And this ain’t no S..@#&% !!!!, the stories continue
During my 9 years of active duty, and 5 more years in the Reserves, I have accumulated many a story. Two of my readers seemed to imply they would like more, and MY aim is to please. So here goes part 2.
I would like to describe the USS C V Ricketts for you. I know you have seen a ton of war movies, and have seen at least 2 pictures of ships other than aircraft carriers and submarines. Of course Cruise Ships do not count, the cruises I went on during my navy time did not compare in any way to the Cruises I have been on as an old fart.
The Ricketts was commissioned in 1962 and decommissioned October 1989. I served on the Ricketts from 1970 to 1972. She was 437 feet long, 47 feet wide, and rode 15 deep in the water. The crew consisted of 330 enlisted men (the workers bees) and 24 officers (the queen bees). In the 70’s deployments to the Mediterranean lasted at a minimum of 6 months, during my career, the longest cruise I was on was just short of 10 months on board the USS Independence. Later I will offer the vitals on the Indy.
I have these two (of potentially dozens) sea stories I want to share with you about my time on board the Ricketts. Just to set the stage, everyone on board a Navy vessel wore more than one hat i.e. responsibility. Most wore 2 hats, some 3 or even 4. Besides being a worker bee, the other hat I wore was that as the Supply Petty Officer for our division. Wearing that hat I was responsible for ordering all the necessary communications supplies (paper, pens, pencils, 5ply TTY paper and on and on) to get us thru a 6.5 month cruise (with a minimal amount left over). It wasn’t impossible to get additional supplies, but just damn difficult, and costly. It seems that the Capt. would rather have another shell for the 5 inch gun or another missile, than 2 cases of 5-ply teletype paper, go figure. I held this responsibility for 2 years, and I was goooood! I managed to over order, but just enough to use the extra as currency for barter. Remember the movie “The Great Escape” James Garner play the “Scrounger”, that was how I approached being the Supply PO on the Ricketts. During my time on board the Ricketts I managed to scrounge up a pickup truck for the radiomen and 330 leather bomber jackets for the enlisted crew.
And so the story starts, LOL, “and this ain’t no Shit,” I was sent to the Navy salvage yard down the road from the D&S Piers in Norfolk for some piece of equipment the Chief needed. And while looking for the piece, I was BSing with the 1st class from Supply, and commented that we (the Radiomen) could sure use one of those pickups, he said when we’re done I will give you the paperwork to fill out, and we will see what happens. After I gathered the part that I was sent to get, I was walking out the Supply guy and we walked past a cage with Navy leather bomber jackets, in it. I asked if I could get some of those and he said sure. So I took 11, one for each radioman and took those back to the ship as well. I kept the one that fit me best, and gave the rest to the other guys. We were so cool.
Anyway once I got back to the ship I took all the paper work the Supply clerk gave me for acquiring a “salvage” pickup truck, and began drafting a response to each question. I didn’t fill out the form because I was only given one copy (this was before zerox machines). Once I figured out I had all the questions perfectly answered, I sat down at the type writer and began filling in the needed documents. I don’t remember if it was 4 documents or a single 8 page document or whatever combination, but I filled them in without a single typo, gathered my courage and when to my Chief. At 1st he was beyond himself that I would do something like this on my own, but once he checked the paperwork, he said he would run it by the Ops boss. I was summoned to the Ops Boss stateroom, and thoroughly questioned by him, before he nodded and said he would pass it on to the XO. The chief was called to the XO’s stateroom, and I was standing in the passageway as they discussed the request. The chief came out nodded at me as said we will see. Later that day the CO of the ship approved our request, and 2 days later we had a ford econoline pickup truck parked on the pier 2 spots down from the Ops Bosses space. It didn’t take long before when the duty radioman was making a message run, that someone else from the ship would tag along, at least part of the way.
Winter was approaching, and us radiomen were wearing our bomber jackets, (which I had scrounged from salvage) and were fat dumb and happy, besides we looked cool. Well, “this ain’t no Shit!” some folks on board were not happy with the radiomen for having the jackets. A couple officers had bugs up their tushes over it, and said that only a select group of RM’s shouldn’t be allowed to wear these jackets. They went on to say, that if the RM’s could wear these jackets then all the enlisted men should have the opportunity, blab, blab, blab. The XO came to the Ops Boss who when to the Chief and pretty much said if the entire crew didn’t have leather jackets the RM’s couldn’t wear the ones I had gotten. When told by the chief what the word was, I asked “If, everyone had a jacket, could we wear them?” The chief said that’s a good question I will get you an answer. A couple hours later the Chief said that the XO will allow the jackets to be worn if everyone had one. I was granted permission to go back to salvage and see what I could do. That return trip to salvage, netted the Ricketts 319, additional leather bomber jackets, yes some were ratty but everyone had one. The Officers of the Ricketts took up a collection to pay for the individual name tags that were required. Surprisingly most of the bomber jackets ended up at home or being worn by girlfriends, and the guys on the ship preferred their “working jacket.” I have no idea what happened to my jacket, but I know I didn’t have it a couple years later. The pickup that I scrounged remained ships property for the next couple years.
Just some facts I want to share. In part one I described the living space on board both the Ricketts and Independence. 1) The actual sleeping area was approximately 6 foot by 30 inches, and had a 3 inch thick foam mattress. The covering for this foam mattress was called a fart sack. 2) I was once told to go get 25 feet of chow line, so I went the mess deck and grabbed 5 guys from the chow line, arm to arm they were well over the needed 25 feet of chow line. 3) knee knockers will kill you they are the holes cut thru the steel walls of the ship, on which a lip is welded in place (around the entire hole) this lip is right at knee height, and if you didn’t lift your leg high enough you banged your knee against the bottom of the opening as you passed thru, also in the online urban dictionary of slang there was a definition of knee knocker I wasn’t expecting. 3) The fore = bow, the aft is the stern. 4) Port is Left, Starboard is Right; easy to remember both port and left have 4 letters. 5) the navy jail is called brig, and if you are serving time in a Navy correctional facility you had to wear a pink hat (this may have changed in the 30 + years since I was in the Navy).
Okay folks, that’s enough for part 2. When I continue, I will move on to the USS Independence. But for now, I will stop it here, and let you digest this. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask them. Please take care, Bill