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People :: rgw4 :: Wiki :: military

I served in the US Navy in the 70's. It was one of the most constructive times in my life for making me who I am today. I'm not promoting a military service to anyone, I only mean to say that it helped me.

For most of my time in the Navy, I was stationed aboard a Landing Platform Dock ship (better known as an LPD). It was a good duty.

During my time on the ship, I had the chance to go on what is known as a WesPac cruise... a lengthy tour of duty in the Western Pacific.

We visited Hawaii (both ways - going and coming). Our foreign home port was Okinawa.

Upon arriving in Okinawa the first time, we were told we could not go on liberty as we were just restocking and heading back out to sea. We were on our way to Vietnam. Yes, the Vietnam war was still going on, though it was almost over.

We left within a day or so and went to Vietnam. The date of our arrival off the coast of Vietnam was late April, 1975. Within a couple days, by April 29th, we were about 50 miles off the coast and was part of the refugee withdrawal from Saigon. I will add some special pictures I have from that time, but as stated in several other areas of this wiki, time will be needed (I still have not found the time and I also have to find the pictures yet - sorry)

We were in the area for only a few days as it was the end of the bitter dispute. Thousands of refugees left Vietnam on helicopters. Our ship had a place for two helicopters to land. So many were leaving and the pilots were refusing to return, that we had to bull doze the helicopters over the side of the ship. One of my jobs during this time was the stearn gate operator. My position was all the way at the rear of the ship in the catwalk in the following picture. I would wear head phones and talk to the personnel that were working inside the wet well area. I took my camera with me and got some cool shots of the helicopters landing right over my head.

These pictures do not show the wet well area, but it is the area directly below the flight deck. It is basically the size of the ship from the flight deck to the water line, almost all the way across the deck. The rear of the ship is one large metal gate that lowers down to below the water level. The ship also has special ballast tanks that fill and cause the ship itself to sink in the water several feet. The purpose of this was so that small boats could come in or go out of the back of the ship. Normally used for landing parties "Hit the Beach" scenerios.

With the refugees landing on the flight deck in the helicopters, they were escorted through the ship into waiting boats in our wet well and then transported to other nearby ships where they were taken to places that were accepting these refugees. When the boats left the wet well, we would raise the ship again and close the ourselves the chance to be able to get some speed out of our ship if necessary. We were at general quarters almost the entire time and we heard there were enemy helicopters taking pot shots at the navy ships at times.

After a few days, we lifted ourselves out of the water for the last time and took some 500 refugees with us to the Phillipines. I was glad when that was over.

We stayed in the Phillipines for a few days before returning to Okinawa. We were only there a couple days when there was an emergency call for all ships to go to some place in North Korean waters. A ship was seized by the North Koreans in international water and they were preparing to tow it back to North Korea. We left our dock in Okinawa without waiting for the tug boats to help us. This was a mistake, we ended up scraping the side of the concrete dock with our ship and putting a big gash in the side of the ship. Though there are no pictures yet, there is a story to be told about this. Ships hull damage.

Obviously we did not make it to Korea, the gash was too big and we had to go slow. The incident was over almost as quick as it started anyway. So we continued on our route and headed to Sasebo, Japan where they had repair facilities. We were there about three weeks while the side of the ship was opened up and new steel installed. Was able to take some time to ride the bullet train to Tokyo, that was an interesting event. Spent a day there visiting the sites, doing some shopping and eating at McDonald's...nothing like a home cooked meal while abroad.

We left there and was cruising around Japan when all of a sudden a fire broke out in our #2 engine room and we were forced to return to a different repair facility in Japan. Boy, were we having fun! Ship fire story.

After those repairs the rest of our cruise was fairly uneventful. We did have a chance to go to Seoul, South Korea; Okinawa several times, the Phillipines again and our final port of call was Hong Kong, before returning back to the states.

This cruise lasted some 8 months. When we returned, we stayed in the San Diego area for several months working with the Marines. Then we headed up to San Francisco / Oakland area for a change in pace.

Shortly before getting out of the service, our ship was part of a special convoy that went to Alaska and Vancouver Canada for a training exercise. It was July and it was so neat to be on the flight deck at 2 AM and was able to read a book without any lights or moon. I only wish we had seen the Northern Lights while there, but alas, that was not to happen.

I got out of the service in 1977 and went back to college where I met the love of my life, my wife to be. We got married in 1978 and we are still married! Because of the military, I did go back to school due to the tuition money the government gives through the Veterans benefits. I doubt I would have met her any other the military was a good thing for me!

And don't misunderstand anything, not that you would. I served proudly, I am proud of how I served, and I do regret not making it a career. But of course, had I made it a career, I would not have my current wife, my two great kids, my two grandchildren; so everything has a reason and if I had a choice between the two choices now that I know the outcome...well, family is number one! And yes... I fly the American flag often.

This is the personal page of rgw4 and does not represent the views or opinions of Braingle.
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