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Arendt, Laurie (ed.) / Back from duty 2 : more stories from Ozaukee County's veterans

[Profiles],   pp. 11-148 ff.

Page 12

Douglas Ahsmann
Aviation Boatswain's Mate
Port Washington resident Douglas Ahsmann was a self-described "airplane nut" when he enlisted in the Navy
in 1948 at the age of 18. He wanted to become a career pilot, but things didn't quite work out that way.
The recruiter sure led me down the wrong street. Because I was such an airplane nut, he said that I had a
very good chance of becoming a pilot if I joined the Navy. At that time, the Navy needed pilots. I thought that it
would be a good idea to go in the Navy and get trained, and then maybe I'd have a chance of becoming a
commercial pilot. But what I didn't know was that you couldn't be a pilot if you were colorblind I didn't find this
out until after I started boot camp and by then it was too late.
I did end up getting a top deck job once I finished my training. I
became an aviation boatswain's mate on the USS Philippine Sea
<  CV-47, an aircraft carrier.
We didn't have much free time. We spent a lot of our time keeping
things clean because everything had to be rust free, and the salt water
could sure do a number on things.
I also had a battle station, which, since we weren't under attack at
war, I didn't spend a whole lot of time in. My battle station was a
bulletproof, explosion-proof compartment located between the hangar
deck and the flight deck. I would be locked in there with some battle
rations and water and I'd had to observe all the planes. I snuck in
rags to read, but the captain's area would call in and check on the
condition of this or that just to test me.
In terms of our living conditions, our quarters
were right under the catapult area - they called us the
"airdales." There were big hydraulic cylinders that
fueled the catapults that catapulted the planes off
the flight deck. They'd go from 0 to 80 mph like that.
Because they were so powerful, they were quite loud.
You had to learn to sleep through it, so even now, I
Great Lakes. (right) His tours offered         can sleep through anything.
him the experience of a lifetime -                The USS Philippine Sea took a cruise to the
from riding trails in the Andes to             Mediterranean. It was really a goodwill tour to
meeting the Pope in Italy. Here's              befriend the people and bolster the economy. We
Doug with his friend, Lyle Olsen, at           went from port to port - and we had the opportunity to
Gitmo, Cuba, after enjoying a few              do some sightseeing. I never missed a trip - I had an
bottles of Hatuey in the early 1950s.          audience with the pope and I found him to be very
congenial and down to earth. He thanked us for being there.
I won a chance to be in a pool of 40 people from the ship to be part of an entourage that went to Paris. All I
can say is that Paris was a different place, that's for sure. While I was in France, I bought perfume for my aunts for
5 percent of what it cost back home.
Due to cutbacks in the military, shortly after I returned home, I was discharged. In lieu of active duty, I had to
be in the Inactive Reserve for six years. I was helping my dad farm in Michigan and I had started my own trucking
business when I was called back in because of the growing Korean conflict in 1952.
I was assigned to the USS Oriskany CV-34, an attack aircraft carrier. It was too big to fit through the Panama
Canal, so our two choices were to go through the Bering Strait or around Cape Horn to get to Korea. Since
relations were a bit cold with Russia, we did a South American tour. I remember when we got close to the cape,
we had helicopters up with lights to look for icebergs. Because of the violent storms, no planes were being
launched and i spent my time sleeping in a gun tub, but I was always on call.
I had some equally interesting experiences on this tour as I did when we went to the Mediterranean. I bought
duty free gold in the Andes. I don't have it anymore though. It was stolen after I was in a car accident (I stored it in
the trunk of my car). What I didn't get to do was actually go to Korea. We stopped in Hawaii, and that was where
they realized they had some short-timers on board. It made no sense to send us to Korea, so we disembarked and
they sent us back. I was attached to Miramar in California for about six months until my time was up. They had to
find a job for me, so I became master of arms in the galley. Now those were wonderful orders; I ate like a king the
whole time I was there!

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