Tinker AFB Oklahoma City
By: Robert “Okie Bob” Layton
I was renewing my Wife’s dependent ID card sitting in the waiting room when a young sailor came up to me pointing to my old faded blue ball cap with USS Oriskany CVA-34 embroidered across the front
He asks “Hey old timer how does one pronounce the name on your cap?”
“O-Risk-Ka-Ney” I phonetically sounded
“What kind of ship was that?” he asks
“An Attack Aircraft Carrier” I proudly proclaimed
“An Attack you say!”
“Yes a WWII Essex class 27 Charlie” I added
“You lost me there mister” He exclaimed
So I began to tell the young sailor all about the old navy ships when it dawned on me, Hell I had been retired longer than this kid had been alive! The Oriskany was decommissioned in 1976 probably about the time his folks were born! It was sunk as a reef in 2006 ten years ago when this kid was just out of kindergarten. I thought, God Damn I’m an old fart.
“Man-O-Man I bet you got some old stories to tell,” he said
“Well a few I suppose”
“What war was the Oriskany in?” He inquired
“Korea and Vietnam”
“Oh yawl I had heard of that name Vietnam, when was that?” He asks
I was just about to go into my Chiefs mode when the ID card Yeoman stepped out in the waiting room and said “Master Chief Layton?”
“Here” I replied
The young Sailor gave a startled look at me. For I must have been a sight, a rotund, white haired old man dressed in Jesus sandals, Cargo shorts, and Hawaiian shirt.
“Are you a Master Chief?” he asks
“Fucking A Bubba” I shot back and departed
It was apparent to me this lad had not been thoroughly indoctrinated into the U S Navy and was in dire need of some old salt guidance.
I think back to when I was first in the Navy a lot of WWII Vets were still in finishing up their careers.
One Torpedoman first class [TM1] was a Chicago son of a German Immigrant who enlisted the Day after Pearl Harbor and was not allowed to serve on the east coast due to his German heritage he spent his WWII duty on submarines out of Pearl.
Another Was a South Carolina farm boy who joined in 1940, as a cook and served on battleships in the Pacific. After broken service, He later switched over to aviation metal smith [AMS1] in the 50’s. His stories of pre WWII battleship service on the east coast was filled with liberty in South America and the Caribbean.
A Senior Chief Aviation machinist mate ADCS who flew on PBY’s in the South Pacific and had his guts shot out on patrol.
An Aviation Ordnance Chief (AOC) shot down, wounded, and rescued over Subic bay in 1944; His tales of liberty in Olongapo in the late 40’s were right out of “South Pacific”
A Retied Aviation machinist mate Chief [ADC] who was retiring for a second time in 1971 from Pratt and Whitney after 20 years. He retired from the Navy in 1951 as a ADRC after 25 years. He had joined the Navy in 1926 and was on the first USS Saratoga CV3 in the 20’s. On Dec 7th 1941, he was a Chief Stationed On Ford Island, attached to a Catalina squadron. When the Japanese attacked he was on the last flight out to Wake Island before it’s fall on 23 Dec 1941. After 45 years of Naval aviation he retired after making a combat cruise on the Oriskany as a Company Jet engine representative in 1971.
Then there was a 4 star 7th fleet Admiral who would have this old Master chief and single chief friends over to his home on weekends and holidays for food and drinks. I can remember how his hazed over failing eyesight would always brighten up and sparkle like blue sea when telling stories of old and listening to our new ones. And you knew, YOU KNEW, you were in the presence of greatness! God bless them old Salts every one
Now I have relayed this little anecdote to tell you that–now we are the old salts! The bearers of the Tradition of the sea, wardens of all mythical description, Keepers of Nautical history, holders of the account, for we are the storyteller’s and current purveyors of Sea Stories!
The narration will live on!
AFCM Robert “Okie Bob” Layton