AExecutive Officer's Memorandum
To The Crew of The USS Belleau Wood, CVL24, shortly after her launching 1943
This morning we are going out to sea to train for war. When you pass beyond the defenses of the Chesapeake you face death and live in danger of death until you return behind such defenses. You must presume from the moment you go out that you are seen by a submarine and that others are lurking in our path trying to get into position for the kill. At no time until you return can you be sure that you are not being watched. You may proceed safely for many days or weeks, and as a result grow careless but you must be impressed with the fact that if you do relax for a moment, if you cease to be vigilant, then you will find yourself destroyed, your vessel sunk, and your shipmates drowned. You may go out day after day, week after week and never see a submarine or an enemy aircraft. Yet when the opportunity comes, you must be ready. The enemy means business, if he sees you first he has the advantage immediately, and his only intention is destruction. Therefore keep watch faithfully day and night. Look out for yourselves - for a luck shot, a chance shot, may end your career.
Our mission of this shakedown cruise is to bring ourselves to such a state of training that we are ready to meet the enemy. Day after day, night after night you will be called to battle stations for drill, drill, and more drill. Battle problems will be held to simulate the damage we may take in battle and to teach us to carry this ship through in spite of all the enemy can do to us. We will launch and receive aircraft time after time, fire practice afterpractice and work long hours day after day. Fire, collision and abandon ship drills will have to be held frequently to prepare us for any eventuality.
During the day the ship must be kept in a MATERIAL CONDITION of READINESS to assure that the results of possible torpedo hit or hits, will be minimized and the ship kept afloat. ONE "Y" DOOR OPENED BY A THOUGHTLESS, CARELESS INDIVIDUAL MAY WELL MEAN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SHIP'S BEING LOST WITH ALL HANDS ON BOARD AND BRINGING THE SHIP THROUGH TO BE REPAIR AND FIGHT AGAIN. Don't open a door that is closed and always close a door that should be closed. At night the ship must be darkened for a flicker of light from a match, from a cigarette or a light lock left open with the control switch cut out will mean sudden death for us all.
The ship below decks will become hot and stuffy and your living conditions not what can be found in your home. At the same time the ship be kept clean for we cannot live in a dirty ship and be the healthy, highly developed, alert crew that we must be to reach our goal. You will be denied the privilege of a smoke because of gassing planes or leaky gas lines or loading bombs and probably just at the time you'd enjoy it most.
All these things are pointed out to show you what you may expect. All are unpleasant but war is hell and this is was. We will try to find times for exercise to develop us physically, and for athletics and movies to amuse us but time of the nature will be scarce.
Remember the Germans and the Japanese are clever and shrewd, they have been training and preparing for your destruction for years and yet you have only a few weeks to train and to learn to beat them at their own game. We are far from perfect now and only perfection will suffice in a game whose only end is complete destruction of your opponent. You must learn to kill, develop the instinct to kill and to hate and in everyday training you must go at every job with this in mind no matter how small the job may seem. Every officer and man has a vitally important place to play in this team which is the Baal WOOD and unless you play your part perfectly, with every ounce of energy and determination your team will lose, and you will lose your life and the lives of many of your shipmates.
LET'S GO AND GET THE GERMANS, THE JAPANESE AND THIS WAR OVER WITH.
/s/ R. Goldthwaite,
Commander, U.S. Navy,
----- From the USS Belleau Wood Association Newsletter
Submitted By John M. DiFusco
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