Another Night on the Town

Another Night on the Town

By:  Tony Och

MM2 and me, drunk once again out in “Sailor Town.”  It was one of many nights inport Sasebo, doing the same old shit…10 or so Kirin beers,  5 or 6 sake lime and trying to convince a bar girl how great she would feel if one of us swabbies was rubbing and licking every inch of her body!

MM2 and I staggered our way across Albuquerque bridge.  MM2 grabs me around the neck pulling me to the ground.  Laying under some bushes at the entrance to Nimitz park, we watched the Shore Patrol van making its rounds.

MM2 took charge, standing up running, “follow me,” he says!  We made a beeline towards the main gate, imaginary weapons in hand, the enemy was Shore Patrol!

At the backside of “C Area” housing, scaling a fence, we were then sitting in a tree casing the main gate of CFAS.  We dropped out of the tree and headed for the gate.  The JN gate guard waved us thru.

In front of the Mariner’s Haven, MM2 says he is thirsty.  “Hey Zeno, let’s bust in and drink some beer,” he says to me.  The two of us got onto the roof via a vertical drain pipe and found a roof hatch.  Once inside it was nothing but electrical, supply/exhaust ductwork, no way to drop down into the bar.  I told MM2, “let’s just go home!”

Onboard Dubuque, MM2 and I headed up thru the boat deck into Officer’s Country.  Inside the Wardroom galley, we sliced up some ham & cheese, grabbed a shitload of sliced bread…loaded it onto a tray and down to B & M berthing we went!

Hell, it was movie time with any duty section guys that were still awake.  No mayonnaise, mustard or butter.  Just ham, cheese, and white ass Navy bread…best sandwich in the world!

It was a magnificent time in my life, I miss it!

P.S.  I’m going to the VA.  I might have “Westpacides,” a condition of the mind knowing that you will never be in that place again as much as you wish you could!

I R A BT

 

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Douglas Reeman a.k.a. Alexander Kent

I have spent many hours reading the Bolitho books.

‘I am always asked to account for the perennial appeal of the sea story, and its enduring interest for people of so many nationalities and cultures. It would seem that the eternal and sometimes elusive triangle of man, ship, and ocean, particularly under the stress of war, produces the best qualities of courage and compassion, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of conflict . . . The sea has no understanding of righteous or unjust causes. It is the common enemy, respected by all who serve on it, ignored at their peril.’ — Douglas Reeman a.k.a. Alexander Kent

Douglas Reeman a.k.a. Alexander Kent 1924-2017

Douglas Edward Reeman was born at Thames Ditton, on October 15, 1924. He joined the Royal Navy in 1940, at the age of 16, and served during World War II and the Korean War, rising to the rank of lieutenant. In addition to being an author, Reeman has also taught the art of navigation for yachting and served as a technical advisor for films. Reeman is survived by his wife of thirty-one years, Kimberley Jordan.

As Douglas Reeman, he wrote about naval action during the twentieth century, with a primary focus on Britain’s Royal Navy. Using the pen-name Alexander Kent, he chronicled the adventures of Richard and Adam Bolitho at sea during the Age of Fighting Sail in a series spanning thirty novels. More than 30 million copies of his books are in print. He will be missed by all lovers of nautical fiction.

 

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Butterfly

Butterfly

By:  Garland Davis

 

Feelings flowed through me at her beauty.

My heart hid the feelings that my trembling hands revealed.

As I drowned in the feelings, I felt the desire as my eyes roamed her body.

I saw her sweet face and heard her say,

“One hundred pesos, I love you long time.”

I only wanted her to love me for a short time.

My needs are as simple as the butterfly’s.

Flitting from flower to flower, enjoying each one’s sweetness.

My happily ever after evaporates as Subic Bay sinks below the horizon,

Astern

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Differences

Differences

By:  Garland Davis

There are differences between old ships and the newer ones of today’s Navy.  Every generation of sailors…each crew of a ship creates memories, loyalty and love of the Navy based on their experiences.  It’s probably been that way since Noah put to sea with a shipload of animals in the great flood…probably always will be.

Sailors are linked…Each generation to the preceding and following one by uniforms we wore, the histories of battles and wars fought, and the pride in being a sailor that swells our chests.  We were members of a group that will forever set us apart…We were sailors in the United States Navy.

The way they are churning the seabag now, I doubt if an old sailor would recognize a modern sailor as a shipmate in the same Navy.

We each have our memories of the ships and stations, of shipmates and foreign shores.  Those memories, collectively, are our history… The history of the ships we rode, the friends we made, the wars we fought in service to the country we represented.

Today’s ships are wonders of modernization.  They have evolved into push button wonders that operate with a minimal crew.  There are gun mounts without crews and submarines without periscopes. With crews peopled by male and female.  Yep Shipmate, you heard that right, female sailors.  The Lesbians in the Women’ Rights organizations have finally succeeding in invading one of the last male sanctuaries; the United States Navy afloat.  With no more “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, there are now Rump Rangers and Gap Lappers in the berthing compartments.

Today’s sailors live in a comfort that we couldn’t envision on the old haze gray steel that we crewed throughout endless deployments and gun line periods. They have abundant water, air conditioning, room to move around, closed circuit TV, up to date programming.  We were happy to get fresh milk, an occasional shower, and the James Bond flick with Ann Margaret for the fifteenth time during a WestPac.

We thought computers and ‘wrist radios’ were figments of the imaginations of science fiction authors and the artists of Dick Tracy. Now sailors can stroll topside if close inshore, pull a playing card sized implement from their pocket and call any place in the world.

After UNREP’s we waited impatiently for mail call hoping to get a piece of paper from someone we cared for or someone who cared for us.  Now there are no longer Postal Clerks. The modern day sailor goes to a computer, logs on and checks to see if anyone has cared enough to send an e-mail.  With FaceBook and other social sites, the modern day sailor has friends around the world.  Our closest friends usually slept in the same stack of racks.

As I sit here typing this, I wonder of what the memories of the modern sailor will consist.  Will he remember the chipping of paint…Will he remember the pride he had in his ship as it entered port squared away and ship shape?  Or will he have his mind on the Enginemangirl sleeping on the other side of the bulkhead, wondering if he has a chance of getting into her skivs?

Do Chiefs still cuss you like the demons of hell and then come by to see you in the hospital with a stack of magazines? Do they still offer to loan a broke sailor a few bucks for liberty?  Do they still ask if you have started shaving yet as a way of telling you that, you look like shit and ‘go shave?’

Do bargirls still remember a sailor’s name and ship?  Is it still impossible to get the smell of cheap perfume off a pea coat or dress canvas?  Does the neckerchief still dangle in your beer or chow?  Do sailors still wear liberty cuffs and sharkskin whites?  Do sailors still roll their white hats?

What has the world economy, inflation, the influx of the ‘gentler sex, political correctness, and sensitivity done to the price of beer and pussy in our favorite ports?

What do they use for navigation?  In our day, the Junior Officers were up taking morning sextant sights trying to figure where in hell they were.  I guess now you can do it with Google Earth and Maps.  Sleep in, no reason to get up so early.

Do the mid and four to eight watch standers still hang around the bake shop like buzzards waiting for the baker to pull the rolls or bread they have been smelling, from his ‘magic oven?’ Is giving the cooks a hard time still the best game in town?  Is that first cup of coffee and cigarette in the morning worth getting up for?  What, forget the cigarette, no fucking smoking in our modern Navy?

Are there still independent duty Corpsmen who can cure anything, fix anything, identify varieties of crotch crabs by liberty port, and make perfect stitches by the light of a battle lantern, in a state five sea, after the snipes lost the load?  And afterward, whip your ass at Acey Deucy and Cribbage?

Do Officers and Chiefs still wear steaming hats that look like they drew them from Noah’s Lucky Bag?  Do cats still try to cover up deck force foul weather jackets?

Are FNG’s still sent to find relative bearing grease, chow line, skyhooks, left-handed monkey wrenches, and fallopian tubes? Oh wait, fallopian tubes are now available aboard ship in this modern Navy. Just not in supply, unless, of course, there are female Storekeepers.  What, no more SK’s?  They are now Logistic Specialists.  Hell, I knew SK’s that couldn’t spell logistics. Are there still mail buoy watches?  Are impressionable FA’s still wondering around the bridge trying to find the main engine ignition key? Or have all these tricks played on the innocent been categorized as “hazing” and banned in our more diverse, gentler and kinder Navy.  “A Force for Good.”

Do the girls in the bars start prettying up when your ship is sighted abreast Grande Island?  Or is everyone mustering with the Chaplains Assistant preparing to go paint an orphanage?  Does the CO sometimes stick his head into a joint on Magsaysay and buy a round?  No wait, drinking is discouraged, he could get relieved for that.

Are you still a pussy if you can’t chug a picture of Mojo? Is the “Breakfast of Champions” still monkey-on-a-stick, peanuts, hard boiled eggs and pool cue dust in your beer?”

Memories… Collect them… Remember… Remember the little things. They will form the composite of your old man’s memories. They will connect you with whatever comes after you.

One day, you will be parked in your old recliner saying…

“These goddam sailors today have no idea how fuckin’ tough we had it.  We had to go all the way to town for pussy.  We didn’t bring it with us.”

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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C-130 Lands on Forrestal

C-130 Lands on Forrestal

By:  Garland Davis

When one reviews the encyclopedic range of accomplishments by the C-130 Hercules and its valiant aircrews over the years, surely one of the most astounding took place in October 1963 when the U.S. Navy decided to try to land a Hercules on an aircraft carrier. Was it possible? Who would believe that the big, four-engine C-130 with its bulky fuselage and 132-foot wingspan could land on the deck of a carrier?

Not only was it possible, but it was also done in moderately rough seas 500 miles out in the North Atlantic off the coast of Boston. In so doing, the airplane became the largest and heaviest aircraft to ever land on an aircraft carrier, a record that stands to this day.

When Lt. James H. Flatley III was told about his new assignment, he thought somebody was pulling his leg. “Operate a C-130 off an aircraft carrier? Somebody’s got to be kidding,” he said. But they weren’t kidding. In fact, the Chief of Naval Operations himself had ordered a feasibility study on operating the big propjet aboard the Norfolk-based U.S.S. Forrestal (CVA-59). The Navy was trying to find out whether they could use the Hercules as a “Super COD” – a “Carrier Onboard Delivery” aircraft. The airplane then used for such tasks was the Grumman C-1 Trader, a twin piston-engine bird with a limited payload capacity and a 300-mile range. If an aircraft carrier is operating in mid-ocean, it has no “onboard delivery” system to fall back on and must come nearer land before taking aboard even urgently needed items. The Hercules was stable and reliable, with a long cruising range and capable of carrying large payloads.

 

The aircraft, a KC-130F refueler transport (BuNo 149798), on loan from the U.S. Marines, was delivered on 8 October. Lockheed’s only modifications to the original aircraft included installing a smaller nose-landing gear orifice, an improved anti-skid braking system, and removal of the underwing refueling pods. “The big worry was whether we could meet the maximum sink rate of nine feet per second,” Flatley said. As it turned out, the Navy was amazed to find they were able to better this mark by a substantial margin.

In addition to Flatley, the crew consisted of Lt.Cmdr. W.W. Stovall, copilot; ADR-1 E.F. Brennan, flight engineer; and Lockheed engineering flight test pilot Ted H. Limmer, Jr. The initial sea-born landings on 30 October 1963 were made into a 40-knot wind. Altogether, the crew successfully negotiated 29 touch-and-go landings, 21 unarrested full-stop landings, and 21 unassisted takeoffs at gross weights of 85,000 pounds up to 121,000 pounds. At 85,000 pounds, the KC-130F came to a complete stop within 267 feet, about twice the aircraft’s wing span! The Navy was delighted to discover that even with a maximum payload, the plane used only 745 feet for takeoff and 460 feet for landing roll. The short landing roll resulted from close coordination between Flatley and Jerry Daugherty, the carrier’s landing signal officer. Daugherty, later to become a captain and assigned to the Naval Air Systems Command, gave Flatley an engine “chop” while still three or four feet off the deck.
Lockheed’s Ted Limmer, who checked out fighter pilot Flatley in the C-130, stayed on for some of the initial touch-and-go and full-stop landings. “The last landing I participated in, we touched down about 150 feet from the end, stopped in 270 feet more and launched from that position, using the remainder of the deck. We still had a couple of hundred feet left when we lifted off. Admiral Brown was flabbergasted.”

 

The plane’s wingspan cleared the Forrestal’s flight deck “island” control tower by just under 15 feet as the plane roared down the deck on a specially painted line. Lockheed’s chief engineer, Art E. Flock, was aboard to observe the testing. “The sea was pretty big that day. I was up on the captain’s bridge. I watched a man on the ship’s bow as that bow must have gone up and down 30 feet.” The speed of the shop was increased 10 knots to reduce yaw motion and to reduce wind direction. Thus, when the plane landed, it had a 40 to 50-knot wind on the nose. “That airplane stopped right opposite the captain’s bridge,” recalled Flock. “There was cheering and laughing. There on the side of the fuselage, a big sign had been painted on that said, “LOOK MA, NO HOOK.”

From the accumulated test data, the Navy concluded that with the C-130 Hercules, it would be possible to lift 25,000 pounds of cargo 2,500 miles and land it on a carrier. Even so, the idea was considered a bit too risky for the C-130 and the Navy elected to use a smaller COD aircraft.

 

For his effort, the Navy awarded Flatley the Distinguished Flying Cross.

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“Olongapo Pot Luck”

“Olongapo Pot Luck”

By: Anonymous

 

The only WestPac I made was in USS Elliot (DD-967) in 1983. It wasn’t quite as wild in those days as the sea-stories led me to believe. But Subic was still in operation, a favorite port-of-call, and the mythical land of LBFMs where every sailor’s dreams came true!

An SM1 in 83′, I was still a PI “cherry boy” having spent my first sea duty on the USS Kalamazoo (AOR-6) out of Mayport, FL. The Elliot’s Signal Gang LCPO was SMC John Strait, who until Kalamazoo had spent his entire Navy career on the West Coast. His first ship was a Carrier and he went on his first WestPac cruise at the tail-end of the Vietnam War, launching & recovering aircraft on the infamous Yankee Station.

The SMC LOVED to tell us stories of his exploits on the streets of Olongapo. But his favorite was a little game called “Pot Luck” that he and his shipmates played on liberty. Keep in mind, in those days; there was a strictly enforced curfew: because of Martial Law all persons had to be off the streets, out of the bars, brothels, strip clubs, etc. by 2400 or risk being taken into custody by Shore Patrol. If you hadn’t crossed Shit River or were in a hotel room by 0001, you risked losing your liberty card for the rest of the ship’s visit to Subic!

The rules were simple: each participant had to wait until exactly 2345, only then could they exit their favorite bar and proceed to the street to find an LBFM to engage for the evening. Then they had to find an empty hotel room and settle in for the night. All of this BEFORE the SPs started piling wayward sailors into the paddy wagons for an ignominious ride back to their ships.

Here’s the kicker, the guy who paid the least amount for an all-nighter, WON.

Keep in mind, the LBFMs knew all about the curfew, so if they hadn’t snagged a sailor by midnight, they would be without any income that evening. At about 2330 they would become more willing to offer bargain pricing, and the closer to 2400 it got, the lower their prices became.

By the time, I got to Subic, the curfew days were long gone, so playing Pot Luck was a thing of the past. Fortunately, the LBFMs remained! Ah, Subic . . .

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Full Steam Ahead: Rescue The USS Pueblo

Full Steam Ahead: Rescue The USS Pueblo

By:  Pat Dingle

 

The 12 months between April 1967 and April 1968 were the best of times and the worst of times of my four years in the Navy. It started with a murder and narcotics undercover assignment in Las Vegas while home from the Yorktown’s second full 10-11 month tour in the Gulf of Tonkin. My week long leave turned into a month assigned to the LV police, having been recruited by a detective who, as it turned out later, was also in the Chicago mafia. After a very narrow escape from getting knocked off myself, I returned to Long Beach and the Yorktown. I was an RD-3 and among the senior in OI Division and there’s nothing more useless to the Navy than a radarman in port. This time they did something about that. I was recruited by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) to be the first “Nark” in a pilot program to combat civilians selling dope to sailors. These were the best of times. Here I am, a 20-year-old sailor packing a gun, going all over the southern California map in civvies of the era on my motorcycle or ‘55 Chevy depending on my target, like a kid in a candy store only I couldn’t/wouldn’t ingest the candy. I’d only return to the Yorktown near paydays, and the Captain would personally arrange for me to be paid (He once told the Disbursing Officer to pay me whatever I wanted. I had to think hard for a minute about that temptation but then requested my regular pay) I had a room on base or at a bad guy’s pad. The Navy’s only request was for me to call every day or two to say I was alive and to come into ONI’s headquarters once a week or so and tell them what I was doing. Finally, it’s the Navy I thought I had joined over three years ago and that misunderstanding was rudely corrected on the first day of boot camp. All good things must come to an end, and my end with ONI came after a bad guy’s house was shot up, and ONI thought things were too hot for me to continue. Thus they returned me bruised but not broken to the Yorktown just as she deployed back to Westpac and Vietnam waters. It would be the last time for the USS Yorktown and I. It was early January 1968. The worst of times.

 

Our four destroyers formed up with us the day we left Long Beach. The following day we steamed off San Diego as our air squadrons landed aboard and we then steamed westward. There were about five of us E-4s who were equal in seniority in CIC and several E-5s and 6s who were also making their second deployment with us. A new Sr. Chief joined two others, and of course, there was a complete turnover of the seven or eight officers in OI Div. Captain Bennett was still in command of the Yorktown, and I don’t recall who the new Admiral was, too far above my pay grade. There were some new RD-3s and a shit load of new seamen, many who were reserves. I was a short timer due to be discharged in a few months and truth be told these many decades later, it showed. There was a clash between the new Sr. Chief and myself. Again, truth be told now, he won. I trained the new guys on the operation of CIC as did the other salty petty officers but coming off nearly a year as the lone ranger it didn’t come easy. The Yorktown drilled nearly every day as we steamed to Pearl for a few days of liberty then on to Japan, with more drills along the way, to replenish stores but I don’t recall any of this, done it too many times, and the drills were ingrained as were Pearl and ports in Japan. The thrill was gone. It was January 23, and we were approaching the southern Japanese Islands when the message was received telling us that USS Pueblo is under attack by North Koreans.

 

I can’t begin to describe what we felt upon hearing that the North Koreans were attacking one of our ships, but I’ll try. It was an outrage to the max. NOBODY FUCKS WITH ONE OF OUR SHIPS AND LIVES. The Yorktown and her escorts were ordered to make the best speed to the Pueblo’s location, about 15-20 hours away, and rescue her and the crew. Capt. Bennett first ordered the destroyers to come alongside for an underway replenishment to top off as we changed course to the Sea of Japan. Refueling UNREP, we made 32 knots throughout the cold night, passing through the Tsushima Straits with our radars turned off. That had never happened before during my years aboard. The reason was we didn’t want the enemy to pick up our radar signals and know we were coming. CIC went to GQ stations, and that’s about the time a few strange things happened. Our orders from the Commander Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, were left out in the open for all of us in CIC to read. I’ll never forget them. The first read “Attack anything communist.” The second thing was moral shot sky high throughout the ship. Guys in the passageways, strangers, were giving high-fives. The crew was so pumped, we’re on our way full speed to kick ass. The ship was vibrating from making all those knots, and so were we. I guess it helped to know we were the closest military response and closing. The Yorktown was steaming at best speed to the sound of the guns. I’m sure it was the same aboard the destroyers. None of us could wait to get to the North Korean coast and kill those fucking commie bastards messing with the Pueblo. We didn’t know she’d been captured.

 

During that first night, word came in that the Pueblo had been boarded and taken to the Port of Wonsan. Our orders were to steam to an area close off that port. The order to shoot still stood. To a man, we were ready to do battle. As we approached our destination, more orders started coming in, “Only shoot if you can clearly identify your target,” a few hours later, on station, “Don’t shoot unless you’re attacked.” The word going around was we’re going to use our Marine detachment and a voluntary force of sailors to storm ashore and find the Pueblo’s crew. I looked high and low as did my shipmates for the guy with the clipboard taking names. Moral was still very high as was the outrage. More destroyers joined up with us. Every time a new American ship arrived we thought that’s it, we have enough now, let’s go in. Everyone was asking why are we waiting? I kept thinking of the captured crew and what must be happening to them. The weather and my Chief didn’t help matters. Like I said, we clashed when he first came aboard a month or two ago. We were prepared for the South China Sea, and pea coats worked for liberty in Japan during the winter, but this fucking freezing weather was something I’ve never experienced before. None of us had. We had foul weather gear of course, but that had the same warming effect as a t-shirt. CIC is always air conditioned. We turned it off. There’s fucking SNOW on the flight deck most days. My Chief wanted me to have a very responsible position during this time of conflict, away from CIC and him, so he put me in charge of the lookouts up on the open 07 deck. Now, remember, there were blizzards nearly every day, you couldn’t see the end of the flight deck. The slow burn I felt helped but not very damn much. My section stood watch seven on, five off, five on, seven off 24/7 for what turned out to be several months. I relieved one lookout at a time to go down below to CIC to warm up and get a cup of coffee. When all four had a break, I went down to CIC and got the latest intelligence reports. The Yorktown and task group steamed back and forth off the Port of Wonsan.

 

To say the situation was tense would be an understatement. The North Koreans had an air base five minutes away making us an immediate target if war breaks out. Attacking the Pueblo, we thought it had. We didn’t know what kind of Navy they had other than enough of a Navy to overcome one of our ships. During that first few days, word was the Enterprise, Ranger, and one other attack carrier was ordered up from Vietnam. We’d cling to any rumor that offered hope that we’ll go in and attack. Moral was still very high as a result. I understood the carriers are underway to Korea, then the Tet Offense began, and they were ordered back to Nam. More ships arrive and take station with us. Why the hell are we waiting? Nobody knew, and the rumors seem to become downgraded each long day, less action orientated, but in our heart of hearts, we knew they were just rumors anyway. But for now, that’s all we had. The forward and aft lookouts and I were allowed to move up to the enclosed 010 level located just under the radar antennas for humanitarian reasons. It was that or suffer frostbite. The 010 remained unchanged from 1943 when the Yorktown was built. It wasn’t anything more than a small space made of thick bulletproof steel with four slit portholes. It was the highest enclosed space on the island above the flight deck and just as cold as the flight deck, but it protected from the wind and blowing snow. We found a small electric heater somewhere and used that to take turns warming our hands through the gloves. Turn’s up, hands froze. This sucked. I had this tiny taste of understanding the hardships our ground troops went through during the Korean War after a month or so on the 07 and 010. My respects gentlemen.

 

I would go down the many ladders to CIC for hot coffee and the scuttlebutt; one was hot, one cold. The focus during this stage was all eyes on the jet bases and anything on the waters in between us and those commie bastards. We had our small detachment of A-4 Skyhawks ready to launch, and our two 5 inch guns were manned 24/7, but we depended on all the destroyers to protect the Yorktown during an attack. During my nearly four years aboard I’ve seen our guns fire once, off California, never came close to hitting the towed target sled. After learning all there was, I’d carry hot cups of coffee in a box up to my guys. It was always cold in the time it took to climb up there, and I climbed ladders like a monkey back then. During those days of blowing snow, the only duty we’d do is announce over the sound powered phones “Forward Aye.” “Aft Aye” every half hour when CIC asked for a report from us and the bridge. The rest of the time we’d just sit on the deck leaning back against the bulkhead and swap sea stories. As I was the one with two tours and E-4, I’d run my mouth more than the seamen boots on duty. I tried to regale them with exploits of on the beach, what’s it’s like in the Gulf of Tonkin, how important it is to pay strict attention to your scopes as lives depend on it etc. And of course the jokes of the day. Those were repeated so much we all had our responses down pat, no pun intended. Today I can only recall one of those guys. He was a reserve college kid and total introvert in his late teens. He never said a word. He’d just sit there with his hood pulled tight over his head looking out with those wide blue eyes like an owl. Now and then I’d fuck with him by telling some stories of dangerous areas in Hong Kong or Subic. When I realized this kid couldn’t cut it, I left him alone. Swashbuckler, he ain’t and within a few months, he was flown home as a mental case. I know that happened to three or four guys in CIC during our first two tours too. I understand today but didn’t back then; I lived for adventure the Navy provided. The capture of the USS Pueblo changed that mindset for me.

 

The USS Yorktown remained the command ship as the task force steamed back and forth in a fifty-mile long figure eight and in about the same miles from shore. Morale aboard began to plummet in the third week of this clusterfuck. The only thing we knew for sure was the Commies had our ship and crew a few minutes over the horizon. Even the top secret messages from Pearl dried up, meaning they weren’t being given out anymore for everyone in OI to read, just the select few. We were getting daily updates on the 7th Fleet’s actions taken because of the Tet Offence still underway, but that had little or no meaning to us. Our fight’s here but “they” won’t let us fight. Then we read the orders, the USS Enterprise and several other attack carriers are, for the second time, steaming north to join with us off North Korea. Morale had been going up and down like a yo-yo, and this news shot it up like a rocket. They’re not coming unless this is it. Again high-fives, the crew’s pumped, we’re going in for sure this time. Even the weather improved. Still fucking freezing but no blowing snow, just heavy wet fog. I took the lookouts down below to the exposed 07 for a change of pace over the next week and that helped matters. Any change helped matters. OI division was at GQ for a month now and would stay there for another month. I don’t know about the other divisions.

 

It was one of those moments that stays with you for the remainder of your life. It was midday, visibility about 5,000 yards then a wall of fog in which you couldn’t see your outstretched hand. Our surface radar was reporting the CPA (closest point of approach) every few minutes, she’s minutes out, and I’m on duty on the 07 level.  The USS Enterprise came bow first out of the fog on our forward starboard side and kept coming, sliding past us about 4,000 yards out. Jesus H. Christ, I’ve never seen a ship that big. And as a carrier sailor, I thought the Yorktown was huge. I’d seen photos of the Enterprise of course and her box-like superstructure signature. But seeing her coming out of the fog like that was surreal. I took one of the binoculars away from a lookout and looking higher than our 07, focused on her attack aircraft on the flight deck, starboard side, couldn’t see her port side. I couldn’t take my eyes away, but the relative speed of two ships passing in the fog did within a few moments. Moments that would forever more be with me. I never saw the USS Enterprise again.     The Enterprise and the other attack carrier that came, can’t now recall, let’s call it the fog of war, with their escorts, are on the scene with us. I knew it’s for real, payback time. No more waiting, slash and burn upon landing, we’re going to get our Pueblo and crew back. Why else would they send the two other carriers and ships? It’s High Noon right? Moral aboard the Yorktown now peaked, every man aboard was convinced the waiting was over. The weeks of freezing throughout every compartment forgotten. Our blood’s up as is our fighting spirit, it’s only a matter of hours or days at most. This is why we drilled, why we had two full tours in the Gulf of Tonkin. I’m in CIC more than my duty station up topside. I have to know from the vast number of Intel sources there, that and I’m one of the most experienced on any station. I belong with my shipmates, not the boots on lookout. Besides, we can’t see shit past a matter of yards. Such was my attitude; the new Chief had one too. Whenever he left the Chief’s mess to drop in CIC and caught me in there, he’d chew my ass. I’d reply just getting coffee for my guys Chief. He couldn’t bust me for that, but we both knew, everyone knew. The cat and mouse game played out 24/7, and I’m no fucking mouse. I’m a 20-year-old war-seasoned salty sailor wanting to do the job for which I am trained. Our other Chief, a great guy I respected named Sorrel made Chief after two years with us. He’d try to help me with my frustration, and I appreciated that, but after serving as the lone ranger with ONI and my natural nature, well it was hard. I didn’t act ignorant or do anything a good E-4 doesn’t do to circumvent his Chief, it’s only natural to forget the Chief was once an E-4 and knows what I’m thinking and doing before I do. Thinking of nothing but the Pueblo’s crew, the fucking Chief, the fucking freezing weather, the fucking waiting weeks for the fight, the fucking Navy that just extended this short timer’s enlistment, it was a perfect storm for this fucking fighting PO-3 as well as most of my shipmates. Attack the bastards, and we’re OK with all this and a lot more. It was the perfect storm about to get worse.

 

It wasn’t long, perhaps a week, before the USS Enterprise and the other carrier or two and their ships left for Nam. We’re alone again, the Yorktown and some destroyers, steaming in that goddamn fifty-mile figure eight offshore. This is where we came in over a month ago. I don’t have the words to describe the betrayal I, we, felt. How could the United States do this to the Pueblo’s crew? It was incomprehensible. It was unforgivable. My shipmates felt so too. It was so fucked I quit. The truth is I have no memory whatsoever of the next few months. I know from old shipmates in recent years that we steamed off North Korea for a few weeks more, did another stint in the Gulf of Tonkin, made port in Subic and I have no memory of any of that. Fuck it. The only thing I recall is in mid-April something happened to a propeller shaft while steaming in the Gulf and the joke going around was that we’d hit a rock. I was due for discharge on April 24th, the day before my 21st birthday, but had been extended like so many others. We had to make way to Yokosuka for dry dock repairs, but I didn’t give a shit. It was the worst of times.

 

My next and last story picks up from there with an ending you can’t make up and one that’s never left me if triggered by a certain song of the era. Fast forward a few months and due to my experiences in the Navy, taking off alone to parts unknown in foreign lands described in prior stories, ONI, hearing men die in CIC, all that my Navy was in 1964-68, all three years eleven months and three weeks, a kiddie cruiser. I became a street cop, one of a handful, in the blue-collar ghetto mobbed up end of Las Vegas in time for the start of riots, Black Panthers, SDS, snipers, and ambushes. Burning of draft cards, something I never had, wasn’t old enough.                I found my fight after all. It was the best of times.

 

PS   I followed the Pueblo’s story over the years the same as all of you, and we know the reason why it happened, The Rat-Bastard Traitor Walker Family and the USSR’s need for an updated U.S.Navy cryptograph machine. Any thoughts on this “Incident”?

 

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