A Tale of the Sea and Me – A Wild and Crazy Year, the Beginning

It really was a little more than a year. My father and uncle picked me up in Norfolk in my uncle’s ’59 Pontiac Star Chief and took me home the first weekend in December 1969.

i had just over three weeks of bliss before heading to San Diego for my one-week course on Classified Materials.

Then i boarded a MAC flight that stopped in Fukuoka, Japan, before going on to Yokosuka, which was the western Pacific headquarters for the Military Sea Transport System (MSTS) — about half-way through my year’s tour, it was renamed Military Sealift Command (MSC). i arrived the Yokosuka BOQ around 2200 and crashed. The trip had taken about 20 hours.

i was also on the back end of an inoculation issue. Just before i transferred from the Hawkins, our chief corpsman reviewed my records and determined i needed no shots. Apparently, his sources were not the same as the West Coast medical folks. When i went to pick up my flight orders on Friday morning, i was informed i must have a bunch of inoculations. Since i was departing on Monday, i could not do them in sequence, but had to get them all that afternoon. i did.

i spent my week with my hometown friend Lee Dowdy in his apartment. Lee had served on the USS New Jersey (BB 62) and was on an amphibious squadron staff. After my shots, we went to Mickey Finn’s in El Cajon to watch the Dixieland Jazz Show. We had to leave after about a half hour as those shots, a bunch of them, took their toll.

After a cold night in the transit BOQ in Yokosuka, a small Breeko block building with a broken heater, i walked to the MSTS office. It was a cloudy, damp morning. The overweight civilian behind the desk informed me that my detailer had missed on several salient points, i.e.

  • “Every major port in the Pacific” was actually four: Sasebo, Japan; Pusan, Korea; Quy Nhon, Vietnam; and Nha Trang, Vietnam.
  • “The only Navy personnel aboard the troop ship” was actually 18. In addition to me as XO, there was a CO, a chaplain, two doctors, a chief boatswain mate, a chief storekeeper (SKC), a SK2 who was also the barber, a second class personnel man (PN2), and eight corpsman, including a master chief corpsman (HMCM).
  • “Families, civilian independents” were actually 1500 Republic of Korea troops being carried to the two Vietnamese ports and returned to Pusan.

i left that afternoon and flew to Sasebo on a Navy C-2 cargo plane. i spent another night in a rather unimpressive BOQ, and reported to the USNS Geiger (T-AP 197). i immediately put a letter in the mail to my detailer, informing him of the slight difference between what he told me about my tour and what it really was.

The wild and crazy adventure was about to begin.

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