A Tale of the Sea and Me – The Good Ship Luce

i had some wonderful ships to sail on during my time at sea. Thirteen ships: five destroyers, two amphibs, three helicopter landing ships, two USNS troop ships, and one destroyer tender.

It is impossible to say one was better than the others. Each was different, each had its pluses and minuses. However, the USS Stephen B. Luce (DLG 7) was the right ship for me with the right Commanding Officer, the right Executive Officer, and the right Weapons Department head for me at right time. The only negative thing about the whole experience aboard her as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer was it was too short of a tour. Nine months.

After getting a night of much needed rest, i met most of the other officers in the wardroom at the morning mess. We set sea detail at 0730. i was just an observer on the bridge. We were immediately in the biggest naval exercise i experienced in my career. We had British, French, Greek, Italian, and Turkey navies involved across a large swath of the Mediterranean, moving east against an orange enemy. i was quickly qualified as officer of the deck (OOD) fleet steaming and was in a four-section watch. It felt good.

Many of the other navies had ships were formerly U.S. destroyers. They were old ships and those forces did not have the necessary maintenance expertise compared to the U.S. Fleet. This was most noticeable, and most annoying, in radio communications. As the other ships kept trying to get their radios to work properly, they were continuously conducting radio checks in English…okay, okay, it wasn’t really English; it was more like pidgin English, but the trills and accents of the various countries were included:

(Each ship had its own call sign using the phonetic alphabet; U.S. ships also had nicknames for call signs. The USS Hawkins’ call sign was “Daily News.” i do not remember the Luce’s call sign.)

“Delta Victor, Delta Victor, this is Charlie Whiskey, Charlie Whiskey , RADIO CHECK, RADIO CHECK, over.” “Charlie Whiskey, this is Delta Victor, roger, over.” Most of the time, the initiating ship did not receive the response, so this radio check thing went on incessantly. This seemed to occur on the evening, mid-watch, and morning watches.

Now, just think of the last call you had with a customer service representative, who was actually in Pakistan, or Ghana, or India, or somewhere in the Andes. Think of the difficulty of listening, then add those trills and guttural sounds to the broadcast.

If it hadn’t been so annoying, it would have made me laugh.

Ted Fenno, the XO was one of the nicest XO’s i ever met and was a huge help for me later as the head surface warfare detailer. He was one of the two best XO’s i had, the other being Louis Guimond on the Hawkins.

And then, there was CDR Butts. He was one of the top Commanding Officers during my career, and we got along very well. Before we returned to our home port i had become the sea detail and General Quarters OOD (except in ASW operations).

As the exercise wound down, we headed for Izmir, Turkey, our liberty port

i was not thrilled. After all, i had essentially missed Korfu, Greece. i have a romantic connection to the ancient civilization there and thought i had missed a wonderful opportunity to explore the Greek culture. As we went to anchor, we received a radio message from commander of the U.S. Navy forces. One of the Turkish destroyers was having multiple problems and needed assistance. i was appointed as the leader of the ad hoc team to visit the TCG Adatepe and do what we could to get the ASROC control panel and various radio gear.

The Adatepe was formely the USS Forrest Royal (DD 872), sold to the Turks in 1971. i thought it ironic in that the Forrest Royal‘s hull number had been only one number from my first ship the USS Hawkins, 872 to 873. The team of my first class ASROC gunners mate, the ship’s Electronic Technician warrant officer, a second class radioman, and me rode over to the Adatepe in the captain’s gig.

Coming aboard, we were met by the captain and XO. The warrant and i were taken to the wardroom, our enlisted team members were taken the enlisted mess. i was rather amazed at the lack of cleanliness throughout the ship, especially in the main passageway. We were offered espresso and took it. It was undoubtedly the strongest espresso i ever had. Apparently, it was very popular as there were bags of coffee beans piled around the wardroom.

After that thrill, the warrant was escorted to radio, and i to the ASROC Captain’s Control Panel next to the launcher amidships on the 01 level where i met my gunners mate. We discussed the problems through an interpreter with the ASW officer and his petty officer. Then, we opened up the top of the control panel. What we saw wasn’t pretty. Nearly the entire workings inside the panel were black, burnt. We both shook our heads and said we couldn’t make the panel operational. It would likely have to be replaced. i was taken back to the wardroom for more espresso where the warrant officer joined me. He had in his hand a round ceramic wafer, which was essential to the radio circuits. It was about the size of a half-dollar coin. Over a quarter of it was gone and where it was not, it appeared it was scorched.

We were disappointed we could not help and returned to the Luce. i wrote up the report. i went ashore for dinner, my only time in Turkey.

The next morning, we were underway. More MED sea stories to follow.

8 thoughts on “A Tale of the Sea and Me – The Good Ship Luce

  1. I remember that cruise well and the multinational “battle” we took part in. As an ET, I was in CIC quite a bit. I remember the Luce’s call sign was “Texas Ranger”.

  2. Hi Jim
    I served on the Luce during that Med cruise. RD3 ( before they changed it to OS). Div officer was Walsh and I believe Boone ( a Mustang and was quite the character). I remember those crazy Greek and Turkish radio checks in CIC.
    Too much time in Naples !

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