Tom Standing was assigned to Ashland from boot camp. Knowing nothing about the ship, he now tells what as sight it was when he first viewed her. "It was in drydock in the first stages of being fixed up for re-commissioning. Weeds were growing in the well deck and welders and painters were all over the ship. We all worked long and hard hours doing our part to make it a beautiful, proud ship once again." Tom was the last plankowner transfered off the ship in late 1964. He was presented with the Ship's Plaque by the Captain.
"I was assigned to RECSTA NORVA FFT USS ASHLAND. The reason for NORVA was because the Ashland was not ready for personnel at that time. A few sailors were permanently on board as shipfitters, pipefitters, boilerman, damage controlmen, etc., assisting the ships work. I attend a couple of schools at NORVA and best I can remember I checked on board the Ashland the first part of November 1961. It was then located in the Portsmouth, Virginia shipyard. I'm pretty sure that the Ashland was part of the "mothball fleet" at Portsmouth, VA. Luckily I lived off base in Virginia Beach as I remember there were no bunks in that portion of the ship at that time so we just were on board during the day (painting & chipping, etc.). Actually, I remember us being more of a burden to those who were actually doing work. Those who did not have other living arrangements were bussed to some barracks (don't know where)."
"We took a few shakedown cruises in the Norfolk area during November/December 61. I remember the first cruise didn't even get us out of the Portsmouth Bay and we had to be towed back in. I don't recall what the problem was. The series of shakedown cruises were really an experience as many problems surfaced with that old ship." "Everyone was really discouraged, especially the civilian shipyard workers who usually went along on the shakedown cruises. All these problems got us back to the shipyard quite late, which caused the workers a lot of extra time." "I don't recall that even one piece of "new" equipment was installed on the Ashland. It was all acquired from Navy excess, etc. I know that to be true of the radio shack as we (radiomen) had to go to special school to learn to operate the old radios and transmitters. (Incidently, the radio call sign for the Ashland was NUZF)."
"The signal bridge had all "old, dirty, torn" flags to display, with the exception of a couple commonly used which were brand new and extremely different from the rest of the inventory. I think the only things new on the Ashland was paint, paint brushes and paint chippers."
"On our last shakedown cruise prior to the official re-commissioning on 29 November 1961, we pulled into NAVPHIBAS, Little Creek, VA. This was the homeport for the Ashland during my sting." - Fred D. Koopman RM3 1961 - 63)
About the time Ashland arrived at Little Creek, the U.S. Navy planned to stricken the U.S.S. Massachusetts from the rolls and send her to the wrecker. All ships in the Norfolk area were advised of salvage rights.
A crew of shipfitters, electricians, etc., (scroungers) went aboard the Massachusetts and commenced her demolition. Approximately 20 quick-turn water-tight doors with frames were cut from the Massachusetts bulkheads. The resulting holes were welded shut with steel plates. The quick-turn doors were installed on Ashland, replacing the former individual seating dog operated doors.
Thanks to the 40mm amplifiers and gun tools, gunner Sam Elliott was able to shoot the target tow rope during gunnery training.
"During the shakedown cruise the thirsty Skinner Uniflow 5 cylinder reciprocating engines caused the boilers to run out of feed water. A ballast tank on each wing wall, aft of the gangways, was converted from sea water to fresh water and was used to store feed water for the boilers. All feed water was made by the evaporators in the Ashland pump rooms. - Davis Deane)