This is a special blog, because this is a special day. Today I celebrate the 50th anniversary of the day I enlisted in the United States Navy. I chose to chronicle this event via my blog for several reasons. The first, reason is because I have planned to do this to commemorate the occasion. . Secondly, in the event someone wants to know what I did while in the Navy, I have the answers documented here. This may or may not be important but from experience I know of many conversations with my siblings regarding my father’s experience in the service during World War II. Each of us knows a little bit, but collectively, we know very little. So for my offspring I say, save this information just in case. Here is the story.
On June 18th, 1963 I kissed by Mother, my three sisters, and my infant baby brother (six days old) goodbye and headed to the Greater Cincinnati Airport with my father and my high school sweetheart, Laurie. Arriving at the terminal (thee was only one) we waited for boarding in a large circular area with gates all around, like spokes on a wheel. I was very nervous as I had never been away from home before nor had I flown before. Eventually the called board was announced. I kissed my girlfriend goodbye and shook my father’s hand. Back then men did not hug one another, only shook hands.. I exited the terminal, walked out across the tarmac and up the boarding ladder of a large four prop airplane. I could see my father and Laurie standing at the window waving as the plane taxied off. My life had changed forever.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful. An onboard meal was prepared which consisted of some sort of fowl stuffed with rice. If my stomach was not upside down I probably would have enjoyed the meal. The flight was three or four hours long, and I probably smoked a half pack of Pall Mall’s on the way. Some of you probably do not know smoking on a plane was once permitted, or what a Pall Mall is, or have experienced a full course meal on a plane but remember, this is the 50th anniversary of the event. Times have certainly changed. Upon arrival in Chicago I was met by a sailor, ushered with a number of others to a battleship grey school bus and transported to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. All of us were moved from location to location, yelled at a lot, called interesting names like puke and maggot, and eventually sent to a berthing area for some sleep. Sleep was slow in coming and at 3:00 AM, now known as 0300, some person came in, shouting reveille at the top of his lungs and beating a corrugated metal trash-can . Boot camp had officially begun.
I learned a lot of interesting things in boot camp. For example, I learned how to fold my clothes into perfect squares so that each item was not smaller or larger than the next when folded. I learned to roll my socks so tightly I believe they could have been used as a throwing weapon in a pinch. I learned to march in formation, say aye-aye instead of yes, and a whole list of other nautical terms. And I learned how to perform the 96 count manual of arms. This was an exercise routine with an M1 rifle, guaranteed to ensure discipline and promote good muscle tone. It seems like I did that a lot. I took a lot of classes, learned how to differentiate between a square knot and a granny knot, and eventually some weeks later, I graduated and was promoted from Seamen Recruit to Seaman Apprentice. I was a sailor!
I served two enlistments and during that time I served in Pensacola Florida, Istanbul Turkey, Karamursel Turkey, and Bremerhaven, Germany. I also served aboard the USS Rigel AF-58, the USS Hoist ARS-40, and the USS Papago AFT-160. Similar to me, all three ships have gotten old and have been decommissioned. I don’t know if they are in a mothball fleet somewhere or have been scrapped. And I don’t want to know. In May of 1971 I was honorably discharged and thus ended my Naval Career.
As a foot note, I wanted to mention that from the time I could read until the time I enlisted I always wanted to be a Marine. In fact, I spoke with the Marine Corp Recruiter first. When I informed my girlfriend that I was enlisting in the Marines, she suggested I should enlist in the Navy, because the uniforms were cuter. A lifelong dream, shot down in an instant. In 1963 enlisting in the marines seemed like a good idea, but by 1965, not so much. I am glad the uniforms were cuter, or I might not be here today to write this blog. Thank you ma’am!
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
Feel free to comment in the space provided below, or click on an icon to like and share with your favorite social media site.