Robert McCord, born in 1916, lived in Bridgeton, New Jersey during World War II until 1943. After his high school graduation in 1943, he enlisted into the Navy. His parents had to sign for him because he was 17 years old at the time of enlistment. Robert McCord was put onto a small PC ship and was first sent to the Atlantic Front, but was moved to the Pacific Front after D-Day. On the PC, McCord would eat, sleep, play cards, and work his mandatory eight hour shifts. He was a Yeoman on board his ship. He was on this ship until after V-J Day and was sent home.
Robert McCord’s Patrol Craft
The ship I was on was a small ship. It was only 142 foot long, 18 foot wide. It was called a PC – a patrol craft. Its main purpose was to take convoys across the ocean, to serve as a convoy so that in case there was a submarine attack, we carried depth charges that we could discharge; roll them off the fan tail or shoot them out the K guns to deter any submarine action.
First Navy Job & Victory Courses
I was a yeoman. You know what a yeoman is? [A] secretary. Every ship has to have someone that takes notes and does the typing. While I was in high school, they offered what they called victory courses that were offered during the war; it was an elective. I took a victory course in typing; I learned to type. So fortunately, when I went in the navy… the first job they gave me was, they gave me a paintbrush and lowered me over the side on a board and [told me to] paint the side of the ship. I did not enjoy that at all. But I told them I had typing skills, and they needed someone in the ship’s office. So I got in the ship’s office and I didn’t have to go over the side anymore and paint the ship.
How long did you do that painting?
One day. (laughter)
When I was in high school – I was in high school [in] ’41, ’42, ’43, and ’44 – it was during the peak time of the war. And so they had what they called Victory Courses – Typing was one – that came out of your curriculum. I took the curriculum that would permit you to go to college, but I wanted to supplement that with one of their Victory Courses, and typing happened to be one of them. I wanted to learn to type, so that I could be better at whatever [I did]; whether I went in the service or whether I went to college, I wanted to be able to type. So I took this Victory Course. There were other Victory Courses that they offered to students; I’m not sure what they were now, but it was to supplement your regular curriculum that you had.
Returning Home after VJ Day
I was in Guam and my ship was decommissioned. And I caught what they called a troop transport that brought people back to the United States. Those of us that didn’t have any other means of transportation to get back; they didn’t have flights that you could take back, so they brought us back on a troop ship. We got to San Francisco and spent a few days in San Francisco while we got cleared of the necessary things that they had to clear. And then I caught a train, of all things, to cross clear across the United States to get to New Jersey, which took seven days. (laughter) A long train ride; a dirty train ride.
Going Through the Panama Canal
I was aboard this particular ship at the time (points to picture of PC.) This is a small ship, by the way; [it was] 142 foot long and only 18 foot wide, so it’s not a big ship. We got to the Panama Canal and they waited until there were five of us and then they tied us – five of us abreast. So that we would not be one little ship going through this big lock, but a group of us going through all together. I guess it would prevent… putting all that mechanism to work and filling a lock to get one ship through… When I went through, we were there about ten days. The reason I know that is because I happened to bump into a friend of mine from high school while I was in Panama.
Job as a Yeoman
As a ship’s yeoman, I had an office with a typewriter… in the Navy, if you’re not aware, you strike for a [different position.] It’s called striking… I didn’t like painting the side of a ship, so I decided to strike for yeoman. They give you a course to study, you study your course, you take your exam. If you pass it, you get a stripe as a yeoman… And I did pass the courses. Ultimately, [I] went from seaman to Third Class, Second Class, and finally First Class before I was discharged. My entire time in the Navy was spent doing clerical work, which I particularly enjoyed… [I handled] any correspondence that the ship’s officers needed done, routine reports from the Bureau of Naval Personnel, basically that’s it.
I slept in the forward part of the ship, that’s up at this end. You went down a hatch that went down to the lower deck. And down there… we slept 12 people in the enclosure where I was. There was a bottom bunk, a middle bunk, and a top bunk… In the center around that, you had a locker and that’s where you kept your personal belongings – whatever you needed. A change of clothing, dungarees, socks, and what have you. Pogey Bait – you know what Pogey Bait is? That’s candy. If you had anything at all, you kept it in your locker. You had a combination lock on it.
Eight Hour Shift
You were on the upper deck for four hours with a set of binoculars. You also then would go below deck to the helm and you were assigned helm duty. Or you went to the sonar and put on earphones and you listened to the *ping.* You sent out a *ping* and if it hit a solid object, it would bounce back and [you’d] know that there was probably a submarine in the area. So you served four hours on the top and four hours down below; that was your eight-hour shift. The rest of the time was your time off.