UDT-1 in the
by E. L. "Spike" Field
The Arctic Dew Line
resupply mission to the north shore of Alaska in the summer of 1949 included a
detachment from UDT-1, including LT(jg) Edwin P. Smith, BM2 Walter "Spook"
Otte, GM3 "Bo" Bohannon, "Choppers" Watson, "Red"
Mack Boynton, "Spike" Field, Surratt, Robinson, and Willis. The
demolition crew went board the ice breaker,
Walter "Spook" Otte, "Bo" Bohannon, and Spike Field
Standing by the rail of the LST 1110 with the
"We had just been transferred to the LST
because the ice breaker,
"Spook" Otte had just completed hard-hat diving school so it was agreed that he should be the one to inspect the problem. He went over the side suited-up in the standard UDT "dry suit", and a hose-fed compressed air diving mask. Climbing hand-over-hand down the fouled cable, he found it had been turned over the shaft three times, but the screw did not appear to be damaged. While below, and hanging onto the shaft with all arms and legs, the ship (hull built like a football) was rolling such that Otte was under about 35 feet of water at one instant, and then, back near the surface. This up-and-down "elevator action" occurred in cycles of about once every few seconds. During each half-cycle roll, sea-water washed the aft deck rails, and then, on the opposite roll, the screw was practically exposed, with Otte hanging on. After his first descent to inspect the problem, he surfaced and requested a line that could be attach to the end of the tow cable such that the crew on deck could haul away to free each cable turn -- one turn at a time. It worked on the first try! Otte made more dives, re-attaching the line each time until the cable was completely free. He made five dives, not counting the many up-and-down cycles as the ship rolled in the sea -- an "ear drum breaker" (zero to 6 fathoms every few seconds) while holding onto the shaft. Afterwards, "Spook" said the water's action felt like a 100 mile-an-hour snow gale! Otte and two UDT safety swimmers, Watson and Willis, were given commendations for their work that day.
Underway again, the
After getting to our
destination, both LSTs beached for unloading operations. UDT helped with cargo
off-loading and drove an LCVP around to corral any loose floating oil drums.
When the operation was nearly completed, Robinson and Field took a
"recreational" swim in the freezing waters dressed-out in dry suits,
two sets of long-johns, face mask, fins and the usual K-Bar knife. Around the
clock unloading operations had been rushed since return to Point Barrow was
mandatory before pack ice moved back toward shore and trap the LSTs, as had
happened the prior year when one had been abandoned on the frozen beach. After
returning to Point Barrow, our UDT-1 contingent boarded the USS George Clymer
for transport back to