By CLIFF BERMANN
as told to ABBY WEINGARTEN
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 10:05 a.m.
A native of Jersey City, N.J., Cliff Bermann has been a lifelong enthusiast of all things nautical. After his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy during World War II, he served throughout the Pacific Theater as a navigator on the U.S.S. McCalla (DD-488). After the war ended, Bermann went into the marine marketing field, selling lubes and fuels to ships, and retired after 35 years with Exxon. He even sailed his boat, the Senorita, from Annapolis, Md., to Sarasota in 1982. Now 92 and an avid tap dancer and performer, Bermann lives in the Fountains at Lake Pointe Woods retirement community in Sarasota with his wife of 13 years, Helen.
‘I went into the Navy six months before Pearl Harbor. I was appointed to the Naval Academy and graduated on June 7, 1944, then went to the Pacific on the U.S.S. McCalla (DD-488). I became the navigator.
We had 20 officers and 300 men on our ship. On a daily basis, I had to get up early. Everybody went to general quarters at dawn, but the navigator got up 45 minutes before that.
There is a critical time when the stars are still out but the horizon comes into view, so you measure the angle of the stars and figure out your latitude and longitude.
Every day was dangerous and exciting. The carriers were frequently under air attack.
The radar would pick them up 20 miles away. The carriers were attacking Formosa, which became Taiwan.
I was on the ship for two and a half years. Near the end of the war, we were doing mop-up operations on every island in the Philippines.
We had two fleets, Fleet 38 under Admiral William Halsey Jr. that later changed its name to Fleet 58 under Admiral Marc Mitscher.
We changed the names to fool the enemy. Every once in a while, we’d be assigned to the 7th Fleet, which was Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s fleet, and they made the landings.
We took part in landings on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. The planes would bomb the islands first, and then we’d come in and bombard the shore during the daytime.
When it became dark, we’d fall back. Every once in a while, we’d refuel at Ulithi and take on supplies for two or three days. We sailed, sometimes for 50 days at a time, and refueled at sea, from battleships, tankers or aircraft carriers.
In July 1945, we pulled up alongside the battleship Missouri and they gave us a special message: We had to leave the fleet and go off a distance to transmit their message back to Pearl Harbor.
We were 150 miles from the fleet and 200 miles from Japan, all by ourselves.
The McCalla was an extremely lucky ship. We had close calls with torpedoes missing us.
Kamikazes would come in, sometimes hundreds of them, and we would fire everything but the kitchen sink at them. Ships all around us were hit, but we were lucky that we were never hit. We escaped torpedo attacks, airplane attacks and shore battery attacks.
We also sent in minesweepers to sweep away mines. They would go ahead of us and cut the cables and the mines would float up.
Then, it was up to the gunner’s mates on destroyers with rifles to shoot them. You had to hit the detonators for the mines to explode.
Everybody was shooting but not detonating them, and the currents would bring the floating mines down, approaching the ship. Then, we’d try to get out of there. That was an interesting time.'”