My Navy Experience
PACFLT (Pacific Fleet)
People Got to be Free
by The Rascals
Boot Camp • Training Center • PACFLT • Task force 71/117 • Homeward Bound
Back in the gulf, besides interdicting enemy supplies being
shipped south, we became part of
Task force 71/117 and supported the
Mobile Riverine Force(MRF).
The Canberra supported them by furnishing supplies and gun
fire when needed to suppress enemy troop concentrations or
hostile gun emplacements.
(Links to MRF sites)
The Tonkin Gulf really
started to heat up after New Years. There must have been
more of a threat from
North Vietnamese Migs because we began to test our
antiaircraft missiles, the
They would cycle from the magazine to the launcher so fast you could hardly tell when it happened. First the launcher was empty, then the missiles were there. Two launchers with two missiles each. When the missiles took off they were traveling 2000 miles an hour. The blast from their exhaust would blow anything behind them clear off the ship. Storage boxes bolted to the deck and even the mortar for radar suppression.
The last time we tested them one was launched straight up, it made a figure eight and came straight down at the ship. Fortunately it was destroyed. After that, we began holding drills on the three inch gun emplacements. These guns were hand loaded and if done accurately, could fire 90 rounds a minute. The crews became very proficient but the fastest I ever saw them move was when one of the bullets double cycled and broke in half.
When the crews reached a point of efficiency that satisfied the people in charge, they put us up against an F-4. (F-4_Phantom)
What a joke that was. We would see a puff of smoke on the horizon and the next instant the F-4 was straight up over us with after-burners blazing.
I think it was after that the Navy brought in the Guided Missile Cruiser U.S.S Chicago. (History) (More)
We heard that it shot down a Mig 70 miles away. The poor pilot probably never new what hit him.
Letter home - 7 January 1968
The Canberra was shadowed by a Russian destroyer while patrolling off Haiphong Harbor. It kept its distance, but the Russian trawler that picked up our trash and disrupted radio transmissions became a nuisance. During one replenishing we had to do an emergency breakaway because the trawler sat stationary in our path.
In spite of the hard work, we managed to maintain our morale.
In spite of the seeming futility, we continued to train on the 3" anti-aircraft guns. After spending one long day practicing on floating targets and improving our proficiency, I was standing watch on the bridge. I rotated between steering the ship, manning the engine controls and listening on the sound powered phones. It was so dark on the deck that you couldn't see your hand in front of your face and because of the threat of being shot at, the lookouts on the sides of the ship would rotate their watches on deck between being in the safety of the 5" turret and manning the sound powered phones on the 3" mounts. "Glunt", as one of the crew was known,
was on the sound powered phone on the port side of the ship. Just before midnight, I was on the phone on the bridge and heard a loud scream, then silence. I checked with the other lookouts around the ship and Glunt was the only one that didn't answer. His alternate in the 5" mount was sent to check on him. There was another scream followed by some groaning. Nobody else wanted to go out and check. The two screaming, moaning lookouts were found on the main deck two decks below their stations on the 03 level where the 3" mounts were located. Glunt had a broken arm, but the other lookout was only bruised. He had fallen on Glunt. Apparently, the days blasting with the 3" guns had blown the trap door open to the Shute for dropping the shell casings to the main deck and the two lookouts had fallen through.
By mid January of 1968 the Canberra left the theater of operations in the Tonkin Gulf and headed to Yokusuka, Japan for some well earned rest and relaxation.
I had duty the first day we were in port and one of the tasks that I was assigned was to "frap" the forward line from the bow of the ship to the dock.
Besides being very scary and difficult to balance, my butt was sore for a week. When I did go on liberty,
I headed straight for the post exchange and bought a nice camera. We had some good weather while in port and the shipboard duty wasn't all that bad after what we had been through.
The weather, though nice, was cooler in Japan and we wore our jersey blues to keep warm.
A small group of us discovered the EM Club on the base
where we could enjoy steak dinners for $2.00. The menu called them New York strip steaks, but I knew them as Kansas City cuts.
One day a group of us
went on a tour of the area around Tokyo and saw the high speed train depot
and the site of the 1964 Olympics,
some from a gondola.
A larger group of us began to dine
at the EM club
before going "out on the town". There were lots of pent-up emotions to tend to
and some frustrations to deal with.
Before going on our next excursion, we took a picture in front of an A-4 Skyhawk.
We went on a tour to the south of Yokasuka and discovered some of the more cultural aspects of Japan. The pagoda
and the architecture,
and a thousand year old statue of Buddha.
Before continuing, we had lunch at a small cafe
where we also tasted some Sake. I think we upset several of the patrons because of the way they looked at us when we drank the Sake out of the bottle and passed it around to each other.
The next stop on our tour was a great view of Mt Fuji.
We spent a couple more days and nights enjoying the EM club and letting our emotions run free. On the last night of our R & R, the Military Police came and grabbed us off the streets and took us back to the ship for an early morning departure. None of us had any idea what was going on.
As the Canberra sailed out of Yokusuka and Tokyo Harbor, she
was followed by the
and her battle group as they broke through the morning fog.
That day the Canberra and the Ticonderoga with her battle group continued south until they reached the southern tip of Kyushu Island where the Canberra turned west and north. The Ticonderoga and her battle group continued southwest to take up station back in the South China Sea. The crew of the Canberra were still in the dark as to why we had departed so abruptly and what our destination might be.
The next morning, we were heading north through the Straits of Korea shadowed by a Russian Cruiser. The Russians were close enough that the crews were waving to each other and watching the others moves. All of a sudden the Russian Cruiser sounded General Quarters and started backing off from the stern of the Canberra. Both ships held their positions and things aboard the Canberra were real quiet and tense. Finally the Captain yelled over the ships loudspeaker for the Gunners mates in the 8" turrets "to get those damned guns turned around". It seems the gunners mates were doing transmission checks on the two turrets and didn't know the Russian ship was off our starboard. The next day we had Russian bombers overhead.
As we entered the Sea of Japan, still heading
north-northwest, the Captain addressed the crew and informed
us that the
U.S.S. Pueblo had been captured by the North
Koreans and that we were going to help retrieve the vessel
and the crew if need be. We all got "Gung-Ho" about the
situation and were ready to volunteer to go with our
contingent of sixty Marines to rescue the crew.
When we took up station somewhere north of the 38th parallel we joined the U.S.S. Enterprise
and the U.S.S. Long Beach.
We all thought that we surely had enough power to do what ever it might take to retrieve the Pueblo and her crew.
The Enterprise with her aircraft, the Long Beach with her missiles, and the Canberra with her guns.
After a week of cruising around the Sea of Japan it became obvious that we would not be rushing in to save anyone.
The weather was cold and nasty. In fact it proved to be the coldest weather that I ever experienced. Standing watch on a metal deck didn't help.
Before very long, it seemed that the whole Seventh Fleet had assembled off the coast of North Korea. The Russians were there too, cruisers and destroyers circling around the task force that had assembled. One Russian destroyer
collided with one of the U.S. ships, but no one was hurt and the damage was minor. We also had Russian bombers overhead.
Letter home - 1 February 1968
At least here we didn't have the ceaseless firing of those big guns. About the only other good thing was that we had the U.S.S. Sacremento
to refuel from and to take on stores. And, if needed, she also carried ammunition. It was quite a treat to be able to do all that from one ship instead of having a different ship for each task.
Letter home - 7 February 1968
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