During the summer of 1941, the Marine detachment engaged in the Whale Boat competition with the Pacific Fleet.
We raced against other Marine detachments, and won. We pulled against all the divisions of our ship, and won.
In getting ready for the Fleet Championship run off, the USS Arizona had to field a team. The ship's captain, Franklin Van Valkenburgh, thought the best men from each division should make up the team.
Major Alan Shapley, our Detachment Commander, had been competitor at the Naval Academy (Class of 1927) in football, basketball and track. In 1926, he was also quarterback on the Navy eleven that won the National Championship. They went on to play the University of Washington in the Rose Bowl. He was also theManager and first baseman on the USS Arizona's basebll team.
With this background in competitive sports and his judgement of our Marine Whale Boat team, he thought all of his Whale Boat Marines were #1. Major Shapley suggested to the Captain that a two or three run off of Marines against the best Navy men would tell the story. The Marines won all the play off races and became the USS Arizona team in the fall fleet races. We finished runner-up having lost by two feet to the Fleet Champions from the USS Pennsylvania. I was part of that team.
On December 7, 1941, the only survivors of that team were Sgt. John Baker and me, Pvt. Russell McCurdy.
My first meeting with Baker after Pearl Harbor was on a small island off Guadacanal in 1944. We were in the 1st Marine Division. He then was a Capt. and I was a LT. We lost touch and my next contact with him was when I wrote him in April, 1974 about an article he placed in the PH Gram (Page 19 showing the 1941 Arizona Whale Boat Team). He thought I had been killed on Peleliu, so I informed him that I was very much alive. In the meantime, Baker had been informed by Dave Briner of my current address and Baker wrote me in April 1974 setting the record straight. Our letters crossed in the mail and he died in June 1974 before my letter was answered. Baker was the Coxswain of our Whale Boat Team.
After Pearl Harbor, my first meeting with Major Shapley was in 1945 in Okinawa when I was with the 1st Marine Division and he was a CO. of the 4th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. We kept in touch thereafter. Shapley retired as a LT. Gen. in 1962. He died in 1973.
I have maintained contact with Marines Earl Nightingale, Crawford, Cabiness and Navy men Russ Lott, Jim Green, Jim Vlach, John Anderson and Richard Hauff, however Richard Hauff and Earl Nightingale died in 1989.