Eight Years at Sea please click here to return to the previous page
by Richard Torian
This story begins on March 1, 1941, the day my father, Melvin Carter Torian, went on active duty in the United States Navy as a Lieutenant (junior
grade, or j.g.), at Newport News, Virginia. And, the story ends eight years later, on the day he was reassigned from the USS Franklin Delano
Roosevelt to shore duty at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, located in Portsmouth, Virginia.
The story is about the eight years that my father served, aboard four ships during this period, a period that encompassed the United States entry
into World War II and the war’s conclusion. For a good amount of the eight year period, my father was at sea. And, a good amount of this was at
sea while the United States was at war.
The story attempts to both identify specifics, such as jobs done, promotions received, and efficiency report comments made, unique to my father.
And, the story seeks also to provide information on the ships my father served on and their accomplishments during this period, related to United
States war and post-war periods.
The story is focused on these eight years at sea, but later after this story is told, information will be presented about my father and his career
prior to the 8-year sea period, and after this period at sea. The story would not seem complete without this additional information.
The primary purpose of telling this story is to leave a written memorial to a father, and a man, who a son has discovered, had a remarkable career
as an engineer for the United States Navy, with accomplishments and contributions that deserve to be remembered.
And, hopefully, the telling of the story will also suggest, however poorly, how important were accomplishments and contributions made by the
United States Navy to a remarkable national effort of battling against enemies that had to be defeated and of creating an institution, the United
States Navy, that has helped mold a nation.
Upon going on active duty, on March 1, 1941, my father was assigned to the USS Salamonie, on which he would serve for 3 years in “engineering
jobs”. My father almost always, if not always, served in engineering jobs throughout his 36 years associated with the US Navy, 16 of which was as
a weekend (and 2 weeks full time, in the summer) reservist (from 1925 to 1941) and 20 years as a full time, active duty officer (1941 to retirement
in 1961, at the age of 57).
For me, who needs to think and understand in very simplistic terms, engineering jobs in the Navy, aboard ships, are jobs that have anything and
everything to do with keeping the ships running, as the ships are intended to run. Engineering jobs on shore include anything and everything
that support, from the shore, the ships running, as intended. This was the focus of the work my father did for most of the time that he spent
serving the US Navy. By the time he retired, after 36 years of experience, I strongly believe my father was a very, very good ship’s engineer, and
a real asset to his Navy and his country.
The USS Salamonie was a tanker, or oiler, a ship carrying fuel to re-fuel other ships at sea. The USS Salamonie started ship life as a commercial
tanker owned by Esso, name Esso Columbia. It was built in 1940 at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Shipyard. In November, 1940,
this commercial vessel was acquired by the US Navy, and become the USS Salamonie.
The USS Salamonie was named after a river in Indiana.
During most of the war, the USS Salamonie would operate in the Atlantic. In 1942, it ran to Iceland accompanying convoys of troops. Also, in
1942, the USS Salamonie would be a flagship in a convoy of liberty ships running to North Africa. Salamonie also ran to Great Britain several
times. In July, 1944 Salamonie entered the Pacific, after my father had left to go to his next assignment.
The USS Salamonie had a reputation of being one of the best tankers in the Navy.
After the war, the USS Salamonie would continue to serve as a tanker for the Navy until the late 1960s. She was decommissioned in 1968, and
scratched from the Navy Ship’s List in 1969. In 1970, she was sold to a Dutch company for scrap.
Personnel file details from the USS Salamonie period:
My father’s title on the USS Salamonie was chief engineer.
My father would continue his Navy correspondence course work while serving on the USS Salamonie, even as the ship was at war, and with the
duty responsibilities he had. He completed at least one correspondence course while on the USS Salamonie.
In March, 1942, while on the Salamonie, my father received a promotion to Lieutenant.
In March, 1943 he received a promotion to Lieutenant Commander, also while on the Salamonie.
Efficiency report comments while serving on the USS Salamonie included:
Has done a very credible job as engineering officer under rigorous operating conditions.
Under stringent war-time operating conditions has kept this engineering plant in the highest state of efficiency. Very progressive, thorough.
Qualified for greater responsibility.
In October 1944, my father left the USS Salamonie and reported to the USS Mendocino, where he would continue engineering duties. The USS
Mendocino was built by Ingalls Shipyard in Mississippi, and in October, 1944, the USS Mendocino was commissioned at the Bethlehem Steel
Company’s shipyard in Hoboken, New Jersey, where my father joined her.
Two months later, in December, 1944, the USS Mendocino departed for the Pacific, from Norfolk, with 700 troops aboard. The USS Mendocino
was a troop carrier, ferrying troops to battle.
After runs between California and Pearl Harbor, the USS Mendocino would go to the Philippines in February, 1945, and participate in the later
stages of the liberation of the Philippines.
From the Philippines, the USS Mendocino would go to Okinawa, where she would deliver troops and equipment of the 96th Infantry Division to the
Hagushi Bay’s beaches during the amphibious assault in April, 1945
In April, 1945, the USS Mendocino returned to Pearl Harbor, where my father departed, for reassignment, first to the Naval Training School at
3000 Folsom Street, San Francisco, for 2 weeks in late May, 1945, studying damage control, and then to the USS Fargo, as an engineer officer.
The USS Mendocino was named after a California county.
The USS Mendocino was decommissioned in New York on February 27, 1946. She was struck from the Navy Ship’s list of that year. She then
was sold to Pope & Talbot, a lumber company, then headquarters in San Francisco, and was renamed P&T Seafarer. She was scrapped in 1973.
Personnel file details from the USS Mendocino period:
My father’s title on the USS Mendocino was chief engineer.
In March, 1945, Dad received a temporary promotion to Commander, which became a permanent promotion in September, 1947.
My father graduated first in the May, 1945 damage control class at the Naval Training School in San Francisco. 25 students were in the class.
Written comments made by faculty at the school about my father were that he displayed zeal, initiative, and sincere interest.
Efficiency report comments while serving on the USS Mendocino included:
This officer’s services have been eminently satisfactory and the performance of his department has been superior, both in training for and during
a recent operation against the enemy.
This office is a most capable engineer, conscientious and loyal.
Lt. Cdr Torian represents the highest type of officer in all respects.
My father would serve on the USS Fargo, a light cruiser, from June, 1945 to March, 1946. This was a period when the USS Fargo was
undergoing sea trials.
The USS Fargo was named for Fargo, North Dakota.
The USS Fargo was built by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation at Camden, New Jersey, in 1945. She was commissioned in that year. The
light cruiser’s role following World War II was no longer needed by the US Navy, and the light cruiser class of ship ceased to be built. The USS
Fargo was decommissioned in 1950, struck from the Navy Ship’s List in 1970, and sold for scrap in 1971.
Personnel file details from the USS Fargo period:
During this duty on the USS Fargo, Dad received a letter of commendation for outstanding performance.
In July, 1945 my father would go on temporary duty, from the USS Fargo, to the Bethlehem Steel Co., in Hoboken, New Jersey, possible to
participate in the decommissioning of the USS Mendocino.
While assigned to the USS Fargo, my father would request, in September, 1945, an appointment (from the US Navy Reserve Service) to the
regular US Navy Service. Probably, he had, by this time, decided to try to serve the full 20-year complement of active duty, to reach retirement.
Switching to the regular Navy would assist him in this goal. He received this appointment in December, 1946.
Efficiency report comments while on the USS Fargo included:
Commander Torian is an outstanding officer, who has performed his duties as Engineer Officer completely satisfactorily.
Commander Torian is an excellent engineer.
USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt
In March, 1946, Dad reported to the USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) as an engineer officer.
The USS FDR, an aircraft carrier, started its life as the USS Coral Sea, but in October, 1945 was renamed the USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in
honor of the president, who had died in April, 1945. The USS Coral Sea was constructed at the New York Naval Shipyard in 1945.
By the time the USS FDR was ready to go to war, the war was over, and the USS FDR never saw duty in a World War II naval campaign.
However, the USS FDR would serve an important purpose of the post World War II Navy and United States military might, helping in the
development of larger and larger and more potent aircraft carriers, of which the USS FDR served as a prototype. As such, the USS FDR was a
step in the evolution of the development of the US battle group, so important today to US super-power status.
So, although the USS FDR did not see battle in World War II, its successful development and service would be important to Navy and United
States strategy to come.
In February, 1946, the USS FDR would run to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil as a symbol of the United States. In April, 1946 the USS FDR would
participate in the first major Atlantic fleet training exercise after World War II. In July, 1946, the first jet landing aboard a USS Navy ship took
place on the USS FDR. From August to October, 1946, the USS FDR would run to the Mediterranean as part of an important post-World War II
symbolic strategy of the United States, making several port calls. In 1950, the USS FDR would be the first carrier to take a nuclear weapon to sea.
The USS FDR was decommissioned in 1977, and struck from the Navy Ship’s List in 1977. She was sold for scrap in 1978.
My Dad would serve on the USS FDR from March, 1946 until August, 1948, when he would leave his eight years at sea, never to return to sea for
more than a few days at a time.
Personnel file details from the USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt period:
My father’s title while on the USS FDR was chief engineer and damage control officer.
My father would continue his Navy correspondence course work aboard the USS FDR, completing a correspondence course in August, 1947.
In April, 1947, while aboard the USS FDR, the USS Navy granted Dad full engineering officer status.
Efficiency report comments while aboard the USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt included:
Commander Torian is a technical expert and at the same time highly efficient in administration and leadership.
He possesses the qualities of initiative, thoroughness of foresight, and interest in an outstanding degree.
Cdr Torian performance as Engineering Officer leaves nothing to be desired.
Under his capable and steady guidance, the Engineering Department of this ship has functioned with marked efficiency and dependability. It is
the outstanding department in the ship.
My father ended this eight year sea duty story in August, 1948, when he was reassigned to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, in Portsmouth, Virginia.
During these eight years at sea, my father would qualify for and receive the following medals:
World War II Victory Medal
American Defense Medal & Fleet Clasp
National Defense Service Medal
American Theater Medal
European - Africa - Middle East Theater Medal
Asiatic - Pacific Theater Medal
Philippines Campaign Medal
Eastern Campaign Medal
And, during these eight years at sea, my father was aboard ships that participated in the invasion of North Africa, the liberation of the Philippines,
and the invasion of Okinawa.
The Pre-Sea Duty Career of My Father
My father first became associated with the US Navy when he enlisted, as a fireman 3rd class, in October, 1925, being 21 at the time. He would go
on to serve two enlistments of 4 years each. In 1933, he would then receive a commission as an ensign in the US Navy Reserve service.
In October, 1938, my father received a promotion to Lieutenant (j.g.)
He would serve a total of 16 years in the reserves (from 1925 to 1941) before going on active duty in the Navy, for 20 years (from 1941 to 1961).
During 2-week summer training duty, as a reservist, my father would go to sea on the following ships: USS Badger; USS Tattnale; USS Greer;
USS Texas; USS Babbitt; USS Swasey; and the USS Wharton.
These ships that my father would train on during these sixteen 2-week sea cruises were mostly World War I Wickes-class destroyers, of which
dozens were built during the World War I period.
Likely, the sea cruises would be in waters of the Chesapeake Bay, and out into the Atlantic, both south into the Caribbean, and north to
Philadelphia, and other points north.
This reserve training that my father received, from 1925 to 1941, like for so many others, and would be a very important contributor to his later
success in the Navy. This reserve training that my father received, like so many others also received, would serve the United States well.
My father would receive the Naval Reserve Medal in 1939, for meeting performance requirements while serving in the Navy Reserve.
In addition to 40 to 50 weekend drills and summer 2-week training duties every year while being in the reserves, my father worked from 1926 to
1939 as a US government employee, for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). NACA operated the Langley Memorial
Aeronautical Laboratory, located on Langley Air Field, in Hampton, Virginia, where my father worked. His titles, at various times, were Senior
Mechanical Draftsman and Mechanical Design Engineer.
The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was a US federal agency founded in 1915 to develop aeronautics (flight). The agency was
dissolved in 1958 and its personnel and assets were transferred into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory became the Langley Research Center, which continues today as an important NASA research
In 1939, Dad went from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to work for the US Navy, as a civilian, at the Newport News Shipbuilding
and Drydock Company, in Newport News, Virginia. He would work there for two years (1939 to 1941), in the Navy’s office responsible for
coordination and interaction with the shipyard, a private company, on ships being built for the Navy. His title at the shipyard was Assistant Marine
Engineer, and two ships he was involved with were the USS Indiana and the USS Hornet.
The shipyard at Newport News built its first ship in 1891, a tugboat, and has been building ships every since. The shipyard is now owned by
Northrop Grumman which calls the shipyard Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding. It is the largest non-government shipyard in the United States, and
has been a major supplier of ships to the US Navy.
These work periods, at NACA and the Newport News shipyard, were likely most convenient to my father, as he lived nearly in Hampton, during this
time. I suspect that he probably enjoyed this period a lot, as he got married during this period, began a family, and was pursuing what he
probably considered was a promising and interesting career.
My father attended two colleges, William and Mary (1922 to 1924) and the University of Virginia (summer, 1930), completing approximately 50
hours of credits.
The Post-Sea Duty Career of My Father
Leaving the USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt, my father was assigned to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth for 4 years, from August, 1948
to April, 1952, serving in two jobs, during this period.
The first job at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard was as machinery and electrical planning and estimating superintendent.
Efficiency report comments while serving as Planning and Estimating Superintendent included:
This officer’s performance of duty is excellent.
His through planning greatly assisted in Midway repairs. (The USS Midway was an aircraft carrier.)
He is a quiet, mature, and capable engineer of sound judgment and ability.
And, in his second job at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, my father was a Shop Superintendant, from June, 1950 to April, 1952.
Comments received on efficiency reports while as Shop Superintendent included:
Commander Torian is doing an excellent job as Shop Superintendent.
He is a conscientious, hardworking, serious minded officer who is unstinting of his time and efforts to do his best.
Commander Torian has sound engineering technical competence.
In April, 1952, Dad was ordered to Kalamazoo, Michigan. In Kalamazoo, he would serve as a naval inspector, for a Navy contract being carried
out by Ingersoll Steel Products (a division of the Borg-Warner Company) to build amphibious tracked landing vehicles. His title was Resident
Supervisor of Shipbuilding and Naval Inspector of Ordinance.
Amphibious tracked landing vehicles started to be used during World War II, when thousands were available. These vehicles were of small size
capable of operating in water and on land, carrying troops and equipment, from ships to, and up on, land. Following World War II, the US Navy
had a program to further develop these vehicles. The contract that my father was associated with was part of this development program.
Improved variants of the amphibious tracked landing vehicle are still used today, primarily by the US Marine Corps.
In August 1954, while serving in Kalamazoo, Dad would receive a temporary appointment to the grade of Captain. This appointment would
become permanent in July, 1957.
Comments received on efficiency reports while serving as Resident Supervisor and Naval Inspector included:
Commander Torian has demonstrated effective leadership in administering successfully a large and complicated defense contract.
Cdr Torian is a man of unswerving loyalty and high moral courage. He is conscientious, hardworking, and responsible.
In February, 1955, Dad was re-assigned to the Norfolk Naval Base, in Norfolk, as a Ship’s Material Officer, a job he would serve in for four years,
until August, 1959.
In June, 1957, my father was sent on a special 2-day temporary duty related to the commissioning of the USS Ranger, an aircraft carrier, at the
Newport News Shipyard and Drydock Company.
While serving as Ship’s Material Officer, my father received in his efficiency reports many glowing comments, some of which were:
I strongly recommend Captain Torian for promotion.
He has demonstrated outstanding professional competence in managing the Ship Material Division.
Captain Torian is a highly resourceful and imaginative person who constantly demonstrates great capacity for original and constructive
In August, 1959, my father would be re-assigned to the US Naval Station, in New, Orleans, Louisiana. The title of my father’s position in New
Orleans was Industrial Manager, 8th Naval District.
While serving as Industrial Manager, 8th Naval District, comments on my Dad’s efficiency reports included:
Capt Torian has been a most efficient Industrial Manager.
Captain Torian is considered to be an able administrator and a competent logistician. His military character is good and his personal character is
Captain Torian is recommended for promotion.
During my father’s 36-year career with the US Navy, he would complete at least the following 8 correspondence courses (grades are on a 4.0
January 1934, Engineering, 3.86
June 1934, Navy Regulations, 3.65
February 1935, International Law, 4.0
March 1935, Military Law, 3.94
April 1936, Gunnery, 3.79
February 1938, Marine Engineering, 3.93
October 1941, Naval Engineering, 3.93 (remarks: excellent work, high order)
August 1947, Elementary Nuclear Physics, 3.92
Dad also completed at least the following 3 schools while with the Navy:
Damage Control, Naval Training School, San Francisco, May 1945, 1st in class
Code of Conduct School, February 1956
Navy Special Weapons School, Norfolk, April 1957
My father retired from his 36-year association with the US Navy on June 31, 1961, with his final job being an engineering job (Industrial Manager,
8th Naval District, stationed in New Orleans), just as almost all, if not all, of his previous assignments were.
After retirement, my father and mother would return from New Orleans to the house they owned in Norfolk. There, they would live for six years,
while I was living with them and attending Old Dominion College, from which I graduated in 1965.
In 1965, I married, and departed from my parents’ house in August of that year.
In 1967, my parents would sell their Norfolk house and move to Boca Raton, Florida, and to a condominium, just a block from the sea.
There, they would live, until 1984, when my father would die, at the age of 78, of a heart attack, while sitting on a bench in front of a grocery store,
in Boca Raton, waiting for my mother who was inside shopping.
As far as I know, my father never went to sea again, after retiring from the Navy in 1961.
My mother would continue to live in the condominium until 2002, when at age 92, becoming increasingly unable to live alone, she moved back to
Virginia and to Maryland, alternating equally between Virginia, where her other son lives, and Maryland, where I live.
My mother would continue to live until May, 2007, dying of natural causes, at age 98, while living with me.
My father and mother are buried, together, at the City Cemetery in Boca Raton, just a mile from the sea.