Ernest Smith Jr, “OMVWI”, 25 March 1956

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Ernest wasn’t long out of the navy when, on a wet and windy night, he was caught driving a car while drunk (fine: $100). The year before, he been honourably discharged after having served five years on the USS Laffey, which had been involved in heavy fighting while taking part in the blockade of North Korean ports.

The USS Laffey’s Class of ’52 yearbook, a souvenir booklet produced by the ship’s crew in their free time, contains an unidentified sailor’s recollection of a battle that Ernest would have been part of:

“You could hear the dull water-deadened thud of concussion against the bulkheads below the water line during the battle … There was a gnawing uneasiness in the pit of every stomach and a tendency to want to see what was going on in spite of the fact that it was raining shrapnel on all exposed decks. They lost the windshield on the bridge, a bit of jagged steel missing the captain by inches. On all sides there was almost constantly a geyser of water from the bracketing shells and yet no one who was on the ship that day will ever forget the teamwork in the common defense that the entire crew displayed.

“In the 28 days in Wonsan harbor, we fired 5,657 rounds of five inch ammunition and many of the dug-in batteries fired at us only long enough to let our sharp-eyed lookouts spot them and then they were silenced.

“It was a fitting record for a proud fighting ship to add to a previous outstanding record in World War II.”

Ernest is in the centre of the front row in this picture from the yearbook:

Sources: USS Laffey Class of ’52 yearbook.

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