Notes from the Can-do Crew

Note from David Merrill

I joined the Navy in October 1961. After graduating "boot camp" at Great Lakes in January 1962, I was assigned to the crew of USS CANISTEO. I was shipped to Norfolk Va. for further transfer and three days later told to report to the airfield. We left NAS, Norfolk and were told we were going to McGuire Air Force Base and then to Naples, Italy. Well, the best laid plans are always subject to change - once airborne we learned that we were not stopping at McGuire and that we would land in Labrador to refuel. Goose Bay, Labrador is just a little cold in January !! We landed there and had to leave the plane while refueling was going on. Of course, my peacoat was in my seabag (and that was in the cargo hold). Back on board the plane we were introduced to the Strategic Air Command box-lunch - at that time we were so damned hungry it was like a feast !!! Seventeen hours later we landed in Pt. Lauyte, Morocco (temperature 93'). We were there for two days then flown to Naples. We were taken to the Marine Corps Barracks (yes, sailors at Marine station) for three days - and I have to say the best duty I ever had. Those Marines couldn't have been any nicer. I was then flown to Toulon, France and finally reported for duty aboard ship about 23 January.

I was assigned to the deck crew for the famous Navy "On-the-Job-training". I was quickly welcomed aboard by the crew (more like a family than a crew). Canisteo is a large ship but a relatively small crew - 252 crew members if memory serves. We visited Marseilles and Cannes France, Naples and Genoa, Italy, Sardinia and Rota, Spain, sailed past the Rock of Gibraltar and on to Norfolk - refueling destroyers and cruisers and transferring jet fuel to carriers along the way. Returned to Norfolk (homeport) in March, sailed to the Carribbean in April for 3 months. Back to Norfolk then to Baltimore of the Fourth of July. Sailed around the east coast area back and forth to Norfolk until mid-September when we went to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for a planned "jumboizing" (make the ship much larger). Just getting used to dry-dock life when in mid-October all leaves were cancelled, everybody ordered back aboard and we quickly were underway - CUBA - Kennedy's "quarantine". We were busy refueling ships - 180 warships in one area - we saw three of the Soviet ships (at a close distance) and watched tensely as destroyer crews stopped and boarded them. Dangerous and very scary times during that blockade - too damned close to war than I liked.

When the crisis was over we stayed in the Carribbean and visited Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Bermuda then returned to Norfolk in December. Got to go home on leave for Xmas then we left for a 9 month Mediterranean Cruise. Visited the Canary Islands, back through the Straits of Gibraltar then to Palma, Majorca - the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Ports of call on the cruise included Naples, Genoa, Livorno, Athens, Rhodes, Sardinia, Sicily, Marseilles, Toulon, Cannes, Nice, Barcelona and Valencia. Barcelona was great - the perfect place for liberty ! Sailed for home in late September and ran into a hurricane. Unbelievable wind and fury. Seas high above one minute, deep below the next. I felt sorry for the tin-can (destoyer) sailors in our group. Bouncing around on that tanker was bad, but those guys were bouncing four-to-five times more than us. Looked like a nightmare ride at an amusement park, but I don't think they were very amused !!

Safely home in Norfolk in October, Kennedy killed in November - a sad time even though I didn't like him very much. December spent in port at Norfolk - the first and only Xmas I didn't spend with my family. Not a complete loss we did get two packs of cigarettes and a bag of peanuts from the Navy.

Went to the Carribbean (again) in January for a 3 month cruise. Visited Jamaica, Bermuda, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caracas and Orinoco,Venezeula, Curacao, Wilhelmstadt and Aruba(it wasn't the vacation paradise then that it is now). Back to Norfolk in April, operated in and around east coast and then I was discharged on October 8, 1964 (early discharge, the ship was going on a NATO cruise in the North Atlantic, I guess they didn't want to fly me back in November).

I'm glad and proud to have served in the Navy. I travelled and visited places I would never have seen, made friends with a variety of men from all walks of life and I think made myself a better person.

Note from Kevin R. Golden

I was stationed aboard Canisteo from June 1985 to December 1988. The ship was jumboized in 1967. She was cut in half, 100 feet added to her length, the tank decks were enclosed and a new superstructure was built.

Note from Walter Pepere, Sr...E-mail:

Hi Former Canisteo Crewmembers.
I served aboard Canisteo as a Fireman Apprentice from Boot camp at Bainbridge, Md. Reporting aboard in November 1952 until June 1953.Engineering Div. "A" Gang, working on motor launches Buda Diesels and as Engineer on launches. Stood Engine and Fireroom underway watches. Made one Caribbean cruise during that time period, saw a Shipyard overhaul in Philadelphia in 1953 prior to transfer from the ship to shore duty at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico for two years, then reported in mid-1955 to USS Salamonie AO-26 in Newport, RI as a Teleman Third Class finishing out my time in May 1956.

Note from Eli Sepulveda Sr.

I served on the old Can-do from Aug. 1960 - July 1963. I still have many fond memories of her, you might go as far as saying that I still have a love relationship. I was in "M" Div. Hope to hear from other former crewmembers soon !

Note from Frank E. Bibbee

Anybody out there from '73 to '75 let me know !

Note from Brian Bethune

I served aboard from 6/30/73 - 6/30/75. I did notice the ship has changed since I last saw her. She was in drydock in Jacksonville, Fl. for a complete overhaul in June 1975. Myself and fellow HT's had the privilege of walking beneath her. Spent one year, ten months and 14 days at sea - used to say "out to sea 99% of the time". I was in R-Div in those 2 yrs we were awarded two gold Engineering E's. What times, what a crew we had - I will never forget it.

Cool stuff from Patrick O. McLaughlin

Note from Jim Kaminski

Note from J.W. Adams

For everyones information and interest: Photos of the U.S.S. Canisteo(AO-99)Commissioning Ceremonies Program have been posted at; The photos show a list of Officers and Crew. My Grandfather was Mayor of Canisteo, NY at the time. Check it out.

Note from Ned H. Holt

Ned H. Holt, BM2... 1974 I turned over my papers to the Officer of the deck of the Can-do. E-1 fresh from Great lakes, cluless of who was waiting in the oily shawdows of the 99; Shipley, Beckwith, Perkona, Kelly, Dial, and a Mentor and Friend, the man with the golden arm, Master Chief Oliver. This is a short list of many that I had the opportunity to rub elbows and great times. I'm hoping this message will help get the attention of someone. I left the Can in 78 as Bos'n, Petty Officer 2nd Class taken with me Morresberger's buck knife, which I may add, I still have. I hope all is well with everone, I'm still in Vermont. If anyone reading this message know anyone listed above, or that may have served on the Can between 10/74 - 6/78, please bring this message to their attention. Look me up, it's a small State.

Note from Kevin J. Stafford

Name: Kevin J. Stafford..Harvey N.D.-- Email: Comments: served in M and A divisions '85-86 under Capt. D.W. Ritt III. Anybody else from that era please e-mail me.

Note from Edward Supik

Email: from: Baltimore md Comments: I served onboard from 1980-1984 in e and stream div. I was an IC-2.

Note from Dan Bland

Name: Dan Bland Email: from: I'm still in Georgia Comments: I was a board from '71 to '73. I wouldn't trade those times for anything in the world. Does anyone out there remember the Forrestal colliding with the Cando?

Note from John Musser

Name: John Musser Email: Where are you from: Indianapolis, In
Comments: I was on board from may1982 to august 1983. I was an electricians mate by day and a real pain in the ass anyother time. But met alot of good people and would like to hear from some of them.

Note from Larry Baldwin

Name: LARRY BALDWIN Email: LA62057@AOL.COM Where are you from: CHARLESTON WV


Note from Michael Hutson

Name: Michael T. Hutson EM1 E Div 1969-73 Email: Where are you from: Presently From Turnersville, NJ

Comments: She was a fun ship, Hard work, but great memories! July 23, 99

Note for Bruce Hill

Name: Bruce Hill Email: HomePage: Where are you from: Comments: Bruce is an old Canisteo crew member. However, he is not on the net. Please contact him, US Mail at 100 Burnzamatic Drive, Medina, NY 14103 Thanks Ed Reese NAVetsUSA August 7, 99

Note from Barry Hall

Name: Barry Hall Email: Where are you from: Adrian.Michigan 49221

Comments: I was on the can-do 1963-1967 looking for pictures,shipmates had a lot good times on the can-do.I was a MM.3rd, class in the engine room.hope to hear from some one soon. September 3, 99

Note from John Ditmars

Name: John Ditmars Email: Where are you from: Lampasas, Texas

Comments: I served aboard the Canisteo from Dec 81 -June 84 as QM2 in Nav Div. September 6, 99

Note from Bill Tole

Name: Bill Tole Email: HomePage:
Where are you from: El Paso, TX

Comments: I served from '77 'til '80, cooking for the wardroom. I am now Program Director for KTSM-FM in El Paso, after the Capt. said I had no future in radio! Thanks for the cool site! I wish you well! September 13, 99

Note from Eric French

Name: Eric L. French Email: Where are you from: Richmond, Va.

Comments: Served on the "CanDo" from 73-77 in 3rd Div. Came aboard as FTGSA and left as FTG2. Have fond memories of Chief Oliver and remember Capt. Martin as being the fairest, toughest Captain that I served under. My next stop is the attic to dig out memories. Would love to hear from any of the old crew. September 23, 99

Update from Jim Kaminski

David , I don't know if these codes stay the same over the years but I seem to remember that the Canisteo had a signature of { NAN JIG VICTOR JIG} , I believe the signalmen used tha to call up the ship when they flashed her with the light or the yard arm blinkers. You got to ask a signalman to see if I'm correct.What games we can play on the site. Does any one know what and where the pith sword is? It was located in a pumproom just aft of the superstructure. It was all the way down on the bottom of the hull. It dropped when we went out to sea and lifted when we came back in. It was a long brass sword with a hole in it so that the water would enter it and send a signal to the IC room to a Pitonmeter , I think that's what they called it, to mewasure the speed of the ship. They told me to lift it when we were coming in and I told the 1st class I didn't know how . Go and learn was the order , and I did ,I pulled it all the way out and had a water spout going all the way up to the hatch. I thought I was going to sink the Canisteo . Got it back in and had a flooded compartment. I bailed and then chipped paint for a week after. Next time I knew how to do it. I was a Em and I think it was IC elect. job. I never heard of the darn thing before. Just a couple of sea stories . Jim Kaminski

Note from Dana Greer

Name: Dana (Jim) Greer Email: Where are you from: Frederick MD

Comments: GMG2.......Served 1974-1977. 3rd division. Those were some good times, although I didn't realize then. Made some good friends, had some laughs. September 29, 99

Note from Gary Monda

Name: Gary Monda Email: Where are you from: Sullivan, Mo.

Comments: Served in R division from Dec. 69 to Mar. 72 with a great crew. October 9, 99

Note from "Wilbur" Weldkin

I never thought of doing a search on the old ship. I was surprised to find anything about her. I served aboard the "Can-do" 84-87. I was in Deck Second Division. BM2 Weldin a.k.a "Wilbur" part of the "Rats" (informal social group) Was qualified rig captain, then did BMOW for unrep, small boat coxswain. Looking for any crew members who served 84-87. My EAOS was 1 week prior to Med-Cruise on Sept 14, 1987. Email me : thanks

Note from Leo Murray

Name: LEO MURRAY Email: LMURRAY@TOTALTEL.COM Where are you from: nj

Comments: I was on the CANDO from 72-75. Started in Deck (Station # 2-AVGAS during unrep) ,coxswained the LCVP ,40' and Captains gig and went struck to OPS as an OS. October 12, 99

Note from David Bolton

Name: DP3 David Bolton Email: Where are you from: Phoenix, Arizona

Comments: Served in the Supply Division from 1980-1982. Had a great time and met some great people. I still tell my kids stories of the ship, the places we travelled and of the friends I had the pleasure of knowing. Would do it all over again. October 13, 99

Note from Jack Burns

To: Dave Merrill Since I was discharged from the Canisteo at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in October, 1962, we were aboard together most of that year. During my approximate two year stint, I remember our first cruise when we collided with a submarine entering Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1961 dumping back oil into the harbor and hobbling back to Norfolk with a severe list. After repairs, we went on an approximate one year Mediterranean cruise visiting all the great ports. That was the trip of a lifetime and I think of it often. We were involved with a three day hurricane, and I can show you pictures of major damage to the captains gig and vehicles on board. One crewman was washed overboard. We all thought we bought it during that storm. I can't imagine what the guys on the destroyers with us must have gone through. That "CAN DO" spirit of the Canisteo has remained with me through the years.

Note from Doug Cohrs

Name: Doug Cohrs (Skubiak)Email:
Where are you from: Riverton, Wyoming

Comments: I served on the Canisteo from 75 when she was in the JAX yards through another major overhaul in Brooklyn in the winter of 79 and was discharged off her in Sept of 80. I was in M div., stood top watch in the engineroom, my unrep station was top watch, sea and anchor detail too. Made 2 Med cruises on her and I don't know how many times down in the Carribean - the other fellow who was on her at JAX was right, always out, 99% of the time!
November 5, 99

Note from Al Hartzel

Hi, This is Al Hartzel former YN2 aboard Canisteo. Was part of the pre-commissioning detail at Sparrows Point, MD and rode her until the fall of 1947. Participated in "Operation Highjump", the Antarctic expedition from Dec '46 to Apr '47. So far as my memory reaches there are only two of us plankowners left. The other is Bill Odgers, BM1 who now resides in Seattle, Washington. We have just celebrated our SEVENTH reunion in Baltimore, Md. Previous reunions held in Charleston, SC, Seattle, WA, Norfolk, VA, Las Vegas, NV, New Orleans, LA and Myrtle Beach, SC. Most of those were attended only by members of Ops Highjump. The last, in Baltimore was attended by other members of the crew from later years. Our next reunion is scheduled for Bozeman, Montana in September of 2000. Anyone interested please contact Mel Strawbridge, former Postal Clerk, at He would be more than pleased to add you to the mailing list for future get-togethers. So far we have only been able to reach two officers: former Ensign Gordon Vink and Ensign "Hank" Toothman. I was the only enlisted member of the original crew at the decommissioning ceremony in Norfolk in October 1988. A cold, bleak, rainy day. Very apropos. Great to hear from latter year shipmates. Anyone out there interested I have had published a book on the Antarctic expedition retailing for $10.00 which includes shipping and handling. Check or money order to Albert N. Hartzel, HC73 Box 807A, Locust Grove, VA 22508. End of commercial. Stay well and stay in touch.

Note from Milton Burke Jr.

Name: Milton L.Burke Jr SkSN Email: MsunnyB@AOL.COM
Where are you from: Alexandria,Virginia

Comments: Served on USS.CANISTEO IN 1954 and 1955 in supply office and gsk storerooms, also paint locker. Discharged in 1955 when ship was in drydock in new jersey November 12, 99

Additional note from Milton Burke

. I enlisted in the Navy in July of 1951 and spent three years shore duty an the Commisary Store at the Norfolk Navel Base. The last year of my enlistment I had sea duty on the Canisteo. I wish I could have on more cruises than I did. Seems like we spent a lot of time at Craney Island, taking on fuel. I did go to Havana, and the Panama Canal, and one time we had to ride out a terrific hurricane.Everybody in the Supply Office got seasick, because we had been painting and the fumes of the paint and the rolling of the ship was more than we could take. I think our ship was going to the Med. after we got out of drydock somewhere around 1955, but my time ran out and I was discharged in July of 1955 I forgot to mention when I was on the ship my duty station were GSK, Paint locker and Ships Store Storeroon. Thanks lots Milton L. Burke Jr SKSN.

Note from Terroll Anderson

Name: Terroll J. Anderson Email:
Where are you from: Atlantic Beach, Florida

Comments: I was the Weapons Officer on the Canisteo in 1977 and 1978. I enjoyed looking at the old photos. Keep up the good work. November 16, 99

Note from Michael O'Keefe

Name: Michael O'Keefe Email:
Where are you from: Texarkana, Texas

Comments: EM2 onboard Feb. 1979- May 1980 November 17, 99

RICHARD F.TAYLOR Email: (Note from webmaster - this address returns an error)
Where are you from: WAYCROSS GEORGIA

November 23, 99

Cliff Kemp

Email: Where are you from: Bogalusa, Louisiana

Comments: I'm making a call for all Canisteo crewmen serving between 1959-1961 who knew my father, Wayne Kemp. My father lived his dream to see the world onboard Canisteo and had a fascinating life afterwards, which carries on to this day. I think it'd be great for his crewmates to email me so he could reunite and contact them. Efforts towards this endeavor are appreciated. Thanks and God bless.....
December 3, 99

George C. Bird

Email: Where are you from: New York

Comments: Served as BT2 from '81 to '85
December 3, 99

Dick Brown (alisa Charlie Brown)

Email: (contact person) Where are you from: 10 Maple Ave., Freeport, ME 04032

Comments: Please write or call me at 207-865-6679 if you served on the USS Canisteo any time from January 1968 to October 1971
December 5, 99

Dale L Gauntt

Email: Where are you from: Coplay,Pa

Comments: Surfing and finding this website restored many memories of the time I spent on the Canisteo. Checked aboard in May of 74 in the Med and checked off in Jan 98. Made BT2 on her and had alot of fun. Any BT's onboard during that time, contact me. Thanks for this web site. Dale L Gauntt AKA Farkle J Gruntt,ESQ.LTD the III
December 5, 99


Where are you from: NEW YORK

Comments: I sailed on the canisteo from 1980-1984'belonging to B DIV.great ship.Outstanding crew.
December 9, 99

Name: patrick mccann

Email: Where are you from: pittsburgh pa.

Comments: aboard fromm 77 - 78 in the boiler room like to hear from you guys drop me a line, learned a lot about life aboard that ship, had a lot of fun, no regrets
December 17, 99

Name: rex cale

Email: Where are you from: ozark, arkansas

Comments: served cando 1968 to 1972 en2 "a" division
December 20, 99

Name: James E. Whitehurst

Email: Acocacola2000@AOL.COM Where are you from: Nashville, TN

Comments: I was BM3, I served on her in 56' and 57', made Med. Cruise in 56' and 57'. Injured on cruise over in 56' pulled into Gib. for repairs. Would love to here from any other crew members. My address is 104 Bay Drive, Hendersonville, TN 37075 (615)824-8045. Man all fueling stations plus the highline. Jim Whitehurst
December 23, 99



December 24, 99

Name: william taylor

Email: Where are you from: monroe, MI

Comments: Served on AO-99 from June 1959-August 1960; ET2. One winter med cruise; serviced "destroy picket" line off off east coast. A.T. Decker Captain, later admiral and captain of Ticonderoga off nam. LCDR. Placchi-Placchi was well loved by the crew; he's alive and well at San Francisco.
December 27, 99

Name: Greg Whited

Email: Where are you from: Pataskala, Ohio

Comments: I served on the Canisteo as an Engineman [EN-2] from January 1974 untill July 1977. My last CO was Captain Edward H. Martin Who later became Vice Admiral and I believe, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare.
January 26, 2000

Name: Melvin R. Strawbridge

Email: Where are you from: Originally - Baltimore, Md. / Current Van Vleck, TX

Comments: I served on the Canisteo during the 1946/47 era. Went to the South Pole with the Admiral Byrd Expedition. We have been holoding a yearly reunion since 1993 and have become a family. This years meeting will be in Montana and if you are interested, just let me know.
January 30, 2000

Name: Vito Montone

Email: Where are you from: Lake Ariel, Pa.

Comments: Served aboard U.S.S. Canisteo June,1951 to November ,1953
January 31, 2000

Note from Patrick Karaszkie

I served on the old girl from Dec. 1988 to Sept. 1989. That is when I served as the decon crew for her and was later transfered to the USS Savannah AOR-4 in Norfolk, Virginia. She was my first shipped I sailed on in the Navy and she made a good home for that short period. As I saw, you were on her before I was born back in '69. I am so surprised to find any information on her at all. I have looked on the web and found very little, if any. I hope you keep in touch. Take care, Patrick H. Karaszkiewicz Formerly DC2 (SW) Karaszkiewicz

Note from Daniel Rizzo

. I served aboard the USS Canisteo from 1952 thru 1955. I have a lot of official pictures and a list of the crew from that period. Additionally, I have the original commissioning program and a copy of the decommissioning program. I have been actively involved in locating crew member for several years. The SEVEN Reunions we had were outstanding. Looking forward to hearing from you. Daniel Rizzo, USN Retired