lowell capps

MY  Life on the LEX


Lowell R. (Bob) Capps, AOM2/Cv-5 Div. 44-45

I was with the same group of men sent to the Lex that Jewell (Joe) Lewis was in. We (Joe and Me) practically went into the Navy together. We met at a  Naval Supply Depot in Seattle in July, 1943.  We often wondered why, when we were only 12 miles from the Lex, in Bremerton dry dock, we were sent to join her after she had left. But, after three ship rides and three agonizing weeks, we finally caught up with this huge flat-top. We were awed by the size of the ship when we walked up the gangway into the noisy, cavernous hangar deck. Joe and I were taken to our quarters to get settled and spent the rest of that day being taken around the ship by one of the men in the Division we were going into. The next day we were introduced to a 50 cal. Machine gun and were taught how to take it apart, and put it back together, until we actually did it blindfolded.. After that we learned how a bomb rack functioned, and how to load the bombs with an easy to operate bomb hoist.  Our next learning adventure was how to belt 50 cal. ammo. There were four of us that sat around this belting machine that had a tray. One of us would put an armor piercing shell in the tray, another an incinderary and  the other a tracer. The other man kept the belt links coming in properly. If we thought this was a lot of work, we had no idea what was coming when we went on a strike. 


About a week or so later we would learn when we hoisted anchor and sailed off for a group of Japanese Islands called, if I remember, Milii, Woleai, and Palau. This is when I learned I had been assigned two F6F Fighter planes to maintain the guns and keep them full of ammo. Each plane has six 50's and each gun has three cans containing 150 rounds of ammo all belted up.  That meant I had 36 cans to keep full if the pilot shot it all up, and they usually did.  We had an ammo storage room on the port side of the flight deck that held about 300 cases of 50 cal ammo.  When my planes landed and taxied to their spot on the deck, I opened up the gun compartment on the wings, cleared the guns and took all the cans that needed filling to the ammo room to be filled.  This went on at least four times a day.  Then at the end of the day when the planes were spotted for the next morning launch, I cleaned and oiled my twelve 50's.  At 3:00 A.M. next morning we were up loading bombs, rockets and sometimes, we put napalm in the belly tanks.  We were lucky on this strike, no Jap planes came out after us.  


Our next operation was to support the landing at Hollandia, New Guinea. This was an exciting trip for all of us newcomers as we were "polywogs", waiting to cross the Equator.  Our captain, Felix Stump, was "nice enough" to let the "Shellbacks" initiate us into the realm of Neptune Rex.  It's hard to run through the "Whipping Line" with your clothes on backwards, and bare feet. But, it was a great experience, and we were awarded our "Shellback" certificate.  


Copyright 1998 by Patty Cannon all rights reserved