USS Spangler DE-696

- My Navy Days! -

-Kenneth (Ken) J. Nolan -

(Oct. 31, 1943 - Oct. 27, 1945)

Ken entered the navy in November 1942 at age 17 and reported for boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago, IL. His grandmother passed away a week before training was to end, so he was permitted to leave early on his scheduled 9-day boot camp leave prior to reporting for radioman school at North Western University. He reported aboard the USS Spangler in New Orleans as a Plank Owner on October 31, 1943 and remained assigned to the ship until his 30-day leave in San Pedro, CA on October 27, 1945, a total of 24-months. The latter was delayed a month following the ship's return from the far east to permit "old timers" to depart the ship first. Ken laughingly reports that like a lot of other young sailors back then, his birth date on his ID Card was altered to show he was 21, in other words old enough to buy a beer in California.

Ken, as did other shipmates during the war years, spent his entire navy career without opportunity to return home or take leave of any significance. He says it perplexes him today to see all the grumbling about servicemen not getting home every six months, that during World War II, many servicemen, like he and the others on the Spangler, never even returned to the States, much less took any leave until the end of the war, three years later. He said that when he did finally get home, it was on a 30-day leave before reporting for discharge in Long Island, NY. The trip back home was by train was on a train from San Pedro to Grand Central Station in New York, with a change of train in Chicago, IL. Along the way it made a whistle stop somewhere in eastern California to take on water. The passengers were permitted to get off for about 15-minutes. And typical of most servicemen they naturally wanted to get a beer or something a little stronger so one of the guys asked a local where they could buy something and they were directed to a bar about three blocks away. Ken says the proprietor evidently had an overstock of Southern Comfort and refused to sell anything else until that supply was gone. "Eighty percent of the guys returning to the train were carrying a bottle of Southern Comfort back with them.

In trying to recall his memories he said the day to day routine activities run together in his mind making it difficult to recall anything specific about his shipboard duties after all these years...except that the duty hours in the Radio Shack were long. Hours could be from breakfast (7 a.m.) to lunch at 12-noon, from 12-noon to 6 p.m., from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., and frmom 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., on and off. Initially he trained as a deckhand until making 3rd class. He notes that, "A few times we were short a man or two because a transfers of a couple of 3rd classes or because they were sent back to the guy owes me $200 which I never saw to this day. The guy I trained with was one of the lucky guys to be sent to the states for leave and a new assignment." General quarters could mess up your sleep time when off watch. And we had quite a few general quarters, thankfully many of them were false due to "ping" hits were fish, whales or something other than subs."

Ken recalled that when the Spangler took part in the sinking of the Japanese submarine in June 1944, he was on duty in the radio room. "You knew something big was going on because of all the noise and activity, but it was tough being in there and not being able to see. It made a guy nervous!" He said that afterwards he was assigned lookout duty at one of the 24-inch search lights looking for debris. It dawned on him while he was standing there, "Hey, if someone starts shooting at us this search light is going to be the first thing they fire at!"

Ken has made available to the website a number of items from his past. They are published in the memorabilia section include such items as the "Anti-submarine Action Report by Surface Ships" on the sinking of the Japanese submarine, written by LT. D. J. McFarlane and submitted to Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet, along with mailgrams received from Admiral Nimitz and Admiral Halsey, including mailgrams to and from COMTASKGROUP 30.4, COMDESRON 21 and COMCORTDIV 39, and (3) Movie watch list. Each of these can be viewed by clicking on one the bulleted (underlined) items below (Be sure to use your browsers back button to return). Other items worth noting here was his "American Campaign Medal and "Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal" with campaign stars for "consolidation of Norington, Solomon Islands, Truk, Satawan, the Ponape Raid and the Assualt & Occupation ofo Iwo Jima. Also included is his "Imperial Domain of the Golden Dragon Card" received following the ship's passage over the 180th Meridian on February 20, 1944. Although not included here, he also received a card for crossing the Equator on January 27, 1944.

Photo of Ken Nolan's military ID Card.

-Select Photos To Enlarge -

Hollywood Palladium Cover  Photo
Ken Nolan Photo

Hollywood Palladium


Ken Nolan Photo

The Trocadero Theatre Display

1614 W. Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

Ken Nolan Photo

(l to r) Ken Nolan (RM2), Ellison Wansler (SM2)

Unknown Friend & Lee Peterson (SoM2)

Ken Nolan Photo

(l to r) Ellison Wanser (SM2), Miller (YO)

a Signalman, a Pharmacist Mate & Ken Nolan (RM2)

Roy G. Vicich (S2c), Bill W. J. Kinsley (S2c) & Ted J. Smith (S2c)

Ken Nolan Photo
Ken Nolan Photo

Golden Dragon 1944

Nolan American Campaign Medal

Liberties, what few they had, Ken said, were seldom more than three or fours hours at a time, typically on a beach on some remote island, and mostly consisted of sandwiches and one or two near-beers...the latter not tasting very good! More often not he would end up giving his to someone else.

A memory that sticks out in his mind was the gambling casino (for lack of something better to call it) that guys from the USS Dixie operated up at a recreation area up in the hills in Guam. He said dice and gambling tables were set up in small huts, no walls, and they were ran mostly by chiefs from the Dixie...with officers from the Dixie evidently aware of what was going on and condoning it. "It wasn't unusal," he said, "for a table to have twenty five guys around it." A friend of his from the USS Hazelwood won $750 there one evening. When Ken asked him what he was going to do with it, his friend responded, "I'm turning it over to the storekeeper aboard ship for safe keeping, then the first opportunity I'm going to buy a war bond and send it home."

One evening while in drydock in Guam, he and another shipmate were detailed to go ashore for radio messages. Two firemen volunteered at the same time to take garbage ashore. So the four of them decided while they had the opportunity to do a little looking around . And it wasn't too long before they came across some seabees, always friendly guys, that took them to a quonset hut where one of the guys there pulled out a foot locker with anything to drink they could possibly want, each item tagged with a separate price. Ken said, "I didn't have and trouble getting my bottle back aboard ship, I just stuck in it my mail bag. One of the firemen, though, brought his back on board in a garbage can and the other fireman stuck his in his pocket and climbed back aboard the ship using the tie-line at the bow, hand over hand." After all were aboard they invited some of the stewards to join them and some of their other buddies in dispensing of the liquor, The stewards had access to coca cola they had stolen from the officers mess. "With that coke as a mixer that liquor didn't last long!"

Another memory was of the time he had to have a tooth filled. He said the dentist was an ensign and the office was nothing but a wooden shack, not much larger than an outhouse. "After I set in the chair I heard this noise and looked down at the floor and saw that this ensign was operating a foot pedal to power the the drill. There was no other electrical power available. He drilled a small hole in my tooth and filled it with silver." When asked if the dentist used any novacaine, he said, "Are you kidding! They didn't have any!"

Additional photos from Ken's days while at a Radioman School are available on pages 2 and 4 in his Photo Album. Click on the tab here to visit his album.