Letters Home: Emmett Littler at Sea

From the April 11, 1918 Skidmore News, page 8:

In Storm At Sea

The following letter from Emmett Littler, to his folks at home, tells of a severe storm his ship weathered in a recent trip and will read with interest.

U. S. S. Minneapolis, March 30, 1918.
Mrs. Sarah Littler,
Skidmore, Mo.

Dear Folks:

As I am starting this letter we are nearing Hampton Roads. Only a few hours more and we will drop the hook for a few days.

Left New York on the morning of March 8th for “over there” with a convoy of some thirty odd merchant ships. We were only out a couple of days when we ran into a storm which is said to be the worst known in twenty years. Sunday night was the worst part. The vessel rolled over on a forty-six degree angle and had nearly every one saying their prayers, as she will only stand a few more degrees, and to make matters worse the rudder jammed and we came near crashing into another ship.

Almost all of the crew were sea sick. I turned out of my hammock at midnight to stand my four hours of work. It was all I could do to walk over to the ladder that leads to the fire rooms. When I got below, the alleyways, leading from one fire room to another were shoe top deep in water and it was all we could do to keep our footing on the floor plates. The three after fire rooms were filled with bags of coal which had to be carried into the forward rooms and I and another lad lugged in seventy-six bags in that four hours.

The firemen had to hold the doors open while another one shoveled in the coal. When they would lay any of the tools down, sometimes they would slide over to the other side of the room and back before they would be corralled. A person who has never been in a storm at sea can’t realize what it is like.

The following morning the mess cooks undertook to set the mess tables and broke about half of the dishes before they could get the crates lashed together and tied to a post. In order to get a feed, we had to get a plate and line up for our chow, grab what we could, get hold onto something with one hand and eat with the other. Every little while someone would turn loose holds and come sliding across the deck and crash into a bunch of men, breaking dishes and splattering grub over the bunch.

One day I was sitting on a crate of spuds, a plate of grub in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, when along came a huge wave; I slid over to the wall, turned and went back across to the other side and back again before I could get off. This was very amusing for the crew, but I couldn’t see the joke.

This state of affairs lasted seventeen days, and it was only yesterday that they began setting up mess tables.

We didn’t get to go all the way across — lacked a few hundred miles — as we turned over the convoy to two destroyers, turned around and came back to the states. Something over 5,000 miles, and took twenty-one days.

I got so sick and weak that the doctor put me on the sick list for two days until I could rest up a little; was sick twelve days.

Had a burial at sea. A negro died of pneumonia about a week after we left New York.

I think I have lost about fifteen pounds in weight.

This is the longest trip this old boat has ever taken.

We didn’t see any submarines. Guess it was too rough for them to operate. Received a wireless message one day that there were three sub-cruisers laying in our course, so all the ships changed course and got by them; didn’t lose a ship.

This morning we had gun practice and the three gun crews fired 40 shots and scored 40 hits.

Two crews are to be transferred when we get to New York. We hate to see them go as they are good ones.

Well, as this letter is getting pretty long, will close hoping this finds you all well.

Your son,
E. R. Littler.