All posts by John Ackerman

About John Ackerman

Enlisted 9/55, came up through the ranks from the QM rate; SA - QMCS(SS), WO1, CW02, LTJG - LCDR. Served in submarines for 14 years, qualified as a Diving Officer (HE02) in 70. Then on to ASRs, ASs, and finally the best damned ship in the Navy, USS CONSERVER, which I proudly commanded from 84 to her first decomm in September 86. Retired on 1 Jan 87.

Jacksonville 2018: A Recap

We gathered at the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel the last week of April to celebrate Conserver’s Sixth Annual Reunion. We have it on good authority that a good time was had by all!

Our hats off and a hearty BZ to our reunion hosts, Kevin and Renee Weaver and the reunion committee, Dale and Thayes Hower and Keith “Doc” Hansen.

The reunion got underway on April 26. However some of us arrived a few days early to get things set up and to go on a sunset river cruise on April 26th. The hospitality room was open every day and served as a meeting place for those attending.

Action in the hospitality room

First day activities included the sunset cruise on April 26 with entertainer Ashton Taylor, shown in the photograph below. And entertain us she did! This gal needs to be in Nashville! The cruise took us up and down the St. John’s River as Ashton entertained us with her amazing repertoire. We didn’t get to see the sunset due to low clouds, but the scenery and Jacksonville skyline was beautiful.

Ashton Taylor – We will hear from her again!

56 Crew Members and their guests attended (33 Crew Members and 23 guests). Of particular note is the fact that every decade was represented: 1940’s, 50’s. 60’s. 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The “bookends” were retired Florida Senator Dick Renick (1947) and Jim Walker (1992

Decade “bookends” – Senator Dick Renick (40s) and Jim Walker (90s)


Various awards recognizing shipmates were announced at the banquet on Saturday night. Recipients of the First Time Attendees award were:

  • Lou Cummings
  • Jim Walker
  • John Basso
  • Kurt Hearth
  • Skip and Jeanne Lash

The Perfect Attendance (6 reunions) award went to Lee Samuelson.

Attending Five Reunions awards went to:

  • John Ackerman
  • Kevin Weaver
  • Dale Hower
  • Craig Leonard
  • Ron Gitschier
  • Dave Griffin
  • Keith Hansen
  • Barry Wilk

The oldest attendee award went to senator Dick Renick. Dick also holds the honor of having served on Conserver the earliest (1947 – 1949). Jim Walker had the distinction of having served on Conserver the latest (1992-1994)

Our youngest attendee was Fred Stevens.

John Koontz travelled the farthest, coming from the great state of Washington.

Conserver’s traditional silent auction brought 59 items to the table and raised over $1000 for our reunion fund.

The 50/50 raffle raised $555; $275 for the reunion fund and $280 to winner Tim Oman

On Friday, April 28, we had the honor and pleasure of having Captain Colin Jones (ret) and his wife Judy pay us a brief visit. For those who may not recognize the name, Captain Jones was an Engineering Duty Officer and Diver who has served in many top positions in the diving and salvage navy, among them the Supervisor of Salvage. Captain Jones also headed salvage operations to clear the Suez Canal after the 1967 Israeli war with Egypt. He and Judy spent about three hours with us and it was great to see Colin reconnect with Conserver and Navy shipmates.

Captain Colin Jones (L) and shipmate Skip Lash – a war story for sure!

Captain Colin Jones (L) and shipmate Skip Lash – a war story for sure!

The order of the day for April 28 included our business meeting held just before the Farewell Banquet. At the business meeting, we listened to a presentation by the ARSASR Association’s Jim and Mary Neal regarding the possibility of Conserver joining their group for future reunions. The crew unanimously agreed, feeling that the Conserver Reunion would lose its identity if we joined the ARSASR group.

John Ackerman represented shipmate Pete Westbay, who had researched the possibility of our group sponsoring a memorial bench in Kinney Park at Shipyard Acres in Napa, California near Basalt Shipbuilding Corporation, where Conserver was built. The attending Crew Members authorized funding the bench and directed Pete to complete the project. The cost will be a one time donation of about $1300.00.

Future Conserver reunion locations were discussed. Barring any roadblocks, the 2019 reunion will be held in Branson, MO during the last week of April. Stay tuned for specific information.

Jeff Washburn volunteered to research the possibility of our 2020 reunion to be held in the Bay Area, preferably in or around Napa, CA. Again, more info will be coming.

Following the business meeting, the Farewell Banquet commenced. The bill of fare was a wonderful DoubleTree buffet that everyone appeared to enjoy. A cash bar was also available for those so inclined!

Our banquet table by DoubleTree

Notable events during the banquet were the award presentations and Senator Renick’s “replay” of that day back in 1947 when he reported aboard Conserver and, while onboard, obtained his G.E.D. high school diploma. He received a standing ovation. The “main event” was a naval history quiz put together and “administered” by Dale Geldert. Each table participated as the questions were put forward. The winning table was awarded the task of shaving the skipper’s beard, which did not happen! Those who participated discovered that some additional study may be required for the next quiz – and we have the feeling that there just might be one at our future reunions.

The banquet ended with The crew and guests posing for the reunion’s official photographer, Renee Weaver.

Ladies of the Conserver Family

Front Row (L-R): Marla Schooltz, Jeanne Schlotzhauer, Thayes Hower, Terry Ackerman, Jean Lash, Vivienne WanDelken, Ann Marie Amato-Cloutier, Jeff Wasburn’s guest 2nd Row (L-R): Donna Thompson, Barbara Booth, Diane Oman, Renee Weaver, Marie Armstrong, Susan Carmichael, 3rd Row (L-R): Jennifer Simmen, Mykenah Gorkow-Mitchell, Darby Goodale, Alison King, Rosie Fernandez-Eubanks, Rita Geldert

Conservermen all

Front Row (L-R): John Eubanks, Jim Walker, John Koontz, John Basso, Keith Hansen, Kurt Hearth. 2nd Row (L-R): Craig Leonard, Dale Cloutier, Buzz Costa, Ken Cottle, Kevin Weaver, Skip Lash, Dave Griffin, 3rd Row (L-R): Lee Samuelson, John Hylton, James Thompson, Ed WanDelken, Lou Cummings, Greg Haines, 4th Row (L-R), Barry Schooltz, Barry Wilk, Dick Renick, Tim Omen, John Ackerman, Bob Carmichael, Dale Hower, Mark Goodale, Jeff Washburn, Ron Gitschier, Dale Geldert, Gary Schlotzhauer Not Shown: Fred Stevens

Check out our USS Conserver Facebook page for more stories and photos from Jacksonville.

Stay tuned for information on Branson 2019! Hope to see you all there!

That’s All Folks!!!

An Opportunity of a Lifetime – A dive on the Arizona

We had returned from our 1985 Westpac deployment and were in upkeep status at Pearl when the XO (Paul Bruno) got a call from CSR5. They wanted to know if we could supply some divers to work with the National Park Service 10 year survey of the USS Arizona. Of course the XO said yes and then asked me if I would like to go. Of course I said yes too! My memory is vague but I believe six or seven of the divers volunteered, including Master Diver Jimmy Johnson. Maybe someone out there can refresh my memory on who actually went on the project. But I regress.

USS Arizona overhead and elevation sketch of damageWe went to the memorial in the ship’s workboat and were briefed by the Park Service dive supervisor. Essentially, the Park Service had ran out of divers and needed the Navy’s services to continue the survey until their divers could return. The purpose of the survey, which the supervisor said were conducted every 10 years, was to determine if the wreck was stable or showed signs of movement. The Park Service had installed a grid system that covered the entire ship, which the surveyors used to make their measurements. Paul and I were assigned a small caliber (20 or 50 I believe) gun tub on the STBD side immediately below the memorial observation platform. But before we conducted our survey, we were given the opportunity to do an indoc dive of the entire ship. XO and LT Oswald, Conserver’s Operations Officer, and I suited up and entered the water.

The indoc dive consisted of navigating around the ship, beginning at the memorial’s small boat landing. It was one of the most interesting dives I’ve ever made. Just being so close to this piece of our history was an incredible feeling. Looking into a porthole, even though I couldn’t see what was inside, took me back to that fateful day that will “live in infamy” as President Roosevelt stated in his address to Congress on 8 Dec 1941. As I peered into the inside of the wreck, I wondered who may have been in that compartment back then and if he was still there, at his battle station, entombed forever.

As we circumnavigated the ship, we stopped near the bow and the only remaining 14-inch turret still relatively intact. The barrels were still there and were depressed almost to the deck. The deck forward of the turret was littered with line, chain, and other unidentifiable parts and pieces of debris. The bow was totally destroyed; jagged metal pointing upward was proof of the fact that a major explosion had occurred in one or all of the forward magazines. Paul and I swam between the turret’s barrels and LT Oswald, who had an underwater camera, took a photo of us there. Then we proceeded up the port side to the boat landing, surfaced and got ready to go to work.

The actual survey was fairly simple. Paul and I measured the distance between designated structural points in the gun tub to one of the grid lines, and recorded the distance on a slate board. The whole thing took about an hour and a half, then we proceeded to the memorial and delivered our data to the Park Service rep.

The measurements were used by a Park Service artist to create a sketch of the wreck and the bottom extending a short distance from  either side. We watched him working on the drawing, which if my memory serves me correctly, was about 50% complete. It was fascinating to watch. You can see a large size version of that drawing if you visit the Arizona Memorial Museum at Pearl. Click this link to view the USS Arizona wreck online.

From what I discovered a few  years later, the survey did detect movement of the wreck. It was spreading from the keel outward. The movement wasn’t large, but enough to convince the Park Service that something needed to be done to prevent further movement. I was told that they decided to deposit parts of the superstructure that were removed during the salvage operation back in 41 and 42. I think most of us were unaware that the Navy had saved the superstructure parts on government property at Pearl. So it was a relatively simple matter to move it over and place it alongside the wreck. The thought was that the superstructure pieces would help prevent the wreck from opening up further, thus preventing or delaying a catastrophic fuel leak of the bunker oil still contained in the wreck’s fuel tanks. I’m not sure if this actually happened, but I got the info from a reputable source. I haven’t been back to the memorial since that day in 85 to check it out.

I’ve also learned that the Navy has developed a way to extract bunker fuel oil from wrecks, so we may one day see them removing the Arizona’s bunker, some 2000 barrels of it.

When everyone was finished, we took departure and headed back to the ship. As I recall, we were all pretty excited about what we had just seen and done.  While we were on the way back, and in his inevitable style, the XO approached me and, being very secretive, told me he had removed something from the wreck as a keepsake. “Oh God”, I thought, “we are in big trouble now! Just wait until the Park Service discovers the missing piece”. Then with that ever present twinkle in his eye, Paul produced his “keepsake” for me to see. It was an inexpensive plastic camera, made in Japan, that someone visiting the memorial had probably accidently lost over the side. We both had a good laugh!

Somewhere in my cluttered archives lies that photograph of Paul Bruno and me kneeling between those gun barrels. I’ll try to find it and  post it here and on Facebook.

The Clock is Ticking

The clock starts now to tell us what you think of the reunion committee idea or throw your name in the hat for the committee. Those of you who have already volunteered don’t need to do it again; we have your name in the hat already!

The deadline for comments is Saturday, 27 July. If the consensus for the committee is favorable (and so far it has been), we will publish the list of nominees/volunteers and conduct the election on the website. If you haven’t registered on the site, now would be a great time to do so.

This should be our first step towards getting the “2nd Annual Reunion of Conserver Sailors” rolling!