Back to "Memoirs" Index page


(Click picture for a larger view)

Allen L. Johnson

Smithfield, Utah-
Korean War Veteran of the United States Navy

"I have also been working with the Veterans Affairs office in Salt Lake City for some compensation from the Navy and they are slower than a turtle. I feel the Navy should accept some of the responsibility for this asbestos crap I have in my lungs."

- Allen L. Johnson

<----Somewhere in the South Pacific - 1952
Allen Johnson (left) and Bob Garritano, Korean War veterans of the U.S. Navy, during a light moment. After the boiler of the USS Randall exploded, Al and Bob were required to pull asbestos-laden materials from the boiler room. Sadly, both men have now been diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer often caused by contact with asbestos.


 

[KWE Note:  Allen Johnson has been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a deadly disease that can result from exposure to the dangers of asbestos. Allen served two months shy of four years in the aft engine room and aft boiler room of the USS Gen. G.M. Randall TAP 115.  When writing to the KWE about the slow response he has received from the legal system and the VA, he remarked: "It’s encouraging to know these people seem to think that old sailors live forever. Remember the story about Jack and the Beanstalk. After his evening meal the Giant told his mistress, ‘Bring me my golden chick that lays the golden eggs.’ I keep hoping that someday I may get my golden eggs before I sail away."  Allen's story is a double tragedy, as indicated by the letter from Robert Garritano below Allen's memoir.]

[KWE UPDATE:  In the last week of September 2004, Mr. Johnson was granted a lifetime settlement of $894.00 per month from the Department of Veterans Affairs for his service-related disability.  Johnson sued the Parker-Hannifin Corporation for their product's role in causing him to contract a deadly disease.  It is with disappointment and regret that the KWE informs the public that Parker-Hannifin offered a mere $3,500.00 as a settlement offer for Johnson's terminal illness.  A letter from Johnson's lawyer regarding this matter is posted at the end of the following memoir.]


Johnson Remembers…

Boiler Room Explosion Aboard the U.S.S. General G.M. Randall TAP 115


USS Gen. G.M. Randall
(Click for a larger view)

I am not certain of the exact date. If I remember correctly, it was the fall of 1952. The USS Randall was tied up at Fort Mason in San Francisco. We had just taken on an entire shipload of marines bound for Korea. The aft engine room had been secured during a five-day stay at Fort Mason.

Robert Garritano had the lights off watch in the aft engine room. Boiler #1 and Boiler #2 were aft engine room; these powered the port drive screw. Boilers #3 and #4 were forward engine room, powering the starboard screw. Robert Garritano employed the assistance of a fireman apprentice to help him light off Boiler #1. He was instructed to insert the light off torch into the boiler’s fusen-tube before he opened the fuel oil valve that subsequently forced the fuel and air mixture into the boiler. However, what followed was not correct with a light off procedure.

There was a new recruit whose name I am uncertain of; if memory serves me I recall his last name may have been Fremount. When he opened the fuel oil valve first (which consequently was against naval procedure), it allowed the inside of Boiler #1 to fill with a fuel oil and forced air mix before he inserted a flaming light off torch. This torch was approximately three feet in length with one end similar to a rag torch treated with fuel oil. When the torch reached the inside chamber of boiler, all hell was leashed in the aft boiler and engine room. The subsequent explosion rocked the USS Randall against every port side mooring line. It blew the light off torch back through fireman Fremount’s right hand much like a fired missile, burning his right hand and arm, and right side of his face with second degree burns. He was very lucky he was not killed.

I had the light off watch in the aft engine room. The explosion threw me back against the two main turbine throttle vales. It also blew the two pressure ports in front of Boiler #1, and one pressure port in the rear of the boiler firebricks Powdered dust engulfed and filled the entire aft engine room, and you could not see more than 3 to 4 feet in any direction. The first thing I did when I pulled myself together was run to the back side of the boilers where I knew Robert Garritano had previously left to check some gauges. The explosion had knocked Robert to his knees and he was still quite groggy when I reached him. The only complaint that he had was the explosion had hurt his eardrums, causing his ears to ring for several days afterward.

The ship brought in an outside contractor to add new brick to the boiler. However, before they could start their work we had to clean out the inside of the boiler, which was filled with crumbled brick and mortar that had been turned to a fine dust by the explosion. Don’t ask me how, but the three of us, Robert Garritano, fireman Fremount, and myself had volunteered to enter the inside of the boiler room to clean up and throw out all the destroyed brick and mortar dust. The job was completed without the protection of respiratory masks or eye goggles. We were promised a weekend 72-hour liberty pass for the completion of this task.

The entire aft engine room’s upper and lower decks were covered with boiler dust from the explosion. We used large wet/dry vacuum cleaners to recover most of the dust. Engine room personnel accomplished the final cleanup. They utilized a strong cleaning solution and hand wiped it followed by two spray downs with a hot hose.

The dust brought inside the boiler and which had filled the remainder of the aft engine rom certainly had to be laced with asbestos dust and fibers. However, we were never warned about any potential future danger from our exposure. When I reminisce back to the condition of the aft engine room that day and the condition of it for the following several days of major cleanup, I have come to the conclusion that if there ever were a time in my life when asbestos could have entered my lungs other than this, I am sure I would have remembered it.

We as engine room personnel were never warned of the potential danger of asbestos. The bunk in which I slept was located in the aft end of the ship and was only about 16 to 18 inches below hot steam lines that were all wrapped with asbestos insulation. This was the case with all of the USS Randall’s steam lines.


If you need verification of the contents of this letter, please feel free to write or phone Mr. Robert Garritano.  His contact information is:

2820 Skylane Drive, Naperville, IL 60564; ph. 630-904-4965.
– Allen L. Johnson, Machinist Mate 3rd Class, USN


Post Script

According to former Machinist Mate 3rd Class, the USS Randall was sold to the Japanese in 1973 to be utilized as scrap metal. A hell of an ending for a good old troop transport ship. I wish the Navy had her now to transport their troops to the Middle East.


Garritano Writes (Two Letters) in 2004

Letter #1 (to Allen Johnson)

"It’s very hard for me to think about you having the lung problem since you were always the strong man on the ship, plus your outdoor life. I have had some bad surgeries in past years, including cancer. It is starting to raise its ugly head again.

I’ve tried to recall the date of the boiler explosion. I believe it was in 1952 just as we were to leave San Francisco. I will never forget it, and wonder how any of us did not die, especially the kid who put the torch in the boiler. When I recall the mess in the boiler room, bricks, black smoke, etc., I wonder if I have some asbestos in me since I forever wake up congested, no matter what time of year or place in the country. I do know that I can’t take T.B. tests anymore, always positive, so they take a chest X-ray. Did it every year when driving school buses.

You were in the middle of that explosion. Thank God you were not close to the torch. It would have gone through you. It was a hell day to remember. Worst of all, you and I had the watch so responsibility fell on me as well as Chief Paulk. I’m wondering now if he didn’t die of the same problem. I stayed close to him for decades. Please let me know how things work out and if you need any further information from me.

– Your shipmate, Bob G., Boiler Tender 1st Class


Letter #2 (to Allen Johnson's attorney)

July 1, 2004

Brayton-Purcell
222 Rush Landing Road
P.O. Box 6169
Novato, CA 94948-6169

Ref: Asbestosis
CC: Letter from Allen Johnson

Gentlemen:

I'm enclosing a copy of Allen Johnson's letter, to you, under subject: "Boiler Room Explosion aboard the U.S.S. General G.M. Randall TAP-115", for your review.  I'm the Robert Garritano referenced in Al's letter involved with this accident.  Ironically, I just completed a complete set of x-rays and CT scans, which indicated I have "asbestosis".

My doctor asked me, "where was I exposed to asbestos," when I saw him and I replied, aboard ship, while serving in the Navy during the Korean War.  Not only did I serve on the Randall as a boilerman, but also aboard the U.S.S. Hornet, also in the engineering spaces.  Recently, the Hornet was opened to the public in Almeda, but had to be cleared of all asbestos before becoming a museum.

My doctor indicated he will be watching my chest x-rays more often, in case I start having major breathing problems.  Please advise next step to take relating to this serious health problem.

Robert A. Garritano
2820 Skylane Drive
Naperville, IL 60564
Ph. 630-779-4131

Boilerman 1st Class
U.S. Navy
1950-54



Brayton-Purcell Settlement Letter

September 10, 2004

To:  Allen Johnson
324 South 200 East
Smithfield, UT 84335

Re: Parker-Hannifin Corporation
Amount Offered $3,500.00

Dear Mr. Johnson:

We have received a settlement offer from the defendant Parker-Hannifin Corporation, for the amount noted above. We believe this is a fair offer and that you should accept it.

Enclosed you will find a Compromise and Release.  Please sign and date the Compromise and Release where indicated by the red arrows.  Do not separate any papers that are stapled together.  Return the stapled documents to us in the enclosed stamped envelope.

As soon as the enclosed documents are returned, we will forward them to the defendant and request they secure the funds as quickly as possible.  Once we receive the settlement monies from the defendant, we will prepare and forward a Settlement Statement outlining the disbursement of these monies along with your settlement check, unless the most current un-recovered costs in your case exceeds the total amount of this settlement.  Please keep in mind while we have no indication this defendant is going to file bankruptcy, we have been surprised many times in the last year by bankruptcy filings by apparently solvent companies.  Delay in returning those documents to us might mean we cannot collect the funds, so please return those documents immediately.


Letter from Allen Johnson to Lynnita Brown (KWE)

September 30, 2004

The world could sure use a little good news today.  Our house, the Johnson house, last week received good news and bad.  I'll give you the good news first.  The Salt Lake City, Utah Office of Veterans Affairs has awarded me a settlement for the rest of my life of $894.00 a month.  I was very pleased with this settlement for the asbestos I received while serving aboard the USS Gen Randall (TAP115).  Next, the bad news.

Brayton & Purcell, my law firm for my lawsuit against Parker-Hannifin Corporation, offered me a settlement of $3,500.00  (thirty-five hundred dollars).  This offer to me was a slap in the face for the ten to twelve years I have suffered asbestos and just look at what my future has in store for me.

I have had to give up back-packing, hunting, and fishing trips because my condition has worsened to the point it is now a task for me to climb my basement stairs.  I received word last week that my dear friend and shipmate Robert A. Garritano has also been diagnosed with asbestos of the lung.  He was the BT 2 I referred to in my earlier letter to you about the boiler explosion aboard the Randall.

I am really discouraged at this time and don't know where now to turn for help.  I certainly could use a fellow human being to stand by me and take my side on my asbestos lawsuit with Brayton & Purcell.  It's for damned sure they do not give a damn about my condition and the pain I have facing me for the rest of my life.  They advised me that $3500.00 was a fair settlement and that I should accept this offer.  Well, I wrote them back a a letter and said NO WAY would I even consider this offer.  And I felt it was really unfair of them to assume that such an offer could be accepted.

I personally would love to take on the U.S. Navy in a lawsuit.  They are the ones that put Robert and I inside a blown-up boiler to throw out the crumbled bricks amidst asbestos dust for two days.  I think they must have known the dangers of asbestos.  I wonder how many more shipmates from the Randall share our asbestos?

Thank you,

Allen L. Johnson

 

 

Back to "Memoirs" Index page back to top
 

| Contact | What's New | About Us | Korean War Topics | Support | Links | Memoirs | Buddy Search |

2002-2012 Korean War Educator. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use of material is prohibited.

- Contact Webmaster with questions or comments related to web site layout.
- Contact Lynnita for Korean War questions or similar informational issues.
- Website address: www.koreanwar-educator.org
 

Hit Counter
 
.