About the Spirit

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This blog started out with "about me" in the title. My whole life has been "about me". I hope that the entries that I make will be about the Spirit and how He has changed my life because it has always been about Him and how He works through us.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I'll start this as I was leaving from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Like I've written in a previous blog I left Baltimore alone. No one was there to see me off because Dad was pissed off that I was leaving and no one crossed my Dad, so it was pretty lonely and lets just say that I was a more then a little apprehensive about my new life. All I knew at that time was that I needed a change, a change that would get me out of the slums, away from the no-where jobs and living from pay check to pay check. Also, I needed to find out who I was. Am I someone "different" that could change his station in life or am I just another slum kid just fooling himself and like my Dad said during our last conversation, only a kid thinking that I was becoming a man, a man that could change his life but will be rejected by the outside only to return to the slums to live out my life thinking of things that could have been?
I was scared to death and it would have been so easy just to turn around and run for home where my Dad, with a knowing smile, would have been so consoling as he plotted his next move to get me a job and start charging me rent just like he did with all my sisters. I had already had experience with that. I remembered my first job as a part time stock boy at Taubman's Department Store on Pratt Street. I made twenty five dollars every two weeks and Dad took twenty of it for "rent". I was fifteen years old. I had no problem with giving my money to my family but I knew that Dad was going to use it for gambling and didn't see why I had to pay for that. Thinking of the consequences of failing in my attempt to change my life spurred me on and I got on the plane. It was a jet which was unusual for 1961 and of course it was the first time I'd ever been on a plane. I remember thinking to myself, see your life's changing already. And change it did...

If I remember correctly it took three hours to get to Chicago and it was evening before we got to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukhegen, Illinois... Navy Boot Camp! After arriving I, along with about fifty other guys were herded into an auditorium were we were all sworn into the U.S. military plus we signed an Oath of Allegiance. After that we were given speeches by several high ranking Naval Officers advising us of the honor and integrity of the Navy plus we got a history of the battles that the Navy had won and the tragedies and lessons learned on the battles that were loss. After that it was getting close to taps so we were told to take all our valuables and place them under our pillows for safe keeping. We did as we were told and after reveille in the morning we found that someone had reached under our pillows and stole everything of value...so much for honor and integrity!

Our first full day in boot camp started with a great meal in a chow hall the size if Delaware. After that we got a sea bag and filled it with our first issue of Navy uniforms. We were taken into a hall where we were told to strip off our old clothes and put them in a box to be mailed home. We each had to stand in a three foot square box that was painted on the floor. We put on our Navy work blues for the first time but not for long. We went to the barber shop where we all got every inch of our hair shaved off. As we were leaving guys that had been in the Navy about a week before us began to call us boots. We were divided into companies about thirty sailors per company then each company was given a barracks. after we assigned barracks and "racks"(bunks) we were told to strip down to our scivies and wash all our new uniforms because the Navy believes that all new clothes are considered unclean. The hardest thing to get clean is the white hat. Soap gives it a dull color and you must keep washing and rinsing until it is as white as snow which can take all day.

The next several months was pure hell with getting up at f
our thirty in the morning for inspection which consisted of your uniform your hygiene and finally your barracks. Every morning one of us would be singled out to for being a scrounge and made to do fifty pushups in front of everyone. If the barracks was dirty everything was thrown out into the middle of the floor from your racks and lockers. Not just the sailor that did something wrong but EVERYONE'S locker and rack. During the day we went to class to learn the basics of Navy life, went to physical training, and marched or if we were out of formation ran everywhere we went.

I was just about finished my second month of basic when I got sick. We were drying our clothes in an indoor drying room and the temperature
was always about ninety degrees. I had just stepped in from the outside and the next thing I knew I woke up in the emergency room. I stayed in the hospital for a week and no one ever told me what was wrong. All I know is that when I left they wanted to draw some blood and took me in a room where about twenty sailors were getting blood drawn. The doctor took one look at me and waived the blood test. He told me that I was too under weight to take blood. I know that when I got to boot camp they took my weight and I weighed 112 lbs. when I left boot camp it was 130. Our final week in boot camp was called "service week". For the whole week we had to work at different areas of the base doing things that no one else wanted to do like working on the mess decks (kitchen). I'll never forget the day the gave us our assignments. Everyone in my company got the mess decks, except me. I was told that I was going to be the Master At Arms of the Reserve Battalion on the base. For the whole week I made coffee for the Officers in the morning and sat behind a desk as reserve boots camp into my office and had to salute me as they were given their assignments.

At first I was told that I would have to stay in boot
camp for another week to make up for the week I was sick, but they changed their minds and I graduated with my company.

I waited for my name to be called on our fin
al day in boot camp. We were being told where our first duty station was going to be and none of us had any idea as to where we were going. Guys were going all over the world on ships and land bases. My name came up and I was going to a mine sweeper base in Charleston South Carolina.

While I was in boot camp I took a battery of tests to discover what my strengths were and because they were in the engineering realm I was classified as a fireman apprentice.I was assigned to the refrigeration unit and spent the day repairing worn out electric motors from the sweepers. Note of interest: All mine sweepers had wooded hulls because most mines were magnetic. While I was in Charleston I took up karate but didn't get get to far because I was transferred.

There were several South Korean sweepers in port while I was there and there was a story going around the base concerning one of them. It seems that the Korean sailors went on liberty while they were in port and the next day the Charleston police showed up with a female. The female made a report that she was raped by one of the sailors and the police wanted to see all the sailors with the female to see if she could pick him out. All the sailors lined up and
the lady walked up to one and said "that's him!" The police wanted to take the sailor in custody but the Korean Captain refused and asked the police to leave his ship. The police left the ship and the ship immediately left port and went to sea. Later that night the ship returned and the captain called the police back to the ship. When they got there the captain showed them the dead body of the accused sailor. They went to sea and hung him!

I really liked South Carolina. It was close to Florida and there were times when I took weekend excursions to the beaches. But, surprise, surprise! I got transfer orders. I was being transferred to Norfolk, Virginia aboard the USS-Borie which is moored in the Portsmouth Naval Station. I had two weeks to get there and went home and told everyone the good news. I was going aboard a ship and I would be closer to home.

After my leave I reported to the base commander directed me and one other sailor to the pier where the Borie was located. We were excited to get to the ship where we were sure we would be spending the next three and a half years.

I was shocked as I stood on the pier looking at my ship. The other sailor an
d myself dropped our seabags and stared at the ship. It didn't look like a ship. Everything from the main deck and above were gone. Everything was taken off to either be refurbished or replaced. The ship was going through what the Navy calls a FRAM which stands for Fleet Rehabilitation and Modernization. She all new equipment and a flight deck.

There were a bunch of sailors aboard the ship yelling at us, welcoming us aboard and asking us where we were from. ect. We could hear the ding, ding, ding of the crane as it headed toward us on it's tracks as it took some old parts off the ship. As it neared the sailors screamed even louder then suddenly they burst out laughing and returned to work completely ignoring us. We turned to pick up our seabags and found that the crane had run over the other sailor's seabag cutting it completely in half. The picture at the right is the Borie in drydock as she was getting
her hull painted. The Borie spent most of her time during repair in drydock. Click on the picture for a better view. Notice the big cranes on either side of the dock and the gang plank that we had to go up and down all day everyday until she was seaworthy. I spent most of my time as a fire watch watching the welders and making sure the sparks didn't cause a fire. After that I was assigned to the aft engine room and helped as machinists reconnected all the pumps and engine. There were yard workers that lagged all the piping with asbestos as all the rest of us were working of the power plant. Asbestos was in the air everywhere and to this day I don't know why I didn't get cancer, it was on everyone.
I'll continue this with a new entry called the USS Borie DD-704

USS Borie DD-704

After about six months in Portsmouth we finally went to sea in I think it was June 1962. Our first "cruise" was with the families of all the sailors aboard. We just took a short trip around the harbor. The water was as calm as it could be and resembled a table top as we dropped the last mooring line in the water and the captain ordered all ahead one third. We weren't out five minutes and I got sea sick. I was so sick...I didn't think I would ever be able to sail and that's all I wanted to do. I didn't realize at the time that the Navy didn't care how my tummy was feeling, I was going to sea even if I had to puke my way across the Atlantic.

After about a week of taking on stores (food) and ammo we headed for Guantanamo (Gitmo) for what the Navy cal
ls a "shake down" cruise. Which in civilian terms means that we were going to go through a lot of training with little sleep in the heat of the Caribbean in the middle of summer. I didn't think it was going to be hard but it was like going through boot camp again. This time however, it was a lot of "what ifs" training...what if the ship was sinking, what would you do? what if the engine room took a torpedo what would you do? That kind of stuff. Most of the old salts knew what was going on and it didn't take us long to learn what our jobs were during war. I was very disheartening however when you go through all that training and a wisened sailor who fought in the second world war says that most destroyers (tincans) sank within a minute of being struck by a bomb and if a torpedo struck the engine room you had better make sure your life insurance was caught up because you will never make it out alive. Preparing for a nuclear attack was the worst. The engine rooms were already 120 degrees and you had to shut off all the vents. We took salts tablets to keep from dehydrating and some of us passed out and had to be dragged topside to get fresh air.

We spent some time shooting our five inch guns at targets that were painted on an island. They never told us when they were going to shoot them off so we were taken by surprise and didn't have time to protect our ears. Some of us lost hearing for several minutes which led to hearing loss later in life.

After getting all that training we headed h
ome to Norfolk were we all went on leave before leaving for the Mediterranean Sea. I was looking forward to the cruise except for the rough seas. Some of the guys told me that it could get so rough that the waves could get twenty feet high and I, who gets sea sick standing of a pier, wasn't looking forward to it.

We were a part of a fleet that was leaving Norfolk and I'm not sure how many ships were in the fleet but I know it was over fifty. I was told it takes seven days to get across the Atlantic. After we were out for a couple of days I became a little apprehensive knowing that we were out there alone and had to depend on each other. We learned what it meant to have someone depend on you and sometimes with their very survival. I was standing on the main deck one day looking over the side when one of the older guys came up to me and said "don't worry we're only two miles from land...straight down!" Yeah, that made me feel just great.

Anyway, the thing that I fearing the most... a storm at sea, struck about five days out. It was a hurricane. It lasted for days. The ship was taking unbelievable rolls and had us literally walking on the bulkheads (walls) and trussing (tying) ourselves into our racks where we trying to get some rest. The old salts had a ball with this. Most of them weren't sick and would walk by you eating something that smelled and looked bad or would send the younger guys to the bilges to find out how high the water was. Once you saw and heard that water slouching from one side of the ship to the other you got sick all over again. Some of us were actually carrying a bucket around with us. You couldn't go outside because the ship was under water most of the time. Lines were strung outside so that the guys that had to could get around by hanging on to the line. Funny thing is we never saw another ship during the storm and the waves were something that you wouldn't think was possible. The storm followed us across the Atlantic and we never had any relief until we sailed through the Straights of Gibraltar. I'll never forget that morning. It went from violent seas to calm in a matter of minutes. We were below decks and ran outside for the first time in a week. The sea was beautiful with all the ships on the horizon and dolphins jumping in and out of the waves that was left by our ship.

The Med cruise was wonderful. Here's a list of
some of the ports we visited:

Catragena, Spain

Naples, Italy

Cannes, France

Bormes, France

I could go on and on posting pictures of the beautiful ports we visited but if I do that this blog entry would five pages long.

Here are all the rest of the ports visited the summer of 1962:

Toulon, France............................................... Gulfe Juan, France
Corfu, Greece ..................................................Tarento, Italy
Rhodes, Greece................................................Beirut, Lebanon
Panza, Italy .....................................................Pompeii, Italy
Serento, Italy ..................................................Gaeta, Italy
Rome, Italy .....................................................Vatican City
Palma, Mallorca .............................................Rota, Spain
Karachi, Pakistan.......................................... Suda Bay, Crete
Lido, Italy ......................................................Venice, Italy
Port Said, Egypt .............................................Port Suez, Egypt
Aden, Saudi Arabia .......................................Patras, Greece
Portsmouth, England ....................................Copenhagen, Denmark
Kiel Canal, Germany .....................................Turku, Finland

After we came home in October 1962 we were only in port for several weeks when we were called to sea once more...this time maybe...to war!

My next entry will be titled The Cuban Missile Crisis

Cuban Missile Crisis

After the Med Cruise and just about everyone was back from going home we began getting the ship ready for our next cruise. I was in the engine room and had a pump that had given us trouble on the cruise torn apart and laying on the deck. My first class came down and asked me how long it would take to put the pump repaired and put together. I told him that it was repaired and I was putting it together when he told me that I had to get it together as soon as possible. There was a sense of urgency in his voice that I never noticed before so I hurriedly got the pump together. We received a message over the ship's intercom that we had fifteen minutes to go on the pier, call our homes and tell our families that were we going to sea, didn't know where we were going and didn't know when we were coming back. Everyone scrambled to the phones on the pier. Every ship got the same message at the same time so the lines at the phones were a block long and I couldn't get to a phone. We looked toward the end of the pier because we knew there were phones on the base and found that the end of the pier had been blocked off by marines who wouldn't let anyone off. We ran back to the ship because time was getting short and we didn't know what to expect next. We knew that the U.S. had a running argument with Russia over Berlin and we all thought we were going to war.

It usually takes about an hour to get the main engines "lit off" (running) but this time we were ready to go to sea in half that time. Nothing was transmitted to us as we sailed out of Norfolk into the open sea...

We were going at "flank" speed (as fast as we could go) and none of us knew where we were going. About a half an hour out we received the speech that was given by President Kennedy in was the middle of October 1962. We knew where we were going, we were going to be a part of the blockade of Cuba and we knew that there were missiles on the island manned by the Russians pointed at the US and that there were more on the way. The Russians were sending a convoy of ships with missiles aboard and we were to stop them. We weren't part of the blockade...we were looking for subs. We were in open sea patrolling when suddenly we were again at flank speed. We headed to an unknown location. Scuttlebutt was that a Russian sub was spotted and because we had special sonar we were send to help surface her. We found the sub and with our sonar there was no way she was going to lose us. We followed her for days. Finally, she broke the surface and Borie sounded her horns. I was below deck shaving when I heard the horns and I knew what it meant. I ran topsides and stood with the rest of my shipmates as the sub surfaced in front of us. The sub never submerged after that it stayed afloat as we ran along side of her for two days. I'll never forget my fears as we tracked that sub while it tried to lose us. We had been at "general quarters" for a couple of days which means we had to stay at our battle stations until the threat was cleared. We had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and an apple for all three meals with no sleep except for catnaps at our battle stations. I remembered all the stories of my shipmates that had been in war; It only took a few minutes for a destroyer to sink, during battle sailors with guns were placed at the hatches leading to the engine room to make sure that no one left the engine room which is the least protected area of the ship and if a torpedo doesn't kill you as it explodes through the hull then the six hundred degree super heated steam will. All these things passed through my, and all my friends, minds as we tracked the sub.

Suddenly we were at flank speed again leaving the sub behind as we head
ed south toward the Caribbean Sea. General Quarters were secure and we had a chance to get a good meal and to get some much needed rest. We were headed for the Panama Canal. We waited in the harbor as ship after ship of Marines came through the canal from San Diego. It was an invasion fleet. We were going to invade Cuba and we were ready. All of us new that if that happened then it was sure to be WWIII. We sailed toward Cuba with the troop carriers. I looked and found jeeps, tanks and all sorts of vehicles and weapons. As we sailed toward Cuba there was only one thing on our minds...subs. We knew were were equipped with the latest sonar gear so there had to be the possibility of Russian subs in the area. And as sudden as all this started...it was over. We and the Russians came to some kind of a deal and we were going home but not before a couple of days liberty in Kingston Jamaica. We went ashore with all those marines and it wasn't a pretty site. My buddy and me were involved in a brawl at one of the local bars with a few of those marines. My buddy had false upper teeth and was hit in the mouth and his teeth were forced down his throat. He lay there gagging as the fight was going on around us as I dug my fingers down his throat trying to retrieve those teeth. I got them out just in time to see the military police arrive and the brawl was over.
Since that time I've never liked marines.
My buddy was smaller the I was and the Jarhead picked him out to hit first. Let's just say they're not my kind of people. I received the above medals during my time in Cuba. The upper one is the Navy Good Conduct Medal, the blue and gold is the Navy Expeditionary Medal, The red and yellow with stripes is the National Defense Medal and the red white and blue one is the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

The next segment is the Assassination of President Kennedy.