Re-printed from the 2012 Winter edition of “The Ironman – A Double Ender’s Newsletter” (newsletter of the USS Reeves Association)
I’m sure everyone knows of the Reeves Ironmen, but many of our earlier shipmates might not really figure out where and when the whole “Ironman” thing came into play. The year was 1985, and we were home-ported in Yokosuka. During a change of command, the Reeves went from the capable hands of Captain James G. Weber to those of Captain George C. Chappell. What we didn’t realize at the time was that more than a few things were also about to change. During the first few years in Yoko, the ship had the dubious handle of the “Only Cruiser in Town.” The story was that the moniker had much to do with us being the only CG stationed in Yokosuka, and maybe, even more, to do with the continuously ongoing rivalry with the USS Sterrett CG- 31, which was officially home-ported in our un-official second homeport; Subic. Regardless of all the reasons and history behind the “only cruiser in town,” the nick -name was well broadcast on everything connected with the ship; to include t-shirts, jackets, and even painted down both sides of our generic baby-blue ships van. Well, it turns out that our new Captain didn’t see “the only cruiser in town” as the future of the Reeves, and stepped in with his very own campaign to establish a whole new basis for pride in the Reeves.
It was by Captain Chappell’s decree that the “Reeves Ironmen” became the new trademark for the only cruiser in town, and the start of a whole new sense of being. Along with the Ironmen came a few more of Captain Chappell’s nuances that we eventually learned to enjoy. Captain Chappell came to us from the Propulsion Examining Board (PEB), which was otherwise known as OPPE. He was an engineer’s engineer and left no doubt that he knew exactly how our propulsion plant worked, and why. We learned that you couldn’t sugar-coat any information dealing with his boilers, turbines, or fuel. He knew! He had also been the CO of a tender, so he really appreciated having a new toy that could really get out of its own way. He also liked classical music, so the new Reeves Ironmen quickly became used to a rousing rendition of The “William Tell Overture “(or the theme from the “Lone Ranger”, as most of us knew it) as our new underway and breakaway song.
Captain George also had a flair for speedy exits, and high-speed flybys after refueling breakaways. Standby for a FLANK bell (shortly after clearing the pier) became the norm, and we loved it. My best memory of this new found “ironmen” pride took place topside as we had just completed an UNREP (underway refueling) from the USNS Ponchatoula. It was an absolutely beautiful day in the South China Sea, and the sea conditions were perfect. As Reeves cast the last lines back to the oiler, our new breakaway started loudly over the 1MC, and the Reeves broke away with the hammer down. We pulled away smartly and executed a sharp turn to port. We accelerated and held that turn until we looped around and overtook the Ponchatoula down her starboard side. Reeves cut an absolutely beautiful turn under full power and then blew past the lumbering oiler like it was going backwards. The view and music from the slanting deck of the Reeves were something I’ll never forget. Apparently, it was equally impressive to the crew of the Ponchatoula, as there were plenty of her crew manning her rails to enjoy the “Ironman” fly-by.
The “Ironmen” theme kept developing during Captain Chappell’s tenure, as pride in the ship continued to grow. The evidence of that pride was confirmed with a clean-sweep of every readiness category that year. We (engineering) were most proud of the GOLD Engineering “E” that we got to paint on the aft mac. The theme was also enhanced by the ship’s cartoonist, who made the Ironman into a real character that graced many a POD. They even painted the ship’s van a bright red, gave it cool wheels, and applied the Ironmen theme to both sides.
The Ironmen had arrived! The Reeves Ironmen started as a plan to provide “the only cruiser in town” with a new identity and foster some new pride to a crew that didn’t think it was necessary. The Ironman turned out to be the front man for a tremendous matter of pride in a great ship. The Ironman has prevailed long beyond Captain George Chappell’s vision to improve pride on the Reeves. The Ironman became the Reeves!
And now you know the rest of the story…..
George Charles Chappell, Captain (Ret.) USN passed away on December 4, 2016, in San Diego, California. He was born in Portland, Oregon on August 31, 1937, the eldest of three children born to the late Mr. and Mrs. George C. Chappell. George graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1960. He completed his graduate studies at National University in 1