And this ain’t no S..@#&% !!!!, the stories continue and continues some more…. p3
I joined the Navy in April 1969; a judge in Louisville, KY was instrumental in me making that decision. It is a decision that was one of the single best decisions of my life. During the almost 9 years of active duty, I served at 4 commands (discounting Navy training). I served in Cuba, on board the USS CV Ricketts DDG5, SACLANT (Supreme Allied Commander Atlanta) and on board the USS Independence CV62. In parts one and two I have shared a few sea stories, it is my intent to serve a couple more. I have included pictures of both the Indy and the Ricketts. I can look at either picture and tell you pretty much exactly where I called home.
The USS Independence was commissioned in June 1959 and was decommissioned in September 1998. I served on the Indy from May 75 to March 1978. The Independence was 1,070 long (an additional 12 feet was added to her flight deck in 1980 to accommodate the newer aircraft). At her widest she was 270 feet wide, but for the most part she was only 130 wide, she rode almost 38 feet deep in the water.
The crew consisted of 3,126+ (officers and enlisted men), 2,089 (serving the various air wings on board), the flag staff was 70+ and there were 72 marines on board the ship for a total of 5,345 give or take. The chow hall was open 24 hours a day when the ship was underway (underway means at sea). There was an internal TV system that was on air 24 hours a day if movies and shows and sports were not being shown, then flight operations were shown, so something was on TV all the time. And the guys on board loved it when an “R” rated movie was shown, didn’t matter what earned the “R” rating, the fact that it was “R” rated made movie special and the space SRO!
In part one I talked about the living conditions onboard the Ricketts, I am going to rehash those now, just in case you forgot. 1) The actual sleeping area (bed) 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 (this was my favorite Navy expression), yes I am so juvenile. The berthing area where I lived on board the Ricketts housed 18 (11 of which were Radiomen) of us during our time at sea and it was approximate 200 square feet of space. On board the Independence, in an area approximately 56 square feet lived 6 of us. Just like the Ricketts all of our worldly belongings had to go into a locker that was approximately 6 foot long 30 inches high and 10 inches deep with a shelf in the center.
Okay folks, I know you didn’t need all those numbers, but I think it is important to know (or at least have an idea how our servicemen) about the living conditions of our sailors. I imagine things have changed a lot during the 30 years I have been out of the service, but living on board a war ship is not like taking a cruise.
And now what you have been waiting to hear, “And this ain’t no shit….. “ When you are stationed on board an US Naval Warship, as an enlisted man, when you’re not working or standing a watch, you are supposed to be sleeping. If you are in port and starboard watch sections, that is your complete duty standing watches, but sometimes the division would switch to a 3 section watch rotation. It was during you’re non watch day that you would have to complete other duties as assigned. It could be paint a space, or cleaning a space, maintenance on equipment or burning classified information (this referred to as a burn run). The Indy had an incinerator, for the purpose of burning to ash all classified information. It was manned by a sailor that did not have a security clearance, so whenever someone used the incinerator, an individual (with the proper security clearance) had to be left to ensure that all the material was completely destroyed. One day my watch section was required to do the burn run. I assigned Alfonzo to the task, he was one of the junior guys in the section, and he had been giving me a lot of grief, attempting to bait me, and basically being a PIA. He didn’t do anything I could write him up for, but he was a known troublemaker and big mouth, so the day my section had to do the burn run, I assigned Alfonzo the task to ensure all classified material was completely destroyed. There were over 400 bags of material to be destroyed, and Alfonzo was there for every moment. No breaks for food, or to go to the head. When the task was completed Alfonzo immediately ran to the chief to complain that I had left him there alone for 14 hours, and I had. When confronted by the chief, I explained that I was sorry but I had left Alfonzo there to make a point, but I would claim for the record I had forgotten to get Alfonzo a relief. I went on to tell the chief it was the 1st honest day of work I had been able to get out of Alfonzo in a long time. The Chief was satisfied with my explanation, but Alfonzo wasn’t he went to the Assistant Comm Ofc, who listened to his story and listened to the Chief, and felt no further action needed to be taken. Alfonzo still was not happy and went to EEO. EEO listened to his story, heard from the Chief and Assistant Comm Officer, and finally spoke to me about it. When it was all said and done, Alfonzo got an apology, both from me and from the Comm Officer. But I didn’t offer to apologize until the Comm Officer, had a conversation with me (actually it was a dialog because I wasn’t asked to speak). During the conversation the CO used some rather good Navy Speak, but that didn’t completely convince me of the need to apologize, and I advised him of that. But a follow-up conversation with the Chief (again a dialog, I wonder why my participation was never sought) which was completely in Navy speak, we agreed that I would apologize for forgetting him, not for him having to stay there 14 hours doing his job. Alfonzo was happy with this, and asked to be transferred to another watch section, but this request was denied. I never got any additional grief from Alfonzo, and he turned into a damn fine radioman. “And that ain’t no shit…!”
One of the hi-lights of my Navy career was being invited by the chiefs to participate in the almost constant double-deck pinochle game going on in the Comm Ofc. From around 1800 to 0001 or so there was an almost daily game of pinochle. This was a money game (by the way every card game played on a Navy ship involves money or it did back then), it was a penny a point, 50 cents for sets and double if you are caught in the hole. I made a fair amount of money playing cards. Besides playing pinochle, I had a regular partner for Spades (my partner was Alfonzo), and we kicked ass. The other highly competitive game played on board was Hearts. I was winning as much playing cards as I was drawing in pay. My winning afforded me the opportunity to fly home for 10 days during the middle of the cruise, with a significant amount of spending money while back in Norfolk. Smiling, “And that “ain’t no shit”! As a side note, there was a bar in Naples that whenever the Indy was in port we would gather to play pinochle. The place was called the Nr 1 Piano Bar, there wasn’t a piano within a mile of the place, but they served cold beer, and anything else you can imagine, also there was a restaurant just around the corner which we could get food and bring it back to the bar, and they reserved a table in the corner for us to play cards. Between the 8 certified pinochle players we kept that table occupied daily. I spent a lot of time at the Nr 1 Piano Bar, drank a lot there, ate some great food next door, and because of the time I spent at Nr 1, I spent less time getting into real trouble. “And that ain’t no shit!!!!”
As I have admitted in the past I was a heavy smoker, that being said, “And this ain’t no shit….!” I used to smoke like a chimney. In the Navy back then a bunch of sailors smoked, I was one of that bunch. In the comm center, as watch supervisor, I had three designated ashtrays, at key spots in the center. These were my ashtrays, and I kept them busy. I also took the responsibility to keep them clean. I usually had a light cigarette in each ashtray as I worked my way around the center. No one else in my watch section would use my ashtray, because I would walk up and just grab the cigarette and stick it in my mouth. From time to time Alfonzo would stick one of his mentholated cigarettes in my ashtray just to mess with me. I could easily go thru a pack and a half in a 12 hour watch, sometimes more! All of this to say that one time I was caught smoking in my rack (navy term for bed). This is a serious offense. The guy that caught me was doing his job, but he took too much pleasure from this, so I copped an attitude, and told him to get a ranking petty officer to bust me. He did, and I spent the better part of the rest of the night in the master of arms office catching a deserved ration of crap. I was also put on report (having charges filed against me); again this is a serious offense. I had to appear at XO’s mass, which is better than going to CO’s mass. Anyway because of my stellar record and (as a radioman) amd normal good behavior I got off with a very stiff warning. But I also had to create a 15 min presentation on the hazards of smoking in your rack. The presentation had to be approved by the XO, and it was recorded and played time and time again on the ships internal TV network. I was a TV star with dubious credentials. But the offense stayed out of record, and I earned my gold hash marks and insignia. (you earned them by extremely good behavior). I earned them because I didn’t get caught. “And this ain’t no shit!!!!…..”
Okay folks, that are enough, I could go on and on and on, as I wrote this it got me thinking about all the stuff I didn’t put in the post about the Ricketts. And I am leaving out some very important stuff about the Indy. I will do one final sea story about when the Indy got caught in the perfect storm, and the aftermath of that experience.
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