Typhoon Susan – 1972

March 20, 2020

On Sunday morning 8 July 1972 we had just completed a gunfire mission in the vicinity of Cua Viet, just south of the DMZ.  7 minutes later we were detached from Task Unit 70.8.9 to proceed independently to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.  We were to proceed by way of the Southwest Typhoon Evasion course.  This was a relief to the crew since we never knew if we would ever leave this area.  This WestPac cruise of ’72 was supposed to have us visiting ports of call like Singapore, Sattahip, Thailand, Kaohsiung, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  Every time we were to head to one of these destinations, we would be called back to another gunfire support mission in Military Region 1 or plane guard duties out on Yankee Station.  Our presence was due to the huge invasion of North Vietnamese troops heading south over the DMZ in the spring of 1972.  We were excited to be able to see a foreign port other than Subic Bay during that WestPac cruise.

So we steam in an easterly direction across the South China Sea aware that a large tropical storm had just crossed the Philippine island of Luzon and was heading in a northwesterly direction.  I think our skipper thought we would just sort of chase it or follow it towards Hong Kong and it would be gone by the time we got there.  The storm itself was only moving across the sea at 2-6 knots and even meandering in loops in a couple of positions.


Typhoon Susan track as published in the 1972 Annual Typhoon Report by the Naval Weather Service and Air Weather Service.

From what I can tell of our posits and the storms tracked positions, the closest we ever got to the center or eye was around 180 nautical miles.  It was really amazing the strength of the wind and the sea state even at that distance.  We were sometimes taking water well over the bow of the ship.  At 0750 on the morning of the 10th it was logged that the starboard gyro fin stabilizer had suffered a casualty.  Without full stabilization the rough ride was amplified.  During this time it was pretty dicey being in my bunk on the first deck below the ASROC launcher.  That was nothing compared to being on watch up in CIC which was on the 01 level.  Up there the arc of a 40 degree swing was amplified, being further from the center of gravity.  So now we knew why the Chief was always pissin’ and moanin’ about “gear adrift” and “missile hazards”.  Ashtrays had to be secured and you had to hold your coffee cup with one hand while working the scope or the DRT with the other.  Something would inevitably have to give when it was necessary to hang on to something solid!

To watch the above video in “Full Screen” you may have to view it here.

About 10 hours after the gyro fin stabilizer problem, the engineers get it fixed.  We are still on our course for Hong Kong.  The following morning, 11 July, at about 1000 it’s announced that our port of destination has been altered to Subic Bay, PI.  It was this day that the storm was officially classified as a typhoon and was now located between Hong Kong and the island of Taiwan.  My guess is that even though past HK, it was still hitting them with high winds and a storm surge.

So we alter course southward towards Subic to anchor in the harbor there at 1005 the evening of the 11th.  After a short period there we depart for Pearl Harbor and eventually Long Beach, CA.  What a cruise!  So many memories of wartime chores aboard a man o’ war, with some good times relaxing in Olongopo and then capped off riding the edge of a terrifying storm.  Riding that storm was the closest that this writer came to getting seasick during my time in the Navy.  Not gonna lie, I may have got a little green, but chunkage was contained.

NOTE:  My motive for creating this animation was partially an exercise for myself to keep a hand in this sort of media, since I’ve been out of work for a few years.  Need some practical exercises to keep the skills honed!  The ship model came from a guy I met through YouTube almost 10 years ago.  He had created this model and an animation based on the Jesse L. Brown (DE-1089) .  I had asked the author (YouTube name “gramphamp”) if he would mind sharing his creation for some non-commercial ideas I had in mind.  He agreed and exported his model in a .FBX format which took me almost 10 years to get converted to be imported and editable in my 3D application.  Unfortunately, I can no longer reach this guy to thank him.  Over the years I would try a different way to import his geometry, but without success.  Last year I started looking at other conversion utilities that would work as a go-between.  I finally found something that worked!  I did some editing of the ship geometry to make it more “Hammond-like”, but it still needs a lot of work.  The apps I used to create this were 3D Studio Max, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.

USO show on the USS Coral Sea

January 9, 2012
USS Francis Hammond (DE-1067) on Yankee Station

Franny H. on Yankee Station. Why all the rust under the captains gig? Photo by Jim Marino.

 One day during the 1972 Westpac we had a day out on Yankee Station with no flight ops because the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) was having a USO show onboard. All ships in the Task Force were allowed to send 4 crew members to the Coral Sea to attend the show. On the USS Francis Hammond we had a lottery or raffle drawing type of contest. RD3 Jim Marino won and was allowed to pick 3 other guys to go with him. He selected RD3 Jake Holman, RD3 Marv Martin and RD3 Phil “Beetle” Bailey.

Beetle, Marv & Jake on USS Coral Sea flight deck

On the flight deck of the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). Phil "Beetle" Bailey, Marv Martin and Jake Holman. Photo by Jim Marino.

Bob Hope was scheduled to headline the show, but cancelled due to the dangerous conditions. He had done shows onboard the USS Coral Sea earlier in the war. Jim said the show was put on by some “B” list celebrities. And I thought Bob Hope was the “Ironman” of show biz! Actually, he did a Christmas show in Vietnam later this year of 1972. I think I read somewhere that he did 13 consecutive Christmas shows for the troops there. God bless Bob Hope for all he did for the airmen, troops and sailors providing a short period of calm in an otherwise tense environment.

A chopper from the Coral Sea arrived over our helo deck to pick up Jim, Jake, Beetle and Marv to take them to the show. Jim got some great photos as you can see with this article. He says the helo ride over was “kick-ass”!

Coral Sea fly-by

Our usual view of the USS Coral Sea while on planeguard duty. Photo by Jim Marino.

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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