Ed Spilman Page

God Bless America     ed_spilman.jpg (22261 bytes)      God Bless America

     Ed   Spilman     
"Charter member of  America'sGreatest Generation"

Ed Spilman died May 30, 2000and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on June 4th, 2000 along with240,000 + American Heroes

In his  own Words..
1947

My journey to Kwajalein started as follows. I wastransferred from San Diego to receiving station San Francisco for further orders in theearly fall of 1947. My orders came through to go aboard USS General W.A. Mann APA-112. Wethen sailed from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor. After a few days at Pearl we went on toGuam. I was assigned to receiving station in Guam awaiting further orders. After a fewdays the orders came through that I was to be transferred to Kwajalein Ship SecurityDetail. I flew from Guam to Kwajalein, arriving early evening, and saw a whole fleet ofships anchored in the lagoon. At that time I thought, "Here I go….I’m goingto finally get my sea duty!"

I was put up in a receiving barracks for the evening. The next morning Ireported to the KSSD Headquarters. I was told that I would be would be working for KSSD atthe navy boat pool, due to my year’s experience in San Diego as a boat coxswain on aLCM landing craft.

I spent several weeks getting familiar with the lagoon and all the coralreefs in the lagoon, as well as the different islands in the area. I was told that myduties would include towing a wooden barge with scientists from the USA aboard. They wouldbe conducting experiments aboard the radioactive ships, which I had seen anchored in thelagoon when I originally arrived. All of these ships were at the bomb test at BikiniAtoll. This barge was very special in the way that it had showers and washing machinesaboard along with a generator. This enabled the men who were aboard to change clothes anddon special protective clothing before boarding the ships. Once through with their testingaboard a ship, I would then tow the barge on to the next ship. After the day’s workhad ended, the scientists would then come aboard the barge, which we considered the"hot" side of the barge, remove their clothing, put it in the washing machine,shower, and put on their clean clothes on the "clean" side of the barge. I wouldthen tow the barge back to the pier at Kwajalein.

In my duties as a boat coxswain I was called on to do many differentthings. Once I was awaked at 3:00 a.m. to go out and try and pull friend of mine who wasstuck on a coral reef with his LCM after making the king ferry run the previous evening.After a real struggle, I got him out of there by putting the stern of my boat towards thebow of his boat. The wash of my propellers at full speed enabled us to pull him off.

On another evening I was awakened in the middle of the night. My engineerand I were told we had to go out to an island whose name I cannot now recall, to pick up anative who had appendicitis, and had to be transported to the hospital on Kwajalein. Asluck would have it, there was no moon out that night. It was as dark as pitch. The battlelantern was not functioning properly due to dead batteries. The only pier at that islandwas a half-sunken pontoon barge. What I mainly was afraid of was getting the man aboard asswiftly as possible due to the fact that this was the windward side of the lagoon, and thewater was fairly choppy. I was afraid that if I dallied too long, a wave would come underthe stern of my boat and lift it up on this sunken pontoon barge. As it was, we got in andout very quickly, and arrived safely back at Kwajalein.

On another occasion I was notified that a Navy sea going tug was arrivingat Kwajalein with steel barge full of fresh water – approximately 75,000 gallon. Iwas told that the native population on Ugelang Island was running out of fresh water. Wewere to tow this water barge to that island which was approximately 300 to 400 miles fromKwajalein. My LCM was tied astern of the water barge. We left that evening and about 20miles off Kwajalein we ran into a storm. Since being a boat coxswain they had me on thebridge steering this sea going tug on the first watch. All I had to do was follow thereading on the gyro compass. Myself being of weak stomach, immediately started gettingviolently sick because the tug, being of round bottom, was tossing and rolling veryviolently. During the 4-day journey to Ugelang Island I spent most of my time in my bunk.

When we finally arrived at our destination, I was never so glad to see landin all of my life! My purpose of being there with my LCM was to tow this water bargethrough the inlet into Ugelang Lagoon as the sea going tug drew too much water to go intothe lagoon. After a struggle with the wind, and my boat being about 1/10th thesize of this water barge, I finally managed to get the barge inside through the inlet andinto the lagoon. Inside the lagoon there was a LCI anchored and a small boat came out andtold me to bring the barge up near the LCI. The LCI served as temporary living quartersfor a group of navy Seabees who were building a rain catching cistern on the island.

Since we did not have hoses long enough to reach between the place wherethey wanted to store the water and the barge, we had to off load the water 250 gallon at atime with a mobile water tank and a 4-wheel drive Dodge vehicle which was in the well deckof my LCM landing craft.

After about 2 weeks of off loading, we left Ugelang Island. Since theSeabees had finished the cistern, we were all aboard the LCI on our way back to Kwajalein.During that trip back we encountered some rough water, and my LCM started taking wateraboard. I suggested that they pull it in with the winch, so that I could go aboard andstart up the bilge pumps. As they were starting to pull it in, a large wave went over theside of the LCM and I instinctively knew at that it was going to sink. I told one of theofficers on the stern of the LCI that they had better cut the towline, which they did. Inabout 5 minutes the LCM sunk, bow first taking the dodge vehicle in the well decks withit. Instinctively I worried that I would be in trouble because I felt that I would be heldresponsible for the sinking. I must have worried out loud, because a Chief Petty Officer,who was one of the crew of the LCI said, "Don’t worry, son, because the captainof the LCI is responsible." He explained further that the vessel towing anothervessel or boat is responsible for what happens to the tow. They did have a Navy Board ofInquiry that I did not have to attend. I don’t think that it amounted to too much.

The last item I have is about the Battleship Pennsylvania. One evening wereceived orders that the Pennsylvania was due to be taken out and scuttled. The next day anavy tug arrived, and I was told to report to the tug with my boat. That afternoon Itransported a few men and a cable towing line, which these men would secure to the bow ofthe Pennsylvania. I then took the men back to the tug and tied up. That is where I spentthe night – on board the tug. The next morning Commander Greer, who was the Navy portdirector, told me to take the same men and an acetylene cutting torch outfit, and put themaboard the Pennsylvania. While I was tied up, they cut the anchor chain on the bow of thePennsy with the cutting torch. I then took the men back to the tug and was told to followthem out to sea.

After they progressed about 15 miles out to sea, they called for me to comeback to the tug where I took the same men aboard my boat and put them aboard thePennsylvania. Their job was to cast off the tow cable and go below decks and open up thesea cocks to allow seawater to come in. About 20 minutes later they came running down thedeck and jumped aboard my boat, thinking that the ship was going to sink very fast, Ipresume. I put them back aboard the tug and was told just to stand by until the ship sank,and then go back to Kwajalein. It took about two hours and 30 minutes for the ship to heelover and sink by the stern.

Ed  Spilman
July 1999

Click on the pictures to view full size.

Thanks Ed & Karna,Well done....

The first test, Able, on July 1, 1946, was an airdrop similar to those used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To the best of my knowledge the battleship Pennsylvania is the second large ship to the right of center in the photos. The second test, Baker, on July 25, 1946, was an underwater bomb that pushed a column of water a mile into the sky,unleashing the greatest amount of radioactivity. The Proud and gallant USS Pennsylvania begins her final slide to the ocean floor...
Feb. 10, 1948
2 hours later the final chapter of the USS Pennsylvania and one of the greatest Battleships of all time, is closed.  She takes with her the hearts and minds of all who served. She shares a place of honor & tradition.
Ed Spilman Ed Spilman Ed Spilman Ed Spilman

About Ed

Ed is a member of the Fleet Reserve, Branch No.24, inAnnapolis, MD. He is also a member of the Naval Institute, which is located onthe Naval Academy grounds in Annapolis. The reason he joined the Naval Instituteis because they publish books which all pertain to either non-fiction Navy orMarine stories. Over the years he has purchased a lot of books from the bookstore, and as a member he receives a 20% discount. Ed was reading a book aboutthe USS Pawnee, which is a fleet Navy tug. The author's name is Theodore C.Mason. After Pearl Harbor, when his duty ship the USS California was badlydamaged, he was transferred to the USS Pennsylvania. He was a radioman 2nd classon the Pennsy sometime after Pearl Harbor. He didn't know for how long. Ed sentme this information to me since there may be a chance my father or other crewmembers might have known Mr. Mason. While serving on the Pennsy, Radioman Masonsaid he had enough of the spit and polish of being on a flag ship, so he put infor a transfer to new construction, not knowing what type of ship he would serveon. As it turned he was ordered to the brand new fleet tug, the USS Pawney inSan Francisco before it was commissioned.