Remember this plankowner?

December 28, 2011

On Jan. 22, 1985, James Everett decided not to report for work on the Navy tank landing ship Fresno, where he served as a chief petty officer. He was an RD2 on the USS Francis Hammond at the time of commissioning. The primary reasion for me to believe that it’s the same Jim Everett is his rating and the details of his service before 1970, which he had told me about back then. Read the full article here.

Combat Information Center

December 22, 2011

Where I worked was called CIC.  This area was manned by those with a rating of Radarman (RD).  This rating was changed to OS (Operations Specialist) in October of 1972.  We were part of the OI (Operations Intelligence) Division which also included Radiomen, Electronic Technicians, Quartermasters and Signalmen.  The job in CIC was multifaceted and included operation of radar (both air and surface), aid in navigation, detect, plot and track friendly as well as hostile targets, communicate with other vessels and basically provide information.  Collection, analyzing, processing, display and dissemination of tactical information and intelligence is essentially what we did.  There was a reason that we were located just a few steps from the Captains stateroom and had a direct stairway to the bridge.  The skipper, the XO or the OOD (Officer of the Deck) could step in CIC anytime and see the big picture of what is going on around us through the use of status boards.  These were steel-framed sheets of acrylic or plexiglass that were edge-lit and displayed information.  The room was always dark when underway, with nothing but red lights overhead to protect night vision.  The status boards stood out brightly in that environment.  They would be written on from the back with yellow grease pencils then when viewed from the front, with the edge-lighting, lit up like neon.  We had terry rags with which to erase the marks off the panel.  Sometimes when at GQ and manning our battle stations I would be assigned to the large status board that displayed the Viet Nam coastline and we would plot various positions of other vessels in the fleet on it.  Of course, for the writing or plots to be correctly visible in the room you had to write backwards from the back of this board.  You worked from the back of the board so that the information was never obscured from the front.  I can still quickly write backwards to this day!  Some things just don’t go away.  Working with legible logs and sometimes having to jot down codes, I got into a habit of modifying how I print zeros, 1’s, and Z’s to save any confusion.  I still sometimes do this to this day, though I’ve never run the slash through a 7.

On any Navy ship the CIC is often referred to as the nerve center of the ship.  For all the information flowing in and out of here, you would think we knew all of what is going on, but it wasn’t always so.  We would be in the dark figuratively as well as literally.  After having
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Combat Action in 1972

December 15, 2011

We left Subic Bay, PI and crossed the South China Sea to arrive in the Gulf of Tonkin on Yankee Station March 1, 1972.  For the next 2 weeks we were on plane guard duty for the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) as part of Task Force 77.  We then went back to Subic Bay for maintenance as well as a change of command ceremony for our Commanding Officer.  March 21st we were on our way back to Yankee Station with the USS Coral Sea.  April 2nd and 3rd we were relieved of planeguard duty to go on an anti-submarine exercise with a sub and a couple other surface vessels.  April 4th-7th saw us back to chasing the USS Coral Sea during flight ops.  We then spent from the 8th-20th of April offshore of Military Region One on Naval Gunfire Support (NGFS) missions.  At this time we were in support of the troops of the ill-prepared 3rd Division of the ARVN.  We were firing in at targets that were radioed to us by a forward observer or spotter.  These targets consisted of troop concentrations, artillery sites and some road segments.  The Vietnamization or demilitarization plan was happening by this time so these attacks were in direct support of South Viet Nam’s Army since US troops had been significantly pulled out.  At this time there are about 130,000 Americans still here.

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Radarman “A” School

December 12, 2011

I flew out of sunny San Diego in January 1970 for 16 weeks of radar school at the Naval Training Center north of Chicago.  The plane flew into O’hare Airport late at night and boy was I surprised at the climate change!  The wind was howling and snow was piled up along the roads about 6 feet deep.  I arrived at the base sometime around midnight and was led to a barracks.  I was directed to a bunk in a room that in the darkness seemed way crappier than boot camp.  The following morning I was sent a couple of blocks away to a much nicer barracks space.  In fact, it’s hard to even refer to it as a barracks since it was more like a modern college dorm.  Two guys to a room and you each had a huge locker and storage area as well as your own desk.  The bunks had nice thick mattresses and plenty of blankets.  Good thing too, since one day that winter the temperature was 55 below zero with the wind chill.  The wind here mostly blew right off of Lake Michigan and across the base.  Most all travel for me on base was by foot, going to the mess hall, PX, school, sick bay and the club, which was sometimes challenging with the snow, ice cold and wind.  Speaking of weather, springtime brought me my first experience with midwest thunderstorms.  We get an occasional thunderstorm here in the northwest, but nothing like those back there!
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Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor

December 6, 2011

Anyone else noticed the Knox-Class Destroyer Escort in the movie Pearl Harbor?  This is the 2001 version with Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and the smokin’ hot Kate Beckinsale.  This isn’t the best war movie ever made, but I think they did good overall by mixing in CG with the live action and practicals.  Maybe we’re supposed to focus more on the “love story” thread running through the movie.  I noticed it years ago after the DVD first came out, but now have a blog to mention my finding.  Maybe I’m a bit too picky, but I don’t know what their props department was thinking to be that flagrant.  I suppose the credits at the end of the movie would show if they had naval consultants and they are to blame.  It would have maybe made the illusion a little more believable if they had at least painted over the hull numbers, since there were no 4-digit hull numbers back then.  Or maybe I’m a bit too familiar with that profile and the hull number sequence, 106x.  The unique-to-class “mack” structure is what made me pause and rewind the very first time I saw the attack sequence.

It turns out the ship was the USS Whipple (DE/FF-1062) and at the time of the movie filming, was decommissioned.  I think back in 1972 they were homeported in Pearl Harbor.  When I went on my first Westpac on the USS Francis Hammond (DE/FF-1067) in 1972, we hooked up with the Whipple and Destroyer Squadron 33 for transit to Manila or Subic Bay in the Philippines.  They participated with us in the SEATO exercise “Seahawk” in the South China Sea with naval forces from the Philippines, United Kingdom, Australia,  New Zealand and Thailand in February 1972.  Our paths also crossed a few times in the Gulf of Tonkin as both of us were involved in NGFS and plane guard duties.  They mostly chased around the USS Hancock (CVA-19) when on Yankee and Dixie stations.

The USS Whipple was constructed started in 1967, commissioned in 1970 and decommissioned in 1992 exactly the same age as the USS Francis Hammond.  The Whipple was eventually sold to the Mexico.  I’ve included a few frames from the movie here.

Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor battle scene with knox class DE/FF visible.

Notice ship below the lowest plane. Located on DVD #1 at 1:27:53

Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor battle scene with knox class DE/FF visible.

No mistaking that "mack" (mast/stack). Located on DVD #1 at 1:30:33

Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor battle scene with knox class DE/FF visible.

Familiar 5" 54 caliber gun mount on bow. Located on DVD #1 at 1:32:47

Boot Camp Memories

December 2, 2011

The first airplane ride of my life was leaving Portland International Airport bound for San Diego early in the morning on October 27, 1969.  I don’t

Ironic that this shows the date October 27, the date I entered boot camp in 1969

remember much of that first day since it was all new surroundings and situations plus I was probably severely hungover.  I think we were mostly just shuffled around prior to any official orientation.  What I do remember though, was waking up the next morning in a strange place in the top bunk in a barracks for in-processing new recruits.  We didn’t wake up to a gentle voice or pleasant clock alarm.  A couple of Petty Officers were stomping around the barracks beating on garbage can lids with night sticks and yelling at the top of their lungs for us “fucking maggots” to get up, get dressed and be out on the grinder in 5 minutes.  Yikes!  I knew this was going to be a change, but you have no clue until you go through it.

Dennis Clevenger and Dewey DeLawder

Me and Dewey DeLawder, with whom I enlisted on the buddy system.

The first few days are a blur as you’re assigned to a company, get the haircut, get your clothes fitted and issued as well as a bunch of other things with 40 other guys.  Everyone was issued a stencil that had their last name and initials and service number.  At each clothing station you were given instructions on exactly where to use your “stencil pencil” to apply your name on every single piece of clothing.  You had one with white ink for dark clothing and one with black ink for lighter items.  I can still smell the fumes from that ink.  Even though a couple of years later the Navy switched to Social Security numbers for ID, my original service number is one of those numbers forever burned into my memory.
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Additional Thanks!

November 22, 2011

Here are 3 letters of thanks that my shipmates and I received on return from our first deployment in 1972.  These are from commanders way up the chain of command, but still affirmation that we did our job well.  You’re welcome!

Click to enlarge

From the Commander of the Seventh Fleet

From the Commander of the Seventh Fleet

From the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet

From the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet

From the Commander of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla Three

From the Commander of Cruiser Destroyer Flotilla Three

As I mentioned in the Veterans Day 2011 article, the thanks for us were few and far between.  For me, I just considered the benefits of being a vet as enough, nothing more.  The state of Washington gave vets a check for $250 as a thanks for service.  I went to 2 years of college on the GI Bill.  That was a “thanks”.  I had a brand new house built with help from the VA $0 down Home Loan Program.  Thanks!  I had a job where I went through an apprentice program and was eligible to receive a small check monthly for being a vet.  Thanks!   And now that my wife has retired and we dropped my insurance, I’m getting medical care from a VA Hospital.  Another thank you!