Breathe deeply and enjoy your journey

One of the wheels

I am a retired sailor and proud veteran of the United States Navy. After having served 26 years in the US Navy I then found work with a Ship Repair Company located in Sasebo, Japan. I served all of my career in the Pacific. I served two years on a ship homeported out of San Diego, Ca. The majority of that two years was spent in Viet Nam. My ship returned to the United States and I departed active duty to make my home in Oklahoma City. I realized after one and a half years how much I missed the sea and my travels to foreign ports of call. I re-entered active duty serving the remainder of my career at duty stations and in ships stationed in Japan with one year spent on a ship home-ported in Hawaii. I am currently retired from the work force and will spend the rest of my years enjoying the good life. I am thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon me and my family.

Remembrances: Not always what they seem

As Brad stood on the beach, the one that he had left so many years ago, the sand glittered and sparkled in a dazzling array of colors as if he were looking through a prism. This was of course unlike his first visit to this beach. The sun was shining in golden splendor today. There were tourists with colorful beach umbrellas, children laughing and playing in the sand. Vendors were selling their wares to those who would buy.

The memories of forty years ago suddenly came flooding back to Brad. He broke out in a cold sweat. A slight dizziness was taking control. Brad leaned against the palm tree to steady himself. His mind drifted back to the day when he first visited this beach.

It had been monsoon season, however the torrential rains had abated in time for the upcoming landing to take place. The objective was Red Beach 1. This territory was under enemy control. This beach was a crucial piece of property that the United States Navy/Marine Corps team needed in order to gain a foothold in this province.

The ship that Brad was assigned to had set Condition 1A. This evolution was crucial to an amphibious landing. The ship carried several landing craft that accommodated up to 80 combat equipped marines per landing craft. Brad was the coxswain of one of these specially built craft. His craft was ready for sea, ready to be hoisted over the side in what was seen as a ballet of sorts, “a shifting of steadying lines (ropes) from one position on deck to another in precisely controlled movements”.

Brads’ craft was lifted to the side of the ship and was made ready for him and his crew to
embark. Once aboard their craft, the ship’s boom lowered them into the rolling sea below. Seconds before being waterborne Brad started his twin, 671, 12 cylinder diesel marine engines. The engines roared to life, Brad deftly controlled his helm to keep the craft alongside the ship to prepare for embarkation of troops.

Large nets were lowered over the side, and the combatants scrambled down into Brads’ landing craft. Brad was in full control of himself. The moderate ground swells were beating him against the side of the transport ship, however he maneuvered the small vessel smartly in order to prevent any damages. He knew that this landing would be a test that he had not faced before. This was to be his first combat landing. But his many months of drilling and training convinced him that he was ready for this initiation.

Leaving the side of the ship, Brad, already drenched in sweat and saltwater, formed up at the Line of Departure. Brad as well as the other coxswains awaited the command to head for the beach. His confidence in his abilities did not waver.

As he neared the beach he could hear the thumping sound of enemy mortars coming from the tree line behind the beach. He spotted the tracer rounds of gunfire from the US Navy Destroyers further out at sea that were supplying NGFS (Naval Gunfire Support). This further emboldened him and gave him confidence in his mission.

Just as he was entering the surf and preparing to make his landing, his landing craft was struck by enemy fire. Brad was temporarily stunned, but he was able to maintain control of his craft. His landing craft’s flat bottom found the beach. He ordered his crew members to lower the bow ramp. The marines scrambled ashore ducking, weaving, and zigzagging as they ran to gain a foothold on this important objective.

Brad cried out to the marines, “get off this fuckin’ boat Marines, I am tired of playing target practice with me as the goddamned target. Get the lead out…MOVE IT…nnnow”.

With all of the marines ashore, Brad retracted his baby off the beach and headed for his mother ship. He was exhausted and his muscles weak. Although the heat had begun building with the early morning sun, he was cold. He had witnessed several marines die in battle. He made it back to the ship. The landing craft was hoisted aboard without incident. As he left his craft he collapsed with fatigue. He was taken to sick bay where he would be looked after by the Hospital Corpsman.

Brad now awoke from his reverie, leaning against the palm tree, realizing he had just relived his first moments of combat. Over the past forty years he had been grappling with those events that took place on this beach. He now realized that he would be okay. Brad was now ready to face the rest of his life.

But what was the rest of his life to be like, he often wondered how he had made it in life this far. He survived the Tet Offensive of 1968 in Viet Nam…that long war that had appeared it would never end. Why had he come back to this land which had initially shocked him but at the same time impressed him with its’ beauty, the beautiful beaches, lush thick foliage of jungle vegetation, and strange smells that had clashed with what he had remembered of his youth growing up in the USA? He truly wasn’t sure…or was he? What he was sure about is that he loved this land and the other lands in Asia he had visited and he knew deep down he would remain in Asia for the remainder of this days.

Loading Cargo

He could hear the rockets from a distance. He could see the flashes of light off in the night sky. He was too busy swinging cargo to worry about the noise, the light, and the probable destruction and death that came with the powerful explosions. He had been at this station for the last 48 hours straight working his winches to hoist and swing the cargo over the side of the ship into the waiting LCU’s and LCM 6 boats that were taking this precious cargo to the beach.

His actions, thoughts, and mind slipped into automatic. John, his shipmates called him John “Easy”, was guiding his cargo with steady confidant hands. He was still a deck seaman, hoping to make Boatswain’s Mate Third Class…he had become very skilled at his tasks at hand. His training had been done in all seriousness. Although in his early training aboard this cargo vessel he thought to himself, “man this is so lame”. During John’s training, he would spend endless hours hoisting, swinging, and lowering dummy cargo over the side of the ship. Little did he realize that soon he would be swinging real cargo…small arms ammunition, howitzer shells, bombs, and all sorts of armament needed for a beach assault conducted on targets held by the Viet Cong.

 The Marines, who were engaged in the beach assault needed this resupply in order to continue their assault on the target. Red Beach One was once a Viet Cong stronghold but was now in the hands of the US Marines.

The continual swinging of cargo was becoming monotonous, however John knew he had to complete this tasking in order for the Marines embarked on his ship to make a successful beach landing. He took a quick swallow of stale coffee that had been brought up to the winch deck by one of his shipmates. As the hours dragged on, he realized he had been swinging cargo for almost 72 hours straight. His eyes blurred with loss of sleep and exhaustion but he kept hoisting, swinging, and lowering his cargo into the small craft alongside. Suddenly he heard a loud clang, the sound of metal against metal. He briefly looked down on his winch deck and noticed a one-quarter inch shackle that had not been there before. He looked down on the main deck and saw the First Lieutenant smiling at him and then yelling, “wake up John Easy”. “We are almost finished with this offload. When we are finished take a well-deserved break sailor”.

Yes, the First Lieutenant tossed the shackle at BMSN John “Easy”,  but he took it in stride as he knew the Marine’s needed his cargo on the beach. He knew that today’s operation was extremely important to the ongoing operations that his ship was involved in and that a decisive victory was needed.

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    Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken. — Oscar Wilde. This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

  • Loading Cargo

    January 9, 2020 by

    He could hear the rockets from a distance. He could see the flashes of light off in the night sky. He was too busy swinging cargo to worry about the noise, the light, and the probable destruction and death that came with the powerful explosions. He had been at this station for the last 48… Read more

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13 thoughts on “Breathe deeply and enjoy your journey

  1. Bill, that was very well written. This truly describes the intensity of your rate centered on the Gators and Service ships. Look forward to your visit to Branson and more blogs.

    Like

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