A Day to Remember
By: Garland Davis
John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, Texas while riding in a presidential motorcade in Dealey Plaza. Kennedy was riding with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally’s wife, Nellie, and was fatally shot by former U.S. Marine Lee Harvey Oswald. A ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission from November 1963 to September 1964 concluded that Oswald acted alone in shooting Kennedy, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald before he could stand trial.Kennedy’s death marked the fourth (following that of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and most recent assassination of an American President. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson automatically became President upon Kennedy’s death.
Everyone who was old enough to remember can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. It happened at 12:30 PM CST November 22nd. It is one of two lifetime events that I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I was told its circumstances. The other was the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. The country went into shock on that day fifty-three years ago. Schools closed. Some companies shut down for a few days. The United States and the world were stunned.
I was half a world away. It was 1:30 AM on the morning of November 23rd in the Western Pacific. I was serving in USS Vesuvius, an ammunition replenishment ship, anchored in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. At 3:00 AM, the crew was awakened and the Commanding Officer made an announcement over the ship’s announcing system. He told us that the president had been killed and as a precautionary measure, the fleet would sortie at first light. The warships would go first and Vesuvius, the oiler USS Cacapon and the stores ship Pollux would follow once the fighting ships had cleared the bay.
At the time, no one knew the circumstances of the assassination. There was speculation that the Soviets may have been involved in reprisal for the Cuban Missile Crisis. The fleet went to sea expecting Soviet Submarines to be waiting. I stood on deck and watched the warships leave. I counted 18 cruisers and destroyers. I can assure you that they went to sea locked and loaded. As soon as we cleared port, the destroyers were lining up to top off their magazines from us and their fuel tanks from the tanker.
Later that day, one of the carriers that had been inbound for Subic Bay, came alongside to top off her stocks of five hundred pound bombs.
We stayed on alert for a week or two and then settled back into routine operations.
A day to remember…