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This page is for anyone who has a good story to tell. Share your stories and experiences with others.. Serious or amusing ancedotes, bits of history. Remember Minnie Pearl always said, " never let the truth get in the way of a good story". Of course no old sailor would tell a lie, but a good story is always good to hear, or read. Just keep it clean. This is a family page too. Thanks
THE GIG OF THE MORTON MARU
Carl A. Nelson
Captain, U.S. Navy (ret)
Our destroyer had been on the gun line along the coast of South Vietnam for over three weeks. The daily routine was such that we fired for about 10 to 12 hours and replenished ammunition and supplies about three hours a day. General housekeeping chores occupied much of the remaining time, so that the crew was averaging less than three hours sleep a day. Weariness was beginning to show and tempers flare when the Captain received word that we were to stand down for a day in preparation for a special mission in support of a logistics convoy from Da Nang to Hue in I Corps. This provided the first opportunity to give the crew a rest, so we headed for the shelter of Da Nang harbor to anchor and call a holiday routine.
Shortly after anchoring the Naval gunfire Liaison Officer for I Corps radioed that he would like to have a conference with those officers concerned with the gunfire. The conference was to be held in the city of Da Nang at the 1st Marine Division Officer's Club to discuss our forthcoming support mission
In addition to the officers directly concerned with the mission the Captain offered to take ashore a limited number of other of officers.
The Captain's gig left the ship with the Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Operations Officer, weapons Officer, Battery and Director Officers, CIC and Damage Control Officers plus the Squadron Chaplain: in all eight or nine of our destroyer's allowance of 14 officers.
It was a bright, warm day with a slight breeze and a calm harbor. Everyone was in good spirits as we navigated through the inner canal, past the sandbars and into the congested landing areas.
The Gunfire Liaison Officer waved as we approached and led the way to a waiting truck to take us to the club. Once there the cry went up almost in unison - Cold Beer! Although it warmed very quickly and tasted heavily of formaldehyde, it quenched our three-week-old thirst.
Naval gunfire problems and the war in general were discussed in depth throughout the remainder of the afternoon and almost before we realized, it was evening and time to get back to the ship.
The Captain led the way back aboard the gig and after giving instructions to the navigator and to the coxswain, he settled down in the stern sheets for a relaxing ride.
Night had fallen and the boat was proceeding through the inner harbor when we were startled by a loud grinding sound.
The Executive Officer had to pause for a few moments to accustom his eyes to the darkness as he came on deck from the after cabin. He asked, "'What was that noise?"
''Sounds like a fouled screw, sir,'' replied the coxswain.
The rest of us tumbled out on deck.
Every routine method for clearing a fouled screw was tried. It seemed reasonable to expect a solution from our group. After all, we represented about 75 years of officer experience, seven or eight bachelor degrees, at least one masters degree in engineering and the divine influence of the Chaplain. But nothing helped, and just as our frustration reached a peak the quiet voice of a young seaman apprentice was heard. "Sir, do you think we could be aground?"
"Of course," we all said, "We're aground."
"Back her down!" one said.
"Twist her," said another.
"Hall a 'passing boat" said another.
But nothing seemed to work, and -the possibility of spending the night in our predicament loomed before us.
A helpless silence had settled over the boat when a loud splash was heard on the port side. The Executive Officer had stripped to his under shorts and was making a personal inspection of the situation.
All but the Captain, the coxswain, and the seaman apprentice in the stern followed the Exec's example, but without the slightest idea what might be gained by this mass immersion.
Soon one of our group shouted excitedly from a point about 25 yards off the port bow. "I'm standing in a deep hole."
"How deep is it?''
"It would make a fine passage if you can get the boat over my way."
"But how deep is it?"
"It’s up to my neck!"
That sounded good, but then we remembered that he was the shortest man on the ship.
Finally a line was thrown to us and the Captain told us to try to pull the boat over the nearest sand bar and into the deep water beyond.
Slowly, the gig moved. Soon she was afloat and we crawled back aboard.
As we neared the ship we heard the quarterdeck watch announce the return of the Commanding Officer. He climbed the ladder, saluted and watched amusedly as the rest of us struggled aboard each clutching in an uneven bundle, his shirt, trousers, shoes and socks. Each paused in turn at the top of the ladder and gave a sheepish salute as the sea water dripped from his underwear.
Same Tale: Chaplain's Version
Gather round, boys, and I'll tell you a tale,
That is fearless and reckless and true;
Of a bold, brave excursion of old Rho Pi Pi,
On the Gig of the Morton Maru.
With no thought for their safety, they leaped
over the rail;
And sped swiftly and surely away;
There were Cong in the valleys, and Cong
in the hills
But, hopefully, none In the;Bay.
There was Captain, Exec, Big Guns, and Big Boats;
Navigator and Ops too! By Dang!
And the Chaplain to marry or bury or pray
As they. set out to take old Da-Nang.
Deftly they thwarted the rocks and shoal
And swarmed up White elephant Beach
Joined Afterburner 26 Charlie and 0,
And charged through the town with a screech.
Some wished to tarry -- buy hats for the day,
But the C.O. applied the corrective;
Out of Bounds was his cry, with a wink
of his eye,
We quickly must take our objective.
Past Cong and fair ladies -- the powers of
None caused them their mission to flub,
As shouting In chorus -- Rho Pi Pi victorious,
Took 1st Division Advisory Club.
A toast to the skipper - then all heads
Mid cries of 'Sat Cong" and "Bring More!"
War soon would he ended - now that we've blended,
Two-six Charlies and our Five-fifty-four.
Now back to the Beach -- their mission
Our vikings now boarded their bark;
Full throttle. then half, then lower and slower,
The harbor had changed in the dark.
What is that thumping - that grinding and bumping?
Could it be rocks beneath the keel?
Not kosher for betting - the Navigator's sweating,
Says the Cox'n - "No response to the wheel."
Now there's no laughter -- no joking -- no jest,
Rho Pi Pi has hearts full of dread;
Go forward now, mate, check the depth, do your best.
And the answer; "Knee-deep by the lead."
Rocks now to starboard, Knee-deep to port,
The XO says, "What is the matter?"
''It's no dilemma -- each man's a swimma'
And then they were all in the water.
Twelve vikings in skivvies, wading and pulling,
Knee-deep by the light of the luna;
Inspired to their best, by the bush-hat and crest,
(Of their leader, the fearless Kahuna.
Now the water was- deeper, and up went a shout,
"We're off, we're free as the breeze!"
'Now all back aboard and bring her about,
And head for the open seas."
Now the moral, me lads -- when- you're fighting the Cong,
And the bay of Da Nang passing through;
Go by day -- not by night, and avoid the great plight
Of the Gig of the Morton Maru.
Captain's gig, Full photo in skippers page. Thanks to Doug Cooper LTJG 64-67
The Tale of the Bad Fallopian Tube
Once upon a time, oh sorry, this is a sea story not a fairy tale. This is no B.S.
I served aboard the Morton from 1970 to March of 1973. I was part of the precommissioning team and made two West Pac deployments on her. She was my first ship and will forever remain my favorite. I served in OE division as an ETN and was responsible for maintenance of all of the ship's UHF tranceivers. Our EMO was ENS Crompton, who was a very good officer to work for, but was after all an ensign and so deserved all the sneaky underhanded tricks we could play on him. So if he developed a distrust for enlisted men, I must accept partial responsibility.
On this particular occassion we had a piece of gear down waiting parts. As was his responsibility, ENS Crompton was preparing a CASREP message to CincPacFlt detailing the casualty and the reason for it to remain out of service. I recall being up to my elbows in another tranceiver on the work bench when he entered the shop and asked the all important question, "What's wrong with it?" To which I replied, "It's got a bad fallopian tube." ENS Crompton left to finish his report and I returned to my repairs.
A short time later the door to the shop flies open and an enraged Ensign storms into the shop with blood in his eye and me in his sights. When he calmed down long enough to stop questioning my origins and lineage I learned that both the Ops Boss and X.O. had screened the message and allowed him to continue on to the Captain with the infamous Fallopian Tube CASREP. It was a looonnnggg time before we got past that one.
ETN2 Duard "Putney" Swope
Submitted by Robert Schultz, ETC Ret
now living in Hawaii.
"It would just be better if you chose another rack"
Life aboard any ship is filled with interpersonal conflicts that you have to work through and learn from. The USS Morton being designed well before the advent of 'enlisted berthing modules' and the INSERV requirement for at least 64 cubic feet per crewmember dictated that just about everyone in your department was a room mate.
Operations or OPS berthing was located right under the Wardroom and forward Officer's Country. OI and OE Divs (OSs, EWs & ETs) had the upper compartment on the 2nd deck, OC and OS Divs (RMs & SMs) were below on the 3rd deck. The QM's, not having enough people to command their own compartment shared a piece of the OI/OE berthing but were tucked behind the forward head. (Note: That head serviced just about everyone forward of the bridge... And I had to clean it!)
When I arrived aboard the Morton in 1978 she was moored in Yokosuka Japan. (The morning after I arrived CDR Fox relieved CDR M. Bell.) I was 'stuck' in an available rack in the overflow berthing which was just aft of the Bos'n locker, as far forward as you can get! I spent about a week living there out of a seabag before one of the OSs or EWs transferred off the ship. This shipmate had a very nice rack... Middle Rack, Back of the Compartment, near an A/C duct, away from the Head! So as racks go, it was a rack that was convenient, cool, dark and quiet. (As much as any rack could be on the USS Morton.) I packed my seabag and started to move toward that rack. But before I got near to it, a First Class EW1 informed me he was taking that rack... And another First Class was taking his old rack, and a Second Class was moving to the one that was vacated by him.
Later that morning I was informed I had been assigned to the top rack, in the main passageway leading forward to WEPS berthing and/or down to OC/OS berthing, across from the door to the Head. That meant I could watch and listen to people going forward, opening/closing/dogging/ that hatch, or running up/down the metal ladder all night long. And if that wasn't excellent enough, I could be bathed in light and fragrance every time the head door opened. Best of all, the rack was a 'pan' rack, not a 'coffin' rack. I had a small stand up locker barely big enough for just my skivvies and my folded uniforms. My other belongings like civilian clothes and shoes had to be kept in my seabag, and it in the seabag locker. I was the new man, junior, unknown. I had learned where my place on the ship was.
Time passed... I was moved farther into the compartment after a few months. I still had a top rack but it was a coffin rack. I had less room to stand, but less traffic to contend with. Within a year of that move, because I'd been advanced to ET2, I moved to a bottom rack. This is where I thought I'd stay until I either died or transferred. That however was not the case. In 1980 the Morton entered the Pearl Harbor Shipyard for Regular Overhaul or ROH. The crew was moved off the ship and into BEQs. To save on ROH money, there were a bunch of overhaul jobs that were classified as "self-help" or 'Do it Yourself' and designated for ships force to accomplish.
OPS berthing was assigned as such, and OS1 Michael "Mick" Hargrove was tasked as the LPO in charge of berthing renovation. He could select nearly anyone in OPS to be in his 'tiger-team'. Mick asked me if I would be his #2, and run the berthing overhaul. (Any indication that this was a voluntary action is to be ignored!) I and a few (Very few!) others proceeded to remove all the racks from the compartment, remove all the tile from the deck, and all the lagging from the bulkheads. Stripping it bare! The plan called for SIMA to sandblast the racks for us and them prime and paint them for our tiger-team to reinstall. While that was happening the team was supposed to replace the tile and get the compartment ready to be spray-painted (By another ships-force tiger team)
Other than OC/OS berthing, there wasn't much below OI/OE berthing. In fact OC/OS berthing was surrounded by fuel oil, feed water, gray water tanks! More than a few times during UNREPs or CONSOLs, the BTs had flooded OI/OE berthing with fuel oil. When we removed the tile it was clear that the new tile would never stick to the oil soaked grout material, and when we removed the grout, we found running rust from all the water spills over the years. Bottom line... The deck needed to be repaired/replaced. That took more than a couple of weeks. Ships force did a pretty good job of laying the new grout... That is if you overlooked the fact that the new deck was level instead of being sloped towards the drain(s).
The racks came back from SIMA. They weren't painted. It seems the job order was written for Ship's force to paint them. SIMA was responsible for sand blasting only. But did they ever SANDBLAST! These bunks looked like they were shot with 20 gauge steel ball from a Winchester. Just moving them from the truck to the pier cut your hands on the rough edges and craters. I smiled! I knew we could NOW justify NEW racks.
The order for new coffin racks throughout the compartment was filled surprisingly fast. SIMA did the ordering for us. (It was the least they could do!) and NSC delivered them. Once we got them into the compartment it was clear they were different. About a 3 inches wider and 1-1/2 inches longer different. They didn't fit the stanchions and you couldn't fit the same number of racks into the compartment. Modifying the mounting hardware wasn't a big problem, there were just more ventilation hole afterwards. The problem came when we realized there would be 3 less bunks than before.
To correct that problem, we looked at where bunks were historically not placed. The AFT bulkhead of the berthing compartment had a very large pipe that ran port-starboard at about chest level. It was the down comer from the forward-port UNREP station or something. It stole about 24 inches from the area needed to install a set of racks; particularly from where the top rack would be. As a work around, three sets of racks were installed in that area, but only two high. Instead of losing three racks, we gained three. Also the upper bunks turned into the three most sought after racks in the compartment! Owners: OS1 Hargrove, ET2 Schultz, and another architect of the plan.
We got out of the yards, passed Sea Trials, REFTRA and work-ups for deployment and departed for what turned out to be Morton's final cruise.
Which brings us to the point of the story. ADMIN Div. (The YNs, PNs, MA, PC, DKs) never really had a home. They were for the longest time in a section of ENG berthing, and then were moved to SUPPLY berthing. In the middle of the 1982 deployment, the XO and OPS decided they were more OPS people than anything else, and they would, from that point on, muster with OPS, and as such, live in OPS berthing. Actually a number of ADMIN personnel were already either in OI/OE or in the berthing area the QM's owned. After lunch on the day of the decision, while moored in Subic Bay P.I. MA1 Daniel came down to OI/OE berthing to lay claim to his new rack. He came right over to where I was getting dressed after a well earned 'Nooner.'
My rack was the best of the best. It was a top bunk, only two high, in a semi-private passageway in the corner of the compartment that had good ventilation. MA1 looked me in the eye and said "I'm bumping you out of this rack." Now MA1 Daniel was everything the Navy wanted in an MA of the '80s. He was less than six feet tall, weighted well over 200 lbs., and was an authority on everything UCMJ. He had only recently come aboard and our paths hadn't crossed except for a curt nod once or twice.
I told PO Daniel "I realize you are a First Class Petty Officer and I'm only a Second... But I've been aboard the Morton for over 4 years and I've been given a certain level of seniority in this berthing area based on that. So it might be better for you if... You just chose another rack." MA1 shook his head and then re-iterated, "I want this rack!"
I tried again to explain: "This is my second deployment on this ship, I've taken her through two yard periods, and numerous other availability's and inspections. I was one the people who renovated this berthing area and in fact installed all these racks. " "I'm not telling you I won't give you my rack, all I'm saying is before I do, I'm going to have to get guidance from my Chain of Command."
The first person I was able to find was ET1(SS) Bruce Pitner, the LPO. He sympathized with my predicament but didn't want to go toe-to-toe with MA1. I looked for ETC Gene Storrer in all the usual places but he wasn't available. While on the pier looking for Chief I spotted our Division Officer LT Kawamoto. He was on the STBD bridge wing with ET2 Mahue. I looked up and said the LT Kawamoto "MA1 wants my rack" He said "WHAT." ET2 Mahue piped-in "You have to give it up!" I said to PO Mahue, "Fine, I'll take your rack!" to which he replied, pointing to his crow "Can't do that, I'm a Second Class too!" LT Kawamoto looked at ET2 Mahue and said "The hell he can't..."
Being an 'outside the box' thinker, LT Kawamoto asked me "How much dirty laundry do you have?" I said "Some." He told me to grab my laundry bag and go wash my clothes. and "Don't come back until after 1600." Following orders I went down to the compartment, MA1 Daniel was still there waiting, I grabbed my bag and started toward the door. P.O. Daniel raised his hands and exclaimed "What's up?" I said " I'll be right back!"
Being just after lunch, I had more than enough time to wash, dry, fold, and press all of my laundry. By 1600 I had had a second lunch, went to the exchange and watched television at the enlisted club. When I arrived back at the Morton, LT Kawamoto was still on the bridge wing. (The Morton was always having problems with the 80 Ton A/C plant and the bridge wing was probably one of the coolest place short of the mast.) I asked "Is it safe to come aboard? He said "Yep!."
When I got back to the berthing compartment there wasn't any sign of MA1, I asked the people who were milling around where MA1 finally settled. They laughed and pointed to the top rack, in the passageway going to WEPS berthing, across from the Head. Seems the XO or the CMAA had told him that he wasn't to cause trouble with the OPS berthing people, he shouldn't try to bump anyone out of their rack and to just take an open rack. Later that day, the XO asked me if I'd help MA1 get settled. I told him that I'd ensure he was given every courtesy and would help him get used to his new surroundings. He didn't have to stay in that rack for long... there was a bottom rack that opened up in about 6 weeks!
I stayed aboard the Morton until the decommissioning. Up to the last day aboard I was never asked to move out of my rack, even though MA1 was soon proclaiming himself the berthing LPO. If anyone approached him about trying to bump me out of my rack, all he said was "It would just be better if you chose another rack!"
ETC(SW) Robert (Bob) Schultz (Ret.)
Kent Smith was an OSC on Morton from 72 to 76. A few years before that he was on an old WW II DE, USS Vance DE 387 from 1965 to 1968. He was an RD1 and made RDC on Vance. This is a short story of one small adventure while on Vance.
I was standing JOOD one night on Operation Market Time. The JOOD was the boarding officer when we boarded junks to search. It was probobly about 1:00 AM when we went alongside a junk to search it. Myself, (I was an RD1 at the time) and the bos'n of the watch, a BM3, ( I cannot remember his name) went onto the junk and I went down into the forward hold to search it. The BM3 went to the aft cabin to search. When I came up out of the hold and looked around the Vance was gone! I just stood on the bow and about 10 or 12 Viet fishermen stood at the stern and we just stared at each other. I had a 45 auto but I said to myself, " self, if these are bad guys, they got you out gunned". I never considered touching it. I don't know how long I was on that junk, but eventually the OOD asked where I was. They called back to the after lookout and he told them I was still on the junk. The Vance was probobly 4 or 5 miles away from me by now, and there were junks all over the place. I was lucky that a good CIC crew had marked the junk on the DRT and had kept track of it. They used that to find me. I feel lucky that I wasn't shot, dumped over the side or made a POW. All those thoughts went thru my mind while I was waiting to be picked up. I can't remember who the OOD was but I am glad he finally missed me and came back to pick me up. Kent Smith
When I reported aboard in 76, we got underway for a Westpac just a few days after....this was something I always heard stories about, a Westpac...now I was witnessing it for myself.....I remember making RM3 and the captain, LCDR M. Bell was a man I admired(he and I had enjoyed talking about Purdue University all the time)...had the utmost respect for and he taught me how to lead...anyway, we pulled into Pusan, Korea, had to anchor out, so liberty boats were used all the time we were there, the Captains Gig had to have a radio operator, so I thought it would be a wonderful experience to be the "Gigs" radioman......so I volunteerd.....the captain didnt go to shore all the time so I was safe to venture out myself, when the captain did want to go ashore, I had to be available.....the harbor waters were choppy, the coxwain, SM, EN and myself had to wear our dress blues...and had to stand out on deck to hear any radio calls comming in for the captain...by the time we delivered the captain and his guests and returned to the ship, I was so soaked it was unbelievable, but it was an experience I will never forget, just like the 3 Westpacs I made and the crewmembers I met and sailed with.....the Morton was a truely fine vessel and I totally believe she earned her motto by all of the committments we made on time, all the time!!!
In 2001, I found Captain Merlin Bell online and had a wonderful time chatting with him about old times on the Morton and you know, he remembered me.....He is retired, living on the east coast and is retired with his wife from the USN, he is working for a defense contracter......
You have done an excellent job putting this site together!!!!
RMC USN Ret.
Another Gig story
John Moore was a radioman on Morton
In March 1961, it was time for the Navy to remove some of the older ships from the inactive reserve fleet in San Diego to make room for newer additions. One of the ships to be disposed of was the USS Belle Isle (AKS-21).
Rather than sell the ship for her scrap value, the Navy gave her to Morton and her squadron to use for target practice. I'll never forget seeing Ensign Bill Moore (now deceased) on one of the bridge wings of the Belle Isle as she was towed out to sea from San Diego. This was Bill's only Navy command and he was determined to do it right.
As I recall (43 years is a long time ago), projectiles fired at her were set on safe so they would not explode upon impact and sink the Belle Isle too quickly. All the ships took their turn on the firing line.
Morton was the newest ship in the squadron and carried homing torpedoes. After we participated in the surface action, the plan was for us to close just as the she was slipping beneath the waves and fire a torpedo using the Belle Isle as a simulated submarine target. She was either sinking too fast and outran the torpedo, or the torpedo malfunctioned---there was no explosion.
Belle Isle being towed out to sea.
Belle Isle about to go see Davy Jones.
And the Gig gets grounded
Another USS Morton gig story
From LTjg John Miller, Navigator and then Gunnery Officer, 1970-1972:
I have another Capt's Gig story from about February or March of 1971 while the Morton was in port in Pearl Harbor. I don't remember the exact dates, but I do remember most of the chronology.
1. On a March night, a little after 2 AM, the Pearl Harbor EM club closes and sailors in various states of inebriation make their way back to their ships, including a bunch to the Morton, and in that bunch, one BMSN who was one of the crew for the Capt's Gig.
2. About 7 AM, the CDO, LT Lee Rice, is up on deck to check on the daily launch of the gig. The gig was usually tied up outboard, on Morton's port side. The CO, Cdr. Joe Fairchild, lived up near Pearl City, and the Gig would pick him up at a dock at the north end of Pearl Harbor every morning and bring him back to the destroyer piers where the Morton was tied up.
3. LT Rice finds the Gig is already gone, so figures the Capt's Gig cox has already left to pick up the Captain.
4. The Capt's gig cox then appears next to LT Rice, wondering where the gig is. LT Rice is now getting a very bad feeling.
5. LT Rice scurries around and launches a motor whaleboat to go pick up the Captain.
6. A bunch of sailors are arriving back via the quarterdeck on the Morton before quarters, including one BMSN with very wet clothes.
7. A little later in the morning, the Coast Guard calls wondering why a launch from the USS Morton is aground on the reef off of Waikiki.
It took a couple more hours in fill in the blanks, but the missing pieces were:
1. The BMSN who returned after the 2 AM EM club closing was about to go to bed, but then decided, being familiar with the operation of the Capt's Gig, that a joy ride was a great and novel idea.
2. To his credit, he untied the gig, drove away without anybody on the quarterdeck noticing, and then successfully transited the Pearl Harbor channel in the dark (no trivial feat, as I had to do it many times as the Navigator but only with an entire Sea and Anchor detail to help).
3. Once he cleared the channel, presumably his partying instincts took over and he headed east for Waikiki.
4. He passed up Honolulu harbor, motoring further east until he was off Waikiki beach, then headed for the bright lights.
5. There being a very shallow reef off of Waikiki beach, he didn't quite make it.
6. He apparently swam/waded to shore, and still being resourceful, took a taxi or something, but made it back to the ship in time for quarters, albeit soaking wet as he boarded.
The Captain, whose byline was "you have to keep your sense of humor!", maintained his, and while I don't remember what happened to the BMSN (he's probably a U.S. Senator now), I do remember that it took an ungodly long time to have the bent shaft on the Gig repaired, as in 4-5 months.
“With a Bone In Her Teeth”
The USS Morton (DD 948)
April 1970 – July 27, 1972
I graduated with Distinction once.
That was in my Newport, Rhode Island, in March 1970, when I finished 10th, I think it was, in my Destroyer School class. And that may have been the only reason that, when I asked BUPERS to change my orders at the last minute, they did, though with a snarl in their teeth. My new choice? Ops officer on a new construction/conversion DD out of Pearl Harbor. My wife, Sally, and I wanted to live in the tropics while we were young.
By April, we were safely, if uncomfortably, ensconced in a small apartment in Chula Vista, where I had been ordered to join the Balance crew of what would soon be the USS Morton, decommissioned for an ASW conversion in Long Beach. The really important guys, like the Captain and the Chief Engineer, were with the “Nucleus Crew” with the ship in Long Beach, where it was finishing up its ASW conversion.
The less important people, like the Operations Officer (me), were with the balance crew in San Diego. As a department head, this was going to be my first time being responsible for other officers; I remember being apprehensive about that.
And though there was lots of work to do, it was shore duty, so we had time to enjoy San Diego, too. I remember checking out the orangutans at the Zoo, trying to hide their sexual antics from my daughter, Dawn: “Daddy, what are they doing?”
I also began running again (I had been a forgettable distance runner in high school) and, soon, with Rick, and Les, and a couple of others, got quite “fit,” “fit,” that is, until we met Steve Frates, who was faster - a lot faster. And then, for all practical purposes, Ensign Frates sank out of sight, to surface nearly 36 years later in a most unexpected way.
Though all of the officers soon formed what for most of them would be a bond that would last, unseen but unbroken, for nearly four decades, I remember, especially, the ones who ended up with colorful, if puzzling, nicknames: John Miller, Ted Underwood, Corky McGowan, and Rick Mosier, soon to be known as John-John the Baker’s Son,” “Ballgame,” Fuzzy”, and, “Rick da Mose,” respectively.
After an interminable four months (and why did the months seem so much longer then?), we joined the others in Long Beach, the ship was re-commissioned, and the USS Morton, and its coterie of once-in-a-lifetime officers, friends, and companions, sailed west for Oahu.
Early in September, about three weeks late because of faulty boilers if I recall, we left for Westpac, my fifth deployment in six years. My previous had been on the USS England (“there’ll always be an England in the United States Navy”) and, before her, the USS Oriskany – now a reef somewhere off the coast of Florida. (Hell, before long, I may be part of a reef, too, somewhere, though I hope it’s something other than dynamite that puts me there).
The transit to the Philippines took several days, I’ve forgotten how many, and what I most remember about that transit was the flat ocean, as if it had been cut out of a seamless blue carpet and stretched across the Pacific. I remember, too, stopping in Midway for fuel (the Morton had “short legs”) where goony birds amused us with their awkward, and mostly unsuccessful, attempts to fly, and we amused each other with our gawky, but hugely successful, attempts to drink.
The deployment itself was a Mobius loop of endless days and eternal nights at sea, and we joked that the only target left for our one operational 5”54 gun to shoot at - after nearly seven years of a failed attempt at imposing order on an unordered region (sound familiar?) - were water buffalo and not very bright ones at that; I remember the Chuck Wagon in Subic Bay, a bar for Junior Officers (senior officers and others with a modicum of sense or decorum rarely visited the place) who didn’t much care where they drank, where I think it was Frank Dobrydney who played the drums while the local band played ever louder and quicker choruses of the “Orange Blossom Special” and the raspy, music box voice of an already dead Janis Joplin singing “Me and Bobby McGee,” and there were the 10 days I spent as senior shore patrol officer in Hong Kong (and one memorable night when I was nearly arrested by my own shore patrol detachment) and, interwoven in it all were lots of rums and coke (“easy on the coke, bartender”), and visits to Darwin, where we met some interesting locals “on holiday,” and I saw Sydney in six rompin,’ stompin’ days with Faye Kingston (“think of the Kingston Trio,” she said), and finally Auckland, which, as the navigator, I decided to approach from the west, an approach our new captain did not look upon favorably (“Lieutenant Marshall to the Bridge”)…. Whatever happened, I wonder, to Faye Kingston … and the western approach to Auckland?
On the way back to Pearl, we stopped in Pago Pago to refuel, which took about 24 hours longer than we anticipated because, mostly, the Commodore of our four-ship squadron got so drunk that he couldn’t find his way back to the ship (that’s how I remember it, anyhow, which means it almost certainly happened another way).
We arrived in Pearl Harbor on April Fools Day, 1972; within hours we learned that we might have to return to the Tonkin Gulf: There was another uprising in Vietnam it seems, and apparently the Morton was the only ship which could swat it down. By now, we had an entirely new wardroom; all the plank owners, save one, had left. Until a recent, and unanticipated, spate of emails from old shipmates, brought about by the enigmatic Mr. Frates and his unlikely cohort, Corky, I had forgotten how many did not see the deployment to the finish. But, we didn’t have to deploy again, or “surge” in today’s patois; our time, thankfully, had come and gone. All those times and places are now far behind me, but retrieved, with some difficulty from a faltering bank of memories.
I stayed on Morton until July 27th, 1972, when I left for the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, and it was there in the magical Monterey Peninsula, in guest quarters at the Defense Language Institute, where I watched the 1972 Olympic games of Dave Wottle, Frank Shorter, Olga Korbut, and Steve Prefontaine. After that, a three year tour at the Defense Communications Agency in Washington D.C. (voluntarily shortened to 30 months), and one last ship, the Luce (DDG 38) out of Mayport. By then, Sally had had enough, probably of the navy, certainly of me, and she wanted her own career, so she left for San Diego, where she still lives today.
The Morton tour, one which I still reference frequently in conversations with people unlucky enough to have never shared a similar experience, was, in some respects, the pinnacle of my professional life, certainly that professional life; in the ensuing 35 years, I’ve had only two experiences that approached those of the Morton and, in neither case, could we slip our berth and slide silently into the early morning stream. I left the Morton a transformed person, and that man, now aged and a bit bent, has been hanging around ever since.
Today, I live in Southern Oregon with a new wife, four “rescue” dogs, middle school kids that I coach in long distance running (just a metaphor for life, I explain to them, with no success at all), and, now a re-connection with men I’ve not heard from in over 30 years.
It is rare to experience what the officers of the Morton shared in a few short months together many long years ago. And perhaps sad, too, that the highlight of one’s life occurred so early in it, and that comparisons between those men, on that ship, in those times, renders almost insignificant the experiences – good and bad – that have occurred since. Still that time probably made us all a little bit better, and a little more capable of responding to the challenges that, unbidden, life stacks up in front of us.
It certainly did for me.
Date:7/20/2007 Dave Marshall
A Navy Divers Story
Hi Al & Rick,
I came across your USS Morton site and noted you're looking for more details
I was one of the divers responsible for the sub-surface work at Southwest
Marine & Recycling during 1992.
I did the latter half of the work on the Chicago, almost all of the work on
the Morton and the initial survey of the Bon Homme Richard.
I've posted some of the details about the sub-surface work on the Morton on
the corresponding Wikipedia site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Morton,
but will add to that here. (You're free to republish this email in whole or
in part on your own site.)
I was in Chicago finishing-up the 1992 Loop Flood job when I got the call
that SWM&R (or more specifically, a subcontractor thereto) needed a hard-hat
diver with an OSHA burning cert. The tunnels flooded on April 13 and I was
there -- I think -- by the 14th (I was based in LA at the time). We thought
we had the job finished and I returned to LA to start the SWM&R work on the
USS Chicago, but when I landed I had a bunch of voicemail that the concrete
plugs had slipped, so I headed back to Chicago (the city) within the
hour...that may have been somewhere between the 18th and 20th. Anyway, we
redid the work in Chicago and I wound-up sticking around for another week as
the contractor on that job had another job at US Steel in Gary, Indiana; so
it wasn't until sometime around the end of April or beginning of May that I
got back to LA and down to SWM&R.
In the meantime, one diver had been hospitalized for severe electrical
shocks and a second diver quit after a hydrogen explosion from the
underwater cutting process blew-out the mushroom valve of his regulator and
flooded his hat. This left myself and one other diver with the task of
removing the struts, shafts and wheels of the Chicago, Morton and Bon Homme
Richard; this included not only the cutting work, but also the underwater
rigging required to raise each piece. We completed this work on the Chicago
sometime around the end of May or first week of June. Everything with the
sub-surface work on the Chicago went as expected in terms of time and
burning-rod/oxygen consumption. We then moved over to the Morton, which was
adjacent to the Chicago, to which it was tied.
At this point, we lost the other diver to a skin rash and so I began work on
the Morton with only a tender (whose first name was Jeff) and the
supervising subcontractor, Ron Harman. We began removing the starboard wheel
of the Morton (by cutting the shaft forward of the strut) sometime in mid-
to late-afternoon. This should have been perhaps a two-hour job, but I had
made little progress when we knocked-off for the night sometime between 8PM
and 9PM. The wall thickness of the shaft on the Morton was like nothing I
had ever cut before. We had been told by SWM&R that she was to have a 2.0"
thick wall. (Although I don't remember the exact thickness of the shaft
walls on the Chicago, it was 2.0" or less...perhaps even 1.0".)
Aside from dive pay, the consumable burning rods used for an underwater
cutting job are the greatest expense. (In 1992, the cost was appx. $3.00/rod
with each rod lasting appx. 60 seconds.) The circumference of the Morton's
shafts was 10.58 feet, so had the shafts been 2.0" wall thickness, only
241.27" of material would have had to be cut through. As we later measured,
however, the wall thickness was actually 19.2", so instead the surface area
of the plane to be cut through was increased to 1,278.75". Although this is
only 5.3 times as much material, the number of burning rods required to cut
through a piece of steel increases exponentially with the thickness of the
material as more time is required to heat less material to ultra-thermic
temperatures. While I don't recall the number of boxes of burning rods we
went through to cut that starboard shaft, it was considerable enough to
negate the economics of the sub-surface salvage operation. (And,
consequently, we used another method on the port side...)
Our troubles with the Morton didn't end once we'd finally cut the starboard
shaft after appx. 18 hours of cutting time. The screw had been rigged by
topside roustabouts. Upon freeing the screw and the portion of the shaft aft
of the cut (i.e., a few inches forward of the strut) from the strut, the
wire rope between the crane and the screw exploded under the additional
weight of the heavier-than-expected shaft stub, rendering the screw and stub
to the muddy bottom. Another day was consumed re-rigging the screw in the
zero-visibility conditions on the bottom of the harbor (with the assistance
of commercial diver Fraser Mason) and we finally got the brass and steel
topside and landed on the decks at SWM&R.
We thought our luck would change and made plans for removing the Morton's
port shaft and screw, but the following morning I received a call that the
50-ton crane operator we'd worked with the previous day had attempted to
remove too heavy a lift (the rudder and part of the stern of the Chicago)
and put the block-and-tackle of the crane onto the bottom next to the
Chicago. Assisting in removing these items from the bottom consumed most of
that weekend, so it wasn't until Monday that we resumed work on the Morton.
Because of the vast quantity of burning rods used, Harman requested that a
representative from Broco (the maker of the rods, based in Rialto,
California) do a site visit and offer some recommendations on how to
economize on the cutting costs for the port side. The representative came
down, saw the starboard shaft stub on deck at SWM&R and couldn't believe his
eyes. He said that he'd never seen anyone attempt to cut steel that thick
before and that he basically thought we were crazy for having done so...no
wonder we were using so much rod, etc. He took measurements because he
thought this might be some kind of new record for cutting steel underwater;
the wall thickness was 19.2" with a 2.0" cylindrical air space in the
centerline of the shaft. He called back a few days later and confirmed that
this was in fact a new record, the previous one having been set in 1981
while salvaging the bullion aboard the sunken HMS Edinburgh; we had exceeded
the 1981 record (set by Jessop Marine) by a wide margin of 10.2".
Record books aside, Harman was deep in red ink because of the deviation in
the Morton's shafts, but SWM&R had an air-tight contract with him, so the
burden was his alone. That said, SWM&R was financially responsible for
supplying the O2 used by the burning operations, so Harman conceived a plan
to use massive amounts of O2 via a surface-held burning bar on the port-side
shaft. Being young and foolish, I agreed to be the diver on the business end
of that idea, guiding what I can only describe as the most violent thermal
reaction I've ever seen. The burning bar was constructed out of standard
plumbing pipe, with a diameter of at least an inch. As with standard burning
rods, the burning bar was connected to the welding machine so as to allow it
to strike an arc on the shaft and, like a burning rod, had O2 blown through
it (though in this case, massive amounts). In what has to be one of the most
dangerous things I ever saw at SWM&R (and there were many), Harman held the
top-side piece of this high-voltage gear while standing on a floating raft
made of two railroad ties bolted together while I guided its volcanic tip
through the port-side shaft. To say that OSHA would have had a field day
might be the understatement of the year.
This time, we decided to cut the shaft aft of the strut, so as to have the
screw (which had already been rigged) immediately break away on its own
apart from a lengthy shaft stub. This decision was based on the shortage of
otherwise appropriate wire rope to bear a heavier load. Thus, when the
port-side shaft was finally cut, the Morton's port screw broke free with a
tremendous suction as it sped like a pendulum to the plumb of the rigging.
How I neither perished in the cutting itself nor in this violent release of
the screw has surely cost me at least one of my nine lives.
In the end, Harman never financially recovered from the costs of the
starboard work on the Morton and so I left SWM&R shortly thereafter, having
only further completed a visual inspection of the Bon Homme Richard. That
said, of my days as a hard-hat diver, my memories working on the USS Chicago
and USS Morton are among the most colorful and, being none the worse for the
wear in spite of the circumstances, I fondly enjoy recalling the few months
I spent working on these fine vessels.
"There seems to be a'lotta new guys onboard..."
The Morton had all the crew members that a naval vessel needed to operate, but to accomplish that feat, often we had to wear two, even three hats.
In addition to being (one of) the Radar ETs, I also did time as the "Duty Master-at-Arms". Many of the duty days were boring and mundane, but every so often, it got interesting...
One night in Subic Bay P.I., the Morton was moored on Alawa Pier, outboard of the USS Richard S. Edwards (DD-950). I retired to my rack at TAPS and was fast asleep when the Messenger of the Watch came down and shook me saying: "The OOD wants to see you..." I tried to extract "what for", but he just went back up to the Quarterdeck. After getting some form of uniform on, I went to the OOD and asked: "You wanted to see me?" He shook his head, and pointed to the OOD on the Edwards.. "He wanted to see you."
The USS Edwards and the USS Morton were in every aspect "Sister Ships". They had the same topside configuration, same internal layout, even the same squadron shield (DESRON 35) and homeport. When I got over to the Edwards the OOD said they had a little problem that he thought I could assist with. His MOOW escorted me into his ship, down the same ladders that lead down to the forward berthing compartments. We arrived in the area that on the Morton was ON berthing. That cubbie hole on the starboard side of the head. There I found SM1 "Jones" (I dunno?) in his BVDs, half-in and half-out of a rack, refusing to vacate the rack and getting ready to kick-the-crap out of anyone who tried to take that rack.
Now, SM1 Jones was about 6' 4" / 230 lbs of American sailor who knew the business end of a brown bottle as well as any sailor; It was his "Best Enemy" or his "Worst Friend". Most often when Jones went out drinking, he'd follow the buddy system, and two or more guys would navigate him back to his rack. Even though as often, he'd be able to find the ship and stumble down to his rack without much trouble. Not tonight.
SM1 was in the middle of a heated debate over his ownership of that rack - as guys would be yelling: "That's not your rack, @#sHo!e", SM1 would be replying "Fornicate yourself, This is my rack!" This went on for a few volleys back and forth when I was finally able to get his attention. I said "SM1, do you recognize me?" He said "Ya, Schultzee, I know you." then I asked, "Do you recognize any of these guys?" He got rather melancholy and said" You know, there seems to be a lot of new guys onboard." So I broke the news to him: I said "SM1, This IS your Berthing Compartment, and that IS your Rack. - But this ISN'T your ship. This is the USS Edwards. We're moored outboard!"
SM1 didn't say a word at first. He got up, collected his civilian clothes, tried to balance himself long enough to put on his pants and shoes (did I mention he was still drunk?) and started to apologize to each and every guy in the area. He went into his wallet looking for money (it was empty) but promised he'd pay for any damages he caused. With a little help, I was able to get him back aboard Morton and "Tuck him in!"
The next day I had to fill out the Duty MAA log book and not too long after the duty section turnover, the Chief MA called SM1 into the Chief's Mess to hear his side of what happened. SM1 told the Chief that I 'had the "wrong man" '. He had gone out drinking, but he'd gotten back about 10:30 and slept in his own bed.
I was called to the Chief's Mess. The Chief asked me if this was the SM1 I was spoke of in the log. (We only had one.) and I said Yes. I told the Chief that SM1, once he realized where he 'wasn't' cooperated with me and I considered the incident a 'near-harmless' mistake. Still not believing me, SM1 asked to see my write-up. After reading it for what must have been two times, all he could say was "I thought that was all a FUnKy dream!"
On the last WESTPAC before decommissioning, our first port-of-call was NAVSTA Guam. I don't recall if we were scheduled to go there on our, or if we needed to have the Sonar Dome looked at after our "Rub" with the sandbar. Regardless, it was liberty ashore and a welcome stop. I went out that night with OS1 'Mick' Hargrove and few of the OSs and RMs. As most sailors do when in a 'foreign' port, the first stop was the Enlisted Club. NS Guam's club was as nice as any I'd seen and after a beer or two we decided to get some dinner.
That night they were having a special meal. Something they called "Mongolian Barbeque." Mongolian BBQ is a very novel meal in that you 'build' it yourself. You pick-up a large bowl and proceed to fill it with any combination (or quantity) of vegetables, meat, seasoning and sauces. If you like pork with lots of peppers and onions - you got it! If it's got to be beef with tomatoes and pineapple... Go for it. (In actuality, you usually end up with a little of everything - and the bowl weighs 2-1/2 Lbs.) Then you pay by the weight - often $0.20 to $0.25 an OUNCE.
We found the start of the line, got our bowls, and proceeded to fill'em up. When we got to the end of the line, a Club employee weighed our meals and we paid for them. Not knowing the club that well, I didn't know where to go next. I went down a hallway the same way I saw others going and as I turned the corner I saw they had a couple of big woks outside on the patio where people were getting their meals cooked. Thinking it would be better to eat it HOT, I got mine cooked. After it was all cooked they placed the 'mix' on a nice big plate and you could add rice and rolls and such.
Again following the masses, I located the dining room and then Mick and the Gang... They were all sitting at a table, staring at their bowls of 'stuff'. They saw my plate and Mick asked... "Where did you get yours cooked at? Could it be they were prepared to eat it RAW? (I certainly was glad I didn't have too!)
Bob (Schultzee) Schultz
ET3 / ET2 1978-1982