By Anonymous

Now each of us from time to time has gazed upon the sea

and watched the mighty warships pulling out to keep this country free.

And most of us have read a book or heard a lusty tale,

about these men who sail these ships through lightning, wind and hail.

But there’s a place within each ship that legend’s fail to teach.

It’s down below the water-line and it takes a living toll

– – a hot metal living hell, that sailors call the “Hole.”

It houses engines run with steam that makes the shafts go round.

A place of fire, noise, and heat that beats your spirits down.

Where boilers like a hellish heart, with the blood of angry steam,

are molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream. Whose threat from the fire’s roar, is like a living doubt,

that at any moment with such scorn, might escape and crush you out.

Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in Hell,

are ordered from above somewhere, they answer every bell.

The men who keep the fires lit and make the engines run,

are strangers to the light and rarely see the sun.

They have no time for man or God, no tolerance for fear,

their aspect pays no living thing a tribute of a tear.

For there’s not much that men can do that these men haven’t done,

beneath the decks, deep in the hole, to make the engines run.

And every hour of every day they keep the watch in Hell,

for if the fires ever fail their ship’s a useless shell. When ships converge to have a war upon an angry sea,

the men below just grimly smile at what their fate will be.

They’re locked below like men fore-doomed, who hear no battle cry,

it’s well assumed that if they’re hit, men below will die.

For every day’s a war down there when gauges all read red,

twelve-hundred pounds of heated steam can kill you mighty dead.So if you ever write their songs or try to tell their tale,

the very words would make you hear a fired furnace’s wail.

And people as a general rule don’t hear of these men of steel,

so little heard about this place that sailors call the “Hole.”

But I can sing about this place and try to make you see,

the hardened life of the men down there, ’cause one of them is me.

I’ve seen these sweat-soaked heroes fight in superheated air,

to keep their ship alive and right, though no one knows they’re there.And thus they’ll fight for ages on till warships sail no more,

amid the boiler’s mighty heat and the turbine’s hellish roar.

So when you see a ship pull out to meet a war-like foe,

remember faintly if you can, “The Men Who Sail Below.”


USS Barbour County LST-1195

USS Barbour County LST-1195

Underway 26 January 1984, the USS Barbour County LST- 1195 spent five weeks conducting individual ship drills and amphibious refresher training with Marines from Camp Pendleton.

In late March 1984, USS Barbour County’s engineering departments began training for service inspections.

She moved alongside the USS Ajax AR-6 for last-minute engine repairs on 13 April.

Departing San Diego on 23 March, the tank landing ship moved to the Silver Strand Amphibious Boat area for her final week of pre-deployment refresher training.

A sign of the troubles to come were two small fires that broke out that day, one in an air conditioning compressor and another in an ice machine motor.

Despite high winds and heavy seas, the USS Barbour County conducted two days of difficult beaching and bow ramp exercises on the strand.

Late in the afternoon on 25 April 1984, the USS Barbour County began her last planned beaching operation.

Unfortunately, while trying to retract, the ship swung to starboard, jammed her rudders in the sand and, by 1840, she was fully broached in the surf.

Damage control parties ballasted the ship down to reduce wave damage for the night.

The following day, fleet tugs USS Quapaw ATF-110, the USS Narrangansett T-ATF-167, and rescue ship USS Florikan ASR-9 towed the USS Barbour County off the beach.

To add insult to injury, while moored at San Diego, the USS Barbour County suffered a major fire in the bosun’s locker on 2 June 1984.

Following a series of temporary repairs and inspections, the USS Barbour County was towed to San Pedro on 16 October to commence a major yard period at the Todd Pacific Shipyard.

These repairs included new hull plating, engines, and steering gear as well as numerous electronics upgrades.

The tank landing ship began sea trials on 4 June 1985 and, after successful completion moved to San Diego on the 22 June.

Numerous months of refresher training were required to get the ship back into shape, however, and these exercises were not complete until early November 1985 when she finished her last week of amphibious landing operations.


A Snipe Primer on Tools

A Snipe Primer on Tools


DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, ‘Oh shit!’

DROP SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle… It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting on fire various flammable objects in your shop. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.

TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit.

UTILITY KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while in use.

ADJUSTABLE WRENCH: aka “Another hammer”, aka “the Swedish Nut Lathe”, aka “Crescent Wrench”. Commonly used as a one size fits all wrench, usually results in rounding off nut heads before the use of pliers. Will randomly adjust size between bolts, resulting in busted buckles, curse words, and multiple threats to any inanimate objects within the immediate vicinity.

SON OF A BITCH TOOL: Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling ‘SON OF A BITCH!’ at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.


Boy Howdy Says Goodbye To Maria

Boy Howdy Says Goodbye To Maria

By Garland Davis

Boy Jenkins and Sam walked into the Southern Ozarks bar. He took his seat at the same table he had sat at every Friday night for the last two years. Sam turned in a circle twice as dogs do and lay down beside him. Jeanette, the waitress, said, “Howdy Boy Howdy,” as she brought his usual draft beer and a double of Kentucky Bourbon. He tasted the bourbon and followed it with a sip of the beer.

He said, “Sam, I don’t know if you are a lucky Sumbitch you don’t drink or if you are an unlucky Sumbitch you don’t drink, either way, here’s looking’ at you shipmate.” Sam’s tail swatted the floor twice in acknowledgment. He had found Sam as a puppy cowering in the cold rain at a truck stop near Vicksburg, Mississippi. Sam became his driving partner for three years until he retired and then became his housemate at a cabin in the Ozarks.

Boy and his twin sister had been born in one of the Southern states with only A’s for vowels. His mother had died shortly after their birth. A clerk preparing the birth certificates had entered their names as “Boy” and “Girl” Jenkins. Girl had been adopted by a family from Memphis and Boy had been taken by an uncle to raise who beat him and used him as slave labor on his farm. When he turned seventeen, Boy confronted him and forced the ‘uncle’ to sign the permission for him to join the Navy at seventeen.

His sister had learned that she had a twin brother while trying to find her birth parents and had tracked him down while they were still on active duty. He was proud of her. She had retired as a Commander in the CNO’s Public Information Office. She lives with her husband near her two daughters and their families in Charleston. Boy and Sam travel there for Thanksgiving each year,

Boy took another pull from the whiskey and pulled a worn photo from his pocket and propped it against the saltshaker. It was a black and white image of a smiling young Filipino girl. It was the only picture he had of Little Sister Maria. She was the sister of an old girlfriend with whom he had fallen in love with and planned to marry until the ship’s captain had arranged a transfer back to the states to prevent another of his sailors from marrying a Filipino. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Boy was able to get his detailer to modify the orders to the Riverine forces in Vietnam.

Boy gave Maria all the money he had and all he could borrow from the Credit Union. He would be back on R&R in six months and without interference, he could push the marriage request and they would be married within a year. He arranged with his old Chief who was stationed at Subic to receive and cash money orders and provide the money to Maria.

The Riverine forces were more of an advisor/trainer function during the last year of the war. The American sailors were observers instead of active participants in operations, though there was little difference between getting shot at as driver or passenger.

All Boy’s plans for his life with Maria ended the night a Vietnamese coxswain panicked under fire and accidentally rammed another boat. Boy’s right arm was fractured in four places and he was unconscious, in a coma, when he was evacuated from the war. He progressed from a hospital ship off the coast of Nam to the hospital at Clark AFB and finally to Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii.

After regaining consciousness in Hawaii, Boy’s earliest memory was walking down the steps of the Admin building in Charleston and saluting a pretty female Ensign. Over the next few months, he slowly regained memories of San Diego and USS Chicago until one morning he awakened knowing everything.

Over the next few years Boy searched for Maria. He took three thirty day leave periods and walked the streets of Olongapo hoping to see her lovely face coming his way. He hired Filipino Private Detectives to find her. All to no avail.

The years passed. Boy became a Chief Petty Officer and eventually retired from the Navy. He lived in Olongapo for two years in one last hope that he would find Maria. He finally gave that up and moved to San Diego where he spent a few years working at a marina taking care of rich men’s boats.

Laughing at an old joke about a grizzled retired Chief who placed a boat anchor over his shoulder and started walking inland, Boy decided to metaphorically do the same.

Someone asked the Chief, “What are you going to do with that anchor Chief?”

“I’m gonna walk until someone asks me where you are going that funny-looking pick and that is where I am going to live for the rest of my life.”

The Southern Ozarks became that place for Boy. He became a nomad trucker, working for a small company and going where the loads carried him. He did that for a number of years and decided one morning to retire from working and catch up on the books he wanted to read. Besides, he suspected that Sam was getting a little tired of holding down the right seat of that Peterbilt. He had never spent a lot of money on himself and it had accumulated in the bank and credit union. He had more of the stuff than he would ever need, and his pension and Social Security provided more each month. He bought a cabin and five acres backed up to what passes for a mountain in Southern Missouri and he and Sam settled down to live out their lives.

Boy sipped his beer and bourbon and looked sadly at Maria’s picture. He said softly, “Honey, it is forty years ago today we said goodbye. I loved you then and I love you as much now. Sometimes a smell or whiff in the air takes my mind back to many years ago and you are with me there. I can almost hear you talking or laughing in my heart. That’s when I long for our days together. I sit here on this date each year contemplating what should have been our life.”

A single tear slowly trailed down his cheek as he drank down the bourbon and signaled for another.

As Boy sat staring at the photo, a tall slender woman came through the door and walked to the bar. She talked for a minute with Jeanette and then walked to his table. “May, I sit and talk with you for a few minutes Mister Jenkins?”

Yes, if you make that Chief. Mister never seemed to fit me too well.”

As she pulled the chair out and sat, she noticed the picture leaning against the saltshaker and with an intake of her breath she said, “Maria.”

Shocked, Boy asked, “How do you know Maria? Where is she? Tell me.”

“Maria died of cancer many years ago in North Carolina where she lived with her sister Lila. She thought you were killed in the war at first but when she couldn’t find your name on the wall she became convinced that you were alive. Here is a letter that she wrote to you. It was returned as undeliverable. She thought you had been killed in the war.” She said as she passed an unopened envelope to him. It was addressed to him in Vietnam. Someone had written across the front, “KIA!”

“With trembling hands, he opened the letter. It was short, a profession of her love and to tell him that she was pregnant, and they would have a child in the spring.”

He said, “A baby. Maria’s baby! Do you know where the child is today? he said as the tears dripped off his chin.

She placed her hands over his clenched fists and said the word for the first time in her life.



Navy Birthday 2020

Navy Birthday 2020

245 years ago today On Friday, October 13, 1775, meeting in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America. This was the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy grew and as such constitutes the birth certificate of the navy.

USS Bonhomme Richard (1765)

USS Missouri

Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier


Virginia Class Submarine

Fast Attack Submarine at work

Captain John Paul Jones





By Dick “Beak” Stratton, Captain, USN (Ret.)

It was a warmer than usual summer day in Clark, South Dakota when a rather large and ungainly young man, a recent high school graduate, set about finding his way in the world. The salivating Navy recruiter asked the youngster what it would take to have him sign up: “why, I’d like to go to Australia .” It was as good as done. After all, in 1966, if you were lucky enough to ship out on the USS Canberra, more likely than not, during the course of your hitch, there will be a port call to the ship’s namesake— Canberra, Australia.

This young man came from a solid, patriotic Norwegian Lutheran stock that believed when your country called, you answered. You did not go to the bus station but to the recruiting station. You did not go to Oxford, you went to Vietnam. So Douglas Brent Hegdahl III shipped out to boot camp at San Diego, where he slept through the Code of Conduct lectures since he would not be fighting in the trenches. Lo and behold, he did get orders to the USS Canberra. At that time Canberra with 8-inch guns mounted on the pointy end and missiles on the round end was assigned to steam with the Gulf of Tonkin Yacht Club in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam. (And, yes, She did have Canberra, Australia on her Port of Call list.)

Doug’s battle station was the aft ammunition handling room for the 5-inch guns, located aft in the bowels of the ship. One morning he had the 0100 watch while the Canberra was steaming down the coast of North Vietnam firing its 8-inch guns against targets of opportunity (bicycles, water buffalo and occasional trucks) on Highway 1.

At about 0330 he rolled out of the rack. Being a prudent farm boy, he locked all his valuables in his locker and then proceeded to go out on the deck for a breath of fresh air before manning his battle station. Now there is a non-repetitive exercise in the surface Navy called “going out on deck when big guns are firing.” If the concussion does not blow you over the side, it will at least blow out your eardrums. But Doug must have slept through that safety lecture. He doesn’t know what happened. Either not being night-adapted, or being without his glasses, or concussion did it, he ended up going arse over teakettle into the South China Sea about three miles offshore with no life preserver, no identification, no nothing. Meanwhile, he watched the Love Boat merrily steaming over the horizon, firing at the coastline and never missing him for two days.

There is not much to do in the South China Sea at 0345. He took off his boondockers and hung them around his neck in case he needed them when he reached the shore. He stripped off his dungarees, zipped up the fly, tie off the cuffs, and popped them over his head, as he was taught, to make a life preserver. He reports back to you that it doesn’t work. (He missed the part about old dungarees, with holes, out of the Lucky Bag would have to be kept wet if they were to hold any air at all.) So he put on his trousers, socks and shoes. (Sharks? Sea snakes?) Somewhere along the line he had heard that drowning was a “nice way to die;” so he thought he would try it out. He put his hands over his head and down he went—bloop, bloop, bloop.

Now both he and I had heard the myth that when drowning you would get cuddly, warm, all the nice things in your life would flash by in your mind and you would go to your eternal reward to the sound of music (harp?). Doug resurfaced and reports back to us that it is all malarkey: there are no movies, there is no music and it’s colder than Hell!

As dawn came he started swimming away from the sun, hopefully towards shore. He could see the haze of land, but the harder he tried, the further back it receded. So he just rolled on his back, playing like a whale, humming a few tunes and saying a few prayers. Notice he never gave up. How many people have we been exposed to in the course of our lives, in a situation like that would have just plain given up? About 1800 that same day, a Vietnamese fishing boat came by and hauled him out of the water—some twelve hours later. Even those peasant fishermen could figure out that this moose would never fit in the cockpit of an A4 Skylark. They turned him upside down and inside out which garnered them absolutely nothing. Remember, he had prudently left everything back on the ship in his locker. Picture yourself being tortured to admit you were a CIA agent who entered the water in Coronado, California to swim ten thousand miles across the Pacific to infiltrate their shores!

When the authorities got him ashore, they showed Doug piles of materials allegedly written by Yankee Air Pirates who had been captured before him. (95% of those captured in North Vietnam had been tortured, were not offered the option of death, and were made to give more than Name, Rank, Serial Number and Date of Birth sequence permitted by the Military Code of Conduct and required by International Law.)

Doug recognized that something was amiss, but, as he said later, “Geeze, they’re officers, they must know what they are doing.” So he decided his best ploy was to pretend to be stupid. He got them off target by comparing farms in North Vietnam and South Dakota. He didn’t realize that even then the Communists were categorizing him to gauge his usefulness to their cause. His dad had about ten motel units, numberless vehicles and all kinds of land—but no water buffalo. No water buffalo meant in Vietnamese parlance that he was a “poor peasant.” This is just as well, as Communists had murdered over 20 million “rich peasants” in their various revolutions because those folks are unreconstructed capitalists. A little miffed at first, Doug caught on right away—he is a quick study—it was to his advantage to play out the poor peasant act to the bitter end.

Tired of the verbal jousting the Communist cadres told him that he would have to write and anti-war statement for them. He joyously agreed. The interrogators were dumbfounded. This was the first Yankee to agree to do anything without being tortured first. They brought out the paper, ink and pens. He admired them all and then stated: “But one small thing. I can’t read or write. I’m a poor peasant.” This was quite credible to the Vietnamese since their poor peasants could neither read nor write.

So they assigned a Vietnamese to teach him penmanship, spelling, grammar and sentence structure. Immediately his learning curve went flat. Eventually, the interrogators gave up in disgust; writing a confession for him and having him sign it in an illegible scrawl. He admitted to the war crime of shelling the presidential birthplace of Ho Chi Minh and signed it as Seaman Apprentice Douglas Brent Hegdahl III, United States Navy Reserve, Commanding Officer, USS Canberra.

No one has ever seen this piece of paper.

Doug was shuffled around from pillar to post since his captors didn’t know where he would fit into their propaganda plans. One mistake they made was to put him in for a while with Joe Crecca, an Air Force officer who had developed a method of creating the most organized memory bank we possessed to record the names of pilots shot down and imprisoned in Vietnam . Joe took this young Seaman and, recognizing the potential, painstakingly taught Doug not only 256 names, but also, the method of memorizing, cross-referencing and retrieving those names. It was no easy task that Joe set for himself for it was not intuitively obvious to Doug the value of such mental gymnastics.

It was a hot summer day when I first met Doug. I was in solitary confinement again. The Communists did not care for me, which was OK because I didn’t like them either. My cell door opened and here was this big moose standing in his skivvy shorts (prison uniform of the day). “My name is Seaman Douglas Brent Hegdahl, Sir. What’s yours?”

It is awful hard to look dignified when you are standing in your underwear, knock-kneed, ding-toed, pot-bellied, unwashed, and unshaven for 100 days. I automatically recited, “Dick Stratton, Lieutenant Commander, USS Ticonderoga.” Immediately I saw that I probably made a mistake as his eyes rolled back in his head and you could see what he was thinking: “Cripes, another officer!” But notice that instinctively he asked the critical and most important question for survival: “Who is your senior?” The rule we lived by was: “If I am senior, I will take charge; if junior, I will obey.” The Communists took a siesta for two hours every afternoon which was a good deal for us as we were free from torture and harassment. I was laying on the floor on my bed board and Doug was skipping, yes, skipping around the room.

I asked: “Doug, what are you doing?” He paused for a moment, looked me in the eye and cryptically said: “Skipping, Sir” and continued to skip. A stupid question, a stupid answer. After a moment, I again queried: “What ya doin’ that for?” This stopped him for a moment. He paused and cocked his head thoughtfully, smiled and replied: “You got anything better to do,Sir?” I didn’t. He continued skipping. I guess he did learn one thing from boot camp. You can say anything you want to an officer as long as you smile and say “sir.”

One siesta period he said: Hey, Beak, you went to college and studied government; do you know the GettysburgAddress?” We got a brick (no paper or pencils for the criminals) and started to write it out on the tile floor until we got it correct. Then he stopped me with the question: “Can you say it backward?” Well, who would want to say the Gettysburg Address backward? Certainly not the Jesuits at Georgetown and especially not me. Doug could say it backward, verbatim, rapidly. I know because I could track him from the written version we had on the floor. “So what?” you might say.

The so what is that when they threw him out of Vietnam, and throw him out they did, he came out with 256 names that Joe Crecca had taught him memorized by service, by rank and alphabetically; next to each name he had a dog’s name, kid’s name or social security number to verify the quality of the name which we had picked up by tap code, deaf spelling code or secret notes. He still has those names memorized today and sings them to the tune of “Old MacDonald Has a Farm.” One of our intelligence officers asked him if he could slow the recitation down to make for easier copying. Doug replied “No” that it was like riding a bike, you had to keep moving or you would fall off.

If it weren’t for Joe Crecca, Doug and our government would not have had those names until the end of war five years later. In trying to get people to accept early propaganda releases, the Communists would have some “good cop” interrogator like the ones we called the “Soft Soap Fairy” talk to the prospect and sound him out for pliability. They got Doug one day and asked what we eventually learned to be the lead question: “What do you want more than anything else in the world?” The answer to the weak and willing was: “To go home to my family.” Doug thought for a long time, then cocked his head with a smile and said> “Why, I’d like a pillow, Sir.” This was not an unreasonable response since we had no pillows on our cement pads or bed boards.

However, the response sure confounded the enemy. They eventually came up with a name for Doug amongst the guards and interrogators: “The Incredibly Stupid One.” His original resistance ploy had paid off. Because they thought him stupid, they would let him go out in the cell block courtyard during the siesta to sweep up the grounds period monitored by only one sleepy, peasant guard. I thought that was great since it kept him from skipping and I could get some rest. However, curiosity got the better of me and I started to watch him through a peephole we had bored in the cell door. He’d go sweeping and humming until the guard was lulled to sleep. Then Doug would back up to a truck, spin the gas cap off the standpipe, stoop down and put a small amount (“Small, because it’s going to be a long war, Sir.”) of dirt in the gas tank and replace the cap. I watched him over a period of time do this to five trucks.

Now, I’m a liberal arts major who shot himself down, so all I can do is report what I saw. There were five trucks working in the prison; I saw Doug work on five trucks; I saw five trucks towed disabled out of the prison camp. Doug Hegdahl, a high school graduate from the mess decks fell off a ship and has five enemy trucks to his credit. I am a World Famous Golden Dragon (VA 192) with two college degrees, 2000 jet hours, 300 carrier landings and 22 combat missions. How many enemy trucks do I have to my credit? Zero. Zip. Nada. De Rien. 0. Who’s the better man? Douglas Brent Hegdahl, one of two men I know of who destroyed enemy military equipment while a prisoner of war.

Later on, Doug, having left his eyeglasses onboard Canberra , discovered that he had difficulty linking up isolated cell blocks throughout the prison compound with his defective distance vision. So he went to the authorities and asked if he could read some of their propaganda. They were delighted. Here was a prisoner, without being tortured, volunteering to read their swill. But then Doug cautioned them with his: “Small thing [They never learn]; I cannot read without glasses.”

So they trolled out a dime store clerk who fitted him with glasses by trying one on after the other until Doug said he could see. His near vision was OK. Unbeknownst to the clerk, he was fitting Doug for distance vision, Now, in between sweeps and gas tanks he was able to link up cell blocks not only by sweeping in code but now also using the deaf spelling code. The Vietnamese were big on token propaganda releases of prisoners to make various peace groups look good and our government look impotent. They would try to pick people who had not been tortured or in jail long enough to look emaciated. Usually they were volunteers, violators of direct orders from their Seniors and traitors to our cause of resistance.

These releases always were of three at a time. The magic of the number three was always a mystery to us. As our leaders exercised greater internal communications and controls, it became harder for the Communists to make up a propaganda release party. Seeking to round out the number they finally turned to “The Incredibly Stupid One” who, although not volunteering, was certainly too dumb to do them any harm.

As part of this conditioning, they had both Doug and I examined by “the Doctor.” This was a female soldier we saw through a peephole we had in the door get briefed up and then dolled up like a physician. The physician made a grand entrance worthy of a world-famous brain surgeon. The effect was somewhat spoiled by the face mask protecting her chin rather than covering her mouth; she really had no ideas what the face mask was for. The exam, after looking in all the holes in your head and listening your heart, consisted of “feeling you up” under the guise of palpitating your internal organs while the translator asked, “The Doctor wants to know if you miss your wife (girlfriend)? Wouldn’t you like to be with her now?”

Then they would pull Doug out for interrogations sounding him out for an early release. They told him not to tell me as I was an officer who did not care about his welfare like they did. They informed him: “Stratton would never even speak to you if you were in America .” Doug would come back from each go around and immediately tell me everything that was said. One time he plaintively asked: “Beak, you’d speak to me if we’re home now, wouldn’t you?”

They started to try to fatten us up with large bowls of potatoes laced with canned meat. No one else in the prison was getting it. As a result, I told Doug we couldn’t take it. We could either not touch it and turn it back in; in which case the guards would eat it. Or we could dump it in the slop bucket so that no one could eat it without getting sick. Doug thought this was a bit on the scrupulous side, but went along with it.

I told the Camp Commander that under no condition would I accept an early release even if offered and if they threw me out I’d have to be dragged feet first all the way from Hanoi to Hawaii screaming bloody murder all the way.

It was time to cut to the chase. Doug would have to go. Doug did not want to go. We finally told Doug that as long as he did not have to commit treason, he was to permit himself to be thrown out of the country. He was the most junior. He had the names. He knew firsthand the torture stories behind many of the propaganda pictures and news releases. He knew the locations of many of the prisons.

It was a direct order; he had no choice. I know, because I personally relayed that order to him as his immediate senior in the chain of command. Well throw him out they did. The 256 names he had memorized contained many names that our government did not have. He ended up being sent to Paris by Ross Perot to confront the North Vietnamese Peace Talk Delegation about the fate of the Missing in Action. He entered the Civil Service and is today a Survival School instructor for the U.S. Navy and the James B. Stockdale Survival, Evasion, Resistance, And Escape Center (SERE), naval Air Station, North Island, Coronado, California.

And yes, he can still recite those names!

You can watch him do it on the Discovery Channel special on Vietnam POWs—Stories of Survival. A while after Doug had been released, I was called over to an interrogation. It was to be a Soft Soap Fairy kind of gig since there were quality cigarettes, sugared tea in china cups, cookies and candy laid out on the interrogation table. A dapper, handsome Vietnamese, dressed in an expensive, tailored suit and wearing real, spit-shined wingtip shoes, came into the room with a serious look on his face—all business. “Do you know Douglas Hegdahl?” “You know I do.” “Hegdahl says that you were tortured.” “This is true.” “You lie.”

Rolling up the sleeves to my striped pajamas (prison mess dress uniform), I pointed to the scars on my wrists and elbows and challenged: “Ask your people how these marks got on my body; they certainly are neither birth defects or the result of an aircraft accident.”

He examined the scars closely, sat back, stared and stated: “You are indeed the most unfortunate of the unfortunate.” With that he left the interrogation leaving me with all the goodies.

Upon release I compared notes with Doug and we determined that time frame was the same time he accused the Vietnamese in Paris of murdering me [I had not written home once writing became voluntary] for embarrassing them in a Life magazine bowing picture. T

Thanks to Doug, despite the scars on my body, the Communists had to produce me alive at the end of the war. “The Incredibly Stupid One,” my personal hero, is the archetype of the innovative, resourceful and courageous American Sailor.

These sailors are the products of the neighborhoods, churches, schools and families working together to produce individuals blessed with a sense of humor and the gift of freedom who can overcome any kind of odds. These sailors are tremendously loyal and devoted to their units and their leaders in their own private and personal ways.

As long as we have the Dougs of this world, our country will retain its freedoms.


My Journey With Cancer

You’ve Got Cancer Dude

By Garland Davis

Sunday morning, July fifth, my wife, and I were walking the dog. Because of my Parkinson’s, I turned back for the car after resting at my usual place on a rock wall. For some reason, I rubbed my hand across my neck below my right ear and felt a pronounced lump there. Further exploration revealed a couple more lumps as well as some swelling of the right tonsil.

I don’t claim to be prescient, but I said aloud, “You’ve got Cancer Dude.” The next morning, I called the Tripler Army Medical Center for an appointment with my doctor. The lady on the appointments desk asked why I needed to see him. I explained about the lumps. She told me that the first available appointment was over a month away and said, “This sounds like something that should be seen quickly,” and made me an appointment with another doctor for Wednesday, July 8th.

After examining me, the doctor sent me to the lab for a blood draw and to Radiology to schedule a CT scan of my neck and told me to return to his office for further instructions. While I was away, he secured an appointment with Ear, Nose, and Throat for the following Thursday, July 9th.

The ENT doctors did an examination of my throat both visually and with a probe through the nose with a negative result. They called a lady in who took ten needle biopsies while viewing the locations with Ultra-Sound. I was made another appointment for the next day.

I was told that the needle biopsies had indicated a form of cancer known as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. They brought in a surgeon, who examined my neck in preparation for an operation to remove a lymph node for a full biopsy on Tuesday the fourteenth. I was also scheduled for an appointment with Oncology on Thursday the 16th.

Two days before my 76th birthday I received confirmation that I did have Hodgkin’s. A helluva Birthday Present! The Oncologist scheduled me for a PET scan on the 23rd of July and the 3rd of August for the insertion of a Blood Portal into the vascular system in my chest. This makes it easier than placing an IV each time blood is taken, and Chemo medicines are injected. I did my first Chemo on August 5th.

What Awaits?

By Garland Davis

There is an old saying that the subjects of politics and religion should always be avoided unless you are a politician or a cleric. I don’t mean to alienate anyone by the following. Just some things that wandered through my mind as I lay trying to sleep last night.

I learned of the loss of a friend from cancer yesterday. It comes a little closer as I am now fighting cancer myself. Unable to sleep last night, I let my mind wander over what happens after we shuffle off this mortal coil.

Some believe that there is only darkness and whatever we were disappears and returns to dust. No, no, that cannot be! I am unique, I am special! There must be more! There is also a con man who will sell you whatever salvation you are looking for.

There are as many beliefs of what befalls our soul, spirit, or whatever is left. But let’s face it we don’t know. Anthropologists and archeologists believe that prehistoric man believed in an afterlife. Burials have been discovered where weapons, clothing, flowers, and red ochre were prominent. It is speculated that they worshiped the sun as Father and the earth as Mother.

The ancient Greeks believed in a two-tiered afterlife. Elysian Fields where the Gods and mortals selected by the gods gamboled and competed in athletic events. Kinda like going to the park forever. Those that didn’t make the cut for the fields must pay a fee to Charon to ferry them across the River Styx to the place where the ancient God of the Dead and King of the Underworld Hades ruled.

The Egyptians took the belief in an afterlife to the extreme. They preserved the bodies of Royalty and the Rich, built extreme, extravagant, and grotesques monuments to them. To ease one’s life in the afterlife they sacrificed his wives, concubines, slaves, horses, and valuable possessions and buried them with the person. The practices gave impetus to the profession of Grave Looter which flourished for a while.

The Romans pretty much picked up where the Greeks faded. They had the same Gods but with different names. The Greek and Roman Gods specialized. They both had a Boss God who delegated everything. Basically, there were hundreds of Gods, Demigods who had lesser powers or were the bastard offspring of a God dallying with a mortal lass. It gave many of the Roman emperors an opportunity to proclaim themselves as Demigods.

There were the Norse Gods who were but another iteration of the Greek and Roman Gods.

Before and during the Roman occupation of Israel the Jews of that region worshiped an angry God that demanded sacrifices and total worship by his followers. He placed many dietary and cultural laws on his followers. This God’s purported son, born of a virgin, the prophet Jesus of Nazareth began his teachings, was crucified, and resurrected and rose into the heavens. Overtime his teachings spread into Rome, which attempted to minimize the new beliefs by crucifying, murdering, and feeding to the lions its adherents until Emperor Constantine, who was probably drunk or hungover, saw a cross in the sky and adopted the new religion. This religion promises an eternity of golden streets and seats at the right hand of God or was that the right hand of the kid, to the righteous or an eternity of Barbecue to those unrepentant ones who stray from the word.

The German poet Heinrich Heine said, upon his deathbed, when asked if he was afraid of facing God after his debauched life, “God will forgive me, that is his profession.”

This talk of the fall of the Greek, Roman, and Norse Gods and the rise of Christianity reminds me of something I read many years ago: “All the old Greek, Roman and Norse Gods are dead. They all died laughing the day one old gray beard of a God said, ‘Let there be no other Gods before me.’”

A proponent of Christianity will tell you that the Bible is the ‘Word of God.’ Not true. In 325 CE Emperor Constantine and church authorities purportedly banned problematic books that didn’t conform to their secret agenda at the Council of Nicea. Not to be outdone the Catholic Church at the Council of Rome in 382 CE developed the Latin Vulgate Bible. It is not the word of God but of those who would control your beliefs.

The gist of religions is one must live his life as dictated by the Shaman, Priest, Preacher, Witch Doctor, or whatever the believers call them. Their profession has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies, it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man. But it’s lovely work if you can stomach it.

Most Native American tribes believed there was a Great Spirit, Great Hunter, Great Corn, a Man Above who looked over them and sent the buffalo. Makes as much sense as any other belief or perhaps the animals were just following the grass.

There is a belief among people who have enriched their lives with doggies or kitties, that when our pets leave us they go to a place just this side of a Rainbow Bridge where they wait for their beloved owners and they all cross that bridge to paradise where they are together and play for eternity. This one I could accept, but I would probably get tired of throwing that damned tennis ball. If the truth is known, drop-dead alone in the house with your beloved dog or cat and they will eat your face.

Then there is a place where men of the sea believe in. It is called Fiddlers Green, a place where the tankards are never empty, and the lasses are always willing. I’ll take this one.

There is no definitive proof that any of these places exist, but the cleric will tell you that one must have faith. I’ll place my faith in the belief that the producers of Miller Lite and Jameson’s whiskey have my best interests at heart!


By Garland Davis

I just heard a news thing that Michelle Obama claims she is extremely depressed because of unfair, racist, and divisive policies of the Trump administration. Three multi-million dollar homes, over forty million dollars in the bank, lifetime Secret Service protection, and a lifetime pension that most would commit crimes for. And, you were First Lady of the United States for eight years.

Let me tell you about seven people I spent the morning with. We were relaxing on recliners while the chugging and beeping machines pumped toxic chemicals into our bloodstreams. You see, we all are fighting cancer.

There was the upbeat black gentleman who told me he had been in and out of Chemo for six years. He served in Vietnam and was then a Nuclear Engineer in the Submarine Navy. He joked about smuggling beer in and having a party if the Sergeant would look the other way.

There was a gentleman who, because of throat cancer could barely talk above a loud whisper. He was laughing and joking along with us.

There was an attractive young woman, wearing a turban because her hair is gone, fighting cervical cancer, who volunteered to provide the grass for the party because she had recently received her Med Marijuana card from the state.

There was a gray-haired lady who could have posed for Norman Rockwell grandmother busy knitting or crocheting, I have never understood the difference, and laughing along with the rest of us.

Everyone but one was involved in the joking and laughter. He was snoring too loudly to overhear our antics.

They made a guy “riding his first rodeo” feel welcome.

The staff of nurses and technicians are on a first-name basis with all the patients and carried on the foolishness, talk, and banter about parties.

If anyone has a right to be depressed, it is the eight of us who were in that room this morning. I didn’t see any depression, I didn’t see any tears. I saw seven people, who are now eight, living the life that has been handed them.

I am proud of them and the welcome they gave me.

Chemo Part Two

by Garland Davis

I woke at midnight with a craving for coffee. Most sailors develop a taste for coffee in bootcamp or subjecting themselves to black gang coffee or the stale shit from the mess decks while standing mid watches. During my boot camp service week, I came face to face with coffee. There were a pair of two hundred gallon steam jacketed kettles (more commonly called coppers in homage to the cooking vessels used in the sailing Navy.”) which were devoted to making coffee. It was my job to put ten pounds of coffee into a pillow cover, tie it closed with twine, and boil it in two hundred gallons of water while four other mess cooks took the coffee in fifty gallon tubs and refilled the thirty gallon urns on the four mess lines.

You know, the coffee craving that a sailor experiences during working hours that suddenly morphs to a craving for San Miguel, Mojo, Bullfrog, or some other concoction that has an Alcohol By Volume rating, or not, which some sailor dreamed up while in an inebriated state. Our Irish brethren even paired Jameson’s with coffee to create a tasty libation that goes a long way to satisfying the cravings for coffee and alcohol.

Why the fuck am I awake at midnight? Wait, while I get another cup of coffee and I will tell you. I don’t know! I surmise that the Chemo session yesterday may have something to do with it.

I arrived at the Chemo room at 0730. It took a while to get situated. The Sergeant connected to my portal, probe receiver to a sailor, and started a drip of saline solution. This is to ensure that you are properly hydrated. It takes about an hour, after that he replaced it with a drip of medication to prevent nausea, another hour, the next step is the first Chemo drug, again about a half hour, and finally the last Chemo drug, about an hour. This is where I am lucky. My cancer was discovered early, and the oncologist says that in 90% of the cases the two milder drugs are sufficient. A phase of Chemo is considered two treatments. He originally told me that after two phases, he would schedule a PET scan to assess the progress. He told me yesterday, that since I seemed to be doling well and the swelling is gone from my lymph nodes and starboard tonsil, he has ordered the scan for the week of 7 September thinking that it may be unnecessary for six phases or twelve treatments. He did caution that the first scan showed some activity in the stomach. He told me that if it didn’t show a lessening, they would probably scope my stomach to see if it was Hodgkin’s or, worst case, a different cancer.

The black gentleman from my last visit came in to have blood drawn in preparation for his afternoon Chemo session. We were joking about smuggling beer in again and talking about our Navy experiences and the ships we served in.

There were two ladies in the corner who were involved in a conversation about their grandkids. There were two men involved in conversations on their cell phones. One was talking with his bank about his finances. All a hacker had to do was listen to the information he gave over the phone, account number, social security number, and when they told him his balance, he repeated it aloud. Small pickings, $316.00 and some change.

A young couple came in. She was using a walker and being helped by her husband. You could see by his haircut that he was either a Soldier or Marine. The young lady was skinny and frail and was carrying an oxygen generator attached to a nasal cannula. The nurse closed the curtains and began treating the girl. Her husband took the walker and placed it in the hallway beside a couple others.

Shortly afterward, a nurse removed my connection to the IV tree and told gave me a bottle with six pills for nausea. I now have twelve. I didn’t use the six from last time.

As I walked through the lobby, I saw the girl’s husband leaning against the wall crying. He already knew the future he and his wife were facing. I confess, by the time I reached my car there were tears mingled with the slobber in my mask.

Chemo 3

By Garland Davis

I was supposed to do Chemo on Wednesday. I went in to do the blood work on Tuesday. The nurse told me that they had a light day and if I wished, we could do the Chemo today. He said that it would add an hour to the process while the lab techs counted the red and white thingies in my blood. I had nothing to do so I agreed.

While he hooked me up to the machine, I told him how the Navy distinguishes between officers in the Medical, Dental Corps, and Nurse Corps.

Doctor – Gold Spread Oak Leaf with a large Silver Acorn imposed on it.

Dentist – Gold Spread Oak Leaf with two small Silver Acorns below it.

Nurse – A Gold Spread Oak Leaf with no nuts.

He hooked a liter of saline solution up and started the drip to hydrate me in preparation for the medicines. It ran out after about an hour and he hooked up another. The next time I do Chemo, I am going to get a seat closer to the head. And I thought beer made you piss!

After he got the okay from the lab, he gave me some pills and started a drip of a drug to prevent nausea, another half hour. A short time afterwards he started the first medicine, another half hour. When that one finished, he started the final drip which used up another hour.

I was there for a little over four hours. I discovered a personal TV on a flexible arm and did what I usually do, I watched Fox Business News. So it wasn’t a wasted morning at all.

The nurse asked about side effects from the medicines. I haven’t had any problems, no nausea, no diarrhea, no headaches, but I do have an unnatural craving for cherry pie.

There were others there, three young men, late twenties, or early thirties. They were talking among themselves. One older fellow who, I think, surpassed me on the number of trips to the head and a lady who wanted to be unhooked from the chemo so she could go to the waiting room toilet to get the phone she left there. One of the nurses went and rescued the phone.

Since I did Chemo yesterday, I don’t have to go today and since I haven’t slept much tonight, I plan a day of constructive napping.

Chemo 4

I had my fourth course of Chemo yesterday. In preparation I went to the Chemo Room on Monday for the blood test. It is not like the blood test they do for an annual physical. You do not have to fast or forego your morning coffee. They are counting red and white thingies in your blood. It can be done on the same day of Chemo, but it adds one to one and a half hours to the session while waiting for the results from the lab. I only receive two medicines but with the preparation of a liter of saline drip and an anti-nausea cocktail drip in addition to the medicines it routinely takes about four hours, depending how prompt the pharmacy is in preparing the medicine drips. Some people receive four meds and you can see that it would be a long day for them if they did not do the blood the day before.

I arrived at the hospital Monday to do the blood a little before seven AM just prior to the reception room opening. The reception room serves not only Oncology and the Chemo Room but also Gastroenterology, the Colonoscopy Clinic, and Hematology. The elevator opens about twenty feet from the door to the room, There was a male with an obvious do it yourself dye job on his hair and an overweight lady with no hair sitting on the floor in the passage way eating McDonalds breakfast sandwiches and a Filipino gentleman maintaining more than the required social distance from them in the hallway. I walked past them to see if the room was open.

The bad dye job said, “Don’t you see there is a line here? Get back there!”

I replied, “Oh, I beg your pardon. I didn’t realize this is a line. It looks more like a homeless camp to me.” I went past the Filipino man who gave me a thumbs up as I walked past him.

A couple of minutes later the room opened and the homeless camp scrambled to their feet and we all filed in social distancing of course. The receptionist quickly checked everyone in and told us to have a seat to be called for vitals. The technician doing vitals called us in the order we had checked. Bad hair was first and bald headed behemoth was second, I expected I would be fourth.

Bad hair approached me and said, in a surly manner, “Hey I don’t appreciate that snarky remark you made out there.”

I answered, “You know, I really don’t give a fuck what you do or don’t appreciate.”

He just had to let me know that he was a retired Air Force Major.

I told him, “My condolences that you didn’t do better. Your parents must have been really disappointed.” He angrily stomped away and rejoined Baldy as she returned to her seat.

A few minutes later the receptionist told us we could go back to the Chemo room. Bad Hair and No Hair rushed toward the room while the Filipino gentleman followed, and my cane and I brought up the rear. When I entered the room the two McDiners were in recliners in the corner. Since they were all receiving Chemo, the three nurses hooked them up to IV’s first. The Sergeant came in apologizing, saying, “Sorry I am late, but I had a Military training thing this morning.”

Sarge turned to me and said, “Good Morning Chief, one of the nurses will be right with you, I have to refill the supplies cabinet and the implement carts.”

The male nurse to whom I had told how to distinguish between naval medical officers by their collar devices called the other three nurses over and asked me to tell it to them. There was one mal and two female nurses. They all got a big laugh from it. I heard Bad Hair say, “Clown.”

While the nurse was preparing all the sterile things to access the port that had been inserted into my chest and spliced into a vein, I could hear the Hair Gang talking. They were trying to out cancer each other. One must be mentally ill to take pride in the seriousness of a cancer that can very well kill you. If I had been refereeing, I would have given the nod to no hair, she was slated for surgery to remove her breasts because of cancer. I I doubt if they were going to remove his asshole because of prostate cancer.

The nurse finished taking what looked like a hell of a lot of blood and said, “We’ll see you tomorrow,”

All the staff and the other patients, with the exception of the Hair Guys, said goodbye so I waved to them.

The next morning, I arrived shortly after seven for my Chemo, checked in, had my vitals done and at seven thirty was told to go to the Chemo Room. I went in a selected my usual recliner pulled the TV down and selected Fox Business News and settled in for a long morning. The nurse came over to hook me up. Poking that nail sized needle through the skin over my port is not as painless as they advertised but it beats continuously poking at a vein trying to put in an IV.

She asked me to repeat my joke about Navy nurses. I did and told her they once taught it in boot camp and any old sailor should know it. While she was setting up a liter of saline solution to make me piss a rather large gentleman on a walker came into the seat to my right. He was accompanied by a doctor who told him that they were going to hydrate him with a liter of saline solution in preparation for a CAT scan of his lungs to see if his skin cancer had spread into them. The nurse transferred his oxygen tube from his bottle to the built in system. She asked him what medical conditions he had. He listed them:

Congenital Heart Disease


Liver Disease

Kidney Disease

Skin Cancers over his arms, legs, and face

And probably some I cannot remember

I gathered from the conversation that he has made going to different doctors a profession. There was something about his Southern Ozarks accent that I thought I had heard before.

The nurse told him that he was familiar to her and asked if he had ever done Chemo there. He said no, but his wife had, and he often accompanied her. He told the nurse the wife’s name. I immediately knew him. He was a Boatswain’s Mate with whom I had served with in USS Ponchatoula forty seven years ago.

I told him who I was. He remembered me. We talked for awhile until the doctor came back and told him that because of the liquid they were infusing into his system they were going to admit him over night to ensure the extra liquid didn’t impact his kidneys. They spent about twenty minutes going over the myriad of medications and the frequency he was taking for his varying conditions. He excused himself to make some phone calls to let people know that he was being admitted. He hauled three separate flip phones out of his bag and commenced making calls to hi wife, daughter, grandson, and to reschedule a couple of doctor’s appointments for tomorrow.

He did tell me that he had made Master Chief and his last two assignments were CMC in USS St Louis out of Sasebo and USS Camden out of Seattle. After retiring he worked at Inactive Ships Pearl Harbor. I told him about my experience with the Taxi business, about my Parkinson’s and the cancer. He told me that I was lucky that those were the only conditions I had. I said I know that.

The machine beeped to let them know my last medicine was finished. She unhooked me, removed the connection to my port, told me to come in on the 21st so they can prepare the port for the PFT scan, the 26th to see the doctor, and bloodwork if he decides I need another course of Chemo for the 27th.

I have my fingers crossed that the PET scan will show no cancer and I won’t have to do more Chemo.


2020 Asia Sailor Westpac’r’s Reunion

2020 Asia Sailor Westpacer’s Reunion

By Garland Davis

The pilgrimage or exodus, if you prefer, has begun. Asia sailors are driving, flying, and motorcycling to Branson for a belated Asia Sailors Reunion. It is usually held in May. The rendezvous was delayed this year because of the China Corona Virus.

There will be fewer shipmates there this year. Our members from Japan will not attend because of Japanese COVID19 restrictions forbidding return to Japan. Other shipmates will be absent this year because of work requirements or medical reasons.

The reunion was originally scheduled for May but was canceled because the Clarion Hotel was closed for the virus. At first, we thought that 2020 would be a year of no reunion. David and Kathy McAllister, with feet on the ground in Branson, managed to plan and cobble together a reunion 26 through 30 August.

The first reunion was held in April 2013. This will be the eighth year.

I attended all seven previous reunions, but I am sad to say, I will miss this one. The first day of the rendezvous is Wednesday the 26th. That is the day I do my second of Chemo treatment for cancer.

The 2021 reunion is scheduled for 12 to 16 May. I intend to be there and cancer-free.  See you there!


July 4, 2020

July 4, 2020

I pledge allegiance to the flag

of the United States of America

and to the republic for which it stands

one nation under God, indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.


USS Utah BB-31/AG-16

USS Utah BB-31/AG-16

This is on my bucket list if /when I get to Pearl Harbor.

It is located on Ford Island. You need an ID card to get on ford Island. AMERICAN HISTORY!



Though the USS Utah BB-31 was reclassified and demilitarized into a target ship ten years prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, that didn’t save her from suffering the wrath of the Japanese.

In the early minutes of the assault, the USS Utah was struck by two torpedoes and started flooding. From a crew of 525…64 officers and Sailors were lost before she capsized.

Today, the USS Utah Memorial is open only to military personnel, making it difficult for the public to know about her history and sinking.

For a little insight into the USS Utah, here a few little known facts about the former battleship, her crew, and her fate during the Pearl Harbor attack.


There were many heroes on 7 December 1941, but there are a select few who stand out among the thousands who experienced the attack.

On the USS Utah, one Sailor literally gave everything he had for his shipmates, he had lived with and served beside.

Peter Tomich served as A Chief Watertender on the USS Utah and during the attack was stationed in the ship’s boiler room. As the former battleship started to flood with water, Chief Tomich refused to leave his fellow shipmates behind, and he remained below to guarantee everyone made it out.

Sadly, his decision was made as the USS Utah was capsizing, and as the last of the crew escaped, Chief Tomich remained at his station. For his selfless actions, Chief Tomich received our nation’s most prestigious award, the Medal of Honor.


Ten years before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the USS Utah was reclassified and turned into a target ship.

Once listed as BB-31, she was reclassified as AG-16, a training ship, and was equipped with antiaircraft guns for training purposes while her primary and secondary weapons were removed.

By 1 April 1932, after all of the modifications were made, she was recommissioned and returned to service. After several training exercises, by June of 1935, she was modified again, this time with 1.1” / 75 caliber antiaircraft guns for experimental testing.

Her last transfer occurred in September 1941, when she was moved from the Puget Sound Navy Yard to Pearl Harbor, where her remains still sit today.


Nancy Lynne Wagner may have had nothing to do with the attack on Pearl Harbor, but for over 70 years, her remains have been entombed within the ship.

Serving aboard the USS Utah was Chief Yeoman Albert Wagner, who prior to the attack had suffered the loss of a baby girl at birth.

Nancy died before she had the chance to live her life and to honor his girl, Chief Wagner intended to scatter her ashes at sea when the USS Utah left the harbor, but the attack took that opportunity away from him.

Though Chief Wagner survived the USS Utah’s destruction, he never returned for his daughter, instead choosing to allow the urn to remain in his locker on board the ship.

Though it wasn’t the beautiful Pacific, she was in a place that her father had appreciated and served courageously.

Image may contain: sky, ocean, outdoor and water