Here’s my take on all my old Navy ships sent to the bottom: No matter how deep she lies, in how many parts, the echo of me and my shipmates still pass along her decks and in her honeycomb of passageways, along with the currents and fishes… salt water still runs thru her veins, and her end is well deserved and peaceful.
I’d rather see her spray up a plume of bubbles and foam, noisily waving “Good-Bye!” thru fire and smoke…than see some picture of her in a Texas mud ditch, being hacked up by non-squids for a paltry palm-ful of pennies.
A hill in the Hiep Duc Valley of South Vietnam became the site of a ferocious battle between an estimated four hundred men of the North Vietnamese Army and eighteen Americans, sixteen Marines and two Navy corpsmen.
That hill was known to the American military as Hill 488, and to the Vietnamese, it was known as Nui Vu Hill. By the end of 18 June 1966, the hill took on a different name…“Howard’s Hill.”
Eighteen men of Charlie Company, 1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division snaked their way to Hill 488 in the on 13 June 1966, to observe and report information concerning the large presence of two divisions of NVA soldiers and to call fire missions of artillery and air support on small elements.
As the men began to call fire missions over a period of two days, the North Vietnamese began to realize that they were being watched. The enemy determined that the men of First Recon had taken residence on Nui Vu Hill and they began an assault. The NVA crept slowly up the incline under the cover of darkness.
An American Marine spotted what looked to be a bush, realized they were being attacked, and opened fire. The battle began to rage at 2300 (11 pm) on 15 June 1966.
The Marines that occupied Hill 488 were defending a hilltop that was 25 feet at the widest point. Over time, the perimeter of the Marines slowly began to shrink due to those killed in action or wounded that were unable to fight.
The stress of being surrounded with only a few able-bodied men to fight became frustrating for the men that wanted to finish the fight and return to friendly lines.
The men began to fight back psychologicaly.
During one lull in fighting all the men began to laugh uproariously to let the enemy know that they had plenty of fight left. Later after the battle, some captured NVA enemy troops stated that the laughing of the unit had a devastating psychological impact on them.
As the night dragged on for the unit, their ammunition began to run low with each shot.
Gunny Jimmie E. Howard, leader of the recon team, knew that the men must conserve ammunition and instructed his men to throw rocks, which in the darkness seemed like grenades to the enemy.
The Vietnamese would move quickly from the thrown rock and the Marines would find their targets.
By morning, the Vietnamese withdrew and an American rescue force was able to break through to rescue the Marines.
In the end, only eight individual bullets remained. Six of the eighteen were killed in action. Each of the twelve remaining was wounded and only three could walk under their own power.
Gunny Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson because of his brave leadership and courage while the men were surrounded.
First Platoon of Charlie Company, First Reconnaissance Battalion, First Marine Division, became the most highly decorated unit of its size.
Gunny Howard passed away on 12 November 1993 at his home in San Diego and was was buried in the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.
I remember going out to sea on deployments that would last at least half a year. Civilians have no idea of how this wears on the mind. They think being kept from restaurant meals is the end of civilization.
It’s a mind-bending thing, living on a navy ship. You lose all the normal references. There are no days or nights; there is no ‘place’ whatever. There is no soil, no grounding, no scenery, no direction. There is only an undulating line dividing water and sky, or water and stars, or no line at all. You stand a watch, partially awake. You sleep and dream of standing watch. You perform drills like a drowsy puppet, return to work or to sleep or to watch, or perhaps eat. They call the meals their proper names but you take them in the middle of a timeless dream. You forget to be hungry, forget when to bathe, forget the last time you wandered, loved, sat by yourself.
You become crazy. It’s best to accept it. You assign new meanings to ordinary words. You enlarge details of your world like a prisoner. Insignificant things take on absurd criticality. You arrange your few possessions and shine your shoes as if these were the most important duties on earth. You listen to the same song for days, then to another, their lyrics becoming a dramatic summation of your life, or an order from god. When you shave the black hollows of your eyes stand out above the lather like mine shafts in a snowfield. You talk too much, in a voice that becomes a mumble over time, or go silent and only think you are talking. You write unfortunate letters.
Watch follows watch until at last the scent of land interrupts and you are rudely thrust ashore for a few chaotic hours. But there was nobody you knew in that foreign port and it wasn’t home. You were only drunk and asleep in long stretches and then it was time to get underway.
Toward the end of a long cruise you have adapted to this confinement. Perhaps you read. Perhaps you play a lot of poker. Perhaps you recede into yourself and simply hibernate. The best thing is not to imitate land-life but to let work and watch set your routine. Nostalgia will kill you. It’s best to live in the still moment between heartbeats.
The hour of return arrives. The pier swarms with total strangers, people who you have either altered beyond recognition or forgotten to reduce sadness. In any event they will not be meeting the same man. They don’t know you and you don’t either. You will henceforth experience the world as a turbulent event between cruises. Eventually you will look to the cruise as relief from the land-life. You will lock in the mindset quickly, abandon place and time, and float on that undulating margin until they won’t have you anymore.
In my ongoing attempt to homeschool my shipmates on Facebook, you know impart some knowledge to the uneducated Mother Fuckers, I daily post a simple (simple is all they understand) question on my FB timeline and like a monkey trying to fuck a football, they manage to screw it up.
Example: Two days ago I posted the following:
If any of my Shipmates have to Google this one, I will kick their asses next year in Branson:
There is a total of 20 time zones in the world.
An innocuous statement followed by a simple question with a choice of answers. If they REALLY did not know all they had to do was go to Google to discover that the answer is NO! But no, the Flat Earthers had to go explaining that there is only one time zone, and all local times don’t count. I considered that their minds were addled by years of listening to DIT DAHS and PINGS. But if one believes in one time zone then, by default, they must be Lifetime Members of the Flat Earth Society.
If there is only one time zone, how do the local bars and clubs know when to open?
Then, they got me suspended from Facebook. A couple of them doubled down on their Flat Earth nonsense about there being only one time zone and one overachiever pulled the number 37 out of his ass. I replied to them in my self-deprecating and humorous way that I would, “run your ass over with my four wheeled walker in Branson next year.”
That was when a humorless, genderless thing named Neanderthalic Troglodyte, a Facebook Fact Checker, checked the list it had written on its basement wall with the contents of its diaper and discovered that I had violated one of its core tenets and banned me for 24 hours.
Chicken feed shit! I have been banned by the best, BM1(Ret), manager of the Windjammer Petty Officer’s Club at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. And much like the asshole Troglodyte at Facebook, BM1(Ret) did not appreciate my highly refined sense of humor either,
I remember one particular Sunday morning; my shipmates and I were on the way to religious services when we stopped at said club for refreshments. We over-refreshed and missed services. One enterprising First Class Stewburner decided to conduct a Southern Baptist Revival service. Things were going well, an RD2 had come forward during the alter call and was on his knees praying for forgiveness when BM1(Ret) came in and said, “Knock it off Davis, this is not the time and place for this.”
He became terribly upset when I told him, “Any time you can bring a soul to Christ is the right time and place.”
That was one of the four times he banished me from the club for life.
Another lifetime ban was the evening I brought a Streetwalker into the Asshole Locker to measure and adjudicate a dispute between two drunk sailors who were arguing about which one had the shortest dick.
So, fuck you Facebook, I have been banned by better (though barely) than you.
And, if you think I am going to post this on Facebook, you are out of your rabbit-assed mind.
I stole this one from my Shipmate, Peter T. Yeschenko
THE SPANISH OFFICIALLY SURRENDER GUAM WITHOUT FIRING A SHOT!
ALSO THE SPANISH TRIED TO BORROW AMMUNITION FROM THE AMERICANS NAVY!
TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION!
In the first stages of the Spanish-American War, on 14 April 1898, the USS Charleston was ordered to capture the Spanish island of Guam.
Once the USS Charleston arrive at Guam, they had been given only two days to complete this mission.
On the evening of 20 June 1898, the USS Charleston finally reached Guam, time was running out. With every reason to expect heavy resistance, the USS Charleston fired 13 shots at the Spanish fort of Santa Luz and waited for a response.
The Spanish response was not the expected barrage of cannon fire that the Americans were expecting. Instead the Spanish sent a single small boat , carrying a Spanish officer to the USS Charleston who politely asked permission to come aboard.
Out of curiosity, the USS Charleston Commanding Officer, Captain Henry Glass let him come aboard.
The Spaniard politely welcomed the USS Charleston to Guam.
Then, the Spanish Officer thanked the Americans for their lovely 13 gun salute…and apologized that they had not saluted back as they were completely out of gunpowder.
The Spanish Officer proceeded to earnestly ask if the Americans if they would lend him some gun powdered so the Spanish could return the favor.
After what had to have been one of the most hilariously awkward conversations in the history of warfare, a confused and presumably very annoyed Spanish officer informed the Americans that Spain had never bothered to inform Guam that they were at war with the US.
This is why, the Spanish didn’t bother stocking up on gunpowder.
On 21 June 1898, the Spanish Armed Forces on Guam officially surrendered to the US Navy.
This is how the strategically important island of Guam surrendered without firing a single shot.
PICTURE: The USS Charleston entering Agana Harbor in Guam in 1898.
He was within three months of retirement. His ship was deploying to the Indian Ocean for a protracted period. They sent him TAD to the FF I was serving in. He was a BT2, but the XO decided the best place for him was Mess Deck Master at Arms.
That’s how he came to work for me. Let me describe BT2. He was about 5’6” and probably about the same around the waist. His standard 39” Navy belt had at least an 18” extension sewn onto it. He constantly walked around pulling his pants up. He was so close to retiring that he ignored all references to the weight control or PT programs. He lived in the snipes’ compartment, just aft of the Mess Decks. The MMC told me that they had to remove a middle rack so he could get into the bottom bunk. No one wanted him climbing into a top rack above them.
He was a surprisingly good MDMAA. He supervised and followed up on the messcooks and maintained control in the mess line. His biggest fault was his proximity to the abundance of food available to him. He constantly walked around with a sandwich (I saw him eat a pork & bean sandwich once) or a piece of leftover cake. He probably added a couple of inches during the sixty some days he worked for me.
There was a ladder to Engineering berthing accessed through a standard Navy hatch. The hatch had a standard scuttle for use during GQ or other evolutions when the hatch had to be closed.
We were at sea and the hatch was closed for some reason and the scuttle was being used to access the berthing space.
Everyone laughed so hard we could hardly breathe… when the ETC came into the CPO Mess and said, “I just watched the MDMAA coming through the scuttle from Engineer Berthing. It was like the fucking hatch was giving birth to him,”
“They got three new topside Ensigns who will be coming down this afternoon to work on Engineering Quals for their Surface Warfare Pins. To quote the Divo, ‘keep them out of my fucking hair.’ So they are on you today.” BTC replied.
“Chief, fuck, I gotta get ready to light off tomorrow. I don’t have time to babysit Ensigns.” BT1 moaned
BTC said, “You said that BT2 is good at getting the kids to follow him and believe his bullshit. Turn them over to him. Just tell him to get them qualified on a couple or three things and we won’t have to deal with them for a few days.”
Later in the day, BTC was going into the fireroom as the three Ensigns were coming out. They seemed pleased with themselves.
He found BT1 and said, “I take it things went well with the Ensigns. They seemed satisfied as they came up the ladder.”
“That fucking BT2,” BT1 exclaimed. “He had them dudes eating out of his hand. He found out one of them is in the same stateroom as the Galley Officer. He sent him to score a can of coffee. In the meantime, he had the other two hump a bale of rags down here. Afterward he had the three them empty the shitcans, Then he instructed them in the correct way to dismantle and clean the coffee pot. Then they made a fresh pot of coffee and the three of them stood around drinking coffee while BT2 told them that they had made o good start in understanding the Engineering Department.”
He added, “They left here fully qualified on the rag bag, the shitcan, and the Fireroom coffee maker.”
The hoarding and shortage of toilet paper during the recent Chinese COVID pandemic reminded me of a chain of events that took place on a Guided Missile Cruiser when the Navy disguised them as Destroyers because congress decided that in the modern Navy with super Aircraft Carriers, Battleships and Cruisers were an anachronism. They redesignated them as Cruisers to create a shortage of Destroyers when congress balked at providing funding for new Destroyers.
It was BT1’s month in the barrel. It was B Division’s turn to provide a Petty Officer to oversee the MM/BT compartment and the Engineering head. That meant, instead of concentrating on events in his fireroom, every morning, he had to corral the compartment and head cleaners and oversee their work until the Executive Officer’s Messing and Berthing Inspection. Afterward, he had to make sure all discrepancies were corrected before he could concentrate on his Fireroom.
Every morning as he did a walk through of the berthing compartment, he began to see rolls of toilet paper adrift. Although he lived in the compartment, he had not noticed it before. Every day there was more toilet paper. He instructed the coop cleaner to gather it and store it in the locker designated for that purpose.
The Fireman cleaner told him, “BT1, there ain’t room in the locker. It is full of shit paper.”
BT1, “Where the fuck is all of it coming from.”
“Everybody is getting’ ready for the toilet paper shortage.”
“What toilet paper shortage,” asked BT1
“BT2 said he heard it from a YN who is on 7th Fleet staff the other night at the P.O. Club. The Navy has got a shortage of shit paper and an order is coming telling us we can only use four of them little squares when we take a dump. That slick Navy shit paper don’t remove much shit unless you get a big ass wad of it. Gonna be a lot of hash marked skivvies when that message comes down.”
BT1 passed the word through B and M divisions that there was no shortage of toilet paper, that its use was not going to be controlled or curtailed, and there was no reason to steal toilet paper and hoard it.
The BTC asked BT1, “What’s this thing with the toilet paper about?”
BT1 said, “That damned BT2 is able to get these fucking kids to believe anything. You remember he had them going to church and Devine Services in Subic because he convinced them that if they prayed before getting pussy, they wouldn’t catch the clap.”
The new Commanding Officer had taken command a few days before the new DLG departed Long Beach for the ship’s next deployment to the Western Pacific and the Vietnam warzone. He had spent the first few days reviewing records and reports generated by the ship. As he read, he became deeply concerned. During the previous WestPac deployment, the ship had amassed quite a large number of VD cases, usually after visits to Subic Bay, and liberty incidents involving alcohol.
Being a highly religious person and a lay preacher in his church, the Captain determined to reduce the numbers during this cruise. He discussed it with the Executive Officer and directed him to have the Department Heads and Division Officers conduct group counseling sessions with their personnel stressing the bible and the sixth commandment.
Ensign Smith had reported the day before the ship deployed. He was assigned to a week in each division in the Engineering Department before becoming the Damage Control Assistant. He was currently attached to the Senior Chief BT because the LDO B Division Officer didn’t want to deal with him.
The B Divo turned the counseling task over to the Ensign and told him to stress religion. In preparation, he took a bible from the bookcase in the Wardroom, went to his stateroom to figure out what to say during his meeting with the off-watch BT’s. He eventually decided to talk about the Ten Commandments. He took some notes and prepared his talk. He decided to talk about “You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house or wife…” He also decided to talk about the power of prayer.
The following morning, all off-watch BTs mustered on the fantail. The Ensign talked at length on abstaining from strong drink, the Shall not Covet Commandment, the Adultery Commandment, and the importance of praying. After he was finished, he asked, “Does anyone have any questions?”
Getting no response, he dismissed the men, thinking that it had gone well. As he walked away, he heard one of the Firemen ask a grizzled career Second Class, “What did he say?”
The Petty Officer replied, “He said, Don’t get shitfaced, don’t sleep in your shipmate’s rack or hit on his barhog, it’s okay to fuck if you are married, and say a prayer before you get some pussy!”
“Taps” is a musical piece sounded at dusk, and at funerals, particularly by the US military.
tune is also sometimes known as “Butterfield’s Lullaby”.
The tune is actually a variation of an earlier bugle call known as the “Scott’s Tattoo” which was used in the US from 1835 until 1860, and was arranged in its present form by the Union Army Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, an American Civil War general and Medal of Honor recipient.
In July 1862 to replace a previous French bugle call used to signal “lights out”.
General Butterfield’s bugler, Oliver W. Norton, of Erie, from Pennsylvania, was the first to sound the new call.
Within months, Taps was used by both Union and Confederate forces. It was officially recognized by the United States Army in 1874.
Captain John C. Tidball, West Point, Class of 1848, started the custom of playing taps at a military funeral.
It became a standard component to US military funerals in 1891.
“Taps” is sounded nightly on military installations at non-deployed locations to indicate that it is “lights out”.
When “Taps” is sounded at a funeral, it is customary for serving members of the military or veterans to salute.
The corresponding gesture for civilians is to place the right hand over the heart.