Tag Archives: USS Coral Sea

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—–

 

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