Bob Lee - CRD-21 History


Robert E. Lee, CDR, USN (retired) with CRD-21 History

My name is Robert E. Lee, CDR, USN (retired).   I was pretty surprised to see my name among all those guys who manned and supported CRD-21 at Great Lakes. I was stationed at Service Schools Command working for LCDR Jim Roper when he got the call , offering him the job of establishing the division. He got the OK to use the boat house and the harbor and before he knew it, PTF-17 and 19 were on the way. When PTF-18 arrived, the OIC was LCDR Ed Grace. He was detailed to bring the boat up from Little Creek and assume the post as Chief Staff officer of the division. Jim Roper called me on the phone and offered me the OIC spot. I was slated to go to Destroyer Department Head School and he managed to get the orders delayed for 18 months. I took over the boat in the fall of 72. I spent 16 months having a ball and then went on to Destroyer school. I turned the boat over to Ens. Jim Joy, the XO.
In your list, I found a few names I recognized. Lt Stan Sexton was OIC of the 19 boat. My crew was made up of EN-1 Gary Heider, GMG-1 Jack Dodge, EM-1 Bill Gray, ETN-2 Frank Bobiak
and several other guys whose names escape me(Old Age). We took the boats up to Peterson Boat Builders in Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. for the winter of 72. They pulled the boats out of the water and put them in huge boat barns to work on the hulls. The crews rotated a week at a
time to stay with the boats. We lived in a rented house right on Sturgeon Bay. When we left in the spring on 73, my boat hit a piece of flow ice and the starboard prop threw it up and through the hull. We were about an hour out of Sturgeon Bay and turned around to head back.
We were taking on water pretty fast and Jack Dodge, a really brave guy, went and got a mattress and took it to the hole in the hull. He stuffed it in the hole and put a section of steel shoring against it. He SAT in the freezing water on top of the shoring until we got the boat back to the yard. They fixed us up and we got back to the Lakes about two weeks later.

Another heart stopping time..PTF-17 and 18 were on a recruiting  trip through Lake Michigan, Huron and Erie during the summer of 73. We were moored in Port Huron, Michigan and the crews were staying in a hotel. PTF-18 was scheduled to take the mayor and some other folks out for a run and most of the crew was at a small diner having some lunch before we got underway. EN-1 Gary Heider (my chief engineer) and a couple of the other guys went to the boat to get it ready to go out. I was still eating along with a few of the crew. We were just about to leave the diner when several fire trucks went roaring by in the direction of the pier where we were moored. It was all over when we arrived at the boat. Gary had gone into the engine room to light off the engines and get the generators on line. He hit the start button on the starboard main engine and it took off. The RPM went strsight to red line. Gary hit the
emergency fuel kill lever but the engine kept running. He cleared the space and about the time the guys got out, the engine threw a piston rod throught the block and it seized up. It had burned all the engine oil in the crank case and the 70 gallon service tank after he shut off
the fuel. These guys secured the boat, started disconnecting the engine and removing the bolts that held the soft patch over the engine room in place. Two days later, a new main engine arrived. We had gotten a crane and removed the blown engine. In a little less than 36 hours, that crew had put the engine in, hooked it up, replaced the soft patch and test run the engine. We headed back to the Lakes the next day. They were amazing, dedicated men, the likes of which I had never seen before or since. I eventually got command of a ship in Mayport, Fl but it just wasn't the same.The boat drivers were a special breed.

Hope this helps you out. Fair Winds and Following Seas - Bob Lee.


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