A Tale of the Sea and Me: Three Good Moments in My Last Months on the Luce

In December 1972, we returned to Newport after the storm to top all storms i experienced in my time at sea. My wife was waiting on the pier. We spent some time in Tennessee and i saw my five-month old daughter Blythe, who i had not seen in four months. The Christmas in Paris, Texas with Kathie’s parents. Then back to the ship.

Shortly after we returned, the Navy informed me, i needed to become a regular line officer, which included being accepted and attending the Navy’s Destroyer School department head course. i sweated for about a month as i had committed to a life at sea and didn’t know how i would get back into sportswriting if i failed. Finally, i received word i had been accepted to Destroyer School, and i would become an officer of the line, regular Navy.

The next evolution was in February when we would have an NWAI — i know, i know, you are supposed to use the full title first followed by the acronym in parentheses, but the Nuclear Weapons Acceptance Inspection was the mother of all inspections at the time with a joint service team out of New Mexico conducting the inspection. i thought introducing it as “NWAI” was appropriate (and quite honestly, i could have mixed up my acronyms on this one).

February in Newport, Rhode Island. It was cold. We quickly learned our sister ship, the USS Farragut (DLG 6) had failed the inspection the previous week, supposedly when their new system, a more modern loading system for the Anti-Submarine Rocket had closed the loading doors on the missile before it could be loaded. Although we had the original Rube Goldberg loading system, it still gave us cause for more concern.

The two-day inspection began on a Tuesday morning. At reveille, my ASROC gunner’s mates, sonar technicians, and torpedo men hit the weather decks with shovels and brooms. Our weather decks, where the most important part of the inspection would take place, were covered in a several inches of ice. They broke it up, shoveled it up, and swept the ice over the side.

When the inspection party arrived. We met them on the quarterdeck. As the Air Force who was inspecting the ASW system was introduced to me, i handed him a complete cold weackather gear package. i hope it didn’t impact his decisions. i don’t think it did. But we passed with flying tcolors, and he was very appreciative.

Then, there was this highlight of my Navy career.

Later that spring, probably in April, steaming in the operating areas off of Newport, Rhode Island, my father saw why I went to sea. The U.S.S. Luce (DLG 7), was undergoing a major inspection. My Commanding Officer learned of my father visiting and invited him to ride during our underway day.

As a lieutenant, I was the sea detail officer of the deck. My father was by my side as I had the “conn” while the ship stood out of Narragansett Bay. As soon as we reached the operating area, we went to 25 knots for rudder tests, rapidly shifting the rudder to max angles both ways. The commanding officer and I went into a frantic dance, running in opposite directions across the bridge to hang over each wing checking for small craft in the dramatic turns.

After the rudder tests, I took my father into the bowels of the ship to our anti-submarine warfare spaces. My father stood behind me as I directed prosecution of a submarine contact. In the darkened spaces with sonar pings resounding, he watched as we tracked the sub on our fire control screen and simulated firing a torpedo.

After lunch, we set general quarters and ran through engineering drills. Finally, we transited back to Newport.

With mooring complete, the captain gave my father a ship’s plaque. My wife and mother were waiting on the pier when we debarked from the ship’s quarterdeck. As we walked the brow to the pier, my father said to me, “Son, I now understand why you would want to make this a career.”

That, to me, was one of the most rewarding moments of my life.

Finally, later in the spring, Kathie and i held a party. i think it may have been a “hail and well” party as i was detaching and reporting to Destroyer School. My close friend from Lebanon, Earl Major, was attending the same class and he came to the party. He and my CO, CDR Butts were talking. My captain told Earl i was one of the best OOD’s he had ever had but every time i took the watch in the Med, it seemed like i drew ships to close calls.

The Luce was one of my best tours, albeit short. Commander Richard Butts was one of the best commanding officers and Ted Fenno was one of the two top XO’s on my ships along side Louis Guimond.

She was a good ship, and CDR Butts was an incredible Navy officer.

3 thoughts on “A Tale of the Sea and Me: Three Good Moments in My Last Months on the Luce

  1. What a wonderful story and I hope you realize how blessed you are to have retained so much of your life memories. Although I get wisps of memories going back to when I was 6 or 7 and my cousin Lance and I played hooky behind the sand dunes at my school off the San Diego Bay.
    I can’t tell you how much I enjoy these excerpts from your family album.

  2. Capt. Butts would later be the C. O. Of the USS Dale CG 19 when I Reported onboard in 1979 ! Great guy, cared alot about his crew!

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