Sunday, May 23, 2010

Albert H. Pounds - Searching for Al! (Part 4)

A review of Al's records show that he attended basic training at Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago in the summer of 1955, graduating on 16 September 1955 as a Seaman Recruit. He also completed the Fire Fighters' Training Course as well. From there, he was assigned to the U.S.S. Shields DD598 (destroyer shown above courtesy U.S.S. Shields website), San Diego, California in the fall of 1955 as a Fireman Apprentice. He served on the Shields from 4 October 1955 until the summer of 1957. On 7 June 1957, Al was assigned to the Naval Hospital at Treasure Island, San Francisco, California pending a medical retirement. He was honorably discharged with a 40% disability, due to his diabetes, on 1 August 1957 with a pension of $50.70 per month. His home of record following discharge is listed as 2412 Lincoln Street, Springfield, Missouri. I suspect, but have not been able to confirm that he went to live with his sister Catherine in Springfield.

I was curious to learn more about the ship Al served on, the Fletcher Class destroyer, U.S.S. Shields. I was pleasantly surprised to find a web page for the Shields at: www.ussshields.com. The rich history of the Shields is well documented on the site along with information about the various crews. There's also a series of photos from 1957 of past crew members, but unfortunately Al wasn’t in any of them. However, I did review a roster of crew members listed alphabetically, and there he was--"Pounds, Albert H., FA 55". The site also contained a "Current Crewmembers Contact Information" list with phone numbers and emails. A search through the list for anyone of Al's era produced a likely candidate in H. Terrance Blaine. I sent off an email and was shocked with Mr. Blaine's response. Not only did he remember Al as working in the boiler room, but he was his Division officer!

The following is an email from Mr. Blaine in January of this year:
I do recall Albert H. Pounds being aboard the U. S. S. Shields, DD596, during the time period which you cited in your e-mail. I do not recall any specific details of his service during that time. From March until September of 1956, the ship was deployed to the western Pacific, with stops in Honolulu, Midway, several ports in Japan, Hong Kong, Philippines and Okinawa. He was a part of the boiler room crew. Upon return from that trip, the ship was assigned to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, where the boilers on the ship were partially removed, re-designed, and re-installed. Fireman Pounds would have been very involved in that process. After extensive boiler tests, the ship was re-assigned to its usual home port, San Diego, but it appears that your father may have left the ship at the time it returned to San Diego. 
I was always proud of the performance of the boiler room crews. They did well in all the drills, tests, in-port trials, sea trials and fuel efficiency tests, and could be relied upon in their routine operations.
Mr. Blaine also very generously mailed me a photo copy of the "Cruise Book" for the Westpac cruise the U.S.S. Shield participated in. The book is titled: Far Eastern Cruise, 1965 - USS Shields (DD 596). During the cruise, the Shield's ports of call (as listed in the book) included Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, Nagoya and Sasebo in Japan, Hong Kong, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The photo below actually includes a picture of my father. He is shown on the back row, far left side of the photo. He is listed as "A.H. Pounds, FA".




In reviewing Mr. Blaine's comments, he mentioned, "I do not recall any details of his service during that time." That's interesting to me, because my mother used to passionately recite the family story of Al jumping ship to seek medical care, and that he was court-martialed for the offense. While the record shows he departed the ship for medical treatment at the Treasure Island Naval Hospital, neither Al's military records nor Mr. Blaine's remarks corroborates my mother's story. Jumping ship is a really big deal with the Navy, and I thought it would have shown up somewhere. I was an officer in the U.S. Army many years ago and understand the significance of someone going AWOL (Absent WithOut Leave), and how it affects a service member's career. I wonder what Al told my mother, or what she thought she heard. I’ll probably never know.

In well under a year, I have been able to locate and piece together a number of facts and stories about my biological father, Albert H. Pounds largely though the Internet, email and phone calls. Without these tools and a little bit of "gum shoe" determination, I might never have tried. Each discovery has produced a host of new questions and tantalizing clues leading to new mysteries regarding my family heritage.

I must admit the information discovered has altered my opinion about Albert Pounds, and for the better. However, I am proud to be a "Hair", and wouldn't change that fact under any circumstances, but the "Pounds" in me has finally surfaced after all these years with a dogged determination to keep digging for information about Al and my Pounds ancestry. I fully intend to continue searching while blogging and enjoying every minute of it along the way.

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