Friday, November 18, 2016

"My" Ships

USS Alabama firing a broadside in the Atlantic Ocean, 1943. (Source)
Some time ago (July of 2013) I wrote a post about "my" aircraft carrier.

Alright, the Ike is not actually "my" carrier, though as a tax payer I am, in reality, a part owner. She is a fine ship with which I have a connection. Having been aboard her more than once and actually having been to sea on her once upon a time. The connection there is that my oldest daughter, The Nuke, was once a member of ship's company aboard that fine warship. Which is how The Missus Herself and I were able to have Christmas dinner on the Ike back in the day. (2007, I think...)

As you may well imagine, with three offspring having been in, or still in, the United States Navy, I have connections with more ships than just the Ike. I consider those ships "mine" as well. (Again, part owner, though it's not like these ships are timeshares, as in "Hey, can I use the carrier for the last two weeks in September?" And wouldn't that be awesome?) So today I thought I'd talk about "my" ships. (As you may note, I claim USS Alabama (BB-60) as well, having visited her when I was assigned to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. But we'll get to that, shortly.)

I do believe that USS Alabama was the first warship I ever stepped aboard. I know I have pictures from that day when on the way over to visit one of The Missus Herself's sisters (in fact, the sister of Uncle Smitty's Hamsters fame, if fame that be), we decided to stop at the USS Alabama Memorial Park on the way back to Mississippi.

We toured the Alabama and I also got to clamber aboard my very first submarine, the USS Drum, which was actually in the water when we visited in 1987. Here's what she looked like a few years before that -

Apparently she sustained some damage from Hurricane Georges in 1998, after which she was brought ashore where she is now. Alabama and Drum sustained damage from Hurricane Katrina as well in 2005. They've both been repaired since then. (The condos which served as temporary quarters for the Sarge Tribe wasn't so lucky. Completely wiped out. Sad, it was a really nice place of which we have fond memories.)

Uh, yes, I did notice the aircraft behind the Drum, saw those and now I understand there are more, including, (oh, be still my heart) an F-4C* on a stick. This one, and she looks good. Damn good.

I really must get back down there someday, the place has expanded quite a bit.

Anyhoo, those were museum ships, oddly enough (just learned this today) the other battlewagon I've been aboard, USS Massachusetts, is the same class as the Alabama. Both are fine examples of the South Dakota-class. Odd, innit?

I have seen three Iowa-class battlewagons as well with mine own eyes (so to speak), the USS Iowa herself, she was tied up to a pier at Naval Station Newport when we first arrived here in Little Rhody. (Along with two aircraft carriers. USS Saratoga and USS Forrestal. Yeah, it was awesome seeing those old gals tied up alongside each other. Though as the years went by, those two carriers were really showing their age.) As I've been to downtown Norfolk, I've also seen USS Wisconsin haven't been aboard her yet.

Flying into Philly on more than one occasion, I've also seen the USS New Jersey at her mooring in the Delaware River. (We flew right over another aircraft carrier going into Philly once, USS John F Kennedy at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in Philadelphia. (According to Wikipedia, "Big John" might be on her way to Boston as a museum ship. Then I might actually get to walk her decks. The WSO has actually been at sea on the "Big John" - I might have a ball cap, somewhere...

Other ships I have a connection with include three more carriers, USS Enterprise (son-in-law Big Time went on two combat deployments with her air wing, and The Nuke served her first class midshipman tour aboard the "Big E" in the Mediterranean. Then there's the USS Theodore Roosevelt, or "TR" as she's known in the fleet, aboard which my youngest granddaughter, L'il Sweetie, was baptized back in January out yonder in Sandy Eggo. Of course, I can't forget the USS Ronald Reagan, I went to sea aboard her back when the The WSO was a Bullet (VFA-2). She also did RIMPAC 2014 on Reagan. She did the work, I got the t-shirt. Two, actually.

Oddly enough, The Nuke did a midshipman cruise (third-class) aboard Reagan before she was commissioned. Wild, huh?

I've been on a few other museum ships which were designed to submerge and resurface, i.e. submarines, other than the Drum. At nearby Battleship Cove, Murphy (of Lagniappe's Lair fame)and I toured USS Lionfish. (I've also been aboard USS Nautilus over at New London and the USS Dolphin out in Sandy Eggo.) We also toured the USS Massachusetts, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (a WWII-era Gearing-class destroyer), the Hiddensee (a Soviet-designed, former East German missile corvette), and a bunch of other cool stuff that day. Murphy was somewhat disappointed that there were no boarding ladders for him to test. But he did find lots of other buttons to push. He's an interactive kind of guy. And if you touch something and it breaks, you can always blame Murphy, the docents will believe you. Heh, Murph has a reputation!

Speaking of destroyers, I've been on some active duty versions of those as well.

One of "my" destroyers is the USS Oscar Austin, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. I toured her for work. Yes, sometimes my job is fun. Now the next one I spent nearly a week on, tied up to the pier but cool nevertheless.

US Navy Photo
That's USS McFaul, another Arleigh Burke-class.

I toured this ship for work twice. The first time I was one of the tourists, the second time The Nuke was assigned to her as the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer, or ASWO. So that time I was one of the guides, brought 60-odd folks from work out to tour the ship over five days. Like I said, there are times when the job is a lot of fun. (There's more on McFaul here as well as the other destroyers I'm connected with via the progeny.)

Lots and lots of ships I've seen, I've got lots more I want to see. Someday I will get The Nuke to get me aboard a nuclear submarine, underway! (Hey, a fellow can dream, can't he?)

Oh yeah, I've been aboard a frigate as well, The WSO's college roommate was aboard that one. USS Taylor came to Little Rhody for the Fourth of July a few years back. Spent a couple of hours touring that ship. Spent most of the Fourth playing beer pong with a bunch of newly-minted ensigns. Much fun and I only puked once. The WSO managed to eject from a lawn chair and narrowly missed a few of The Missus Herself's rose bushes. Well, the rest of us thought it was funny...

Anyhoo, here's a list of "my" ships. (Warships only, US Navy only.)

USS Taylor FFG-50 (US Navy Photo)
Ships (and boats) I have been aboard -
  • USS Alabama
  • USS Drum
  • USS Nautilus
  • USS Massachusetts
  • USS Lionfish
  • USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.
  • USS Dolphin
  • USS Nautilus
  • USS Oscar Austin
  • USS McFaul
  • USS Briscoe
  • USS Nitze
  • USS Taylor
  • USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (underway)
  • USS Ronald Reagan (underway)
  • USS Theodore Roosevelt
Ships I've seen in person, haven't visited, yet...
  • USS Wisconsin
  • USS Iowa
  • USS New Jersey
  • USS Saratoga
  • USS Forrestal
  • USS John F Kennedy
  • USS Midway
  • USS Yorktown (hat tip to Chris Johnson for the reminder!)
Need to finish that list, especially this one. I've heard Sandy Eggo is fun. (Tee hee!)

USS Midway (Source)

* Update: The Phantom on a stick at Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama is tail number 63-7487, an F-4C (F-4C-18-MC). (Source)


  1. When I was in the Fleet, albeit a few years ago, USS Theodore Roosevelt was known as Teddy Ruxpin.

  2. You should hop on down to Charleston and take a turn around the Yorktown and her "battle group".

    1. I love Charleston. The food, the history, the atmosphere. I was down there a few years ago to attend The Nuke's graduation from, you guessed it, Nuke School. When we caught the ferry out to Fort Sumter we weren't far from Yorktown. Didn't make it there as I had a choice one day, see the Yorktown, or see the Hunley. I picked Hunley for the obvious historical reasons.

      I definitely need to add Yorktown and her "battle group" to the list of ships I have seen but not yet visited.

      Thanks for the reminder Chris!

  3. During the years the Missouri was in Bremerton, had several visits. None of the interior was open. One fleet week in Seattle my sons, who share their father's aversion to long lines, went aboard the USS Pigeon As only a handful of people visited her, and the personnel were bored, we received a nearly two hour tour. Highlight for the kids were me sucking gas from a diving mask and talking like Donald Duck.

    1. Now that is just too cool. (The ship and the talking like Donald Duck.)

  4. Sarge,
    My list of warships I've set foot on would be considerably shorter . . .
    USS Olympia, in Philadelphia and USS Nautilus, in New London, CT.
    Additionally, when in 8th grade my civics class attended the launching of the USS Kitty Hawk.
    I've a very tenuous connection to the USS New Jersey, as my great-uncle, William Grear, was a Master Chief Petty Officer recalled to active duty for the duration of WWII. He was involved with the ship's construction. He'd retired after a 30 year navy career.
    His first ship:

    1. Now that ship is old-timey cool!

      I'd like to see USS Olympia. Heard that they're having trouble keeping her open as a museum ship. Lack of money for upkeep and all that.

    2. Sorry to hear about USS Olympia, went aboard her many a long year ago on an eighth grade field trip to Philadelphia. Is there a web site where one can donate to her upkeep?

      Paul L. Quandt

    3. Try this Paul, there is a "Donate" button.

    4. Thanks for the info, Chris.

      Sent a donation, although not happy about the 5% gouge. Made the donation 5% more so the full amount would go to the ship. I hope it will help.


    5. Hopefully, every little bit helps.

  5. Shoot! You've been on darned near as many ships as I have.

    1. Maybe more, but a lot less time. A lot less time.


  6. One of the perks with my father being the AF liaison officer at Kwajalein in the early '70s (Kwaj, an army base to catch air force missles and supplied by the navy. Only missing the marines and coasties to get a full deck) was we got to tour all the various ships that docked. Got to go aboard most of the Pacific range instrumentation tracking ships. My favorite was the USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg (she started out as a US Navy transport, then a US Army ship, then a USAF ship (?) and then back to the Navy). The tracking ships were neat, and we always got to eat in the officers' wardroom. Extra special perk, Fresh Milk! (Kwaj had either powdered or frozen concentrated milk (not real milk, especially on cereal.) And Greek olives.

    Other notable visits was a destroyer and a cruiser, but I was too young to keep records of what we got to go on.

    The one ship I really wanted to go on was the LST that had the two Perry Cubmarines for picking up 'things' that fell from the sky from the direction of Vandenberg AFB. Stupid TS security clearances and crap. (Funny, at 7yoa I had a better understanding of 'classified' than one of the notable political figures of this year (cough, cough.))

    I did get to touch the ever-slightly radioactive hull of the Prinz Eugen, capsized on the lagoon side of Carlson Island. The beauty of her lines shines through, even though she's upside down and stern up, with all the upper-works underwater. Pity she could not be saved.

    Kwaj was interesting. Lots of left-over things from 1944, like bullets and such (I have lost all of them over the years.)(And I never got to get my hands on that case of jap grenades I found while snorkeling (fortunately). Watching the ABM tests (Sprint and Spartan) and watching nuclear re-entry capsules re-entering the atmosphere was truly a neat experience. Phased array radar blowing up seagulls, yep, seen it. Sunken ships full of explosives, yep. Touring Roi-Namur and looking at 14" battleship round caused holes in heavy jap bunkers, yep. Strange childhood, yep.

    All the ships of my youth are now sunk or cut up. Makes me sad.

    1. Andrew, that sounds like an awesome childhood. Thanks for sharing!

    2. It was, what I can remember of it. Would help if the Air Force would release his records to the family, but we gotta wait until at least 2023 for the first of it.

      One memory is that AF staff sergeants who used to be Marines make very scary babysitters. And said ex-Marine AF Staff Sgts who were black and just transferred from the far north have very little to no ability to not get sunburned, no matter how dark their skin is. And did I mention that said ex-Marine, now AF Staff Sgt who is in a lot of pain (and he was like 6'4, too) really didn't like hyperactive anklebiters pointing out that he was now grey and shedding (Ah, I think my butt still has the psychic scars from that.)

      I do remember that he was involved in some project to determine the maximum speed of an F-4 as flown really close to the earth, right at ground effect or a little higher. I never found out what the speed was, but my father wasn't exactly enamored of the Phantom after that project. Something about uncontrollable oscillation really close to the ground was a very bad thing, and the Phantom just wasn't maneuverable enough.

      Then again, he really hated Apollo 1 conspiracy nuts, as he knew all three astronauts, and he would never watch a shuttle launch, even though he lived just south of Patrick AFB (He said, apparently from the beginning, that the Shuttle wasn't very safe, and he was a strong proponent of the Apollo continuation program. Ah, well, what could have been.)

      Your blog has given me a great opportunity to dredge up memories of Robert Paul Wetzel, USAF Reserves. If anyone out there knew him, I'd love to hear. Email at (uh, er, is that okay, guys?)

    3. Absolutely okay Andrew.

      Geez, Blogger dumped you in the spam filter. Probably because of the email address. To confuse Blogger, which isn't that hard, always write email addresses as someaddress AT somewhere DOT com.

      I think the last thing I would want to learn is the maximum speed of the F-4 at extremely low altitude. Juvat might shed some light on that.

    4. Apparently they did lose a bird or two on that particular program. Two people at a time ejecting really close to the ground. Well, at least they weren't the downward ejecting F-105s.

      I learned from my dad early on to 'keep my elbows in'. He did not like watching ejection videos for some strange reason.

    5. I was just cooking dinner and realized I'm a complete unit (unit equals er, something.) Here I've always believed my dad only worked on the manned space program and other non-(direct)defense programs and just realized he worked on a project dealing with very high speed, very low level (with maneuvers) flying of the predominate air-to-air fighter in '68/'69. Gee, what could that have been for? What the heck was I thinking? They were doing this for fun? For some Aviation Award? Now I really want to get some access to his service records to find out what he did.

      Geesh. Never thought I was slow.

    6. Ah, sometimes it just takes time for all the pieces to fit together to reveal the big picture.

      Hey, you cook! That's better than me! (Helpless in the kitchen.)

    7. My retired dad cooked for my working mom. He taught me well.

      Just wish he had lived long enough for me to get the answers for the questions that I always knew couldn't be answered at that time. Of course, knowing him, he would, like most real TS warriors, never talk even after the statute of limitations was over. (The handling of 'official secrets' has always been taught religiously in both sides of my family.)

    8. The ability to keep a secret is an honorable quality.

  7. Andrew, Thanks. Story for Monday!

    1. I sense what it might be about, but you are full of surprises.

      So I can hardly wait!

    2. Argh. Now you got me wondering. Battle of Kwajalein Atoll. Secrets of Roi-Namur. The Prinz Eugene. The Elephant Pen (any people from Kwaj should know about that one.) The Range Tracking and Instumentation ships. Living on a chunk of land attached to an airfield.

      So many possibilities, so many questions for what you have up your AF sleeves.

    3. Juvat is like that old Johnny Cash song, "I've been everywhere, man..."


    4. Not really, just one memorial jaunt outside the Continental States. Always someplace warm, if not downright hot. Only saw real mountains and snow after I was 22. Dad was the semi-world traveler, playing in Korea after the war and in Japan that I know of, with lots of TDYs to strange places for the space program.

    5. Most people don't realize the number of remote sites used by the space program. And other things involving space buy outside the public gaze.

  8. I was ship's company on the JFK, and later airwing deployed on the FID. I'm glad to hear they may make CV-67 a museum ship; CV-59 is already razor blades.
    On the Kennedy, we were sharing a pier once around Christmas with the USS Missouri; I think this would have been '89. Mo was rehabbing its galley, so we lent them our forward galley, & our cooks (excuse me, Mess Specialists) used the aft. They soon had to start checking ID cards, 'cause we carrier sailors were overloading the forward galley. Those battleship guys could cook!
    Somewhere I still have a pic taken from Vultures' Row, at night, of the Mo lit up for Christmas. The 5" guns were at max elevation & each turret was done up like a twin candle setting. That was just too cool.
    --Tennessee Budd

    1. One of my fondest memories, something I will never, ever forget, is seeing the ships at their piers in Norfolk, all lit up for the holidays. In the cool crispness of a cold Virginia night it was quite a sight.

      So yeah Tennessee, I understand what you saw and felt. Must have been pretty cool.

      Yeah, Forrestal has met her end, as has the Saratoga. An ignoble end for such fine warships.

      I was very pleased to read that JFK might be spared that fate.

  9. You must at some point, visit The Big Badger Boat. SOUTH DAKOTAs are not good warships, as they were designed before it was realized how many people would be required in wartime. They soon became almost uninhabitable. Since the crew space problem was realized before the first SOUTH DAKOTA was laid down, the IOWAs were designed in their final form, as longer hulled SOUTH DAKOTAs, in part for higher speed, and longer range, but also for increased habitability. WISCONSIN is currently in he best shape, as, at the time of the class being brought back, she had the fewest hours on her, so, I the interest of speed, everything possible as stripped out of her, to get her sisters up and running, while WISCONSIN got new made.

    Badgers use all caps for WISCONSIN and other ship names, as they don't know how to italicize, and are to lazy to find out.

    1. I subscribe to "Tuna-style" for ship names as all caps feels like shouting. I believe in Navy messages the names are usually all caps, right? I like italics for lots of things. I learned how, so I use the skill so I don't forget it. And it feels more genteel, like holding one's pinkie finger aloft while drinking tea. (Um, perhaps not that genteel.)

      Someday I fully expect to visit The Big Badger Boat. It's there, I get to Northern Virginia often so a road trip down to Norfolk is doable.

    2. No italics font in the Navy typewriters!

    3. Hahaha!

      Only the Air Force gets those.

  10. During my joint tour I did a few, or more, favors for the Defense Attache' so he'd "throw me a bone" every so often. Invited to spend a couple of days as the guest of the Battle Group Commander of the America and her BG during Operation Provide Comfort. Went about on H-53 during ops. Day strike recovery and launch followed by night recovery down on the LSO's alt platform. All meals in the Admiral's quarters with his staff. Lost W4 wearing Class B's and flight jacket wandering the passageways rescued by one of the recently recovered night strikers with a "hey shipmate, can I help you?" (Average U.S. taxpayer doesn't know how much value we are getting with those 19 and 20 year old sailors working "on top".) After a couple of days we ended up in port in southern Turkey and I got to come ashore in the Admiral's launch. Made my trip back to Ankara in my old AF C-12 pretty routine. regards, Alemaster

    1. Sweet!

      Concur, the kids working on "the roof" are some of our very best.

    2. Thanks Alemaster, I was one of those 19-20 year olds on the roof...of the America no less. Probably a little before your visit though, I was there from 85 to 89 running around the Waist Catapults. Good times, that...good times.

  11. I'm kind of surprised USS Constitution isn't on the list what with it being just down at the end of the block and all.

    The Midway is a great visit. The only drawback, if one can call it that, is that it has all these old retired sailors that just blather on and on and on, as if you really wanted to know about plane spotting, flight deck ops, launching and recovering aircraft, what CIC was like in the good ole days, etc.

    We just got back from sailing from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 and spending some quality time in Scotland and England. It was one of the longest departures from the internet since, ever.

    1. Internet detox, from time to time, is a great thing!

    2. @Cap'n, Constitution is on another list, which I should have included. Those ships I have not seen in person but want to visit. Old Ironsides tops that list. (I reckon I will need another post on things I haven't seen but want to.)

      Old retired sailors, heh. Yes, I'm guessing Sandy Eggo has a few of those.

      Glad you enjoyed your trip, I can stay away from the Internet, just don't choose to. (Hey, really, I can quit any time.)

    3. @Juvat - I've never tried complete withdrawal, I just get pickier about what I read.

      (No CNN, no Fox, no anything with the word "News" displayed in the header. That kind of thing.)

  12. Ahhh. Ships and sailors.

    I remember walking away from Coral Sea for the last time and, knowing her pending fate, refusing to look back. A few years later I visited Midway with my mom and showed her part of the port side catwalk, identical to the one on Coral Sea where I'd treated a casualty. As I was explaining some old duffer of a docent chimed in, "Hey, I was a stretcher bearer that night!" Good lord, the ancient barstid must have been in his 40's back then! ;)

    1. Hahaha!

      Just sprayed the monitor with Diet Coke. Should buff right out.

  13. Also, looks like the short dash-8 nozzles on that stickborne Charlie. Wonder if the motors are still in there?

    1. Odd that I've never thought about the engines being still in an aircraft on display. I mean, if they're not in you'd be able to tell. Then again, for birds on a stick maybe it's different.

      What a great question, one that is going to bother me for a while, at least until I get to see for myself!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.