage parents. His family lived in one of the homes on NCO Row…We were typical teenagers, and I’m not going to say we were angels because we found our way to get into mischief once in a while. One of the things we loved to do, partly because of where it was and partly because there was a little bit of risk involved–we’d get a large group of friends together to come out to Fort Worden to visit Dave. We’d all head for Artillery Hill, which was off limits, and have the most hellacious hide and go seek games you could possibly imagine. The hill was patrolled by the military. We would hear them coming and we would scatter to the winds.

…when I was playing sports in high school, we used to engage in competitions with some of the kids who were incarcerated. They had a football team, a baseball team and a basketball team. When I was a sophomore on the high school junior varsity team, we played football on the parade ground against the kids who were here in the Diagnostic and Treatment Center.”

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Interview With Walter R. Carroll

From the interview with Walter R. Carroll of Everett, WA conducted by Carter Huth by phone from the Fort Worden History Center on May 11, 2004. Mr. Carroll served in the National Guard as a high school student and would come to Fort Worden for two weeks in the summers. Here he talks about his role firing the guns on Artillery Hill:

“I was a shot heaver on one of those five inch guns, five or six inch, I can’t remember. ….We’d go over there and camp for two weeks and we learned to use those disappearing rifles. …They were about 20 feet long. So this missle weighed about 100 pounds and I’d give the kick the missile and throw it into the breech and the powder would come in behind me and they’d slam the breech and fire them. We used to fire at a target out in the bay. It was a tugboat pulling a target. Of course we’d compete with Battery A, I think they were from Mount Vernon.

Those missles weighed around 100 pounds, I’d put those into the breech and then they’d shove the powder back in behind it and that powder bag was probably 15 or 20 pounds of powder. It was in a white, round bag and they’d jam it in behind the missle. They’d slam the breech shut and then they’d get their coordinates on the telephones and they’d fire them. By golly, we knocked them out of the water.

We stayed up on the hill there in tents, up on top of the hill where the batteries were. I was over there probably about a year ago and they let me go up on the hill. It’s so grown up I didn’t recognize hardly anything.”

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Interview With Dick E. Wiltse

From the interview with Dick E. Wiltse of Port Townsend conducted at the Fort Worden History Center by Rick Martinez on February 5, 2004. Mr. Wiltse, a veteran of both the Army and Navy, also worked as a cook at the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center for six years. Here he discusses his stint as a Navy reservist doing active duty at the Harbor Entrance Control Post atop Artilllery Hill in Fort Worden:

“…It was a harbor defenses unit, now we know it as Inshore Under Sea Warfare. They put out heralds, hydrophones, cable connected in the water to detect shipping. Up on the hill they had a stack that’s electronic, that’d give you two things. It would give you the screw beat and it would also give you an audio or electronics across a screen, little wavy lines, and you could hear. A good operator can tell you what type of propulsion it is and how many tons. We had a Third Class Petty Officer up there and he couldn’t see the ships because he’s sitting inside looking at a little scope, and had earphones on for the audio part. That man could tell you what kind of power it had, whether it was steam or diesel driven, and how many tons that ship was just by listening.”

One day during his time working at the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Mr. Wiltse and his friends had an exciting adventure:
“…It was in March. We were on our way back from lunch at the Mill Restaurant and we were going by the old ferry dock. The ferry was there, it was shut down for lunch. There were about 60-65 mile an hour winds and all of a sudden the line of the ferry snapped and the ferry turned parallel to the beach and all its engines were dead.

Harold Gruver, myself, Oscar Lee, and Stan Robichaux got aboard the boat. Lee and Stan used to be skippers, and Lee was an engineer. Lee took me down to the engine room and Robichaux took Gruver up to the pilot house. Lee fired up the engine. There was a little box down there that had sight glasses right down the middle. He said,”I think if we keep oil about halfway on the sight glasses we’ll be OK.” There were copper lines going to the bearings.

So, we ended up over at the old pier at the Navy base on Indian Island. The base was closed except for the fire department and security. The rest of the crew came around by car and picked up help, then brought us back to Port Townsend. They stayed over there until the weather got better, then they came back. That was a hairy ride.”

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Interview With Norman H. Myhre

From the interview with Norman H. Myhre of Port Townsend conducted by Oran DeBois at the Fort Worden History Center on October 7, 2003. Mr. Myhre served in the US Navy at Fort Worden Harbor Entrance Control Post on Artillery Hill from 1942-43. Here he discusses how the townspeople treated sailors while he was here:

“Good. Matter of fact, we had a sheriff who was a big help. (Peter Naughton was Jefferson County Sheriff in the 1940’s) There were times when we would go downtown and catch the 11:00 o’clock truck going back up on Artillery Hill. There were guys who were there maybe during the afternoon and they had a little too much to drink. Rather than let the Shore Patrol pick them up, he would send them up the stairs at Delmonico’s and let them sleep it off util the truck came in. Then he’d get them back down and keep them out of trouble. What a guy, you could sure see how he felt toward the servicemen and how they admired him.”

Mr. Myhre also submitted a handwritten memoir describing his service at Fort Worden. Here is an excerpt:

…”I was on the Signal Tower crew here at Hudson Point. Then the Army and Navy set us up in a better tower on top of Fort Worden. Here we could keep track of and contact all the ships entering and leaving the Straits. We would give the Navy ships their berthing instructions for those entering.

When we had fog to contend with, we had a Navy PC cutter to check out their ships and smaller boats for us. The cutter was moored at the Fort Worden dock. The navy had sonar gear between Point Wilson and Whidbey Island. The sonar crew was a big help during the night and also with foggy weather.

In our Fort Worden signal tower, we had two signal lights that were both 12 inch and we had one arc light that was 24 inches. With the 24 inch light, we could contact ships that were many, many miles out. Below our signal tower, which was underground, we had quarters for Army and Navy duty officers. This was a 24 hour operation for all concerned. The Navy got along very well with the Army.

…We had about 60 Navy personnel at HECP Fort Worden. We had about six officers.”

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Interview With Edward G. Weed

From the interview with Edward G. Weed of Poulsbo, WA conducted by John Clise on April 17, 2004 at the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Weed was a member of the US Army 248th Coast Artillery F Battery from 1941 to 1943. Here he discusses some of his duties:

“They had gun emplacements up on the hill. I was on the three inch guns. Those were the smallest ones. They went up to 12. They towed targets for us, clear out on the far side of the Straits. We could tell where our projectiles hit because there would be a sheet of water go uo in the air, especially on the big guns. Three inch range wasn’t that far.

I played on the baseball team and I was never shipped out. I went to Col. McMorris and I asked him, ‘How come I don’t go overseas like the rest of them/’ He said, ‘Because you’re an athlete.’ That was the only answer he gave me. I was a pitcher on the team. We played everybody and beat most everybody, it was just the Army, it wasn’t outside of that.

I was also an engineer on one of the boats and I guess I ran every boat there. We had quite a fleet of boats. This was after being on the guns. Sometimes I was coxswain, but if the Captain wanted to go on leave or something, I was the next guy up who ran the boat. The Colonel Willard was a big one that went to Seattle and took soldiers on recreation, I didn’t run that. I was strictly on one of those 50 footers, they were open, had a six cylinder diesel engine. They weren’t very fast boats, but they got you there and back.

About an encounter with the CO:
I met General Cunningham one time. F Battery had the smallest gun battery up on the hill, three inch. There was a trail that went down to the beach, so this one time I started slipping out for a walk and I no more than got started on it when I met that damn General. He had two black spaniel dogs. One of them grabbed my pants leg and ripped it. I kicked at that little devil and he beat me out. I never touched him. The General didn’t say one grunt. I went right past him. I saluted him but he never returned it. There was nothing ever said about it.”

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Interview With JDC

From the interview with JDC of Olympia, WA conducted by Patience Rogge at the Fort Worden History Center on April 13, 2004. JDC was a resident of the Juvenile Diagnostic and Treatment Center for six to eight weeks at about age 12. Although his memories of the time were vague, he related how it affected him:

“I think my family was happy that I was here. I was a troublemaker quite a bit growing up. I stayed in trouble a lot. Because I was so young I never even thought about life changes or anything else. You just did what you were told and hoped you went to one of the lighter reformatories down the line.

As far as I can remember, everybody was treated well here, because the better you looked here, the easier place you were going to go to from here. You didn’t want to cause any problems. I ended up at Cedar Creek Forestry Camp which was more or less a workfarm. There you worked five days a week. You’d go out and plant trees, do some slash and burn; or during the summer season when the forest fires were hot, then we would go fight the forest fires.

When I came out, I was out for about a year and then I went in the military. …Probably the smartest move I ever made was going in the Army because it took me from a young punk to grown up real fast. I stayed in 20 some years and I’ve served all over, Korea, Vietnam, Germany–been around the world quite a few times.

For me, it probably ended up saving my life in the long run, because I’d have probably been killed doing drugs or something down the road if I hadn’t gone in.”

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