Tag Archives: Navy

You’re in the Navy~Part 12

16 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Navy

 

 

Back in Sasebo, my two years of active service finally came to an end, and I was ready to be out of the Active Navy.  But, because the Hector had been 1extended on station, the Navy had to come up with a way to transport me back to the states.  So, I received orders to be flown from Japan to Treasure Island Naval Station in California for separation.  With everything I owned in my duffle bag, my first attempt to get to an airport was a four-hour hot and bumpy school bus ride, on some of the roughest roads I had ever traveled, to Itazuke AFB.  Since I was enlisted, which is as low as it gets in the military, when it comes to travel authorization, several officers bumped me off that flight, and I had to endure another 4-hour bus ride back to the ship.

A day or so later, it was back on the school bus, this time several hot jarring hours to Tachikawa AFB for another try.  This time I got a seat on a fully loaded Douglas C-124 Globemaster airplane, operated by the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).  Did I mention it was now the middle of the summer, there was not a breath of air from any direction that day, and inside the airplane was like being in a big aluminum can with the sun beating down on it, and no A/C to keep the air moving inside that big can?  Everyone was dripping wet by the time they had us all seated and 2accounted for.  Once they got the doors closed, we taxied to the end of the runway, the pilot did his pre-flight engine checks, and we headed down the runway at full power.  Well, full power didn’t last long, as at least one of the engines started backfiring and the pilot aborted the takeoff.  We stopped at the end of the runway, and the pilot did more engine checks.  Since there still was no wind from any direction, the pilot turned back on the runway, and headed off at full power again.  This time an engine caught on fire, and thank God the pilot had time to abort the takeoff.  We all hurriedly deplaned, dripping wet, on shaky legs, and walked back to the terminal, leaving the flight crew and fire department to deal with the smoking engine.  That episode didn’t give me a lot of confidence in any C-124 being able to get me safely back to the states.

Then, after a stay-over night, there at the airbase, for some unknown reason, I was transported, along with several other sailors, to Tokyo to wait for a “Space Available” seat on a commercial flight.  As it turned out, I 3was only bumped off one flight there, before I was given a seat on a TWA Super “G” Constellation flight headed for San Francisco.  The flight consisted of three, very long 8-hour, over water flight legs, with stops at Wake Island, then at Honolulu, Hawaii and finally to San Francisco International Airport.  Even though that flight was luxurious, compared to what the C-124 flight on MATS would have been, I was still mighty glad to be on the ground, and at the end of that trip.

I was transported to the Treasure Island Naval Station, where I spent several days being processed out of the Active Navy, and back into the 4Naval Reserve, to finish my 6-year tour of duty I had signed up for.  I spent most of my free time visiting many of the tourist spots San Francisco is best known for, such as “Alcatraz Island”, Coit Tower, the Planetarium at Golden Gate Park, and of course, Fisherman’s Wharf, where I enjoyed some of their world famous seafood more than once.

After the Navy was through with me, and that mini-vacation was over, I took the train to Los Angeles to meet DiVoran, and get reacquainted with my lovely wife.  While we were there, she looked into the requirements for obtaining her California Beautician’s license; only to find out she needed 300 more hours, than what New Mexico required, to qualify to take the California test.  That would have to wait until we came back from Albuquerque, and were settled in our new location in Inglewood, California, where I would be starting work on my Mechanical Engineering Degree education at Northrop University.  But, then that’s another story about another time for another blog.

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                                                                        The End

You’re In The Navy Now Part~11

9 Oct

 A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Navy

 

On a guided tour of the island, we stopped for lunch at a beautiful restaurant located at the top of one of the high hills overlooking Victoria Harbor, where we could see Kowloon, Mainland China in the distance.1  That sight gave me a very uncomfortable feeling at the time, knowing I was eating lunch that close to Communist China.  Another part of the tour was to the amazing Tiger Balm Gardens.  The gardens consist of acres of Chinese figures cut into a hillside, and painted some of the most vivid colors you can imagine.  Overall, the trip to Hong Kong was really great, and a one-of-a-lifetime experience. I would like to go back some day to see how it has changed over the years, as modern pictures show a very modern city compared to what I remember.

A few months later, Hector’s six-month tour of duty in Sasebo was extended, and the ship made another quick trip, this time to Nagasaki, 2Japan.  I can’t remember just what the occasion was for our visit, but the day after we got there the ship hosted an “Open House” for the Japanese people.  We had the ship roped off so the visitors would walk in a line, in one direction, through only certain areas.  We had a solid stream of people, walking through the ship all day long, and I didn’t notice until it was all over, but all those wooden shoes the Japanese women wear had chipped the paint right off the decks, everywhere the tour went on the ship.

Our stay in Nagasaki was short, however, one of the most interesting 3places I visited while there, was the “Ground Zero Museum.”  The museum houses many graphic artifacts from the ruins of the city, and photographs of what was left of the city after the Atomic Bomb (Fat Man) was exploded 1540 feet above the city on August 9, 1945.

The devastation was total, and this was another time, when being in that spot, gave me a very uneasy feeling.  Think about it.  Here I was, standing at “Ground Zero” only 12 years after that history changing event.  Was all the radiation gone?  How long did it take for it to be safe for people to tread on this uniquely damaged soil?  Was I being zapped as I stood there?  Those were some of the thoughts that were running through my mind, as I remembered what had happened at this very spot on the day the world came to an end for roughly 70,000 people.

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                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

You’re In The Navy Now Par~10

2 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill LItes

 

The most challenging thing about boat duty on the Hector, was that when not in use, the boat crews had to keep all the boats tied off to the Boat 1Boom, which was permanently attached to, and located, toward the aft portion of the ship.  When a boat was required for any reason, the boat crew had to walk out on the Boat Boom to where their boat was tied-off, and go down the Jacob’s ladder to the boat.  Then when they were done with the boat, they had to tie it off to the Painter Line, and climb up the Jacob’s ladder to the Boat Boom, and back to the ship.  The first few times I had to do that, I had to walk very slow and it was very scary, since the 1”x 8” catwalk attached to the top of the beam, we had to walk on, was highly varnished, to protect it from the salty environment.  This made it very slippery when wet, and I felt like I was “Walking the Plank” every time I went to or from the ship to a boat.

It didn’t take long for the routine to become quite boring, and with duty only every 4th day, we ended up spending a lot of time on liberty at the 2Enlisted Men’s Club or in Sasebo itself.  Finally, after months of this routine, the ship made a trip to Hong Kong, to give the crew an opportunity to be exposed to other cultures of the world, and for a chance at some different scenery.

The city that I knew as Hong 3Kong in 1957, was built into the hills surrounding it, and reminded me of the Mexican border cities of Juarez or Tijuana (except a lot cleaner & more beautiful), where a person could buy anything very reasonably.  I bought a tailor-made Navy blue uniform and a beautiful Chinese Cheongsam silk dress for DiVoran for next to nothing, compared to what they would have cost in the states.

Tours of the island were very interesting and informative.  At the time, one area I remember was the ancient Aberdeen Floating Village, sometimes called the “Sea of Dead Ships,” where many of Hong 4Kong’s 60,000 boat dwellers lived.  Here the boats had been tied so closely together, over so many years, that a person could step from one boat to the next, all the way across a portion of Aberdeen Harbor.  The only boats that could get out of that mass, were the ones on the outer edge.

Located in Victoria harbor, were several large multi-deck floating restaurants, which served some of the most delicious authentic Chinese food I ever tasted. From the deck of the restaurant, it looked like one whole hillside was completely devoid of any vegetation and grey in color.  When I asked about it, I was told that it was the “Pauper’s Burial Grounds”, where people with no money were buried, then after several years, their gravesite was dug up and another person would be buried there…and so on.  That Chinese tradition must have been going on for centuries, involving an awful lot of people, to leave such a large scar on that hillside.

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                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

You’re in the Navy~Part 9

25 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill LItes

Navy

 

Back on the Hector, the ship headed west, and after an uneventful week at sea, our first stop on the way to Japan was Honolulu, Hawaii, to refuel the ship and to spend a few days enjoying that beautiful tropical paradise.  1Honolulu was everything the travel brochures advertise it to be.  That was a marvelous time, with swimming, snorkeling, surfing, touring, and an occasional wonderful and delicious evening luau, with lots of pretty hula dancers.

 Then it was another week at sea before we arrived at our destination, Sasebo, Japan, where, for the next six months, we were scheduled to swing around a buoy in the harbor, servicing any Pacific fleet Navy ship needing2 the type of repairs not extensive enough to require a shipyard.  The USS Jason (AR-8), the sister ship we were relieving, had her steam up and was ready to head back to California when we arrived.  There was a brief “Changing of the Guard” ceremony, then the Jason was gone, and we began the work for which the ship had been designed.

My duty on the Hector, while it was on station in Japan, was as a diesel engine mechanic.  This task kept me busy repairing and overhauling the 3many boat engines used by the ship, as well as boat duty.  Since we were tied up to a buoy in Sasebo harbor, anyone needing to leave the ship to go anywhere (ship to ship, or ship to shore) had to go by boat.  There was the Captain’s Gig, used by the Captain and the other ship’s officers, and the Liberty Launches, used to transport the ship’s enlisted personnel and for every other task know to man.  The three-man crew for each boat consisted of a Boatswain’s mate, a Quartermaster and an Engineman.  This meant the ship had to supply enough three-man crews to man all the boats the ship might have in the water at any one time, and still maintain adequate shipboard operations.

When ships would tie up alongside the Hector for repairs, our ship’s boats would normally provide transportation for their personnel, as well as our own.  Since the four-ship destroyer squadrons usually traveled together, we could sometimes have as many as eight ships tied up alongside at one time.  As might be expected, this kept us very busy with boat runs, transporting people, equipment and supplies to and from the ship and the base, 24/7.  One big surprise at Sasebo, during our stay there, was the day the Fleet Tug USS Tawasa (ATF-92) came along side the Hector, and there was my high school friend, Jim, from Albuquerque.  We had a great visit and both remarked what a small world it was, that we should run into each other on the other side of the world from where we had first become friends.

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                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

You’re In The Navy Now~Part 7

11 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Navy

Then it was north again to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, WA and back into our winter blues.  That shipyard and what went on there was absolutely amazing!  The ship had hardly been tied off to the dock, before the “yard birds” started clambering aboard.  There was a brief decommissioning ceremony, after which the ship’s company was informed of their light duty tasks, and told to stay out of the way of the shipyard workers.  It took over a month for the Navy to process transfers for all of the 1500 sailors who had brought the ship from the east coast around to the west coast.  In the mean time, we had lots of time to watch what was going on with the ship, and as much liberty as our paychecks would allow.

1As we watched, one of the first things the “yard birds” did, was to cut openings in the bulkheads, below decks, down both sides of the ship from the bow, all the way to the stern, to provide access to the anti-torpedo armor plate attach studs and nuts.  The armor plates ran the length of the ship, and were about 20’x 20’ and 7½ inches thick.  It looked like, under normal conditions at sea, that at least  half or more of the plate would extend below the water line.  It took days for them to cut the welds off each plate, and install lifting pad eyes.  While that was going on outside, inside the ship, another group was cutting off the watertight closures over the studs and nuts, and removing the nuts.  Once all was in readiness for plate removal, a huge crane on a barge would attempt to lift the plate, while workers inside were pounding on the studs coming through the ship’s hull with air driven jack hammers, trying to push the plate away from the ship’s side.

2  Between each plate and the hull was a layer of black gooey preservative that caused tremendous surface tension when trying to remove the plate.  I was amazed to see the removal of each plate cause this huge ship to list one degree.  And then, when the plate was stacked on 12”x12” beams on another barge, its edges almost cut the beams in half.

I spent hours exploring the many parts of the ship I had never had the opportunity to see during the six months I had been on board.  One of the most memorable finds was, when I discovered the hatch to one of the ship’s fresh water tanks.  Since the ship was using shore supplied water and electricity now, the water tank had been drained, and was dry.  It was located on the side of the ship and must have been 20’ wide by 100’ long, by 40’ high, with a ladder running down to the bottom from the hatch.  When I looked inside, there was a giant ball float arrangement, used to indicate the water level, just like what is used in a toilet tank.  What a sight that was!3

 

 

                                   

 

 

 

                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

You’re In The Navy Now~Part 6

4 Sep

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Navy

Our first stop was in Santos, Brazil where, at that time, the people had never seen an American warship in their harbor before.  Because many of our crew would have to return to the east coast after we left the Coral Sea in its west coast shipyard, those crew members had been allowed to take their private cars aboard the ship for their return trip.  It caused quite a 

1stir when the people in Santos saw all those cars on the ship.  No telling what they must have thought we were doing with them, especially since there were no American cars in Santos at that time.  Moreover, because they exported most of their country’s coffee, the coffee they served there was very strong and served in tiny cups.  I had to fill the cup half full with cream in order to drink it, and then, of course, all the locals laughed at me.

                                   

2Because the ship was too wide to pass through the Panama Canal locks, we had to sail completely around the tip of South America.  As we traveled south, we were forced to change back into our winter blues as we neared and rounded Cape Horn.  The winds and waves in that area were constantly pounding the ship, and I was glad to be able to stay inside, out of the gale force winds and the freezing sea spray.

As we headed north, up the western side of South America, our next stop 3was Valparaiso, Chile, where we enjoyed experiencing much of South America’s ancient culture up close.  Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, the city of Valparaíso is a vibrant center of Chilean culture.  We didn’t get to stay long there, but much of what we saw was breathtaking.

 4UntitledContinuing north, it was back into our summer whites, as we crossed the Equator again, and stopped at Balboa, Canal Zone in Panama.  It was there that we learned all about the history of the canal, it’s locks, and how they are used to move ships from one ocean  to the other, and how many days and miles of travel we would have saved, not having to go around Cape Horn, if only the Coral Sea had not been too wide to fit through those huge locks.

After leaving Panama, our next stop was at the Alameda Naval Air Station, in San Francisco, where I enjoyed some of the best fried oysters I have ever eaten.  As it turned out, this would not be the last time I was to visit San Francisco with the Navy.  More than a year later I would end my two-year active duty time with the Navy, and be processed back into Naval Reserve status at the Treasure Island Naval Station, there in San Francisco.  Yummm! More delicious fried oysters and other seafood delights

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                                             —–To Be Continued—–

You’re in the Navy Now~Part 5

28 Aug

A Slice of Life

Bill LItes

 

Sailor Bill

 

Besides France, the ship continued on its designated cruise with stops at ports in Italy, Turkey, Spain, and Gibraltar, where I enjoyed visiting and experiencing the unique beauty and culture of the countries where we stopped.  It was sometime during this period that the Suez crisis broke out, and the Coral Sea was rushed to that area to patrol and provide air support until the crisis was resolved.  After things calmed down in the Suez area, we returned to Rota, Spain for several days, for our ship to take part in a fleet conference, and then to be relieved by our sister ship, the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42).  I had never seen so many ships in one place before. The area was absolutely jammed with ships of all shapes and sizes.1

                                               

While waiting for the conference to be over, our captain treated the ship’s company to a beach party on the Naval Station.  That party really helped relieve much of the tension everyone had experienced during the Suez 2Canal crisis.  Once the conference was over and we had been officially relieved, we headed for the U.S. and Norfolk, VA.  As luck would have it, we ran into a huge north Atlantic storm that lasted most of the trip, and pounded the ship with giant waves, some of which even broke over the flight deck of the ship.

                                     

In Norfolk, we off loaded the air group, with all their planes, personnel,

USS Coral Seas

USS Coral Seas

fuel and weapons, and all other ship’s company (non-essential) personnel, leaving us with a 1500 man skeleton crew, to man the ship.  What was left of the ship’s company worked around the clock for three days to off-load all the remaining non-essential equipment, and then we headed south.  The Coral Sea was scheduled for a two-year long refit and conversion, and the east coast shipyards were full.

Dressed in our winter blues when we left Norfolk, it wasn’t long before we were crossing the Equator and having to change into our summer whites.  As we crossed the Equator, all us Pollywogs (first timers/land lubbers) were introduced to the “Mysteries of the Deep” which is ruled by King Neptune and his court.  In a ceremony that I will never forget, the Shellbacks (previously indoctrinated crew members who have crossed the Equator) of the ship’s company aided “King Neptunus Rex and his Royal Court” in initiating us “Slimy Pollywogs” sufficiently to qualify us as new Shellbacks.  But, that ceremony is another story for another blog.  Suffice it to say, it was uniquely Navy and memorable.

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                                                            —–To Be Continued—–

You’re in the Navy~Part 4

21 Aug

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill

My orders, following my two-weeks leave, had me reporting to Norfolk, VA for assignment to the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43), which at the time was on patrol in the Mediterranean.  To get to the ship, I was flown from Norfolk, to Cannes, France (On the French Riviera!) with stops or layovers in Gander, Newfoundland, the Azores, and French Morocco, North Africa.1

I arrived in Cannes, France on Christmas Eve (Aw, shucks, it was cold in Cannes, and there were no girls on that famous French beach).  When I got my first up close look at the Coral Sea, I couldn’t believe how big it was.  I 2reported aboard and was directed to follow a Seaman to the compartment where I would live for the next six months.  I followed him thru one hatch and down one ladder and I was lost.  That ship was so massive, it took me a good month to find my way from my bunk, to anywhere but my duty station and to the mess deck.  Even though the ship was huge, every compartment had its use, and berthing quarters, for the 3500 enlisted personnel, were very crowded, and consisted of small clothes lockers and fold-down beds stacked four high.

 One of the first things I had to do, after being assigned watch schedules for my work/duty stations, was my turn at KP duty (welcome aboard you newbie).  The enlisted mess deck on the Coral Sea was run by a First Class Machinist Mate who, the rumor had it, had almost blown up one of the main ship’s boilers years before, and for punishment, was restricted from going anywhere on the ship below the mess deck level.  He was a very angry and mean person, and also demanded perfection from everyone working on 3his mess deck.  He was so hated, that he slept in a chain link wire cage, located right there in the corner of the mess deck, to protect himself from harm from the many people he had poured out his wrath upon.  The story goes, that years before, someone had thrown a string of firecrackers into his cage, in the middle of the night, and he almost killed himself trying to get out.  You can just imagine what kind of retribution he had been dishing out, on anyone assigned to his mess deck after that little prank.

After I was released from my tour of 16-hours a day “Mess Deck Hell”, I spent the rest of my tour of duty on the Coral Sea working below decks as an Engineman Specialist, monitoring and servicing the hydraulic equipment used to operate the ship’s deck-edge elevator.  This elevator was one of three elevators on the ship, used to move the air group’s aircraft between the hanger deck storage area, and the flight deck, whenever flight operations were required.

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

You’re in The Navy Now~Part 3

15 Aug

A Slice of life

 Bill Lites

Bill

Did I mention it was already winter in the northern U.S. and that it snowed the day I arrived at Great Lakes?  Well, it was, and it did.  Burrrr!  I was greeted at the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center as if I had never 1been in the Navy before.  My time and training at reserve meetings and my two cruises didn’t seem to count for anything. I was rushed through the uniform collection, building and bunk assignment, haircut, and medical inspection just like all the other new recruits (known as skinheads).  I tried to tell the medical assistants that I had just finished receiving my full course of shots, but they didn’t pay any attention to me, and I got the whole batch of shots all over again.

This boot camp experience was much like the one in San Diego, 2except longer, harder and colder.  Here, we were introduced to the wonderful world of KP duty.  What a miserable week that was.  That was where we discovered that the SPAM, and some of the other canned foods the Navy was feeding us was left over from WWII.  I couldn’t believe it!  But, the way the cooks disguised it with other things, it tasted pretty good and nobody got sick from it that I know of.

After a couple of weeks, and having had time to read over my service jacket, 3our drill instructor saw that I had some reserve time and previous basic training, and he made me the company platoon leader.  That didn’t necessarily make things any easier for me, but at least he wasn’t constantly yelling at me like was he was the rest of the company.

I qualified for the company drill team, which required many hours of special rifle with bayonet maneuvers training.  My aunt Jessie came to Great Lakes for my final boot camp graduation, and I was rewarded by being allowed to be a part of the special company drill team parade, during the final graduation ceremony.  I have to admit, after that 13 weeks of basic training, I left there feeling a little more like a real sailor than when I got there.4

Upon completion of boot camp, I had two weeks leave, which I spent in Albuquerque with DiVoran and my family.  This is when I asked DiVoran to marry me, gave her an engagement ring, and announced our engagement.  We had a great time as I regaled them with my boot camp adventures.   I spent many hours at the local drive-in, with DiVoran, eating hamburgers and drinking sodas, and at the movies, as well as, renewing many high school friendships.5

    —–To Be Continued—–

 

You’re in The Navy Now~Part 2

31 Jul

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill

Back home in Albuquerque, I discovered Boot Camp, the “Summer Cruise” I had just endured was actually going to be credited to my 1956 record, and I was now eligible to go for my 1957 “Summer Cruise” if I so elected.  Since I f1elt like having to go to boot camp had cheated me out of a cruise on a “real ship,” and I was bored with those reserve meetings, I ask my company commander for orders to go on a “real summer cruise” and he reluctantly agreed.  This time I was assigned to the destroyer USS Gurke (DD-783) out of San Diego.

At first sight, tied up alongside the pier, I thought the Gurke was a small ship, but it didn’t take me long to find out that it was plenty big enough, especially, when it came to swabbing decks and painting bulkheads.  The 2regular Navy sailors looked down on us Reserve pukes, so it was no big revelation to learn that was why we got so many of the grunt jobs.

The ship’s regular routine while I was onboard, was five days of maneuvers training at sea and back to port for the weekend.  I was surprised to find that this landlubber got his “sea legs” right away and didn’t get seasick like many of the other reservists, but I actually enjoyed the rolling/pitching motion of the ship.  That is, until on liberty that first weekend, while walking through San Diego, the streets were 3rolling/pitching like the ship had been doing all week.  Then, when I stopped in a tattoo parlor with a friend, and almost lost my dinner because of the sights/smells and the moving room.

I discovered that in the Navy, the smaller the ship the better the food, because there are fewer men to cook for.  The food on the Gurke was great, and I looked forward to every meal.  However, that wasn’t the case with some of the other reservists.  I thought we were lucky during this cruise, because the areas of the ocean we did our maneuvers in were 4relatively calm most of the time.  But, there were others who were sea sick from the moment we left the dock, and never did get over it until they were back on dry land.

After the two-week cruise on the USS Gurke, it was back to Albuquerque and those boring monthly reserve meetings, where I finally realized I was just going to have to bite the bullet and get this Navy thing over with.  The contract I had signed up for was two years of active service and four years of reserve service.  So I went to my company commander and requested orders for active service.  He said NO!  What was this?  Weren’t we in the same Navy?  Then I realized he probably got points or something, for each person in his unit.  But, I was determined, and went several levels over his head, and wrote to the Commandant of what was then the 11th Naval District, and requested active service.  Would you believe, I had my orders for active service within two weeks, and boy, was my company commander mad!  However, to get this “trouble maker” out of his district, the Commandant had cut my orders to report to the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center in Illinois, outside Chicago.  The next thing I knew, I was on a train headed East.

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

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