By: Garland Davis
Those of you who served in ships that plied the Western Pacific and the South China Sea off Viet Nam remember the heat and discomfort of the climate. The best thing for momentary relief, other than an icy cold San Miguel was a cup of JP5 flavored red bug juice in a cup packed with ice cubes. I sometimes believe we should have made the stuff in 55-gallon drums instead of 5-gallon milk cans. When the ice machine broke down a miserable situation became much worse. The cooks and the poor Machinist’s Mate trying to repair the machine caught the hell of the crew’s wrath.
I was the leading CS, often the only CS, in USS Mahopac, an Ocean Going Tug out of Yokosuka during the mid to late sixties. The ship had a crew of four officers and about forty enlisted. The entire three-year period I was aboard there was only one CPO aboard and that only for a short period. Of the crew, sixteen of us were PO1’s.
We towed targets out of Yokosuka and Subic, as well as towing assets into and out of South Vietnamese ports. We went everywhere at about eight knots or less. Our top speed was about twelve knots if memory serves. Those ATA’s were round bottomed and rolled even in calm weather. When it got rough, she really rolled. I once saw an electrician stand on the bulkhead in the messdecks when the ship took a large roll.
We had an ice maker that hated rough weather. We could sit tied to the pier and that baby would crank out the ice. As soon as the word was passed to “single up all lines,” it stopped making ice. The two EN1’s spent hours with gauges hanging off the machine trying to coax it to make a few cubes. Mostly to no avail.
Once shortly after returning to Yokosuka, EN1 Richard Ade (Rest in Peace Shipmate) had the duty and was working on the machine. He told me, “Dave, I think I’ve got it,” and went next door to our sister ship, USS Tillamook and returned with a bucket of ice. He dumped it into the ice hamper and told the machine, “See that is what you are supposed to do.”
Another time after returning to port, he was working on the machine when the Captain came into the mess decks and asked, “Ade, did you figure out what is wrong with this piece of crap machine?”
Ade pointed to the logo on the machine and said, “Captain all I can figure is it’s a God Damned Carrier ice machine and this is a fucking tug boat!”