USS Skagit Family Gram

1967 WestPac Cruise

1 December 1967

   We have stopped at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for two days on our Journey back across the blue Pacific. The weather was cloudy until we neared Hawaii, and our course kept us nearly parallel to large, slow swells from the north causing the ship to roll a great deal. Our cooks had Just finished serving an impressive Thanksgiving dinner of filet mignon, ham, and turkey when suddenly a large swell sent the ship heeling over 36 degrees from upright. Coffee cups and dishes slid everywhere, and those persons caught off guard went tumbling. It made the rolls experienced during hurricane Carlo seems insignificant. Things calmed down quickly, and we cleaned up the mess. Each day the stories about our "big roll" grow. I'm sure that by the time we reach San Diego the "sea stories" will report a roll of over 50 degrees. The weather brightened sufficiently on the 26th for us to have another cook-out on the fantail of the ship with barbequed steaks and chicken roasted over a charcoal fire.

   I am enclosing a short original story written by one of our boat crew members while we were involved in operations near Hue, Vietnam. It vividly describes just how it was for those men

   The listing I had hoped to include in the last family-gram showing how much cargo we moved during the forty five days that Skagit operated off Vietnam cannot be made available as yet, but I can tell you that she accounted for 13,500,000 pounds of cargo delivered to Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Republic of Vietnam combat units. Our own boats made over 220 round trips.

   As I mentioned in my last letter, on 14 December I will be relieved as commanding officer of Skagit by Captain John Sparger. I thought you might like to know a bit about his background.

   Captain Sparger's last assignment was as the commanding officer of the U. S. Naval Communications Station, Yokosuka Japan. He was born in Dallas, Texas, on 27 March 1922. In 1943, shortly after he was graduated from Texas A & M, he was commissioned Ensign, and assigned to USS McKEAN (APD-5) as assistant communications officer. McKEAN was sunk at the Battle of Bougainville in November 1943. Captain Sparger saw further action during the initial landings at Okinawa and was then assigned to the Bureau of Naval Personnel for duty. He also served in the destroyer FECHTELER (DD-870) as gunnery officer, assistant first lieutenant, and later as operations officer.

   In 1950, he took command of LST 1110, and during the Korean War commanded LST 898 which participated in the second landing at Inchon, Korea. In 1953 he served aboard the heavy cruiser DES MOINES as communications officer, and then as Aide and Flag Secretary, Commander Battle- Cruiser Force, U. S. Atlantic Fleet. Later, he was assigned to the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations for duty with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

   In 1959, Captain Sparger became executive officer of the attack cargo ship USS WASHBURN, after which he attended the Naval War College in Rhode Island. In 1961 he took command of the landing ship USS GUNSTON HALL which steamed from San Diego to Cuba during the crisis in 1962. Following this, he reported to the Staff or Commander Amphibious Forces .U. S. Pacific Fleet as Assistant Chief of Staff for Communications.

   Captain Sparger commanded the U. S. Naval Communication Station, Japan, from June 1965 until September 1967.

Captain Sparger has the Navy Unit Commendation, American Campaign Medal. Asiatic-,Pacific Campaign Medal with four bronze stars, Victory Medal for World II, Navy Occupation Service Medal, China Service Medal, National Defense Medal, Korean Service Medal with bronze star, United Nations Service Medal, and Korean Presidential Unit Citation.

   He is married, has two sons, and lives in Chula Vista California.

   I certainly wish all of you could be waiting on the pier at the
U. S. Naval Station when we arrive in San Diego. The USS SEMINOLE (AKA-104) our host ship, can be contacted for information concerning our exact time of arrival.

   For those of you who can't be there, I know you await the coming holiday leave season for a joyous reunion with your Skagit loved ones.

   I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

W. A. Mackey
Captain U. S. Navy
Commanding Officer