Now this one ain't no bull....
As a newly commissioned ensign and designated naval aviator in September 1946, my first assignment was to Air Group Six, in VF-61 flying Corsairs. We were stationed at NAS Norfolk, VA. Our air group was designated to take USS Coral Sea on its maiden voyage, a shakedown to the Cuban waters. I am a plank owner. My CO was LCDR T.J. Walker, later retired ADM. Our CAG was CDR Eddie Outlaw, later ADM retired. On this cruise, our Air Group established an Air Group landing interval of around 22 seconds with 85 planes recovered. (There were two wave offs.) The three Corsair squadrons averaged close to 15 seconds interval and the AD bomber squadrons raised that because they had to use two hook runners to raise and lock the hook. That Air Group landing interval stands today.
After graduating boot camp and a train ride to N.O.B. Norfolk, Virginia I arrived at the pier where she was tied up to. I just stood there completely awed at the sight of the size of this big beautiful ship. I could not believe that something this big and made of steel could actually float. I can still remember the pride I felt that I a young kid from a small jerk water town in up state New York was about serve as part of ships company on this mighty ship. I reported aboard thinking oh boy ships company no more living out of a sea bag, wrong !! it seems that all new boots go to R division for a two week quarantine period. Well, it finally passed and I was to report to the 7th deck division, after a brief indoctrination by the first-class boatswain mate we were taken to the birthing compartment given bunks and 3ft by 3ft locker, at last no more sea bag. by the way our compartment was located on the 02 level which put us just under the aft section of the flight deck. We had a little free time so I decided I would do some exploring I descended the ladder that led to the hanger deck. I was so taken by the sight of it I started walking foreword I was so proud and happy I started whistling, it was then I heard "hey boot stand fast" as a chief master of arms came up to me.He said square that rig in other words square your hat and button up that shirt. I said yes sir, he came right back with the correct reply is aye aye and do not call me sir this is not boot camp call me chief. By the way there are only two people who whistle in the navy one is a boatswain mate and the other is a dam fool and I know you are not a boatswain mate carry on and be more aware of proper navy regs.That was my welcome aboard and to ships company.
I would like to hear some stories of the storm we hit on our way to Norfolk in 1949. I remember that a friend and I in late afternoon went up and jumped into the forward port safety net to watch the bow go under. When all of a sudden we heard this voice from the island say you two jerks get your butts below! When we go to Florida and there is a storm, and I walk the beach I always think of the Coral Sea, back to the storm I remember walking by compartments and people being very sick. I also remember a destroyer in the distance would go out of sight for seemed a long time and we would say there she goes but a few moments later she would pop up.
The first planned ditching of F2H-2 jets was reported by two Mediterranean-based jet squadrons, with the two pilots being rescued after 29 hours in their life rafts.
Two Banshee’s from aboard the Coral Sea, were flying off the island of Crete in thick haze. The pilots, Ltjg. J.H. McConnell and Ens. O.E. Deehan, had been out instrument flying and dogfighting with gun cameras, between 20,000 and 35,000 feet.
Heading back for their carrier. They were unable to locate it vie YE or “birddog". McConnell, with 1500 hours of over-water flying knew something was wrong. They could talk to other pilots of their squadron, but not the ship, nor could the Coral Sea pick them up by radar.
With only 1600 pounds of gasoline left, he decided to follow the "birddog" heading, but transmissions became weaker and weaker. At 1300 his last transmission was heard: "I have 750 pounds of fuel, my wingman has 900 pounds. We're getting a very strong south-east indication on our birddog. No ship in sight yet. I'm afraid we've had it."
Within minutes the Mediterranean Air Sea Rescue sprang into action. Search planes left the Coral Sea along with other forces in the area.
Because Deehan had more fuel, he watched McConnell ditch his jet fighter first. He ditched perpendicular to the seven-foot swells running at the time. When a few feet above the water, he chopped throttle and let the plane slow down to 90 kts. When the swell he wanted to land in went beneath him, he tapped the stick forward slightly and hit it squarely—belly first.
Ens. Deehan ditched the same way, 300 yards away. Fifteen minutes later the two life rafts were lashed together. pilots felt the shock of ditching was similar to an arrested landing aboard ship. prior to ditching, both pilots unplugged oxygen masks, mike and phone cords. McConnell unsnapped his parachute, while Deehan kept his buckled. They kept one chute, since shroud lines were handy and the pilot chute made an excellent sea anchor. The one provided in the rafts was poor.
The pilots observed that both planes with tip ranks gone floated with cockpit above water for about 15 minutes and wallowed after that for another half hour before sinking. They broke out their radar reflectors and after spending five hard and diligent man-hours were finally able to get them erected. While getting the reflectors up, one of the water-making stills was lost over the side. The one that was left, however, would have provided enough water for both occupants.
The canned water was sampled and found excellent, hut the water purification tablets either were not used properly or would not prepare drinkable water. Although neither pilot had eaten before the ill-fated flight, neither was hungry until picked up. A bright sun which provided power to make fresh water for them also sun-burned them
The downed aviators were constantly on the lookout for planes and when the first jet came into sight, they attracted
its attention with a signal mirror, at the same time adding dye marker to the water and letting off a smoke flare that was seen by several other planes within a few seconds.
Within a few minutes the air over the rafts was crowded with diving airplanes, of which dropped a smoke light, some two, until the area around rafts was so smoky they could hardly be seen. Other planes were diving now, dropping rafts and other equipment.
Although the two men in the water never doubted the good intentions of the diving pilots, it was the first time they ever had been dive bombed and they a little nervous. It is hard to dodge sitting in bobbing life raft.
The crowning blow of the episode was the two VF-12 pilots were first sighted by two pilots from the Flying Ubangis, traditional rivals of their own squadron. "Next to not picked up at all, sighted by the Flying Ubangis was the worst thing that could possibly happen," they were heard to complain.
The actual pick-up was done by the USS Stribling, DD-867, 350 miles east of the point where they took off from the Coral Sea the previous day.
It was determined after the search that the downed pilots could have been drawn off their course by radio in Tel Aviv, Israel which on 415 kc. put out signals only One kc. from 414 JB, the homer for the Coral Sea. Many pilots Who were searching for the men reported they got the sane strong needle indication while still getting a JB over their headphones.
I served on board from 1950 to 1952.I was in the fourth division for awhile and then went to the second division. I was a BM3. Before I was a gunner on the 20mm. One day we were firing at a drone and I accidentialy slipped on the empty shell casings and I did not let go of the trigger. Well the bullets were going over the flight deck and almost hitting a cruiser that was close by. Immediately I was summended to the bridge. Was I scared. After losing the seat of my pants I returned to my station. I am ready to ship out again just as soon as I can get my uniforms taken in.
The phantom pulled his stunt several times in 1951 or 1952. I was a dumbass AB3 and thought whoever had nerve to take one anyhere he wanted had to be a hero. The morale on the ship was very low before the PS started but soon soared. Finally, he left a pile in the captains cabin. It took me several years to figure out the shitter was the captain. He was a good skipper who knew how to boost sagging morale.
As I recall, back in 1951 or 1952 we were on our way to G'tmo after coming out of the Portsmouth yard. This story commenced on a Saturday evening.I was on watch on # 3 Switch board when it was reported that a bearing on 3A generator exciter was running hot. It was determined by a conference of knowledgeable snipes that the bearing would have to be pulled, rebabbitted, scraped and reinstalled that night because all the ships machinery will have to be functioning once we entered G'tmo for training.
I along with Harold "Goldy" Goldsberry EM1, and 3 Machinist Mates were then ordered to commence working on this by our Engineering Officer until the job was complete. "Any questions?" the Officer asked, Goldy who was placed in charge replied. "If we are to work thru the night I want a chow chit as these men will be hungry come midnight" The Officer wrote out the chit and work commenced. Come midnight we all proceeded to the after galley for our rations. (You have to picture this scene), the galley was filled with cooks, friends, etc., who were writing home, shooting the breeze etc. The cooks had steaks on the grill and all in all it looked like we were going to be well fed. Goldy knocked on the fence gate and was greeted by a disturbed cook who asked what the F_ _ _ we wanted. After looking at the chit he threw it on the deck and said we did not rate chow. We then proceeded back to the job, Goldy called the Engineering Officer of the watch and told him about the food situation. The officer called the Galley, after a while telling us that there was nothing he could do about it and to go back to work.
Goldy was hot, he said: "Come with me" off to Officers country we went, finding CDR Buckleys (Chief Engineer) cabin, we knocked on the door. After a while CDR Buckley opened the door, standing in his pajamas, he wanted to know what was going on. after being told the situation he put his hat with the scrambled eggs on and marched to the after galley with us. Knocking on the fence gate he was greeted with a short abbreviated whaaaaaa and was saluted by the cook. "Why was this chit by the engineering department not honored?" CDR Buckley asked. "We were told by CDR Stanley that if they were not on the watch list they were not to be fed" said the cook. "Go and get his ass up here on the double" CDR Buckley told the cook. "But sir" "Did you hear me sailor?" Yes, Sir and off he went. After talking to us about the job and asking questions Cdr Buckley saw CDR Stanley Supply (Officer) approaching and really tore into him about honoring engineering requests. Did you ever see two commanders in their pajamas with their scrambled egg hats on standing nose to nose raising their voices? Well, it was not long before CDR Stanley told the cook to feed us.
We watched as the cook went to the refrigerator took out a big baloney and was ready to slice some horse c_ _ _ to make some sandwiches when Goldy yelled that we wanted what they were eating. The cook said we did not rate that. "Do we have to get CDR Buckley up here again" said Goldy? "Oh hell, how do you want your steaks?" asked the cook.
Harold (Goldy) Goldsberry later made Chief Electricians Mate in 1952 and went on to Officers candidate school, graduating, to become an engineering officer on a DD and later to command various LST'S and a sea going tug. Retiring as a LTCDR. Many years later he told me, when he took over the command of a ship he would meet with the Supply officer and let him know how he wanted his crew to be fed. The above incident made a big impressment on him. And his number one rule, No beans were to be served at breakfast.
In 1952 after coming out of the Portsmouth Yard we went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for training. During the course of this daily grind of training we enjoyed a day of RR over at the Base. The day that E Division was to have it's turn arrived.
I along with a group of other E Division personnel went ashore to the picnic area which contained a pavilion where beer and other goodies were to be served. A few of us were placed in charge by CWO E. Warren to obtain the beer, hotdogs sports gear, etc., from a building on the base. (CWO Warren was a rigid no nonsense sailor, when you greeted him all you got for acknowledgment was a grunt. He was not to be crossed You would be on watch watching meters taking readings, etc., and sensing someone was there with you, and sure enough a head would pop out from behind a Switchboard shining a flashlight on you to see if you were snoozing. It was Mr. Warren sneaking around as usual.) His nickname was "Sneaky Pete."
After setting up the beer we proceeded to play a game of baseball, under that hot Cuban Sun with empty stomachs, it wasn't long long before we were all on rubber leg street. Back to the pavilion for some freshly cooked hotdogs. My buddy Ray Lewis EM3 asked Mr. Warren if he would like a hot dog, the answer was a resounding "yes." Ray then placed a bun in his hand, proceeded to place a hotdog in same, he then asked if he wanted mustard on it, again a resounding "yes" I, swore Ray put half the jar of mustard on it. Ray then walked over to Mr. Warren, removed his hat and placed the hot dog on top of his head then proceeded to put his cap back on top of his head.
Here was Mr. Warren sitting in front of us all, mustard rolling down his face with a startled look on his face. My first thought was: Ray, you are going to jail, there is no way out of it. Ray you are going to jail. But! all of a sudden a grin replaced the dour look, smiling ear to ear. I gave Mr Warren a towel so he could clean up and told Ray that it was not funny.
Can you imagine, from that day on CWO E. Warren greeted us by our name and became a friendly Officer. I would have never thought it possible. He even stopped his sneaking around as far as I know.
As close as I can determine I reported to the Coral Sea in April 1952 from natcenter N.A.S Jax. When Igot my orders to the coral sea I looked on the map to find out where the coral sea was. Then I looked at my orders and they said to report to pier 7 N.O.B. Norfolk Va. It was only then I began to understand Coral Sea Was a ship OOOO My. I was an 18 year old raised in the little farm town of Bloomington, Illinois. The biggest floting thing I ever saw was a row boat in Miller Park.
I think I stood in awe of this 1000ft long "Boat" I t took me a while to figure out just how to get on board this goliath of a "Boat" So I hoisted my sea bag on my sholder and went up the staircase ( later found out it was the foreward brow) The Ltjg looked at me when I saluted Him and requsted permission to come aboard. His first question was how long have you been in the navy son. You know I think he probably had the answer before I told him about 6 months sir. Well he was very kind to me explaining that the foreward brow was generlly used byOfficers dignataries and the like. He pointed toward the rear of the ship and said the after brow was reserved for enlisted men and suggested i try there. I did and they let come aboard. The runner took me to the Master at arms shack. Thats where I hung out for about 3 days . In the mean time we got under way. We were at sea and one after noon I heard over the P.A. aa Flink report to the MAA shack. I was sitting on a bunk got up and went to the window and asked "where is the MAA shack" the third class boats looked at me in disbelief pondered the situation for a few seconds and asked who are you? I told him I was aa Flink. He was stunned he said your Division Thought maybe you had fallen over the side. That was my first of a few experiences on Red Beards play boys of the med.
When I first reported to Helicopter Utility Squadron Two (HU-2) I learned that new pilots were expected to make one or two short training cruises aboard ships operating off the coast of the Eastern United States before making a long cruise to the Mediterranean Ocean. For my introduction to helicopter rescue operations I made a two week cruise aboard the U.S.S. Siboney, a small aircraft carrier that rolled and pitched at every wave that passed under its bow. On the day I made my first helicopter landing aboard a ship the weather consisted of high winds and high seas. The Siboney met the challenge of the weather head on and the after portion of the flight deck where I was scheduled to land pitched badly. I found it next to impossible to find a moment when the deck wasn’t falling away from my hovering helicopter only to be followed by the deck rushing up intending to crash into the underside of my helicopter. Try as I might I could not synchronize my helicopter positioning with that of the heaving flight deck. I had been told that in rough weather and a badly pitching deck you should wait and in time the ship would stabilize for a moment or two at which time a smooth landing would become possible. Unfortunately that moment never seemed to arrive. At that time I recalled the joke I had heard back in the squadron ready room that if you had trouble landing aboard a ship in rough weather that a Marine assigned to the ship would come out on to the flight deck and shoot you down. I knew this was just another sick joke but I also realized that had the story been true I had just arrived at the time when a shoot down was the next option for the officer in charge of air operations. Finally I started feeling very tired at my efforts to get the helicopter firmly on the deck so I grabbed a brief moment when the ship was changing direction from dropping away to rushing upward and I firmly put my helicopter down. My flight deck crew rushed to get the tie downs hooked to my wheels and at last I was firmly attached to the ship. I later flew off several dozen ships, under varied weather conditions but landing was never again as difficult as my first flight deck landing on the Siboney.
After my return to my squadron at N,A.S. Lakehurst, N.J. I discovered I had been scheduled to make a six month Mediterranean cruise aboard the U. S.S. Coral Sea (CVB-43). Lieutenant Ray Rice was assigned as the Officer-in-Charge of our shipboard detachment. During our six months tour of the Mediterranean Ocean aboard the USS Coral Sea (CVB-43) with it’s contingent of over 1,000 military men there were only one helicopter and two helicopter pilots assigned to the ship. Our flight operations started each day at sunup and ceased at sundown. Ray Rice and I split the day in halves so we each accumulated approximately the same amount of flight time. After each two weeks of flight operations the ship would cease operations for a few days so the ship’s crew could rest and take liberty in one of the exotic cities which surrounded the Mediterranean. Over our six months Mediterranean cruise we visited Gibraltar; Sicily; Cannes, France; Naples, Italy; Genoa, Italy; Athens, Greece; Caglieri, Sardinia; Oran, Algeria; and Taranto, Italy all of which contained a lot interesting places to be visited and restaurants where exotic meals could be consumed. Since we had only one helicopter aboard the ship and just two pilots, one pilot had to be on board always t take care of emergencies that might arise. That meant that Ray Rice and I could not go on liberty together and since we went at different times we each returned to the ship with different impressions of what we had observed. Both of us realized that we would have enjoyed our visit to Mediterranean ports a lot more had we been able to travel together and share our experiences together.
Early during our cruise the ship made a scheduled stop at the Port of Genoa, Italy. Just before we anchored off Genoa the ship launched its single engine SNJ Texan aircraft which then flew to Genoa’s inland airfield. This is where shipboard aviators who held full time jobs that required them to remain on board during flight operations got a chance to fly and maintain their flight efficiency. The pilots who took off from the ship would fly all morning, while a contingent group boarded a bus which drove them over the mountains to that inland airfield where they would fly the aircraft and maintain their proficiency during the rest of the daylight hours.
Ray Rice, as Officer-in-Charge of our detachment, opted to take the first day’s liberty period, leaving me on board to handle any emergency flight operations that might arise. Sometime around noon I was scheduled to fly our helicopter from the ship to Genoa’s inland airfield to pick up the group of pilots who had flown the Texan aircraft during the morning hours. Since there were four pilots to be picked up and I had seats for only four passengers I did not take an air crew member with me. After takeoff I flew over the coastal mountains where the four pilots had been waiting for me to arrive. I was quite surprised to then see Ray Rice climb into the helicopter telling me that he wanted to fly back to the ship with me as well as the four aviators I already had aboard. I had no seat for Ray Rice and told him so. He insisted he could sit on the floor of the helicopter. He was my Officer in Charge so I told him he could come along even though he had no restraints should a crash landing take place during the return to the ship.
It was a beautiful afternoon, with a cloudless sky and little wind, so the helicopter handled well, however, it took more engine power to get off the ground because of the extra load I was carrying. In heading back to the ship I had to climb high enough to clear the steep mountains that surrounded the city of Genoa. Just as I reached the peak of the mountain range my engine quit suddenly. I immediately reduced the pitch on my rotor blades to place the helicopter into autorotation and thus be able to make a crash landing ahead. Unfortunately there were no areas ahead of me where I could safely put down the aircraft; the mountains were too steep and no level space was in sight.
Just as the situation looked hopeless the engine roared back to life and it gave me the power to clear the steep sides of the mountains. Unfortunately when I applied climb power the engine again quit. I again reduced the pitch of my rotors which was followed by the engine coming back to life again. So I made several rotor pitch adjustment and I learned I could hold enough lift in my rotor blades to extend my downward glide thus giving me a chance to land somewhere clear of those deadly mountain peaks.
I might mention that Ray Rice, who was seated on the floor next to me had on the air crew member's radio headset and he was constantly telling me what he thought I should be doing. Since he could be of no help to me because I had the flight controls an the feel of the aircraft I ignored all he was telling me.
We were over a very heavy industrialized section of Genoa and high tension wires went in all directions. I must admit, however, that I have no recall of seeing any of them. I did see a semi-dry riverbed just ahead of me and since it was the only clear space available I headed for it. Just ahead of me a large stone bridge crossed the river telling me that I would have to touch down before I reached it because the little bit of engine power I was having wouldn’t get me over that looming stone structure.
In my mind I picked out a spot of dry ground where I intended to land. Ray Rice, who was still on the inter-phone had picked up another dry spot where he wanted me to land. Again I ignored what he was telling and continued to flare over my chosen landing spot.
Normally I would have touched down with a rolling landing however I could see that the sandy bottom of the riverbed was too soft for such a landing so I did a nose high flare and once my forward motion stopped I used my rotors in an attempt to soften my landing. The helicopter touched down quite hard but the landing gear did not collapse. All of us emerged from the aircraft thankful that we all survived and that the aircraft had sustained no damage.
Ray Rice and I got together and decided what we should do next. Ray decided that I should remain with the downed aircraft and he should return to the ship to coordinate getting a replacement engine to the site so the helicopter could be again made flyable. It took a while to obtain transportation back to the ship but once things were arranged it all took place rather easily.
One of the things that amazed me was how soon the crash scene filled with onlookers. People poured out of buildings and others raced down the streets since most of the Italians of that date (1952) had never seen a helicopter and here in their neighborhood sat one that fell out of the sky. For a good while I was quite busy circling the aircraft to keep the populace clear of the airframe because everyone wanted to touch this machine that had fallen from the sky. As I asked the curious folks on one side of the helicopter to move away from one side of the aircraft others seemed to encroach on the other side. I went from one side to the other side of the aircraft and it seemed I was loosing the fight to keep curious folk from damaging the outside of the aircraft. I feared that it would not be long before one or more of the mob would enter the cabin and do damage to the vital control parts of the aircraft. After all I was one person with no authority and there were fifty or more of them.
I never found out how it came about but suddenly a group of city police officers turned up and following my use of many hand signals, and some English words which they didn’t seem to understand, the police went to work and soon drove the excited populace away from the aircraft and up on to a hill clear of the crash site. This left me and my helicopter free of curiosity seekers allowrd my repair crew, when they arrived from the ship, to make the needed engine replacement. It was a constant worry for me that someone would pilfer a small but vital part of the aircraft which would keep us from taking off once the new engine was installed. I was very grateful to the city of Genoa, Italy for providing us with 24 hour per day police coverage so the security of our helicopter was no longer a problem for me.
Meanwhile Ray Rice, who had returned to the ship, arranged to have our spare aircraft engine sent out to us, also arranged that Crash Site our maintenance crew be offloaded to do the engine installation. They showed up at the crash site before dark and immediately went to work getting the helicopter ready for an engine change. They carefully removed the rotor blades and then removed the replacement engine from its container.
They worked continuously until late in the evening, at which time I thought they should quit for the night and get some rest. I arranged for hotel rooms for everyone and got transportation to and from the center of town where they would stay. Next I loaded the whole crew into vehicles provided by the ship and took them individually to their hotels and saw that they checked it to their hotel rooms. Once this was done I went to my hotel where I took my rest from a traumatic day, a day of stressful activity that I had never expected to see.
I placed an early morning call at my hotel desk so we could have a full day replacing our helicopter engine. I ate a good breakfast and then I boarded our ship provided vehicles to round up my maintenance crew.
Much to my surprise none of my maintenance crew had slept in the rooms I had obtained for them. Following suggestions given to me by desk clerks from the hotels where my crew was supposed to have spent the night, I cruised through town, visited various bars and nightclubs and soon I had my entire crew in hand. None of them seemed to have slept, however, they were all energized and seemed ready to get to work on making the engine change.
As my second day at the crash site went forward I found myself highly pleased at the enthusiasm shown by my repair crew as they tackled the difficult job of changing engines with a minimum of equipment. The river bed, as it gave up its moisture became quite dusty so extreme care had to be taken to keep the river bed dust from entering into the engine and its parts. I worried, too, about my six rotor blades spread out on the river sand, thinking that someone might trip over them and damage them leaving me with a working engine but unable to fly. This worry proved unnecessary because the Genoa police kept onlookers well clear of the equipment spread out on the sand.
As mentioned before we were constantly under surveillance of an interested group of Italians who spent hours observing the repair work being accomplished. They never seemed to tire and our entire period in the river bed was never without a large group of onlookers.
On my second day at the crash site an Italian gentleman, who spoke English with a British accent, joined us in the river bed and acted as our interpreter. I don’t know if he was sent to help us or if he did it on his own, but he made things a lot easier and reduced the expected confusion. He told me that he had spent World War II in England and learned to speak English as a temporary resident. He told me that the crash site, which was a highly industrialized area of Genoa here many of the communist fold lived. Looking back on what he told me about his life and his training I concluded that he, too, was a Communist. In spite of this he seemed eager to help me in any way that he could.
After a full day of replacing the engine I again suggested that we quit for the day and take our needed rest in the center of Genoa. We had been given a deadline for meeting the ship within a week in the harbor of Taranto, Italy which was on the lower end of the Italian Peninsular. The crew knew that if they completed the engine change quickly that they would have a bit of free time available to them while they awaited the return of the ship.
The following morning, when I gathered them all with my assigned vehicles, they seemed rested and ready to complete the job ahead. Around noon my crew chief told me the helicopter was ready to be test flown. As usual there was a large crowd of onlookers on the hill next to the riverbed where I had made the emergency landing. Once I had the engine warmed and ready for takeoff I started to come to a hover. Immediately the dried sand was blown by the rotor blades forming a large cloud. Instead of hovering at around ten feet above the surface I had to climb to around 50 feet of height above the river bed so I could see clearly. The dust my rotors had kicked up covered my view of the spectators gathered on the hill and I was unable to see them because the dust I had blown over them had hidden them from my sight. I presume they all needed a fresh bath when they reached home.
Following my thirty minute hover over the river bed I flew to the nearby Italian base I had been instructed to fly to for refueling the helicopter. After shutting down my engine I found the helicopter to look a mess and needed a good wash. I didn’t want to stop to do that because I wanted to put some miles on the aircraft before quitting for the night. I decided to take my crew chief with me in the helicopter and have the rest of my repair crew travel by road in the ship’s motor vehicles. Our detachment tools and the failed engine were loaded on one of the trucks which had been left behind by the Coral Sea for the long trip southward.
So after receiving a full load of fuel at the Italian base where I had landed I took off headed southward. South of Genoa the mountains moved to the shoreline forcing me to fly over the open water for some fifty miles with just open water below me. Open water alone didn’t bother me so much, but, flying with a new and untested engine was an immediate concern of mine. I have to admit that the possibility that I might have to crash land in open water when my flight was not being monitored by anyone was a real concern of mine.
After about forty-five minutes I arrived at a point on the map where the mountain range ended and I could then continue my flight over land. Before takeoff I had studied my maps and I noted that I would pass over the city of Pisa. I wanted to have a photograph of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and since I could not take my hands off the flight controls long enough to take a picture with my camera, I asked my crew chief to use my camera to obtain the shot. I flew down quite low and made a complete 360 degree circle of that beautiful building and once I completed the turn I resumed my heading southward. I asked my crew chief if he had taken the picture I had requested. He assured me that he did, but later the picture came back from development showing the tower very clearly, however, he took the picture when the tower was leaning toward the helicopter and it appeared to be straight up vertical.
The poor fellow must have felt insecure leaning out the window of the helicopter with my camera in his hands hat his only thoughts must have been to get the job done and get it done fast. After departing the Pisa area I headed outhward towards a landing at a military base just outside of Grosseto. As I continued southeastward I passed numerous towns, cities and villages.
People gathered on the roads and streets stopped whatever the might have been doing and either waved or stared since helicopters were rare sight throughout Italy. I flew close to one walled city which was built on a small but steep hill. I could understand how such a town, with its surrounding walls and steep sides, was able to defend itself better during the Middle Ages, however, the difficulties met with getting in and out of the town would have been a daily chore. The streets were very narrow also and traffic jambs must have been a daily problem. As my helicopter and I approached the army base at Grosseto I was amused to see a soldier standing close by the place he wanted me to land. What amused me was that he held a lit smoke flare in his hand, something that I considered unnecessary, but in the least accommodating. My helicopter was able to land headed in any direction when the wind force was not excessive. For instance the wind on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Coral Sea might be coming from any direction when we were told to land and except for some rare situation we were expected to land without undue delay.
Once on the makeshift helicopter landing pad we were greeted by a friendly group of military men and although our language problems hindered complete understanding we managed well enough to get the helicopter refueled and a flight plan filed. The flight to Rome was much like the earlier flight with low level glimpses of Italian towns and much enthusiastic greetings from the amazed folks we overflew.
When we approached the airport near Rome I received instructions from the control tower telling me I was cleared to land on the active runway, just as if I was an airline aircraft. I advised the tower that this wasn’t necessary, that I could make my approach to a taxiway and then air taxi to the parking area. We received excellent post-flight assistance once we had secured the aircraft for the night. Since it was late in the day I decided we would spend the night in Rome. After I had my flight chief and myself quartered for the night I went out for a fine meal and an evening touring the streets of Rome as a first time visitor might well be expected to do. In later years I had several opportunities to visit and study Rome in depth but none stands out as much as this first visit.
The next morning I gathered up my crew chief, who professed that he had had a great time the previous night, however, he did so never moving from the hotel bar the whole evening. Our liberty likes and dislikes would always be at odds I would guess. After our drive to the airport where I would file a flight plan to Naples, I met two pilots from the Coral Sea who were ferrying two AD Skyraider aircraft southward. From Naples they were to contact the Coral Sea and arrange to land on board the ship somewhere at sea.
Once I had completed arrangements for my flight I took off heading toward Naples. Once I had settled on course I had the sun in my eyes and the sun shone directly on my body. I became so warm that I found myself half dozing off to sleep. It was at this time that one of the Skyraider pilots, who had taken off from the Rome airport some time after I had departed, decided to pull a bit of a trick on me. Unknown to me he approached my helicopter from the rear and at the last moment he dove his aircraft so as to fly under me and once he cleared my helicopter he went into a steep climb just missing my turning rotor blades by a few feet. The loud noise of his engine and the suddenness of his appearance completely unhinged me for a few moments. I might have been in a half state of awareness before the trick was pulled on me, but for the rest of the flight I never so much as blinked one time.
As I neared Naples I noted that there were dense clouds ahead which appeared to be thunderstorm clouds. It was obvious to me that I could go no further on my planned route southward to Taranto until the weather improved, so I decided to remain in Naples for the night and I would attempt to cross the mountains early the next morning when I expected the thunderstorms and low clouds would have moved on.
After my landing at the Naples Airport, and after securing the helicopter for the night we took a taxi to a hotel where American military personnel were given good rates. My crew chief, not surprisingly, decided he would go out on the town alone. His idea of having a good time did not correspond with what I might want to do.
Checking with the local military services recreation facility I found several attractions in the downtown area of Naples that interested me. Finally, after due consideration, I decided I would attend a presentation of he opera Madam Butterfly. At that time in my life I was not enthusiastic about opera, but I was familiar with the arias from Madam Butterfly and I decided that listening to good music after a day in the air listening to my helicopter engine and transmission noises would be a real auditory relief for my ears.
As I had hoped the music from the opera was very pleasant. I was reminded that the opera Madam Butterfly was about a love affair that an American naval officer had with a Japanese woman, had been written by an Italian so I was not surprised that some of the audience seemed to anticipate what was going to happen next. The mostly Italian audience that attended the performance that evening was very enthusiastic.
During the intermission that followed the first half of the opera I joined the audience who moved to a small anteroom where refreshments were served. Shortly after entering the room I recognized a man whose face was very familiar to me. He was engaged in conversation with some acquaintances so I waited for a moment when it seemed appropriate to introduce myself. As I approached this familiar face I said, “Hello. I am Jim Waldron and I am sure I know you. Are you from New Orleans and have we met there? He looked at me with amusement and said, “I am afraid we have never met. I am Charles Lane and I am frequently seen in the movies. Perhaps that is how you recognize me.”
This was so unexpected that I became completely flustered so I quickly excused myself and repaired to a far corner of the room. Recently I looked up Mr. Charles Lane on Google. I was interested to learn that he died in 2007, at the age of 102 years after having appeared in over 150 movies. As in this case he was often recognized, but not as a movie actor but as a person known out of one’s personal experiences.
Wikipedia states this about him: You'd know his face in an instant, but probably not his name. In dozens of movies and countless television roles, Charles Lane made his series of brief moments on the screen shine. Following this faux pas of mine I retired to the theater for the remainder of the opera, and following that I returned to my hotel room to rest up for the final leg of my aerial adventure. I received a wake up call early the next morning from the hotel front desk and without further delay my crew chief and I hurried our dressing in order to get ourselves and our helicopter airborne as early as possible. I hadn’t given it much thought ahead of time but I presumed the hotel restaurant would be open when we were dressed and ready for travel. It turned out the restaurant and adjacent kitchen were both closed so there was no chance that we would have breakfast unless there was a restaurant at the airfield. Unfortunately, the airport passenger support facilities were closed when we got to the airfield, so there would be be no breakfast for the two of us that morning.
While my crew chief readied the helicopter I went to the Operations Desk and filed a flight plan to fly to the Bari, Italy airport, about two hours away. In looking at my navigational map of the region I noted that there was an Italian military base about halfway between Naples and Bari. I came up with the idea of making an unauthorized landing at this small base, near the town of Foggia and, perhaps get to eat breakfast there. So I started up the helicopter and when ready for my takeoff I called the tower. I did not tell the tower of my plan to land at Foggia since it might lead to misinterpretation due to language difficulties.
I recalled that on the previous afternoon the hills directly in front of my flight path were covered with menacing hunderstorm clouds which would have sucked up my tiny helicopter and scattered us in many parts over the Italian landscape. Once I got airborne I noted that the mountains directly ahead of my flight path were free of clouds. This was a great relief for me. Clearing the mountains directly in front of my helicopter was easily done but I couldn’t cross them without some concern for the possibility of having another engine failure. Our squadron had lost several helicopters over the preceding year when engines failed over water. Fortunately the engine that quit on me occurred over land and I was fortunate to have landed without damaging the aircraft. These failures which occurred over water resulted in the aircraft sinking after the crews had evacuated the aircraft. My engine failure took place over land and was the single exception to sinking at sea.
As I approached the Italian Army base adjacent to Foggia I was able to see that the soccer field provided the best area for my landing. I presumed that once I had turned off my engine and rotor blades that we would be inundated with on-lookers as happened when landing in areas where helicopters had not been seen before. It came as a real surprise that our only greeter was a single Italian enlisted man who showed up alone in a Jeep. He said that reveille had not been sounded on the base and the rest of the base personnel were still asleep.
I told him that when we left Naples it was too early to get breakfast so we hoped that we might get fed at the base in Foggia. The soldier told us that the cooks were still in bed, however, if we went with him to the mess hall we might find something to eat from the refrigerator, So the three of us got in the Jeep and drove away to the mess hall. Unfortunately all the food containers at the mess hall were locked up so it was obvious we were not going to have our hunger satisfied in Foggia.
Our soldier greeter was quite concerned that he couldn’t satisfy our needs so he decided to drive us to the Officers Club where we might find something to tide us over until we would land at the airport in Bari. This stop was also unproductive for all the food was locked up as it had been at the mess hall. The soldier was so distraught that he went into the officer’s bar and returned with a gift of two stolen bottles of beer. So my crew chief and I consumed the two bottles of beer to show our appreciation of the good will shown by our lone soldier but it did little to assuage our hunger.
After takeoff we headed on our next leg of our Italian journey. Most of this area that we overflew enroute to Bari was field after field of large olive trees, most of which had been surgically trimmed as to produce a maximum of olives to fill the world-wide demand for this delicious fruit.
Bari Airport was a very active base with heavy commercial traffic. Our landing was accepted in a most routine fashion so we were refueled moments after we had landed. A full-service restaurant was nearby so my chief and I were finally able to quell that hunger that had pestered us since we had left Naples. After an hour or so on the ground we departed for Taranto in the heel of Italy. The flight was a short 45 minutes in length and I had no difficulty locating the naval base where we were expected to land and remain until our ship, the Coral Sea, was expected to anchor in the harbor.
The wait for the U.S.S. Coral Sea was only one day in length and it proved to be a rather dull time for the both of us since Taranto was a very small town with little avenues for entertainment. So when our ship showed up in the harbor we eagerly got permission to take off and flew aboard our home away from home. We were pleased to discover that our absence was sorely felt and that little time was lost in placing us back on the flight schedule.
I transferred from the electric shop to Nav div. because they were short
one bugler. Well, I couldn't blow that bugle so my dad sent my trumpet and as soon as I received my
horn I was was waking them up and putting them to sleep. I think I had the best job aboard. I remember one
particular moment during my tenure aboard,when we were tied up at pier nine in Norfolk. I was warming up
on movie call and doing a Dixieland version of that long call. Well, Ensign Territola said play it that way over
the ship, the guys will really get a kick out of it. I argued that I'd get thrown in the brig but than I said, If
you give me a direct order I can't disobey a direct order so he gave the order and I played the best Dixieland
that I could muster and if you remember, that was a really long bugle call.
Well the two phones started ringing off the bulkhead and then the bos'n said ,,, The captain wants to speak to the bugler! Well I thought I'd had it this time but Captain MacDonald said "That's the damndest thing I've ever heard! Keep up the good work"! After that every once in a while the Captain would call me and ask if I could play something special for the ships company for a special holiday. I was always glad to oblige for whatever request he wished. He was a sailor's sailor.
I gained International Renown among uniformed swabbies of the World's Navies for the following exploit while serving in the Mediterranean on the Coral Sea.
On a hot, hot, cloudless, really hot Sunday somewhere East of Malta on our way to Beirut, the Skipper stopped engines and decided to have a swimming party. Cargo nets were lowered from the Portside Hangar Deck to the Water line aft of the side-deck Elevator. While Jarheads in small Boats with M1's at-the-ready protected the Ship's Company from Mediterranean-Man-Eaters, the Crew dived, jumped, fell and frolicked in the Wine-Dark Sea. After an hour of fun, I went up to the Flight Deck Cat-Walk where my sleeping quarters were. While sitting on the Flight Deck looking down on all the fun, a friend dared me to dive off the Flightdeck so that he could take my picture. I didn't really want to dive the 70 or so feet, but I could never resist having my picture taken.
I dove. He snapped a perfect picture of the most handsome re-headed Jack-knife ever seen. I was going so fast, and hit the water so perfectly, that I went so deep that it must have been four minutes before I surfaced. I climbed up the Cargo Net and when I reached the Hanger Deck, my Gunnery Officer was waiting for me. Sez he to me, " Brennan the Captain is up there on the side-deck plane elevator. He was shooting skeet when you dove off the Flight Deck. He didn't see you do it. He has never seen or heard of a dive from the Flight Deck. If you could, he would like you to do it again."
So up I go to my perch on the Flight Deck. I've drawn a crowd. All the Officers on the side deck elevator stopped shooting skeet; all the Officers on the Aft Flight Deck have temporarily stopped driving buckets of golf balls into the water hazard. This time I do a perfect swan dive and a perfect entry and, again, take four minutes to surface.
When I get back up to the Hangar Deck, the same Gun Officer is waiting. He sez, "Brennan, you won't believe this but the Admiral came over to see what was going on, but he missed your dive. The Captain would appreciate it if you would do it one more time. Somehow he will make it up to you".
Up I go; down, down down I go. A perfect 10!
The very next payday, for the first time in the History of the US Navy, from Commodore Barry onward, I received three pay checks----one for Sea Pay, one for Flight Pay, and the third for Submarine Pay!
The USS Coral Sea had just returned from another deployment in the Mediterranean. She was showing signs for the need of painting as streaks of rust were running down her sides. As I stood there looking up at the USS Coral Sea, I thought about the adventure that I was about to begin.
At least two dozen new Sea School Marines were delivered to that long pier at the Norfolk Naval Base that sunny morning in 1955. It was a warm pre-fall day and you could hear the sea gulls clamoring for bits of food. Our Sea School class was the first to report to relieve those who had served their time at sea. There were many yet to come aboard during 1955 and still more in 1956. As I recall, I had my reliable M-1 rifle, a full sea bag, a hand bag, a clothing bag containing two full sets of dress blues, a set of orders that delivered me to this massive carrier, and a framed picture of my girl. How could I know that in forty three years my thoughts would again turn to that long pier that started my adventure.
Greeting us on the pier, a rather tall lean Corporal said, "Pick up your gear and follow me". Beads of sweat began to form on my forehead as I climbed the gangway. Arriving at the top of the gangway, I said, "request permission to come aboard sir" and saluted smartly. I was amazed that I was strong enough to carry all my belongings at one time. "Keep Up" the Corporal said as we followed him down a small opening on the port side of the hanger bay. I soon learned the terminology "ladder." My rifle banged the overhead, and I quickly adjusted myself to carry all my equipment. Again, we approached another ladder and up we went. Back into the hanger bay. "Keep Up" he bellowed . I looked over my shoulder and the line of Marines was thinning. Down another ladder and into a small passageway full of blue sailor uniforms. "Gang Way" he barked, the blue uniforms separated instantly as if from fear. The sweat was now consuming my neatly pressed tropical uniform. Through the ship we went, up and down, dragging our belongings for what seemed like hours. Finally arriving at an opening in the deck, I could see a Marine standing at the bottom of the shiny ladder. I knew then we had arrived at our intended destination, the Marine Detachment compartment. A place where I would call home for the next eighteen months. Down the ladder I went, dragging my gear behind and trying to look squared away and composed. "Find yourself a rack" was the first thing I heard. This was an unfamiliar looking place with sparkling steel floors, shiny small lockers, gray canvas bunks stacked three high and side by side, and a long gun rack. I managed to find a empty bunk that was in the middle of the row that was closest to me and close to the ladder I had just descended. There was barely room for all my gear as I finished cramming my sea bag into the small space.
Intercom messages were blaring continuously. I wasn't sure if the messages concerned me. Mail call, chow call, belay here, belay there. Would I be able to survive? An older salty Marine gave us directions to the bathroom (head). We managed to find our way there. Not knowing at the time of the many memories that would come from my time in the bathroom (head). Not only that I would be using this facility, I would have to clean it as well. We managed to find our way back to our compartment even though everything was painted gray and looked the same. A bugle sounded over the intercom announcing chow call. We scrambled up the ladder that I would soon learn to maneuver so well, and found a long chow line in the hanger bay. The line inched slowly forward and back down into the deck below. The food was good and plentiful. I was beginning to feel like an old salt. I knew where my rack was, where the bathroom (head) was and above all, how to get to the chow line. Returning to our compartment, the first thing I heard was, "Cox", you got the four to eight Brig Watch. Alarms went off in my head. They knew my name. What is a four to eight? - Brig Watch? What do I do? Where do I go?
Later, another tall Corporal led me through the ship to the Brig. I was trying to keep up with him as his long strides allowed him to glide through the hatches. It seemed like a mile before we came to another hatch and descended down the ladder. There, before me, was a large screen cage. Inside was a stern looking Marine holding a night stick. Lined up in front of him were seven blue uniformed sailors standing at rigid attention. They looked like statues. Socks tucked in, collars buttoned, no belts and with a scared look on their faces. "All yours Private Cox", as the sentry handed me his night stick. The Corporal and the stern looking Marine closed the wire caged door and proceeded up the ladder. They both had slight grins on their faces.
There was silence. Deafening silence. The prisoners stood there. As I circled them, I tried to look tough. I had no weapon to defend myself, only that night stick. I didn't know what to say or do as I had not been given instructions other than what was printed on my worn set of special orders. I recalled my drill instructor, just a few short months ago saying, "Carry On". "Carry On" I blurted out and instantly the seven prisoners went to a small locker and retrieved large steel wool pads. They climbed onto those pads and began to shimmy back and forth across the bright shiny deck. I stood there glaring at them, trying to look like a salty veteran. All were older than I. One prisoner in particular seemed to be old enough to be my father. They didn't seem to mind their work as they continued this practice for hours, back and forth, back and forth. There was an uncanny silence in the brig.
Later, the Corporal of the Guard came down the ladder. He opened the wire gate and entered. I was glad to see him. I had made it thus far. It was chow time for the prisoners. Some had bread and water, some had full meals. I don't remember how they got their meals or much more about my four to eight watch that evening, but I was thankful that those seven prisoners had not taken my night stick from me and beaten me with it.
Private Lewandowski, from Carnegie, Pennsylvania, relieved me from my watch that night. It was just before 2000 that evening and first assignment had come to an end. He too knew nothing about a brig, but was about to learn. I gave him the set of worn special orders, the night stick, and whispered to him, my one piece of advice. With a slight grin on my face, I opened the wire door and climbed the ladder. As I got to the top, I could hear him say, in a very authoritarian voice, "Carry On."
Finally off duty, putting my gear away, making small but tough talk, about how I handled the convicts in the brig. I felt confident as the other new Marines eagerly wanted to hear about my "Story of the Brig". Late that night, I climbed into my middle rack with the thin mattress and hard pillow. I pulled the sheet up over my head. I knew I was not tough, I just pretended to be. I felt secure as I drifted off to sleep. I was awakened early for my next four to eight morning watch as my adventure continued.
So ended my first day of the next eighteen months with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Coral Sea .
I had been initiated.
"Nothing unusual to report sir!"
I was standing my post in a military manner that day in 1956 aboard the USS Coral Sea. Post Number One was a special weapons post where the technicians worked with their nuclear bombs. That is why I was there, to make sure no unauthorized persons could enter this space, steal the bombs, blow up the ship, or for that matter, the whole world. I must have looked good standing there in my modified dress blues, my shoes were spit shined, the brass was sparkling, and the creases in my uniform were sharp. I had a 45 caliber pistol, five rounds of ammunition, a night stick, a podium and the usual asbestos dust falling from the overhead. Post Number One was on the mess deck, on the port side of the ship. It was a busy day, an unusual amount of activity was going on around me. It was unusual that the ice cream stand, located in the next compartment to my right, was not in operation that day. Sailors were dressed in their starched white uniforms and not in their blue working uniforms. I went about my business checking people in and out of the hatch that was forbidden to all unauthorized personnel. The hatch was located slightly to my right and behind me. To gain admission and pass through the hatch, you had to have a card. As I recall, the card was orange in color and anyone who worked inside that compartment, had to have one. We kept the cards on the wall directly behind where I stood.
I heard a commotion through the open hatch to my left. Navy officers were coming towards me. There were Lieutenants, Lt. Commanders, Commanders, and the Captain of the USS Coral Sea. Behind them followed Admiral Pirie, Commander of Carrier Division Six. A Commander blurted out, "The Admiral wants to inspect the Special Weapons." There I stood, with at least 15 officers in front of me. I stammered out, "Sir, only persons with cards can pass through this hatch." "Private, the Admiral wants to inspect the Special Weapons" the Commander said raising his voice. I stammered, "Sir, only persons that have a card can pass through this hatch according to my orders." Then the Captain stepped forward and said, "Private, I will take full responsibility for the Admiral." And I replied to him, "Sir, he must have a card." The Captain turned and huddled with his junior officers. After conferring with them for a few moments, the Captain returned and looked me straight in the face and said, "You want a card? I'll get you a card."
While the Captain was conferring with his junior officers, I tried to call the Corporal of the Guard to have him report to my post. He was nowhere to be found. Sergeant Lee, the Sergeant of the Guard happened by. As he made his way through the officers that were assembled, his large brown eyes getting wider, said, with hurried voice, "Private Cox, what's going on here?" Replying to him I said, "following orders sir." "What do you mean Private Cox?" "Sir, my orders say that no one is to go inside the special weapons post unless they have a card, and they want to go in, but don't have cards."
About that time, a Navy lieutenant came through the hatch to my right. He had, as I remember, 3 cards with him. One of the cards was for the Admiral that was now standing face to face with me. I took the card that he had just been given, without asking him to identify himself, let the Admiral pass through the hatch. Two other officers passed through the hatch after giving me their cards. The rest of the officers had to wait outside. They just milled about glaring at me. Sergeant Lee seemed to calm himself as the crisis seemed to be over. He tried to locate Lt. Horne using my telephone but was not successful. About 20 minutes passed. I just stood there, not saying a word but thinking that I was in big trouble. The hatch swung open and the Admiral came through the hatch. He looked happy. The Captain looked happy. The Commander following them looked happy. Everyone seemed happy except for me. For sure, I was now a candidate for the Marine Brig.
Nothing was ever said to me about that day, I often wondered if I had done the right thing. I wondered if Captain Fox thought I had followed my orders and done the right thing. I wondered if that was the famous Admiral, that had explored the North Pole.
I guess I'll never really ever know.
A Marine aboard a large fighting vessel has many duties and usually is assigned to a Port and Starboard duty roster. If he is assigned duty that day, he would be pretty much free from additional duties. This is a brief story about what it was like to be off duty, while in port in a foreign country.
I was laying in my rack that night reading a book as the Sergeant of the Guard descended down the ladder beside my bunk. He demanded, "who's not on duty?" I answered truthfully that I was not and he told me to get dressed and put on a duty belt. He rounded up several more Marines and then gave us a run down as to what our duties were to be.
Word had come from shore that the Indian Chief was returning from liberty and that he had drank his fill of firewater. No one could handle him so there was only one last thing to do, break out the Marine Detachment.
We waited for him in the hanger bay, as he came into view on the quarterdeck, I could tell we had our hands full. He came staggering into the hangerbay. He was wild. He wanted to fight. The Marines circled him. He was swinging wildly at us. One of us charged him like a football tackle and took him down. He was kicking and chanting with an Indian war cry. We grabbed his arms and legs and began dragging him towards an open hatch. We had to muscle him down the ladder onto the mess deck. There, once again, we had to drag him through the ship. We got him to the top of the ladder that led to the Brig and there, he said he wasn't going down there. We began pulling and pushing him down the ladder. We finally got him into one of the empty cages and locked the door. We learned a valuable lesson that night from the Indian Chief.
From that moment on, we always knew when the Chief was going on liberty. When he was ashore, the Marine Detachment's compartment would be empty.
Again I had served my country well and we all deserved another battle star.
In April, 1955, I was on shore duty at NAF Port Lyautey. Coral Sea came to Gibraltar at the start of a Med Cruise, bringing a couple of SNBs for the NAF. The plan was to offload them at Gibraltar, so we could fly them back to Port Lyautey. The British dock workers were on strike, so the planes couldn't be offloaded. I was the only carrier-type pilot at the NAF, so I got selected, along with our Ops Officer (who had 6 landings in SNJs in flight training) to fly the ubiquitous Twin Beeches off of Coral Sea. We launched just off Gibraltar on 4/7/55, to much merriment and amusement in Vulture's Roost. Our SNBs were fitted with wire coat hangar "tail hooks", affixed with ordnance tape. The flight deck's launch tables had no data for the venerable Beech, so they spooted us well aft of the island for deck run. Needless to say, we were airborne before passing the island. We then made a presentable 2-plane pass by the ship (the Air Boss was not happy; we were interfering with the rest of the launch) before flying the 150 miles to Lyautey.
This may have been the only carrier duty in history for the ol' SNB/JRB.
The legendary mail bouy watch seen here aboard the USS Coral Sea. This poor soul has been immortalized.
A human interest story. Christmas 1956 my wife sent ADM Cat Brown, Com 6th Flt a Christmas card. He wrote her a very nice thank you letter and asked what ship I was on so he could look me up. Early in 1957 while at sea I heard the Admiral piped aboard by helicopter and shortly thereafter heard (Chief Cooper report to flight deck control) I had no idea what that was all about as I had no duties on the flight deck. Upon arriving there I was informed that the Captain and the Admiral wanted to see me. I approached them and reported and the Admiral told me about the card and the promise to look me up. He chatted a few minutes and that was it. I thought that it was very thoughtful of some one in his position to look up one enlisted man and say hello. R. C. Cooper, ACC, Ret.
The USS Coral Sea was anchored a couple of miles off shore of Mayport, Florida in the summer of 1956. She was scheduled to be deployed to the Mediterrianean shortly and was in Mayport to load aircraft.
It was a Sunday afternoon and many of us that were off duty had gone up onto the flight deck to sun bathe. We wore our swim suits so we avail ourselves to the hot Florida sun. I was laying there, about to doze off when a Marine came looking for me. He found me among the many lean bodies that were there that day. He told me that I had visitors and to report to the Detachment. I gathered my belongings and scampered down to the compartment. Upon arriving, I was told that a Lt. Commander and a young lady were on the quarterdeck waiting to see me. I dressed quickly and then made my way to the officer's area. There, was my girl friend, Lois Fay Meek and her father, Lt. Commander Meek. They were on their way to Key West, Florida for a vacation and knew the Coral Sea was in the area.
I told them I would see if I could get liberty and returned to the compartment. I hurriedly got dressed, secured a liberty card and returned to the quarterdeck. A dilemma ensued which was, how was I going to get ashore with them? I could not ask the Commander to ride in our liberty launch nor could I ask if I could ride ashore with them in the Officer's launch. The problem was solved when the Commander said, "follow me." We descended down the officers ladder and onto the deck of a waiting launch. We made our way into the cabin of the smartly outfitted Captain's Gig. We sat down, the three of us, where I'm sure, the Captain would have been sitting if he was aboard. There were several officers aboard and I sensed that they thought I was in the wrong boat. I was uneasy about riding on their boat. The trip to shore was uneventful although the waves were pretty high and the ocean spray was washing over the portholes of the boat. I felt a bit relieved for that if we had been in our enlisted boat, we would have been soaked.
Once on shore we met Lois's family and went to dinner at a local motel where they had booked rooms for the night. Lois and I ate hurridly and excused ourselves and slipped off so we could be alone.
Around 10:00 PM that evening, the Commander drove us back to the landing where I said goodbye to them and thanked him for dinner. I waited for a launch to come and when it finally did come, I climbed aboard. This time, the seats were wet from the ocean spray. As we bore through the waves, the mist and spray covered my uniform. It felt pretty good as the air was warm.
I wondered that night while laying in my bunk, how many PFC's had ridden in the Captain's Gig - with their girlfriend. Maybe I was the first and the last.
We hit a whale in the stormy Atlantic on our February 1957 return early A.M. shaking the whole ship, catching it in the open fo'c's'le &the speaker blaring "Will the 3rd Division lay fore to remove the whale".
One of the most vivid memories I have of my early childhood, living around Vancouver, B.C. , Canada, is of travelling down to the Lion's Gate Bridge at the entrance to the inner harbour to watch the USS Coral Sea come under the bridge. My memories place the event in 1956/57, and as I noted in your site she went into Bremerton for a refit in '57, so the old brain cells are still functioning after a fashion. The Coral Sea was the largest warship I had ever seen up to that point, and watching her pass majestically under the bridge was a wonderous site. As a typical 5 year old boy, I was in heaven that day. I went home and for months afterwards I used to spend many hours building 'replicas' of the Coral Sea out of wood scraps and nails, and playing with them. The Coral Sea has always held a special place in my heart since that day, having memorized her name that day long before I even knew where the Coral Sea was or why she was so named.
My father now deceased was Lcdr George A Bane. He was a pilot aircraft handling officer and safety officer aboard the coral sea when it was recommisioned out of Bremerton. He was aboard the cruise to West Pac and Japan. I remember him telling this story. The only television shows available on ship were dubbed in Japanese. They would watch old westerns including the Lone Ranger. At the end of each program the Lone Range's horse Silver would raise up on his hind legs and the star would say "Hi Ho Sliver" and off they would Go. In Japanese this translated to "Hi Ako Silversan" Please forgive the spelling. One day one on the pilots as he was catapulted off the carrier, came over the radio loudly with Hi Ako Silversan". My father never did say who the pilot was.
Another "fender bender" occurred when the ship was being backed into the pier, I believe in Yokosuka, Japan. It slammed into the pier punching a huge hole into the fantail area and laundry room.
I was not too long out of boot camp when the Coral Sea pulled into Bangor, Washington, and for three days and three nights, without stop, took on ordinances of all description for the first cruise overseas following re-commissioning. I was amazed to no end, how many bombs, rockets, and weapons of all kinds were placed inside the ship`s hull. I couldn`t believe the ship could hold that much, but they just kept on pouring them in! This didn`t include all of the fuels we would take on. The USS Franklin came to mind as I watched them load the ship with all of those explosives. The ship was a huge powder keg, and I could see why the Franklin blew up the way she did, as well as the HMS Hood.
I was still aboard when we visited our neighbors to the north in Vancouver British Columbia. There was a report that a woman was rescued from the Lions Gate bridge just before she was able to jump from the bridge to the deck of the Coral Sea. She was a very lucky woman to have been hauled back up to safety, although we had to remove the antenna from the ship and still almost scraped the underside of the bridge with our island, dragging mud all the way as well. It was still quite a drop to the main deck many stories below, she quite easily could have been killed from the fall.
We were at the time, the largest American war ship to have ever entered the port, when we finally pulled into the dock, you could not see the buildings through the people who were on top of the buildings and the ones standing and sitting on the ledges outside the windows.
It took those of us who were determined to see the city of Vancouver over an hour to get through the thousands of people trying to get on board...Now, I wish I had stayed on board that weekend instead of venturing into the city, everything going on, was going on board the ship, though our taxi rides were all free, we couldn't pay for anything that weekend, it was still a great time.
The following week after we had returned to Bremerton, the local newspapers had the headline, "Mayor of Vancouver invites the USS Coral Sea, NOT to return!"
It didn't make any difference what the paper said, over half of our crew returned by any means available to them, many ended up getting married to Canadian women, one of my friends did and was still married to her some ten years later when I again met them in Hawaii.
Oh, one thing I didn't mention is that when the Coral Sea returned to Washington Sunday evening, after it's weekend in Vancouver Canada, it took until Tuesday afternoon to get all the unauthorized women off of the ship, a couple of whom were US Navy waves, who were in with a couple of sailors who were running a small business in one of the unused storerooms but they were caught and disciplined, it ended up costing them far more than the ladies had earned....I had nothing to do with any of that, although I might have paid the price of admission had I known...
I remember a raw ham was borrowed from the admirals frig which was outside his stateroom. we were in port at alameda and being that the chow hall was closed we were hungry. We had nothing to cook it on until someone came up with the idea to cook it on a clothes iron. Needless to say, it worked quite well.
Concerning John Holm's correction of CDR Menard's account of an on-board meeting with Japanese Self-Defense Force officials, I think that such a confab which took place on the late great Coral Sea during the 1960-61 cruise likely was the one he referred to. Also in attendance were many Japanese Diet(elected government) officials, including several cabinet ministers. Our wardroom table played host at lunch to the Transportation Minister, who shortly thereafter was forced to resign as a result of what was called "the Black Mist" scandal, in which he ordered a government train side-tracked so he could visit a girl friend. Leading the military delegation was former Imperial Navy Commander Minoru Genda, the tactical planner of the Pearl Harbor raid, who at that point was General Genda, the first head of the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force.
My name is Thurman Hillis (aka Ted) and I served on the Coral Sea from the time we re-commissioned her until I was discharged on our arrival at Alameda on July 17th 1962. I was in the Signal (OS) Division. During the 1960-61 cruise, I vaguely recall an incident where having an air power demonstration, using an old WW2 Japanese boat as a target. The boat was towed to the bombing area by one of our Navys sea going tugs and then they departed. I was on the Signal Bridge and during the demonstration there was an announcement over the PA system that a high-flying bomber, using radar, had just dropped a 500lb bomb and to watch the old boat. We waited and waited, but never saw the bomb fall. Later we heard that the aircrew had accidentally bombed the sea going tug which was just over the horizon from us. As a coincidence, my brother-in-law was serving on the sea going tug at the time. There was no one hurt in the incident, but it did do some damage to the tug. Until his death in 1982, he used to joke about being bombed by his own navy.
One memory I have of the heat down in the "holes". We shared the same sound powered phones when relieving the watch there. The Navy brought out those padded ear phones early in my tenure. Everyone would sweat in those ear pieces and they would start stinking badly after a time. They would be passed from watch stander to watch stander. It was big fun for the on duty watch, who was awake and alert, to ambush one of us who just waddled out of the rack down into the engine room for the mid watch. A couple of guys would grab us and hold us over the hand rails and someone would cram that stinking ear pad over our nose, holding it there until you couldn't hold your breath any longer, and make us smell it. Wow! Now that was really refreshing when you just got up, and really was not awake good. Such fun and games.
[Follow up - Ed Medlin] - Regarding the stinking sound powered ear phones we shared the same problem in the boiler rooms. We finally wised up and started tearing pieces of CLEAN RAGS from the rag barrel and putting them over the ear pieces to keep the sweat and smell off our ears and hair. What memories of those days!!
We were only a couple of days out of Cubi when #3 departed. The weather was nothing unusual, and normal ops were being conducted. I was standing by #3 waiting to go up on the roof. You remember the little ramps onto the elevators? An F8 photo plane was being pushed onto the elevator, and was at an angle with the RH main gear hitting the little ramp. When that happened, the towbar came off, and everyone ran around the aircraft, throwing chocks under the wheels. About a minute later, the elevator went swimming. There were several people on the elevator prior to the incident, and they all ran off to help stop the aircraft. Lucky!!!!! We all just stood around looking sort of dumbfounded, not believing what we had just seen. The 'powers in charge' all looked the situation over, closed the doors, and we went back to Cubi. After a day or so back in port, we left for Yokosuka, stopping for 10 days in Sasebo enroute, where we relieved the Ranger. Interesting side note to all this: when we left Cubi, we were dragging a screw, had 2 cats down, lost an elevator, and relieved the Ranger, becoming a 'front line' carrier!! Not bad, huh?? Another interesting side note: while sitting pierside in our slip in Yokosuka, the flagship cruiser, (I believe it was the Oklahoma City) was being berthed alongside in the same slip when she got away from the tugs and rammed us in the angle bow, punching a hole in the bow, and doing some damage to the para-loft. Most of the damage was done to the cruiser, though. She had a twin 40 AA mount knocked off the mount, and some other damage. All of this occurred between the end of Feb and 8th of April of 62, as I left the ship on 12 Apr 62 in Yokosuka for duty in China Lake.
As I remember we continued to operate with just the two elevators for some time, then we lost a screw, and someone decided that we had suffered enough damage, and we left the line to go to Yokosuka for repairs.
We entered Yokosuka, tied up at the pier, and later that day or the next, the cruiser USS Saint Paul ran into us while trying to tie up at the finger pier next to ours. As I recall, she did some minor damage to our hull overhang aft of the waist cats, but did a lot of damage to herself, scraping off a couple of gun turrets and killing some sailors. It has been almost fifty years, but while you may not remember all the details exactly, you don't forget the important things.
I was on my first deployment with VAW-11 Det Delta flying the E-1B. I don't remember the dates, but during the cruise a LCDR FOX? flying a F-3H Demon was lost. Might have been from VF-151. Later in the cruise Det Delta lost an E-1B shortly after take off from the carrier at night. There were 4 missing, LCDR Jerry Jones, LT Bud Taylor, LTJG Rod McGinnis (sp) and an enlisted airman whose name I can't remember. The next morning during a SAR launch, the airplane that I had been flying in the night of the crash, had an engine failure right after the cat shot. It was close but they made it back around and trapped aboard the ship.
The 63 cruise included a trip to Sidney, Australia, as part of the Battle of the Coral Sea celebration. On departure, the ship hosted a fire power demonstration. During landing, I believe it was the C. O of VAP-61 but not sure flying a North American A-3B photo recon aircraft, ended up collapsing the A-3's nose gear, missed all of the arresting gear, and went fling down the angle deck in a shower of flame and sparks. He pulled it off of the deck and made it back into the air. After checking the aircraft out, he return and took the barricade. All of it caught on film by the news media. VAP-61 had been brought aboard to take photos of the border between Indonesia and Netherlands, which still maintained control of the Dutch East Indies at that time. That's what I remember anyway.
One other incident happened as we were about 4 days out of Sidney, a Petty Officer Puckett (sp) was being moved to the jail around 9pm and ended up knocking down or knocking out the Marine Escort as the Marine passed through one of the water tight doors. They searched the ship for him even had a man overboard drill the next morning but never did find Puckett. A life raft was found missing from a VAH-2 A-3B. The speculation was that he went over the side. The Navy ended up declaring him dead about a year later. Wrote a story as I remembered the events but I was just a boot Ensign at the time. We all became Golden Shellbacks on our transit to Sidney too.
The Olympics in Sydney for the past two weeks have stirred up a few memories of the Coral Sea's participation in the 21st anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
In 1963, we offloaded all our nukes and other "serious" weapons in Hawaii, then proceeded to Australia.
We passed the equator and the international dateline on April 22 (if the Navigator was to be trusted), and held the traditional Golden Shellback ceremonies. It was a blast, until someone reported "man overboard". We had to curtail the ceremony, go to Flight Quarters, and launch the choppers. After an hour or so, with an amazingly accurate sight muster, we determined that it was all a hoax.
Some days later, we travelled through "The Slot", alongside historic Guadalcanal. In the evening hours, two or three brig rats escaped from the Marine guards who were taking them to mess. An all-night search of the ship failed to find the escapees, but found a few life rafts &survival kits missing from the airplanes. It is my understanding that all but one of the escapees was found soon after in the Guadalcanal area. One remained missing for at least 30 years, until he was arrested in Australia when he attended a conference of island Mayors.
Anyhow, we went to Sydney for 2 weeks. The empty Weapons Department became the "social center". Someone would call in and announce that he'd like to have 30 sailors for a party in the outback, and he'd have his personal Dakota at Sydney Airport to pick them up. Thirty sailors would sign up; we'd get them to the airport, and a week later they'd reappear in a total daze. There were so many invitations that we'd have to urge the crew to participate. It was tough to keep even a quarter watch on board. I personally attended a function, which I was sure would be austere and dignified because it was the dedication of a Catholic Church, and attended by Australia's one Cardinal Archbishop. Lo and behold, when we all were gathered at the massive banquet table, porters passed around asking whether we wanted Scotch, Bourbon, or Irish whiskey. Whichever your choice, you were serve a full litre bottle of same!
We officers had to participate regularly in Shore Patrol duty, working with the Sydney police. We learned to appreciate the civilized state of government there. It was a law that a citizen could only be arrested once per day for any non-violent crime. The result was that the local prostitutes would venture out at 4 in the afternnon, hail and proposition the first police car that drove by, get arrested, post their fine, and were safe from another arrest for 24 hours while they plied their business.
It was a great tribute to the sociability of the Aussies. I'm sure that no one of the 4000 ship's company and air group personnel have ever forgotten their vacation "down under" (unless they were quizzed by their wives about the times).
Shipmates, can you shed some light on what I consider a most interesting west/pac cruise on the USS Coral Sea. We left alameda Apr 3 to a brief stopover @Pearl enroute to Sydney Austr, to commission the Coral Sea Day celebration with them. This lasted for two wonderful weeks and as with anything all good thing must end. We did of course veer off course a mere three degrees and bingo, we were all golden shellbacks going into Sydney. Not too many of these guys left in this mans navy. But let's get on with the story. We reluctantly left as we had to relieve the Connie on our way to Yokuska. Where we was to stop over for a brief R&R replenish, unload the Bingo crews, which I was assigned (vf-151 airframes) and pull out to resume the regular carrier duties of the westpac/ cruise.
Now here is the strange turn of events as I recall. We had our gear offloaded at Yokuska and were in the hanger getting ready for liberty when over the 1MC came the announcement; that this is no drill. All hands return to the ship as it was leaving port. Believe me it was nothing but mass confusion as sailors were running everywhere, some for the ship and some for the beach. We stayed put as the leading CPO in charge said we were not part of the recall and to stay put. The ship was gone in a matter of hours. No explanation. They spent days after rounding up all the strays and loading them on the ships COD. Now here we were sitting here with one lone F3-B to work on and none coming as promised. Once we got the markings painted on it they even flew that one out.
We did have our pay records and chow pass so we felt we were in good shape so nothing to worry about, and liberty was great, 12 section. As long as someone manned the telephone. At the hanger we were covered. About two weeks later, No word so Cheif Hazelten AOC-8 went to command and sent a message to the squadron. He did get an almost immediate response- send no more messages to Saigon. End of story.
So we sat there for the remainder of the cruise and were flown back to Midway where we re-joined the ship and after a brief stop at Whites Beach, which doesn't exist anymore, we headed for home. That I can never forget as we were just outside of Alameda when they announced JFK was shot. We came close to staying out there a while as the complete country appeared to have shut down and no harbor pilots to bring the Coral Sea in. Some how the ships captain took it in by himself.
Now some how as far as records are concerned the Coral Sea was never in Veitman in 63, but made a westpac-Vietnam cruise the following year 7dec-64--nov 65. Is this possible or did I dream it? This really bothers me as I feel there may be a few medals attached to this that I have missed out on. I would like to set the record straight. Was the USS Coral Sea CVA-43 in Vietman in the fall of 63 or not?
Admiral Engen: I flew back to Alameda and Mary from Clark AFB. Didn't take long to get back there. When I arrived there I learned from ComFAir Alameda that Coral Sea, which was home-ported in Alameda, was down going through reftra in San Diego. So I went down right away.
I mentioned Mary. Mary had moved up to Alameda. When she found out I got orders to Coral Sea, she knew that there was going to have to be a move, and the kids were in school. So she moved them at an appropriate time early-on in the semester to Alameda to be there for the kids so they wouldn't be yanked out of the classroom in mid term. So she had already had an apartment there.
I went on down to Coral Sea, in reftra, checked in and relieved the ops officer there. It was planned that I have the opportunity to go to two weeks of school on shiphandling, and ships engineering, which I appreciated very much. But, Captain Bob Elder short cut that to get me on board early. I reported on board in January 26 and relieved the previous operations officer on January 29 in San Diego. I was really thrust into it pretty fast. But that was by force.
A traumatic thing happend. We finished up reftra. Two days after I reported. So my first at-sea period was the period going to San Francisco. The ship conducted carrier qualifications enroute. We came into San Francisco in heavy fog, and Bob Elder, the commanding officer, chose to take the ship in. He was a good shiphandler and I think a very great naval officer. I was very proud and pleased to think that he had wanted me to come to Coral Sea to be his operations officer. The ship was going to deploy in April, so we just had a couple of months to get ready. This fact meant I was going to turn around and go one more time to the Pacific, and Mary was about ready to kill me.
Anyway, we came into San Francisco and it was foggy. Bob chose to continue toward Alameda. He had a pilot on board, and this captain was not decisive. Bob chose to go into Alameda on radar navigation. Unfortunately, in the fog and at the slow speed because of a strong ebb tide, he was set down on a sand bar and the ship went aground. The ship went aground in full view of San Francisco and Alameda. The fog was lifting and soon Coral Sea was in full view of San Fransico and Alameda. Of course, newspapers got hold of it and helicopters came out. It was traumatic. I was told that Admiral Pirie had over ridden some objections over a previous grounding off Rota by Bob's oiler, and Pirie had put Bob in command of Coral Sea. Bob was an aggressive good shiphandler. He operated his ships like he flew his airplanes, with due respect for their capabilities but to their limits. Well, when Bob went aground this time, Pirie to yanked his command.
It was really traumatic. I can't describe the remorseful feeling in that ship that came about because of grounding. The ship was on a sand bar there for maybe six hours, but in those six hours it was enough to spoil Bob's career. She was pulled off easily and was towed in later that evening, and Bob was relieved.
Paul Stillwell: Did you lose the load from sucking things in?
Admiral Engen: Yes. Lost the load. But, anyway, got it back when we got off. It clogged pipes, but they were purged. We had divers over the side and there was no damage.
Anyway, as a result, Bob's ticket was yanked. There was no letter of repremand issued, other than to Bob. He took it all himself, and he was relieved. It was tough for everybody. I had been on board four days. Charles Roemer was in the wings to be a commanding officer and he was thrust into the breach. Charles Roemer relieved Bob Elder on the hangar deck about a week after the grounding and there wasn't a dry eye on the hangar deck. I really felt sorry for Bob Elder and Irene, but that was a fact. I also felt sorry for Charles Roemer, because here are all these people with tears in their eyes, and he was taking over a ship that really didn't want to have another commanding officer. So he had a big challenge in front of him.
Paul Stillwell: Just on Elder briefly, what was the proximate cause? Had he been moving too fast in the fog?
Admiral Engen: Actually, he was too slow and had been set down. He was not where he thought he was. He was navigating and he had been using the SPA-4 repeater on the bridge. He had the buoys marked. There were six buoys, three on each side, leading into Alameda. He knew where they were. But, some how the ship was set down by the tide such that the bow lookout first sighted the number 1 buoy just to starboard and we were set down on the sand bar. We didn't even know we were aground. It was so gentle. But when we knew it was when the chief engineer called up and said, "My intakes are clogged. I'm losing the load." That was when the ship's power went out. I believe Bob was faulted for continuing, given the conditions.
Paul Stillwell: Twenty years later, another skipper put the Enterprise aground there and later became CinCPacFlt.
Admiral Engen: How about that. Yes. Well, I think that goes back to personalities, who was on watch at the time, and the chain of events leading up to it. Bob had one before. That was it. And Pirie said, "Bob, that's it." And Pirie didn't want to do it, but Pirie knew what he had to do, and Bob accepted that.
Charles Roemer came on board, and I set about to really make him feel at home. Charles Roemer had been the LSO on the Lexington when the Lexington had been sunk at the Battle of Coral Sea. Charles Roemer had come back to the United States to help set up the carrier qualification training in two aircraft carriers in Lake Michigan that trained all the carrier aviators during the war. He was the landing signal officer that setup the training and the work out there. Great man, soft-spoken, low-keyed, humanistic person. He could be very resolute and he was not an easy captain, but he also knew what he didn't know. He hadn't been operating much at and with jets certainly recently and he was thrust into this. So I and the navigator, Dickie Wieland, the executive officer, Jeff Davis, kind of gathered around him, without him knowing it, and said, "Hey, let's really make this work. Let's really make this work."
So the first at-sea period came along, and I'd never been to sea in Coral Sea, and we were going to take the air group, Air Group 15, with Commander Wayne Hammett on board. All the squadrons flew up to Alameda, towed the aircraft down and loaded them on Coral Sea, and we went to sea to prepare for deployment. Remember, we're going to deploy in April. We got the air wing on board and headed fair, out of Alameda. Charles Roemer was taking the ship out, and I noticed that as we went by Alcatraz, coming up on Alcatraz, the wind was right out of the west. So I said, "Captain, I recommend we man up the airplanes and get ready to go."
So we went to flight quarters as we went by Alcatraz. We had to run the degaussing range, and we were doing some needed ship's evolutions, and by the time we got to the Golden Gate, the wind was right out of the west and we had about 30 knots across the deck. It was beautiful. So I said, "Captain, I recommend we launch aircraft".
He said, "Do you always operate this way?"
I said, "Yes, sir."
Paul Stillwell: It being your first time.
Admiral Engen: It really was my second time. We had been out once before. [Laughter] So we got up there, and as we came to the Golden Gate Bridge, I said, "Captain, I recommend we launch aircraft."
And he said, "Very well."
And as we went under the Golden Gate Bridge, we were kicking off airplanes. I want to tell you, there was a traffic jam down Highway 101 from Petaluma to San Francisco. There must have been rear-end collisions. People were peering over the bridge as this aircraft carrier is launching aircraft coming out underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. [Laughter] And we went to sea.
We had a good at-sea period. Air Group 15 was well trained, a credit to Wayne Hammett and to his COs. I, having just come from being a CAG, knew exactly what was in Wayne's mind, and I tried not to get in his way, but I tried to facilitate his working with the captain. We made it work.
When we got out to Pearl to go through our ORI, the people on the staff saw me coming again, this time as operations officer on the Coral Sea, and they just kind of rolled their eyes in the back of their head. We went through the ORI and we cooled it. We really did. The grade was not as high as we would have liked, though. They laughingly said goodbye to us as we got out of Pearl and we headed for Australia. We were to go to Australia for Coral Sea Week.
Paul Stillwell: Did ComFAir Alameda have to deal with the flap over the car accidents?
Admiral Engen: I don't know. You know, I was afraid to ask too many questions. I never did ask anybody about it. I was afraid--first of all, it was a bold thing to do, and, secondly, I was afraid somebody would say something about it.
Paul Stillwell: Well, how did you know there were accidents?
Admiral Engen: Someone told me. It was in the newspaper. We could look back up from outside in primary fly in the catwalk and see all the people lined up on the Golden Gate Bridge as the airplanes were being catapulted off.
We left Pearl and went on down to the Coral Sea celebration and Charles really enjoyed this. It was my first operations plan, and we had Destroyer Division 152 with us. It was my first chance to interface with destroyers and do the planning on fueling. I really ate it up. It was fun, interesting, and very, very challenging, and we got along famously.
One night, though, as we were moving southwest we were taking soundings as we went. Coral Sea had NavSat. It was the first ship to have satellite navigation installed. The navigator, Dickie Wieland, and I were just ecstatic about this thing, because it was fantastic, really. We had tried it out at the pier at Alameda, and Dick Wieland told me that the pier was a half a mile from where it was supposed to be. We were beginning to find errors in our charts because of this satellite navigation.
Anyway, on this trip to Australia, one night one of the small boys came up and said, "Hey, I have got rapidly shoaling water." All of a sudden, he had 60 feet under the keel and he went all back full and stopped, and he was in shoal water in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Of course, we were up on the bridge. Coral Sea also was indicating rapidly diminished water under the keel and we came to all stop. We turned the group 90 degrees to the left and went on our way, marked the spot. But, you know, it was a sea mount, and no ship had it before. We didn't find out how far it came up, and I don't know whether that became an island later on or not. But, you know, it's just really interesting.
We examined the charts and saw where other ships had charted the depths, but no one had reported this sea mount. In fact, the chart was drawn from Captain Cook's charting and been updated over the years since. You could see on the chart where ships had made transits and taken sounding before. So we did ours and added one more transit to the chart.
Paul Stillwell: I've just been reading Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and the process whereby coral atolls are built on the shells of old volcanoes.
Admiral Engen: Yes. This was really weird. We were all kind of interested in it.
Paul Stillwell: Naturally you would be. You don't want to run aground again.
Admiral Engen: Of course, and it happened at night. Everything unusual seems to happen at night. But, anyway, had a great time at Sydney.
We were operating off the coast of CA in prep for our WESTPAC cruise in DEC '64. It was a Sunday afternoon. The Padres had been helo'ed off to the small boys for church services. We were alongside an oiler Sunday afternoon. Father Greco, the Catholic Chaplain, was on a Destroyer on the other side of the oiler. He was a Franciscan priest. When he noticed the helicopters on Coral Sea had their rotors folded, he wondered how he would return to the carrier. Capt Charbonnet, on the phone line between ships, told him, "put on your sandles and walk across!"
here's one that Tom Ingalls sent to me a long time ago via email. I have done some editing to protect the guilty:
"...the name of the plane captain that you guys (not me!) taped in the chair was *****. For some reason, he was always getting picked on. I remember he was getting razed pretty bad one day and he got up on the railing of the cat walk and threatened to jump. Naturally, the razing intensified and I thought he was really going to jump until a petty officer came along and told you guys (not me!) to knock it off. Another time, he was down the intake of an F8 that was parked on the hangar deck. Some of the crew (not me!) thought it would be funny to put the turn up cage over the intake and got one of the AQ's cooling blowers and turned it on and went through the motions of doing an engine test. Ol' ***** came flying out of the intake, right out into the cage, yelling for you guys (not me!) to hold it! We all got a kick out of that one, (not *****!)"Some of the pranks I remember are these:
1. Sending a new guy aft and below to the seventh deck to get a new "fallopian tube" for the radar;
2. Setting the "mail buoy" watch;
3. Sending a newby to supply for a left-handed hammer or a metric crescent wrench;
4. Telling a boot that we were heading into a storm and to break out the padeye covers. He was to install all of them on the entire flight deck!
"Remember the time we were on a food replenishment working party (party?) and we diverted some of the goodies down the hatch that went into our sleeping quarters? These were the quarters that stayed at about 100+ degrees and nobody sleept there. There was canned fruits and meats, cherries, and all sorts of other things. Everything was fine until some of the things in the opened cans started turning bad, which they did real quick in that heat. The leading Chief got wind of the situation and came down and pulled an inspection and made us (not me!) return what wasn't opened and throw the rest over the side. No one got in trouble, but we did get a stern warning."
Now that the statute of limitations has run out, I might as well 'fess up too! Being part of a stores unrep working party, some of us once "appropriated" a five gallon can of ice cream! Somebody came up with some spoons, and half a dozen of us tried to eat the whole thing, right out of the big container (nobody ever accused us of being geniuses). Of course we couldn't handle all that and the melting mess ended up going over the side. But I guess we all skipped chow that night.
Ammo unreps were always interesting. On my very first one I worked one end of a bomb yoke with another swab on the other end. We looped the yoke around the tail end of a MK-82 five hundred pounder and heaved it up while another sailor picked up the bomb's nose by hand so we could set the thing on a bomb truck. The clown on the nose got it about a foot off the steel deck, then dropped it! I nearly went through the overhead! Everybody laughed at me, saying that these things aren't fused yet, but I insisted that they not let that happen again!
"I take it you guys weren't with us for the Strikex off California before the cruise in '64, or for the 3-day carquals off Hawaii. Maybe you were, I don't know. But on one of those two occasions, I can't remember which, we buried a man at sea. I think he was a retired officer who had requested it in his will or something. Anyway, they had the regular ceremony in the hangar bay, just like you see in the movies, the Marines firing their rifles, and so forth, before dumping his body over the side from the #3 elevator and feeding him to the sharks. It was touching. On that note, does anybody remember ever hearing what they did with the stiffs we had aboard from time to time? I had heard that they were kept in the galley freezer; supposedly they were left to freeze good and solid before being stood up against a bulkhead to conserve space. Pure scuttlebutt, I guess.
And does anybody remember the time at sea when the Marines were due to requalify on their assorted weapons? Let's compare notes on this story, because I have what I think are some good memories about it. First, the Marines set up a machine gun, a bazooka, and some other small arms on the flight deck aft. Then some sailors were detailed to dump boxes over the fantail as targets. The Marines were blazing away when the ship's captain came up behind them and asked to shoot the machine gun. The jarheads fetched two crates, one for the skipper to sit on and the other for the machine gun. The old man fired a couple of bursts, commented on how much fun it was, then held down the trigger until he burned up the barrel and the thing jammed. After the Marines finished their qualifying routine, they offered to let us sailors play with their toys. I think they didn't want to have to haul the ammo back down to the magazine. I was offered the bazooka but turned it down; I've always regretted that, especially since those bazookas are now antiques no longer in use.
Snipes. A subject all its own. I guess that the brig and mess cooking both ran a distant second to being consigned to the job of a snipe. I recall being threatened by an instructor at Memphis, along with the rest of my "A" school class. He said, on the first day of school, that anybody who failed to complete their Navy schooling at Memphis would be assigned to the fleet as a snipe for the rest of his enlistment. He then gave a memorable dissertation on the plight of the poor slobs and it worked for me! I burned the midnight oil studying at Memphis and was so scared of failing that I graduated second in my class. It was fear and sweat, not brains, so it's nothing to brag about.
One thing I remember about the '65 cruise was smoking. I haven't had a weed since '66 or so, but in those days I burned them much of the time. The only reason it sticks out in my mind is the fact that I didn't buy lighter fluid; I simply filled my lighter with JP-5 by using my TL-29 knife (I still have it!) to open an F-8 fuel draincock (on the underside of the wing, remember?). The stuff was kerosene, of course, so the lighter would send up an awful cloud of black, sooty smoke. But it was free! Also, I used my cigarette as a target for bench testing the IR seeker heads. I was fascinated that the seeker would track me around the shop as long as I had a lit cigarette for a heat source. When we were working on the IR system on the flight deck we would sometimes lock onto the light at the top of a destroyer's mast and watch the seeker head remain stabilized in space while the both ships pitched and rolled. It was fun!"
The only shower watches I recall were on the way to Hawaii in the '64 part of the '64/'65 cruise. The ship had lost an evaporator, water was scarce, and all attempts to get the air wing to take showers shorter than 30 minutes were in vain. So they set shower watches after making us go 3 days without showers! We were allowed five seconds to get wet, then shut off the water and soap down as long as we wanted. If the water pressure was still there a man had another ten seconds to rinse. If not, he scratched for 24 hours until the next shower. All this was timed by a shower watch. We spent almost 3 weeks in Pearl getting evaporator repairs."
As plane captains you fellows must have bunked elsewhere. My bunk was on the O3 level and the flight deck was our overhead. We were just about under the #3 wire, so we had to get used to sleeping with airplanes crashing just over our bunks. The Phantoms were the worst; they hit harder than even the big whales. You could hear the distinctive sound of a Phantom approaching, though, and brace yourself. It really was just a controlled crash."
I remember a few others that left an impression on me , as you might expect they were plane captains. Tom, remember the one that went out on the landing lite system with a bucket with a rope to get to get a bucket of sea water (what else) ? The ship was going along at about 15 knots. When the bucket scooped into the top of the first wave , It filled right up then flew almost up to the flightdeck. When he got the bucket back the bale was shaped like a vee , the bucket was oval with about a pint of water in it . I think this is the same guy (no name) that we taped in the chair while he was sleeping , then we threw the trash can in on the floor. That was my first look at a panic attack."
I recall those Marines marching the (brig) prisoners around and taking them to chow. They had 2 or 3 minutes to finish..and when the guard threw his nightstick down they had to fall to the deck and cry out ,"don't hit me,sir" over and over. Man! There is NO way they could do that now, like you say! Their Mommys would write to the Captain!
Well, here's another picture for our collection. I'm sure you remember the A-3 whales. Remember ****** ********, ATN3? He told me this story, and maybe you've already heard it but I'll throw it out there anyway. Before he was assigned to 154 ****** was in a whale outfit, I think out of Whidbey. The whale was the largest aircraft ever operated from a carrier deck, and it had a dzus-fastened hinged door called the hellhole near the port side aft which was an avionics access. To work on the avionics, the tech had to undo this panel, swing it open and crawl up inside the fuselage a short distance. That's where ******** was on the day of our story, changing out a Tacan box. He was doing the safety wiring when he heard the plane captain close the hellhole door and button it up just as the engines were started, covering his screams to be let out. He felt the aircraft move and knew he had to do something; there ain't much oxygen where these birds fly, it gets deathly cold, and he knew he was in an unpressurized compartment. He did just what you and I would do: he started sabotaging as much equipment as possible as fast as possible. He grabbed coaxes and tore them out; he disconnected big cables from various avionics boxes. When the pilot finally saw enough red lights he taxied back and shut down. Then somebody heard ****** pounding on the hellhole door and screaming bloody murder, so they let him out."
Remember when the Chaplain walked in front of an intake of one of the F8's and his scarf, or what ever they call that long piece of cloth around his neck, got sucked into the engine? If that had been one of us, we'd still be peeling potatos!"
"This is a unpublished photo of Ernie and the Seaplane that he single- handedly rescued from the choppy waters of the China Sea. The article in the 64-65 Cruise Book doesn't even mention Ernie, who volunteered to swim out to the crippled aircraft and attach a line so that it could be hoisted aboard the Coral Sea. Not only did he effect the rescue, but he removed the starboard engine, and with the assistance of the sailor in the background, repaired the engine and returned the aircraft to service. At least, that's what he told me. Atta boy, Ernie!"
"Does anybody remember, I think it was in the Philippines, the time we launched an F-8 from the flight deck in port? I don't know whether it was VF-154's or VFP-63's bird, but I'll bet that pilot really took some G's with the pressure they must have had in the cat that day, since there was zero wind over the deck."
"Your story about the broken screw brought back a memory which might be related, and I may have already told you this one. In '64 we spent some time aboard the Coral Maru, and I think it was during our little run up to Seattle that she did a "speed run". I don't know how fast the old tub would go, but I do remember that I was in our O3 compartment trying to write a letter home when the run began. Our compartment was, of course, aft, and a terrible vibration shook that end of the ship. It shook so badly that my paper wouldn't stay on the table, and writing was impossible. I asked what that was all about and was told that the ship had bent a shaft when she last left drydock; she backed into something, I think. So I wonder if that bent shaft finally broke and the screw fell to the bottom during your '66 cruise. The '65 cruise book has an article about the shipfitters repairing a shaft at sea, but I'm not sure that's a related story either."
While in port we stood 3 section duty, and one night I drew the mid watch in the squadron ready room. Shortly after getting settled, a drunk pilot, an Ensign, walked in and repeatedly bragged to me about being a "fighter pilot". He was a nugget, about to face his first carquals (3 days of continuous flight ops with each pilot having to qualify and be graded on night carrier landings, among other things). I humored the man until he tired of that, then he asked if I had anything to eat. I told him that I didn't have anything, but that the enlisted mess was open, so he left... to my delight. A few minutes later, however, he returned with a cherry pie in his hand. He looked around, then asked if I had anything to eat it with. I told him no, and he rifled around in the ready room desk, then came up with a wooden ruler. He ate that whole pie with that crummy ruler! A few days after the ship was repaired we were at sea doing the carrier qualifications thing. It was nonstop work with little sleep for anybody. On the last night of it, this same Ensign (the "fighter pilot") was trying desperately to bring his Crusader aboard, but he had boltered several times and had to hit the tanker a couple of times as well. He caught a wire on the last attempt, then climbed out of the cockpit wringing wet. He went straight to the XO and turned in his wings. They shipped him out and made a ground pounder out of him. Now, I don't berate the man because none of us know until we're there whether we'll have what it takes, but he was the only one I ever knew who just quit. The rest of our pilots were incredible men and I hold them in the highest respect. We had some characters, but they were my heroes. We had some characters, but they were my heroes. There was ***** ******, the Irishman with the heart of a lion; '****' ******* who later killed a couple of Migs while in another squadron but wrecked three airplanes in about a week during our cruise (that's another story); '*****' *******, so called because his flight instructor had declared him aerodynamically unfit to be an aviator since his huge ears stuck straight out the sides of his head; **** '***' *******, another man of incredible valor who is immortalized in a series of RF8-A high speed sequence photos of him ejecting from his shot-up F-8 coming home to the ship from a raid (he also intercepted a Russian TU-95 "Bear" recon bomber trying to overfly our ship, but that, too is another story); Commander ********, the squadron CO who was shot down over Bach Long Vinh island, ejected while inverted, pulling his shoulder out of socket, endured 45 hours in a leaky PK-2 life raft with circling sharks and enemy gunboats searching for him, but we got him back; and many others, great men all."
Cdr. William Donnelly took over as skipper of VF154 shortly before we left on the 64-65 cruise. He had an easy going style of leadership and was liked by everyone in the squadron. Due to problems with one of the ship's evaporators we stayed in Pearl for almost a month, tied to a pier on Ford Island. We had to ride a liberty launch back and forth to the beach, the last night we were going to be in Hawaii a large percentage of the crew went to town for one last fling before going back to sea. I arrived back at the dock ready to get aboard one of the launches to ride back to the ship and saw the skipper, who was with several other officers. When the next launch pulled up the younger ones pushed up to the front and, taking advantage of their rank, got on first. There were quite a few young sailors that had stayed in the bars too long and were passed out on the grass by the pier. Cdr. Donnelly walked over and picked one up and helped him to the launch, I thought "if he can do that, I can at least help him" and followed his lead. I don't think that any of the people we put back on the launch were even from our squadron but we stayed there for two or three hours until all the drunks were carried to the boat and ended up being on the last launch back to the ship. We were the last people to come back aboard, I never forgot that act of kindness, leadership, whatever you want to call it and he remains one of my personal heroes to this day.
"I don't remember ********* doing anything unusual in Manila, but if my memory is right, he got EXTREMELY drunk in the EM club at Miramar and ***** ***** along with a couple of others gave him a "wig" to cover up the bald head as he sat, passed out, on his bunk. I'll dig out some of the old pictures, I know I had one of him sitting there, asleep in his skivvies with white curls on his head.
Speaking of *****, do any of you remember that we almost missed the ship's movement when we left Subic to come back to the States? Don't recall who else was with us but on the last day before departure we went down to the beach on base for a keg party. There were several people that tried chugging a full gallon of beer from a jug, a few managed to get it down but I don't think anyone kept it down for more than a couple of minutes. At any rate, the kegger degenerated in to the obligatory fight between the navy people and a group of marines that were in the same area. The MPs were called and we were all put in cattle cars to be hauled back to the ship. ***** &I were the last guys on the back end of the car and when it stopped at the top of the hill the driver let his foot off the brake, the truck started rolling backwards and he jumped on the brakes again, ***** fell out and then the truck rolled back over him, dragging him about 5 feet and replacing most of the skin on his back with gravel. I went in the ambulance with him to the Cubi Pt. hospital. We kept trying to tell them that the ship was leaving and we had to go, I did get a call through to CDR *** and told him what was going on, the end result was that we got back to the ship, they had already removed the after brow and we had to board on the officer's gang plank, as soon as we were aboard they pulled it and the ship was under way in less than 5 minutes. ***** spent the trip back laying on his stomach in sick bay while he grew new skin to fill in the abrasions on his back.
... I do remember an A1 Spad that came back with huge holes through both the flap and tail, it also had shrapnel holes all over the fuselage. It sat in front of the port elevator for a long time before they got all the sheet metal replaced. Also remember that an A1 shot down a MIG 15, he saw it coming up behind him, popped his speed brakes and let the MIG over run him and then just pulled up the nose and sprayed the area in front of him with those 20 mm guns and the MIG ran in to it and went down."
I noticed your site and had great memories of plane guard duty while on the USS McMorris DE-1036. However, I seem to recall one event when we were headed for Subic Bay. Late one night we had to make a decision as to whether change course and cut in front of the Coral Sea for a better course toward the Bay, or wait until we passed port side to, and take a longer route. There was sufficient distance and that was not the issue, so we cut in front - perhaps 4,000 yds or more. However, when we cut in front the engine room decided to blow stacks which left plenty of smoke for your ship to pass through. We were still getting blasted for that days later!
My Father was on the Coral Sea a couple different times as he used to tell me many Stories. My Dad passed away some years ago from Lung Cancer, But the stories he told are just as vivid as if he were sitting here telling them.... it goes, it was just a normal day of operations the deck was busy sailors doing their day jobs, When word started spreading around that an Admiral had boarded late during the night for some inspection, no one believed it because no one had seen him. Then an alarm sounded an incoming aircraft was having trouble with its landing gear, Things got crazy sailors running about, well dad had headed for a hatch to get out of the way and head for his station which at that time was with the medical staff. (at this point dad started chuckling a bit) he said when he hit that hatch being the first one there slid down the rails and WHAM, he found that Admiral, at the bottom of the stairs and he was on top of him, He had hit the Admiral with both boots right on the head and knocked him cold. ( by this time Dad was laughing ) never got into any trouble over it. In memory of my Dad: Floyd Author Gracie he was a Chief Petty Officer when he retired sometime in the Mid to late 60's.
Found this on eBay. An A-1H Spad of VA-25 apparently landed on the wrong carrier, USS Constellation, when returning from a mission. Per Navy tradition, the other carrier's flight deck crew mark it up before sending it back home.
The news article about the woman reporter that came onboard during operations off the coast of Vietnam doesn't tell the whole story. She came on when we had been at sea for over 40 days straight and she caused the whole ship's crew to go bananas. Wherever she went on the ship the guys would let other guys know over the sound-powered phones where she was and they would line up to see her. To give you an example of what she did to our flight-ops, normally we could launch all our aircraft in less than an hour but when she was around it took over two hours. There were more accidents reported during her time onboard than any other time during that deployment. There was even a big bet between the officers to see who was going to bed her. The Captain was sure glad to see her go.
While cruising off the coast of Vietnam 22 December 1967 the Bob Hope USO Christmas Show was schedule to go to the U.S.S. Ranger CVA-61. The helo that was bringing Bob Hope, Raquel Welch, Barbara McNair, Elaine Dunn, Gary Crosby who's Bing Crosby Son, and Madeleine Hartog from Peru who's Miss World of 1967 to the Ranger that day flew near the Coral Sea. So being the very nice person he is Bob Hope asked the pilot which ship that was they just flew by and the pilot said the Coral Sea. He asked if they were scheduled to have a show there which they wasn't since they were scheduled to spend the night on the Ranger and have the show for the crew the next day. So Bob Hope told the program manager that they can have a quick show aboard the Coral Sea since they were so close to the Ranger and go back to the Ranger after the Coral Sea Show to spend the night.
Wow, this is great. I just saw the newspaper article about the ship returning from the 64-65 cruise. I had been on the ship for 3 month at this time and was happy to be home after just 3 months. As a 19 year old, this was the longest I had ever been away from home. In July 65, the Coral Sea left again to South China Sea. Returning in January 1966 the Coral Sea was welcomed by two Topless dancers in a raft. The raft was floating between Alcatraz and the ship. Needless to say, this was an interesting welcome. A photograph of the backs of the two girls saluting the ship as she went buy was on the cover of the newspaper then next morning.
Last January, I e-mailed Capt. Ault reminding him of the anniversary of our return from the 65-66 cruse. He told me that the Alameda Admiral flew his Aid out to the ship to instruct the Captain on how to behave in the presents of such a welcome. He told the Aid that our crew would honor any method of welcome. he he he.....
After a year on the Coral Sea, I was an OLD Guy. I was sitting, drinking coffee in the the mess deck with feet up on a table.
The master at arms walked up to me and yelled. "Do you put your feet up on the kitchen table at home salior"? I said, "No, I don't. but we didn't have airplanes landing on the roof either". My Chief PO had to bail me out of the MAA office.
Our skipper during the 68-69 cruise was Captain James Ferris, an absolutely top notch CO. One day while launching and recovering aircraft in the Tonkin Gulf he did something totally not in the book. Flight operations in the Gulf consisted of going in circles, turn into the wind, launch aircraft, etc. In between launch and recovery a friend of mine on garbage duty came walking down the hanger deck, soaked and covered with garbage. He was using the garbage chute on the fantail when water came up the chute. We were backing up! Shortly after Captain Ferris announced that we weren' t crazy we were backing up. He said he was tried of going in circles. We only backed up once but that was enough.
There was this one line period, I can't think what month it was, that two of the elevators [aft port, and the one right in front of the bridge] fell from their guides, but that wasn't the worst of it. One shaft locked up - then, during a launch and recovery cycle, the second one did the same! But that wasn't the worst. During that cycle, it was known, in CIC and a few other places that, given our course and speed, we were headed toward Hainan Island. CHINAT territory! We nearly got there - within 100 miles of it!
My own impression was that the Chinese didn't want any part of trying to catch a carrier - but what an incident that would have been! Pueblo would have been mild by comparison!
This is what I actually witnessed, during recovery. One of the stations we manned was forward and after surface lookouts. [Sucked up some stack gas, until I learned to duck into the hatch behind me.] An A-6, going down the port side leg of its approached, just flipped! Completely upside down! Both crew ejected - and hit the surface just after their canopy had done the same! Only that time did I witness the chopper's recovery crew heave it up on deck!
DUDE! Where's the nose gear? -
Another one I personally witnessed. It was the fly-off before making our final leg to San Francisco. On the Angle Cat was an F-4, 96.6 percent engine, full afterburners [of course!] going. The pilot was the squadron's commander - and perhaps evens the air wing's commander - that was the scuttlebutt. For whatever reason, the forward guide wire disconnected and wrapped itself around the nose gear, just as the shuttle yanked the craft forward. It was sad and ugly. The plane, nose at a down angle, slid off the round down in front of the angle. Both pilot and RIO ejected, but bounced down the deck and into the water. Neither survived, I was told. The CDR had three months before retirement.
Let no one say that Naval Aviation is a cakewalk!!
I am sure that you heard of the large cake sent to the Prime Minister or Australia in appreciation for letting U.S. troops take R&R there.
Well a large cake was baked by the Coral Sea and sent via COD to the PI. From Cubi Point NAS is was flown to Manilia International and put on an Australian airliner to Australia. The cake was flown from the ship and was in a wooden crate 3ft X 3ft x 10". When I saw the carte, I took out my survival knife and priyed open the lid. Inside was the cake with the Australian flag. The cake was big. It had to be 8-9 inches tall with 2 inches of frosting. I took my knife and cut out a large corner piece. Scrapped off the frosting and had some cake. I was with Mike Wexsler ADJ2. He was on temporary duty with the C1A crew. Now I had a large hole to deal with. I took out a sheet of paper and wrote" The phantom strikes again, HA, HA. Put the note where the cake was taken from and closed the crate. The cake went on its route to Australia. A few days later I went back to the ship and was called to the Captains quarters. When I went in, to my right, on a small table were news clippings from around the world telling the story of the cake and the phantom. The captain asked me about the incident and I assured him that a cake could not interest me when I could go to Alonapo and have a drink or two. Since the note was printed, I did not print anything for 4 years. Well, I thought that things were calming down and it would blow over. The Captain was not happy because he was waiting for his star and did not like the notetriety.
A couple of weeks later Martha Raye- the commedian, came to the ship for an appearance. She flew out by helicopter and did not land but was lowered to the deck by wench. Of course the Captain was was there to greet her. Well Ms Raye had on fatigues and a name plate, which read" The Phantom". She handed the Captain a cup cake and said it was to replace the missing piece of cake.
I was in AIMD for 2 West Packs. I rember in 69 that we had a plane tow a target so the 5inch guns could gun pactice. The guns fired and turned and fired some more. Well they hit a real plane sitting on the flight deck and blew its tail apart. We were ordered to turn in all photos of the aircraft. (Anyone have a picture :)
This was 1968 - 70 - I went on 2 cruises (westpac) and I'm not sure which
this was, probably 1969...
Had almost forgotten the time we spent off the coast of N Korea.... huge waves in the storm we were in. I was on the Helicopter Crew (Helsuppron 1) and during the worst of the storm we had the helo tied down right next to the island with a bad generator. The weather was so bad we couldn't use the elevator to bring another up so AE1 Ed White tied a rope around my waist and I went up on the helo and changed the generator while several of the deck crew stood by holding on! I remember my fingers were blistered and my back was frozen! No fun then, but memories are best "remembered" from afar! :-) I was really sad to see the pics of ol' 43 being cut up! I treasure my shellback certificate from that cruise (or was that the one before?) I did two westpacs and the memories blur.. guess I need to get my cruise books out :-)
During the 1971 cruise we were preparing for the Bob Hope USO tour during December. The hanger bay had a roof high Christmas tree, and a stage built for the show. The excitement was really building for a break from the 12 hours on/12 hours off grind of working in the airwing during the VietNam war. The USO tour group was on it's way out to our ship by helicopter I believe, when we got the bad news over the 1MC that the Tet Offensive had begun (their timing was sadly perfect), and I don't think that it took more than about 15 minutes for the tree and the stage to be pushed out the elevator door and into the Gulf of Tonkin. Christmas pretty much came and went as just another day on the line. I watched the tree go overboard with a lump in my throat, and then it was back to work.
Prior to the 1972 Westpac, Vietnam war protests were in full swing. One group was called SOS; Stop Our Ship. They organized many protests among civilians and were able to get a few sailors involved by signing petitions and refusing orders. This never amounted to much in the way disrupting deployments, but they did get some publicity. It has been falsely circulated by one source that there was a mutiny on the Coral Sea. There was never a mutiny aboard Coral Sea. There were some off base meetings, protests outside the main gate and an interesting mock POD that was published.
I was on the Coral Sea from 1970-Jan. 72, when I was given an early out to go to school. I flew off her on a chopper while we were in the Tonkin Gulf...into Da Nang where I had been stationed in 1969. I had to spend the night there and then fly to Saigon for a flight to Subic Bay...would you believe they had a rocket attack in Da Nang that night...all I could think of was, "Dear God, I spent a whole year in this place without getting killed....please...not tonight!"
I was on the Coral from mid 70s to Feb 74.I am proud to admit that I was a snipe. Finding your web sight by accident sure has brought back memories. As far as hazing goes, we used to send the new guys off for a bucket of gland seal (steam) and bulkhead remover. I remember looking at my watch and not knowing whether it was day or night. I had to go up to the hanger bay to find out! We also made our own hooch. An empty milk can from the mess deck and some strawberries did the trick. Found some airdales in our generator room one night. They said that they heard that it was a good place to party. Could not let them stay, it was bad for our image.
Sometimes friends drop in when you least expect them. But when a friend drops in when he least expects it, there is going to be some heavy hazing.
Such is the story of LT Mike Ruth, an A-7 pilot from the USS KITTY HAWK. Returning from his first mission since he finished training at Lemoore, California, Ruth saw a number of planes in a holding pattern above a carrier. He just naturally circled into the pattern, came in hook down, and landed smoothly.
But what is all the whooping and hollering by the flight deck crew? Why are the Landing Safety Officers doubled over in convulsions? This is the KITTY HAWK, isn't it? And then a glance at the big "43" on the stacks. Oh, no.
"Welcome aboard, Chippy 404; you've just landed on WESTPAC's Finest," stated Captain Harris over the flight deck announcing system. LT Ruth had mistaken the relatively small deck of the CORAL SEA for that of the KITTY HAWK.
The flight deck crews sprang immediately into action. But instead of grease guns, they held cans of spray paint in their hands. In a matter of seconds, the KITTY HAWK / VA-195 plane was branded with "CORAL SEA" and the names of every squadron on board.
After a quick tour of the ship and a true servicing of the plane, LT Ruth departed for the HAWK. The finest ship and the finest air wing in the Pacific were proud to be of assistance.
My husband was aboard the Coral Sea during the 71 - 72 WES PAC, he was a green shirt working on the tow tracker and etc. He doesn't talk much about that time but I get a little now and then. In the shop he put up the picture I have enclosed. Some of the pilots used come in and pat her behind before a mission. The Girl as she was named had a lot of signatures when Del left the Coral Sea but time has taken its toll on her and now all I have is bits of paper that I have sealed in a bag.
There I was... in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on USS Coral Sea. We were told we would have five hours of liberty because we were on our way back to the states and that's all the time we needed to load some provisions on board. Of course, all the JOs headed straight for the O'Club. As we were leaving, an announcement on the 1 MC said to be back aboard at 1330 instead of 1500 since the ship would be leaving early. I thought it was just a scare tactic to get us aboard early, At the O'Club we tried to drink all their cold beer before time ran out. I fell in love with a waitress at the club about 1300. (This was between marriages for me). We went for a ride in her GTO while all the smart JOs went back to the ship. A little while later I noticed the cranes were lifting the brows from the ship. Oh, Oh!! We went screaming down to the dock. I jumped out and ran to the sponson where the quarterdeck is located and yelled "Throw me a line! Meanwhile 4,000 guys in whites are manning the rails and watching to see what this LT would do next. I made a running jump and caught this 1/2" white nylon line (the ship was only a few feet from the pier). As soon as I caught the line, the four or five sailors on the other end started to pull me up. Unfortunately, I kept whacking my shoulder against the rounded bottom of the sponson. So it went..., Heave...whack my shoulder. Swing back out where they could see me..., Heave whack my shoulder again. Finally, I got up and over the railing... trying to cover my nametag with one hand and salute with the other. My hat was long gone. It's a good thing my CO was up on the bridge and the skipper of the ship thought it was funny or else I would have been in "hack" again. My XO, Van Westfall, didn't think it was funny at all and chewed me out as only he could. He said, "That's strike two. One more and you're out of the squadron". Years later, when Van was XO of USS Ranger and I reported in as flight deck officer I asked him, "New ballgame, new strikes?" He said, "You're still working on two strikes ... same ballgame".
I checked on board in 1972 and left her in 1978. I made 3 west-pacs and one yard period on her. I was assigned to the emergency diesels. I went to Perth (twice) SS Magizeses (Spelling). She helped me growup, in a way. I remember Capt Frick, I was the engineer to the Capt gig. I got to met his family. I can't remember the first Capt I had, but he took the gig out of Alamada boat house, and I have red tags all over it and he got towed back by the Coast Guard. I was about 20, just made third class and I met him on the boat dock and he comenneced on a on the spot Captain's Mast, when he got done, he asked me if I had anything to say? I said "yes sir, who pulled my red tags?" That was the first and last time I ever saw a Captain back down.
I got out of Radioman "A" School (SDeigo) in early May 1975 and was sent to Alameda Naval Air Station (NAS) to await the U.S.S. Coral Sea (CVA-43) return from their 1974-1975 EastPac Cruise. While waiting, the Navy Wives created a very large "Yellow Ribbon" for the Coral Sea's return. They made it out of a large piece of chicken wire, with hundreds of small yellow cloth strips tied to it to make one large "Yellow Ribbon. Me and 6 other sailors drove it to Coit Tower and carried it up the interior "mural painted" circular stairwell. I was at the back-end hoping I wasn't allowing it to scrap the mural on the way up! A couple of the bigger guys hoisted it outside the top opening during that very windy day, and we all finally got it tied down. The "Yellow Ribbon" was drapped near the top of Coit Tower and could be seen all over the Bay. The U.S.S. Coral Sea shipmates saw it as they arrived under the Golden Gate bridge as a "Welcome back home - San
Francisco's Own". It was a sight to see!
About the time of the fall of Siagon we had a guy go UA while we were at sea. The Master at Arms looked for him for weeks, never found him. Seaman Cruze was his name. He was found in the PI about six months after we got back to the states. Connected to this in Aug of 75 there was an Ausi who showed up in the LA Australilan counclet wanted in ticket back home. They asked how he got here. He told them he had stowed away on the Coral Sea while we were in Perth with the help of Seaman Cruze. I was an MA at the time and had to check on Seaman Cruze when he was in the brig in Long Beach CA.
I served onboard the USS Gridley (CG-21) from 1974 to
1979. Many was the time that Gridley performed Plane
Guard duties during Coral Sea's Flight Ops.
I wanted to share with you some great pictures I took during the Wespac Cruise in 1976. We were on our way to Australia (Gridley went to Bunbury, Coral Sea went to Perth, I think). Some genius decided that Gridley should attempt an UNREP from Coral Sea in the middle of these huge waves. The pictures are a bit deceiving since the waves don't look all that big... but you can see the gyrations that Coral Sea is going through. The UNREP didn't succeed, and I think we were very lucky not to have injured and/or killed anyone during the attempt.
The first picture shows Coral Sea with a BUNCH of black showing. Some guys are by the gun turret, blissfully unaware. Second picture is a bit shaky... you can imagine what the Gridley (a guided-missle cruiser) was doing. Third picture shows water coming over the flight deck, and the guys by the gun turret heading aft.
Anyhow... thought you might enjoy them!
We did have great fun in the Phillipines, and got kicked out of Japan (drunk and broke sailors
tipping cars I guess?) during our second visit! (...that story in a moment...). We pulled into
Japan with a U.S. "submarine", and when we were heading off base for liberty they wouldn't let
us out of the gates... All we could see was a real colorful parade on the street with japanese
folks dressed up as dragons, etc......a real pretty parade! But we soon found out it was
actually a protest 'cause the "sub" was nuclear (enough said!)
Later, when a couple of guys and myself just got off radio watch on our second visit, we started walking about 100 steps off base for liberty just in time to see a bunch of Japanese police with shields and banging battons in their hands in unison, started running down anyone in there way... We turned around and ran back on base/ship quicktime! ....every swinging dick got to stand at "parade rest" for Capt. Frick's rath! Looks like some of Coral Maru's finest got drunk (...not sure how? as we were all broke by the time we hit Japan! ...as I digress..) and started tearing up the town and cars, etc.. Any "detailed" clarifications would be appreciated?)...again we were out to sea, without a home! (Gotta say Capt'n Frick took alot of crap from his shipboard inventory of sailors... but he has alot of stories to tell to his Grandkids!!!)
Once, we had to replace the whip/christmas tree antenna's near the bow one time when the waves were hitting over the flight deck, just out of the Phillipines. The waves were so high and strong they actually bent the antenna platforms which were made of very thick steel! Another couple of days in the Phillipines, YES!
I remember when someone turned on the hanger bay sprinkler system during the ''77 Bi-Centinnial celebrations while tied up at a pier in San Francisco...with "City" visitors touring the hanger bay (ouch!) Again, where the Capt. had the whole ship crew standing at parade rest on the hanger bay for hours, dipping "all hands" into a bucket of solution to see whch hands would turn color (culprit) from the dyes on the sprinkler controls! (....another rath from the cap'n!!)
This is in reference to the liberty in Yokouska, Japan when the ship got sent back to sea. I believe I was the un-intentional party that started the riot. It all started when my buddy and I from Fort Wayne,Indiana stopped at a corner corndog stand. There were five guys there before us ordering, so I stood in line while my buddy sat on one of those white corner concrete street markers resting his head. Well those five guys got their order and condiments but just stood there and never offered to allow me to order. I tapped one on the shoulder and ask if I could place my order but got no response other than a go to hell look. So without much thought I tapped him on the shoulder again but, as he was turning around the second time I met his chin with my fist,immeadiately knocking him out cold! Two of the others jumped on my buddy who was oblivious as to what and why, while the other two came after me. Well about all I can remember after that is when Shore Patrol got there I was on top of a guy pounding him. Two Shore Patrol grabbed me by the gallus of my Liberty overalls and slung me towards the sidewalk. There on the sidewalk was a bicycle leaning against the wall. Both myself and the bicycle went crashing through a huge plate glass window. They immeadiatly pulled me out of the shop and escorted me to the paddy wagon which was just arriving driven by two of the Marine Corps finest. They then proceded to chunk me in the back. Well, while i'm the only sailor caught I start looking out the front and back and see fighting up and down the street by anybody and everybody. The very first time the Marines open the door to give me some company I hit it wide open but got nabbed before my feet hit the ground and get chunked in again. My buddy from Indiana luckly got away from his attackers down a back street and out of harms way. Needless to say I went to Captains Mass early the next morning in front of Captain Joseph Frick and was charged with inciting a riot, drunk and disoderly (of course) and got restriction for 60 days, fined 1/2 a months pay for two months, a suspended bust along with extra duty for 45 days. I was then escorted down to dispursing to borrow $350.00 from the Navy to pay for a bicycle and a plate glass window. I still have the receipt somewhere showing the amounts in Yen. Never cared for returning to Japan after that. As all can guess this incident was brought about from too much Kirin Beer and saki.The woman companionship and the cost of their professional company didn't help either. We were all broke from the last port of call in Olongopo City!
Another thing I can remember is Hong Kong! Me and PJ Finn and some other guys, maybe Al Frasier, went out on liberty, and I can remember how expensive things were! A beer was four bucks American! So we decided to grab a bite in an authentic Chinese restaurant. When it was my turn I asked for, chop suey! The waiter said we ain't got that here! It's an American dish! So I asked for beef chow mien! He again said they don't have that either its American! So I said just what do you have? He said moo gai pan!
Its an authentic Chinese dish! So we all had that. Couple of days later, out to sea, captain came over the mc-1, said anybody that ate at such and such a restaurant, report to sick bay! To get a hemo-globulin shot! There was about a hundred and fifty guys in the line! Ha! Ha!
When we arrived in Pusan, South Korea, the ship anchored in the ocean outside Pusan harbor for security reasons. Pusan harbor has a bottleneck that the Navy considered a potential hazard so we anchored offshore. We were scheduled to be there for 3 days. The way the duty schedule fell, I would not have duty till day 3 so I went on liberty. Since we were anchored so far out, the liberty launches provided by the harbor authority consisted of 3 old LCV's and one fast hydroplane speed boat. I missed the fast boat and rode the rock-and-roll flat bottom to the fleet landing. Me and a couple buddies went into Pusan, saw the sights (and the girls!), drank lots of beer, and settled into a hotel for the night. The next morning we went to the fleet landing to catch a boat back to the ship. Overnight, the weather got rough and the swells were 10 to 15 feet where the ship was anchored so the liberty launches couldn't get safely alongside the ship. We waited all day and into that evening but the sea state never changed. There were eventually about 1000 Coral Sea crewmembers at the landing waiting on a ride. By dark, we were all pretty desperate. We were cold, hungry, and broke. We had spent all our money thinking we would be on the beach for one day. Sometime after dark, the word was passed that the US Army was coming to rescue us. They showed up, loaded us up in deuce-and-a-half troop trucks, and brought us to the little Army base in Pusan. We got there about midnight and they sent us to the chow hall. Needless to say, those Army guys were NOT HAPPY about getting out of bed and fixing mid-rats for a bunch of squids. We wolfed down the chow and they sent us to their gymnasium to sleep on the floor.
The next morning they shuttled us all back to the fleet landing. Still no boats, sea state unchanged. Sometime later that morning, Coral Sea had flown portable grills to the beach and they were cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the beach for us while we waited. The weather forecast looked bad, so Coral Sea decided that we would have to be airlifted back to the boat since we were leaving the next morning. We were given orders to go back to the Army base to wait on helos. The Army loaned us a couple CH-47's and HC-1 used their helos as well. All went well for the first few flights, then the turnaround time got real long. The word came down that the aircraft fuel we had taken on during UNREP prior to arriving in Pusan was contaminated so the helos would make two trips and then fly 300 mile round trip to Kunsan Air Force Base to get good gas. We finally got to the ship, and then we caught hell from the other 2 duty sections that didn't get liberty and had to cover our watches while we "played" on the beach. There are 2 pages in the cruise book commemorating this event.
I also remember our in-port period at Yokosuka, Japan. After having been in and out of Olangopo for a few months, the culture shock of Japan was a bit much for some guys. Beer and entertainment were really expensive. There were some bars busted up, lots of fights, and some personal property destroyed. Many of the bars put up signs saying "No American. Japanese Only". That didn't endear Coral Sea crewmembers to the locals very well. I remember on the 3rd evening or so while waiting on liberty call, Commander Strachwitz, the head of engineering, came on the 1-MC and threatened his department personnel with perpetual restriction if any of his people were reported as causing trouble. Rumors were that the engineering folks caused most of the trouble in town but I think we all had a hand in it. I took some leave and went to Tokyo and Yokohama for a couple days to get out of the hot zone.
There was one incident on board that directly affected me. I managed throughout all my Navy career to skate out of Mess Duty. I pulled strings, called in favors, hid out in lockers, bribed the appropriate personnel, or volunteered for other TAD assignments. Unfortunately, after being at sea for 4 months on WestPac 77, fate caught up with me. I ran out of rat holes to hide in and had to do my time. I was assigned to Cargo which wasn't too bad. On the morning of July 1st, 1977, I reported to work and was told my supervisor had an urgent message for me. When I caught up with him, he said I was to report to Capt. Aitcheson on the bridge immediately. My knees buckled, I got a knot in my stomach, and I thought, "Oh, sh*t, they done figured out how I been shirking mess duty and now I'm getting my own private Captain's Mast!!) I made my way to the bridge all the while thinking about what excuses I could come up with to get some sympathy and a lenient sentence. When I arrived I reported to the OOD and sent me over to the Captain who was sitting in his chair on the starboard side of the bridge. His right foot was propped up on the window. Funny how you remember the details when you think you're about to be cooked and served up on a platter. I could hardly stand up I was so scared. After saluting and stating my name, he reached down in a briefcase at his feet and pulled out a blue folder. He opened it up, read the contents, and congratulated me for being selected as Food Serviceman of the Month for June 1977. At that moment I created a new definition for the word, relief. I thanked him and as I walked back to work, I couldn't help but feel a little special that the Captain addressed me, one out of 4500, and gave me a big Bravo Zulu. I still have that letter of commendation.
YN1 "Diamond" Jim Parker spent the majority of his 20-year Naval career ashore. During an early assignment in Hawaii, he met up with some old clown friends who enticed him into donning a clown costume to help promote their show. Thus began a "second" career for Jim Parker.
Diamond Jim's circus record was quite impressive. With many appearances on Circuses ranging from Bentley Bros. Circus, Clyde Bros. Circus, Circus Vargas, King Bros. Circus, Rudy Bros. Circus, DeWayne Bros. Circus, Wally Yee's Greater European Shows (Hawaii), American Continental Circus (Circus Gatti), and Circus America (Paul Kaye) just to name a few. However, he seemed to be most proud of having been a clown with the Ringling/Barnum Bailey Brothers Circus. Also, in 1973, Jim was the assistant to the dean (Bill Ballantine) at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum &Bailey Clown College.
In 1977, Parker received orders to the USS Coral Sea (CV-43). He was under the impression that he was reporting as the Captain's Yeoman.
With this thought in mind, "Diamond" Jim Parker reported to the Quarterdeck (dressed in his clown costume-pictured above), and loudly announced to the Officer of the Deck, "Howdy Folks! Meet the Captain's new Yeoman!"
The OOD called Personnel and informed Parker that the position had already been filled and he was being assigned to OZ (Operations Intelligence) Division. In Jim's own words. "They made a clown cry."
With the upcoming WESTPAC deployment in June 1977, "Diamond" Jim Parker submitted his request to transfer to the Fleet Reserve. According to the website (http://www.folkvine.org/parker/aboutdjp.html), "Diamond" Jim Parker died in 2003.
I Caesar D. Sone will always remember the 79-80, and the 81-82 WestPac on Cat-3. One of the funnest times I had aboard the Coral Sea,was when it snowed in Bremerton, Wa. in the winter of 1978. If I'm not mistaking, it was V-1, V-2, and maybe V-3,and only a handful from each Div. We all had a snowball fight on the flight-deck, and that was the first and only time I had a snowball hit one ear, go through my brain and out the other ear, at least that what it felt like. Then we all bombed the Yardbirds on the forklifts working on the pier from the flight-deck, we're talking 10 snowballs out of 20 hitting the forklift, and the Yardbirds. Then we went right above the Officers brow, and dropped snowballs the size of volley-balls on a couple of Officers, then we had a few Officers pinned at an angle about half way up the brow for a few minutes. Well needless to say, the Master at Arms came up to the flight-deck after us deck Apes. We just opened fire with snowballs and went below! to the 02 level and ditched them. It was great !
I remember drill called Montana Red dog It would send Mardets Running with shot guns through mess deck yelling GANG WAY GANG WAY!!! Well during one of these excercises some squid took out milk bladder out of machine and cut it with a knife about 30 seconds before said Marines were to arrive, this lance cpl hit the milk and slid on his back flak jacket and marine soaked in milk helmet on he got up and leveled off his shotgun, I thought he was going to shoot. His Captain came along and screamed to stand down and to get to. I never saw that Marine again it was right before we pulled into P.I. I think he got busted real hard, they never got the guy who did it.
Do you remember how bad we f'd up mess deck during shellback intation? The old man had a stroke, whole crew was in food fight for 20 mins or so it was insane, man Dunlevy was pissed, I got stuck on marine detail to help with the cleanup.
How about steel beach picnic when russians came along side.I watched both Navy and Marines throw steak and pepsi over the side towards them flipping them the finger. They manned the rail with a total look of disbelief.I remeber thinking this is what you f......ers are up against. Wow what a memory for me that made every thing alright that day. You remember after a while all we had was bug juice to drink and powderd milk. Just to see them do that(throw soft drinks) sent a chill through me. How about when they took our beer and gave it to Nimitz! AAAAAHHHugh!!!
We were in San Diego for workups. I didn't see this one, but my shipmate Kevin Burke saw it right after it happened. We were tied up at the pier. It was late afternoon and most everybody was in town getting some culture. Some swab was up on the flight deck on a work detail near the fantail. About that time a boat full of "brig bate" came alongside the ship in a small boat. They were yelling up to guys on the flight deck. They started to remove strategic articles of clothing and things got heated up. It was more than that one sailor could take. He yelled to the girls that he would be right down. And with that he took a flying leap right off the flight deck. He hit the water so hard that it knocked him out. Lucky for him he surfaced right away and some guys on the dock jumped in and got him. I can only imagine the duty he pulled for the cruise after that.
Ah, beautiful Hawaii. What a liberty call this will be. NOT! Here we are, two days out of Pearl and the s*** hits the fan in South Korea. Their president is assassinated and the North Korean's are suspected. To prevent chaos, we are ordered to steam immediately to South Korea for a show of force. But, the ship still must stop at Pearl to take on supplies. All liberty is canceled and everyone is to remain on board while we get supplied. So there we are, looking around the harbor and taking in the beautiful land that we'll never set foot on. I'm down on the hanger deck after an hour or so of doing nothing when a Chief comes along asking for volunteers to hump some trash to the dumpsters on the dock. It would be my only chance to set foot in Hawaii so I did it, I set foot on Hawaii, sort of. We were in port for a total of six hours. Not fair!
We were sent to the Indian Ocean when two major crises were occurring in that part of the world. The Russians had just invaded Afghanistan and the Iranians were still holding American hostages. We were at sea for a total of 102 days, nearly all of that being spent playing cat and mouse with the russkies off the coast of Iran. On one particular fly over of a Bear, an F-4 Phantom was sent up to meet and escort them out of the area. The Russian pilot was signaling with his hands to the American pilot to turn his radio to a certain frequency. The American pilot did it not knowing what could be up. The Russian pilot proceeded to congratulate the Americans on defeating the Russians in the finals of the Olympic hockey game. And that's how we got the word that we had won the "miracle on ice" hockey game.
Still in the Indian Ocean. Soon after the Olympic victory we finally get a stand down day. "Steel beach" is in full swing when a Russian destroyer starts to approach the ship. For whatever reason we didn't launch the Alert 5 aircraft. They soon were closing fast from the stern on the starboard side. Everyone on the Coral Sea crowded the starboard deck edge as the Russian ship slowed down and came along side. I guess they were trying to show us their stuff because a lot of their crew were in their dress blues manning the port rail. Well, it didn't take long before 4000+ proud American sailors started hurling every obscenity know to man at these guys. Then it progressed to flipping them the bird. And the grand finale was a mass "mooning". The noise from the hootin', hollerin' and belly laughing was amazing. Those Russians must of thought we were the most undisciplined crazy group of nuts on the planet. The old man never said a thing about it. Hell, he was probably on the bridge giving their skipper the single finger salute. Wish I had a picture from the Russian ship looking at the Coral Sea, what a site that must have been.
Still in the Indian Ocean. The hostage rescue mission had just ended, and ended tragically for some of the rescue force. Keep in mind that there were two carrier task forces on station for this operation, us and the Nimitz. Of course the Nimitz was the show boat of the fleet so all the brass and media were on board her. No one wanted the old girl Coral Sea to host all the hot shots. So there we were, mad as hell that our mission failed. All of a sudden a steady parade of S-3 Viking COD's start coming aboard. We also get an UNREP in the middle of all this. Well low and behold, pallets of beer are starting to pile up on the deck right next to the island. Woo Hoo! This must be our reward for flying non-stop for months and our part in the rescue mission, right? Wrong! That beer sat right there with someone assigned to watch it, probably a MARDET grunt. The next day, right under our noses, helicopters from the Nimitz start picking up the suds and flying it over to their ship. The party was on for the Nimitz boys and all the brass over there. We didn't get a drop! I actually worked with a guy that was on the Nimitz back then and he remembered the beer party and the fact that they were all laughing about how pissed the Coral Sea guys must have been. He of course agreed that he owed me a few beers.
Still in the Indian Ocean. We are being relieved by the Constellation. As a part of the day the Connie put on an air show for us. Right at the end of the show their squadrons formed up for an airwing flyover. Before they made their approach another plane appeared off the port stern. It was a Russian bear being escorted right by us. Just about that time the airwing came up right behind the bear and just a little above him. The airwing overtook the bear and as soon as they did the bear put it to the fire wall and bugged out. That russian pilot must of dropped a load in his pants.
We were on Gonzo Station in the Persian Gulf along with the USS Nimitz. The Nimitz had a F14 Tomcat on a post-maintenance check flight. It couldnt trap on the Nimitz because it was discovered the tailhook was installed upside down. Nimitz called over to Coral Sea and asked if their Tomcat could take the barricade Coral Sea. Captain Dunleavy said no! Catch it on your own carrier. We did have a great Captain.
Liberty in Olangapo City. In 79/80 there was midnight curfew. The base would blow a ten minute warning horn and then another at the stroke of midnight. Many a night when the midnight horn blew and we were still out on the town. You know how hard it is to get a sailor off a bar stool! It was like a rodeo, the Shore Patrol jeeps would come flying up Magsaysay Street to try and nab sailors. It was funny as hell. Sort of like turning on the lights in the kitchen at midnight and watching the cockroaches scatter. We would run like hell and dive into the nearest hotel for the night. Once I got chased right up the steps of a hotel with two SP's hot on my heels. The old man behind the desk waved me through a doorway and closed it behind me. The SP's were yelling at this guy but he played dumb. Close one.
For some reason I cannot "fathom", the old salts in SS02 (eg "Moose") took me under their wing, so to speak. On one particular day one of the old salts took me to this compartment that was unlike any other onboard. In fact, it was like a enlisted men's lounge! I'm sorry, but I cannot recall on what level it was located etc., but I do remember the tiny hatch about waist high that one had to bend the body in half to squeeze through. Once inside, it was a rather large space & had a huge metal grid in the center. Now, the physical makeup of this grid was that it was about 8-10' sq., w/ round openings. But the impressive thing about it was that it was approx. 1 ft. thick solid steel. And, coming up through it was a powerful uptake draft that would actually remove your cap & forcefully lift your eyelids, while drying out your eyeballs!
Off to the right was slung a hammock where reclined my shipmate named Drift out of S2. The main purpose of this space was to indulge in locally (onboard) distilled moonshine for our enjoyment. One element of this room was quite remarkable! The bulkheads were "decorated" in a psychedelic theme, its medium was whatever paints that could be had.
I can remember being the nominated food raider & climbing up & down all those ladders, returning w/ concealed foodstuffs in my apron. This was a bit tricky, because the sliders had to be packaged so that the aroma was not too prevelent. You did not want to be caught carrying 5 sliders w/ all the works up in the upper levels, or anywhere onboard, by anyone! Especially the MAA's. They might let you slide for a price, which usually meant supplying them with u.a. snacks for quite some time. And also, this would surely cause damage to the various stewburner's comshaw businesses that were constantly ongoing. And the shame would be immense. Not to mention your removal from the "comshaw inner-circle", so to speak.
And as usual, when you have something that is singularily unique, wonderful, & cool… some idiot is going to take advantage of it by too many repeated visits, then drawing attention to it, & ruining it. This is what happened to our psychedelic shack, because one day as I was on my way up there w/ some u.a. chow as a bribe for them to let me in; & it was padlocked. Such is life.
I was rather new in the S5 galley, &it had then become my turn to man the grill during the breakfast rush. And of course I was nervous as hell, seeing how we served the officers who were the guys that could snatch away your ID card on a whim! And of course the old salts filled my head w/ "Man, you mess up an officer's meal? That's something like treason!"
So there I was at the grill, scared I would commit treason, & doing my best mentally timing the dozens of cooking eggs on the grill so to deliver them as ordered. You know, there's the over easy, over medium, sunny-side up, etc.
So down the line comes a visiting newby Ensign who orders over easy eggs, which I naturally do my best to get them right. Things were going swimmingly, except when I put the eggs on his plate, a yoke broke. You would have thought I had shot his dog the way he began to complain &yell insults at me. Of course, I stood there fearfully transfixed awaiting arrest, the removal of my ID, &being hung from the yardarm for treason. I should also add, the other officers in line were giving the Ensign a ration of sh**! It was then when my friend Moose (who was short) walks up &stands next to me. "Sir allow me to cook your eggs, Seaman Land here is rather new at this." he says. So Moose pushes me aside &lays down about three, 3 oz. (size) ladels of nasty, melted, gov't. lard onto the "hot spot" of the grill. He carefully pours the eggs from a monkey bowl onto the simmering puddle of grease. "Almost there sir, give it a minute or so." After he carefully flipped the eggs over &ladels several more measures of grease ON TOP of the eggs. Now, I'm watching all this, mentally thinking "this is not the way we were trained...what's Moose doing?"
A bit later; "OK sir" says Moose, 'they're all ready". I watched Moose raise up the spatula &eggs to about my eye level to where the shelf of the grill was, marvelling at his dexterity. Although, the grease was just dripping off the sides of the spatula, it was a thing of beauty! He then carefully lays the hot, greasy eggs onto the Ensign's plate &ever so deftly slides the spatula forward, making the lip of the cooked eggs facing the newby Ensign, slap onto the plate. This action produced the spewing of several minute drops of hot grease directly towards the Ensign. An accident of course, &Moose was quick to apologise; "oh jeez, I'm sooooo sorry sir..."
The grease speckeled officer was mad as hell &he begins to order Moose to come out into the passageway. It was then when one of the other officers in line, with which we had a great working relationship, strode up &stood over the Ensign..."You got your damn eggs, move along! We' gotta' get to work!" Moose never got called on that little move, I believe everyone there thought the little sh** had it coming!
This is also where[Hawaii] an interesting event took place. During this time frame the Coral Sea had earned gold anchors for enlistment quotas. While we were off Hawaii, we were involved in some sort of war games that had the ship constantly maneuvering. It had something to do with finding or avoiding an attacking sub. Well, during these maneuvers we lost one of our prized golden anchors. It actually fell off the ship. After that the joke was that we had detected the sub and dropped our anchor on it as a weapon. It was many ports later before a replacement anchor caught up with us. So, if you are ever diving off the coast of Hawaii and you encounter a very large gold anchor ...
In 1982 on our trip to Pearl Harbor we encountered Hurricane Iwa. It damaged our port side catwalk and we spent an extra 2-3 days there awaiting repairs. we had to divert from pulling into port due to the possible damage that could happen so we were ordered to "Tie everything down that wasn't already bolted to the deck". After which most of us in CIC set up a movie screen and watched movies while the ship was being thrown about. What a ride!
Another time during our Nor Pac I believe in 1983 we along with the Enterprise and Midway were planning on cruising to the Aleutians during Emcon Alpha, which meant no emitting radars or comms, and then launch and light off all the radars. Well that all went great, except I remember that we had a hard time launching since out flight deck was covered in ice. I also remember that our Captain was expecting the Russians to send out their Recon aircraft but none came. I think they finally did but hours later. About 15 years later I found out why. That bastard traitor Walker I think his name was gave away our plans to the Russians.
Also while on our world deployment in the IO we had been followed for a couple of days by a Russian trawler. On one of those days we were conducting an unrep and as you may know the ships need to slow to about 5 knots I think.So, during the middle of the unrep the trawler moved ahead of us and started to slow down, which caused the Captain to order an emergency break away. Then the trawler gained speed and I don't think we saw it anymore during our voyage. That night like every once in awhile the Captain would go on closed circuit t.v and give us his speeches, which more or less were just a bunch of chatter,but this night he was visible livid! He talked about that trawler and how it could have gotten one of our shipmates injured. He rattled on and on about the Russians and ended it with "I hate those fucken Commy bastards" raising both hands and giving the ol' middle finger salute! He got up from his chair and walked off camera.I personally was shocked, and I remember some of the guys stopped and started hooping and hollering and high fiving each other. I would have from that moment on followed that man anywhere he wanted me to go.
I also stood watch on the bridge updating the status boards. Every night the Captain would give us his nightly pep talk over the 1MC. He would hold the mic in his right hand and depress the transmit button with his left arm behind his back like in a parade rest stance, and he would start out by saying " Shipmate! Diplomats! Warriors! This is your Captain speaking..." and give us his talk. I would watch as he rocked on his heels as he spoke these words obviously believing the words he was speaking. I could see as I watched him that he was very proud of his crew and his ship and this made me feel the same way. I always tried to get the watch on the bridge when he gave his talks. I was in awe of him as a young 19 year old sailor. And I too, felt proud to serve on this fine ship with him and my fellow shipmates. By the way, our Captain was J.D "Bear" Taylor. A fine man if I do say so.
We use to take the balloons which were red with 'USS Coral Sea CV-43' on them in white and use a red magic marker and white-out and change it to 'USS Oral Sex CV-43'... I was a 'fresh air snipe' an IC that was in OE division because I worked on the CCTV and NIPS systems. One night I was in supply with Dusty playing with a program on his Sinclair computer, remember those? A Marine came in and ask if we had any 'confidetial' light bulbs. We maintained our composure and ask why he needed one, he informed us that the book he looked up the replacement in was 'confidetial' so therefore the bulb was. Well we looked around and all we had were 'secret' and we couldn't give him one of those. We ask if he had checked with forward IC and he said they had sent him to us. We sent him to aft IC, don't know what happened after that. Hope he found it...
We got one new Div Off to stand the 'mail bouy watch'. He was not a happy camper after it... The Master Chief sent a new guy to main engineering to pay the 'electric bill' for the division. They knew he was coming and chewed him out for paying it late and said they would turn off the electricity to the radars and radios if it was late again. He came back and told the Master Chief that he was sorry that it was late and it wouldn't happen again... We also had a 'transistor repair kit', had a lot of fun with that one... We sent several people off in search of the elusive 'starboard list', supply only had 'port'...
In the spring of 1984 we sailed to FTG GITMO (Cuba) for training on the way down from Norfolk. Every time we dumped trash over the side we would see the trash getting torn up by a shark. This ended with us anchored out of the coast of Cuba and every once and awhile this shark would be seen by the ship. So some friends and myself decided to go fishing. What we did was in the pipe shop that was just off the officers quarter deck. We took a piece of 3/4 inch stainless steel rod and made a hook, then a piece of chain on the hook. For bait we got a beef roast that we found near the CPO mess and got the blood from the meat the MSs were cooking for dinner and proceeded to go shark fishing. Not thinking of how we were going to get this fish up on the deck after hooking it. While we were setting up someone noticed the shark swimming near the side of the ship. that's when all got excited with what I now know was stupidy. This fish we were trying to catch was about 25 feet long, But being the sailors we were we went fishing anyway. After about three hours and no luck (I guess the shark didn't like the Navies idea of roast beast either). I then went out to check the bait and drop some blood over the side when I started to pull up the chain getting the bait just to the top of the water the shark came out of nowhere and took the bait and about two thirds of the stainless steel hook too. I was told later that when I went back into the pipe shop I was White as a ghost. To this day I thank GOD that we did not catch that beast.
You have all proboably seen the bombs, planes or whatever painted on the side of the cockpit on jets indicating sucessful kills from missions. Well, the AB's started their own marking system for guys that have been knocked down by the arresting cable retracting. This was painted on the A/G retract deckedge station, each red man represents someone knocked down by that A/G engine wire.
I was stationed on the Coral Sea at the time we went to Libya. There were always stories of a ghost by the name of Coral Sea Clyde, who fell down while climbing down a ladder. I didnt see a Clyde on the list of missing. Does anyone know about Clyde?
One morning aroud 0300, one of the boys from my division was out an a sponson dumping trash. This was only done on certain sides, anyway he was out there with a Mardet and the Mardet pointed to a rope hangeing into the ocean and the mardet said to the sailor, I'll bet you can't climb down the rope and touch your feet to the water. The sailor then proceaded to climb down the rope to where the water had been splashing the end of it and it was all slimey, and into the drink he went. Man overboard, every one had to muster, three people were missing one was from my division and we all knew it was this crazy kid from PA. 6000 people on the ship at the time and the ship is 973 feet long so it takes quite a while for the ship to turn around. They sent a helicoptor and a couple of divers and the pulled the sailor out of the water. He went to Captains Mast and was busted back to fireman recruit.
On October 11th, a high-tech F/A-18 Strike-Fighter was replaced by a battered 1967 Oldsmobile on Coral Sea's No. 3 Catapult. This unusual "cat shot" was sponsered by her CPO Mess in celebration of the Navy's 210th Birthday and raised more than $3000 for Navy Relief. The pilot - Lt. Boost Morale - did his job as the car sailed down the flight deck and into "Davy Jones" locker.
Must have been spring '86. We had just boarded from last liberty in Toulone France. All is well and I hit the rack. I woke up later, got dressed for my meal, and walk around the flight deck before heading to the shop. When I got to the flight deck, I saw a sea of cluster-bomb units, and HARM missiles. As this was my first cruise, I was pretty freaked out. I realized that the blue stripes that are normally on the toys wasn't there. Down in the shop I understood that Moamar had just struck again, and we were headed for the "line of death" . (American soldier and German girl are/were prayed for). We in the IWT shop saw the flight billet, prepped the hornets, then helped the other ordies load them-up.Whe we were finished, we jumped over to the A-6 Squadron (VA-55?), to help them load the CBU's. It was scary, and It was fun. AM's, Ordies and fire control tech's, all of us were humpin' Cbu's and Harm's, with nervous anticipation! We weren't scared, but the excitement from last year (collision) was obvious. Now the birds were loaded, staged, and ready. When the call came to launch the sortie, well. That was when we began to fear. Not for ourselves, but for our pilots. Our hotshots of the whole US Navy were going to face the dragon. Skipper (Capt Fergguson) kept us in the loop over 1MC. But fear/concern for piltos turned into exhileration only when they all returned. Rumours commenced that Pres. R was going to appear, and give Kudos to what became known as " The other Carrier", but he never showed. Still... The reception back home, as we slowly navigated the harbor to Norfolk, was ... I can't accuratly explain it. Not just a welcoming committee, of a few small boats, But a parade on the water, with screaming cheers from the plethora of sailboats, speedboats, and tugs. Those women, (some wearing only a smile) were all perfect goddesses, and the guys, with their posture of pride, victory, and welcome, said "Thanks" more than any Pres. could.
I have many memories onboard "Coral Sea" but a couple of them still come to mind though. One particular when we were just above the "Line of Death" directly in the middle of Benghazi, Libya and Augusta Bay, Sicily, in mid-late 1986 when,...correct me if I'm not 90% correct.... there was an Airman(last name Moll, I believe) literally jumped off of the flight deck because he was I guess- tired of being up there, and we were recovering "18's and A-6's and visibility was about 6.5nm. I was in "combat" and just came back down being relieved as the bridge talker and my next watchstation was the DRT operator station(Dead Reckoning Tracer) and a standard prank was to say to the operator "Man Overboard"! I told Huston and Freeman if they say it again I'll really put the DRT in the mode for Man Overboard. As I finished saying that,..it was announced over the 1MC. I remember my Sr. Chief(Moore) made sure "no one" came over to my station to plot approx. where AN Moll was at. He was recovered in about 9 mins from beginning to end , but....not without incident. He didn't want the SAR swimmer to get to him - when he did get into the helo,... they radioed back to us and CATTC, and the bridge that he was trying to hit the pilot(which was the XO) of HS3, but before he could walk to the island,..he was sedated for being unruly and ,..not thinking right. I know someone can/will add to this without prejudice.
Some, or all may remember this because it had to do with 5 people - 2 Marines and 3 sailors on Sponson 8(trash station) when Marines would literally climb down a rope/line, touch the water, and climb back up to the sponson. I was taking a bag of trash back there and I did it with no prob,..went back to "combat" and about 10 mins later, Man Overboard-Man Overboard- Port Side. The last sailor went down to touch the water. But when he got to the rail to get back on the sponson,...His dumba** got tired and let go and fell in the water. "That's a Squid For You.
I was Senior Medical Officer on the Coral Sea 1987-88.
When attending a Flight Medicine convention about 1988, I met Capt Hank Snowden, MC USN (ret) who was the 1 st Senior Medical Officer on the ship. At that time (circa 1947-48), the ship was first ship to make “SAS” spaces for nuclear weapons. Hank said there were no monitoring systems in those days so he put up boxes with strips of X-ray fllm on some of the external bulkheads just to see how much radiation might come through. (not much). Eventually that system lead to a Barrier Area Monitor (BAM) system that went Navy wide. .
RE the 1987-88 Med cruise. During the work ups, we had a Navy relief raffle with the winner getting to “pickle” (launch) a VW bug off the catapult. It could have been a weapon system it went so far. When I first got on board we had a locked screw which vibrated the whole aft section when ever we had to go very fast. By cruise time, the bow damage was repaired, all screws worked and all boilers were up. We also did an exercise off the Virginia capes where the Air Force was playing the attackers. They could not find us as it was a hot day and all the electronics and air conditioning caused us to have the SST generators trip off line, killing all electrical power including the fan rooms for the boilers resulting in an emergency boiler shut down. This left us dead in the water with no power and no fires. We were electrically silent and had no smoke trail. The Air Force couldn't locate us. We did have about 100 heat casualties treated in the hangar bay but all recovered. We had significant problems with Inoperative heads, and the XO (then CAPT Denny McGinn) declared war on broken toilets by closing the repaired heads to force folks to fix the others. A small poster was posted on the locked heads “Secured by the XO” with a picture of a small boy who obviously had to go badly as he was holding his crotch racing to go to the toilet. The picture was a childhood picture of CDR Ken Bilger, the Dental Officer.
On the cruise itself, we actually lost 3 sailors plus one on the Yorktown, our escort. The already posted stories mentions the loss of LT Jospeh Mullany, a F/A 18 pilot lost near the Gulf of Sidra (prior cruise had been the one to attack Libya) . We also lost AD2 John Charles (Pedestrian-auto accident in Naples) and AN David Cornell who was attempting to secure a bomb rack in the hangar bay during a storm and a wave came into the hangar and crushed him against the bulkhead. A COD flew out to take the body off the ship but the storm was still bad and the COD had a ramp strike, aft empanage was damaged but no one hurt. Because the ship had the flight deck enlarged for an angled deck alteration, it rolled alot though not as much as her sistership the Midway who had an even larger deck and side blisters for more buoyancy.
One of the more memorable days was the InChop when we steamed with both the Iowa and Saratoga Battle Groups in a 21 ship formation. The Iowa lobed a few shells in front of US for show. Our cruise involved more p ort calls than most and sometimes we felt like a “good will” tour, frequently entertaining local dignitaries, holding a “Sunset Parade” with the Marines doing a dramatic silent drill as the flag was lowered down with a aircraft elevator. We had Champagne fountains and ice scultures made by the students of the culinary professor onboard for afloat learning classes.
Post Cruise enroute back we hosted INSURV for an inspection with ADM John Duncan Bulkeley on board. Bulkeley was a Medal of Honor recipient and was John F Kennedy's PT Boat Squadron CO and had a famous standoff with Castro in the early days of GITMO. His team was very thorough and managed to find in a void sealed for 35 years a large stock of mimeograph fluid and some Stars and Stripes from the Korean War. While Bulkeley had little interaction with the Senior officers, he inv i ted the Jos to his cabin in small groups for war stories and mentoring.
I was a new airman in the crash and salvage crew in 1987 and was assigned to brew a pot of coffee. The procedure, as it had been explained to me, was to wash the old grounds down the bomb ramp under the B&A Crane. Fill the pot and rinse everything away with fresh water. I suppose I had done this about three or four times when the ships First Lieutenant, covered in coffee grounds and stains, threw open the QAWTD to the crash shack. Of course, no one had told me that we shouldn't dump the grounds there when the ship was along side during unrep. It seemed to me that everyone else in the crash crew was pointing to me even before he opened the door.
Things I learned from my time on USS Coral Sea 1986-1989.
1) If you cook your Beanie Weenie in the smoke stack, it gets pressurized and will explode hot Beanie Weenie all over the Air Bos'n.
2) You can tell how long the chow line is from the 03 level on ships with expansion joints.
3) The Boat and Aircraft Crane will jump if you engage power with the control wheel not centered. This can cause the Air Bos'n to throw the locking pin at you.
4) MD-3 Tow Tractors will pop a wheelie and spin 90 degrees if you attempt to drive them when still chained down.
5) F-14 Tomcats parked exhaust toward the island will melt the horns of all the CO2 bottles inside and outside.
6) There is not enough clearance between the pier and the building next to the pier in Halifax, Nova Scotia to clear the elevator nets.
7) If you are traversing the extra long ladder from the 02 level down to the flight deck (just forward of the hangar divisional doors) and your white hat blows off, let it go. Grabbing it will make you slip all the way to the bottom on your butt.
8) No ship ever conceived had higher Knee Knockers than USS Coral Sea.
Okay...this was in '88 during a Med Cruise. Now this is a no-shi**er. I
swear this is the truth. In the middle of the night, the rover comes into A
Division berthing and gets me out of my rack. Tells me that the helm is
having problems getting steerage signal down to aftersteeering and I have to
troubleshoot the problem. Okay, fine.
What happened was that the trickwheel attached to the helm had sheered a key, so I started tearing the helm apart. Like I said, this was in the middle of the night...about 0200...and during flight ops. So, I have my tool bag with me, pieces and parts scattered around and then I hear this voice...."So, how's it goin'?"
I look up...and here stands the Skipper, Capt. Allen...dressed in a floor length flannel night shirt, with one of those long sleeping caps on with the pom-pom on the end and he was wearing those big fuzzy slippers that your Mom used to have. And he had a teddy-bear! You think I'm kidding? Ask any of those guys who were regularly on the bridge. Anyway, once I knew what was wrong it was a quick fix. "We'll have it fixed in no time, Captain", I told him. He was groggy, nodded his head and stumbled over to the big ol' Lazy Boy on the starboard side of the bridge to watch Flight Ops. Shortly after sitting down, one of his aides brought him Oreo cookies and a big glass of milk. There he sat, in his nightshirt, hat, holding his teddy bear in one arm and eating, and his cookies and milk with his free hand, all the time watching the birds.
No wonder the snipes never wanted to go up to the bridge. We were always afraid of the stuff we'd see!
Okay, sit back and lemmee tell yaz all a little story....
Being the fresh-air snipe that I was, and since I was part of A-Gang's Hydraulic Dept., my contact (and friendly disgust of) the Airedales was a bit more than most. I persevered through my Navy career despite that unfortunate fact. Anyhow, it seemed like every piece of gear we had was vital to Ship's movement. Good Lord, when something of ours went down, dutysection went to Pete and Re-Pete, 24 and carry on. I had enough to do getting watchstanders qualified for the aircraft elevators, aftersteering, and anchor windlass. So when I got a break during these busy underway periods only to have a E-0 Airedale come off the hangar deck to tell me to either open or shut the Divisional Doors, sometimes it would tend to irritate me. Considerably.
So....being the kinda snipe I am, one fine day I decided to do something about it. I visited my MR buddies in the Machine Shop and talked 'em outta a big hunk of 3/4" plate, and using the blue tipped smoke wrench, I cut myself out a big ol' skeleton key that stood about three feet tall. Oh, I made it reeeeeeal purdy. Even painted it. And through a hole I drilled in the top of it, I attached a two foot hunk of chain, and on the other end, I fixed a 50 pound brass crush block that we had down in aftersteering. We used 'em during maintenance and a couple of extra ones were just laying around. And then, with some black paint....I painted a keyhole on the Divisional Doors. You see where this is going, don't you?
Airedales. Sinister little imps. This story testifies to the fact that they will indeed eat their young. When some of 'em wondered what I was doing with the black paint, it spread like oil on bilgewater. Next thing I knew, I had Airman Idiot coming into #2 Elevator (our lounge) asking me for the key to the Divisional Doors. I would point over to a corner where it stood at the ready and observe (with the kind of smirk only a snipe would have on his face) as the unfortunate Airman slung the key in front of his chest and draped the crush block across his back.
Upon to Hangar Deck Control he goes. The LPO then tells him that the Air Boss wants to see both him and the key on the bridge. Up the ladders he ascends with about 100 pounds of metal decorating his torso. Poor kid. Finally up on the bridge, huffin' and a puffin', he reports to the Air Boss....who, has been clued in by this time...along with everyone else on the bridge. Even the ol' man!
Evil. Pure evil.
It went something like this:
Air Boss (doing the John Wayne swagger bit) : Well, Airman! I see you have the Divisional Door Key with you!
Airman Idiot: Yes sir!
Air Boss: Airman, do you realize what a responsibility that is?
Airman Idiot: Yes sir!
Air Boss: Do you know that the Divisional Doors are the Number One damage control fitting aboard this ship?
Airman Idiot: Yes sir! (not really, though)
Air Boss: Well Airman, you have obviously impressed your LPO and Chief to have such a responsibility bestowed upon you!
Airman Idiot: Well.....
Air Boss: Airman, you realize I can't have just ANYONE in possession of this key, don't you? If your Chief has designated you to be responsible for this key, I certainly will stand behind his decision!
Airman Idiot: Uh, thank you sir.
Air Boss: And as such, Airman, it shall not leave your possession until we get back to Norfolk in 6 days. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, this key shall not leave your grasp. When you eat, when you sleep, when you take a shower or go to the head, this key shall be your responsibility and remain in your custody, is that clear Airman?
Airman Idiot: Uh.....yes sir, thank you sir.
Air Boss: That will be all, Airman.
And so....for the next six days, I periodically see this poor lost soul of a human being, now the butt of numerous jokes from the fantail to the focsle, barely able being able to put one foot in front of the other. By day three, I just shook my head. The guy was dyin'. I was feelin' bad for the poor shmuck. Those Airedales, though....they thought it was funny as hell, and this soon became a right of passage for the boots reporting aboard. During their first underway period, sooner or later, they were sent down to see me to get the key.
Either the light went on, or it didn't. So, think of this tale when you recall the Mail Buoy watch, or any of those other little adventures we used to send those who weren't quite up to speed on. It wasn't so funny when it was YOU on the adventure, asking something of a complete stranger like, "Where is the locker where Chow Line is kept?"....but after a year or two, it was hysterical when it was YOU doing the dirty work....and you KNOW who you are!
From time to time when a hornet would trap while carrying missiles, the
plane would stop a little before a missile would. Thankfully, most of
the time the missile would skip down the landing area and land in the
drink with a million dollar splash. but one day...
We were about half way through the last cruise, 89 med. The hornet came in and made what looked to me like an OK 3 wire trap. The missile continued down the deck headed for the sea off the waist. It stopped about 20-30 feet from the edge and just laid there. My first thought after it stopped was 'is it blue'?
No, it's not blue (inert, non exploding). My second thought was 'where's that guy in the red cranial, jersey and float coat with the big silver EOD on his back going?? Then it occurred to me. If EOD is leaving town... I'm leaving too!!!
I guess when it really hits the fan, those guys know when to stay or go. He did end up stopping (maybe because he heard no 'BOOM!' and go back to the missile that was fouling the deck and assist it to the water.
Okay...here's one that I got for the log.
When I got to Great Lakes, I had flown from Seattle, Wa. First time I had ever flew in a plane. Just like everyone, we got there in the middle of the night and woke up to the sounds of trash cans being beaten to death. After it was all said and done, this group of kids had really come together and won every flag and trophy Great Lakes RTC had. We were Color Company and Hall of Fame.
The Athletic Petty Officer of the company was named Lamont Drummond. Lamont was a colored guy from Delaware and big as a house. I'll never forget the day they tuned us loose for some fun and a bunch of us decided to play some football. Lamont was hell on wheels. As fast as he was big. The thing about Lamont though...he had a real easy going nature. Almost shy sometimes, Lamont had a gentleness about him. Never an unkind word, never a curse. Maybe his size was an embarrassment to him, because most fellows that size don't seem to have any problem making the most of it when it suits them. Not Lammond. I took to him right off. I liked Lamont a lot.
Then of course, after RTC we were all cast to the winds. I went to MM "A" school, and then was given Coral Sea as my duty station. That day I reported was Sept, 25, 1985...a day I shall never forget. Seven months later, we were bombing Libya.
I had just finished my watch in #3 Engine Room, and was walking across the hangar deck aft to get in the line (thanks Airedales) for chow. I heard someone call out my name, and there stood Lamont....in all his Airedale spender. My jaw about hit the ground. Maybe not too commonplace, but we gave each other a hug and laughed out loud. The other guys in line thought we were nuts. For the next two and a half years we kept tabs on each other...as best a snipe and an Airedale could, I suppose.
Since we both enlisted the same day...then went through RTC together...we were scheduled to get out of the Navy the same day, April 1, 1989. Good day to enlist, huh? April Fools Day. Slowly, the days passed and as we'd see each other in the main passageways, we'd call each other short timers, and share some big smiles. Pretty soon, we were double-digit midgets and we'd bark out the number when we saw each other.
With only seven days left, I'll never forget hearing over the 1-MC on a Sunday morning that memorial services were being held for Petty Officer Drummond. My mind instantly sped into confusion. I called the Chaplains office not believing what I had heard. That weekend at home on leave, Lamont was involved in an automobile accident that claimed the lives of both himself and his girlfriend. I found my way to his squadron office and talked to his Division Officer. I requested the honor of being one of Lamonts pallbearers and said goodbye to a good friend in a cemetery in a place called Snow Hill, Delaware.
I still think of Lamont from time to time, and when I discovered this great web site and saw I had the opportunity of putting his name here with others who passed on during their time aboard Coral Sea. To call him an Airedale I liked surely isn't the half of it. Lamont was a damn good shipmate and person. I'm honored to have known him.
I saw the pic of my squadron's aircraft 500 (double nuts) landing with CAG on board as the last arrested landing aboard the ol' Gal and it got me thinking. Seems that shortly after CAG and our Skipper, Cdr Henson came aboard, the rescue helo (always aloft during any flight ops) made it's approach for landing. Then... as the S-3 approached over the fantail (unusual since they usually approached over the port beam) the bird hovered over the 3 wire, a man leaned out and attatched a 'stinger' (the hook section from an A-6 tail hook) to the winch that is mounted on the side of the helo. The stinger was lowered and the man hanging out of the helo manipulated the cable until the stinger grabbed the wire and gave it a tug. The helo then descended to the deck and out jumps none other than Capt. Allen, the ships Skipper who had been the guy dropping the hook. He just wanted to yank CAG's chain I guess but we all had a good laugh.
Many of us do not have exciting or adventurous war stories to tell. To those of you like me, I invite you to re-trace your own trip, as we all made freedom happen.
On the eve of my release from active duty, I wanted to take what would be my last look around the vessel that had carried me on a round trip odyssey to war, foreign places, and safely home again. Thousands have done the same on hundreds of other vessels, and would probably continue to do so long after me.
It was mid-summer, just after the evening meal. There were not enough people aboard to warrant serving more than hot dogs from a shortened chow line. We had returned from deployment in the Western Pacific only a few long days earlier. The vast majority of ships company and the entire air wing had scattered across the country to rejoin family and friends. The sun had yet to set.
As this lioness of the seas lay snuggled to the pier, I felt she was resting quietly and faithfully, awaiting the return of her handlers. She was waiting for the next adventurous challenge, and possessed the personality of Falkor, the white dragon in The Never Ending Story.
It was important to take this time to say goodbye to my home and as well as the home of several thousand others for the past fifteen months. Each of us had our own experiences and assortment of feelings, which ran the full gamut of human emotion.
Having come from below deck via the scenic route through familiar passageways, I stepped up onto the flight deck. As I did, an odd feeling washed over me. Standing on the port side of the angle deck and looking forward, I began a slow pan across the flight deck. It was a barren view that lay in front and all around me. I reminisced at all of the activities that were now memories.
Gone were the planes and yellow gear used to move, service, and start them. Gone were the men who only a couple of weeks earlier had tended them like worker bees in a hive. The flight deck lay stripped of all moving and non-moving things. The only trace of what had occurred on this expanse of anti-skid coated steel plate was in the form of tracks of burned rubber created by the wheels of the planes as they squalled across the deck upon landing, now warmed by the late afternoon sun.
Gone was the roar of jet engines, the smell of fuel exhaust, and the jolts from the now cold catapults that could be felt throughout the ship as planes were launched at all hours of the day and night. Gone were the thuds of landing gear hitting the deck and echoing through the hanger deck below. Gone were the battle flags and carts of bombs and rockets.
Gone was the band and crowd of family and friends on the pier who had seen us off on our journey and welcomed us home upon our return. Gone were the endless steams of sailors carrying their treasures ashore, which had been purchased in foreign ports and stored so carefully within the bowls of the ship.
There was no one in sight as I panned across the deck. And yet they were all here, everyone who had walked upon this deck. They were there in spirit.
The events of my stay paraded by. I would occasionally halt my visual pan across the deck, glancing off in the distance as flashes of events passed through my mind, much as the aurora borealis races and meanders across the night sky.
The images cycled through, from the first boarding at Hunters Point shipyard directly across San Francisco Bay, endless refresher training cycles, the circuitous route to the hallowed waters of Pearl Harbor, the quiet passage through the Philippines, and the fatherly talk by the Old Man as we entered Subic Bay for the first time.
Being the only vessel to witness the aftermath of a mail plane crash at sea, leaving hundreds of floating photos, slides and letters that would go undelivered, never viewed or read by families and loved ones.
The month long line periods punctuated by replenishments at sea (UNREPS), and a few days in Subic to rest, recuperate, and buy goodies from the fleet stores.
Flashing by were the side trips to historic places like Coregador, Batan, and Manila. The tour guides frequently did not give justice to the pain and suffering of the previous generation of Americans.
Then, there was Grande Island, Subic City , and Olongapo where thousands of sailors recreated.
The loss of pilots who flew off never to return was softened by the joyous recovery of others from land and sea.
The often anticipated Now hear this- this is the Captain speaking, and of course the continuous flow of scuttle-butt.
The mining of Hia-Phong Harbor, the quick stop in Yokuska, Japan to pick up more goodies, including motorcycles.
The non events were the cancelled Australia port call due to drug fears and the Bob Hope Show due to scheduled operations.
Then there were the special times Dependants trip and port call to Hong Kong, phone calls home, and moments alone to think.
The long, eight days home via the northern route at nearly flank speed. The hours spent thinking of home while watching the seemingly endless seas roll by.
Then, the joyous arrival at dockside, we were home at last!
Now I felt I was leaving a faithful companion who had carried me clutched to its bosom, through good times and bad, and returned me safely home, setting me free.
Soon, I would really be heading home, as would others. We had done our job and learned the lessons of life and death.
As I looked back to the stern of the ship, there was one object in view. It was the symbol of our country, the flag of freedom, back lighted by the setting sun. It was at peace as it hung there quietly, in the dead calm of the oblique sunlight. As my view of the flag, hanging there motionless from the jack staff, became increasingly blurry, I turned and went below, knowing that the memories of those who did not return would be tucked against my heart forever.
Was a recruit fresh out of boot camp and A school to become an operations specialist in 1991 picking up orders to report to the USS Constellation CV-64 which was going through a SLEP period in Phili. Myself and 2 other shipmates traveled together from Va. Beach to Phili to report and had to park in a parking lot on the far end of the base. As we started walking seabag in one hand orders in the other and rain comming down like crazy, we had no idea were we were heading or where our ship even was. It was a Sunday evening not hardly a sole on the yard. I bet we walk for about 45min before we came to this hulk of a ship. We knew that the Connie was in pretty bad shape or looked in pretty bad shape from were it was being re-done, but with no one to guide us or help us and being unable to locate a hull number we walked up the ships ladder onto the quarterdeck of the you guessed it!!!! CV-43 Coral Sea. We said to each other, "you've got to be kidding" this thing is locked up tight and not a soul around. We were banging on hatch doors and yelling but as you can guess no one answered. Puzzeled soaking wet we made are way off the ship and just alittle bit further down the road and found our new home CV-64. Fresh, new, and dumb we were. Today, we three still think of the USS Coaral Sea as our first Command.