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STORIES BEGIN HERE
This is a picture I drew while stationed aboard the Skagit in the Spring of 1969 as a Fireman Apprentice (E2). I got out of boot camp at San Diego in March, 1969. I went home to Kaysville Utah for two weeks and then reported aboard the Skagit at the Naval Station San Diego California, I was 19 then. I soon found out the Skagit had not been to sea in a long time. The ship was in the process of being decommissioned and scrapped. Everything aboard had been removed. All the main engines had been removed along with all other mechanical equipment (reduction gears). So, when you went into the engine room it was just a big empty cavern. I was assigned to the boat division, but all the boats had been taken away. The only boat left was the Captain's gig. I got assigned to be part of the gig crew because I had a full set of undress blues having just graduated from boot camp. The gig was every bit as old as the Skagit herself, but was in good shape. Captain Graf lived out on the Coronado strip so every morning we would go from the Navy base to the pier at Coronado to pick him up. It was a 30 minute trip one way so we were gone for about an hour every morning and evening. Captain Graf would sit in the cabin reading the morning paper and the three of us, coxswain, bow-hook, and me the engineer would "Ferry Harry" from Coronado to the Skagit and back, Monday through Friday. On one trip from Coronado to the Skagit the gig broke down. The V-drive seized up and we were adrift. One of the other ships saw our plight and sent out a boat to tow us to the Skagit. As time went on more and more crew were transferred off and it seemed like there were only about 25 - 30 men on board. One day they moved the Skagit from the Naval Station to the scrapping pier (Mole Pier). This pier was at the very far South end of San Diego harbor and the water was very shallow and dirty. When the tide was out the ship actually sat in the mud and the mooring lines got very slack. We continued hauling things off the ship until it was an empty shell. At that point there was an actual Skeleton Crew - just enough men to stand fire watches and man the quarter deck. The galley was still in operation and we ate meals aboard. We used paper plates and plastic knives, forks, and spoons because the scullery was shutdown. A Navy bus came by every hour until 10 PM if you wanted to go to the enlisted man's club or to do laundry at an on base laundromat. Needless to say military protocols were starting to get very lax. After hours most crew would leave the ship to go home and the duty officer would lock himself in the wardroom. At that point about 5 or 6 guys would watch a movie on the mess decks, write letters home, drink cokes, play cards, and smoke. We would muster and have a fire drill just after dinner. But after that things kind of turned into a jungle. Finally the day of the decommissioning came and there was a short ceremony on the quarterdeck. Somebody painted out the block letters SKAGIT, I hauled down the ensign (last white-hat to do so), someone else took the jack down and it was over. Everyone left and the scrapping yard took responsibility for the hulk that use to be the Skagit. There was one night onboard the Skagit I will never forget. I was standing the midnight to 4:00 AM fire watch. There was an old desk and chair down in the engine room where the fire watch stayed between rounds. The whole ship was a very creepy place with everyone gone and tied up miles from all the other Navy ships, especially at night. There were a few books and magazines on the desk also an ashtray. One of the books was a series of short stories about the occult and bizarre. I had been reading them and was pretty spooked out, especially the story about "Invisible Fangs". Invisible fangs was an account of people who start having bloody bite marks show up on their arms and legs from nowhere! Well, it was about 2 AM and time for my rounds, I had to walk all over the ship looking into all these empty compartments and spaces. At one point I had to go down onto the pier and check the mooring lines. I went down the three story ladder and on to the pier to check all six lines. The fire watch had to do this because there was a clip board that needed to be initialed and the time recorded in every space. Every hair on my body was standing on end as I walked down this empty pier in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. All I had for defense was a military nightstick. As I walked past a dumpster I flushed out a seagull, this bird was squawking and flapping it's wings like all hell as it came out of the dumpster, it went right over me. I screamed and fell down on the pier waving my nightstick in defense as I rolled around in sheer terror. I was sure the invisible fangs were after me. About then I realized it was just a damn seagull and I had just about crapped myself. I got up and looked around to see if anyone had witnessed this moment of horror but no one had seen - thank goodness! Anyway, I spent about 5 months on the Skagit. I was promoted to FN (E3) while on the Skagit. I was transferred to the USS Windham County an LST home ported in Yokosuka Japan. While on the Windham County we spent many months in Vietnam resupplying fire bases and as a support ship for swift-boats. Brown-water Navy.
Sea Story Veracity Check
Certainly you must remember (us old farts don't remember so I excuse you if you don't) that all sea stories must begin with the words, "Now, this is no sh.."
That's the critical part of what I have to offer but it is critical.
At sea always in mind and spirit.
Ltjg (when I first met Hot Pants Molly Malone at the Waltzing Matilda in Hong Kong, actually Kowloon).
Hong Kong Liberty
In 1964 the Skagit (AKA105) spent a month in Hong Kong as station ship. This meant plenty of liberty. Officers mostly went to Kowloon and often started out at the Waltzing Matilda Pub with a little conversation time with Hot Pants Molly Malone (fat and foul mouth and funny).
On duty as the OOD on night (anchored out) I noticed a Walla Walla (water taxi)had stopped about half way from the Hong Kong landing and the ship. As I watched it rocked back and forth on a very clam sea....then someone dove out of the back of the boat into the water and started swimming to the ship. He reached the accommodation ladder and was brought to the quarter deck by the Master-at-Arms. Turned out he was one of our crew who have abandoned the Walla Walla after hitting a Naval Officer on board. Seems there was a fight going on between our crew and the crew of a Destroyer anchored nearby. The fight had begun in a Wan-chi bar and had been broken up by the shore patrol. However, the shore patrol had stupidly put both crews on the same Walla Walla for the trip back to their ships and the fight broke out again on the Walla Walla. I sent our drunken, wet crewman down to his bunk with the messenger to just keep quiet.
The Walla Walla finally made it to the Skagit and a number of our crew members, looking extremely unkempt with some bloody uniforms staggered up the ladder. I lined them all up on the quarter deck and attempted to get the whole story. I got lots of stories all at the same time. Then a officer in a civies arrived on the quarter deck and demanded that I point out to him the crewman that had slugged him during the fight. While I had sent the guy down to bed I told the officer (executive officer from the Destroyer) that all the Skagit crew from the Walla Walla were here on the quarter deck and he could pick him out. The officer knew something was fishy because the guy that hit him was not present and he started to rant and rave at me for lying to him. While I was trying to cool the guy off heard a voice behind me ask "What's going on here Mr. Shaw"? It was the Captain of the Skagit who had come up the ladder unseen during all the commotion. I started to tell him the story when the Destroyer officer butted in and demanded to see the guy that had hit him. The Captain told him to calm down and go back to his ship and all would be worked out in the morning.
I never gave the Captain the name of the offending crewman and the Captain never asked. The next morning the Captain called me to his stateroom to get my version of the story, without details or names. None of the crew were ever disciplined for the fight and the Captain told the executive officer of the Destroyer he was dropping the matter....and he asked me just one question: "Who won the fight"?
Lt.JG Leo Shaw, Boat Group Commander
Bed Check Charlie
Inchon Korea, May 02 - May 25 1951. The USS Skagit was in the Yokosuka area Feb. 1951 conducting amphibious exercises with the 40th army division. This exercise was interrupted when the Skagit was orded to sail to Inchon at flank speed to stand by for possible evacuation of an army engineering battalion due to the advance of Chinese Communist forces upon Inchon.
Inchon had a 26-32 foot tide, so as we were entering the harbor slowly a bos'n mate was sounding the depth with a lead line and calling out the readings to the Bridge. Due to the tide ships would enter the harbor in single file through the Flying Fish channel. There were two cruisers shelling the North from the outer harbor and a US Navy and a Canadian destroyer were in the inner harbor standing by with a hospital ship the USS Repose AH 16.
Our first night at anchor some of us were in our sack and shortly after taps (2200 hours-10pm) General Quarters was sounded, man your battle station. A small North Korean airplane flew over. A signal beacon on a hill top would flash on and alert all ships and land forces to go to GQ.
On our second night the airplane came back at the same time. After that we would go topside for taps and watch for the alert signal. I don't remember how many nights , but the United Forces held the line and we didnt see Charlie again.
After a week or so we were allowed Dungaree Liberty for four hours (1300-1700 hrs.-1-5 PM). There was a shelled out building on a hill overlooking the harbor that was used for an enlisted mens (EM) club. There was no ice or refrigeration so we drank warm beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon 2 cans for 25 cents.
Because of Inchons 32 foot tide there was a floating pontoon walkway that would settle on the mud flat when the tide went out. Our liberty boats would have to back down to keep from getting high and dry. The LSTs would go in at high tide and would be left high and dry when the tide went out.
Our Executive Officer, Commander E. L. Yates was in the Merchant Marine in WW2 and was called to active duty in the U.S. Navy. CDR. Yates went on liberty in Inchon in his "GIG", an LCPR that was on hatch #1 with the Captain's GIG. Seaman Crawford was his cox'n and XO Yates and his crew got into some rot gut whiskey. On their way back to the Skagit Seaman Crawford and Cdr. Yates traded hats (a picture is in Don Vogan's Life Abourd The Skagit book) and they circled the hospital ship USS Repose a few times looking at the nurses. The USS Repose contacted the Skagit and told them to get XO Yates back to his ship.I didn't hear the outcome of it.
The USS Skagit was authorized the Korean Service medal with one bronze (battle) star, the China Service medal (extended) and the United Nations medal. The UN Forces held the line and the Skagit left May 25 1951.
Fair winds and following seas.
Dave Skeahan EN3, Boat Division, Feb. 1951 - May 1953
Hot Pants Molly Malone
In 1953 the Coast Guard Cutter Forster pulled into Hong Kong Harbor and we went ashore to see what we could find of the female set.
We were told that the safest place to go was the Metropole hotel. There we were introduced to a girl named Judy (I think that was the name of most girls there at the time) and my buddy came up with a lady a little bit older that was passing around pictures of herself signed "Hot pants Molly Malone" and it was the same woman l had seen in a couple of mags around the ship l was on. Anyway the four of us spent the day using up our money.
Charles Buckley (MM2)
During the Wespac cruise in '62 we were caught up in a typhoon. I had to go to the fantail in order to get to the ladder that takes you down to the shaft alley. The packing gland had to be tightened as we were taking on more water than the bilge pump could remove. As I was coming back out onto the fantail, the ship raised high out of the water exposing the screw. As it was coming back down, I jumped back inside and closed the hatch. When I opened the hatch a moment later and headed back forward, I noticed that the 50 cases of potatoes and other supplies that had been lashed to the fantail were gone. Shortly after I got back inside the main compartments, the ship rolled to starboard and rolled far enough to put the Captains Gig into the water. I am very greatful for the trucks and tanks that we had in the cargo bay which helped provide enough ballast to keep us from rolling over.
Later, we delivered those supplies to Pusan and Inchon, Korea.
THE NAVY LIFE OF
ROBERT H. BUCKLAND
31 October 1944 to 24 July 1946
Robert H. Buckland (WTC)
Onboard: Mar. 17 1945 to July 8 1946 (Plank Owner)
Rate/Rank: WT 3
Oct. 31,'44 to Feb. 5th '45 ~ Great Lakes Naval Base.
Feb. 6th '45 to Feb. 15th '45 ~ Boot Leave, home for 9 days.
Feb. 15th and 16th ~ I was back at the Great Lakes Naval Base. O.G.U. [out going unit].
Mar. 17th to Apr. 28th ~ Newport, Rhode Island.
Apr 28th to May 2nd ~ Brooklyn, New York.
Came aboard the AKA 105 USS Skagit. My home for the next 15 months.
May 7th ~ Germans surrendered.
May 14th to June 3rd ~ Norfolk, Va.
June 16th to June 29th ~ 13 days in Marseille, France.
July 14th to July 16th ~ Cristobal.
This is near the Panama Canal.
On July 16th at 0700 ~ Started through the Panama Canal. Out at 1300.
July 20th ~ We picked up a wounded gunners mate who was on the Andrew Jackson.
Aug. 2nd ~ Crossed the International Date Line.
Aug. 6th ~ Eniwetok,
Part of the Marshal islands in the Pacific.. We picked up mail here at Eniwetok..
Aug. 7th ~ First atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Aug. 9th ~ Second atomic bomb dropped. On Nagasaki, Japan.
Aug. 13th to 15th ~ Hononhou.
Aug. 15th to 25th ~ Manila.
Aug. 15th ~ Japan declared peace.
Aug. 26th and 27th ~ Subic Bay.
Sept. 2nd to 4th ~ Tokyo Bay, Yokohama
Sept. 2nd ~ Peace treaty was signed aboard the USS Missouri.
Sept. 6th and 7th ~ Okinawa,
I had 5 hours liberty on the beach and got 3
cans of beer, the first I had for 28 days. Japs were hiding all around in the hills.
Sept. 12th to the 20th ~ Guam.
Sept. 24th to 26th ~ Okinawa.
Sept. 30th ~ Initial occupation of China.
Sept. 30th to Oct. 9th ~ Tientsin, China.
Oct 13th to Oct. 21st ~ Okinawa.
Oct 24th to Oct. 26th ~ Tientsin, China.
At all the above places we were transferring cargo. Unloading and reloading the Skagit.
At this time our orders went to the wrong ship. We laid over at Tientsin from Oct. 24th to the 28th of Nov. Ate rice and beans and beans and rice the whole month except Thanksgiving Day. We had turkey and all the trimmings. The officers, who didn't eat as well as we did, were jealous.
Nov. 29th to Dec. 2nd ~ Sasebo.
Dec.2nd to Dec. 22nd ~San Francisco, Calif. USA.
Feb. 3rd to Mar. 15th ~ San Diego
Here repair work was done on our ship.
Mar. 15th to Apr. 10th ~ Long Beach
More work on our USS Skagit.
Apr. 10th to June 21st ~ San Diego.
More ship repair work.
June 28th to July 10th ~ I went to Pearl Harbor on my ship, the Skagit.
July 10th ~ I left 105 Skagit.
July 10th ~ I boarded the APA Jefferson to go to the states. My discharge was getting near.
July 16th to July 19th ~ Treasure Island Naval Base at San Francisco. aboard APA Jefferson.
July 19th at 12:30 P.M. ~ I left the Treasure Island Naval Base for Great Lakes Naval Base to get my discharge.
July 22nd at 1800 PM ~ I left Great Lakes naval base with my Honorary Discharge papers.
Arrived home in Ottawa, Ohio, USA on July 24th, 1946, at 6:00 PM. Four days before my 20th birthday.
Robert H, Buckland
Far East Cruise 1951
On March 26,1951 Skagit departed San Diego without the fanfare larger vessels receive when they put to sea. No bands or banners, only a small gathering of families, wives and girl friends were standing on the pier waving to men onboard.
The Skipper ordered all lines cast off, and the Skagit began to slowly back down, she inched away from the pier, turned and headed up the harbor toward the Pacific.
The Skagit, with five loaded holds, ninety or so, passengers, and accompanied by the USS Andromeda, AKA 15, picked up speed as she set course along the Great Northern Circle, enroute to Pusan, Korea.
The following poem, submitted by Vernon Drewa chronicals the events of this cruise. Although no clue to the author's name is given, we suspect it is the work of Don Vogan who also authored the book, LIFE ABOARD THE SKAGIT.
USS SKAGIT AKA
We pulled out of Diego on a bright and sunny day,
We didn't know where we were going but we were on our way.
Two hot boilers and a half drunk crew, fifteen trucks and a jeep or two,
About 18 knots was the best we could do.
About 20 miles out and nothing wrong,
We poured in the Hadacol and went moving on.
By now our rep. was a well known fact,
Twas the meanest damn tub in the Amphib pact.
About six buoys and a dock or so,
We'd rammed everything but the Mighty Mo.
From Diego to Pearl the road was clear,
Not even a gooney bird came anywhere near.
Now a little past Pearl the word got around,
That this damn tub was Korea bound.
With both boilers blowing and spitting the steam,
The SKAGIT was a moving like a Captain's dream.
Now the ship behind us was the old fifteen,
Such a blast of power she'd never seen.
Andy wasn't used to such a terrible strain,
She buckled in the middle and shook with pain.
Her skipper sent word "you'll have to wait",
We're taking on water at a terrible rate.
Two days passed moving mighty slow,
Andy wired back she was ready to go.
Open went the throttle and off like a Bazooka,
The SKAGIT never stopped until we hit Yokosuka.
With 16 days behind us and our fuel tanks nearly dry,
We saw Fujiyama towering in the sky.
We pulled in Yokosuka on a bright and sunny day,
But the Captain said no liberty, we're getting underway.
The taste of suds and liberty would be a lot of fun,
But as I said before this tub is headed for Pusan.
Two days of steady steaming we reached the city by the sea,
I asked a doggie about his duty and this he said to me.
Bum Boats and rotten whiskey, stinking women, and V.D.
If I had my choice of duty, in Hell I'd rather be.
We spied a maid upon the pier and we teased her just for fun,
We asked her what her name was and she said "I'm Number 1".
The gooks were might filthy, there's nothing they haven't got,
From crawling crud to typhus and stinking jungle rot.
A worse place this side of Hell I hope I never know,
But if Captain Over finds one, this tub is sure to go.
Our trucks were soon unloaded, our jeeps were on the pier,
We were headed back to Nippon to sip that stateside beer.
Our hopes were soon all over, the word went fore and aft,
Instead of beer and liberty, we got the purple shaft.
From Diego to Pusan this is what we feared,
Just Another stinking boat operation, our Captain volunteered.
Four turns ahead and one turn back,
Up all hands and out of the sack.
Then came the word we all knew,
Up with the boom, down on the hook, boats to the rail and G.Q.
The Admirals were happy like all children at play,
They steamed all night and held drills all day.
Another million spent for no reason why,
The crews were cussing, we thought we'd die.
But the word went to Washington,
The morale was high.
Soon the drills were over and in port this bucket flew,
We got our rest and liberty and sipped that stateside brew.
The women here were lovely we found to our delight,
"Long time" or "Short time" a thousand yen to stay all night.
Mamasan say how much, Pappasan sells bootleg gin,
Girlsan entertains the sailors, my God how the money rolls in.
The chankers started blooming, the drips began to start.
The doctor started preaching and Mahoney put up his chart.
Soon the good times ended, we left out in the middle of the night,
Our Army above Seoul was having a Hell of a fight.
The gooks began the drive and our boys were on the run,
The Captain got our orders and we pulled out for old Inchon.
Up the coast of Korea were mortals seldom tread,
Our anchor soon was resting in the rotten harbor bed.
What had once been a city, a pearl of ancient time,
Was a smoldering bed of corruption, filth, and stinking slime.
Soon our landing force was ready, we checked our standard gear,
Soap, cigarettes, and poggy bait and cameras in the rear.
What our mission was in Inchon, I hope I never have to tell,
But at least we done our duty, and by God we done it well.
We sent a message to the Army to break out their god damn beer,
Your mercy call is answered, the ice wagon's here.
Now the gooks sold us a beverage that had the taste of T.N.T. , about this potent mixture, this I'll have to say,
It takes a better man than me to put this one away.
Our Exec. is a damn good officer, a better man we never knew,
Born a natural sailor and respected by his crew.
He's known to be a drinking man, he'll drink most men right out of sight,
While ashore with the boy's one day, he killed a quart of this dynamite.
The Exec, and a Seaman Crawford and Snake the baker three,
Went flying down the harbor in a hopped up LCVP.
The Exec. Was at the wheel, Seaman Crawford was in Command,
With the engines revved wide open, they headed for the promised land.
Around the Constellation and across the muddy bay, Sea Captains started screaming and the Admirals cleared their way,
What seemed to be an all out war was three sailors off a hopped up AKA.
Now the SKAGIT 'tis a fighting ship, she has a gallant crew,
When the Army asked for volunteers, we sent our "Bloody Few".
They left the ship a yelling "we know not the meaning of fear",
They swore before they returned, they'd kill every Red in Korea.
One day and seven hours, here came our fighting few,
Up the gangway came the killers, they said that they were through.
No epitaph or monologue, no shining shaft of stone,
Marked the 100 victories these killers said they won.
Soon our stay was over, our crew was hot to go,
We rigged this tub for sea and headed for Sasebo.
Now the SKAGIT has her fun in every port we go, But we've never had it so good as we did in Sasebo.
The women here were lovely, they filled our hearts with cheer,
And helped us forget our troubles on cool Asahi beer.
Our liberty here was rationed we cried and moaned for more,
But the Captain said it's orders so we got one out of four.
Soon our work was done, and the days were slipping past,
We enjoyed every minute but we knew it wouldn't last.
If we had our choice of duty here we'd surely stay,
But the Captain got our orders and the SKAGIT got underway.
The good times had in Sasebo we had to say goodbye,
We had a date with the Army on a beach up near Sendia.
We stopped in Yokosuka but we had not long to stay,
We filled our tanks with oil and ventured on our way.
Of the days that lie ahead make a quick report,
G.Q. and One Able and drills of every sort.
Our job that lie ahead we'd done before,
We had to teach the Army how to take a hostile shore.
Down at Chigaskai before the break of day,
We lowered the 40th Division and sent them on their way.
When the long day was over, Captain Over made his speech,
A well done all hands the Army is on the beach.
After two weeks of drills and training and finally we were through,
We headed off to Kobe for a rest that was long overdue.
When we arrived in Kobe there was liberty for the crew,
But they all came back in the wagon before the day was through.
The Army gave us hell, they tried to run us out of town,
But nothing could stop the SKAGIT, we found our way around.
In the Oriental and the Casino there was a lot of drinking done,
But the bars we found off limits is where we had our fun.
The Exec. and boilerman Morgan went on a midnight spree,
They came riding back in the wagon about a quarter after three.
They took home a couple of maidens, they thought that they were cute,
But what they thought was a private home was a house of ill repute.
The ship was granted leave for two days of rest and play,
We took a train to Kyoto and saw Osaka by the way,
I'll never forget that trip, my god what a drinking crew,
Twelve quarts of stateside whiskey before our stay was through.
A lot of fun was had, If we could we'd all remain,
But a dozen tired out sailors amidst a drenching rain. headed back for duty aboard the Kobe train,
About our stay in Kobe, I can prove by every man,
Was the best port we ever made, the jewel of all Japan.
Good times can't last forever and our money nearly gone,
The SKAGIT had her orders we had to be moving on.
Soon our screws were churning with that old familiar sound,
With our bow pointing Northward, we were Hachenohe bound.
Now up in Hachenohe near the tip of old Honshu,
We'd take a dip below the fantail when our day was through.
For weeks that lie ahead I'll sum up a might fast,
More drills and operations, my God how long they last.
From Hachenohe to Chigasaki, Yokosuka by the way,
Maneuvers, drills, and G.Q. they dogged the watch every day.
When our operations finally ended and they said that we were through,
We pulled out of Hachenohe a tired and weary crew.
Our engines were in bad condition, our boilers needed quick repairs,
We headed down to Sasebo to join a tender there.
Our pumps were scared and leaking, and our fuel was running low,
After three days of steady steaming, we were back in Sasebo.
Two weeks that lie ahead, we turned to night and day,
We soon had this bucket purring and ready to get underway.
Her tanks we filled with fuel, took on provisions for the crew,
We took her out in the stream to see what she could do.
We opened up throttles she was running like a song,
The Captain rang up full ahead and we pulled out for the town of old Hong Kong.
We crossed the China Sea steaming at a terrible rate,
Up the coast of China and through the Formosa Strait.
Soon we reached our destination and tied up near the pier,
Our crew was soon ashore drinking San Miguel Beer.
We drank in the "Cock and Pullet", danced in the Metropo,
We took a tour around the island, there's no place we didn't go.
We climbed Victoria's peak, swam in Pirates Bay,
Had a drink in Lidos and that's how we spent our day.
After we made the town and nothing left to do,
We'd stop in for a steak in the caf'e of old King Fu.
When all our money was gone and nothing left to pawn,
We could always have a drink on Hot Pants Molly Malone.
Before many days past all our money was spent,
The whole damn crew couldn't muster a cent.
Then came the day we'll always remember,
We left Hong Kong on the twenty first of September.
Amidst a thirty knot gale and a choppy sea,
Just one more stop before the land of the free we'll see.
After six days steaming we entered Tokyo Bay,
For provisions and fuel and not long to stay.
The Captain got our orders and we got underway,
We left Yokosuka for the U.S.A.
We took our last look at the shores of Japan,
And took the northern route to the promise land.
Now my time is short it'll soon be done,
Here's to the regulars you know it's been fun.
You can finish this poem for I'll never again roam,
As I'm just a U.S.N.R. a headin' home.
Never Again SKAGIT
Don Vogan passed away on May 23, 2001
SKAGIT SUNK BY ROCK ?
In early 1965, we made an unexpected 3 month West Pac cruise, taking Marines from Hawaii to Okinawa.
Just before heading home, we stopped at Okinawa again and picked up a gigantic rock. It had some inscriptions on it from the people of Okinawa to the people of Okinawan descent living on Hawaii. It was put in number 4 hold and lashed down.
On the way back we ran into a very bad storm, the big rock broke free and started to slide from side to side as the ship rolled.
I was on the bridge, and remember the Captain giving orders to the helmsman to try to keep the ship from rolling as best as he could.
The crew in the hatch were trying to lasso the rock as it passed by, while they tried to avoid being hit by the sliding rock.
I remember thinking about the headline in the paper "Ship sunk by rock inside ship". After what seemed like a long time, they were able to catch the rock and tie it down.
I was really glad when that rock was offloaded in Hawaii.
Thomas Herbert LTJG 1964 - 1955
Man Over Board Drill
While conducting a man overboard drill the dummy was cast over, and man the life boats was pipped.
I was the Engineman on duty, we were lowered from the davit and as we were going down I tried in vain to start the engine, no luck dead in the water and drifting.
The ship turned and lowered another boat to get us back to the davit hooks.
As we were being pulled up Chief Perfoy yelled "what the hell happened" ?
I replied "the batteries were dead"
The irony of this story is I was in charge of the battery locker and all boat's batteries.
William Park EN2 1951-1955
The Port Anchor Gone Missing
Back in the spring of 1958, we were underway off San Diego for independent ops and one of the drills was for precision anchoring.
It was to take place in the early evening at the end of our daily drills, and when we approached the spot to anchor, someone and I don't remember who, gave the order to let go the anchor.
The only problem was that we were still doing about 10 knots or better.
We were still moving when red inks started showing, and the end of the chain was ripped out of the bulkhead and lost overboard. I don't think anyone was much further forward than amidships by then, it really made a racket.
Our skipper did not report it lost that night and the next day we went back to sea after leaving the salvage boat crew and a hardhead diver with orders to have a line on the chain when we came back that evening.
The boat crew and diver had food but someone forgot that they would need drinking water and sometime during the day they hailed a Destroyer passing by and managed to get some water.
I believe it was during Captain Woodard's (Redbeard as we called him behind his back) tenure that this took place.
When we got back that evening it was an "All Hands", (including Officers) event that managed to pull the chain up and retrieve the anchor.
I haven't asked LT Clark Leonard or LTJG Mike Kraft if they remember it but if it happened while they were aboard they probably do. I am quite sure that it was the main topic of discussion in the Ward Room when the Captain was not around.
By the way, the incident was reported as anchor lost, and recovered by crew to Comphibron Five the next day.
Dave Downer RM2 1958-1962
More From Mike Kraft LTJG 1957-1960
I do remember the anchor incident. It occurred during a landing exercise off Coronado and, as we came into our designated anchorage off the beach, the entire port anchor and chain paid out and was lost, at which point we dropped the starboard anchor.
Captain Woodard was skipper and he was in a rage. Throughout that day, while our boats were conducting their landing drills, he had a good part of a deck division looking for the anchor.
We returned to our mooring in San Diego harbor that night with the port anchor still missing.
The Navigator, or the Exec, or the Operations Officer -- I can't remember who summoned up the courage -- reminded the Captain politely that the loss of an anchor affects the operational readiness of the ship and regulations required a report to Phibron Five. Woodard's answer was "Hell no. We'll come back and get it tomorrow." Which we did.
I believe this happened in the spring of 1958. We left for six months in WESTPAC in June of 58, and Captain Woodard was relieved in Hong Kong on that cruise.
Last Man Aboard
While I'm thinking about it, I thought I would share my last experience on board the USS Skagit in 1973 or 1974. I'm not sure of the exact date.
During the early '70s, I was an executive with Pacific Bell in San Francisco.
When they remodelled our headquarters building, we moved to temporary offices on the Embarcadero (old port and pier area).
Since we were located on San Francisco, Bay just a few miles from the mothball fleet, I used to walk along the Embarcadero during the lunch hour observing the Liberty Ships docked there for a few days prior to being towed to Yokosuka, Japan to be scrapped and turned into Hondas and Toyotas.
One day I noticed three mothballed amphibious ships, 2 APAs and 1 AKA. Curious to see if one of them might have been in Phibron 5, I went over to the pier during my lunch hour. Their hull numbers were painted over and their port holes welded shut for their last trip to West Pac. A security guard was posed at the gangway. As I approached the ships, my eyes focused on the painted out hull numbers, to my dismay, the AKA's hull number was 105.
I approached the guard about making one last visit to my old ship. He said no visitors were allowed and that the ships were stripped and without portholes it was too dark to see anything. For some reason I had something in my wallet that showed I had served aboard the Skagit. He looked at me and said that it was about his lunchtime so could I keep an eye on his flashlight for an hour or so while he took his lunch?
You talk about an eerie experience! Try walking on your old ship almost 20 years later in total darkness remembering Kodiak, Alaska, Pearl Harbor, Yokosuka, Hong Kong, Subic Bay, Singapore, etc, I walked through the galley, barber shop, the bridge and of course my old duty station, CIC.
The guard was right, not much was left, but I did find some old navigation charts, a binocular case and other mementos that would be of no value to anyone except an old sailor remembering the heavy seas, good buddies, bad meals, fights with Marines in Singapore and liberty in ports of call from Bremerton, Washington to Karachi, Pakistan. It was quite a noon hour adventure. So I am quite certain I can claim to be the last crew member aboard the old "Skagit".
Before I close, I should mention the void in AKA 105s history for the years between Korea and Vietnam. I have already mentioned a few of the ports of call we visited during my short 18 months tour of duty. During 1957-58, the "Skagit" participated in the largest amphibious landing since WWII on the beaches of the Hawaiian Islands while Hollywood filmed "South Pacific". We also landed Marines in Lebanon, spent most of the summer of 1958 in Singapore. (I still get a chronic rash from having no air conditioning in quarters.) I remembered we picked up tanks and trucks in the middle of the night in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, gave away our brand new LCMs and LCVPS to the Nationalist Chinese who used them as gun boats to patrol the Pescadores Islands, and I remember watching in amazement as the USS Helena shelled the Chinese mainland! I think the "Skagit" was as busy during those two years as she was at anytime in her thirty year career,
AI Leake RD3 1957-1958
Buckner Bay Blow
I think it was in '62. Three amphib squadrons were anchored out in Buckner Bay, Okinawa; PhibRon5 among them. Skagit was about a 45 minute run to the pier. I was duty liberty boat cox'n one stormy night. We had at least a full gale, if not a small typhoon. Raindrops were the size of quarters with very little space between them. I was returning to the ship around 2300 when I lost one engine and got the rudders hung on full starboard. Was only able to go in circles.
My engineman was an ENFA who had joined the navy as an ENFR. I only knew him as Jeff, a tall, skinny redheaded kid, I think from Kentucky. He just stood in the rain, leaning agains the con. Never went into the engine room. I asked him, What the hell's wrong with that engine, Jeff?" But...I had a designated EN aboard so the navy's ass was covered.
I called the ship by radio and reported the problem. OD says, "Can you make another liberty run?" "Hell, no! Put a boat in the water and come get us!" Like all navy ships, we had a couple ensigns who were 25 watts on a scale of 100. OD: "No can do. Weather's too rough. Can't launch any boats." Around 4 a.m. some providence washed us up agains the Skagit. I'm screaming for them to get some lines and a Jacob's ladder over, which they did and we were soon aboard having some good hot coffee. Daybreak came and there was the St. Paul, 7th Fleet Flagship, sitting broached on the beach. An awesome sight!
Weather was still full gale but every boat in 3 amphib squadrons was launched immediately.
The gator navy can leave you with a lot of memories such as this.
Anyone else remember that night? It was black as ebony and all I could think of was ending up ramming one of those big mushroom rocks that are scattered around in Buckner Bay.
R. Crum BM3 1960-1962 3rd Division
HOW THE USS SKAGIT QUALIFIED FOR
THE EUROPEAN DEFENSE RIBBON:
After shake down in the Chesapeake Bay our first assignment was to test camels in the Cape Hatteras area. There were Navy officials aboard and the process took about a week. Upon returning to Norfolk, VA. we anticipated our next order would be to report to the Pacific. We were surprised when we were directed to report to Marseilles, France. With the war over in Europe there was a lot of heavy equipment that needed to be transported to the Asiatic theatre.
When we arrived at Marseilles, France a large group of ships were already ahead of us waiting to be loaded. Ships were loaded according to their arrival date. As I remember we waited at anchor 21/2 - 3 weeks until our turn came. After we were loaded we were directed to proceed to Manila Bay via the Panama Canal.
It was about this time that I remembered a previous directive that stated that anyone spending 30 days or more east of the 20th meridian would be qualified for the European Defense Ribbon. As Navigator I charted our course and found we were going to be close. After we cleared the Mediterranean and passed Gibraltar I figured again and found we were going to miss qualifying by about 8 hours.
I developed a plan that would qualify us for the ribbon and took it to the Exec. Dick Peyer .He said it looked good to him but he didn't think Capt. Parker would go for it because there was still a war going on in the Pacific. The plan would call for slowing to 6 knots for 11/2 days so we could stay east of the 20th meridian for 30 days then about 5 minutes after midnight on the second day increasing our speed to 1 7 knots the rest of the way to Panama.
My plan would get us to Panama on schedule and still qualify for the ribbon.
That evening after supper I was in the Chart House when Captain Parker came up to the bridge. I got my nerve up and presented the plan. He picked up my dividers and did a little figuring for himself. His only comment was "hurnm, that's interesting" I thought that was the end of the plan and at least I gave it a try.
That evening when the 2000 sailing orders were sent to the bridge they said "at 2000 hours slow to six knots". I knew then that Captain Parker had accepted the plan.
The next day was calm and sunny and the water surface was smooth as glass. We were going so slow we hardly made a wake. The next night at 5 minutes after midnight we had been in the European Zone for 30 days even though only 5 minutes on the last day. Our speed then moved to 17 knots.
The following morning the captain put out a directive that the ship and crew had qualified for the European Defense Ribbon. I don't think any other ship figured it that closely. Many of the ships we were with in Marseilles did not qualify because they didn't have to wait as long as we did.
The camel testing was what made us late getting to Marseilles. Needless to say, when we reached Panama, buying the new Defense. Ribbon was a shopping priority for all hands.
Lt. C.A. Cromer, Navigator
A Break On A Boring Watch
The Skagit was underway in the summer of '45 enroute from Panama to Manila with almost nothing to mar the empty sea.
A lookout reported a ship sailing on a reciprocal course on the horizon. As we hadn't seen anything but gooney birds for about 10 days, all eyes were on the approaching ship,
When we were about 1/2 mile from each other, starboard to starboard, the other ship (a merchantman) signaled by flashing light...
I don't recall who authorized the signal bridge to respond but the following message was flashed...
"This is the Hokey Pokey Maru, we have 15 decks and a bottom of bamboo."
After a minutes pause while they digested the message, they replied...
"F_ _ _ You!"
With that, both ships passed on their separate courses..........
Lt. jg Don H. Byrnes 1945-1946
We were operating independently when we arrived in Danang, and immediately got orders to take on a load of cement and deliver it to Hue where the army needed it desperately.
When we finished loading hundreds of bags of cement and departed Danang, our beautiful, freshly painted, Skagit looked like a white ghost ship.
When we anchored off the entrance to the river leading up to Hue, I decided to go up with the first boat to see what we were confronted with. As we went alongside the dock we were met by this very anxious army colonel.
I stepped ashore and said "Colonel, I'm Captain Mackey and this is just the first load, many more to follow quickly".
The colonel kept looking into the boat and said "Yeah, yeah man, but where the hell is the beer. Get the beer"! ! !
Needless to say, our next load was the beer.
W. A. Mackey, Captain USN Ret.
After boot camp I was stationed on board the USS Skagit LKA 105. The Skagit was a World War II vintage cargo ship. The Skagit was in the process of being scrapped and had not been to sea in three years. Not exactly what I had envisioned for my first ship! Some how I had the idea I would be standing on the bow of a sleek destroyer knifing through the blue Pacific in my dress uniform!
|The Skagit was solid rust, no engines, and only a scrapping crew of about 30 sailors. There used to be over 150 men aboard.|
One night aboard the Skagit I was standing the midnight to 0400 hours fire watch. I was down in the empty engine room reading a scary book. Every hour I would make my rounds to check on things. I had to go all over the ship and it was so dark and scary. One part of my rounds I had to go down on the pier and check the mooring lines. I was so spooked every hair on my body was standing on end. As I walked past a dumpster I flushed out a seagull. It came out of the dumpster squawking and flapping it's wings like hell. I didn't know what it was! I thought some awful monster was attacking me. I fell to the ground screaming bloody murder and waving my nightstick over my head, when I realized it was only a seagull I got back up, put my hat back on and checked all around to see if anyone had seen what happened. Boy was I glad no one saw how bad a seagull scared me.
I only spent a few months on the Skagit. She was decommissioned and I got orders to the USS Windham County LST 1170 home ported in Yokosuka, Japan.
During the decommissioning ceremony my station was right on the fantail, I was wearing a pair of sound powered phones and when the order was given from the quarter deck, I told my crew mate to start painting out the ship's name. Simultaneously he leaned over the aft railing with a paint roller on a long pole and painted the black block letters SKAGIT with gray paint while I lowered the stars and stripes. I was the last white-hat to lower the Ensign aboard the Skagit. The Skagit was noble ship right up to the end.
Terry Rogerson EN2 1969
Fun and Games
ANCHORED SAN DIEGO BAY.......We were playing rings it's just like horse shoes. There were four of us two on each side, who ever makes the most rings wins. I Kept making rings one after another, the team that was losing said "if you make another one you are going over the side".
I said it would take the hole division to throw me over, my next throw was a ringer and it only took three of them to throw me over the side.
We were on the port side #2 hatch, the officer of the deck, boatswain mate, and messenger, were on the starboard side of #3 hatch. If i would have yelled on my way over the side my so called buddies would have been in a lot of trouble.
They threw me a line and pulled me back up, we started playing rings again, I wouldn't dare make another ring....
Remember that day Jolip and Jonnie?
P.S. I wonder if they would have done the same thing at sea..ha.?
Leon Cheramie (SN)1st Division 1956-1957
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