Brigade Boxer New!
Extraordinary Ring Returns
The Three Drink Rule
Rules of the Nautical Road
Andy's Barber Shop: Sailor's Haven in Ellicott City (MD)
R-Division - The Measure of a Man
Command Duty Officer
The Wild Bills
Jaguar XKE, A Love Story
Hong Kong Liberty
The Ceremony of the Flame
The Battle of the Chuckwagon
Payday in the Fleet
Vulture's Row Youngster Cruise, 1968
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
No one ever accused me of being any sort of an athlete. I was too skinny to play football in Texas and too uncoordinated to play either basketball or baseball. In High School, to round out my resume for the Naval Academy, I ran track. I was slow but could run for days and days so I competed in cross country and in the mile run. I was slow but looked good on the track. We taped our socks up so they wouldn’t fall down around our ankles before we finished the race. I finished every race I started and ALMOST won one. My pals always cheered me on with cries of “finish Newman, finish.”
Arriving at the Naval Academy in June 1967, I found the climate very much like my home in Texas - hot and humid. From day one, we did lots of marching and running which did not bother me at all. In fact, I was one of the very few Plebes who actually gained weight that summer. When you start out at six one and 120 pounds, you only have one way to go - up. We were introduced to the Physical Training program which included lots of swimming, a physical fitness test (push-ups, pull-ups, etc.), a mile run for time AND boxing.
Being more of a lover than a fighter, boxing was totally foreign to me. At some point during Plebe Summer, the entire company went to boxing class in Macdonough Hall. A couple of Marine Captains were in charge, and they told us to pair off by height and weight. As it turned out, the last two guys unpaired were Mike Zurfluh and I. All I knew about Zurf was that he was from Seattle, Washington, only stood about 5’ 6” and had a very flat nose and I thought funny looking ears. One of the Marines said, “You two freaks fight each other.” We got our boxing equipment which consisted of really big gloves and protective head gear. These items had been used by every class of midshipmen since Admiral Dewey was a plebe and they smelled something AWFUL! After each boxing class, it took two days of hard hand scrubbing to get the stink off. But this was our first experience so we suited up and got ready for our turn in the ring. With my height advantage, I felt confident that I could keep Zurf away from my vital areas and punch around on him at will. It didn’t turn out that way. When the Marine rang the bell to start our match, Zurfluh came at me like a shot and hit me at least a thousand times before I could even get my hands up! It was a massacre.
I did survive somehow; I think God made Zurf show some pity on me. I was helped out of the ring and Zurf was signed up then and there for the Brigade Boxing Team as a lightweight. Then and only then did Zurf let it be known that he had been a Golden Gloves champion in Seattle! The teaching point for that first boxing class was to watch out for short guys with flat noses and funny looking ears.
When the academic year started, we began formal PT classes. I made Bs and Cs in most of them except the mile run where I always made an A and in the drown-proofing and the tower jump where I also excelled (no strength or coordination required for either). When it was time for boxing class again, we had all learned to negotiate a non-aggression pact with whomever we were matched up. This worked well as long as the Marine instructor didn’t catch on. When he did, he made the offenders stay in the ring until one or the other drew blood.
The first two years, I passed boxing by securing a mutually agreeable partner and a non-aggression pact with just enough hits to make the Marine happy. My third year I reported for my last boxing class confident that I would once again be able to slide on through. I was still six one but I had filled out somewhat so I easily found a suitably sized partner. Unfortunately, this guy was some sort of over achiever and wouldn’t even discuss a non-aggression pact. I was a little worried about the outcome since we were going to have to fight three one-minute rounds to complete the course, but I did have a height advantage on my “opponent” (not a pact partner) and he was no heavier. Then the fight started.
When the bell sounded, this guy came after me like a house-a-fire! He was beating the stuffing out of me, but I manage to stay away from him for a full minute. While another pair was fighting, I tried to regain my composer. I could barely lift my hands with the huge, smelly gloves on them. Then one of the Marines came over to me and said: “You’re getting the crap beat out of you.” I replied, “Yes, Sir, yes, Sir, three bags full.” I was amazed by his powers of observation. Then he asked, “Don’t you know he’s a left hander?” As far as I was concerned this guy could be four handed he was hitting me so fast and hard. Then the Marine explained, “I bet he’s never fought a lefty either. Just change up on him.”
I tried to comprehend the significance of this advice while waiting for our round two. We started off just like before with me getting the worst of it. THEN I changed hands! I jabbed once with my right then connected with my left hand on the tip of his chin as he stepped in. Mr. Overachiever went down hard and lay spread eagle on the mat. I had no idea what had happened until the Marine leaped over the ropes, picked me up by the waist and danced me around the ring. He told me I had just made an A in boxing!!
Walking back to the Fourteenth Company area on the fourth deck of Bancroft Hall, all I could think about was how long it would take to scrub all the stink off my hands and head. Weekend Liberty was only a day and a half away. As I stepped into the Company area, all my classmates were there waiting for me. The news had traveled faster than I. They grabbed me, put a blue USNA b-robe over my shoulders and hosted me up on theirs for a triumphant ride around the area
It was my finest athletic moment – my only athletic moment actually. Even my pal, Zurf, was proud of me, and he asked if I would like to do a little sparring after noon meal. I declined. The teaching point of this last boxing class was, of course: DON’T EVER GET BACK INTO ANOTHER BOXING RING AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.
I only saw Zurf one time after graduation. He married his sweetheart and went to flight school. Shortly before I deployed on my second cruise to Vietnam, I was invited to dinner by Zurf and his bride at their quarters on NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii. Zurf was flying A-4s for a composite squadron stationed there. Another classmate and company-mate, Marine Lieutenant George Rogers and his wife were also invited; and a grand time was had by all. Some time later during the cruise, I learned that Michael Zurfluh had died in a training flight accident in the Hawaiian Op Areas. The Navy had lost a fine officer. The world had lost a true gentleman and a wonderful human being.
Extraordinary Ring Returns
By CDR Steve Martin '71, USNR (Ret.)
Steve M was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Class of ‘71. His parents were exceedingly proud (and singularly contributory) to his reaching that hard won milestone, and they further emphasized that pride, support and love by making a gift of his class ring to him. The inscription was simple and declarative, “Stephen <full name>, United States Navy, Aviation”; but he knew it really meant “love and well done, Mom and Dad”. Unfortunately, his ring was lost in a water skiing outing after Graduation, left lying somewhere at the bottom of The Grand Lagoon, Pensacola, Florida.
A few years later in 1974, Steve M had completed flight training and was assigned to a fleet fighter squadron on the West Coast as “nugget” Naval Flight Officer. Life was good and he was home on leave in Pensacola to celebrate another warm Christmas/New Years holiday season with his family. The family tradition on Christmas Morning found his mom in her usual spot, doling out this year’s Christmas Largess. She paused in the midst of the proceedings to fix her youngest son with a loving and somewhat sheepish look. “We’ve got something for you”, she said. A small wrapped package changed hands and Steve M would up reading one of his secretary mother’s precisely typed notes that said,
“Merry Christmas! I represent your Christmas gift, which has not yet arrived. Because of the vagaries of long-distance purchasing, special order manufacturing, the fuel shortage, and the United States Postal Service, the delay has been beyond control.
Now as to the gift – I have a 14K yellow gold, #65 finish, gold closed back, I am size 8 ½ and am set with a synthetic star sapphire. I am inscribed, “Stephen <full name>, United States Navy, Aviation,” and I am to replace another that was hard-won and much revered. Have you guessed what I am?
I hope to be here soon.
Much love, Steve,
From Mom and Dad”
Of course, his dear parents were giving him yet Another ring. It arrived in registered mail a few weeks later at Steve’s West Coast address. The weight of a class ring once again tugged at his right ring finger, reminding him of his parents’ love and pride.
A stringent operational rule in the US Navy is “No Jewelry Worn during Operations” to avoid getting appendages damaged or lost in a jewelry related mishap. One day, Steve went flying and left his new #2 ring in his equipment locker at the San Diego squadron. Returning to the locker, the Second ring was gone. Inquiries and searches availed nothing, and Steve realized he’d lost yet another token of his family’s pride and affection. He reluctantly informed his parents and was given the grace of their forgiveness. However, he realized the next ring was truly and rightfully “on him”. Somehow though in the course of the ensuing years, he never quite got around to buying himself another ring. He knew it wouldn’t be the same. . . .
One summer, 33 years after the loss of his second ring, he came across the Christmas note from his long deceased mother. A strong pang of loss for loved ones and guilt for an “unfortunate turn of affairs” washed over him. At least he had the note; so he found a safe place for it, keeping even this small remembrance of parental love.
Three days later, he received a phone call from an Academy classmate, the Class President no less. Steve M was informed that there was someone looking for him and that Steve M should contact that person on an urgent matter. Intrigued, Steve M took down the contact information and got another Steve (Steve W) on the phone. His class ring #2 was in Hand, found by someone he’d never met. . . . Strong emotions on both side of the phone line underpinned a conversation of introduction, logistics and Gratitude leading to the return of Steve M’s Class ring to him by his new friend, over 1000 miles and a lifetime away.
The other Steve W was a former US Marine, who had served on the East Coast, in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean in the 70’s. Returning from a “Float” (“Cruise” in Navy lingo) in 1975, he crossed paths with a “sub-standard” Marine as they made the journey to CONUS. The other Marine was being sent back for a court martial and had no money. Marine Steve W took pity and loaned him $20, to be repaid at the end of the voyage home. The other Marine tried to duck his obligation, but wound up in the grasp of Steve W, who demanded repayment, with Emphasis. The other Marine begged off fervently, saying he had no money, but he had a ring; would Steve W take that instead? Close examination of “the ring” revealed a gold US Naval Academy ring that had an inscription, “Stephen <full name>, United States Navy, Aviation”. Steve W took the ring as payment in full for the $20 loan, intending to see about it’s return to it’s rightful owner.
Upon return of Steve W to routine CONUS USMC operations, he asked his boss what to do with the ring. Gunny told him to “just give it to me and I’ll handle it.“ Something told Steve W to take a more involved approach, so he tried contacting the US Naval Academy to track the rightful owner, to no avail. Navy Steve M was not at Annapolis and finding him in The Fleet was not going to be a straight forward task for a young, active duty Marine. Steve W then asked his older sister, who was in a more seemingly stable living/working situation than a combat marine, to see if she could work the repatriation of property to an elusive US Naval Officer on active duty. She agreed and continued to make inquires for some time without success. Then she and her husband were posted in Europe for decades, the wayward Academy ring safely put away in her accompanying jewelry box. The quest went cold, as international travel and affairs took away her attentions.
Thirty three years after Steve M lost his second ring, former Marine Steve W was well placed in the commercial world, with a wife and three sons. His oldest son started his first year at the United States Naval Academy in 2008, and Steve W came to realize the import of an Academy Ring. He thought of the day his own son would wear one. Then another thought came, “Where is that ring I ‘found’??” A phone call to his sister revealed that she was back from Europe and that she thought she could find it with some looking. Sure enough, it turned up straight away, and she sent it back to Steve W for another try at its repatriation.
Steve W once again called the US Naval Academy, but now with the benefit of his own experience and an improved USNA alumni organization for handling such matters. Within two days, Steve W was talking to Steve M, now retired and working as a DoD contractor. Within a week, the ring was repatriated to Steve M’s finger and a new friendship was formed. The details of how ring #2 got from San Diego, California, across the world to a US Navy ship returning from the Mediterranean Sea in the course of several months can only be the subject of the most tenuous conjecture. The important part of this story is the ring’s ultimate return to its place at “home” after 33 years of world travel, sometimes in unfriendly hands; that and a parents’ act of love and pride was and is reinstated.
by Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
In the summer of 1989, I was the dashing Commanding Officer of the guided missile frigate, USS BOONE (FFG 28). We had orders to deploy to the Persian Gulf to escort re-flagged Kuwaiti oil tankers and any U.S. merchantmen wanting our services. Knowing full well that liberty in that part of the world is grim to say the least, Commander, Sixth Fleet sent us and the two other ships traveling with us a message requesting our choices for a single port call in the Mediterranean on our way to the Suez Canal. I now had a chance to exercise my command prerogative.
The destroyer NICHOLSON was carrying a destroyer squadron staff, which provided our adult supervision crossing the Atlantic, so the Commodore picked the port for NICHOLSON. The frigate JACK WILLIAMS was the senior ship so they picked next. NICHOLSON (the DESRON CDR) asked to go to the Spanish port, Palma de Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands. JACK WILLIAMS, for no apparent reason, also asked to go to Palma.
I called the Wardroom together to go over with my officers our options. I started the meeting by telling them where the other two ships were heading, then I asked for their inputs (not that I really cared). Almost in unison, they shouted, “Ooh, ooh, we want to go to Palma!” I patiently explained that Palma was very expensive. Not only would the other two ships’ crews be there filling up the bars and restaurants, but there may also be a 6th Fleet carrier or a cruiser in port. They thought about this for a moment then someone recommended that we go to the south of France, and they all shouted, “Ooh, ooh, we want to go to France!” I again patiently pointed out that the closest French port was almost 300 miles beyond Palma. We’d loose half our time just steaming up there and back. Finally, in utter frustration, they asked, “Where do you want to go, Captain?” I told them that we needed to go to the island of Ibiza. They all cried, “We’ve never heard of Ibiza!” I said, “That’s exactly why we should go there. Neither has anyone else in the Sixth Fleet. We’ll be the only warship in port. It’s cheaper and about 100 miles closer than Palma. We’ll be on the beach before the other ships even get into port. Trust me on this.” They grudgingly agreed.
Although I had never been to Ibiza, I knew from my two-year tour in Naples, Italy that Ibiza was a very special place. It was much smaller that Palma, but it was also the favorite destination of young lovelies from all over northern Europe. We arrived on a beautiful summer morning and picked up the Spanish harbor pilot about a mile off the entrance to the port. The “harbor” was really a yacht basin. We could never fit inside the breakwater, and the navigator and I had planned to anchor about half a mile outside. The pilot dismissed all that and took us right up to the entrance, where we dropped the hook. This location greatly reduced boating time for the liberty party. It also gave us an unrestricted view of the yacht parade twice daily.
Every morning, a large number of beautiful sailboats would file out of Ibiza for a small, uninhabited (and apparently also uninhibited) island just to the south which was a Spanish National Forrest. Each boat would have several scantily clad young women gracing the main deck. In the evening, the parade would reverse itself with all the young lovelies, freshly tanned, topside and topless if not completely naked. Needless to say, Command Duty Officers had no trouble getting their duty sections (and then some) on deck for morning and evening colors.
A very good time was had by all in Ibiza, and everyone continued to talk about the island and all its diversions well into the six-month cruise. It helped take our minds off the bleak conditions of the extremely inhospitable Persian Gulf area.
Finally, it was December and time to start heading back to the real world. Sixth Fleet sent out another message asking for our port choices in the Med over the Christmas holiday. NICHOLSON had to go to Naples for repairs so they were out of the mix. The CO of JACK WILLIAMS wanted desperately to spend Christmas in the Holy Land. He asked Sixth Fleet for a port call in Haifa, Israel. Sixth Fleet said, “no.’’ JACK WILLIAMS asked a second time. I was watching the message traffic and knew exactly where this was heading. Sixth Fleet came back and told him “no” again and explained that a Navy ship could not go from an Arab port to Israel, or vice versa, directly. You had to go to a neutral port in between. JACK WILLIAMS asked a third time, saying he “really, really” wanted to go to Haifa. Sixth Fleet finally came back and slapped him like a red-headed stepchild telling JACK WILLIAMS to pick a non-Israeli port or spend Christmas in Naples with NICHOLSON.
While I was waiting for the smoke to clear on the Sixth Fleet flagship, I called my officers together to discuss our holiday plans. Immediately, there was an outcry for Ibiza, especially among the aviators. “Ooh, ooh, we want to go to Ibiza!” I told them that all the brown eyes had left the beaches several months earlier when it got cold. Then someone said let’s go to the south of France! “Ooh, ooh, we want to go to France!” I reminded them that France was a long, long way from the north end of the Suez Canal. I also told them that we would have to anchor out and that the weather would not cooperate with running liberty boats. Finally, they grumbled, “OK, Captain. Where do you want to go?” I told them we needed to go to Gibraltar. “Gibraltar!?! We’ve never heard of Gibraltar!” So I laid it all out for them. First of all, Gibraltar has a large port so we can go pier side. Secondly, they speak English in Gibraltar. And finally, the British do Christmas in a big way. “Trust me on this,” I said; and they again grudgingly agreed.
We arrived in Gibraltar rather beaten up by the transit across the Med in some pretty bad weather. Fortunately, the weather was perfect on the Rock for our entire visit. After mooring starboard side to the pier, I went down to the Quarterdeck to meet our welcoming party. It was a Royal Navy Captain in full dress with sword! He kissed me on both cheeks and said, “Hail the conquering hero! Come with me to the bar.” On the way over to the O-Club, the Brit explained that he had just received word of the United States’ successful invasion of Panama. For the Crown Colony of Gibraltar, any assault on Spanish-speaking peoples was cause for celebration. I learned later that JACK WILLIAMS had received a much different reception. They had finally picked the Spanish port of Almeria on the Costa de la Luz. When they arrived, there were angry demonstrators on the pier with protest signs and tomatoes that they threw at the ship. Operation “Just Because” didn’t make the crew of JACK WILLIAMS too popular ashore in Almeria.
For BOONE, it was just the opposite. We were the only warship in port, and the local merchants were most grateful to have us instead of one of Her Majesty’s ships. The British sailors had a reputation for being mean drunks and tight spenders. Our sailors were welcomed with open arms every where. Several times a day, some local would drive up to our Quarterdeck, come aboard and leave a bottle of Scotch whiskey with the Officer of the Deck. Every time I came across the Quarterdeck, the watch would hand me an arm full of bottles that I would add to my stash in the closet of my cabin.
The very best part of our visit came on Christmas Day thanks to my wife, Nancy, and the USN liaison officer to the British Commander of Gibraltar. Nancy and some of the wives, in cahoots with our Postal Clerk, had been sending us Christmas presents since shortly after we left Mayport, Florida. All the packages were addressed to the Commanding Officer and the PC3 kept them in his storeroom until it was full, then we took over a Supply Department storeroom. Nancy had even contacted the families of crew members not in the Mayport area and asked them to send their presents to the CO. On Christmas morning, we had a party on the mess decks for all hands. I was Captain Santa, and we passed out presents to every single member of the crew. They were all taken totally by surprise and were all thrilled. For some reason, the PC3 got more presents than anyone.
The second part of our Christmas cheer had been organized by a young U.S. Navy Commander before our arrival. He and his wife, as soon as they learned we were coming for the holiday, went on the local radio and TV stations and started an “adopt a sailor” campaign. It was so successful that on Christmas Day every crew member, not in the duty section, had some place to go for Christmas dinner. Those who didn’t end up in a private home were taken to a popular Italian restaurant for a feast. The XO and I went to the Royal Governor’s for dinner with Vice Admiral Sir Something and Lady Somebody. It was truly grand, and a good time was had by all.
We left Gibraltar a few days after Christmas in terrible weather, passed through the Straits and into the Atlantic. We were a happy ship. We had had a wonderful Christmas Holiday and now were headed home after a successful six-month deployment. One of our Warrant Officers approached me on the bridge shortly after we got under way. “Captain,” he said, “I don’t know if this crew would follow you into Hell and back; but I do know they’ll always follow you into a liberty port.”
The Three Drink Rule
by Captain M.W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
In 1985, I was the dashing Executive Officer of the guided missile destroyer, USS DEWEY (DDG 45). We had been scheduled for a UNITAS cruise around South America. Everyone onboard looked forward to this cruise as one of the last, true “Navy Good Deals.” Then, as it always does, things changed. We were re-assigned to the FORRESTAL Battle Group going to the Mediterranean. The Med had plenty of good liberty, but no one considered a Med cruise a good deal compared to a UNITAS. So morale was sagging.
Fortunately, we had a brand new Commanding Officer, Cdr. Joel B. Heaton, USN, and a dynamic Command Master Chief, Master Chief Brookins. The two of them went to work on the crew and the wardroom; and before too long, everyone was starting to think positively about going to the Med. First we had to go to the Caribbean because the carrier had not yet completed all her pre-deployment workups. That meant our standard six-month cruise would be a seven-month adventure, but we were promised one or more liberty ports in the islands before heading across the Atlantic.
As has always been the custom in the U.S. Navy, the Captain shall address ship’s company prior to departure on an extended deployment, especially one involving port calls in foreign lands. Topics of conversation are usually related to being good will ambassadors for the United States of America, representing the Navy, the Nation and one’s ship in the finest tradition of the naval service, etc., etc., etc. When our Captain addressed the crew, he touched on all of these and then some, most eloquently. I was thoroughly enjoying his speech when suddenly; he seemed to go off script for a moment. He made the statement that he enjoyed a good drink ashore as much as any one. However, he went on to say that it had been his experience that on those rare occasions when he had more than three drinks, he usually ended up regretting it. “Therefore,” he said, “if any man goes over on liberty and has trouble ashore and ends up before me at mast; and I find out that he had more than three drinks, I will have no sympathy for him whatsoever.” It was several weeks later that our Captain found out just how well his crew was listening to him that last afternoon in homeport.
We left our loved ones in Charleston, South Carolina and headed for the Caribbean, full of anticipation for high adventure. After rendezvous with USS FORRESTAL, we conducted several weeks of exercises designed to make the battle group a cohesive force. Everything went very well, and we were finally detached to make a port call on the Island of St. Lucia for liberty.
The ship arrived at the island paradise on a beautiful spring morning. After safely mooring the ship in the tiny harbor, the Captain went off for his round of official calls on the local dignitaries with an assigned St. Lucian police officer driver and car. As soon as they cleared the pier and I assured myself that the ship was clean, we passed liberty call. I then retired to my stateroom to catch up on the never-ending paperwork.
When the Captain returned, he and I made plans for dinner on the beach. His driver had given him a short tour of the area including the best restaurants and night spots. One of the restaurants was rated five stars, one of only two in all the Caribbean. That’s where we decided to go. We gathered up some of the department heads, dismissed the police driver and took off in the CO’s car.
The Captain found the restaurant with very little trouble. Fortunately, it was still light out while we were searching. It was truly a beautiful place, on top of a ridge overlooking the harbor. We started in the bar while they set up a table for the six of us. After two rounds, we moved to our table in a most jovial mood. When everyone had ordered, the waiter asked the Captain if we wanted wine with the meal. He said “Sure” and handed me the wine list to make our selection. Before I even looked at the menu, I made the comment to the Captain that “wine doesn’t count.” He asked, “What are you talking about?”; and I explained to him that since wine was part of the meal, it wouldn’t count as one of our three drinks. All the department heads enthusiastically nodded agreement.
The Captain was shocked that we had really taken him seriously when he addressed ship’s company before the deployment. He was sure that the crew had not. The rest of us were not so sure, and I personally hoped that they had. We all had a great laugh, finished our meal and adjourned back to the bar. We had one more round (for a total of three drinks apiece-not counting wine) and went back to the ship.
At breakfast in the wardroom, all the junior officers were buzzing with the exceptions and corollaries they had come up with to Heaton’s Law, “The Three Drink Rule.” The First Lieutenant put forth that if someone else bought you a drink, it didn’t count toward your personal three. The CIC Officer added that if you spilled one of your three drinks, regardless of how close to empty it might have been, you get to replace it with a full drink without penalty. The Missile Officer offered that if you go over on the beach and have three drinks then come back and touch the ship; you have zeroed you counter and can go back out for three more. One of the Warrant Officers allowed as how that would work all night as long as one could make it up and down the brow under one’s own power. I was writing these down as fast as I could to give the Captain a thorough briefing.
Meeting with the Captain after Quarters, we were joined by the Command Master Chief. I gave my brief on the variants to the Three Drink Rule much to the amazement of the CO. Then the Master Chief chimed in with the corollaries offered by the Chiefs’ Mess and the mess deck. They were all pretty much variations of what the JO’s had presented at breakfast, and the three of us were laughing our heads off. Then the Master Chief provided the ultimate axiom to parallel Heaton’s Law. Senior Chief Boilerman Mudge had formulated the “Mudge Constant,” which states: If any body asks, this is my SECOND drink!
No one knows how many actually limited themselves to only three drinks ashore (I seldom did), but the entire ship continued to talk and joke about “The Three Drink Rule” for the rest of the cruise. I believe it was a positive influence on all of us. Because we were talking about it, drinking and conduct ashore were always in the back of everyone’s mind. We did have a near miss one night in Haifa, Israel. Senior Chief Mudge ran afoul of the FORRESTAL’s Beach Guard Officer. The Senior Chief applied the “Mudge Constant,” but the Lieutenant wasn’t buying it. Just in the nick of time, the Master Chief and several other members of the Chiefs’ Mess showed up and persuaded the Officer to release the Senior Chief into their responsible and mostly-sober custody.
On a seven-month cruise with numerous port calls in six different countries, we suffered not one single liberty incident reportable up the chain of command. Most of the credit for that amazing record goes to the leadership of our Captain and our Command Master Chief; but I will always believe some of it has to go to “The Three Drink Rule.”
Rules of the Nautical Road
by Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
In 1978, I was a dashing young lieutenant serving in USS DUBUQUE (LPD 8). I was First Lieutenant in charge of the Deck Department. My good friend and partner in crime was the Air Boss, Lt. Lynd Fitzgerald. Fitz was responsible for the ship’s flight deck and all the equipment associated with operating helicopters including fuel for the aircraft. As a landing platform, dock (LPD), DUBUQUE carried Marines and all their assorted equipment and landing craft to move them from the ship to the shore in an amphibious assault. It was a large ship-much larger than the destroyers I had been accustomed to sailing around in for the past seven years. But when the Marines embarked, the place got crowded fast.
The other department heads, Engineering, Supply, Ops, Medical and Dental, all complained about the Marines being on board. Fitz and I never did. We saw them as our reasons for being. We also interfaced with them directly whereas the others not as much. Besides, they were so much fun to watch. At reveille, they turned out to P.T., all 800+ of them up on the flight deck, in between the helos. After P.T., they got in line for breakfast (after ship’s company had been fed). After breakfast, they got in line for the ship’s store to buy “gedunk” (candy) or “pogiebait”, as they called it. After ship’s company had noon meal, the Marines lined up for their chow. After lunch, they did more P.T. Then mid-afternoon, they lined up at the ship’s soda fountain for more “gedunk.” Following the crew’s evening meal, the Marines were back in line for their turn. The only line they did not form was for the nightly movie. They seemed to enjoy themselves immensely onboard which meant it was much more difficult to get them off the ship when the time came. The Gunnery Sergeants had to beat them into the boats or up to the flight deck for the waiting helos.
To this point in my career, I had been primarily in engineering with little exposure to practical seamanship. Fortunately, I had a terrific staff of boatswain’s mates. I also had a young Marine First Lieutenant, assigned as Combat Cargo Officer, who spoke fluent Grunt. Most importantly, I had a Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate who spoke to God, and God answered!
In his real life, Fitz was a Naval Aviator, a helo pilot or “rotorhead.” Aviators had to do a ship’s company tour at some point in their careers, but they rushed back to flying as soon as they could. While assigned to DUBUQUE, however, Fitz had to act like a real Naval Officer including standing watch on the bridge underway. Fitz was an outstanding officer and an excellent watch stander and ship handler. His sense of relative motion was probably far better than any of the rest of us, but he had a little trouble with standard commands. Instead of ordering the helmsman to change course with, “Right Standard Rudder, Steady on course zero niner zero.” Fitz would tell him to “come over to the right a little.” Rather than ordering the lee helmsman to increase speed with, “All engines ahead standard. Indicate turns for eighteen knots;” Fitz would tell him to “Come on, come on! Kick it in the ass.” Needless to say, this drove the Captain up a tree whenever Fitz had the conn. Finally, Fitz learned the lingo, much to the chagrin of the enlisted bridge watch; and he was designated a fully qualified Officer of the Deck, Underway.
One evening as we were transporting a battalion of Marines from the Philippines to Japan, I went to the bridge to relieve Fitz for the 20:00 to 24:00 watch. We were approaching the entrance to Tokyo Bay where a number of major sea lanes converged. The traffic was becoming rather heavy, and Fitz was most anxious to be relieved before we had a collision. We were still well south of the traffic separation scheme which controlled all the shipping in and out of Tokyo Wan so every ship within fifteen miles of us was jockeying for position. Fitz was convinced they were all out to crush him. I took the watch, and he left the bridge with great relief. My Junior Officer of the Deck, an extremely sharp young ensign who reminded me of myself in my younger days, stuck his head in the radar scope and started sorting out the mess. I just kept the ship moving forward and made sure we didn’t run over any one in front of us. Fortunately, the Captain was not on the bridge so we had time to figure things out for ourselves before we had to explain the situation to him.
After a couple of hours, things had pretty much sorted themselves out, and everyone was behaving. The Captain came out onto the bridge after the movie, and the JOOD and I were able to give him a complete and confident picture of the traffic flow. I told him that the only problem-child we had was a large contact off our port quarter several miles astern but gaining on us. We were not overly concerned about him because, by the International Rules of the Nautical Road, the overtaking vessel must remain clear of the overtaken vessel. We just had to watch him and make sure he was complying. The Captain agreed with our assessment and made himself comfortable in his chair on the darkened bridge.
Suddenly, the large contact off our port quarter started flashing us with its signal-search light, but without the normal red filter. Our bridge was flooded with bright, white light, temporarily blinding all of us. I hit the intercom box to the signal bridge to order the signalmen to answer the light hoping it would make them stop illuminating our bridge. The signalman on watch came back to me saying that the contact was repeating the same message over and over – Victor Hotel Foxtrot. This made no sense to me whatsoever. Then I realized that they may be trying to communicate with an international code. The Ensign and I jumped on the International Code Book and started ripping out pages looking for Victor Hotel Foxtrot. The Captain watched us for a few seconds; then said in a rather sarcastic tone, “He wants to talk to you on the VHF radio, bridge-to-bridge.” “Oh,” said I as I picked up the handset.
I hailed the port quarter contact with the standard phraseology: “Vessel my port quarter, this is United States Warship, northbound to Tokyo Wan, Over.” Moments later a most pleasant but heavily accented Oriental voice came back with: “United States Warship. This is velly large tanker. You slow down, I pass ahead of you.” Outrageous! Who the hell did he think we were, the chicken of the sea? I composed myself and answered with: “Vessel my port quarter, this is United States Warship, northbound Tokyo Wan. We have been tracking you for some time now and hold you as the overtaking vessel. We will maintain our course and speed. Request you stand clear of me, Over.” After a significant pause, the voice came back, somewhat more strident, with: “United States Warship. This is VELLY, VELLY large tanker. You slow down, I pass ahead of you.”
Now it was the Captain’s turn. He sprang from his chair, grabbed the r/t handset and in his best Captain’s voice said: “Tanker my port quarter, this is United States Warship, your starboard bow. We have been tacking you for some time now and hold you as overtaking us to port. By the Rules of the Nautical Road, we are the privileged or stand-on vessel. You are the burdened or give-way vessel. Therefore, we shall maintain our course and speed, as per the Rules, and ask that you steer clear of us.” Everyone on the bridge was duly impressed with our Captain. He had certainly told off that pushy Japanese tanker person and upheld the honor of the United States Navy. Then, after an even longer pause, the voice came back. This time it sounded more like the prison camp commandant in Bridge on the River Kwai. “United States Warship! This is VELLY, VELLY large tanker. OK, Mister Rules Road, you so smart! You maintain course and speed. I maintain course and speed. We see who give way vessel!” I thought the Captain was going to have a stroke. He slammed the handset down and jumped back up into his chair, folded his arms across and chest and kept muttering, “Sonofabitch.”
No one spoke on the bridge. The entire enlisted watch stared at me with eyes as big as saucers. I called a little LST that was following us several hundred yards astern on the secure, encrypted radio circuit to warn him away from Velly Large Tanker. Then the JOOD and I went to the port bridge wing to see what he was doing. By this time, the tanker had closed to an uncomfortable distance and was still closing. He looked as big as a mountain.
The Ensign and I, as casually as possible, located our life jackets, just in case. We watched the tanker for what seemed like an eternity, while the Captain continued to mutter from his chair. FINALLY, the Hugeama Maru began, ever so slowly, to alter her course to starboard to pass astern of us (but in front of the poor LST). As she turned, we watched her aspect change from starboard bow, to dead-on, then to port bow. It was a most chilling sight to see her bow pointed directly at us, even only for a few seconds. She looked wider than we were long. She was indeed a Velly, Velly Large Tanker, and we were most happy to see her sail off into the night.
Andy’s Barber Shop: Sailor’s Haven in Ellicott City
by Phil Parker ‘71
Got a big event coming up and you don’t meet Navy standards for grooming? If you’re in the Baltimore area, you should drive out to Andy’s Barber Shop on Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City. Andy and his crew will have you looking sharp and ready for inspection in no time at all. Andy Vallar started the shop 33 years ago after completing a six year Navy enlistment as a Ships Serviceman, First Class. He was stationed aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61) sailing out of NAS Alameda. Here’s a shot Andy keeps behind his chair to remind him of his swash-buckling days aboard the Big R.
Mothers, lock up your daughters! One of those unlocked daughters happened to be from Maryland, which is how Andy wound up in Ellicott City. Note the flight deck shots taken from Vulture’s Row.
I discovered the shop by accident about five years ago. It happens to be next door to a branch of my bank and one day I needed cash and a trim, so I hit the ATM and then Andy’s. It looked like a nice, old fashioned barber shop from the outside and as soon as I walked in, I knew I had found someplace special. Andy’s shop is a wonderful tribute to the United States Navy and a great place for an old sailor to soak up some memories. The first thing you’ll probably notice is his hat collection. Over the years his customers have given him ball caps and other military head gear which are spread around the tops of the walls. Ball caps from every imaginable type of ship, old and new, are there – Battleships (USS New Jersey BB-62), Aircraft Carriers (USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, CVN-69), Amphibs (USS Dubuque LPD-8) and of course my favorite – submarines. Many boats are represented - USS Houston SSN-713, that famous first, USS Nautilus SSN-571, old timers like USS Bowfin SS-287, and my favorite – USS Helena SSN-725. The state of Maryland is honored by USS Maryland (BB-46 and SSBN-738) and USS Baltimore SSN-709. Here’s a small portion of the collection:
The collection is mostly Navy hats, but all services are represented. The Coast Guard posts hats from the Coast Guard Academy and the training bark Eagle. There’s a camouflaged utility cover that once belonged to a First Lieutenant of Marines and a Drill Instructor’s Smoky the Bear hat. There are senior officers’ dress covers from the Army and Air Force and a black ball cap proudly displaying the insignia of the 82nd Airborne Division.
The Air Force and Naval Aviation are splendidly honored by fabulous collection of model aircraft hanging from the ceiling – Mustangs, Thunderbolts, Spitfires, Corsairs, Sabers, Tomcats, Starfighters, B-17’s, 25’s, 29’s, a menacing MiG-15 and much more. Andy is as skilled at model making as he is at hair styling. The details and the markings are perfect. “I built them between haircuts,” he says modestly. Here’s a small part of Andy’s Air Force:
Pictures of ships, distinguished people, and sailor’s knot boards cover the walls. This happens to be my favorite, the official ship’s portrait for the USS Laboon, DDG-58.
John Laboon ’43, won a Silver Star as a young submarine officer on the USS Peto, SS-267 in World War II. He swam through a minefield to rescue a downed aviator and brought him back to the boat. After the war he became a Jesuit priest and then a Navy Chaplain. He was the senior Catholic Chaplain at the Naval Academy when I was there and the only chaplain I ever met that wore Gold Dolphins. The Protestants kept up, however. Chaplain Greenwood, the senior Protestant Chaplain, wore Gold Wings. Protestant, Catholic, or none-of-the-above, you could tell Father Jake was somebody special. His nephew, Tom Laboon, is a member of our class.
This Saturday, Andy is busy, as usual.
You shouldn’t be discouraged, however, if you come in and there’s a crowd. You’ll get a good haircut from any of the barbers in the shop, but a lot of the regulars don’t mind waiting until Andy can serve them personally. The wait is longer for him. While you wait, there’s plenty to read – coffee table histories of the Navy and Marine Corps, Janes Fighting Ships, Sea Power magazine, as well as the local papers and periodicals of more general interest. The television in the corner is usually silent unless there are youngsters in the shop who need to be amused with their Saturday morning shows.
Today, Andy is being assisted by Frank Ingrassia, in the back room, and Phyllis Shipley. Frank has worked with Andy for a little over two years. You can trade sea stories with him, too. He started cutting hair as a Ships Serviceman on the USS Intrepid (CVA-11) on Yankee Station, serving a hitch of four years. Phyllis is new to the shop, having started only about six months ago.
Andy’s customers represent all ages, from little boys to senior citizens like me and beyond. The typical customer is a middle aged male – 40 – 60, who wants a haircut that will pass watch squad inspection. Andy can give you anything you want in a haircut, however, and to prove it, here’s a shot of him working on a young man whose tastes are distinctly more modern than mine. “As long as he’s happy with it, I’m happy with it,” says his mother.
Note the banner from the 108th Army-Navy football game, played in Baltimore in 2007.
Here’s Phyllis working on another customer. He wanted a haircut like the young man’s, but not even Phyllis can work that miracle. She gave me a great haircut.
Earlier in the morning she had finished a page-boy style cut on a boy of about twelve. “Is that long enough?,” she asked. “It’s not short enough!,” shouted the boy’s father, who was sporting the “high and tight” of a Marine infantryman. The kid won.
So ends our morning at Andy’s Barber s Shop. A special thanks to Andy Vallar, Phyllis Shipley, Frank Ingrassias, and Andy’s customers for allowing me to be part of their day.
R-Division - The Measure of a Man
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
A tragedy struck USS GOLDSBOROUGH several months before I reported and was the reason for my change of orders. Steaming in port Pearl Harbor, along side the pier, one of the 1200 psi boilers had exploded, killing several Boilermen. The Engineer, the Main Propulsion Assistant and the Damage Control Assistant were all relieved. The Captain would have been relieved as well, but he was allowed to retire instead. The first DCA ordered in as a replacement lasted only a few weeks before checking himself into the hospital. A second was ordered in and made it for a few more weeks before reporting that he used drugs. By the time I got there in August of 1971, all I had to do was show up in a clean uniform; and they thought I was golden.
As DCA, I was the Repair Division Officer, responsible for approximately fifteen men. R-Division consisted of welders, shipfitters and pipefitters. We also had Enginemen who took care of the ship’s boats (2) and the diesel engines for the emergency generators forward and aft. There were auxiliary Machinist Mates who worked on the air conditioning and refrigeration system and anything else mechanical not related to main propulsion, and we had one Machinery Repairman who was a wizard on the lathe. Since there was no Electrical Officer, I also had E-Division (another 6-8 sailors) made up of Electrician’s Mates and Interior Communications-men or IC-men (truly strange people). The IC-men took care of all the internal communications systems including telephones and alarm systems. Then there were the Hull Technicians (HT), formerly Damage Controlmen, who maintained all the fire fighting and emergency repair equipment throughout the ship. They also functioned as leaders in the repair lockers at General Quarters. All of these guys were amazing young men. They bitched constantly, but never let their bitching slow down their working, and they worked All THE TIME, both in port and at sea. I came to love them all.
I started losing my hair when I was in the ninth grade. This gave me a certain advantage growing up in Texas. I could go into any liquor store in the Great State and buy anything I wanted. However, it wasn’t much of a help when my buddies and I would go out to “run women.” Nevertheless, reporting to my first ship, I did look older than the average Ensign, especially with my post-graduation mustache. When I met R-Division the first time, some one started the rumor that I was a “Mustang”, meaning that I had former enlisted service and would, therefore, be much more strict. The immediate result of all this was that I was given significant deference by the sailors of my division. Every morning at quarters, they were all present and standing tall with relatively clean uniforms. They all responded quickly and respectfully to my orders. I soon began to believe that I was a natural at this Division Officer stuff. This misconception wouldn’t last long.
A few weeks into our cruise and my tour as DCA, I was back in the R-Division shop with two of my leading petty officers going over work orders from the other departments requesting repair assistance from my guys. My Naval Academy classmate, A.J. Whittle, the ship’s gunnery officer, came in to submit a work order. As he and I were discussing his needs, he called me “classmate” and I called him same. My petty officers took note; and when A.J. left the space, they asked me if Mr. Whittle and I were the same type officers. I told them we were both Naval Academy graduates of the same class year. They gave each other knowing looks; then Petty Officer Sundby, our leading HT, (see COMMAND DUTY OFFICER and NON SIBI) said, “So you aren’t really a mustang, right, Sir?” Laughing, I said, “Of course not.” Next morning at quarters, no one showed up but the Chief and the two First Class POs. All the rest of the little rascals decided to sleep in. Why turn out for just another Ensign even if he does look older than baseball?
We made it through that first cruise without too many problems. I did have to rescue Petty Officer Sundby and Petty Officer Solazzo, the leading shipfitter (welder), when they were caught stealing welding gas from the shipyard in Subic (aahh Subic). Because we were firing the guns so much sitting off the DMZ in Vietnam, lots of things were breaking around the ship from the shock of the recoil; and we were always running short of gas to weld every thing back together. Sundby and Solazzo saw their chance to replenish the repair shop at no expense to the Engineering Department budget which was pretty much gone too. Unfortunately, shipyard security stumbled across them as they were loading the ship’s truck to make their getaway. I was called to the quarterdeck shortly before sunrise where I had to sign my life away to take custody of the two desperados. If we had not been getting underway later that morning, the Provost Marshal might not have been so obliging. The shipyard was happy to get their gas back and all was forgiven. What I didn’t learn until we were well out to sea was that the S&S-gang had been caught on their FOURTH trip to the well that night. We had plenty of welding gas in the shop when we got back to the gunline.
Returning to Pearl Harbor in the spring of 1972, we became pretty much the “duty destroyer”. Because we were the only ship not in overhaul or upkeep, we were on a busy schedule as “services provider.” We would tow targets for others to shoot at or we would be a target for the submarine prospective COs to sneak up on or we would go to the gunnery range to train army spotters. We were underway early every Monday and returned to port late on Friday afternoon. It was during this time that the local media was awash with news of Japanese interests buying up large chunks of Honolulu, shopping centers and hotel complexes. I remember one blaring headline stating something to the effect that “What the Japs couldn’t do in 1941, they are trying to get done in 1972 with bushels of money.” There was considerable “public outrage” that we easily ignored.
Then one week we got to return to port before noon on Friday. Everyone was anticipating some early liberty until the XO closed the brow shortly after securing from sea detail. The ship had been chosen to host a group of Japanese industrialists on a Department of Defense tour of the U.S., returning home via Hawaii. They had asked to see a submarine, a surface ship AND the Arizona Memorial! What this meant to us was that the XO wanted all hands turned to cleaning the ship. I was no happier than my sailors, but I had my orders. I assembled the lads in the Repair Shop and told them we had to get all our spaces clean before there would be any liberty call. While they were “calmly” digesting this news, I went on to explain that there was going to be a group of Japanese industrialist onboard Saturday morning and that they were specifically looking for a ship to purchase for the Japanese Maritime Defense Force. If they liked what they saw, they might buy GOLDSBOROUGH, and we could all go home. This prompted several incredulous cries of “No shit, Mr. Newman!” When I assured them I had the inside scoop, they went to work on their spaces with a vengeance. Understanding that these guys rarely cleaned themselves, much less their work spaces; the results were nothing short of miraculous. Even the XO was impressed, and R-Division was among the first groups authorized to leave the ship that Friday afternoon.
Monday morning at quarters, everyone wanted to know what the Japs had said about the ship. I told them that, as I understood it, the Japs were VERY impressed, and they would most likely be making us an offer after they got back to Japan. My guys were all excited about the prospects of selling the ship and going home, and they asked me for updates almost daily. After several weeks, however, I finally had to confess that the Japs had changed their minds and decided to buy another hotel instead. The subject continued to come up for months. Even after Fast Ed Snyder relieved me as DCA and I became the ship’s navigator, I would run into one of the R-Division guys around the ship who would ask: “How much is the ol’ man asking for this bucket? Maybe we should offer the Japs a cash discount?” It was a great inside joke we shared right up to the day I detached.
Not long after the Japanese left town, we received a new Ensign onboard. He was Naval Academy and out for his blue-water cruise prior to reporting to flight school to become a helo pilot (rotorhead). He let us all know right away that he was just passing through on his way to much bigger and better things. In spite of this, he was a very likeable guy and seemed not to mind being called a rotorhead. The remarkable thing about this fellow was that he was vertically challenged. He must have just made the minimum height to be commissioned in the U.S. Navy. Underway, he could barely see over the bridge wings or out the pilothouse windows. He was a classic “sandblower.” None of us could image how he was going to be able to fly a helo without strapping blocks to his shoes to reach the pedals.
About the same time, we received a shipment of porcelain urinals. No one would confess to having ordered them, but the chief directed that they be installed in all the officer heads, starting with the Captain’s. Fireman Schriner was tasked with this significant assignment. Schriner was an excellent welder and pipefitter. When he finished the installation in the After Officers’ Head, I happened to be the first one to test the new urinal. It worked fine, and Schriner had disposed of the old metal one and had even cleaned up the area before he left! I was most pleased.
I did notice that the urinal was just a tad bit high, even for me at 6 feet 1 inch tall; but I didn’t worry about it until about ten minutes later. That’s when Rotorhead came busting in to my stateroom all red in the face and seriously up set. He was ranting and raving about being insulted and how he wasn’t going to take it. When he finally ran out of breath, I got him to tell me what the matter was. He demanded that I follow him down to the head. When we got there, I immediately understood the problem and bit my tongue trying not to laugh out loud. The new urinal hit Rotorhead about chest high. FN Schriner stood well over six-four, and he had measured the installation on himself which, unfortunately, left Rotorhead out of business, so to speak. Still biting my tongue, I assured Rotorhead that no one was trying to personally affront him; and that I would have the installation corrected as soon as possible.
Calling the Chief, I tried not to bring Rotorhead into the issue; but everyone in the R-Division Shop knew exactly what had happened. Choking back tears of laughter, the Chief promised he would get Schriner back up to After Officers first thing next morning. True to the Chief’s word, Schriner was hard at work, cutting and welding shortly after quarters. He worked all morning long and into the afternoon. Just after liberty call, I was in my stateroom doing paperwork when Rotorhead burst in all fired up once again.
I followed him back to the head as he ranted and raved all the way down the passageway. Schriner had done another beautiful job, even cleaning up the area. The urinal still hit Rotorhead about chest high, but NOW there was a set of metal steps that would fall down in front of the urinal when you depressed a foot pedal. When you were finished, you just lifted the steps up with your foot, and they locked in place neatly out of the way beneath the urinal. It was truly a masterful job.
Rotorhead’s next stop was at the XO’s stateroom to demand a change of berthing to Forward Officers’ Country!
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
Early in 1973, I was a dashing young Lieutenant (junior grade) serving in U.S.S. Goldsborough, a guided-missile destroyer deployed to the Western Pacific. We were ordered by Seventh Fleet from our gun-line station off Vietnam into Manila, The Philippines for liberty and to execute a change of command.
I had duty the last night in port and was standing watch on the quarterdeck as Officer-of-the-Deck from midnight to four in the morning. My watch team consisted of a third class gunner’s mate as Petty Officer of the Watch and a seaman as Messenger of the Watch. We were moored starboard side to pier number one in downtown Manila, just behind the Manila Hotel. All was quiet onboard. The old captain had departed and the new captain was safely in his cabin. The bulk of the liberty party was back on the ship, and those who were not would be dealt with by the next watch.
All was not quiet out on the pier, however. Pier One was a large wharf with a row of warehouses extending down its full length. We were the only ship on our side of the wharf, and a small coastal freighter was tied up across the foot of the pier. The freighter was dumping loose rice onto the pier where workmen were shoveling it into a line of trucks cycling up and down the wharf on the opposite side of the warehouses. On our side of the warehouses was an equally active cycle of rats moving up and down the pier with their own supply of rice.
When we assumed the watch, the tide was just starting to go out; and the ship was riding well above the pier. Over the next several hours, we found ourselves slipping lower and lower until we were actually standing below the level of the pier and the brow was at a steep up-angle.
From the beginning of the rice unloading operation, we had taken note of one larger-than-most rat that seemed to be very much in charge, King Rat. He never carried any rice, but would move up and down the line urging on the lesser rats. He took no notice of the three of us whatsoever, until the tide went out. Suddenly, King Rat walked over and looked DOWN at us! From where we stood, he looked as big as a large dog. He fixed us with his beady eyes, and we backed up against the steel bulkhead of the deckhouse only a few feet from the near end of the brow. Slowly, King Rat hoisted himself onto the far end of the brow and carefully began to move down toward us.
I was standing between the gunner’s mate and the seaman with my ceremonial long glass clutched like a baseball bat. King Rat made two more cautious steps in our direction when the night was shattered by the deafening report of a Navy-issue .45 caliber pistol fired right next to my left ear. King Rat was gone. His workforce was gone. All the Pilipino stevedores were gone. My head was spinning. The Petty Office of the Watch had drawn his sidearm, loaded it and dispatched the intruder before I could organize an effective defense of our position.
Within seconds, a wild-eyed Command Duty Office appeared on the quarterdeck wearing only his khaki trousers. I couldn’t hear a word he was saying, but it was obvious he was highly agitated. I tried my best to explain what had just happened and give credit to the gunner’s mate for saving the ship; but the CDO did not seem to buy it. He left in a huff. Just before we were relieved, enough of my hearing had return to allow the Petty Officer of the Watch to tell me that the CDO promised to see us both at Captain’s Mast later in the day.
After a power-nap between 04:00 and 06:00, I went to the Wardroom for breakfast. There I found my boss, the Chief Engineer, and the Weapons Office, who happened to be the CDO’s boss, in deep conversation. Finally, after many whispers and giggles from the senior end of the table, they showed me a message they had just drafted to Commander, Seventh Fleet. It was the standard ammunition expenditure report with the notation: “One round, .45 cal ball ammunition, expended in COMBAT.”
The young gunner’s mate and I never received the recognition we felt our heroism that night so richly deserved, but neither did we go to mast.
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
The old salts say that the two best ships in the Navy are your last ship and your next ship, but you never forget your first ship. My first ship was USS GOLDSBOROUGH (DDG 20), out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. She had something less than a stellar reputation within the Pineapple Fleet, and her sailors liked it that way. They spoke with pride of the day, in-port Pearl, when a torpedo was fired into the Navy Exchange Mobile Canteen. On liberty, GOLDSBOROUGH sailors had an attitude. They could bitch about the ship all day long; but let some sailor off another ship say one disparaging word, and all hell broke loose. GOLDSBOROUGH was, in many ways, a junkyard dog; and all who sailed in her loved her for it.
We often referred to our ship as DDG 20.5 because for several years, GOLDSBOROUGH was on a deployment rotation with USS COCHRANE (DDG 21). When one would come home from Vietnam, she would crossdeck all of her gun ammunition and spare parts, half her Gunner’s Mates and half her Boilermen to the other who then would leave for WestPac. GOLDSBOROUGH made seven cruises to Vietnam in the eight and one half years between November 1964 and May 1973. On her third cruise she fired over 10,000 rounds of Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) while avoiding over 800 rounds of hostile fire. I don’t know who was counting the incoming. The ship and its crew were awarded a Navy Unit Commendation. I was onboard for WestPac numbers six and seven between August 1971 and May 1973. On my second cruise, we also fired over 10,000 rounds of NGFS and were awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation. Nobody counted the hostile fire except for the one round that hit us the night of 19 December 1972.
Before the ship left on cruise, I had been relieved as DCA by Fast Ed Snyder and was designated to become the Navigator after ASW Air Controller School in San Diego. I was thrilled to be going to the mainland and missing the long transit to WestPac. However, about the time I got to my school, the news reported that Secretary of State Kissinger was in Paris negotiating with the North Vietnamese. I realized that peace could break out at any moment, and I still didn’t have any hero medals! As soon as the school was over, I dashed up to Travis AFB for a flight to the Philippines. From there, I hoped to get out to my ship on the gunline. At Travis, I fell in with a First Lieutenant of Marines with orders to be XO of the Marine Detachment in the carrier MIDWAY. We had all manner of adventures working our way across the Pacific, but that’s another story.
I was lowered onto the fantail of GOLDBOROUGH from a helo in early November. The ship had already been in several gun battles with North Vietnamese shore batteries because President Nixon had ordered a resumption of Linebacker Operations. These ops involved air and naval bombardment of targets in the north to encourage/pressure the Communist to negotiate in good faith at the Paris Peace Talks.
Relieving as Navigator, my General Quarters station was now on the bridge where I had a great view of all the goings on. During my first cruise, we had received only random fire from the beach and never had the chance to engage the shooter. Now we were conducting multi-ship raids along the coast of North Vietnam, and the enemy had all manner of gun emplacements defending the very same places we wanted to blow up. Our raids always took place at night. We would form up with one or more destroyers just before dark, steam north at high speed until we were abreast of our target. On signal, we would turn together toward the beach, charge in as close as we dared for fear of running aground, turn again parallel to the beach, unmasking all gun mounts, and cut our speed in half. All ships would fire on their designated target(s) and any shore batteries that might try to engage us, then declare victory and withdraw at high speed to deep water.
My first night raid, I was thrilled with the light show from the beach. The muzzle-flashes and tracers were as good as any Fourth of July spectacular. The next night, they started shooting as soon as we turned toward the beach; and we drove well into their range before we got to our next turn point. When the near-misses started to splash water on the pilothouse windows and shrapnel began to ping off the bulkheads, I suddenly realized these guys were trying to kill ME! I lost all concern for hero medals, and began to think maybe I would be better off with Fast Eddie down in DC Central where I had spent the first cruise. Then I learned that the snipes were listening to the concussion of the close-aboard shell bursts against the ship’s sides, BELOW the waterline. This was more adventure than I had bargained for, but we kept doing it almost every night.
On the evening of 19 December 1972, we left our holding area with the destroyers HOEL and SHELTON heading for an area further north than we had ever been before. Our targets were on a bay, and we would have to pass a small island at the entrance to the bay going in and coming out. The enemy gun emplacements were on that island. We slipped by them on the way in, but they were wide awake when we tried to slip back out. GOLDSBOROUGH was the closest ship to the island so the NVA gunners concentrated their fire on us. We had all four boilers on the line and were doing over thirty knots. Shells were splashing all around us, and the Captain kept ordering course changes to drive through the last splash. I never knew if that was standard procedure for such situations, but I would have preferred for him to just run a straight line and get us the hell out of there as fast as possible.
Suddenly, we heard a shell burst and felt a slight shudder through the deck. The report came up from weapons control that we had been hit in the after part of the ship around mount 52. Damage Control Central reported fires in the Repair III area but had lost communications with the repair locker. Repair V, in the center section of the ship, was sending investigators out to locate the damage and to assist Repair III as required.
After what seemed like an eternity, the picture started to clear up. We had been hit by a large caliber shell. It had struck the top of mount 52 and put a significant crease in the gun shield before it hit the deck just forward of the mount and exploded. A five foot hole was blown in the 0-1 level deck inflicting heavy damage to the after chiefs’ berthing compartment directly below. Tragically, the lounge area of that berthing was where the Repair III locker leader set up his command post. The explosion killed Senior Chief Hull Technician Donald A. Dix, BM1 Robert M. Dow, mortally wounded HT2 Gary L. Boyce and severely injured HT2 Gordon Sundby. Despite his wounds, Petty Officer Sundby rallied the surviving members of his repair locker and extinguished the fires and isolated the damaged electrical circuits with the help of Repair V.
As we continued to run south at full speed, a helo from one of the carriers came over to medivac Petty Officers Boyce and Sundby. With some dramatic airmanship, they were lifted up from the 0-1 level deck between mount 52 and the missile launcher. The pilot actually steadied himself by resting one of his main landing gear wheels on the damaged gun shield of MT-52. Petty Officer Boyce was taken on to the Air Force Hospital at Clark Field where he died of his wounds. Petty Officer Sundby stayed on the carrier where he met up with his brother and received his Purple Heart Medal from the Secretary of the Navy who happened to be passing by for a visit. He did eventually get back to the ship, and we were all happy to see him again. My good friend Jim Lloyd had the gruesome task of putting Senior Chief Dix and Petty Officer Dow into body-bags and storing them in the freezers. It was a long night for everyone.
As the sun was coming up, we entered Da Nang harbor and anchored. The HT’s welded a two-inch thick metal patch over the gapping hole in the 0-1 level aft, and we got under way again as soon as they finished. What we did not know was that on the same night we were hit, the Air Force lost a B-52 over Hanoi so we made the evening news back home. This caused much concern for many of our loved ones including my mother and my future bride, Miss Nancy Poteet. It would be over a week before I got ashore in Sasebo, Japan to call them and tell them I was unhurt.
We joined up with the destroyers RICHARD E. KRAUS and HENRY B. TUCKER after leaving Da Nang, and the three of us conducted more raids on the 21st and 22nd of December. Finally, on Christmas Eve, we detached and headed for the repair facility in Sasebo. That Christmas at sea was a sober and solemn occasion for all of us who were thankful just to be alive. We arrived in Sasebo on the 28th and stayed through the first week of January 1973. Several wives had flown out from Hawaii so New Year’s Eve was a most festive event at the Sasebo Officers’ Club, The Town Club. We almost lost Piggy Lloyd in a freak fire ax incident, but that’s another story.
By 11 January, we were back on station just north of the DMZ engaging targets along the coast. We resumed night raids on the 13th, 18th, 19th and 25th of January with the destroyers RATHBURNE and KING. On the afternoon of Saturday, 27 January, we were waiting in our holding area for nightfall when we would head north to re-strike the area where we had been hit on 19 December. The day was rainy and overcast, and everyone was quietly making preparations for the night’s work. I was on watch on the bridge when the Captain and XO came into the pilothouse and asked the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch to pipe “attention all hands” on the 1MC announcing system. The Captain then took the microphone and told us all that a cease fire had been agreed to in Paris, effective 08:00 Sunday, 28 January. Our raid for that night was cancelled, and we were to move out to sea and rendezvous with the carrier battle group.
I was over come with relief and joy. I truly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I tried my best not to do either until the Captain and XO had left the bridge, then the entire watch team did lots of both. Minutes later, the clouds literally parted; and we were treated to the most magnificent sunset I had ever seen before or since.
The war was essentially over for us after that. We had a change of command in Manila in February, went to Singapore and crossed The Line in March and then did some more NGFS in the Mekong Delta area (from anchor!). We went back to Japan in April and arrived in Pearl Harbor in May.
The ship’s crest for USS GOLDSBOROUGH was the family coat of arms from Rear Admiral Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough, a Union Navy hero. It showed a pelican sitting on a shield with the family motto on a scroll beneath, “Non Sibi.” A large, solid brass ship’s crest was mounted on the door to the Captain’s in-port cabin. It was the responsibility of the wardroom mess cooks to keep the crest highly polished, and they never failed in that duty. One morning many weeks after 19 December, the new CO, Commander (later Vice Admiral) Walter T. Piotti, came out of his cabin to find a mess cook hard at work on the crest. As it happened, this young sailor had reported aboard just before 19 December and had experienced everything. He greeted the Captain and requested permission to ask a question. Captain Piotti said, “Sure.” The sailor asked, “Does ‘Non Sibi’ really mean ‘no shit.’” The Captain gave him the only answer a GOLDSBOROGH sailor could ever give, “You bet your sweet ass it does!”
P.S. USS GOLDSBOROUGH had a long and illustrious career after I detached in July 1974. She was finally decommissioned and stricken from the naval record on 29 April 1993. She was sold to the Royal Australian Navy as a parts hulk for their fleet of guided missile destroyers.
Command Duty Officer
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
Returning to Pearl Harbor from my first WestPac cruise in U.S.S. GOLDSBOROGH (DDG20) the summer of 1972, we settled into a pleasant in- port routine. The Chief of Naval Operations had decreed that all ships would have a minimum of five in-port duty sections. After we finished our post-deployment leave and upkeep period, we managed to stretch ourselves into five sections. I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the Section Five Supper Club. We gave ourselves that name because the Supply Officer, himself, was our duty Supply Department representative; and he ensured we ate exceptionally well on our duty nights. Wild Bill Kreaser, the Weapons Officer, was our Command Duty Officer (CDO) and Lt. Dennis Daley, newly reported aboard, was the duty Weapons Officer. Ensign Rick Fruechtenicht, my roommate and the Comm Officer, was Duty Ops. I was duty Engineer. With three lieutenants and two ensigns, we were a little heavy; but we were also the best section.
Section 5 Supper Club enjoyed an active social life. On weekends, we could invite guests to join us for the evening meal in the wardroom. Only Kreaser and the Supp-O were married and we saw quite a bit of their wives and children. Occasionally, we bachelors would bring in a guest, normally a young lovely we had met on the beach and wanted to impress without spending the kind of money we would have had to spend in Waikiki. Whoever had a guest got to prescribe the uniform for evening meal. The married guys always picked khakis, but the bachelors invariably picked tropical whites.
Our Captain had been selected for promotion to Commander just before we came home from cruise. He and his wife planned a Wetting Down party at their quarters for the Saturday night before our duty day the following Sunday.
Everyone was in attendance at the Wetting Down, and a grand time was being had by all. Then Lt. Kreaser announced that he was ill and going to the Naval Hospital. That left the Supper Club without a leader. The Executive Officer and the Senior Watch Officer, who was the Operations Officer and a Lieutenant Commander, went into a corner to resolve this dilemma. Normally, you would expect the S.W.O. to throw himself into the breach and take the duty for Wild Bill. Maybe it was the time of night. Maybe it was the extent of wetting down that had been accomplished. For what ever reason, the XO and the S.W.O. decided to “let Newman do it.” They ran it past the Captain (who was seriously wetted down), and he concurred. What could possibly happen in Pearl Harbor on a Sunday? They then rounded me up and told me the good news. They also told me to go home and start sobering up for my awesome responsibilities in the morning.
Why me? I was a Fleet Ensign to be sure, but an Ensign nevertheless. I got tapped because I was the only other officer in the Supper Club who was a qualified Officer of the Deck (Underway). This ostensibly meant that I could take the ship to sea in an emergency (not very likely with only one fifth of the crew on board). The Supp-O was a staff officer and not qualified. Lt. Daley was a former PBR skipper in Viet Nam and a certified hero; but this was his first gray ship, and he had no underway qualifications. So I was it.
At 07:30, the Supper Club, minus Wild Bill, took over the ship. There were lots of comments about Ensign Newman getting a “battlefield” promotion to C.D.O. What it really meant was that I got to sit at the head of the table in the Wardroom, but the Lieutenants picked the movies to watch. It was a beautiful day in Pearl. Once we got past morning colors at 08:00 and no Japanese air planes appeared in the sky, I began to relax a little. At 08:30, I received a call from the XO, just checking on things. At 09:00, the Captain called, clearly concerned about his judgment the night before. From then on, all day long, one or the other called me every half hour to make sure I hadn’t done something outrageous like steaming the ship over to Maui. I could hardly leave the Wardroom for answering the phone!
Finally, just before ten at night, the Captain made his last call and told me he was going to bed. I was ready to stand down myself when suddenly an emergency announcement was made over the ship’s 1MC (public address system). The Base C.D.O. had driven down the pier alerting each ship’s quarterdeck watch that there was a fire on the base and he needed assistance. Our quarterdeck took action immediately and passed the following word:
FIRE IN THE WAVE BARRACKS! FIRE IN THE WAVE BARRACKS!
AWAY THE RESCUE AND ASSISTANCE DETAIL!!
I took off at a dead run down the starboard weather deck, trying to get to the quarterdeck and secure the brow before I lost my entire duty section. Petty Officer Sundby, the Duty Damage Controlman, got there first and was desperately fighting to hold back the flood of sailors rushing to render aid to the WAVES. The Rescue and Assistance Detail was a designated group of section personnel trained and equipped to go off to another ship or shore station to help with fires or flooding. On a good day, the entire detail was no more than eight men. This Sunday night, however, every sailor onboard grabbed whatever piece of equipment he could find that looked like firefighting gear (even life rings) and designated himself a first-responder.
When Petty Office Sundby and I finally got control of the quarterdeck, we estimated that we had no more than half of our section left on board. Sundby was beside himself with rage over the loss of so much equipment. I was beside myself with anxiety over how I was going to explain this to the Captain and XO. The WAVE Barracks was a WW II-era structure commonly referred to as a Splinter Barracks. It was just up the hill from our berth on Bravo Pier, and we could clearly see the fire burning. I could almost see my sailors comforting the now-homeless females watching the flames from across the street in various stages of undress because of their emergency evacuation. We later heard that someone even produced marshmallows for the event. Well past midnight, my duty section began to straggle back aboard, all with big grins on their faces but none with Sundby’s damage control equipage.
My first command and I had lost all control. I expected to be court-marshaled. I was on the quarterdeck before six a.m. to meet the XO and make a full confession. Just as I saw his car approaching his parking space, the duty radioman handed me a priority message from Commander, Naval Base, Pearl Harbor. As I read it, the weight of the world left my shoulders. The sun broke through the clouds. Birds began to sweetly sing. The Base Commander lavished praise on all the ships that responded so gallantly to the fire at the WAVE Barracks, even though the structure was a total loss. GOLDSBOROUGH was prominently listed among the heroes. The very best part of the message was the last line which authorized all ships to replenish their damage control lockers from the base supply center at NO charge. Petty Officer Sundby had a blank check and he used it.
The Wild Bills
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
My first ship, USS GOLDSBOROUGH, was not exactly a “ship of fools,” but she was a ship of characters. The first one I met, almost immediately upon reporting aboard, was the Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander “Wild” Bill Carlson. He had commanded a small amphib in Vietnam and wore a Command-at-Sea Star on the left side of his uniform, meaning he was not currently in command. I was unaware of this fine point of naval fashion, but I did know that our Captain was also a Lieutenant Commander. So for several days, I called Wild Bill “Captain” until the real Captain, LCDR Majors (Major Majors) made me stop. Wild Bill was a terror of an XO. Every morning at Officers’ Call, he would berate the Department Heads for some transgression. The Department Heads would, in turn, rack back the Division Officers; and we would try to figure out what we were supposed to do before we addressed our troops at Quarters.
We left Pearl the morning after I reported and were transiting westward in company with USS KNOX (FF1052). As we passed through each successive time zone, we would retard all clocks one hour to conform to the local time. The XO directed this to be done during the mid-watch, which meant the mid-watch standers had one less hour of watch, but everyone else had one less hour of sleep. When we crossed the international dateline, we lost a full day. Wild Bill set it up so we went from Saturday (a half workday at sea) to Monday. Months later, on our way home, he made it happen such that we repeated a Monday! He was a REAL XO.
Another great character was Lt. “Wild” Bill Kreaser, the Weapons Officer. He was a short, stout fellow and strong as a bull. He had been an enlisted gunner’s mate before the Navy sent him to college and awarded him a commission. Under all but the most extreme conditions, Wild Bill was jovial and fun loving. His only weakness was that he didn’t like to get out of bed once he went to sleep.
Wild Bill’s sleeping problem came to light while we were on station off Viet Nam in the fall of 1971. He was standing port and starboard watches as Gun Liaison Officer opposite my boss, Fat Frank Yusi, the Chief Engineer. Frank stood the midnight to 06:00 watch and had no patience, whatsoever, with Kreaser being late to relieve him. When Kreaser was late, Frank beat on the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch on the Bridge, whose responsibility it was to wake the on-coming watch standers in a timely manner for an orderly turnover at all stations. Unfortunately, the Messengers of the Watch, who did the actual waking, were afraid to disturb Mr. Kreaser. It was very much like poking a hibernating bear. To get around this problem, they would wake up his room mate, Piggy Lloyd and ask Mr. Lloyd to wake up Mr. Kreaser. This worked pretty well as long as Piggy was in his assigned bunk when it was time to relieve the watch.
The Weapons Officer’s stateroom was the aftermost stateroom in After Officers Country. My stateroom was the J.O. Bunkroom at the opposite end of the passageway. Very early one morning, I was just coming out of the bunkroom on my way to breakfast before my 06:00 to 12:00 bridge watch. In the darkened passageway, I could see the BMOW standing outside Kreaser’s stateroom. I knew Frank had been on him again for not getting Kreaser up to relieve him on time. Obviously, the Boatswain’s Mate had taken matters in his own hands and come down himself to wake Mr. Kreaser. But Piggy was not in his bunk. What would he do now? I stopped to watch.
The door to the stateroom was open and gently swinging in and out with the rolling of the ship. The Boats reached in and pulled out one of the aluminum desk chairs. He held it up over his head and waited for the next roll to open the door to its widest point. At just the right moment, he pitched the chair into the dark stateroom and took off running in the opposite direction. There was a huge crash as the chair ricocheted off the metal lockers and bulkheads. Then there was a blood-chilling roar from deep inside the bear’s lair followed by more crashing and banging as the bear attacked the offending chair. Finally, the bear himself appeared in the doorway with fragments of chair in both hands. He was swinging his head left and right searching the darkness for his attacker. I couldn’t help myself; I started laughing so hard I almost fell down. That’s when Kreaser saw me and came charging up the passageway. I knew my life was in jeopardy and made a hasty retreat from After Officers Country and lived to fight another day.
Back to Wild Bill Carlson, he was an inspiration to all of us junior officers because of his stamina. When we were in port Subic Bay, The Philippines (aahh, Subic), he would work all day doing his XO stuff; then he would take the Captain over to the main O-Club for dinner. After dinner and a few rounds of drinks in the bar, he would turn the Captain over to one of the department heads to take back to the ship. At this point, usually around 22:30 or 23:00, in civilian clothes, Wild Bill, by himself, would head for “The Vill’,” Olongapo City, just outside the Naval Station. His favorite bar, among the hundreds along the main drag, was a second floor establishment called, Marmont II, about half way down on the left side of the street. It was a charming little place with no band or dance floor. My pals and I had been in there a few times ourselves and had seen the XO holding court on his special stool at one end of the bar visiting with the “mamasan” and some of her local talent. We never stayed long, however. We had to make it back to the base before they closed the gates at midnight. Wild Bill didn’t worry about that. He’d be the first one in line next morning when the Marines opened the gate at 05:00, and the ship’s driver would be waiting to whisk him back to the ship before any of us even woke up. By 07:30, at Officers’ Call, the XO would be standing tall, tearing up the Department Heads at full speed. We couldn’t figure out how he did it. Years later, I learned the secret of power naps.
In 1977, I was a dashing young lieutenant waiting in Subic to report to USS DUBUQUE (LPD 8). After dinner at the O-Club, with nothing else to do, I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and see what had changed out in The Vill’ in the past three or four years. I knew they had finally paved Main Street. I ended up at the Marmont II and took a seat at the bar. Several of the talent approached me, but I convinced them I was not interested. Eventually, Mamasan came over to check me out. She asked me, “This you first time Subic-side?” I said, “No, Mamasan, I’ve been to Subic many times.” “I don’t tink so. I tink you cherry-boy,” she said. I said, “I’m no cherry-boy. I spent lots of time here in ’71 and ’72 and ’73 on my old ship.” “What sheep?” she asked. I told her I had been on the GOLDSBOROGH. “GOLS-BO-ROW!” she exclaimed. “You friend Bill?” With that, Mamasan kicked the guy sitting on the XO’s special stool off and gave it to me. I held court at the end of the bar for the rest of the evening BUT left just in time to make it through the gate before the Marines closed up for the night. “Friend Bill” would have been most disappointed in me, I am sure.
Jaguar XKE, A Love Story
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
Back in the olden days of the U. S. Naval Academy, midshipmen were not allowed to have cars until their first class (senior) year. (Today, they probably let Plebes drive.) Anyway, each year, banks from all over the country would compete for the opportunity to make car loans to the new firsties. These loans were very good deals for the midshipmen with low interest rates and long payback periods. They were good deals for the banks too because the borrowing midshipman had to execute an allotment to the bank for automatic monthly payments. As long as the borrower was not dismissed from the service or killed, the bank got their money first before anyone else. Even if the borrower did get killed, they still got their money because there was a term life policy included in the loan.
As a dashing young Midshipman First Class in the fall of 1970, I was desperate to get my car loan and purchase my dream car – a Jaguar XKE roadster. I could never afford a brand new one, but the dealership in College Park, Maryland hooked me up with a demonstrator. It was love at first sight. This had to be the most beautiful car ever made, and I looked so damn good driving it. All I had to do was commit to a thirty-year mortgage and it was mine.
I took delivery of my Jag the weekend before Thanksgiving. Sadly, I had to leave it at a friend’s place in Georgetown because I couldn’t take it into the Yard until Army-Navy weekend, one week later. It was such a beautiful car. It was not, however, the best car for someone like me who had zero mechanical skills. The afternoon I picked it up in College Park, I didn’t even know how to get it into reverse. I also didn’t know how to change the tires. That I learned one evening under the watchful eyes of the Marine guard at Nimitz Gate, U.S. Naval Station, Pearl Harbor; but I am getting ahead of my story.
I drove the Jag home at Christmas and back to Annapolis pretty much without incident. After graduation, I drove back to Texas, and the Jag and I spent some time in Houston impressing Miss Nancy Poteet. That’s another story. Then I was off to Philadelphia for Damage Control School, enroute to my first ship, USS CONNOLE, a new-construction frigate. I did have a little trouble on that trip because the alternator failed and left me stranded at my Uncle’s plantation in Metcalf, Mississippi. No one ever told me to put water in the battery! I had to order a part sent down from Memphis, and Uncle Eddie’s tractor mechanic installed it.
While at Damage Control School, my orders were changed from CONNOLE to USS WILLIAM M. WOOD, an old FRAM destroyer returning to Norfolk from a Mediterranean Deployment and going into the shipyard. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Then one day, the Ensign who sat next to me was called out of class for a phone call from the Initial Assignment Desk at BUPERS. He came back most distressed. He was an NROTC graduate of Penn State, married to a nurse, with orders to the destroyer tender in Pearl Harbor, USS BRYCE CANYON. They planned to spend three years in paradise then leave the Navy and return home to Pennsylvania. Now BUPERS wanted him to go to Vietnam in USS GOLDSBOROUGH (DDG-20), and they wanted him to go in less than a week! I knew I would have much more fun in WestPac than in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. I told Penn State I would take his orders if he would take charge of my Jag and have it waiting for me in Pearl when I got back. He and his bride were thrilled, and BUPERS really didn’t care as long as somebody showed up on GOLDSBOROUGH before she sailed. I gave him the keys to the Jag and flew out to Hawaii two days later.
After several ceremonial mai-tais with Classmate A.J. Whittle, Gunnery Officer in GOLDSBOROUGH, we left the next morning for high adventure in the Western Pacific. I was having so much fun, I didn’t think about my beautiful car for several months into the cruise. Then one mail call, I received a letter from another classmate, Tony “Speed of Heat” Callahan. He wrote to tell me he would be in Pearl for some period of time and wanted to get together. I wrote back and told him I wouldn’t be in Pearl for many more months; but that if he needed a car, he could go to BRYCE CANYON and get the Jag from their Damage Control Assistant. Why I did this I am still trying to figure out today, but I did. When we stopped in Japan on our way home, I got a letter from Penn State saying that Classmate Callahan had, many weeks earlier, picked up the Jag and never brought it back!
Crisis! I remembered someone telling me that yet another classmate was in Pearl, assigned to the Naval Station Staff. I mailed a reply to Penn State just before we left Japan for Hawaii and asked him to check with NavSta Pearl for an Ensign Setzer, AKA Chucky Fubar Setzer. If he could not find him or the car, I told him to swear out a warrant for Callahan, grand thief Jaguar. For the several days transiting across the North Pacific, I had nothing to do but worry about my Jag. Of course my good friends in the Ward Room were nothing but sympathetic and supportive with comments such as: “How could you be so stupid!” and “Don’t you know better than to trust a Classmate?” By the time we arrived in homeport, I was sick with worry.
Being a bachelor, I was given duty the first day in port. I even got the first watch on the quarterdeck. All the families were on the pier waiting for us, but there was no sign of my Jag. After the ship was secured and the married men left with their loved ones, things started to calm down. Still there was no sign of my car. Not only did I not have any loved one greeting me, I didn’t even have my beautiful car. I was beginning to get rather morose.
The lucky bachelors who didn’t have first day duty had to go over to Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor to reclaim their cars from storage. They had to take jumper cables and tire pumps and even extra batteries to try to get their cars started after eight months. Several of my wardroom “friends” in shorts and aloha shirts had assembled on the quarterdeck with all their equipment prior to heading off to Ford Island. They were still harassing me about loosing my car. Suddenly, out on the pier, the most beautiful car ever made zoomed up to the end of the brow. My Jaguar was all shinny bright, the top was down and perfectly stowed, and a gorgeous blond was behind the wheel. She slipped out of the car with a pair of significantly long, tanned legs and bounded up the brow directly toward me! My wardroom “friends” just stood there entranced with their mouths hanging open as she placed a flower lei around my neck, kissed me on both cheeks, gave me the keys then danced back down the brow to her waiting husband, Penn State. Life was good.
When my wardroom “friends” finally regained their composure, they pounced on me demanding to know who SHE was, how did I know her, could they have her phone number, and could they borrow my car to go to Ford Island? I just grinned and told them how sorry I was, but that I had learned my lesson. I could never again loan my Jag to any one, especially not a bunch of shipmates. That would be almost as bad as loaning it to a Classmate!
Hong Kong Liberty
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
My first time in Hong Kong was as a dashing young Ensign serving in USS GOLDSBOROUGH, a guided-missile destroyer out of Pearl Harbor. We went up to the then-Crown Colony from our gunline station off the D.M.Z. between North and South Vietnam. We were four months into what turned out to be an eight-month deployment to the Western Pacific, and this was our first liberty port.
Arriving on a cold, gray morning in February, we moored to a buoy off the Royal Navy’s Fleet Landing. I was convinced this was the coolest, most exotic thing I had ever done and, like everyone else onboard, could hardly wait to get ashore. We were there for five days and four nights, and I had shore leave the entire time. This phenomenal set of circumstance came about because the only other ensign in the Engineering Department at the time had family in the Philippines and wanted to trade his duty days in Subic Bay, where we went for upkeep, for my duty in a future port to be named. I collected in Hong Kong!
My fellow junior officers and I went everywhere and did everything tourists were supposed to do in Hong Kong and then some. We even took the train up to the border between the New Territories and Communist China to look into that mysterious country, from a safe distance, of course.
Several of the wardroom wives had flown out from Hawaii to be with their husbands. The last night in port, two other officers and I were invited by our department heads and their wives to dinner at their hotel on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong, across the harbor from Victoria Island and Fleet Landing. We had a grand time at dinner, and the general frivolity spilled over into the hotel bar for several hours. When the three of us were finally dismissed to go “bock sheep,” we stepped out onto the deserted streets of Kowloon and began our biggest adventure yet in Hong Kong.
We had no idea what time of morning it was and didn’t really care, until we walked down to the Star Ferry Terminal to catch the boat over to Victoria and a cab to Fleet Landing. The terminal was closed and locked, and we were getting cold and wet standing on the quay looking out across the black waters of Hong Kong harbor. We could just make out the up-and-over friendship lights on GOLDSBOROUGH, several miles away. By now, we were mostly sober and beginning to recognize the fix we were in. Spending the rest of the night on that quay wall was not a pleasant prospect.
Suddenly, Piggy Lloyd, our Disbursing Officer, said something about finding us a ride home and disappeared down a slippery stone stairway leading to a narrow ledge just above the level of the water. Rick Fruechtenicht, the Communications Officer, and I followed as quickly as we could without falling into the harbor. All along the ledge were hundreds of Chinese bum boats of every size and shape tied to the quay and to each other. Piggy found one with an old Chinese gentleman sitting in the cold night air smoking his pipe under a kerosene lantern hanging from a pole at the stern of his boat. In Pidgin English (with an Alabama accent) and much hand gesturing, Piggy conveyed to the ancient mariner that we three Naval Officers needed him to take us across the harbor to our ship. When he agreed, we tumbled into the boat and prepared to shove off.
As we pushed away from the Kowloon Quay, it became obvious that this craft was not motorized. This was a classic “wala-wala,” no bigger than a king-size bed and roughly the same shape. Our skipper stood in the stern with a large oar and propelled us out into the darkness of the harbor. No one spoke, but we were all thinking the same thing: “If I get out of this alive, I’ll never drink again!” Suddenly a tiny, little Chinese girl popped out of the shelter in the bow of the boat. She was probably the old man’s granddaughter, awaken by the movement of her home. The old man barked at her in Chinese, and she disappeared back into the shelter. A few seconds later, she reappeared with three very large bottles of Chinese BEER! The rest of our mid-night, harbor cruise went a lot easier with refreshments. We didn’t even get too excited when we were almost run down by a huge containership leaving port and building speed for the open ocean.
Coming along side GOLDSBOROUGH out of the darkness, we must have made a remarkable sight: three ensigns in dress blues lounging in the stern sheets of a wala-wala, drinking Chinese Beer. The Chief Petty Officer standing watch on the quarterdeck as we made the starboard accommodation ladder just shook his head and walked away. I am sure he’d seen it all before.
Between the three of us, we had over two hundred dollars U.S. in Hong Kong currency. We gave all of it to the old boatman who had saved us from a hard night at the Star Ferry Terminal and certain ridicule from the entire wardroom. He enjoyed a windfall profit for his efforts, and we had a fantastic tale to embellish for the rest of the cruise.
The Ceremony of the Flame
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
As the Damage Control Assistant in USS GOLDSBOROGH (DDG 20), I was part of the Engineering Department. Fat Frank Yusi (who was not really fat, just an ex-athlete) was the Chief Engineer and my Department Head. He had been a gunnery officer and then a river patrol boat skipper (a certified hero) in Vietnam. When he decided to stay in the Navy, he opted to be a Chief Engineer; and the Navy was thrilled to give him his first choice. Although he rated two more division officers, a Main Propulsion Assistant and an Electrical Officer, in August 1971, Frank only had me. Fortunately, Master Chief Machinist Mate Yates (meanest man alive) was in absolute control of the main engines and Senior Chief Boilerman Temple (a true gentleman) was an expert on the automated boiler control system and oversaw the firerooms.
GOLDSBOROUGH had a 1200 psi main propulsion steam system. There was a fireroom-engineroom complex forward that powered one shaft and propeller and another fireroom-engineroom complex aft driving the other shaft and propeller. Each fireroom had two boilers. Normal steaming configuration underway was “split plant” with one boiler in each fireroom feeding its associated engineroom, main engine and electric generators. The forward plant and the after plant operated independently of each other unless there was a casualty. Then the two plants could be “cross-connected” with one fireroom providing steam to both enginerooms. Likewise, the electrical system could be configured such that one set of generators could power the entire ship from one engineroom.
The boilers were always a concern because of their ultra-high pressure. The old style boilers, which I had studied at the Academy, were only 600 psi and much more forgiving. Unfortunately, almost none of the BTs had been sufficiently trained on the new systems, except for Senior Chief Temple. Another concern was the pressurized fuel system for the 1200-pound boilers. GOLDSBOROUGH had been converted from the old, heavy black oil to Naval Distillate, essentially diesel fuel. This more highly volatile fuel was fed to the boiler at 2000 psi. Any leaks in the fuel service system could mean instant disaster for the Boilermen.
We were always under complement on BT’s (Boilermen) and MM’s (Machinist Mates) so underway they stood port and starboard watches in the main spaces, six hours on and six hours off. The men in my division, Repair Division, were considered “fresh air snipes”, meaning they did not stand watch in the firerooms or enginerooms, except for the Electrician’s Mates who stood switchboard watches in the enginerooms. Since I stood bridge watches, I was a fresh air snipe, as well. I didn’t mind this at all and, in fact, avoided the main spaces, especially the firerooms, as much as I could.
Unfortunately, Fat Frank had read somewhere in his training to be a Chief Engineer that an officer must be on deck in the fireroom when a boiler was being lit off. I was sure this rule had been in effect for the Great White Fleet but was in no way relevant to us. Frank did not agree. Since he and I were standing port and starboard watches in Weapons Control and on the bridge, respectively, whoever was off watch got to go to the fireroom to observe light off. The boilers were rotated every so many steaming hours which worked out to about every third day. Because we were steaming split plant, there was a boiler always on the line in both the forward and the after firerooms. Therefore, almost every other night, they were swapping boilers in one plant or the other; and they always did it on the midwatch. Guess who was off watch between midnight and 06:00? Yes, that would be Ensign Newman. I’d be just crawling into my bunk after six hours standing on the bridge in the dark with two pounds of binoculars hanging around my neck, when Fat Frank would call me from CIC to tell me my presence was requested in the forward or after fireroom. I would whine, “Oh Frank, don’t make me go back down there! It is SO hot down there, and those people are SO ugly!” His response was always the same, totally unsympathetic and highly profane.
Of the two firerooms, light off in the forward space was much more interesting. Looking back over so many years, I must admit it was also much less safe. This area was the domain of BT1 Cullen, a giant Buddha of a man who never left the bench behind the boiler control console on the lower level.
On my way down to Cullen’s light off, I had to first descend a vertical ladder from the main deck to the upper level of the fireroom. The unbelievable heat and humidity and noise that engulfed you as you stepped out onto the upper level convinced you that you were in Hell. There was only one light burning on the upper level at the water check-man’s station. Here the check-man was supposed to monitor the water level in the steam drum. If it was going low, he was to turn a huge valve wheel to add more water before the boiler started to melt down and explode. If it was going high, he was to quickly close the valve before any water droplets could be carried over to the engineroom and into the main turbine, destroying the blading and sending shrapnel throughout the space. On a 1200-pound boiler, this crucial function was performed by the automatic boiler control systems and was essentially impossible to be safely done manually. But the check-man was there just in case. I would pause on the upper level, illuminated by the single light bulb, and wait for the check-man to emerge from the shadows, beneath a ventilation blower, and clear me on to the lower level. He was stripped to the waste, soaked in sweat and oil, with a bandana tied around his head. Squinting in the light, he would give me the “high sign” to proceed on down before he slid back into the shadows and under his blower.
On the lower level, I would be greeted by BT1 Cullen, himself, “Good Morning, Mister New-man.” He never stood. I am not sure he could actually lift his tremendous mass off the bench behind the console board. I think the younger BTs brought him food and water at the console around the clock. He would then ask me the same question each time, “Are you ready to light fires, Mr. New-man?” I would always respond in the same way, “What the hell do you mean ‘am I ready’, BT1? Are YOU ready to light fires?!” Then Cullen and all his little BTs would die laughing. It was all part of the routine.
Seated at the console, BT1 wore a dirty undershirt and was drenched in sweat. The burnerman, the messenger and usually one or two additional firemen were in the firing aisle between the boiler fronts. They were stripped to the waste, soaked in sweat, streaked with oil, with bandanas around their heads. Looking like a bunch of pirates, they were grinning with anticipation. It was time for the “ceremony of the flame.”
Every man who worked in the fireroom smoked something. However, none were allowed to have spark-producing materials on his person. This was not a safety issue. This was BT1’s management technique. He would send a fireman off to clean something or repack a valve. When the job was complete, the fireman would come to Cullen for a light. Cullen would inspect the work; and if he found it to be satisfactory, the fireman got a light for his smoke (I don’t think Harvard Business School knows about this unique tool of quality control).
For the “ceremony of the flame”, the young BTs would all gather ‘round the console. The burnerman would present the torch to BT1 who would ever-so- slowly pull the ceremonial Zippo out of this dungaree trouser pocket. He would hold the lighter up for all to see, and the BTs would start to quiver and squeal with excitement. I would start to ease over closer to the exit ladder. BT1 would strike the Zippo and light the torch. The BTs would all lurch back away from the flame, grunting and covering their eyes from the light. The burnerman would then shove the torch through the torch-hole into the firebox while another man cut in the 2000 psi fuel oil. Sometimes they got this out of order, and there would be a nice explosion inside the firebox blowing the torch back out into the firing aisle! Everyone (except me) loved that part.
With his band of merry men cheering and cavorting wildly, BT1 Cullen would then report over the intercom to Main Control, “Fires lit, One Alpha boiler.” I’d be back on the main deck before he could get all the words out of his mouth.
For what these guys did and for the conditions under which they did it, you had to love ‘m. I certainly did. Through two WestPac cruises, between August 1971 and May 1973, they never missed an underway time and answered every bell.
They were truly magnificent.
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
In the fall of 1971, I was a dashing young Ensign on my first WestPac cruise in U.S.S. GOLDSBOROUGH (DDG-20). We were assigned a naval gunfire support (NGFS) station just off the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Vietnam. We answered calls-for-fire from an ARVN (Army of Viet Nam) artillery base with USMC advisors a few miles below the DMZ. During periods of darkness and low visibility, we would be asked to fire harassment and interdiction (H & I) missions along the DMZ to prevent infiltration by the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) into the area around the fire base. On rare occasions, we would get a mission involving actual live targets. This routine went on day after day for two to three weeks, then we’d head out to sea and rendezvous with the supply ships for four to six hours of refueling, replenishment and re-arming. Sometimes we’d even get mail. Then it was back to the gunline. The Marines always said they missed us while we were “out shopping.”
We were told we got this choice assignment on the DMZ because we were armed with an anti-aircraft guided missile system (the “G” in DDG-20) and could defend ourselves if the North Vietnamese MIGS came out to challenge our presence so close to their territory. As far as I knew they never had, but we liked to listen to the aviators reporting MIG activity on the air distress radio frequency. It made us feel like we were a part of the war effort. A better reason for putting us on this particular station probably was that we had two gun mounts for more firepower and redundancy. Anyway, the only other option was carrier escort duty which no one wanted! Following the bird-farm around all day and night, trying not to get run over or steaming directly behind the carrier as plane guard with the returning air craft dumping jet fuel on us as they approached the fight deck was no fun at all. So we enjoyed the gunline and lived for any break in routine.
To man all the gunnery and fire control stations, the officers were standing port and starboard (six hours on, six hours off) watches on the bridge and in the Combat Information Center/Gun Control. As one of the newest Ensigns on board and an Engineering Department Officer, I was assigned as Junior Officer of the Deck on the bridge for the 06-12:00 and the 18-24:00 watches. My boss, the Chief Engineer, was assigned Gun Liaison Officer on the opposite six hours. This meant that as I was getting off watch at mid-night, he was coming on watch and often had some critical departmental business for me to attend to before going to bed; but that’s another story. The morning watches were usually pretty interesting because we would get calls for fire, and every thing would swing into action. The evening watches were much less so because all we did was H & I. Plus, we also suspended gunfire between 20:00 and 22:00 so we could show the nightly movies. This brief respite in the war allowed the Marines and the NVA to show their movies as well.
It was on one of my evening watches that we experienced a close encounter of the strangest sort. We were drifting in our station box, a few hundred yards off the beach, waiting for the movie to be over so we could do some more H & I. The night was totally black, no moon or stars, with a dense fog surrounding us. The Officer of the Deck, our navigator and a Lieutenant (Junior Grade), was trying unsuccessfully to stay awake wedged in the front, port corner of the pilothouse. With nothing else to do, I was staring at the surface search radar. After some period of time, I began to notice small, intermittent radar returns west of the ship, toward the beach, moving slowly out to us. I started marking these returns on the scope with a grease pencil, and a definite pattern developed. There were four or more lines of very small contacts gradually approaching the ship across an arc of thirty degrees.
We had earlier received intelligence that the North Vietnamese were attempting to supply the Viet Cong by floating bags of rice and other stores into the beaches of South Vietnam from seaward. This didn’t work too well because the Operation Market Time ships (USN and USCG) off South Vietnam would find the bags and sink them with small arms fire. North Vietnam then escalated the action by attaching explosive devices to some of the bags, hoping to damage our ships. We were warned to be on the look out for these floating mines.
After tracking the mysterious contacts coming out from the beach, I decided I had better share my information with the O.O.D. I woke him up and showed him my radar picture. He didn’t believe me at first; but after several minutes, he agreed it looked as if we were about to be surrounded by these little contacts. Lucky for us the movie had just let out, and the Captain and Executive Officer came up to shoot. The O.O.D. called them over to my radar scope and rather excitedly began to explain that “we” had been tracking these contacts for over half an hour. The weapons officer, Wild Bill Kreaser, was called out from C.I.C. to look at my radar. I was unceremoniously pushed into the background as the ship’s Brain Trust analyzed the situation. In very short order, it was decided that we were under attack by enemy swimmers, trying to attach deadly mines to our hull! That made as much sense as my theory of floating bags of rice.
What the evil sappers did not know was that we had a secret weapon, two in fact. On board were two South Vietnamese Navy midshipmen out for their “deep water” cruise before being assigned to their riverine force in the Mekong Delta. They were not, however, enjoying the experience. One suffered terminal seasickness and could not leave his bunk. The other never left the Wardroom where he ate everything in sight. That’s the one who was called to the Bridge.
The plan as laid out by the Captain and Wild Bill was to man all the machine guns on the bridge wings and the signal bridge, one level up, two .30 calibers and two .50 calibers. Additional gunner’s mates with rifles were stationed on the signal bridge. The two leading signalmen would handle the signal/search lights on either side of the bridge with the red night filters removed. The Vietnamese Midshipman would hail the swimmers in their native tongue and order them to “surrender or be fired upon.” I was ordered to take the deck log and record all that happened “as it happened.”
When everything and everyone was in place, the port bridge wing was overly crowded with one Vietnamese Midshipman (looking for something to eat), C.O. and X.O., the O.O.D., Wild Bill, one machine gunner, the Chief Signalman and me and my logbook. We were armed to the teeth and would have surely made a fiercesome sight had it not been so totally black. We all wore battle helmets and flack jackets. I even had on my dress sword.
The Captain ordered the Midshipman to hail the swimmers. He did, but there was no response. The Captain repeated his order. The Midshipman called out again to no avail. Finally, the Captain told the Midshipman to tell the swimmers, “This is your last warning; you must identify yourselves or be fired upon.” We all took deep breaths. The gunners chambered rounds in their weapons. When there was still no response from the swimmers, the Captain directed the Chief to “hit ‘em with the light.” The Chief did and one million candle-power white light shot out into the darkness, hit the fog all around us and flashed back into our own eyes!
Confusion reigned. Everyone screamed at the Chief to turn off the light. We were all blinded and bumping into one another. Helmets hit the deck and rolled about our feet. Gun barrels swung around wildly. The bridge wing was abandoned for the safety of the pilothouse. The Captain went to his chair and pouted. Wild Bill went back to C.I.C., dejected. All the gunner’s mates and signalmen stood down. I don’t know where the Midshipman ended up-probably back in the Wardroom. I was writing as fast as I could until the X.O. snatched the logbook out of my hands and gave it back to the Quartermaster. No one dared to speak for the next half hour. At last, the Captain sprang out of his chair and headed off the bridge growling, “Let’s go do some H & I.” It did occur to me sometime later that we had not been blown up.
For the rest of my watch and most of the next, the ship fired H & I with a vengeance. When I returned to the bridge for the 06-12:00, all was quiet. Below me on the fo’c’s’le, a gunner’s mate was policing the area around mount 51. He was collecting 5”/54 cal. brass shell casings from the multitude of rounds fired during the night and pitching them over the side. When he finished, there were hundreds of empty casing bobbing up and down in the waves all around the ship. They floated vertically with 6 to 10 inches of metal showing above the water. Ever so slowly, they seemed to gather themselves together and start marching toward the beach on the morning flood tide. Suddenly in a flash of oceanographic brilliance, I surmised that many of these same little brass casings would return with the next ebb tide – just in time for some eager/bored watch-stander to track them on the radar, once again attacking my ship!
Discretion being the better part of valor, I opted not to share this revelation with the Brain Trust.
The Battle of the Chuckwagon
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
One of my earliest adventures in the United States Navy took place in the Philippines at the Naval Station Subic Bay O-Club Annex, the Chuckwagon. For those who never enjoyed the “coldest beer in WestPac,” the Chuckwagon was two Quonset huts joined across the back by a kitchen facility and a passageway full of slot machines. One of the Quonsets was a steak house restaurant. The other was strictly for drinking.
It was in the drinking side late one afternoon in the fall of 1971, that all the junior officers off USS GOLDSBOROUGH (DDG20) were assembled, getting ready for happy hour. Also there was a group of Warrant Officers off a fleet oiler who had been getting ready for happy hour since before lunch. Shortly after 16:00, two Lieutenants of Marines came in and sat next to the door. They were greeted with hoots from all us salty Navy types, and a pitcher of milk was sent to their table by the Warrants. The Marines finished their beers and left to a chorus of more hoots and catcalls.
Unbeknownst to most of us was that the Marine Barracks was located just across the side street from the Chuckwagon. A short time later, I noticed a platoon of Marines formed up in the street in three ranks, facing the Chuckwagon. They were dressed in boots, utility trousers and skivie shirts; and the two milk-drinking lieutenants seemed to be giving them special instructions. Pretty soon, everyone inside the Quonset hut was looking out and laughing at the Marines until the Lieutenants gave the command to charge! The three ranks ran in formation to the near side of the Quonset, scampered up and over, reformed on the other side, charged back over the top and off to their barracks.
Inside the Chuckwagon, all hell broke loose. Thirty-some-odd years of dirt, spiders, geckoes and paint chips came raining down on our heads, down the backs of our shirts and into our beer mugs as the Marines traversed our shelter. We all reached the same conclusion at exactly the same time…abandon ship! One very large Warrant Boatswain knocked down the only exit door, and we spilled out into the parking lot where we collapsed in a khaki heap. Before we could regain our officer-like composer, the two Lieutenants walked casually through our mess, pouring milk on us all.
Having been so totally humiliated and professionally embarrassed, there was only one thing left for us to do. We re-grouped, captured the two Marines and took them back inside the Chuckwagon for all the beer they could drink for the rest of the night!
By Captain M. W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
My first ship was USS GOLDSBOROUGH, a guided missile destroyer homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I was extremely excited when I finally reported aboard the evening before the ship was to leave for a deployment to Viet Nam. It was late August 1971 and I had flown all day long from Philadelphia, across a major portion of the globe, to get there. Just being in Pearl Harbor within sight of the ARIZONA Memorial was a thrill.
We left Pearl in company with USS KNOX (DE 1052) and stopped at Midway Island a few days later for fuel. I knew all about the Battle of Midway from the required Seapower course at the academy, and I kept an eye out for Japanese dive bombers the entire time we were there.
The second day out of Midway, I was on the bridge as Junior Officer of the Deck for the 08:00 to 12:00 morning watch. The rest of the ship was at quarters when the Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch got a call asking him to pass the word for a fireman who had not made it to muster. A short time later, he got another call asking him to pass the word again. Not long after that, the XO, the Chief Master-at-Arms and Senior Chief Boilerman Temple came to the bridge to tell the Captain that they were unable to find the missing fireman. He had gotten off watch in the forward fireroom at midnight but failed to report for the 06-12 watch. He was not in his bunk, and no one had seen him. It was now almost nine o’clock in the morning.
The Captain ordered the OOD to sound General Quarters. Once everyone was up and on his battle station, if the fireman was still missing, the MAA and Senior Chief Temple would conduct another search. The ship went to General Quarters, and I went to Damage Control Central, my battle station. I directed all three of my repair lockers to send out investigators to search their areas of responsibility for the missing fireman. As they each made negative reports in turn, I passed the news to Main Control and to the Bridge. All the other control stations were doing the same thing. After almost two hours and no sign of the fireman, we secured from GQ; and I reported back to the Bridge.
The CO and XO were discussing reversing our course and starting a search for a man overboard. Just then, the MAA and Senior Chief Temple stepped into the pilothouse with the wayward fireman in tow. The poor fellow was just about the saddest sack I had ever seen. He was a short young man, with a dark complexion, a round, flat face and straight black hair. He wasn’t oriental and he wasn’t Hispanic. He was wearing a pair of over-large, dirty fireroom coveralls; and the MAA had him by the collar like a bag of potatoes. The Captain pounced on the poor soul and started lunging at him about how many valuable man-hours had been wasted looking for his sorry ass. The kid just hung his head in shame.
I then noticed the two chiefs’ expressions. They both looked like they were in great pain. I couldn’t tell if they were about to cry or laugh out loud. When the Captain finally ran out of breath, he turned to the MAA and demanded, “Where did you find him?” The MAA literally burst out, “He was on the reefer deck!” (where all the frozen food was stored). “The reefer deck?” the Captain shouted incredulously, “What the hell was he doing there!” At that point, Senior Chief Temple lost it. He blurted out, “He’s a damn Eskimo, Captain. He just got home sick!” The Captain and XO looked at each other and then turned beet-red chocking back the laughter. The Captain waved the two chiefs and the fireman out of the pilothouse while he and the XO escaped to the starboard bridge wing. As soon as they got outside, they doubled over with laughter.
The entire bridge watch laughed ‘til we cried. When order was finally restored and the CO and XO had gone below, a sage Boatswain’s Mate of the Watch, wise in the ways of the Navy beyond his years of service, blamed the whole thing on Boot Camp. He explained to us officers that at some point during Boot Camp, each sailor has to visit with the classifiers who determine what rating path he will pursue. The classifiers establish who is going to be a cook, who will be a gunner’s mate and who will be a snipe (an engineer). According to the “Boats”, some smartass classifier took one look at this poor recruit from Alaska, assumed he’d been freezing his butt off for eighteen years, and decided to make him a Boilerman so he could warm up in the 100+ degree firerooms.
We all had to agree the logic was irrefutable.
Payday in the Fleet
By Captain M.W. Newman '71, USN (Ret.)
The Disbursing Officer for USS GOLDSBOROUGH in 1971 was none other than Lieutenant (junior grade) Jim Lloyd, one of my first friends onboard. He broke out of the four-man, JO bunkroom (located directly above 2B boiler in the after fireroom) shortly after I moved in. He went just down the passageway in After Officers’ Country into the upper bunk of the Weapons Officer’s stateroom, home of Wild Bill Kreaser; but that’s another story.
As Disbursing Officer, Mr. Lloyd (also know as Piggy) never felt he got the respect he deserved. Twice a month, the 15th and the 30th, he and his team of dedicated Disbursing Clerks would pay the crew, the chiefs and the officers. It was not an easy task, by any means. In those days, everyone was paid in cash unless you specifically requested a check. A few days before payday, Piggy and his First Class DK would go to the Bank of Hawaii, Nimitz Highway Branch, and draw several large brief cases full of cash money. Wild Bill would send a couple of Petty Officers from the Nuclear Weapons Security Force, under arms, along as security. He would also issue Piggy a .45 caliber pistol, but no bullets; and Piggy had to keep it in the brief case.
The actual paying was always hectic, especially on the mess deck. The crowd was totally unruly. No one stayed in line. Everyone was pushing and yelling and protesting the amount of money he was being paid, or not being paid. Those sailors who had had their pay reduced at Captain’s Mast where trying to get it reinstated by re-arguing their cases with Mr. Lloyd. Those who had executed allotments to wives and/or sweethearts back in the states where trying to renege on their commitments. The Master-at-Arms force was supposed to maintain order, but they failed miserably. At least once during every payday, Piggy would lose it and slam his unloaded .45 on the table and demand silence on the Mess Deck! Somehow, Piggy and his crew managed to get us all paid and never lost a penny; but the process took a heavy toll on my friend. A few rounds at the O-Club usually got his spirits back.
In early September, we arrived at the U.S. Naval Base, Subic Bay, The Philippines…ah, Subic. Piggy and I were at our sea detail stations which were topside with our divisions for entering port. This was the first time either of us had been in a foreign port as naval officers so we were pretty excited, taking in all the exotic sights and sounds (and smells). We had been assigned a berth in the shipyard, outboard of an Australian destroyer, HMAS PERTH. She was a guided missile destroyer just like GOLDSBOROUGH, built for the Aussies in the United States as part of the CHARLES F. ADAMS CLASS of DDGs.
As we came along side PERTH, Piggy wandered back to my R-Division formation (Piggy never could stay put in one place for very long). We were all admiring the Australian ship. She had just been painted out by the yard and was sparkling clean. Her crew was just as impressive. The Aussies were running around in sandals, shorts and no shirts or hats. They all looked healthy and athletic. Even their snipes, in somewhat dirty WHITE coveralls, looked healthy, just less tanned.
My guys started pestering me about why they couldn’t wear sandals and shorts and no shirts. We were properly dressed out in steel-toed safety shoes, long trousers and long-sleeve shirts and hats. I looked them over with a critical eye. None of them looked exactly healthy. Even the youngest of them had the beginnings of beer bellies. The thought of them running around nearly naked was a scary thing to imagine, and I told them so.
Meanwhile, onboard PERTH, they were passing the word for something. They were speaking in Australian so we couldn’t understand what was said. Suddenly, all the sailors who had been out and about on the weather decks were inside the ship. On the 0-1 level aft, directly across from where we were standing on GOLDSBOROUGH, an officer and a petty officer came out dressed in white shorts and shirts, knee socks and covers. The petty officer set up a folding table and chair. The officer placed a brief case on the little table and sat down in the chair. More word was passed in Australian; and immediately, all the sailors reappeared up on the 0-1 level and formed a neat and orderly line which wound around the gun mount and missile launcher. The sailors were still dressed in sandals, shorts and no shirts; but each one was now wearing his Royal Navy-style flat hat.
Things started getting interesting over there. The petty officer began reading aloud from the clipboard he was carrying. The first sailor in line stepped forward to the table, stamped his feet and saluted the officer. With his right hand, in one smooth motion, the sailor reached up, removed his flat hat and held it out, up-side-down in front of the officer. The officer counted the man’s pay into the hat. The sailor removed the money with his left hand and replaced his cover on his head with his right hand. He then took one step back, stamped his feet, saluted, turned and trotted off to the beer concession on the pier.
We were all staring at the amazing evolution being played out no more than ten yards away. Piggy was close to swooning. He was experiencing D.O. nirvana. When he finally came back to us, Piggy turned and shouted at me and my division, “THAT is how payday is going to run onboard this ship from now on!” From the rear rank of R-Division, someone muttered, “In your dreams, Mister Lloyd.”
At least Piggy had, for one brief and shining moment, seen the perfect payday, and his dreams would be sweet indeed.
Vulture's Row Youngster Cruise, 1968
by Phillip.K. Parker '71
Almost 40 years ago, I was assigned to the USS Randolph, CVS 15, based in Norfolk, Virginia for Youngster Cruise.
Aircraft overhead have always drawn my attention, and I was looking forward to a close up look at Naval Aviation. The Randolph was a World War II vintage Essex class aircraft carrier. She had been modernized with an angle deck, but her hydraulic catapults had not been replaced by the more powerful steam catapults, so she could not handle the heavier combat aircraft of the time. She was relegated to Anti-submarine Warfare support, flying SH-3 helicopters, S2F sub-hunters and sometimes a detachment of four A-4 Skyhawk attack jets. Randolph's first task of the cruise was to relieve the training carrier at Pensacola for a couple weeks. The USS Lexington was in for maintenance and a platform to conduct carrier qualifications for student pilots was needed, so the Randolph set sail from Norfolk to fill in.
I was fortunate enough at this time to be assigned to the Carrier Air Traffic Control Center Division for my workspace. CATCC controlled the airspace around the Randolph and was also the official score keeper for carrier qualifications, logging all the landing scores for the new pilots. When not otherwise engaged in helping out in the center, I was allowed plenty of time to go out on Vulture's Row on the island and just observe flight operations. What an education that turned out to be! The advantages of the angle deck, of course, are that you can (a) launch and recover aircraft at the same time, and (b) if a landing aircraft fails to engage the arresting cables, the pilot can punch the throttle, take to the air, and try again. This, I learned, was called a "bolter". The first group of students that I watched was flying the TF-9J Cougar. The Cougar was a Korean War vintage swept wing fighter which had been modified with a two seat cockpit and a second set of controls for training. Like most of those first generation jets, it had slow throttle response. The pilot could jam the throttle into the firewall and it might be several seconds before turbine came up to full speed. During that first day of carrier qualifications, it wasn't long before I saw my first bolter. The Cougar came down long, somewhere between the number 3 and number 4 wire and the arrestor hook bounced over number 4. The pilot slammed the throttle all the way forward and the J-48 engine took its own sweet time spooling up. As I watched, knuckles white on the railing, jaws agape and heart pounding, the jet shot off the end of the angle deck and started to sink slowly towards the water. In ground effect just above the waves, he picked up speed as the arrestor hook skipped twice in the foam, finally climbing back to safety. Over the next hour or so, this happened not just once, but several times. The record for the most arrestor hook skips in the water was five. But nobody went into the drink.
The next group of students was far enough along in their training that they flew solo in single seat A-4 Skyhawks. I noticed that each Scooter was carrying two large drop tanks under its wings. This puzzled me, since we were operating quite close to shore and surely the extra fuel wasn't needed to get out to us.
I soon discovered the reason for the drop tanks. They were empty. They were there only to provide a bumper for the wings. The Skyhawk had very high and narrow track landing gear, the mains coming down about at the wing roots. If the trap occurred right on the center line, there was nothing to worry about. If an inexperienced flyer, however, caught the wire a foot or two off center, the gear would try to pull the aircraft back towards the centerline, tipping it up off one main wheel or the other and slamming the empty drop tank against the deck. Better the drop tank than the wings! When it boltered, however, the Skyhawk jumped immediately back into the sky. I also got to watch what were probably some of the last deck launch takeoffs by piston driven aircraft that summer.
The ship would conduct an occasional proficiency flight with its own S2F aircraft, sometimes piloted by LCDR Parmenter, the CATCC officer. The Randolph, ancient boilers panting, would make her best speed into the wind. The S2F would take position far aft, at the end of the deck launch stripe and gracefully unfold its wings. Then the big radial engines would be run up and held at full power until the launch signal was given. Lumbering at first, the plane would gain speed until it would take to the air at what seemed to be the last second, then bank off starboard. Surrounding it all was that amazing ballet of flight deck operations, the colored jerseys, the hand signals, courageous kids clearing arrestor cables and hooking up catapult gear, dodging propellers and jet blast. In terms of well oiled machines, the Green Bay Packers have nothing on a U. S. Navy Flight Deck crew.
I went on to serve under the ocean instead of over it, but I certainly gained some respect for those who wear the Wings of Gold and their fearless flight deck crews that summer. That cruise was the last service the USS Randolph provided to her country. She was decommissioned the following autumn.