Liberty

 

The photograph above was posted by Shipmate John Summerer and the following remarks are his:

I first posted this picture about 26 hours ago! Little did I know the emotions I was going to have, and go through since that time. I was just posting it to some friends and families as a fun thing to show from my wonderful time that I served in the US Navy. I also shared it to The Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club, and AAMOOSR. Since that time, I have received 597 LIKES, and 221 COMMENTS!

I had no idea that I was going to touch so many emotions and thoughts with so many wonderful people from all over, and from so many in the City of Olongapo, PI. I am not ashamed to say that I went through many tissues in these past 26 hours, reading and discussing many topics with so many people.

One that sticks out to me, and because of the amount of comments I apologize to the Navy Vet that said ” you cannot talk to people about it unless they were there! And that there were no words to express to people who were not there”

The emotion that I felt from him and so many more, knowing that I touched his feeling that he said he was not able to talk about, because you had to be there to know!!! I feel that his emotions that were inside him came out somewhat with my post that was just meant to be funny for family and friends as I said before.

The replies that I made to many people today were so emotional at times, but they were a discussion about the changes that the Navy has gone through, and The Old Navy like this pic is GONE!!! Some of the “younger” guys that asked me about that being our uniform of the day? I explained that in the 60’s we were not allow civies on board to go on liberty. So when you were out at sea for anywhere from 30 to 60 days. when you went on “Liberty” you were very “Liberal” with your time. LOL and you played hard, like you worked hard while at sea. And when I went in country for a year on USS Jennings County LST 846, it was only twice that we left Viet Nam for R&R and repairs.

The Navy started to really change as one person said today in the mid “70’s. This pic is about what the OLD NAVY was like for so many of us!!! Most of us were very young. I for one got out after serving 3 years 3 months and 28 days active duty in mid February 1970, I turned 21 August 5th 1970. And here is a short funny story to go with that. My mother took me to the bar I had been “visiting” since I got home and told my friend Ron the bartender that she wanted to buy me my first legal drink!!! He looked at me and wanted to see my drivers license and well I can’t tell you what he called me and said to me then, but we all had a great time that day! LOL!

To close out, I want to thank everyone that liked and commented on my post, I had know idea that I would touch so many peoples lives with it. But I also want to say that the emotions I felt for those who liked it so much, and were able to talk on here and with me, have made me feel that I have made hundreds of friend in one short period of time.

This is the original post of this photo in a snipe group from Paul Nelson Jr.

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When the Lord made CPO’s……….

When the Lord made CPO’s……….

When the Lord was creating Chief Petty Officer, he was in his sixth day of overtime when an angel appeared and said …” you’re doing a lot of fiddling around with this one.”

And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order?” “A Chief Petty Officer has to be able to work 12-24 hours per day, through any type of weather, on any ship or boat, know the laws of the sea, be able to load and unload hundreds of tons of cargo after being up all night, and then try to get some sleep in an area that is accessible to and is used by all crew. He has to live in his shop, if need be, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for days on end, offer advice and counseling and still meet time schedules, maintain an even and controlled composure when all around him have gone mad. And he has to be in top physical condition at all times, running on black coffee and half-eaten meals. And he has to have six pairs of hands.”

The angel shook her head slowly and said “Six pairs of hands…No way.”

“The hands are not causing me the problem,” said the Lord, “It’s the three pairs of eyes a Chief Petty Officer has to have.”

“That’s on the standard model?” asked the angel.

The Lord nodded and said, “One pair that sees the pod of whales or a boat in peril, another pair that can see the blind spots that dolphins and young sailors love to hide in, and another pair in front that can look reassuringly at the young bleeding sailor, who is injured, by saying “You’ll be okay” when he knows it isn’t so.”

“Lord,” said the angel, touching his sleeve, “rest and work on this tomorrow.”

“I can’t” said the Lord. “I already have a model that can steam his ship 700-800 miles a day without an incident and raise his family of five, seldom seeing them, on less than $2000 per month.”

The angel circles the Chief Petty Officer slowly, “Can he think?” She asked.

“You bet” said the Lord. “He can tell you how to secure for sea, recite Navy Regulations and the UCMJ in his sleep, deliver his assigned cargo, be a parent, offer timely advice to young sailors and junior officers, help search for missing children, defend women’s and children’s rights. Tries to get 8 hours of rest, when he can, and raises a family of law respecting citizens while seldom ever going home… And still keeps a good sense of humor.

This Chief Petty Officer also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with port calls in areas created from scenes painted in hell, comfort the injured, their family and friends, and then read in the daily paper how the military is no more than baby killers with guns and have no respect for others.”

Finally, the angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek for the Chief Petty Officer. “There’s a leak,” she proclaimed. “I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model.”

“That’s not a leak,” Said the Lord, “It’s a tear.” “It’s for bottled-up emotions, fallen comrades, for commitment to that piece of cloth called the Flag, for justice and for the families without fathers.”

“You’re a genius,” said the angel.

The Lord looking somber said, “I didn’t put it there.”

 

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Duty Sections

Duty Sections

By:  Garland Davis

 

Duty sections were a kind of family.  When you stand duty together, you become a little closer to the sailors in the section, especially the ones in your department.  This was back in the archaic days of three sections. Four or more section duty was a myth like the Loch Ness Monster.  Everyone talked about it but had never seen it. After you stand duty with the same people, you learn how others take their coffee, who still has money two days before payday, and who has terminal athlete’s foot or crotch rot.

Sometimes being assigned to a particular duty section was a lot like being a mangy, stray dog in a cage at the dog pound and being rescued by the worst family in a rundown trailer park.  Kinda like being adopted by a mangy bunch of guys with ragged, greasy white hats, who answered every question with, “I don’t give a shit.” or “Who gives a fuck?”

I was a member of all the duty sections although not assigned to any of them.  I was the night baker and intermingled with all the duty sections.  I pretty much controlled my own liberty.  As long as I baked the items called for on the menu and the Chief always let me fill in the desserts when he was writing a menu so I could make it easy on myself when inport.  I pretty much did as I pleased.  Although, I remember once getting a message from the Chief that said, “Stay on board and get your ass to quarters tomorrow morning.”

I spent most of the night wondering where I had screwed up.  Presenting myself to the Chief the next morning, I asked, “What do you need Chief, did I screw something up.”

He said, “No, I just hadn’t seen you in so long, I forgot what you looked like.”

Once the liberty sections had sprayed themselves with copious amounts of “Rat Guard”, shaved with three week old Gillette Blue Blades, almost screamed when the Old Spice felt as if it was burning their face off, pulled their blues from under the mattress and dressed for a night of fermentation and (hopefully) female flesh, The duty section members were either on watch, asleep, or lounging on the mess decks trying to scare up a game of Spades or Hearts, or they were embellishing stories of memorable liberties.

Along about 2300, the midwatch standers and others began to gather for the nightly ritual of midnight horsecock and cheese.  I usually made a pot of soup to go with the cold cuts.

Once I had the line set up, I would yell, “Eat it, the shit molds fast.”

For all my hard work, I usually got, “Hey Davy, how about one of them pies I saw you baking.  What you waiting for them to get stale like this fuckin’ cake?”

‘Fucking horsecock again, on my last ship, we got steak for mids.”

“Davy, you got any peanut butter and jelly, I don’t think I can choke down another slice of Navy horsecock this year.”

“Did you hear that BM3 Jones got kicked out of the Star Diner?  When the waitress asked what he wanted, he told her, ‘Bring me a horsecock sandwich.’ The dumb son-of-a-bitch swore that was all he had ever heard them called.  I guess they don’t have horsecock in Arkansas or wherever.”

But, they ate everything, well, almost everything.  Leftover tuna casserole from supper was a non-starter as was Turkey Ala King.

There was the Gunner’s Mate that always cut his sandwich diagonally, with the same knife that he had been trimming his toenails with earlier.  When someone called him on it, he said, “I wiped it off before I cut the sandwich as he demonstrated by wiping the blade on the leg of his dungarees.

But, like most sailors, especially the snipes, they operated on the premise that “If a buzzard would eat it, it must still be good.”  Somewhere they got the idea that mustard, catsup, and hot sauce counteracted germs and made everything fresh again.  Well, at least long enough to be eaten.  I have seen grown men eat that oily Navy version of mayonnaise that could have easily been mistaken for the contents of a zit on a fat Bar Hogs ass.

But what the hell, no one ever took the mess decks to be a fine dining establishment.

“Hey, Bo. What you reading?”

“A three-week old version of the East Bum Fuck Farm Gazette.”

“Any News?”

“Yeah, Truman won the election!”

“But Eisenhower is president.”

“Well, I guess they are a little slow in East Bum Fuck.”

“Why are you reading it then?”

“Cause I’m queer for tractor parts sales and agricultural reports on pea and watermelon prices.”

“Anyone interested in Lesbian Lovers?”

“Jesus, is that piece of crap still around?  I swapped it for Truck Stop Bimbos last Westpac.”

“Anybody want to watch a movie?”

“What do we have?

“Ben Hur.”

“Seen it.”

“Well, you are gonna see it again.”

“Wanna make popcorn?”

“Yeah, but Davy says don’t use the butter in the mess decks reefer.  The shit smells funny.”

“What kind of funny?”

“The inside of a porta potty funny.”

“Well melt it, that’ll kill the fucking germs.”

And that scene was repeated many nights.  The members of the duty sections were the night baker’s family.  They watched the midnight movies, feet propped on the tables, eating popcorn with rancid butter, drinking bug juice, and commenting on every pair of tits owned by any actress who appeared on the screen.

And I knew, from their remarks that they appreciated the cinnamon rolls I brought out about 0400, hot and fresh out of the oven.

“What Davy, you fuck up another pan of cinnamon rolls and expect us to eat the evidence before the Chief gets here.”

“I’ll help you, Davy. Any of that butter left?  I can probably gag down four or five of these mother fuckers before they make me puke.”

You know, looking back on those times, those nights were some of the best of my life.  Why?  Because the ugly bastards I spent them with were some of the best men I ever knew.  They were my Shipmates; my Brothers!

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Smokes and Suds

Smokes and Suds

By:  Garland Davis

 

I Never trust a fighting man who doesn’t smoke or drink.”… Admiral William Frederick (Bull) Halsey Jr.

I started smoking, surreptitiously, at about twelve or thirteen.  It was shortly after my Dad died.  I wouldn’t even have taken the chance while he was living. Growing up in a state where tobacco was king, where everyone smoked, cigarettes and cigars were easy to come by.  Everyone would sell them to a kid.  You just had to say they were for your Mom or Dad if anyone asked.  When I could afford cigarettes, I bought them.  When I couldn’t, I bummed them or did without.  Looking back, that would have been a good time to quit.  I thought the Maverick brothers on the TV series were cool with their cigars, so I started smoking cigars also.  In those days you could buy a decent cigar for ten cents and a good one for a quarter.

I smoked until boot camp, where I was presented with another great time to quit smoking.  The Company Commander got pissed off and turned off the smoking lamp for the entire company for about six weeks because the Battalion Commander found a cigarette butt adrift.  I, unlike some of my fellow victims, obeyed the rules and didn’t smoke during this period.  After the six-week hiatus, the only thing that I can equate that first smoke to is an orgasm.

In those days, cigarettes cost about two bucks a carton at the Exchange.  A payday trip to the Exchange to get cigarettes, cigars and toiletries always saw the essentials in stock.  We all ran into the perpetual bum, the guy who never had his own smokes. I never wanted to be that guy and always made sure that I had a stock of smokes on hand.

On my first ship, I learned that “Sea Stores”, non-tax paid cigarettes, only sold when outside the three-mile limit, were less than a buck a carton.  Now this was a smoker’s heaven.  I served in an Ocean Going Tug that was too small to have a store.  It was also slow, with a top speed of twelve knots, and much slower when burdened with a tow. I learned to buy a large stock of smokes before leaving port.  I remember one extended mission where everyone ran out of smokes.  We pulled into Singapore and for some time afterward, we were all smoking English Cigarettes.

I smoked throughout my Navy career.  In 1985, I was presented with another opportunity to stop smoking.  I had stomach ulcers and it became necessary for surgery.  The Doc’s decided to remove one-third of my stomach and a portion of the small intestine.  In preparation for the surgery, I had a consultation with the anesthesiologist.  He told me that the gas they used during surgery was an insult to the lungs and sometimes people died and it was always people who smoked that died.  This was said while the whole time he was smoking a cigar.  I quit smoking for a week before the surgery and for about two months afterward.  Having coffee one morning and my wife’s cigarettes were on the table.  Took one and lit it without even thinking, like I had done thousands of times before.

I smoked for another eleven years after that.  Finally decided that the time to quit had arrived.  Smoked my last cigarette on Christmas Eve 1996.  No patches, no therapy, no hypnotism, just quit.

My first experience with drinking occurred when I was about fourteen.  The juvenile delinquents that I palled around with and I found a quart jar of clear liquid under a bush in the woods.  Of course, we knew that it was moonshine whiskey.  This was bootleg country.  Just about everyone I knew had a relative that was or had been a bootlegger.  We decided to drink the stuff.  Of course we were all lying about how many times we had drank white likker in the past.  I recall taking a sip and thought the top of my head was coming off.  But of course, I said, “Damn that’s good.”  We each had a sip and all proclaimed how good it was.  We hid it for later, but could never find it again.  I always suspected that one of my cohorts took it.

I was bout fifteen when my uncle gave me a six pack of Pabst’s Blue Ribbon beer.  I learned that beer was something that I could enjoy drinking.  In those days, the age to purchase beer, in North Carolina, was eighteen.  Twenty-one for whisky or other spirits.  I quickly learned which of the small country stores in the county never bothered with identification.  I remember one farmer/store operator who proclaimed his policy of, “If a boy is old enough to tote the money in here, far as I’m concerned, he’s old enough to tote the beer out a here.”

I arrived in San Diego at seventeen, and of course, there was no drinking until twenty-one.  The naval authorities and the state of California took the no drinking thing seriously.  I saw a long dry spell before me.

The next year while stationed at Lemoore California, someone left a half fifth of vodka in the dayroom of the cooks barracks.  A fellow cook and I drank it, with grape kool ade, the only thing available.  That was the first time I got sick from drinking.  I remember the purple water in the toilet.  I haven’t been able to drink grape kool aid or grape soda in the fifty years since. No problem drinking Vodka.

The following year I was assigned into an ammunition ship in Port Chicago, Ca.  When I reported, the ship was in the yards in San Francisco. Expected the California rules would keep me dry, but my shipmate Ike introduced me to some dives in the questionable neighborhoods of Frisco where no one seemed to give a damn how old you were.  After we left the yards and moved to the Ammunition Depot at Concord, I learned that there was a club on base where underage sailors could drink beer in undress blues.

After taking on an ammunition load and enduring REFTRA we departed the Bay Area for Hawaii and the Far East.  During our stop in Hawaii, I learned that the EM Club just required underage personnel (the age in Hawaii was twenty at the time) to sign a log acknowledging that you understood the drinking age.  Then they sold you booze.  No problem, unless you got into trouble or got drunk.  Then they used your signature in the book against you.  After Hawaii came Guam and then Japan, the PI, and Hong Kong.

After leaving The ammo ship, I went to CS “B” school in San Diego.  I was barely twenty.  I had recently made second class.  I sewed a hash mark on my liberty blues.  This was in the days when many third class cooks were sporting two and three hash marks.  I would go into a bar, put my left arm on the bar and order.  Worked.  San Diego wasn’t so dry after all.

After San Diego, I was ordered to the Navy Commissary Store, Yokohama, Japan. For the remainder of my naval career in the Far East and Hawaii, I drank when I could.  Unlike many of my shipmates and friends, I could always take it or leave it.  I quit, for a while, about a year and a half ago for health reasons until I read a study that found evidence that an ingredient in hops may be beneficial to persons suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Yea, let’s hear it for hops!

Many of my FaceBook friends ask why I always share Bud Light posts.  I have been asked if I own stock in Anheuser Busch.  The truth is:  I have a born again sister who has categorized me as a drunken sinner.  I do it to irritate her.

To follow Tales of an Asia Sailor and get e-mail notifications of new posts, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above, then click on the follow button.

A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.

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Beer Insecurity

Beer Insecurity

By:  Garland Davis

 

“Hunger is a surprisingly common problem among U.S. college students, a new report suggests.”

“Food insecurity was defined by the researchers as the lack of reliable access to sufficient amounts of affordable, nutritious food. Very low levels of food security qualified students as hungry.”

The two quotes above are taken from an article in MedlinePlus about perceived hunger in college students.  The experts who compiled the information labeled the malady, “Food Insecurity.” My generation, or at least those of us in the Asia Fleet suffered a similar problem.  It wasn’t hunger.  The Navy fed us. Maybe not as well as we wanted, but they fed us well enough that we could create a daily turd.

A major area of concern among the lower rated sailors was “Beer Insecurity.”  We were so poorly paid that we never seemed to be able to stretch our funds to cover beer supplies between paydays.  We were forced to depend upon the benevolence of a few bucks from home, the pity of our senior petty officers and the greed of those usurers, the operators of our friendly neighborhood “slush fund.”

I remember on ten cent Schlitz Malt Liquor night at the club, hanging out by the soda machine on the mess decks borrowing dimes from shipmates until I accumulated enough to afford ten or twelve bottles of that rot gut shit.

The dearth of money for beer often caused one to make stupid decisions.  Such as, accepting an invitation from a suspected “light in the loafers” Yeoman to go drink wine with him.  You had to pretend to like the wine while the asshole tried to show off his level of sophistication.  He had you drinking Cabernet Something and Pinot Something else.  You pretended you liked wine when you had a cheap beer palette.  You quickly learned that you shouldn’t drink wine in the same quantities that you did beer.  The biggest difference was that when you puked, the water in the shitter turned red instead of foaming.

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American Battlecruiser

American Battlecruiser

By:  Garland Davis

 

The historical HMS Hood and HMS Repulse, the German Scharnhorst and the Japanese Kongo-class were examples of the Battlecruiser.  These were warships with heavier guns and armament than traditional cruisers but lighter and faster than the Battle Ships.  How many of you know the story of the World War II American Battle Cruisers?

USS Alaska (CB-1) was the lead ship of the Alaska class of large cruisers which served with the United States Navy at the end of World War II. She was the first of two ships of her class to be completed, followed only by Guam (CB-2); four other ships were ordered but were not completed before the end of the war. Alaska was the third vessel of the US Navy to be named after what was then the territory of Alaska. She was laid down on 17 December 1941, ten days after the outbreak of war, was launched in August 1943 by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, in Camden, New Jersey, and was commissioned in June 1944. She was armed with a main battery of nine 12 in guns in three triple turrets and had a top speed of 33 knots (38 mph).

Due to being commissioned late in the war, Alaska saw relatively limited service. She participated in operations off Iwo Jima and Okinawa during February–July 1945, including providing anti-aircraft defense for various carrier task forces and conducting limited shore bombardment operations. She shot down several Japanese aircraft off Okinawa, including a possible Ohka piloted missile. In July–August 1945 she participated in sweeps for Japanese shipping in the East China and Yellow Seas. After the end of the war, she assisted in the occupation of Korea and transported a contingent of US Army troops back to the United States. She was decommissioned in February 1947 and placed in reserve, where she remained until she was stricken in 1960 and sold for scrapping the following year.

Alaska was authorized under the Fleet Expansion Act on 19 July 1940 and ordered on 9 September.[1] On 17 December 1941 she was laid down at New York Shipbuilding in Camden, New Jersey. She was launched on 15 August 1943, sponsored by the wife of the governor of Alaska, before being fitted out. The ship was completed by June 1944 and was commissioned into the US Navy on 17 June, under the command of Captain Peter K. Fischler.

The ship was 808 feet 6 inches long and with a beam of 91 feet 1 in and a draft of 31 feet 10 in. She displaced 34,253 at full combat load. The ship was powered by four-shaft General Electric geared steam turbines and eight oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers rated at 150,000 shaft horsepower, generating a top speed of 33 knots. Alaska had a cruising range of 12,000 nautical miles at a speed of 15 knots. She carried four seaplanes, with a pair of steam catapults mounted amidships.

The ship was armed with a main battery of nine 12 inch guns in three triple gun turrets. The secondary batter consisted of twelve 5 inch guns in twin turrets. Two were placed on the centerline firing over the main battery turrets, fore and aft, and the remaining four turrets were placed on the corners of the superstructure. The light anti-aircraft battery consisted of 56 quad-mounted 40mm Bofors guns and 34 single-mounted 20mm Oerlikon guns. A pair of Mk 34 gun directors aided gun laying for the main battery, while two Mk 37 directors controlled the 5-inch guns and a Mk 57 director aided the 40 mm guns. The main armored belt was 9 in thick, while the gun turrets had 12.8 in thick faces. The main armored deck was 4 in hick.[

After her commissioning, Alaska completed a shakedown cruise and on 12 November she left Philadelphia and after a stop at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, transited the Panama Canal and reached San Diego on 12 December. There her gun crews trained for shore bombardment and anti-aircraft fire.

On 8 January 1945, Alaska left California for Hawaii, arriving in Pearl Harbor on 13 January. There she participated in further training and was assigned to Task Group 12.2, which departed for Ulithi on 29 January. The Task Group reached Ulithi on 6 February and was merged into Task Group 58.5, part of Task Force 58, the Fats Carrier Task Force. Task Group 58.5 was assigned to provide anti-aircraft defense for the aircraft carriers; Alaska was assigned to the carriers Enterprise and Saratoga. The fleet sailed for Japan on 10 February to conduct air strikes against Tokyo and the surrounding airfields. The Japanese did not attack the fleet during the operation. Alaska was then transferred to Task Group 58.4 and assigned to support the assault on Iwo Jima. She served in the screen for the carriers off Iwo Jima for nineteen days, after which time she had to return to Ulithi to replenish fuel and supplies.

 

Alaska remained with TG 58.4 for the Battle of Okinawa. She was assigned to screen the carriers Yorktown and Intrepid; the fleet left Ulithi on 14 March and reached its operational area southeast of Kyushu four days later. The first air strikes on Okinawa began that day and claimed 17 Japanese aircraft destroyed on the ground. Here, Alaska finally saw combat, as the Japanese launched a major air strike on the American fleet. Her anti-aircraft gunners destroyed a kamikaze attempting to crash into Intrepid. Shortly after that, Alaska was warned that American aircraft were in the vicinity. Later that afternoon, Alaska shot down a second Japanese bomber.

The following day, the carrier Franklin was badly damaged by several bomb hits and a kamikaze. Alaska and her sister Guam, two other cruisers, and several destroyers were detached to create Task Group 58.2.9 to escort the crippled Franklin to Ulithi. On the voyage back to port, another Japanese bomber attacked Franklin, though the ships were unable to shoot it down. Gunfire from one of the 5-inch guns accidentally caused flash burns on several men standing nearby; these were the only casualties suffered by her crew during the war. Alaska then took on the role of fighter director; using her anti-air search radar, she vectored fighters to intercept and destroy a Kawasaki Heavy Fighter. On 22 March, the ships reached Ulithi and Alaska was detached to rejoin TG 58.4.[2]

After returning to her unit, Alaska continued to screen for the aircraft carriers off Okinawa. On 27 March she was detached to conduct a bombardment of Minamidaito. She was joined by Guam, two light cruisers, and Destroyer Squadron 47. On the night of 27–28 March, she fired forty-five 12-inch shells and three hundred and fifty-two 5-inch rounds at the island. The ships rejoined TG 58.4 at a refueling point, after which they returned to Okinawa to support the landings when they began on 1 April. On the evening of 11 April, Alaska shot down one Japanese plane, assisted in the destruction of another, and claimed what might have been a piloted rocket-bomb. On 16 April, the ship shot down another three aircraft and assisted with three others. Throughout the rest of the month, her heavy anti-aircraft fire succeeded in driving off Japanese bombers.[2]

Alaska then returned to Ulithi to resupply, arriving on 14 May. She was then assigned to TG 38.4, the reorganized carrier task force. The fleet then returned to Okinawa, where Alaska continued in her anti-aircraft defense role. On 9 June, she and Guam bombarded Oki Daito. TG 38.4 then steamed to San Pedro Bay in Leyte Gulf for rest and maintenance; the ship remained there from 13 June until 13 July, when she was assigned to Cruiser Task Force 95 along with her sister Guam, under the command of Rear Admiral Francis S. Low. On 16 July, Alaska and Guam conducted a sweep into the East China and Yellow Seas to sink Japanese shipping vessels. They had only limited success, however, and returned to the fleet on 23 July. They then joined a major raid, which included three battleships and three escort carriers, into the estuary of the Yangtze River off Shanghai. Again, the operation met with limited success.[9]

In the course of her service during World War II, Alaska was awarded three battle stars. On 30 August Alaska left Okinawa for Japan to participate in the 7th Fleet occupation force. She arrived in Inchon, Korea on 8 September and supported Army operations there until 26 September, when she left for Tsingtao, China, arriving the following day. There, she supported the 6th Marine Division until 13 November, when she returned to Inchon to take on Army soldiers as part of Operation Magic Carpet, the mass repatriation of millions of American servicemen from Asia and Europe. Alaska left Inchon with a contingent of soldiers bound for San Francisco. After reaching San Francisco, she left for the Atlantic, via the Panama Canal, which she transited on 13 December. The ship arrived at the Boston Navy Yard on 18 December, where preparations were made to place the ship in reserve. She left Boston on 1 February 1946 for Bayonne, New Jersey, where she would be berthed in reserve. She arrived there the following day, and on 13 August; she was removed from active service, though she would not be decommissioned until 17 February 1947.

In 1958, the Bureau of Ships prepared two feasibility studies to see if Alaska and Guam were suitable to be converted to guided missile cruisers. The first study involved removing all of the guns for four different missile systems. At $160 million this was seen as too costly, so a second study was conducted. This study left the forward batteries—the two 12″ triple turrets and three of the 5″ dual turrets—in place and added a reduced version of the first plan for the aft. This would have cost $82 million and was still seen as too cost-prohibitive. As a result, the conversion proposal was abandoned, and the ship was instead stricken from the naval registry on 1 June 1960. On 30 June she was sold to the Lipsett Division of Luria Brothers to be broken up for scrap.

A short life for a beautiful class of ship.

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The Missiles of October

The Missiles of October

By:  Garland Davis

During a thirteen-day period fifty-six years ago, the U.S. and the Soviet Union came within hours of going to war.  The pilot of an American U-2 spy plane making a high-altitude pass over Cuba on October 14, 1962, photographed a Soviet SS-4 medium-range ballistic missile being assembled for installation.

The critical photographs snapped by U-2 reconnaissance planes over Cuba were shipped for analysis to a top-secret CIA facility in a most unlikely location: a building above the Steuart Ford car dealership in a rundown section of Washington, D.C. While used car salesmen were wheeling and dealing downstairs on October 15, 1962, upstairs CIA analysts in the state-of-the-art National Photographic Interpretation Center were working around the clock to scour hundreds of grainy photographs for evidence of a Soviet ballistic missile site under construction.

Two days after the U-2 flight, on the morning of October 16, 1962, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy informed President John F. Kennedy that U.S. surveillance aircraft had discovered the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from American soil. It was the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

Just before noon, Kennedy convened the first meeting of fourteen administration officials and advisers. The group became as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council.

Time was of the essence.  Executive Committee members received estimates that the Soviet missiles could be at full operation within fourteen days.  Individual missiles could probably be readied within eighteen hours under a crash program.  Most of the missiles were determined to be SS-4’s with a range of approximately 1,100 nautical miles.  This placed major American cities, including Dallas and Washington, DC, within strike range.  Later photos showed that SS-5’s with a range of 2,200 nautical miles were also included in the arms shipments from the USSR.

For seven days, the Executive Committee debated the merits of three approaches to the developing crisis, while keeping a tight public lid on the Cuban discovery.  The first was a surgical air strike targeting as many of the missiles as possible.  The second was an air strike followed by a U.S. military invasion of the island.  The third was a blockade of Soviet ships thought to be carrying materials in support of the offensive missile systems.

The president opted for the blockade, calling it a termed quarantine so as to avoid warlike connotations.  This was to allow diplomatic approaches to work whereas direct military action wouldn’t.

On October 22, in anticipation of a military reaction to the quarantine, the Joint Chiefs of Staff placed military forces worldwide on a DEFCON 3 alert.  At five that afternoon Kennedy met with the bipartisan leaders of Congress.  At six, the Secretary of state met with the Soviet ambassador and presented him with an advance copy of the President’s upcoming address to the American Public.

In a TV address at seven PM on October 22, 1962, President John Kennedy (1917-63) notified Americans about the presence of the missiles, explained his decision to enact a naval quarantine around Cuba and made it clear the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security.

By the evening of October 23, Kennedy and the Executive Committee had new worries.  Earlier in the day, the Central Intelligence Agency began tracking several Soviet submarines unexpectedly moving toward Cuba.  The submarines complicated the Navy’s task of conducting the quarantine, as it now had to track the submarines to ensure the safety of the naval units conducting the quarantine. Also, they were tracking nineteen Soviet cargo ships identified as on course for Cuba.

The quarantine, with the unanimous backing of the Organization of American States, went into effect at 10 AM on October 24.

Early intelligence on that day indicated that sixteen of the nineteen Soviet cargo ships bound for Cuba had reversed course.  The remaining three were nearing the quarantine line, including the ships Gagarin and Komiles.  Naval intelligence reported that a Soviet submarine had taken a position between the two ships.  The president though wanting to avoid conflict authorized the USS Essex to take whatever defensive measures against the submarine.  This was probably the most dangerous moment of the Cold War, as both nations were within mere moments of turning the war hot.

Khrushchev blinked! Just before armed hostilities, both Soviet ships stopped dead in the water and eventually reversed course.

During the next four days, the diplomats crafted an agreement that would remove Soviet missiles from Cuba in exchange for the United States removal of Jupiter missiles from Turkey and a pledge to not invade Cuba.  The situation deteriorated somewhat when a U2 was shot down over Cuba.  Sensing that he was losing control of the crisis, Kennedy decided not to retaliate against the anti-aircraft site, much to the consternation of military leaders.

On the morning of October 28, Radio Moscow broadcast a speech by Khrushchev wherein he stated that all Soviet missiles in Cuba would be dismantled and crated.  The Cuban Missile crisis was over.

I arrived in North Carolina on October 14 on thirty days leave between NAS Lemoore California and USS Vesuvius.  I think I spent a good part of that leave listening to the news waiting for a recall.  There was a fear of nuclear war and the idea that it might happen.  There was also the thought that I was going to miss the action while on leave.  If the Navy had told me to report to Norfolk or Charleston, I would have been on the road immediately.

It was a good time to wear the uniform.  The girls were more than willing to comfort a sailor who might have to go to war soon.  Of course, I tried to refrain from taking any unfair advantage of the girls, but I just couldn’t bring myself to deny them the opportunity to serve their country in some small way during this time of peril.

 

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