Richard Botto was born on December 9, 1934 in Syosset, NY, and had been working with his dad as a plumber until enlisting in 1952. He was stationed in Massachusetts (Great Lakes) as a part of the USS Salem and he spent time in the Mediterranean with NATO ranked as an ET 3rd class. He fixed radio transmitters, receivers, and radar. Richard Botto also manned the “8-inch” guns into the mountainous territory in Korea. The USS Salem was an important weapon during the Korean War and he described the amenities on the ship along with the role of this ship in warfare. For his time in service, Richard Botto received the Good Conduct and European Occupation medals. After his discharge in February 1954, he was a partner in a plumbing business.
Amenities aboard the USS Salem
Richard Botto and other sailors had a variety of accommodations on the USS Salem. They had AC/Heat on the ship. They also had a cobbler shop, cigarette store, movies every night, and a readied helicopter. There were 1400 men aboard the ship and they had a crane that lifted the higher ranking officers' boats into the water.
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Firing From the USS Salem
Richard Botto was on the USS Salem during his time in the Korean War. He was supposed to go in with a few friends, but he was left to join alone. After training in the Great Lakes, he was sent to Massachusetts and then he was stationed on the USS Salem. Richard Botto didn't go into Korea, but he was east of Korea and continued to follow the shoreline to fire 8 inch guns into the mountains during 1952-1953.
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Duties While in the East Sea Along Korea's Shore
Richard Botto was busy on Quarter Watch because he had to do whatever he was told to do. He could see the mortar shells coming from his ship and landing into the side of Korea's mountains. He was not in danger while he was there, he thought, because Richard Botto was protected by 1,400 sailors. In February 1953, he was done with his time in the East Sea, so he was sent to the Mediterranean Sea to help NATO with a humanitarian mission.
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Richard Botto: I was born inside Syosset Long Island, New York around 1934, December 9th. It was high school. I was working for my father, plumbing work.
Interviewer: February 7th of 19-
Richard Botto: 52. I’m supposed to go in with two friends, they backed out at the last minute I was in the Mediterranean most of the time. I was on a heavy cruiser the USS Salem. Great lakes training. I went to eat easeful electronics technician.
Richard Botto: I worked on radio transmitters receivers and the radar. My general Quarters station wasn’t what they call spot to. It was very high up on the ship. At the time I had very good eyesight.
Interviewer: Uh huh
Richard Botto: And I would run a diamond out to get the range, the visual range.
Richard Botto: We also got the radar range
Interviewer: Uh huh. So, you were trained in the Great Lakes, right?
Richard Botto: Yes.
Interviewer: And then after that where did you go?
Richard Botto: To the Fargo building in Massachusetts *pauses*
Interviewer: -And you have never been into Korea?
Richard Botto: I never went to Korea, no.
Interviewer: All right so then you were near to Korea ever?
Richard Botto: Yeah, we stayed offshore. We were east of Korea. We just kept going back and forth I imagined.
Interviewer: From where to where?
Richard Botto: We followed the shoreline.
Interviewer: The shoreline of the East coast?
Richard Botto: *Nods*
Interviewer: and what did you do there?
Richard Botto: I fired the 8 inch guns.
Interviewer: Oh really!? For what did you fire the North Korean soldiers or North Korean navy ship. I don’t think there were navy ship, right?
Richard Botto: *Shakes Head* No, there weren’t any Navy ships.
Interviewer: Then why did you fire, and where did you fire?
Richard Botto: When the soldiers were from 52 to 53, whenever they told me to fire, I would go twice with the left hand and the third time I would go with both fingers and it would fire the 8-inch guns. That was the main battery.
Interviewer: Mm-hmm. Did you have a sense of fighting against North Koreans?
Richard Botto: No.
Interviewer: No. No, you were just told to fire, right?
Richard Botto: We shot into the hills on the shoreline. Probably every ten minutes. All day long, all night long. I was aboard ship, it was air-conditioned, we had heat and air conditioning
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Richard Botto: We had a cobbler shop, we had a cigarette store. We had everything on a ship, all fourteen hundred men.
Interviewer: Fourteen-hundred men?! Do you remember the name of the ship?
Richard Botto: USS Salem, we head moving every night we carried a helicopter. We had the Captain’s gig. We had the Admiral’s badge, and a big crane to ease them into the water. It was small boats, about 26 feet. The only excitement I had was I was assigned to like- what they call quarterdeck messenger watch.
Interviewer: Mhmm, what is that?
Richard Botto: Whatever the officer of the deck told me to do, I would do it. I only have five-inch guns, we had eight inch, and we used to see the shells, we could follow them in the optics like a rangefinder. We could follow the shells coning to the side of the mountain, so we were just shooting and nothing in particular. I hated it.
Richard Botto: I was away from home
Interviewer: That was it? But you really didn’t engage in a severe battle. You were just one sidedly firing at sea shore. So, you were never in danger, right?
Richard Botto: No. There was probably rifle fire, coming at the ship. But they weren’t shooting at me, they were shooting at fourteen-hundred guys.
Interviewer: Do you remember when did you leave Korea?
Richard Botto: *gibberish* Middle of February 53’. We were impacted in the Mediterranean.
Interviewer: What was your mission in the Mediterranean
Richard Botto: I think it was good will, but we operated with the NATO.
Interviewer: What is you thought about the Korean War?
Richard Botto: It’s a forgotten war.
Richard Botto: We don’t get any credit for it and we never see anything about it.
Interviewer: You mean after the war?
Richard Botto: Yes.
Interviewer: What is the importance of the Korean War, in your life?
Richard Botto: The best of my life was spent in a service. From the time I went in to the time I got out, it was a waste of time on my part. I didn’t get paid well. I was married, at the time. I was sending home a hundred and fifty dollars a month, and I was drawing about eleven dollars about every two weeks. That’s it.
Richard Botto: It didn’t go very far.
Interviewer: What is the impact of the* Korean War in your life.
Richard Botto: It took the best years of my life.
Interviewer: You feel sorry about it?
Richard Botto: Yeah, from eighteen years old about twenty-two years old I think I think going into service is good. I think everybody should serve. The Army, and Navy, or the Marine Corps. I have two sons. One son went in the Navy, we go into service go into the Navy.
Interviewer: Ok. You like Navy?
Richard Botto: Yes, its good food, you always have a decent place to sleep, and you see the world.