Lt. Cdr. E.R. (Sam) Silvers, Jr.
Sam Silvers passed away on 26 June 2001
Lt. Cdr. E.R. Sam Silvers, Jr. (at far right)
Reminiscences about Sam from the book Men of Poseidon, by Lt. Richard W. Graves:
The Story of the Samhattan
some of the more senior officers started to arrive. The first of these
was Lieutenant E.R. (Sam) Silvers, Jr., who was to be my mentor as
well as a good friend and best man at my wedding. Sam and I took an
apartment together in Berkeley. I didnt know Sam at all and
since he outranked me by two grades, I may have been a bit uneasy.
He set that problem aside immediately.
Our first night
in the apartment, I had a date and Sam went to San Francisco to see
a fellow officer from another ship. I don't remember who came home
first. I do remember awakening early to the sound of ice tinkling
in a glass and the splash and gurgle of something from a bottle.
I opened my eyes
and Sam looked at me while solemnly pronouncing that where he came
from, Rahway, New Jersey, it was customary to have a Manhattan for
Sunday morning breakfast. Now it has never been customary, then or
since, for me to have a drink as an eye opener. But, it did seem like
a grand way to become acquainted. I have to admit that in years to
come, we would occasionally enjoy the Rahway custom, only we always
called them Samhattans out of respect for my senior officer.
Incidentally, this concoction is normally made from bourbon whiskey, which wasnt generally available during wartime. Therefore, we substituted rum for bourbon. An authentic Samhattan was always prepared with rum!
Sam also instructed me in many more things of a practical nature such as the various aspects of shipboard duties and command. My subsequent advancement to Officer of the Deck status was due to his fine training and example.
Aboard the USS Rall
The maintenance and operation of all of these [weapons and engineering] systems and items was the responsibility of the First Lieutenant (a title like Captain, he can be of any rank). He is generally third in command behind the Captain and Executive Officer (the Exec). Lt. E.R. (Sam) Silvers was the First Lieutenant;
The First Lieutenant must be expert in all things. He was the one who frequently designed and scheduled exercises to test our knowledge of all phases of these internal systems. Therefore it was Sam Silvers who taught the junior officers and sometimes the more senior officers as well.
Fortunately our ship was one that trained often and took it seriously. Our men took pride in being proficient. Our Captain and Exec were good, but I think we all realized that it was Sam Silvers who inspired us the most.
On board we had one hand-cranked ice cream maker. Sam scheduled frequent competitions between various teams and sections of the crew. The losers made the ice cream and the winners ate it.
Sams favorite drill was to exercise the three repair parties at dawn GQ. Those hours just before dawn are the time when monotony and boredom are felt the most. Thus the contests gave everyone a good wakeup call and helped pass the time while at GQ. The division Commodore liked the idea so much that the program was recommended for all ships in the division.
Sam would create theoretical emergencies that would test everyones reaction time. Since we all craved ice cream, probably more than beer, we had a great incentive to do well.
18 June 1944 (at Pearl Harbor)
The watch schedule wasnt onerous since we were back in port every night. Therefore Sam Silvers created all kinds of extra drills for everyone. He had all hands dealing with every conceivable emergency. At any time the call would come over the MC saying, This is a drill, and then state a simulated emergency.
There would be failures to steering control and an emergency crew would take over in the after steering control, where the rudders were controlled manually. Next it would be a shell hit someplace with flooding in a certain compartment. There were simulated fires all over the place. Always, certain systems would be knocked out and we would use backup facilities, or just improvise.
We [the officers] also had our whaleboat parties. Jim O'Donnell, the Exec, and Sam Silvers had quite a repertoire of songs, mostly bawdy. I don't remember all of the words, but one of the favorites was Old Man, Old Man Do You Have Any Fish. It was first sung to us by the Captain of our sister ship, the USS Halloran, DE-305.
On two occasions, a Lieutenant Stark was temporarily assigned to us. He was an exceptionally fine officer. As I recall, he came aboard specifically to relieve Sam Silvers and Tom Dalton for short periods.
Tom, our Gunnery Officer, left the ship for a short period for some special training. As heads of major divisions, Deck and Gunnery, Sam and Toms workloads were tremendous even without having to stand regular watches.
The Pie Eating Contest
Foster Davis and I had the reputation of being big eaters. Somehow, one conversation came around to which of us was really the biggest glutton. For one thing, we both loved blueberry pie.
It happened that while at Pearl, the wardroom mess got a good supply of blueberries and our Stewards Mates had made some pies. The officers had just returned from the club, where we had been refreshing ourselves. Sam came up with the idea of having a pie eating contest.
The officers made substantial wagers on who would be the winner. Sam backed me. He lost, Im sorry to say. I was down to the last few bites, when I just couldnt eat any more without pausing to catch my breath and maybe to burp. It had been close up until that time. Possibly I was even ahead. When I paused, Foster didnt hesitate. He gulped down the last few bites and was declared the champion.
The Battle of Okinawa (11 April 1945)
Lieutenant Silvers told of having been called to the side of another Seaman, Griffitts. He talked to him and held him until he died. His wounds were mortal and he was beyond saving.
Lt. Sam Silvers, our Damage Control Officer, was not injured. He manned a firehose and was backed up by Stockdale, one our Chief MotorMacs (Motor Machinists Mate), who had a broken hip. They went directly into the blazing inferno of the clipping room and brought the fire there under control before any of that ammo could start cooking off. Both Silvers and Stockdale received the Bronze Star for heroism. No question, their bravery and prompt action saved the ship.
After about two weeks, I was strong enough to go back to Damage Control School. It was an interesting course.
When the head instructor found out that I was from the Rall, he told me that the Damage Control Report by the Ralls Damage Control Officer was one of the best that he had ever read. The author, naturally, was our own Lieutenant (now Lieutenant Commander) E. R. Silvers.
After 6 August 1945
Among other changes aboard the Rall, we had a new Captain. Commander Taylor had gone to a new assignment and Jim O'Donnell was our new Skipper. Sam Silvers was now the Exec.
From the 1995 Reunion
Sam Silvers did some reminiscing about the scene at Okinawa. During various calls to General Quarters, he would sometimes slip up to the radio shack and eavesdrop on the tactical voice circuit to get a better picture of what was going on. He heard the reports from the pickets to the north of us as they came under fire.
He also heard about the LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) going out to pick up survivors. He realized, more than most of us, that our duty was a virtual suicide mission, especially so for the DEs stationed to the north. During the attack on the Rall, he had just left the radio room and had returned to his station when the kamikaze struck us.
He also recalled much about the casualties. After the fires had been suppressed, Griffitts, S1/c, though severely wounded, had asked for Sam. Sam stayed with him and they exchanged a few words before he died.
Later Sam watched as one of the Yeoman, probably Woodward, inspected and identified the dead laid out on the quarterdeck. He then showed Sam the list of those who had died.
Sam also confirmed what Hunter had mentioned earlier. If the kamikazes bomb had passed a foot further forward, it would have hit heavy machinery in the motor room. In that event, it would have exploded in the aft motor room and would no doubt have blown the ship apart.
One never forgets
the brave men with whom one served on the small but mighty USS
The time will come before long now when each of us walks over that gangway to Davy Jones Locker. Is that the sound of laughter and familiar voices that I hear? Each of us will face aft, salute the colors, then snap a crisp salute to Davy Jones. Permission to come aboard, sir?