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George Joseph Perrault

I enlisted in the Navy the day after Christmas, 1957.  The recruiter said “Don’t leave town son, until we find you a boot camp". You belong to Uncle Sam now. Departed for recruit training in January 1958 my first train ride ever out of Detroit, Michigan.

 UNITED STATES NAVAL TRAINING CENTER, GREAT LAKES, ILLINOIS

JANUARY 1958 – APRIL 1958

 Having joined the Navy of my own free will and accord, I have advice for anyone thinking about joining any service that has recruit training at a northern base. Try to avoid recruit training in the middle of winter! Training went from mid-January to mid-April about an hour north of Chicago alongside Lake Michigan. In addition to the usual manual of arms, hand washing clothes, very early wake ups, marching to mess hall, marching to classes, marching to the drill field, from the very first snow flake to the end of any snow fall, the brooms and shovels were manned around the barracks area to clear the slightest snow flake. My company commander was from the Detroit area, but had no sympathy for a fellow Michigander.

Great Lakes dates back to WWI and some of the original buildings are still standing. All Navy, men and women, boot camps are held at Great Lakes now, with many service schools and support personnel based there, such as electricians, gunners, corpsman schools; recently the entire recruit training area has been updated from the WWII style barracks.

Besides learning how to be a sailor and learning about living with others from across the US and its territories and Navy traditions, I recall only one bad experience. Our barracks had the old steam heat and radiators with dozens of sailors in our bay.  One was accustomed to the musty smell when coming in from the brutal winter weather but it was getting smellier.  Well, we had a bed wetter in there somewhere, with a cotton mattress that went undetected for weeks. He never made it to graduation, I can tell you that.

Proudest moment was when all the companies marched down the indoor drill hall and  “Anchors

Aweigh” was played for the first time with real meaning at our graduation.  Every veteran remembers the first time you heard your service song at graduation, you know the feeling when I hear that song, after so many years ago.

 UNITED STATES NAVAL TRAINING CENTER, BAINBRIDGE, MARYLAND

APRIL 1958 – APRIL 1959

 As a brand new Seaman Apprentice (E-2), I was ordered to my first duty station at Bainbridge, Maryland, about an hour drive north of Baltimore. The base dates back to the Korean War days when men and women’s (Waves) boot camps were based there.  There was a Naval Academy Preparatory school, several basic service schools, such as radioman, fire control technician, personnel and perhaps a few I have forgotten.  Oh yes, a Corpsman school, that is where VVA Chapter 310 members David  “Doc” Martinez and his wife Sandy met.  Doc was going to school to be a corpsman and Sandy had just completed her Corpsman school. They met and you know the rest of the story.  Mr. & Mrs. D. Martinez are approaching their 55th Wedding Anniversary.

 My assignment was in the 1st Lieutenants division, cutting grass, picking up cigarette butts and the like.  One day the Chief Petty Officer in charge asked who could type.  Having that in high school, my right hand went up for the second time in my naval career.  First time being sworn into the Navy back in January!!! The Chief, thank you very much, sent me to the supply department.  Job was running three of the old mimeograph machines; full bore just about all day long. These were the machines that you poured ink into and used the blue stencil to make test booklets, informational sheets of paper etc. My immediate supervisor must have seen something of value in me as he asked just what I was going to be in the Navy.  I shrugged my shoulders as I then found out that I was supposed to get a basic school after recruit training, as a high school graduate, but that fell through the cracks. How was I to know at 18?  The supervisors said go check out a supply course and study it.  I took my very first, of many to come, test for promotion while at Bainbridge.

 Many fond memories of Bainbridge, being out of boot camp and on my own for the first time can be scary for a young man at first.  You meet people real fast and you all have something in common, working for the same company (your country).  The base movie was at an astronomical 10 cents and haircuts for a quarter. Journeyed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, quite a bit to see for the first time Amish country and its people.  Bainbridge led me astray for the first time in my Navy career.  A buddy from Boston talked me into hitchhiking (remember your hitchhiking days) to Dayton, Ohio to visit his gal.  Well, we were about 6 hours late returning to base, that is called AWOL (absent without leave) no matter how you address it.  You should have heard the story that he and I concocted to tell the Commanding Officer at Captains Mast.  Needless to say the skipper saw right thru it.  I can’t recall the punishment.  The only thing he probably took into consideration is that we both worked on the same floor as his office and perhaps it was just a slap on the wrist, I can’t remember.

 

USS SALAMONIE AO26 HOMEPORTED IN NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

APRIL 1959 – JULY 1963

 Having taken my first test at Bainbridge, the results came through after reporting aboard ship and I was promoted to Storekeeper Third Class (E-4).  Serving aboard ship is where the men are separated from the boys. My scrape with commanding officers was minor cogeorgeandlois copympared to the Summary Court Martial and another couple of Captains Masts before I married my wife Lois in 1960.  I sure picked up and dropped an attitude real fast.  Spent 4 ½ years aboard the Salamonie. I was trying to understand the Navy and the Navy was trying to understand me!  I had a reduction in grade that I had just been promoted to, in addition to the other couple of Captains Masts; managed to leave the Salamonie with not only my original promotion back, made it to Storekeeper Second Class (E-5). Now you know the secret; my marriage to Lois! 

 “AO”on a ship designation stands for “Auxiliary Oiler’’. The Salamonie served from 1941 to1968 and at one time was the Navy’s most continuous active duty ship.  Commonly called a “tanker”, she refueled other ships at sea including aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, battleships and the like. Literally a floating gas station, carrying black oil, aviation gasoline, jet fuel and bottled gasses, such as freon, acetylene, carbon dioxide as well as 55 gallon drums of lubricating oils.

My duties included assisting the Paymaster with paydays, ships store (PX) records, commissary records (fed the crew on $1.42 a day per man) and control of all ships spare parts of electronics, machinery, and gunnery.  Everyone has a duty station during refueling; mine was the area of breaking out the bottled gasses and drummed lube oils (by hand) and preparing them for transfer to other ships.  When not transferring cargo, kept manual readings on the black oil tanks.  The oil is heated and then transferred and was measured in depth; you transferred 30 feet of oil, the office broke that into gallons and invoiced the ship being refueled, then a radio message went out to the fleet commander to confirm the readiness of all his ships while deployed.  I suppose these days the computer does it all.

On a dependent’s cruise the ship takes the families out for a short “spin” on the ocean and does a token refueling of a ship simulating pumping of fuel and rigging for cargo and human transferring, etc.  Having observed hundreds of refuelings by then, I told my wife “let’s go up to the 04 level (life rafts) and get a better view”. I could see that the destroyer was getting closer to our ship, that’s why, without scaring Lois, we went to the 04 Level.  Indeed the two ships collided. No major damage thank goodness, lots of kids and dependents scrambling off their folding chairs on the destroyer and an emergency breakaway on our part.  I can imagine the report that went to the Admiral!!!!   There were lots of close calls in other refuelings aboard the ship both during day as well as night refueling.  Salamonie’s motto was Anywhere, Any weather, Any time.

I recall, in addition to coastal operations in the U.S., three six month Mediterranean cruises, one North Atlantic cruise and two cruises to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with an emergency trip to the Ivory Coast and Ghana in Africa.  “Join the Navy and See the World,” I was told. I would like to share with you the ports of call that I experienced while aboard the USS Salamonie (AO26 ).


Port of Calls

Not necessarily in order of port calls:

 

Rotterdam, Holland     Greenock, Scotland     Rock of Gibraltar
Hanburg, Germany     Inverness, Scottland     Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Africa
Monaco, France     Athens, Greece     Accra Ghana, Africa
Nice, France     Rhodes, Greece     Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Genoa, Italy     Mykonos, Greece     Boston, Massachusetts
Naples, Italy     Island of Crete     New York City
Istanbul, Turkey     Norfolk,Virginia     Rome, Italy
Bologna, Italy     Piraeus, Greece     Augusta Bay, Sicily
Island of Cyprus     Plymouth, England     La Harve, France
Corunna, Spain            

Crossed the Equator (big event for first time sailor) on my 21st birthday at a longitude and latitude just below Ghana, Africa.  I went from not crossing the equator as a “pollywog” to a “shellback’ which included an informal ceremony on the ships main deck conducted by previous sailors that had crossed, known as “shellbacks.”

In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered a naval blockade on Cuba.  The USSR was installing nuclear missile sites targeted on American cities. The Salamonie refueled ships that circled the island and could retaliate within minutes of a missile attack on the U.S. The USSR backed off.

Still keep in touch with many Salamonie shipmates and attend many ships crew reunions.  Having the ship named after a river in Indiana, the ship has a small museum in Warren, Indiana where the river flows thru the town .The ships crew has a mini reunion each 4th of July weekend in Warren as well as a national reunion each year in other parts of the country.  Navy fleet oilers, at the time, were named after rivers and the Salamonie River flows thru Indiana.

 UNITED STATES NAVAL STATION, ANACOSTIA, WASHINGTON D.C.

JULY 1963 – APRIL 1965

Although Bainbridge, Maryland, previously mentioned, was a shore station, Anacostia was my first long-term regular tour of shore duty. This was to be a 3-year tour on dry land.  Lois and I had an apartment in the extreme Southeast corner of D.C., within walking distance of Maryland.  My duties were record keeping for clothing and food items.

Anacostia is on the same property as Bolling Air Force Base, just across the Anacostia River from the city of Washington, D. C. The Navy’s Ceremonial Guard was based at Anacostia, and what I believe to be the hangar for the Presidents Helicopter, Marine ONE.  On our last trip to Washington, there was the hangar completely surrounded by concertina wire and fencing and it sure appeared to be Marine ONE.

Our department had an 18-wheeler van that was a traveling clothing store and every day a civilian driver and the sailor in charge would visit remote bases all around the greater D.C. area, such as Camp David, security bases on top of hills and mountain tops.  Some that only allowed the van to do business through a cage in the fence.

The Supply Department had in its control what is called “dry stores”, in addition to fresh and frozen food.

In addition to the base mess hall, the President’s mess, Secretary of Navy and the Secretary of Defense mess would draw supplies from us. It would be nothing to see the Presidents Navy mess man come and draw items and the next evening watch TV and see him beside the President at a luncheon. This duty station was to be a slow paced shore duty with no getting underway to sea, etc.  It proved to be a very busy time in D.C. Being in Washington, all the relatives had a reason to come and visit and see the sights.  Our first child, Michael, was born on Valentine Day in 1964 at Andrews Air Force Base.  I served on President Kennedy’s Honor Guard after his assassination.  The honor guards were in the Capitol Rotunda and the White House.  We guarded the bier as the mourners passed by.

 

President Kennedy's Honor Guard

 

 

I would like to share with you my experience serving on President Kennedy’s Honor Guard.  The Navy’s ceremonial guard is stationed at Anacostia, these sailors were either selected upon completion of recruit training or selected from the fleet for the guard.  This guard is similar to the Old Guard at Ft. Meyers for the Army, the Air Force Honor Guard at Bolling Air Force Base and the Marine Barracks.  These groups of servicemen put on all the military funerals at Arlington, escort former Presidents to their final resting place, and participate in heads of state visits to Washington D.C.  President John F. Kennedy was a Officer in the United States Navy, having skippered PT- 109 in WWII.

George is on the right side,(Navy white hat) directly in front of  the American Flag, at the right corner at the head of the casket (red dot)

At the time General Douglas MacArthur and former President Herbert Hoover were both ill and there might be two state funerals.  In preparation for such a possible event the Navy Ceremonial Guard had to be supplemented. Our department was to submit two names for the supplemental detail. Having never given it a thought, other than your name going in, here came that fateful call just after noon on Friday, November 22, 1963. My wife Lois, being six months pregnant at the time, called the office and said the Presidents been shot!  I hung up and blurted it out.  We turned on the nearest radio to listen to the broadcast in disbelief.  You think your name just went in on a list and that was that.  It wasn’t an hour or so, the Military Police of the D.C. district stopped by and picked up my buddy and myself and drove us off.

We were taken to the barracks of the ceremonial guard for some practice.  The Chief had moved a desk in the center of the room to resemble a casket and handed out broom and mop handles to have as make shift weapons for practice.  No time here to do the real thing. For those of you that have observed a funeral detail such as the Presidents, the commands to come to attention and parade rest are all done by a very, very slight movement of the head by the officer at the front of the casket.  When his head is moved, a silent count of three and then you slowly make the movement to either attention or parade rest.

Similar motions are made when it comes time to be relieved after a half hour watch.  Your relief comes to rest beside you and then the officer nods his head a step back is made and another nod and the relief takes position. At each corner of the casket is a service member from each of the services with an officer at the head of the casket.

Our first stop was at Gawlers funeral home on Wisconsin Ave, just down the street from Bethesda Naval Hospital.  There were a handful of us sailors in the funeral home, for what reason we did not know.  No radios, T.V., to capture the moment. We were told not open the curtains to look out.  That’s all you need is to tell a sailor not to do something, the curiosity gets to you, right? Peeking outside the curtains it was now dusk and the camera lights were blaring towards the funeral home.

The President’s body had been motored to Bethesda Naval hospital for an autopsy. I can only speculate that perhaps we were housed in that funeral home for possible use at the hospital.

Next stop was the White House itself.  We were escorted thru the basement, led thru what appeared to be nothing more than a stark line of bunks one on top of another, just like living aboard ship.  It was our understanding this was at one time a bomb shelter and now housed the White House police as there were trophies around, bowling, sharp shooting and the like. I assume it was shelters for the police should some big incident at the White House occur and the police were to be held there for a while.

The detail was then led to the Presidential Theater to await the Presidents body. President Kennedy arrived at the White House entrance at 4:30 AM Saturday morning. Escorted up the driveway by a United States Marine Corps Guard detail.  My place of duty was the 3rd serviceman in line at the front door when they brought his flag draped casket in, followed by Mrs. Kennedy with still the President’s bloodstains on her pink suit.  The media reported the casket was opened in a private room and Jackie put her wedding ring in with Jack.

Later that Saturday AM, it was a cold, damp rainy day, the President was placed in the East Room for viewing.  This wasn’t for public viewing and I recall only standing one watch in the East Room. Then it was on to the Capitol Rotunda.

The procession slowly carried President Kennedy’s casket up the capitol steps to be placed on the very same catafalque that held President Lincoln’s body 98 years before.  After the pallbearers placed his body on the catafalque, I was assigned the first watch under the rotunda along with the other services. Looking back at it years later, the picture, (myself arrow) gets me nervous even now, knowing that just about every single congressmen and head of state were in the rotunda.  You will notice Jackie and Caroline in the far left, Jackie is holding Caroline’s hand.  President Lyndon Johnson laid a wreath on that first watch. I observed Jackie and Caroline kneeling at the casket on my first watch as well.

You will notice the American flag in its proper place in a holder.  My fellow sailor is holding the Presidential flag and he didn’t get relieved properly.  It was a half hour on watch and two hours off during the daylight hours.  It wasn’t till two hours later that when I passed him he went “ Psssssssss” to draw our attention to his predicament. It wasn’t too noticeable to the general pubic but he was relieved and a proper holder was obtained for the Presidential flag.

The detail was housed in the old Senate chambers just down the hall, looking at the photo, to your left between watches.  Talking with the other services in the chambers, I learned that Mrs. Kennedy had requested that some Green Berets be assigned to the detail.  The guys I had talked to had just gotten back from Vietnam as advisors (1964) and were still on “ the tarmac at their base in NC”, when the MP’s picked them up and whisked them off to D.C.  They hadn’t even greeted their families yet.

Navy uniforms are ironed inside out and then put right side out to be worn. For the funeral detail a rubber ring is worn at the base of the trousers to give it a “stovepipe” appearance when standing up.  Sitting down that puts quite a strain on the 13 buttons that are so famous with the Navy’s dress blue trousers in lieu of a zipper.  To relax the uniform when sitting, one unbuttons the 13 buttons and pulls the jumper over his midsection to cover his skivvies.  While relaxing in the chambers, Mrs. Ethel Kennedy (Bobby’s wife) came to search for a telephone.  No cell phones back in those days guys. Everyone in the other services, being the gentlemen they were, popped to attention.  Well you guessed it, not the Sailors as their trousers would of fell to the floor.

I can tell you this, between watches I had the chance to go outside to observe the public lined up some 22 blocks long to wait the viewing in the Rotunda.  At one point the viewing was to end at midnight but after observing the lines, the Rotunda remained open.  I will never, never forget watching the people go by the casket. There were priests, nuns, policemen, servicemen and women, firefighters, children, wheelchairs and others from all walks of life.  The only sound heard was the sobs from the viewers passing by and when they gasped when we changed from attention to parade rest as it was all in silent commands and must have startled them.

While in the old senate chambers a One Star General came around and asked "What is your name son and where are you from", that is how my parents found out back in Hazel Park, Michigan that I was on the detail as a reporter came to the house and told them I was on TV. That is how Lois found out as well; remember I was whisked away and no phone etc. She thought that looked like me on TV and then my parents and her confirmed it.  After a while I did get a chance to call Lois and she said that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot and we all asked who the hell is he???

After the viewing in the Rotunda, President Kennedy was taken to church for services before his burial in Arlington.  To this day I do not recall how I got back to our apartment.  I arrived in time to observe the services at Arlington on TV with Lois   I never did get any glimpse of John Jr. but will never forget that beautiful little girl, Caroline, now without a father and so young kneeling at her fathers casket.


HEADQUARTERS SUPPORT ACTIVITY, SAIGON, VIETNAM

 

APRIL 1965 – APRIL 1966

I was ordered to Vietnam before my tour of shore duty was up, that being April 1965.

Upon leaving Washington, headed for a brand new adventure, talking with my fellow department members when I got my orders, no one even knew how to spell ‘’Vietnam ” back then.  The Master Chief (E-9) did comment that things were heating up over there and I don’t think he meant the weather.

Upon arriving at Travis AFB in California, via Detroit, couldn’t notice looking around that were a least a hundred or so of us with the same rating badge on our sleeves, with all being in Supply. Talking with others some left on short notice as myself, some were pulled right from behind their desks in their basic school, some were called off leave.  Just where were we headed we had no idea.

Leaving the spring like weather at Travis Air Force base, some many, many hours later by commercial airplane landed at Ton son Nhut air base in beautiful South Vietnam

Spent a couple of days in some sort of former Vietnamese hospital while they sorted us all out.  A couple dozen of us were to work at the Port Terminal in the southern part of Saigon where just about all the cargo coming in from the states was off loaded.  My job was to manifest the cargo on TCMD (Transport Control Movement Document).  Needless to say I have seen a few thousand of those.  So if you fellow Vietnam Veterans didn’t get the gear you were suppose to, please don’t blame me. This assignment was historical for the Navy Supply System as just about everything was started from scratch and built up very fast.  If I recall, only 27,000 troops were in country at the time and increased to 249,000 in my first year. It was a constant struggle to place (stage) cargo and then keep track of it when it was time to ship it. Just about all the cargo was taken from ocean going vessels and placed in the Port area for further assignment to smaller ships, such as LST’s (Landing Ship Tank) for distribution to other ports along the coast and inland on the Mekong River and its tributaries.  The Port Terminal offloaded complete jeep carriers, helicopter carriers, hundreds of thousands of cases of “C” rations.  The constant barrage of troopers coming and looking for their equipment and supplies either the right way or going up and down the pier and “borrowing” from other units.

Will never forget the Army Officer that came in looking for his popcorn machine.  Granted this sort of thing is a very good morale booster.  Only way to show him was to take him up and down the pier and told him whenever you think you see it Captain let me know and I will get it on the next ship or you can take it yourself.  Was a E-5 telling that to a O-3, and you know he apologized for it seeing what we were up against.  We had two signs hanging on the warehouse, WE ARE TRYING TO DO THE BEST WE CAN WITH WHAT WE GOT AND EVERYDAY IS MONDAY.

Approximately March of 1966 the Army took command of the Port of Saigon.  It’s not that the Navy failed, the United States Army has Transportation Corp and the Navy doesn’t.  The change over at the Port, for all practical purposes, went fairly well.  What used to be a Navy Master Chief with WWII service as our enlisted leader there was now three United States Army Majors, equal amount of Captains and Sergeants in the flow chart. Col. Oliver did have a tear in his eye when the remaining three of us sailors left, he commented “you guys always seemed to get the job done and I have all these charts.”

Haunting memories of my first tour of Vietnam, were the numerous taxis that were used to blow up Americans, there was a hotel blown up right across the street from mine as well as the standard of living of the people of Vietnam.  I had seen many countries around the world by then, but none prepared me for the sights of Vietnam.  I was housed a block from the military hospital, the constant sound of the ambulances bringing in G.I’s. I had a minor accident and had some stitches put in and heard the screams next to me, the nurses said we just amputated his leg.  The “My Chan” floating restaurant that had a bomb set off to make the people leave and the other bomb that went off to blow them back in.  Some 40 were killed. At times, I had to escort some of our Vietnamese workers back to their area of residence while wearing a side arm.

It wasn’t much but I didn’t flee to Canada and did the best I could and what was asked of me. I’m so grateful to be serving again with some of the same guys and gals that shared the Vietnam experience as well in the form of Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 310!

Vietnam R & R was taken in Taipei, Taiwan

tioga

USS TIOGA COUNTY LST1158 HOMEPORTED IN SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

APRIL 1966 – APRIL 1968

While stationed in San Diego, we had our second child, Lori born at the Naval Hospital. A southern California earthquake happened while Lois and Lori were in the hospital. There was a Russian trawler off the coast of California that had a woman on board that was about to give birth and she was flown to the naval hospital as well during her stay. Lois tells me Secret Service was all around for her. That should tell you if it was a trawler or a spy ship.

LST stands for Landing Ship Tank.  This is an amphibious type of ship that is serves directly in support of combat operations.  Inside the hull of the ship is a giant cargo hold, in that thousands of tons of cargo, numerous vehicles and upwards of 400 troops can be housed if needed.  At one time she loaded 30,000 cases of ‘C” rations   I had advanced another pay grade by this time to Storekeeper First Class (E-6) and became leading Petty Officer of the division.

Although the ship had just made a trip to Vietnam before I got aboard, this time we left for Vietnam just three months after my first tour in Saigon. Another nickname for LST is “ Last Ship There” as she moves very slowly in the water.  It took us about three days short of two months to go from San Diego to DaNang at about 12 Miles Per Hour. LST’S have diesel engines she can go for long periods at sea but only has so much room for provisions (food).  With very short visits to Pearl Harbor, Guam and the Philippines, we finally landed the Marines and their tanks at DaNang,Vietnam.

Tioga County made a trip to the Mekong Delta as part of the “ Brown Water Navy” in support of the Mobile Riverine Force and the 9th Infantry of the United States Army. She housed the 9th’s soldiers, the Navy PT boats and had a mobile morgue and a helicopter for servicing the wounded and deceased.  She received a couple pot shots from the shoreline while traversing the waters of the Mekong Delta.

Ports of call while serving on the ‘Tiger” (Tioga County) were Hong Kong, San Francisco, Long Beach, California, Guam, Philippines, Yokosuka, Japan Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Okinawa.

Probably the best skipper I ever served with was Captain Charles Smith on the Tioga, he was a former enlisted man and was a WWII, Korean veteran as well as Vietnam. At one time he was Who’s Who in America and worked with the Boy Scouts for 60 years.  After retirement, he passed away waiting for a ride from his daughter on a street corner after a haircut in Chula Vista, California

Have attended several ‘Brown Water Navy” reunions but never a Tioga one directly.  Still in touch with four former shipmates aboard the Tiger and share sea stories and now helping out each other with Agent Orange problems, relating to those trips up and down the rivers of the Mekong Delta.

 

AMPHIBIOUS CONSTRUCTION BATTALION ONE (ACB-1) CORONADO, CALIFORNIA

APRIL 1968 – JUNE 1970

 During my tour of duty on the USS Tioga County LST- 1158 I became well aware that I was going to make the Navy a career in that I was half way toward the traditional 20 year mark of most “lifers.” I was promoted to First Class Petty Officer (E-6) and became the leading petty officer of my division and the 3rd most senior of the department. A new ensign (O-1) supply officer had just come aboard about the time I was promoted.  Our ways of thinking didn’t exactly agree so I asked the Commanding Officer for a transfer.  I came well recommended from a lot of other leading petty officers from other departments so the Captain got me a transfer.

It was to ACB-1, I told the Captain, and I wasn’t eligible for that in that I hadn’t completed my complete tour of sea duty.  He indicated that it wouldn’t affect my rotation in the slightest, so it was off to ACB-l. Here is where the very different part comes in.

From ACB-1 I was assigned to the Pacific Fleet (SOAP) team.  This stands for Supply Operation Assistance Program.  Although I still drew my paycheck from ACB-1. After initial training in Long Beach, California I became the sole representative for SOAP in San Diego, California.

When Navy ships were either in port for extensive overhauls or in private shipyards in San Diego, if requested, they underwent the SOAP process.  All engineering, electrical, and electronic spare parts were offloaded into a warehouse in the Navy Supply Center Warehouse.  Based on the size of the ship, a team of engineers and electronics technicians was temporarily assigned under the direction of SOAP. For the duration of the ships overhaul this team of technicians were to aid in the identification of all spare parts that were offloaded.

A mockup of the ship’s storerooms was made and a complete inventory of every single spare part that was offloaded from the ship identified with the correct Federal Stock Number.  This inventory was then paired with all new or removed equipment that might have been processed during the ship’s overhaul. After this process then began the ordering of new parts to accommodate the new equipment or the off loading on any parts that were either no longer compatible with the new equipment or of no use to the ship.  These parts were put back into the fleet wide supply system for possible use on other ships in the fleet.

When the vessel completed her overhaul a complete inventory had been conducted, any excess parts were offloaded and put back into the supply system and a new COSAL was in effect.  COSAL meaning a “Coordinated Ships Allowance List,” In other words, an inventory of spare parts the ship took to sea. Any service member familiar with equipment knows that every single spare part cannot be carried aboard any ship or shore station due to space limitations.  Fleet wide usage and the Ships Parts Control Center (SPCC) determine that issue. Now you know why you sometime cannot get a part for your equipment and you thought supply held you back at the time.  Equipment support is only as good as what is fed into it.  You would be amazed how equipment gets installed and no one is informed to support it.

As a footnote, the Supply Officer and I that didn’t quite see eye-to-eye back in 1968 are now reunited as shipmates after some 43 years.

 


 

NAVY OFFICER EDUCATION PROGRAM, PURDUE UNIVERSITY

 

WEST LAFAYETTE, INDIANA 

JULY 1970 – JULY 1974

 After a couple of lengthy tours in Vietnam now it’s a college campus.  Purdue was relatively quiet compared to some of the other ROTC units across the country.   This was to be a 3-year tour of shore duty but the Navy ran out of funds and got a years extension, which I never complained about.

Only problem we encountered was just about every single senior knew that they were going to Vietnam. Purdue had two battalions of ROTC students.  One being a battalion of regular midshipmen, chosen from seniors in high school, both on scholarship and non-scholarship. I might add that women were allowed into ROTC for the first time in 100 years in 1972 and the very first female instructor came to Purdue. This was significant as about two years later women were allowed into the service academies.

The other battalion consisted of enlisted men that were selected from the fleet, both Navy and Marines.  They were called NESEP and MESEP, Navy enlisted scientific education program and Marine Enlisted.

Both had all tuition and books paid for while receiving their enlisted pay. They could go up for enlisted promotions while pursuing their degree and ultimate commission.

It was Vietnam and at one time we had 20 contentious objectors both from the Navy and Marine side of the house.  This was time consuming to try to find jobs for them as they were pulled from their education to await their cases.   There were a couple of times that Purdue’s finest and the services brand new officers were no sooner commissioned and brought home under lesser circumstances. I drove the Casualty Officer on a couple of those trips to the next of kin

 

 

USS VOGE FF1047

HOMEPORTED IN MAYPORT, FLORIDA JULY 1974 - 1976

Voge was a former DE (destroyer escort) and reclassified as a FF (Fast Frigate) to conform to the ship classification of the NATO countries.  Defoe Shipbuilding Co. built the USS Voge in Bay City, Michigan in the 1960’s.Voge was a brand new class of DE’s but she had her problems.  Mainly with the boilers, couldn’t make full speed and trouble making fresh water out of seawater.

Voge was to serve in anti-submarine warfare.  During my tour aboard, Voge had a helicopter hangar built on board.  Of significance while aboard the Voge, a Russian Echo class Submarine struck her in 1974 while sailing the Ionia Sea, between Italy and Greece. The collision alarm was sounded and everyone went to their stations.  Significant damage was done the ship’s shaft and propeller.  Voge pulled into a shipyard in Marseilles, France and repairs were underway.  United States asked Russia for reimbursement of repairs but you know how that goes.

Voge made an extended cruise on the Mediterranean during my tour.  Because of the ship’s engineering problems, significant time was spent in shipyards in the states as well.  At one point the civilian engineer that masterminded the system came in from the Bureau of Ships to analyze the problem.  Ports of call on Voge were Charleston, South Carolina, Lisbon, Portugal, Naples, Italy, Marseille, France, Malaga, Spain and Port of Prince, Haiti and Port Everglades, Florida.

Similar to all ships, my duties in supply were assisting the paymaster, food service, record keeping, and the keys to all storerooms with all consumables, machinery and electronic spare parts.  One thing I failed to mention on the other ships is the “in port watch” standing on the quarterdeck as both Petty Officer of the Watch and Officer of the Deck.

When in port, the quarterdeck is the business and ceremonial area when you board the ship. All crewmembers embark and debark the ship at this area.  Time honored traditions are observed here: requesting permission to come aboard and proper rendering to the United States flag. Also rendering honors for distinguished visitors and Flag Officers (Admirals) etc. Inspections of personnel and items that they may be carrying, as well as their identification, no matter what rank they hold are conducted on the quarterdeck.

On every ship I have served on, when in foreign ports, the nationals always like to see Americans and their ships.  There have been times that locals have tried to come aboard in masses to see the ship and, not knowing each other languages, as Officer of the Deck had to lay my hand on my sidearm and say “No” the best way possible. Watching the sailors come and go on the ship, it was comical at times to see the local’s render our form of saluting when they tried to come aboard.

I always found it an adventure to look forward to seeing a new part of the world, from the first sight of land to the final pulling up the gangway to get underway and looking forward to another adventure. There have been many long days at sea filled with boredom and loneliness. I suppose that is what makes it worthwhile to see another part of the world and observe their customs and way of life.

 

USS YOSEMITE AD19

HOMEPORTED IN MAYPORT, FLORIDA 1976 – APRIL 1978

Named after a national park,”YO-YO” was commissioned during WWII. At one point she was the Navy’s most continuous active duty ship with close to 50 years of active service.

The designation “AD” stands for Destroyer Tender.  This ship had a crew of between 700-800. In 1979 female sailors were aboard for the first time.

Yosemite, a repair ship, most of her time is spent in ports both in the states and in foreign lands, servicing other ships both of US origin and foreign navies. Yosemite had many shops, such as valve, typewriter repair, molder, carpenter, and machine.  She could literally repair anything.  At one distress job order, she made a rather large bearing for a vessel from scratch.

I joined this ship in the spring of 1976 in Boston where she was undergoing repairs; it was right after one of those Nor Easterner snowstorms. Pictures of the vessel show her looking like a gigantic snow pile with only the outline of the ship visible.

I had duties aboard this ship, like all others I served on, only on a larger scale.  The Supply Department consisted of 4 divisions.  Storerooms being of a massive size and even a steel hold with gigantic sheets of steel, even had a 16” gun barrel from battleship days which was offloaded while in Boston.  Of worthy mention, the very first Supply Officer I served with on my first ship, became my last Supply Officer aboard the YO-YO.  That is what makes the Navy so unique.  You, eat, sleep and go on liberty with guys 24/7 while deployed and keep friendships over the years.  Look in any veteran’s magazines and most likely you will see more Navy ads for reunions than any of the other services.

While aboard the Yosemite I was promoted to the best rank, in my opinion, of all the Armed Forces: Chief Petty Officer (E-7) while the ship was in port at Tampa, Florida where she was built.

Ports of call during my tour were Boston, Massachusetts Rota, Spain, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Majorca, Spain, Naples, Italy (Christmas and New Years).   This cruise completed my final 6-month deployment of over 13 ½ years of sea duty.


NAVY OFFICER EDUCATION PROGRAM (ROTC) UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, ANN ARBOR

 

APRIL 1978 – APRIL 1982

Arriving in Ann Arbor in 1978 was a shocker.  Leaving my family in Florida. I searched for a home in Ann Arbor and commuted 120 miles a day with my father-in-law for 4 ½ months from north of Detroit while trying to learn the new job. It was also a month after the worst winter in 100 years, the blizzards of 1977/1978, when I arrived.

Navy ROTC on the campus of the University of Michigan is housed in North Hall.  It was originally built as a homeopathic hospital in 1899. I served in North Hall for four years in the Navy before I retired. In later years I spent another 14 years there working with the Air Force ROTC as a civilian. The Navy moved into the building in 1942.

North Hall was just coming out of the Vietnam “student demonstration days’’ when I reported in 1978.  The students used to sit in the hallways and block the classrooms and an Army sedan was either torched or blown up right at the front entrance during the Vietnam days.

The civilian I replaced was at Air Force ROTC for 30 years shared with me some of the stories about the demonstration days in the 1970’s. Nothing real violent, just disruptive. The staff was allowed to wear civilian clothes, they didn’t have to get haircuts, their base stickers on automobiles, from previous stations, were to be removed, their signs of authority had to be removed from their offices.  Appearance was to be nothing to resemble the military as much as possible.  North Hall hadn’t had many repairs during the Vietnam days.  The carpenters, etc. were there almost weekly just to keep on top of what damage the student demonstrators had done.

Speaking for the Navy ROTC students, the old NESEP, MESEP was discontinued but was brought back in later years. Midshipmen were both scholarship and non-scholarship.  Luckily a Navy Chief Quartermaster (Assistant Navigation Instructor) reported aboard about the same time as myself and we embarked on a long-term self-help program.   We got the University to take a look at some of the problems, what we couldn’t get done by the “U” we painted and repaired ourselves.  I visited North Hall many times in the past and they still complain about the building, I only remark you should of seen it back then.

Just recently the “U’ regents authorized 1 ½ million dollars to upgrade the electrical and air conditioning in the building. Absolutely no A/C existed when I came aboard and on the hot summer days when the sun came on the west side, we were excused many a day early.  The electrical in the building couldn’t even hold the fans that everyone had at their desks. When the University went into their own telephone system, the wiring still was in place for the previous two systems.  I could go on forever about YE OLD NORTH HALL.

Having come up with some medical related issues due partially to the hazardous conditions of NORTH HALL my tour of duty was extended.  I became faced with whether continuing my career or taking my chance of retiring. After talking things over with Lois, I elected the later.   Our nieces and nephews were wondering who was this Uncle and this Aunt was all about etc. as they traveled in the Navy and were seldom around relatives. It was time to hang it up.

After Navy retirement in April 1982, I worked for the U of M hospital for about two years and then with the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan for one year and then back to North Hall as a civilian employee of the Air Force ROTC for 14 years as an Administrative Assistant.

I owe everything I have and ever will have to my Junior High School sweetheart and now have been married to for over 51 years, my wife Lois.

Fair Winds and Following Seas to all of you!

Service awards (not in order of precedence)

Combat Action Ribbon     Navy & Marine Corps Commendation
Navy Sea Servcie Deployment     Navy Unit Commendation
Republic Vietnam Campaign     Republic Vietnam Gallantry Cross Metal w/Palm
Vietnam Service w/3 bronze stars     Navy Good Conduct w/4 stars
National Defence Ribbon     Arm Force Expeditionary Ribbon ( Cuban Blockade
Navy Presdential Unit Citation     Enlisted Surface Warfare Device