TRIBUTE TO BILL BYBEL
I recently learned that
WO William Bybel, USCG (ret) crossed the bar. Seeing his name brought
back the flood of memories I have of serving with him on the USS RICKETTS DE254,
Bill was a Chief MoMM
and my supervisor. I was a Fireman 1c. MoMM was Motor Machinist Mate the
forerunner to Engineman and later Machinery Technician.
A Firemen 1c was equal to a Coxswain (BM3), except that we wore a red stripe
on our sleeve at the shoulder. (That way we could not give any "lip"
to the right arm rate.)
When the RICKETTS came
out of the builder's yard, she had the wrong composition
of copper pipe in her salt water systems. I spent my first convoy
"cruise" to North
Africa and the Med, crawling around hot and cold oil and water pipes in the
SW piping developed numerous small holes that spewed sea water everywhere.. The
was to equip oneself with a screwdriver, brass screws, and baling wire to plug
Chief Bybel stood on
the deck plates with a flashlight directing me to the various leaks
around the operating engines, and rolling ship. I was a skinny 18 year old from
west and swore to myself that someday I would be a Chief, directing some skinny
fireman around the bilges.
I give Chief Bill Bybel
the credit for training me in my craft and inspiring me to get ahead.
Chief Bybel was a brave
man who risked his life in the North Atlantic to save survivors
from the SS Murphresboro and the SS El Coston. On the night of February 25, 1944
two merchant ships, one a gasoline tanker, the other an ammunition ship
RICKETTS went to the rescue of the survivors who abandoned ship(s). Some were
the frigid water, others were in lifeboats. The ship was rolling violently,
bilge keel as she labored. A lifeboat came alongside and the bilge keel crashed
the gunwale, capsizing the boat. The survivors were plunged into the sea. The
burned and covered with oil, barely able to move from the icy water. Chief
others climbed down the cargo net slung over the side. They grasped the
collars, hair, arms, anything to pull the men to safety. Some badly burned.
As the ship rolled, the
rescuers on the net were alternately plunged into the sea, then
raised high into the air. The Captain, LCDR Glenn Rollins, was trying to keep
into the heavy sea, but also trying to keep the floating survivors from the
He also had to be aware that a marauding submarine might espy the wallowing DE
Signalling lights on!
There were 33 men
pulled from the clutches of the frigid sea that night to see another
day. The next morning both ships were still afloat. The fire on the tanker had
out and the RICKETTS sent over a boarding party to retrieve the seamen's gear.
cat was found alive and well. She was brought back to the ship. The cat, not
sea duty, went AWOL when we arrived in Londonderry, North Ireland.
For this heroic
action by Bill Bybel and others, they received the Navy and
Marine Corps Medal. He also was promoted to Warrant Officer and transferred, I
knew not where. We have never met since, but I will always remember him. May he
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