I left Chicago at 1630 on train #26 The 20th Century Limited and arrived at Albany about 0630 the next morning. That was one terrific train ride.
I reported back in at the Training Center in Albany and continued attending weekly drills. On 26 December 1960, I received my orders to report at 0830 14 January 1960 to the USN Recruiting Station at the Post Office building in downtown Albany which c o, nenced two years of active duty. After reporting and passing a physical I was ordered to the US Naval Receiving Station to await further orders. I finally found my way to the Receiving Station and reported. in at 2320 on 14 January 1960. While there I was assigned to various work details stood watches until I received orders to report to the Commanding Officer of the USS Calhoun County LST-519.
I along with three others were picked up by one of the crew members from the ship which was in port at NAD Earle Ammunition Depot near Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. I reported aboard at 1350 on 25 January 1960. I along with the other three sailors (Richard Bianco and Joe Sokol both of Albany and Tam Seeley from Beacon) were first assigned to the deck division. In the deck division compartment there were only bottom bunks vacant. Needless to say I got a bottom rack.(hunk). The racks were stacked three high and I figured I would get a top rack some time in the future when some of the other guys get transferred. The next morning we fell in formation on the tank deck for muster (Attendance). While we were at muster the division chief PO asked if anyone .here could type. I immediately volunteered. I felt I would rather man a typewriter Than a paint brush any day. My typing ability was accepted,- and I became the Deck Division Yeoman. I typed supply requests and handled the distribution of supplies.
The mission of the ship was to on load defective an/or obsolete ammunition and take it one hundred mile s out at sea and dump it over the side The depth of the water had to be one thousand fathoms.. The ammunition that was dumped ranged from small arms ammunition to six ton bombs. Occasionally we had to go two hundred miles out to sea to dump radio active waste. At one time our ship was shown on TV dumping a load of radio active waste.
My first trip to sea was the end of February or early March 1960 when we got underway for Norfolk, Virginia with our later destination being Roosevelt Roads Naval Base in Puerto Rico. The day we left was sunny and very cold. This was a whole new experience for me and I took to adjusting to life at sea with very little difficulty. Being out of sight of land was a strange feeling at first but somehow you had confidence in your crew's ability to navigate correctly and arrive at Norfolk. When we arrived at Norfolk, the weather was warm and sunny and felt like spring was in the air, After picking up a test crew and experimental mines we departed Norfolk and didn't see land again until about six or seven- days later when we caught sight of Puerto Rico. We tied up at the Roosevelt Roads Naval Base for a couple of days. It was coming into the pier here the ship almost went on the racks at the shore end of the pier, I was on the forward sea detail and we got our number two line onto the pier. We were taking a strain or. the line to slow our forward movement when someone on the enunciator's mistakenly indicated all engines ahead FULL instead of all engines BACK full. This headed us for the rocks at the shore end of the pier. The Captain ordered us to hold the No. 2 line and part it if necessary. The line was nylon and really stretched down to about half its original thickness but fortunately it didn't part and the ship stopped just short of the rocks.
Before we left 'Norfolk-, two old liberty ships (USS George Steers and Fred C, Stebbins) were towed to Viequez island near Roosevelt Roads. The experimental mines were used for tests on these ships with the ship sinking as the end result. This was the first time I ever see a ship sink. It was quite an unusual sight. Before the second ship sunk, we were allowed to take target practice at it with our twin 40 mm anti-aircraft guns. Every day the weather was hot and humid so tropical routine was the order of the day. Tropical routine was getting up extra early, having early breakfast and work until noon and relax the rest of the day except for standing watches because of the heat.
One of the afternoons I went for a swim at the beach at Roosevelt
Roads Base and enjoyed swimming in the pretty blue-green waters of the
Caribbean Sea with palm trees near by. Just unbelievable. On Friday of
one of the weekends, we got underway for San Juan, We arrived around noon
and I could 'leave the ship until the next day because I had the duty,
We tied. up near a small airport not far from downtown San Juan. On Saturday,
The following Friday, we got underway for St, Thomas, Virgin Islands.The ship anchored in the harbor and used one of our LCVPts (lifeboats) to provide transportation to shore for liberty. I walked all over and stopped in stores. There was even a Chase Manhattan Bank on the main street. Also cars drove on the left side of the road unlike here in the United States where we drive on the right side. I rode a taxi out to Lindberg Beach near the airport. This ride gave me an awfully uneasy feeling being on the left side of the road. I went swimming at the beach and while there found this to be the most beautiful beach I ever saw. The water is unbelievable, While walking along the beach I found a large beautiful shell. I picked it up and cleaned it out and took it back to the ship with me for a remembrance. The next day being Sunday, I went to church on shore and later walked up to Bluebaird's Castle where I got a terriffic view of the harbor from a hight vantige point, While I was there we had one of their sudden tropical storms where it clouds up suddenly and the rain pours down for about five minutes and then stops and immediately the sun comes back out, T haven't seen anything like it since I left the Caribbean area, Easter Sunday was spent at the Roosevelt Roads Base and attending church at the base chapel.
One sad occurrence took place while in Puerto Rico and that was when one of our crew was stricken with a. heart attack. He was removed from the ship by helicopter.
Upon completion of the mine tests we got underway for Norfolk. On the first day enroute I decided to air out the large shell I had found on the beach. back in St. Thomas, I put it on the forcastle where it would be out of the way. That night I forgot to take it back below, Later that same night we got into a storm and the shell was washed over the side. By the time we arrived back in Norfolk, we all had envious tans from the tropical climate.
In June 1960, we cruised up the coast and through the Cape Cad Canal and anchored in Boston Harbor. One of the weekends I took train #27 The New England States home. To return I rode a self propelled Beeliner. This weekend was my first sighting of Boston and its trolleys. There is plenty to see and do around the Boston area.
The ship was loaded with ammunition while at anchor because apparently it was unlawful to load ammunition at pier side. A crane and a loaded barge was brought out from Hingham with the ammunition to be loaded aboard. After loading was completed we weighed anchor-and got underway for a typical twenty-four- hour dump.
The summer of 1960 we spent July and August at Staten Island. The ship was put into drydock and the hull was sandblasted and repainted. The ship was later refloated and moved downstream a short distance where other maintenance work was performed. The above work was done by civilian shipyard personnel. Towards the end of the summer a hurricane approached. I went on liberty and headed home.
I was fortunate enough to get one of the last ferrys from Staten Island before service was suspended due to extra high tides. Also during our Staten Island stay, I took in a couple of Yankee baseball games where I saw my favorite ball player, Yogi Berra, hit a home run. Servicemen in uniform only had to pay fifty cents to get into the stadium.
In. October 1964, our ship left the Brooklyn Navy Yard and headed
for Argentia, Newfoundland to pick up two or three loads of ammunition
for dumping, While enroute off the coast of Nova Scotia we encountered
a fishing trawler, I had been on messenger watch for about a half hour
after coming on watch at midnight when the trawler became visible. The
weather was cool and clear,. CIC (Combat Information Center) plotted the
trawler an a collision course with our ship. Since he was approaching us
off our port side, he was the burdened vessel and should alter his course
or slow his speed and pass safely astern of our ship. This he failed to
do causing us to back dawn at the last few seconds to avoid ramming him.
After. crossing our bow he came around up close to our. stern at which
time the Captain ordered me to get the first class gunner's mate topside
on the double and to bring the Thompson sub-machine gun. Our Captain held
the bright signal light on the trawler and sure enough it was a Russian
After having arrived at the Argentia-Naval Base early in the afternoon, we were given base liberty. I left the ship to take a look around the base, When I returned to the ship, there was a message for me on the quarterdeck from my father via an amateur radio operator on the base. The radio ham operator at the base set up a schedule for the following day at 4 p.m. so that I could talk home to my folks. Some of the other guys were envious because I obtained special permission to leave the ship earlier than liberty call. I was able to talk home three or four times while at Argentia.
The weather was unusually warm with temperatures in the sixties and sunny.
After completing our ammunition dumps out of Argentia, we then headed for LaPolle Bay, Newfoundland to pick up a few men that had been there doing some kind of research, At LaPolle Bay it was quite cold but sunny. We then left LaPolle Bay and headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, We moored to a Canadian Navy pier at Dartmouth across the river from Halifax. We stayed here for about five days. Each day we had liberty at 4 p.m. On my first liberty there, I looked 'LIP a ham radio operator that my dad told me he had made a schedule with. I found him and again talked home. I didn't get to see much of Halifax since it was dark out by the time liberty call went at 4 p.m. However I did get a chance to ride on one of their trackless trolleys. They have since abandoned them.
At the end of the week, we got underway for our home port at last (Brooklyn) but not without incident. When we backed down to move away from the pier, our ship slid across the stern of another U.S, naval ship tied to the side of the pier 90° to our position severing her stern anchor cable dropping the anchor to the river bottom. I never did hear if the anchor was ever recovered but I assume it was. The remainder of our homeward trip was uneventful. After arriving at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, most of the crew that didn't have the duty headed for home on liberty.
After our return from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, we made some ammunition dumps out of the Ammunition Depot at Earle, New Jersey (Atlantic Highlands) After being loaded with seventy - 6 ton bombs, we were advised that a bad storm was-raging out at sea, This being a Friday, we a11 figured 'we would get week end liberty ti1 Monday morning but instead we had to be back aboard ship by 0900 on Sunday. By then the weather picture hadn't changed and expected to be given liberty again, The Captain returned from liberty stone drunk and passed orders to make preparations for getting underway about 1000 and we did. About four hours out we started getting into the raging storm. The ship pounded, shivered and shook. The six ton bombs on our main deck in the ammunition bin broke loose and started rolling around the deck like bowling pins. Nothing could be done about getting them secured and watched them flatten everything in their path due to their heavy weight. Holes were torn in the main deck, salt water flowed into the the deck division compartments and ruined the deck division's clothing and lockers among other damage. Fortunately for me I had been previously transferred out of the deck division and into the operations division thereby escaping salt water damage. The ship took an awful pounding. In fact, if you stood at one end of the tank deck you could see the ship flexing like a sheet of tin. It made me wonder how much bending the ship could. take without breaking in half,, The waves were breaking over the ship's bow. The ship rolled a good forty degrees to each side. The ship's cook couldn't even cook it was so rough. All we had to eat was peanut butter, jelly and crackers. Only a few of the crew got seasick and I wasn't one of them. One Chief Boatswainsmate told me this trip scared him the most ever except in world war two when the gun turret ahead of the one he was in was bombed by the enemy. We never made it to the dumping area and by the time we were back in sight of land, our lines were coated with ice. Before we could tie up at the Earle Ammunition Depot pier, the ice had to be chopped off. Following that trip the ship ended up in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the Christmas holidays. After the holidays the ship was moved to a civilian shipyard in Jersey City, New Jersey for repairs to the main deck and the reconstruction of a new ammunition bin.
I must say a few words about the Christmas holidays. This was the first timeI ever spent the holiday season aboard ship. The ships in the Navy Yard were decorated with colored lights, Christmas trees and some ships had a white cross. I was able to take leave and be home for Christmas but had the duty on New Year's Day. This also was a new experience. Usually the Officer of the Deck would write a New Year's poem and this year was no exception. Chief Smith had the duty and wrote the poem. At midnight, all the ships in the harbor sounded their whistles and horns to welcome in the New Year. Following the holidays the ship was moved to Jersey City as I said previously. While there we had a big snow storm with drifts waist deep. I was making the mail runs to the post office about six blocks away through these deep drifts on foot. There was hardly anything moving.
As winter passed and spring came, we started to make ammunition dumps out of Yorktown and St. Julien's Creek; Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina, In June 1961, we again went back to Boston for more ammunition removal. We again passed through the Cape Cod Canal. The canal was enjoyable to see. While in Boston we again had to anchor out in the harbor. On one weekend the ship did tie up at the Army Piers at South Boston. A British navy ship was in port at the time tied up near us. Because it was the Queen's birthday, our ship flew the British flag for the day. After the weekend we returned to our anchorage out in the harbor. Not far away was a Russian trawler whose captain had become ill and had come in for hospitalization. The trawler departed a couple of days later. Our ship then headed south for Norfolk Naval Operations Base for a yard period. The ship was rehabilitated and repainted. Alot of sailors didn't like Norfolk but I felt differently. T had a very enjoyable time having fellowship with the people at the Victory Tabernacle Baptist Church, and the Christian Servicemen's Center.
Following the yard period, the ship got underway for underway training with observers aboard to view how well various exercises were conducted. I had to laugh at lhe twin 40 mm. < anti-aircraft guns on the stern. They were so stiff the observers had to help push the gun around to track a target. We shot at a target towed by an airplane. When we were finished, the plane dropped the target to the water so that we could pick it up and see how many times we hit it. It showed we never hit it. Our ship wasn't equipped for going to war anyway.
The ship then proceeded to Yorktown, Virginia to load ammunition. The pier was just a little over a mile from the village of Yorktown This area is loaded with history with colonial Williamsburg not far away. The ship also took ammunition from the ammunition depot just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, located on the Cooper River upstream in the boondocks. I didn't get to see much of Charleston due to the fact it was too far into town and transportation was not provided. I did go to church on Sunday there at the base chapel. Also while there we had a ship's picnic where everyone had a. good time and some too good a time. When we departed Charleston, we headed north and dumped ammunition. enroute. On the plan of the day just before we returned to Brooklyn, the Executive Officer had placed on the Plan of the Day the following:
"Since the Deployment from Earle on 14 May, through the last dump trip from Charleston, the ship has dumped a grand total of 8,434,000 lbs. of material at an average of 301 tons per load. This is an. average of 78 tons per man. We have steamed a total of 5,890 miles for an average of 137 miles per day. It has been a trying trip on A11 hands and we're all glad to be going to our homeport at last."
After making a few more dumps out of Earle, NJ we again returned to the piers at Earle where we stayed a short period. The ship was then moved across the bay and up the East River to the Brooklyn Navy Yard for the holidays. I was not on that trip due to the fact I drove the ship's jeep to Brooklyn. This was the last time I saw the Calhoun County underway. Various times when we traveled up and down the New York Harbor, the Staten Island Ferries hated to give the right-of-way to the privileged vessel. In fact our Captain forced one of the ferry boats to back down and that doesn't happen very often. I don't think the -ferry boat's Captain was too happy, -
On 8 January 1962 I left the Calhoun County never to return. As I
walked down the pier towards the Receiving Station, I felt a sad feeling
as I thought about the many experiences and sights the USS Calhoun County
bestowed upon me. God had been good to me and returned me safely.
During my two years of active duty, I saw the aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Constellation built and launched at the Brookly Navy Yard. This ship was unbelievably huge. One day I saw the carrier pushed out into the East River to change piers and it took up the whole width of the river. Something never to be forgotten.
I stood various watches and details during my active duty. These included messenger watch, helmsman, radar, lookout, quarter deck, anchor and sea detail, telephone talker and worked in the ship's office. When on the duty fire party, I was responsible for bringing two C02 extinguishers to the fire scene and then man a hose. My general quarters station was the stern twin 40 mm, anti-aircraft guns where I was first loader. This was a very noisy battle station.
On 12 January I received my orders releasing me from active duty returning me to my home of record. I was glad to have my active duty behind me but somehow I knew I would miss it.
On 6 March 1962 I reported to the Naval Training Center in Albany and was assigned to the Naval Reserve Surface Division 3-44(M) for weekly drills.
On 15 December 1962 T transferred to the newly formed Hospital Corp Division 3-2. On 8 June 1963 T served my two weeks active duty at the training center and worked with John Jordon, PN1.
On 21 June 1963 I returned to weekly drill status with the Hospital Corp.
On 2 November 1963 I again served two weeks active duty at the training center working with John Jordon, PNl.
On 18 November 1963 I again returned to weekly drill status in the Hospital Corp.
On 16 September 1964 I transferred to the Surface Division 3-44(M) and continued in weekly drill status.
On 28 January 1965 I received my Honorable Discharge and left the Navy.
As I look back on my past Navy life, many new experiences and being on my own played a large part in growing from a teenager to adulthood. I feel the U.S. government should make it mandatory for all able young men to serve a minimum of two years active duty. This experience would help to make mature men out of them.
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