Bob Shelley Class of 1959
enlisted in the US NAVY in September of 1959 and went to boot
camp at USNTC, San Diego, where I spent 18 weeks in recruit training. Ý
After Boot Camp (I weighed 135lbs and none of it was fat. Ah
yes, those were the days.)Ý I was sent to MM/BT "A"
School at Great Lakes, Illinois where I graduated as a Machinist
Mate Fireman. That's one step above an Apprentice Seaman. After
graduation I was assigned to the USS Prairie AD15, a Destroyer
Tender, which was responsible for the repair and maintenance
of Destroyers while at sea and in foreign ports. I was stationed
in the Aft Engine Room until I was transferred to the USS Taussig
DD746 a WWII, Sumner Class, Destroyer. She is tied up to a dock
in Taiwan as the Yang Lo and is awaiting scrapping or being converted
into a maritime museum.
On the Taussig I was stationed in the Aft Engine Room and went
on the West Pac Cruise from 1960-1961. While on our cruise I
visited Japan, Philippians, Hong Kong, Okinawa, Midway, Hawaii,
and got within a hundred miles of Russia while following a Soviet Ý
submarine. It played with us for a week or so before taking off
and leaving us alone on the ocean.
We got buzzed by a Mig in the Formosa Straights and played host
to several covert ops units as they left foreign shores and came
aboard early in the morning hours. I guess that's how I ended
up being a Vietnam Vet. Seems strange since I never set foot
on any part of South East Asia. But I guess when you're in the
Navy or even the Air Force that can happen.
The only bad thing I endured, besides some massive hangovers,
was when I scalded my hands while messing with some live steam..
it was all live steam now that I think of it. I just got careless
and took a shot of DA tank water on my hands. Big blisters and
so forth. I had them cut off so I could still operate the throttles
which was my favorite watch station.
We were attached to the USS Kearsarge as plane guard. It was
up to us to rescue any airman who crashed into the ocean. The
only action we ever took in that regard when we helped locate
a sailor who jumped over the side (he died) and the remains of
crewman of a jet that hit the fantail during night ops.
The hairiest event that happened to our ship occurred while refueling
off the Fleet Oiler, Guadalupe. We took a shot of water down
the forward main induction vents... air conditioning vents for
you landlubbers... and blew out the main electrical board. The
short circuit melted a 2" thick X 4" wide X 18"
long solid brass buss bar. Luckily we had made a slight course
correction and had some right rudder which pulled us away from
the oiler instead of into her. We had oil lines splitting open,
fuel oil flowing over the decks and covering all hands, 50 gallons
or so went down the outer hatch and into the Aft engine room
and the hawsers, large ropes, that held oil lines in place were
really straining and pulling at the cleats. Our Chief yelled
for everyone to "hit the deck" and severed the lines
on the fuel trunk with two blows of a fire axe. We had oil everywhere
but we were all safe. It was pretty exciting with the whistles
blowing, sirens sounding and collision alarm sounding throughout
the ship. We were already at Condition Zebra.. all water tight
hatches were closed... so we didn't have much to worry about
once clear of the Oiler. All of the other ships had scattered
and had given us plenty of room to maneuver in. When the main
board goes blewey Aft Control, in the aft engine room, takes
over. It takes a few minutes to transfer power so there are a
few pretty intense minutes before control is regained. During
that time the ship has no electrical power and is basically out
of control since the steering gear is without power.
Our Captain loved rough seas and would go out of his way to ride
out some pretty bad weather. During high seas a destroyer behaves
as if it were part airplane and part submarine. A friend of mine,
while standing bridge watch on the Kearsarge, told me that at
one moment he was looking up at us and the next he was looking
down our stacks. The thing
I remember most is the shaking of the ship as the screws broke
clear of the water spun at high revs only to chug when the stern
went back under water. Dust and dirt went everywhere. The seas
carried away out outer gas bottles. Two Acetylene and one Oxygen
bottle used in welding. They broke loose and jammed into the
fully loaded starboard depth charge rack. Our DC (damage control)
First Class was roped up and sent out the after hatch to remove
the bottles and toss them over the side. There were ten men on
two ropes acting as life guards for him. He was repeatedly knocked
down and finally managed to loosen the bottles and guide them
into the sea. He got a commendation of course and a shot of brandy
when he came back inside.
We did have some other things happen because of one man. We had
a Jr. Officer a Lt. JG.) lower the sonar dome at 25 knots and
it was carried away. We had it fixed in Yoko in dry dock. He then
took out 25 feet of refueling dock at Okinawa and finally, while
I was manning throttles, he tried to run down the Coronado Ferry.
We were cruising along at 25 knots when we got a full back down.
Both the forward throttle man and I managed to halt the screws
and reverse direction in about 35 seconds... not a record by
the way... and we avoided a collision by about 8 feet. Unfortunately
for the Jr. Officer, NavDist 11 (the Admiral in command of Naval
District 11) was on the Ferry with his wife and had no difficulty
reading our Ý hull number. We tied up to the Prairie, the
gang way was lowered and HE was taken off the ship. I understand
he was assigned to a closet in the Pentagon since he was the
son of an Admiral. Anyone else would have been forced to retire.
Just think. All of this happened in peace time. Glad I missed
By the way, for those of you who remember Ken Jett I saw him
at Great Lakes in 1960. He was taking Electrician Classes and
was living in Philadelphia if I remember right. Steve Berry narrowly
missed sailing on the Thrasher and is probably retired by now
if he stayed in. The Naval Training Center in San Diego no longer
exists and all recruit training is done at Great Lakes Ill. End
of an era.
(If Ken or Steve reads this please let me know that you are alive
I was Honorably Discharged shortly after returning from West
Pac and went to work in aerospace where I stayed for 35 years.
Not at one company but in the industry. I am now semi-retired.
Christopher Taggart Class of 1978
E-mail address: email@example.com
Years Served: 1985 to present
Outfit: U.S. Army
Tours in: Germany, Italy, Honduras, Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, Bosnia (2003), Iraq (2008)