William Watson was born in 1930 in Dallas, Texas, and enlisted in the United States Navy in 1947. He spent the next nineteen months on the seas around Europe as a boatswain’s mate, helping dock and anchor ships as well as lowering and raising boats. He was assigned to the USS Philip (DD-498) when the Korean War broke out and was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He shares that the USS Philip was assigned to Task Force 77 and its mission was to guard larger ships and hunt submarines. He elaborates on the daily duties of a sailor and living conditions aboard ship. He is proud of his service and of what South Korea has become, and he shares that he would gladly serve again.
On the Hunt for Enemy Submarines
William Watson recalls his speciality as a boatswain's mate aboard the USS Philip during the Korean War. He elaborates on the destroyer's mission to locate enemy submarines. He shares that several enemy submarines were encountered during his service but that none were ever fired upon.
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Daily Life on a Navy Destroyer
William Watson describes daily life as a Boatswain's Mate on a Navy destroyer. He comments on the size of the ship and enduring rough seas. He recalls practicing the procedure for rescue if a man fell overboard and details duties such as keeping the ship clean and participating in regular trainings.
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Navy Destroyer Layout and Living Quarters
William Watson recalls the living conditions on a Navy destroyer. He describes the layout of the ship and the small spacing they used as living quarters. He recounts the showering situation and remembers eating sandwiches when the waters were too rough for the cooks to prepare a hot meal.
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William Watson Transcription
My name is William R. (Ray) Watson WILLIAM
What is your birthday?
June 25, 1930
So you were born on the day the Korean war broke out 20 years before?
June 25th, that’s the day the Korean War broke out in 1950.
Wow so you are born to be a Korean war Veteran!
So where were you born?
I was born in Dallas Texas.
Ah, Tell me about your family and siblings when you were growing up.
Well, when I was growing up there was a lot of problems within the
family. I had a brother and a sister and my dad and mother, they separated
when i was younger and divorced.And then me and my brother went to live
with grandparents (my grandmother and grandfather) and my sister went to
live with my mother. We actually lived With my dad but he was there so slight
that he had to have help with his mother and father.
So it must have been a little bit hard for you, right?
Well, it was for a while. After a while, my dad remarried and within that
family, he had three more children and so I have other brothers and sisters
from his second marriage.
When did you graduate high school?
I didn’t graduate from high school. It was in 1947, uh, situations
became, uh, a little bit taxed in our family, so I made a statement to my dad
that he would have to let me go into the Navy or it was going to pack up and go
to Alaska. For what reason I was going to Alaska, I don’t know! I have no
recollection of any great reason that would draw me there.
When did you join theSo
it was 1947, right when did you go to get the basic
When did I join? It was as soon as my birthday came around to be 17.
And when did you go to get the basic military training ?
Then I went to , uh, they placed me aboard a ship, I went aboard a ship
Columbus which uh, CA 74 that
was a cruiser and, uh, they were beginning,
uh, fixin’ to go to Europe. And so we went to the dry docks and got all cleaned
ship got all cleaned up in preparation ROC duty.
So we left and went to Europe. And we had to board admiral Conley
(which was a 4 star general) and his job was visiting all the countries that was
in World War II and
this was 1947. So he made that we
made that cruiseand
we were gone 19 months. Our home base at that time was in Plymouth,
England .We’d go, he’d go too, and after that if the next country wasn’t close
then we’d turn around go back to Plymouth for provisions and stuff like that.
Being gone 19 months, there is a lot of eating for a crew.
So you were visiting European countries who participated in the war with
Right, that was the main focus on the agenda I believe, what his…
What was his name again, General…?
Must have been very nice right? You don’t have to fight any enemies and you
were just visiting other countries, what country did you visit?
Well we were home ported in England and from England, I don’t have
all these in order but we went around into the Mediterranean sea and we saw
all the top dignitaries from each country that We visited they
there. And then after his visit to them, then he would invite them aboard the
ship. And I was a bosun mate. And I was in the first.
A bosun mate
Well that’s more or lessit’s
not necessarily a maintenance manbut
that’s a working man that dock ships and do all the anchor equipment and run
the boats and that type there.
So you really enjoyed it, right? It was a free travel all around Europe…
Uh, well, right, right, and inup
north, too. We went to Scotland and all
up in there. Uh, yeah, I was uh..It just so happened that we had a uhwhen
went aboard ship I was a green hand and there was a feller that was already
aboard ship and he’d already had his 20 years of service but he was still in.
And he found out that I was from Texas and he kind of got me tricked and he
put me in charge of the bosun locker. And the bolson locker is where the
semean of the shipthat’s
their job docking and lowerin boats and all this type
of stuff. The bosun locker keeps all that equipment. And him being [having]
the experience that he had, he found out what all I’d do and what all I could do
and what I would do before he put me in there. So he came down there and
directed me and he got me going and everything. So i stayed a bosun mate the
whole time I was in the service
So you being there for 19 months. And then what happened?
So I went to I
applied for submarine school and I got it. And I went
there and I fould out that I got claustrophobic, so they wouldn’t let me stay.
Because being claustrophobic there’s several reasons, it work, and…. So I went
back they sent me back to the navy station there in Norfolk and I was waiting
on my next ship and I went aboard a destroyer escort.
What was the name of it?
Uss Phillip DDE 498
Phillip DD? DDE?
Right the DD stands for Destroyer the E designates it principal factor.
And that principal factor was chasing submarines. So we went from Norfolk
back around to California. And then when we got provisioned and everything
we went right on over to Pearl harbor.
When did you leave for Pearl Harbor, do you remember?
Uh, no, no. But then I was aboard the Philip about 2 yrs. I was aboard
the Columbus about a couple of years, 2 1/2 years maybe.
So Ok so you went to Pearl Harbor and that was this before the Korean War
or after the Korean War?
This was during the Korean War.
Was it during the Korean War, you went to Pearl Harbor?
Yes, and uh, we operated…Pearl Harbor was our home base so
whenever we’d go to to Korea we’d provision, load up and everything and then
we’d go to Korea and then we’d go back and forth to various harbors over
there, China for one, and we’d go on the patrols that we were assigned to. And
we were a guard ship on the convoy Task Force 77. And one of our jobs was to
make sure that the bigger shipsthe
cruisers and aircraft carriers and allwere
in safe, so whenever they travelled from one place to another we had, uh,
destroyers going all the way around. They were just inside of a little tub. And
So you were in the Korean War?
I was in the Korean War.
So what was your main mission with the destroyer?
Well, this particular destroyer like I mentioned before did e
designation. That’s antisubmarine
warfare. So we were as
other submarine is doing their job, we would go and look for submarines.
Enemies, right. (Not all the time we did participate in some of the
shelling and some of that type of stuff.)
Were there any actual enemy there? Did you have any encounters did
find any enemy submarines?
We found some, but we didn’t do anything about it because it wasn’t
right. They wouldn’t surface and we couldn’t get a deadhold on ‘em, more or
Could you tell me the story that you found one enemy submarine and what
did you do, and so on? If you know of any details please tell me.
Well there’s no detail to describe. When we found the submarine, we
followed it and tried to keep up with it…
How did you find the enemy submarine?
With sonar and all the finding devices they have aboard the shipwhich
was specially for that ship.
What did you do what
is your, what was your speciality, that destroyer?
Well, like I say, I was a bolsun mate and, of course, the bolsun mate does
his task aboard the ship. They take care of all the little work and the handling
of the small boats and that type of stuff and …uh. I lost the question.
(Heh heh heh) I mean yourI
asked about your specialty.
So when you find an enemy submarine you chased them right, what
Well, we’d just follow it and tried to make contact and we’d report that
to the rest of the ships in our our convoy. And then if we needed help and if we
were given permission to depth charge ‘em or shoot ‘em or whatever, they
would come from the admirals. And,uh, we didn’t get that, so we just followed
Just followed. Did you feel kind of dangerous?
Not exactly no, no. When you are on a destroyer, it’s not a big ship. And
when the sea is rough, it’s pretty rough. All the bouncing and washing aboard
and all that stuff, it gets kind of tight. So most all the crew pretty well does
what they’re supposed to do in their own area.
Now, the area that I had was up on the forward part of the ship. Our
was split from the bow to the first turret. And half of that belonged
to the first division and half belongs to the second division. So we didn’t cross
paths up there. We took care of our side, they took care of their side. And then,
if it had anybody fall overboard or something like that, then we’d man the
boats aboard our ship. We’d have to put the life boats down, and that type of
thing. And of course ,we kept it clean: cleaned up painted, this that and the
other, all the time we was at sea. Doing training, practice shooting…
How about enemy navy forces?
Uh, we didn’t run into much of that. Now, we were in Korea and the
Chinese decided they would send their fleet over to Korea to help the Korean
Um hm. North Korean people.
North Korean people. And we were designated to join forces with the
North Korean destroyers and man ships and meet emand
head them off. So
we did. And it just so happensthat
was during 1951 I believe. And in 1951,
there were 2 hurricanes in the ocean between Korea and China.
Oh, Korea and China?
Yeah. So the water was pretty rough. So we stayed and rode it all out like
like we’d do normally and anyway,we did turn em back. Their fleet we
pretty good fleet. I don’t know how many ships they had but most of ‘em were
destroyers and a cruiser or two.
Were there any very dangerous moments during your service in the Korean
Well, most of the consistent danger was at seain
a small boat, small
Yeah, when the larger ships would go on a bombardmentthey’d
trains and that type of thingwe
did fire some, but then we didn’tthat
our main job, so we did what we were supposed to do. When the other ships
were making a run, a firing run or something,we still stayed after a submarine
if they didn’t need us. But then if they wanted our backup, then we got it!
How many crew were in the destroyer USS Phillip. How many crew, how
many soldiers were there?
Well, let’s see I don’t know precisely, between 200300.
That’s a lot.
That’s a lot, yeah.
What was the main weapons in the destroyer?
Well, we were, we had 5 inch guns. 20 caliber machine guns, and 40
caliber. We had torpedos and we had depth chargers. That was our main
How, how was your life inside of that destroyer? Where did you sleep, what
did you eat? Tell me about your life in the destroyer. It’s not pleasant, right?
Well, once you get the routine it’s no problem. Each division has a
certain job that they do.
What was your division?
7th fleet?What was your unit?
Well there’s no unit. They had about probably 8 or 10 divisions. Some
divisions were firemen which would go down below and keep the engines
running and all. My division was seaman. We took care of seaman activities
except during battle call, and then we’d go to our battle stations.
So you were 7th fleet Right?
7th Pacific Fleet right? 7th
Seventh fleet? yeah
I mean, tell me about where you sleep. How you sleep and where you eat.
What was your life in the destroyer?
Ok, Life in the destroyer, ok. It just so happeed that the First division
was a forward compartment. The only thing more forward than nothin was a
sand locker and we used sand and ammunition. Kept ammunition in there for
guns, 5 inch and so forth and the mounts were right above the ammunition
place. And right behind that we
squeezed into my living quarters were
squeezed in the next compartment beyond that. And we had, we had about 20
guys in a room this size right here.
Yeah and uh, behind us they had what they called the freezers that was
ice compartments, where we kept food and stuff. And then right behind that
was a lunchroom, chow hole. So we were up there pretty much by yourself
20 people in this small room. How did they sleep there?
We had bunks and there was three high. And they all fit in. Each bunk
had your own personal bunk. And below the bunks (which were about 6 feet
long) they had 3 lockers, 3 little boxes with the top on. And that’s where all our
gear all my personal gear was in that locker, and the next guy his was next and
the next guy back, his was next.
Were you able to shower everyday?
Yes didn’t everybody take a shower every day, but it was available. Of
course it was a little different it was almost like a hose turned on on a tree over
there and turn the water on and I take a shower then he takes a shower then
the next guy takes a shower but then there were several in the little
How was the food?
The food wasn’t too bad, except for rough seas. When the seas get too
rough the cooks couldn’t cook so we ‘d end up with some kind of sandwich,
peanut butter occasionally
So pretty ok, right?
Yeah it was ok.
Have you landed in Korea any point during your service?
Did you see Korea destroyed from the sea. Did you have any sort of chance
to look at how Korea was at the time?
Yes, it was uh, we could see land and we could see movement. And
occasioanlly we could get to shoot at the little trains that go by. The trains
were inside the safety of the hills and things along the shoreline. But if they got
a particular train they wanted out, then they’d send several ships in there. And
one ship would fire here and then another would maybe have to go around the
mountain to be able to get the shells over on the train track
What did you see?
Nothing because as soon as they felt resistance of getting shot at they
would get behind one of those tall mountains or something solid and stop.
We really think that what you did really contributed to make what we are
Well, uh, yeah. I’m proud of that and glad of that. And I’d go back and
do it again.