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while serving in the Gator Navy. Please consider emailing your story
so it can be added here too!
Sometime around 0800 on the 8th. Of May 1961 prior to crossing the Equator several of us were down in the Electricians Shop where us snipes would get our hair cut. Aubrey Jennings cut mine and I cut his, the picture is of me on the fantail with what could have ended with a Captains Mast had it been any other day but being this was the day we were crossing the Equator this haircut fit right in since haircuts were part of the initiation. I don't know if there is a picture of Aubrey with his haircut anywhere but I can vouch for the fact that his was similar to mine.
En3 No. 2 ER.
Tim Cook remembers: I arrived as a ICFN in 1962, and left as a IC2 in 1964. Besides once being sent around the ship looking for the bow door keys and another time for a bucket of water tight integrity, there are three stories that come to mind I'd like to share.
(1) During the med cruise just after I came aboard, we were in a Turkish port and a man was cruising around behind us in a Kayak. He seemed to have a great style moving it along, when I noticed a marine climbing down the rear anchor motioning the man over to the ship. They talked a few minutes and the marine rushed away returning with three cartons of cigarettes, the man took the cartons, climbed out of the kayak and swam to shore holding the cigarettes over his head as the marine lifted the kayak aboard our ship.
(2) After returning from the med cruise in 1962, many of the crew took leave, while I just had the day off. I took a bus into downtown buying supplies I needed for the CIE course. On my way back to the ship, I just happened to sit next to the supply officer from our ship who told me to run ahead of him before he reached the ship, because he had new orders to cancel all leave and liberty. I ran ahead and passed him as he began going up the gangplank. Everyone left on board had to unload many semi-trucks yet to arrive because as it turns out, we were leaving the next morning for another extended cruise, which was the Cuban blockade. When I left the base that day, I made it a point to stop in a few bars on the strip to tell the crew members I found that it may be wise to stay out until morning, so many of us arrived back at the ship the next day at 0730 just before it got underway less many crew members who had taken leave. Thank You Sir for the heads up.
(2A) I thought I'd add a secret here. Sometime during the bloackade our ship went into the Cuban naval base for mail and movies. The Mail PO and myself drove the ships jeep and were told not to do anything else, but after dropping off the mailman, I stopped at the base small store and bought a new pair of shoes which I badly needed. I put each shoe in two of the 16MM film boxes, then later that day I went to the port side movie locker and retrieved my new shoes without anyone ever knowing.
(3) While removing tiles from the deck using a strong chemical, three of us were overcome by flumes and were found unconscious, as we were carried out on the main deck, the duty master-at-arms put us all on report for not having our hats on while outside. The charges were dropped once the Captain became aware of our plight.
Tim Cook IC2
My name is Walter R. Lockhart (email@example.com). I was assigned to the 2nd Amphibious Construction Battalion out of Little Creek, VA and was deployed, with our causeway team, aboard the USS York County. I was a Seaman/BM3 and was on the York County in 1967. I believe we were deployed from Feb until July or August in 1967. Have any other Phib CB2 sailors been heard from? Of course we were not on board when the Marines went into the jungle to train on Vieques Island, PR. We were on the beach guarding our causeways, in case someone attempted to steal them.
Richard Sinclair IC3 1961 (firstname.lastname@example.org) Writes:
I was part of a group of ten who were sent TDY from the precommissioning crew of the Kitty Hawk to actual sea duty on the York County. As I was an IC3 – without any practical experience or sea duty, I was promptly promoted from E Div to Mess Deck MA. I quickly realized that if I helped with the morning set-up that we could all sleep another fifteen minutes in the morning. One of my self-appointed chores was making the morning coffee. Once the Marines were on board the senior non-coms would show up early with their canteen cups looking for coffee. I learned that my standard brew was far too weak for their taste. One morning I had an inspiration. The cooks had a cauldron of water at a rolling boil. “I’ll teach those Marines” thought I as I loaded the coffee pot with triple the normal amount of coffee. Not to take a chance on weak coffee, I ran the water/coffee back through the grounds several times. Yes – this coffee had both aroma and body! The Marines arrived and filled their canteen cups. Sitting back, I waited for the response. Suddenly a very large Marine and my most severe critic turned to me and said, “I don’t know what you did son, but today you made damn good coffee. Keep it up!”
The rest of the story: Once the pot was down about 50% I again topped it off with fresh hot water. Down 50% again and once again I topped it off with more water. All morning long I was complimented on my coffee. As long as I was on board that was the drill for morning coffee.
A P.S. about the Marines on board. Without the Marines the food on the York County was terrible. We would sneak aboard the Suffolk Co or eat K rations to avoid the York Co food – that is, until the Marines came on board. Somehow those Marine cooks worked magic – the same basic ingredients became delicious.
Joe Sharland QM3 writes: Back in 1960 – 1962 we used to hang out at Jack’s Time Square Oceanview. I do remember some of the “snipes” would hang out there also. There used to be an ongoing pool tournament in Jack’s all the time. If you wanted to challenge the table you had to put your name in at the bar when you got there, otherwise you were shit out of luck. I did frequent the Purple Onion and Jolly Roger mostly as I made my way down towards Jack’s. Don’t recall any other joints I would frequent past them. Mostly caught the bus to Oceanview where I’d bide my time until “Last Call”. Maybe went to the Peppermint Lounge once or twice but that was for “sissys’ mostly. Now I’ll probably get a bunch of e-mail from the snipes who hung there. Oh, what the hell, I’m wearing glasses now.
Tim Cook here... I often made my way to "Wards Corner" via the bus to go skating at the roller rink. I also visited the first 24-7 open air market there too!
Michael Macchiorola FTG3 writes:
I served on the York County for six months in second half of 1967. One day we were on evening duty on the Rescue and Assistance Team at Little Creek piers. We were sitting around the mess hall and we heard aweigh the Rescue and Assistance Detail. We started to stir slowly thinking it was a drill. The next words we heard were "This is not a drill". We bolted to the hatch and got stuck in our haste to get out, (looked like a comedy act) we were told there was a man overboard. We ran to the front of the pier and the truck ramp was icy. The guy was tipsy back from evening leave and he slid down the ramp into the water. We had all to do to not slide in ourselves. We finally secured a rope, had to lay down on the icy ramp and about 5 of us dragged him out of the drink on our hands and knees. He was none the worse for wear and ok. Feeling bad at the time when he was saying get me out of here I am freezing.
Then Joseph Fox writes: That story was very close to home because, I was the person Michael was talking about. I remember walking back from the club with some shipmates when my left foot stepped on the edge of the icy ramp. I slid down the ramp into the icy cold water. I know it was in cold weather because I was wearing my peacoat. I was able to swim over to the pier and put my arms around the pillar and hang on until rescue personnel were able to help me. There was a drop of 5 or 6 feet from the edge of the ramp to the water line making it very difficult for me to climb back up onto the ramp. Fortunately me for me the rescue team was able to put down ropes and a fire hose and had to lift me up from the water and pull me back up the ramp. I remember being taken to the engine room to warm up. CO Deal was not on the ship at the time but talked to me the next day and wanted to know if the XO gave me any sherry to warm up. I told him no and he said they kept it on board in his cabin for such purposes. My wonderful wife of 40 years is thankful that when the call came in the announcement said "THIS IS NOT A DRILL". I am very thankful to all of my shipmates and the rescue team from the USS York County for saving my life almost 45 years ago. God Bless All of You!!
You spend so much time with drills but it sure helped in that situation.
Another quick story we were tied up in Bermuda on the same pier as the USS Scorpion SSN-589 around 6 months before she disappeared in the North Atlantic. I remember we were a little jealous because they had revele about a half hour later then we did. It really hit home when we fount out it sunk. USS Scorpion Info
Proud to have served on the York County!!!
Ken Robinson here. I remember another "fire" story on board ship.
When I was in A-Gang and still an FA, Bob Hollis and myself were sent to the AC-steam cleaning space, just off the main deck, in board on the Port side under the 3"50 gun mount to clean the air conditioning filters.
We were under way and heading to the Caribbean again. The filters were from Officers country and there were 10 filters made of aluminum and were about 2`x4`plus 4" thick and really dirty. We had done the job before so we knew how much time it took to get the job done. Well, we sand bagged (aka loafing) as long as we could in the room because it was cold out side. The room was filled with steam to clean the filters and when we opened the door, the hot steam hit the outside cold air and it billowed up like something was on fire on the main deck.
We were not aware of what it looked like so we just kept working, then someone on the bridge saw it and sounded on the 1MC "FIRE, FIRE, this is not a drill, fire on the Port side forward, main deck, all hands man your stations".
Inside the space there isn't any 1MC, so we had no idea anything was going on, UNTIL... Until we walked out side with the clean filters under arm and was met with the fire party with OBA`s and fire hoses. They yelled "Is there anybody else in there?", Ofcourse we said no, why? They said the place was on fire and they were going to put it out. I believe it was Chief Cain DCC who took charge and wanted an explaination. We gave him one real quick and everthing went back to normal.
Later on, someone wanted to write Hollis and I up for not being on our "FIRE " station as per the Watch/Quarter/Station bill. Oh the memories....
Tim Cook IC3 (your WEB PO) writes:
Tonight while watching “You Tube”, I searched for Mashed Potato Time and found a video showing Dee Dee Sharp which reminded me of a time when I was in ships entertainment, and played that song just one too many times, because Roger Rowley IC3, jerked the door open, dashed in, opened the juke box lid, ejected the record and breaking it on his knee.
At the time it was one of my favorite songs. If you have a song from your past you’d like to hear, and you have a high speed internet connection or willing to go to your local library, I recommend you going to “You Tube”, typing in the title or the artist, and most likely you can relive those times again. Here’s a link for Mashed Potato Time on You Tube.com. Roger, this ones for you... :)
Hello. I am George H. Morton, Retired Communication Technician First Class who served aboard the "York" from April till September 1961 while on a cruise to Africa. There were 11 other CTs with us and our LT, the Officer-in-charge. We were TAD aboard the York County.
None of us were very happy when we found out that our 30 day cruise on a DE was going to be 6 months aboard the York. However, we learned to live with it and actually by the end of the cruise, it was all fun coming back to Little Creek via Trinidad.
We had many things happen to us aboard the York. One thing in particular to me was one of our GQs on the way over to Africa.
When the whole ship went to GQ. the Captain, LCDR Berry decided not to insult us and said the only part of the GQ we had to pay attention to was if the "Abandon Ship" drill came during the GQ.
During the drills, part of us were in the "shack" and the others were in our compartment area until the GQ was over. Well, it happened on this GQ--"Abandon Ship, Abandon Ship." Those of us in the quarters took off for the Starboard Bow area and those of us in the "shack" did the samething.
We were all at our "Abandon Ship" station when Commander Berry came on the 1MC and told the whole ship, "All you Communication Technicians at the bow area of the Starboard Side of this ship, should know that IT WAS BLOWN AWAY A HALF-HOUR AGO." and there was a loud click of the 1MC as it was switched off.
We all returned with a better idea of what he said about paying attention to what was happening during a GQ. That was the one main thing I remember about the cruise. There were other things but they didn't make us look that stupid.
George H. Morton, CTR1 (RET) (Kn2gsjghm@aol.com)
Tim Cook writes:
I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the dry cereal bugs. You could always tell the new crew members when they were trying to pick them out of the milk. Then after awhile, we all realized it was impossible to get them all, and you just ate the cereal and didn’t worry about the bugs. If I remember right, the small cereal boxes dated back to the 40's.
As the duty IC, I managed ships entertainment audio sent to speaker boxes around the ship. What many crew didn’t know was a girl I had met at the Wards Corner skating rink, was sent with her father to London and she often sent me the latest 45's that were popular in London and hadn’t even reached the US radio stations yet. So in 1964 we were playing records from the Beatles, Animals and more before the US radio stations were playing the music.
Ken ( Robbie) Robinson FN Remembers:
It seems I remember a time when were in the Med and tied up 2 or 3 ships abreast, (we were on the out board side) with big rubber and big rope fenders between us. It was during the late afternoon /evening and the "General Quarters/ Collision alarm went off almost at the same time, and then "Fire, Fire, Fire on the starboard side, all hands man your stations." The only problem was you couldnt tell who`s 1MC it was coming from. The ship to the left or right. Talk about a Chineese fire drill. It seems a "Marine "coming back from liberty had flicked a cigarette over what he thought was the side but it rested in a rope fender and started smoking real good. By the time it was over all of the ships had their respective fire crews looking for any thing to douse. Does anyone else remember that? Ken
ENS Bill Price Writes:
Holy smokes! Memories of the gas pump room flooding. We were on Operation Steelpike (the largest amphibious undertaking since the Normandy invasion) in the fall of 1964. We were either in Spain or Portugal (Spain, I think) for liberty when someone neglected to open the discharge on the eductor in the pump room. During the night it flooded to chest deep. The stench of fumes from gasoline was near-overwhelming in the space. First Class Shipfitter Rapp headed down into the space. I followed him but could get no further than the bottom of the ladder since my eyes were burning so badly from the fumes. Rapp waded across the full width of the room, opened the valve, and in a matter of hours the space was back to normal. I took him out to a local establishment for drinks on me that evening in thanks. Glad that's over with!
ENS Bill Price (MPA the DCA on the York, Dec. 1963-March 1965)
Lorie F. Allen, former FT2G aboard from 1958 to 61 writes:
After completion of the degaussing tests, it was upon the ship’s return to Little Creek that the ship suffered a fire onboard of some significance. I remember that I had the duty “Midwatch ” to provide the all-important “Dumpster” watch on the pier that night. At about 0200 hours that morning, from the location of the Dumpster, I noted that a large amount of smoke appeared to be blow in the wind down the port side of the ship. I must admit that I left the duty station at the Dumpster, carrying the unloaded Carbine Rifle, and took off to make an observation along the port side of the ship. As I arrived, I noted heavy smoke forward, only on the port side, and the hull paint along the ship’s side was beginning to blacken and blister several deck above the Forward Magazine of the ship. That was enough for me, and I again took off, running down the pier, a distance of 120-yards or so, toward the Quarterdeck shouting “Fire, Fire in the forward Boatswains Locker!”
Read his complete story here.
Mike Blackwell a Seaman to Postal Clerk aboard from 1962 to 65 writes:
We had the Marines aboard. Lots and lots of them. And there was not too much love for them. They just lounged around the decks all day long, doing nothing. Always in the way in sweeping and swabbing down the decks. We had these big air vents on both sides of the ship, with a small area between them and the walls. So someone could squeeze in where its cool and lay down. Get the picture. Several times I noticed while on watch far above, I would see someone crawl in. I mentioned this to someone a couple of times with this great idea. So one day I took action. With a bucket of dirty swab water, I went up a few decks, one above where RM1 McLaughlin was relaxing outside the Comm Area, and dumped the whole thing over the side on the Marine, who was sleeping below. Imagine a couple of gallons of water coming down on you from two decks above while you are sound asleep. I disappeared immediately, because that marine came out of his slumber in a flash. The first person he met, guess who, RM1 Mclaughlin, who did not see me dump the water, and the Marine jumped all over him, then on to the bridge to cuss out everyone else too. (I never heard anything more about that incident to this day.) I tell the story to my family and a couple of people, and they just roll on the floor with laughter. I do not know whatever happened to that poor Marine, but if he reads this e-mail, I apologize to him. It was a stupid thing to do. By the way, my oldest son is a US Marine and has served in IRAQ.
Read his complete story and the crew he remembers here.
Jake Ham YN3 served on the York from November '69 through November '71 his comments are ©
The tank deck on a Landing Ship Tank (LST) looks very much like a giant saltine cracker box; long, square and just as grey. Full of Landing Vehicle Tanks (LVTs). These camo-green tracked beasties were used to hall Marines ashore. (Once, when a "not a drill" fire alarm sounded on the tank deck, I chanced to look out the passageway porthole and witnessed Marines literally popping out of the top-hatch on an LVT, like human pop corn kernels, with flames right behind them. Four were severely burned and one would later die. Very tragic.) Plenty of pale-white overhead lighting on the tank deck. Not unexpectedly, the overhead hatch had some serious drip streams going on. The usual standing water around the bow doors was only a few inches deeper than normal, no reason to sound an alarm. (Besides, everyone knew we were missing the port side bow door mud flap… toothless grin.) The bow ramp swimming pool area sloshes around in any kind of sea, let alone a storm. Yep, many an unwary or careless swabbie got a work-boot full of water, surprise! Move on.
Read his complete extra long ©story here.
Gary E. Williams Writes:
I remember while tied up in San Juan P. R. , the USS Kirwin was tied up outboard of us. The Kirwin was an APD, or fast attack transport ship of WW vintage. , converted from a destroyer. The movie " The private war of Sgt. O'Hara was being filmed on board the Kirwin. The crew spent many happy moments watching Jeff Hunter, Bob Hope, Phyllis Diller, and last but not least Gina Lolabrigda relaxing and chatting with the crew of the York County.
We also had a HM3, I don't remember his name who cleaned up playing blackjack at the San Juan Hilton, to the tune of about 20 thousand if I remember right. This was my first ship after coming back into the Navy in 1970. I was really sorry to see her leave the active rolls, as she was one hell of a girl.
Fair Winds and Following Seas
SMC(ret) Gary E. Williams. Cicero NY (Curbline@aol.com)
Fred Mersch writes: I was on the York County from 1963 to 1965. and surprised that no one has mentioned the night that a destroyer ran into the York County tearing off the causeways, and putting holes in the side of the ship. You could see the ocean from the engineering berth and the ship was listing to port really bad, then the chemical alarm went off, someone hit the wrong alarm by mistake. We thought we hit a nuke sub and we were in the engine room for about an hour before we knew what had happened. We all thought we were sinking. I do remember most everyone reported to their duty stations in underwear. Scary Night!
Fred Mersch EN2
I found another version of the Collision written by Wayne E. Smith-SN who served on the ship between 5/65-1/68. His story is much more detailed than Fred's, and was added it to the end of this page.
We'd like to post some images of the York County damage.
This collision story is told from the perspective of a SN, on bridge watch aboard USS YORK COUNTY-LST 1175 on the morning of Dec 6, 1966. (A very dark, moonless night!)
The York was steaming off FL on a northerly course, in a convoy of approximately 30 ships. The convoy was at ENCOM conditions. (No running lights, radio or, radar.) We were steaming in a position on the starboard, outboard line of ships in convoy. At approximately 03:00 hrs, our aft lookout reported running lights crossing from starboard to port aft of the convoy. The running lights then turned and, steamed thru the convoy from the rear to a position, about two miles ahead of the York. These lights then turned to starboard and, steamed out of the convoy. Then disappeared. I was manning the 1-J.V. as bridge phone talker on the midwatch. The JOOD had the conn and, the OOD had stepped into CIC. A few minutes later, the starboard lookout reported that he had a contact: Bearing 010, Range 100yards! As I relayed the message to the JOOD, the OOD stepped onto the bridge. The JOOD, ordered "left full rudder, all back emergency". The OOD (Lt. Biedenbach) assumed the conn and ordered "delay that! Left full rudder, all ahead flank". Then all hell broke loose! The POW (Anougher SN.), sounded G.Q. Collision N.B.C. alarms all at once. Sleepy sailors wondered if we were under attack or, had been nuked as they stumbled out of their racks. A "T" turns quick, especially under those conditions, but not quick enough. I remember hearing a loud "crunch" and, seeing very large sparks floating up from our starboard side forward. I also, remember thinking, what would I taste like (Roasted.) to a shark? The York carried approximately 250,000 gals of various fuels for the embarked Marines. The fuel risers were located very close to where we were hit! As I ran down from the bridge and forward along the main deck, something was askew that I could not identify. When I reached my G.Q. station on gun mount 31 and, placed the phones on. I realized what was askew. The York was missing two causeways, our gangway and garbage chute off our starboard side. As we sat DIW at a relaxed G.Q., we wondered who had hit us? We thought it was a destroyer from her actions prior to the collision. Reports came in that the damage to our York was minimal. A small hole, above the waterline and, no injuries. Then after sunrise, we noticed the USS PERRY-DD844, laying a few hundred yards off our starboard side, with her "new accordion bow". She did not look good! Had we not heard earlier, we would have thought she now carried causalities. Luckily, the Perry had seen us in time to start turning to port and we had started turning to port. Also, that we were carrying the causeways. We later learned, she was steaming at 12 knot's when she struck. Had she struck us straight on (Bow to side) without our causeways in place, her bow would have probably stopped in our tank deck. Our fuel tanks would have ruptured and, both ships could have been involved in a massive fire.
The last time I saw the Perry, she was attempting to make steerage in reverse. I understand a fleet tug towed her into Roosevelt Roads for repairs? We spent the rest of the day sinking the damaged causeways. We then proceeded to Key West for reasons unbeknownst to a lowly SN and then on to Little Creek for Christmas leaves.
To the crew of the Perry: I am forever glad you were luckily sustained no causalities from our unintentional meeting. Thank you Poseidon!
Wayne E. Smith-SN, USN 2/64-1/68 USS York County-LST 1175, 5/65-1/68 current email address needed
John Vance recalls an incident that happened during a Med cruise. We had a couple of hundred cases of beer on board that were given to the crew at beach parties. I remember that we had two of them during our cruise. One of them was I believe in Sicily. After quite a bit of the beer had been consumed some of the guys decided that everyone should be thrown in to the Ocean. They were grabbing guys and dragging them to the water and throwing them in. I didnt want to be thrown in so when they started for me I ran off through the trees. We were in some kind of a park and there were people all around. As I was running I saw some people at a picnic table and I saw a girl with a sweat shirt on that said "West Virginia University" on it. I'm from Charleston, West Virginia, so I ran straight to those people. I asked them if they were from West Virginia and they all said yes. They had transferred there from the South Charleston, West Virginia plant of Union Carbide for a temporary assignment. I said "my Dad works at the south Charleston plant". One man spoke up and said "I bet I can tell you who your Dad is". He said "is your dad Cecil Vance"? I said yes and how would you know? He said that I looked just like my dad and he knew him well. Then I brought a bunch of the crew over and we traded our beer for the German beer they had and we had a good time with them. During our party with them someone mentioned that they sure missed American cigarettes and wanted to know if we could get them some. I talked to the guy that ran the ship`s store. He was from Clendenin, WV about 10 miles north of Charleston. He said they should come to the ship the next day for a visit and he would fix them up. He suggested that the women bring oversized bags or something they could hide the cigarettes in so they could get them off the ship. So, a bunch of them came the next day and took a tour of the ship and they got their cigarettes. One dollar a carton. We pulled out the next day. It was nice to see someone from home that far away from home.
John F, Vance RM2
This story is about the time we lost the Captains Gig at Morehead City, North Carolina. I'm sure you all remember that a Captains Gig is like a big Yacht. We went to Morehead City to pick up the Marines for a cruise. We were anchored out and none of the crew was allowed to go on liberty but the Captain (Mr. Berry) was going ashore for the night and told the Deckhands to lower his Gig. The Gig was hooked to a couple of booms with a cable hooked to each end of the Gig. As the deckhands swung the Gig out over the side one of the cables broke. The Gig dropped and swung back and forth being held by only one cable. Then that cable broke and the Gig hit the water bow first and sunk immediately out of sight. I think the whole crew must have been on deck watching and when the Gig went out of sight everyone cheered. I thought the Captain was going to go crazy. He screamed at averyone to shut up and get back to their jobs. He had a couple of boats lowered to search for the Gig. They motored around for a couple of hours but the Gig was never seen again. The Captain spent the rest of the day composing a message to the Bureau of Ships explaining how he lost the Gig. I was a Radioman and I sent the message out that night. Berry was a Lt. Commander and the rumor was that because of that incident he was done as far as promotions but if I remember right, he was promoted to Commander shortly after and transferred.
John Vance RM2
While serving in the Marine corp. at Camp Lejuene N.C., I also served on the York County 1175 from June 1969 till Dec 19 1969, for a med cruise and had a good time. I met a lot of good people and remember the ship wasn't too sturdy in rough water. As I remember, it had a flat bottom it rolled from side to side. When I wasn't cleaning my weapons, I was the salad man in the galley, cpl Belmont was the chief cook. I also remember when we were near the island of Crete and after a storm the ship had washed close to the beach, and one morning when we were in Brandihi Spain, I was up on deck when one of the Boilers Blew. When we came back to the U.S., the ship seemed to cruise much slower than when we left. I can also remember shooting Skeet off the Stern, but there was other good times during the six months I spent on her, and was a good experience, one I will never forget. Thanks for letting me put this down about the USS YORK COUNTY 1175.
Semper Fi Jerry Dudgeon. God Bless
I was part of the kayak coming aboard York in turkey. As you know, a Marine by the name of Dave Blaisdell from Fitchburg, MA traded three carton's of Pall Mall for it. As we watched the Turkish gentleman gliding along the area where the York was anchored, Dave motioned him over to the ship and asked him what he wanted for the kayak. He told Dave he wanted Pall Mall cigarettes, Dave went below and came back with the 3 cartons of cigarettes, climbed down stern anchor ladder and made switch. After the deal was made, we hosted it up on the fantail and walked it down main deck, and stored it above the anchor chain tied to the bulkhead. Dave hung around with the forward deck crew while on board because the Marine sleeping area was so crowded.
Updating the story about losing the captain’s gig. I was the bowhook on this mission. We were sent into Morehead City to pick up mail, it was very rough water and the harbor master advised us not to try and go back to the York. We radioed the York and Capt Berry ordered us back anyway. As we were returning, we would lose site of the York in the swells, when we got to the York, we proceeded to hook the hooks and were hoisted to the rail where we got the mail off. While swinging out to raise the gig, it started swinging. The front hook let go and the captains gig went in the water bow first, it came back up, but lost the canopy. Capt Berry was yelling to get the other boats on the port side in the water, we tried but there was no power to after davit.. The next day two boats drove around with grappling hooks trying to find it, it was later recovered. We got new one shortly afterwards.
I had the easiest watch qtr station on the ship, I just reported to the bridge where I was the captains messenger/telephone talker.
Here’s another one for you... While on the helm going through the straits of Gibraltar, Captain Berry was sitting in his chair on the port side getting some sun, when he suddenly yelled at someone to relieve me from the helm and ordered me to port side lookout. He then asked me to look at the wake I was creating, I replied looks straight to me sir. He then handed me his binoculars and replied, now look. I looked and couldn’t believe my eyes, I had run over a buoy that probably broke loose. I could never live that one down.
Fredas Cook from The USS Grant County sends this story to share.
I was born and raised in Northeast Oklahoma. We have plenty of streams, two rivers, and a lake. The clearest water in any of those has a visibility of about six feet. You can imagine my shock and amazement when we anchored in eighty five feet of water off Vieques and I could see the bottom!! Most people around here think I'm pulling their leg when I tell them that story. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't been there several times. As it is, that was forty years ago, and I'm not sure of it myself any more.
Anyway, we were down there putting the Marines ashore so they could play war when we backed over our stern anchor cable. All attempts to clear it were unsuccessful, so divers were called. When the divers went down and freed the anchor cable, they returned asking if we were aware of the six foot by two foot gash in the hull. Of course we weren't, so arrangements were made for repairs. We would go into dry-dock in San Juan, P.I. It's always an interesting journey into the docks at S.J., but this one took the cake. As we rounded the last bend, we could see the dry dock about a quarter mile ahead. On our left was a quay with small boats tied two and three deep against the pier. Either the pilot gave a wrong order, or the wind caught us, but we veered left and mashed the hell out of a bunch of those wooden boats. Being on the signal bridge, I had the perfect vantage point. It was a god-awful sound, all that wood breaking. That's how we ended up spending the summer in San Juan.
It was decided that the gash must have occurred when we were playing ferry for the Marines at Parris Island. We would take on cargo from ships in the bay, and ferry it upriver past Camp Lejune and put it ashore. We ran a little late one day, and couldn't get off the river bank. After spending the night aground, the next morning, with a rising tide, we, with the help of lots of small craft, got unstuck. But, in the effort, we backed too far, hitting the bottom with the stern. Can you say "Chinese Fire Drill? It was hilarious.
Please, your York County story could be here....
Glade “Witt” Wittwer, LCpl, fire-team leader, USMC I was aboard the York County during Operation Steel Pike. Here are some of my memories of that exercise, aboard and ashore:
1. On the way to Spain, at least one sparrow accompanied the ship. To get to the galley, the Marines had to queue up near the stern of the York County. Sometimes the sparrow would land on one of our shoulders or a “utility” cover. It seemed to be completely comfortable with our presence. As long as no one made any sudden or unexpected moves, the sparrow stayed among us.
2. Most of us Marines were inveterate coffee drinkers. It was aboard the LST that I decided to try hot tea one chow session and found that I enjoyed it quite a lot. Unlike java, I enjoyed tea unsweetened. It tasted better than our C-Ration coffee and was easier to brew. Before landing for our week of exercises ashore, I got about two dozen tea bags from the galley and put them in my pack. By the time we were back aboard I had brewed up and savored every one of them.
3. We Marines and the CBs (SeaBees) had compartments on the port side of the ship. It was relatively comfortable in them as we headed westward, but coming home they were unbearably hot. We heard that the officers had complained about the air-conditioning being too cold, and so it was shut down. As a result, I and some of my buddies tried sleeping out on the starboard weather deck near the stern one night. Steel decks are cold and are hard on your heels, buttocks and back. Using a helmet worn as a “pillow” is exceedingly uncomfortable. We gave up on that plan and scouted for an alternative site. I suggested trying to find space under the canvas of one of the trucks dogged down on the main deck, but JC Kramer and MR Ramsey came back to me and said we should take our sleeping bags into the Captain’s Gig, where they said they saw padded mats on its deck. We didn’t ask anyone if it would be OK; we just did it, waiting until after dark so that we would minimize chances of being seen. The mats, along with the padding of the sleeping bags, provided a warm, splendid place to “rack out.” If we needed to whiz during the night, we stood on the starboard gunwale of the gig and pissed into the ocean, holding onto a davit cable for support. It was exhilarating, just sky and ocean between us and eternity, there in the cold air. We slept in the gig every night until we arrived in Morehead City.
4. After liberty in El Ferrol, Spain, and Porto (also spelled “Oporto”), Portugal, on the way back to the states, someone, most likely a Marine, got “curiouser” than he should have. We had noticed at least one large open metal slatted “bin” on the aft starboard side deck, near the Captain’s Gig. The bin had a large lever on one side, probably about 5 feet long. I had long wondered what the bin/lever was for, but wisely decided to leave it be. One day the captain came on the “tannoy.” He sounded unhappy. He said that someone had released a multi-man life raft into the ocean during the night, and that it went unnoticed, and that the raft was consequently lost. He noted that if the ship were to encounter a situation in which we needed to abandon ship, lives might be at stake. That’s how I learned what was in the bin.
5. One poster on this site has noted that he didn’t like having Marines aboard because they just loafed around and got in the way. We didn’t much enjoy the “loafing.” As soon as reveille sounded we were a-deck, dressed, and out in line for morning chow. Afterward, our compartments and heads were secured for “sweep-down” and cleaning, so we didn’t have access to them. We were told to keep the passageways clear, so we couldn’t loiter there unless there was an out-of-the-way secured hatch cover to perch on. Those hatch covers were only big enough to hold 3 or 4 Marines, which meant we went up on deck. With all the trucks and AMTRACs aboard, there wasn’t deck space enough to hold classes or to exercise. Often, we realized we WERE in the way, but there was little we could do about it. On the way to Spain, our compartments were cramped but comfortable and we willing returned to them after morning chow and clean-up were over. On the way stateside those spaces were hot in addition to being crowded, and only guards (the “firewatch”) and one or two Salamanders—the mythological creatures who live in fire—could bear the discomfort.
6. I don’t know if the Swabs were affected or not, but on the way back, many of the Jarheads and SeaBees came down with “24-hour gastro-intestinal virus,” very likely food poisoning (does anyone remember the “Phantom Shitter” who used to crap on the mess deck?). We had alternating spells of freezing or intense fever (AKA “ague”), nausea, and diarrhea. We were quarantined in a portside compartment that had been cleared for the purpose. I was at first freezing cold, and no matter how many blankets were piled on me, I couldn’t get warm again. Suddenly the fever would be upon me and I’d throw off all the blankets and soak the pillow and mattress with sweat until the chills returned. The diarrhea would come suddenly upon us, and when that happened, we dizzily climbed the ladder toward the head, literally holding our sphincters closed with our hands lest we foul ourselves. The head had a plugged drain and the deck was awash in foul grey sloshing water right up to the coaming. There were 4 crappers, with a patient but suffering line in front of each one. I’ll not dwell on the rest of that grossness, but the experience is unforgettable. There was more that made our experience seem like Hell: Along the hull outside of this compartment, the hollow causeways were lashed. Whenever a wave slapped the bottom of one, a loud, hollow BOOM sounded. On the other side was the tank deck. Spare chains that hadn’t been used to dog down the ‘TRACs were hung on the bulkheads, and they gave loud clanking and hammering noises. I’ll tell ya, Dear Hearts, I was GLAD to get well again and out of there.
7. Ashore. We landed in AMTRACs (Amphibious Tractors, AKA LVTs, Landing Vehicle, Tracked). We landed on the Spanish coast among some “cabanas” and Spanish civilians had come out of them to watch the assault. We’d had no rehearsals or briefings before the landing—unusual—so we expected a clear beach; the “obstacles” surprised us. About 70 yards behind the cabanas were bluffs roughly 80 feet high. I raced MR Ramsey to the top of the closest bluff and barely beat him there. Both of us were exhausted, and I had dry heaves. Two weeks of fattening up on the 1175 and no exercise had taken the edge off of us. We set in a “hasty defense” and waited for the rest of our platoon to arrive, then were fallen in with G Co (G Co, 2nd Bn, 2Nd Marines, 2nd MarDiv, FMF Lant, “SECOND TO NONE”). Then began a week of marching and bivouacking in the sandy, thorny Spanish countryside. Although Steel Pike was supposed to be a joint Spanish-US Marine exercise, we never saw any Spanish Marines. We did see some horse-mounted “Guardia,” impressive, tough-looking guys with smart green uniforms and leather “covers” with the brim turned up on one side. I never saw any of ‘em smile. The terrain was sandy and there were no paved roads, so it made for tough marching. In addition to sand-slippage underfoot, we created a lot of dust to breathe. Off-road, there were thorn bushes everywhere. By the time our week ashore was up, we were thoroughly punctured and scratched. Our packs were heavier than usual because instead of blankets in the blanket-rolls we had sleeping bags, which were bulkier and weightier; it was hard to get the blanket-roll straps around the bulk when we re-rolled them after a night on the ground.
8. The weather. During the day it got up into the mid-70’s, perhaps into the 80’s, and there were swarms of annoying flies about. The landscape was spectacularly beautiful, and so was the weather: clear blue skies, magnificent, scattered white stratus clouds, low humidity, and most of the time, a breeze. At night it got so cold that frost formed on the ground and on our sleeping bags. I ignorantly thought the freeze would kill all the flies or at least inhibit them, but as soon as the day warmed they were out harassing us. We didn’t have any rain for the entire week. The first night ashore it got cold as soon as the sun set. We posted guards and the rest of us were told to remove our sleeping bags from our packs and get some sleep. PFCs Shiebel and Legg didn’t want to do that because it was so hard to re-roll the sleeping bag into the shelter-half and then get the blanket-roll straps around it. Each Marine carried a poncho in his pack, so their plan was to spread one on the ground and sleep together on it, using the other one for a cover, using mutual body-heat to stay warm. There were salacious comments proposing other ways to stay warm between the ponchos. Anyway, we were awakened about 0300 by curses, the crackling of a stiff poncho being cast aside, and rapid thudding noises. It was both Legg and Shiebel racing around the bivouac area. They were stamping and flapping their arms, trying to get warm. There was frost all over the ground and our sleeping bags. The following night, they slept in sleeping bags like the rest of us.
My problem with sleeping bags is that I’m a restless sleeper. In a properly-designed sleeping bag, only a portion of your face is exposed to the cold air. But a sleeping bag is like a bellows, and sometime during the night I’d invariably flex my knees, creating suction in the bag. This caused the cold air to come rushing in past my face and pulling what felt like a whole country-side of freezing air into the bag with me. With my teeth chattering, I’d lie still and gradually become warm enough to fall asleep again. I’d usually go through this cycle three times during a night. The ground, being sand, was comfortable to sleep on.
Because we were supposed to be “tactical” during the operation, neither cigarettes nor fires were permitted after dark. On the third night we got so cold before being allowed to sack out that four of us got together and dug a hole two feet deep with our E-tools. We got some twigs and shredded cardboard from C-Ration boxes and made a pathetic, tiny fire in the bottom of the hole. We imagined that it was hot enough to warm our hands, but I think that was only an illusion. In any case, it wasn’t long before a sergeant bellowed, “Put that Goddamn’ fire OUT!” We wondered how he knew about it, since the fire was miniscule and below the line-of-sight, but finally figured it out: We had dug the hole and built our fire under a tree, and the light from the fire was illuminating the underside of the tree’s branches.
9. Early in the exercise, perhaps on the second day, we saw a cloud of black smoke beyond a tree line about 2 miles away. We speculated idly on the cause, thinking a fire had been deliberately set, but soon were told that two helicopters had collided in an LZ, killing 18 marines. The next day we set off on a fairly long march, having been told we were going to an LZ to be heli-lifted to another location. Some of my buddies were apprehensive and said they didn’t want to go on any helicopters. My take was, “Two pilots made a mistake yesterday and the ones who made it are dead, so we won’t be flying with them. The other pilots are probably going to be VERY careful with how they handle their birds. No sweat.” We got to the LZ and waited there about an hour. A flight of Sikorskys soon arrived and landed. We stayed put, and about 15 minutes later they all took off again. Then we marched back to our starting point, my buddies bitching all the way. They would rather have flown than walked, after all. I think the whole point of this affair was that we had made a “simulated” air-lift. The brass didn’t want to kill any more of us so soon after the first calamity.
10. The Spanish countryside we moved through was amazingly clean: No trash or other litter, not even dead branches or twigs. If we wanted to build fires we had to take branches off the thorn bushes. I saw civilians only once, and they were peasants, dressed all in white. The women wore scarves over their heads, and the men all had sombreros. They were clustered by the white adobe wall of equally white adobe houses sporting orange tile roofs. They silently watched us slog by.
I think they kept the area well policed and were also involved in a re-forestation project. Part of our march-route lead through a mature growth of straight-trunked trees lacking any branches until about 10 feet up. There was no secondary growth under them. They seemed randomly spaced, but all of a sudden you’d come to a spot where all the trunks lined up exactly, in any direction you looked. A pace or two more, and the trunks were all random again. It was an eerie sensation.
I think it was on the third day when Cpl O’Steen came and asked to borrow my gloves. All of my buddies had USMC-issued dress gloves which also served as field gloves, for which they were unsuited. They had a slit in the side and let cold air in. O’Steen knew I had a pair of warm army field gloves that my Pappy had given me. They had knitted wool inserts and leather “outers” with a strap that cinched them at the wrist. I asked the Cpl why he wanted my gloves, and he said he had discovered a beehive. He wanted to get the honey out of it, and he needed some gloves that offered better protection from stings. I told him no dice, that he would screw up my gloves. He swore he wouldn’t and I believed him. He and two others donned their field jackets and deployed the mosquito netting over their helmets after securing their sleeves and making sure their trousers were properly bloused. Two of them got stung anyway, where the trousers came too tightly over the knees.
But soon they returned with some honey-dripping combs. My gloves had honey all over them, and were ruined. They atoned by giving me the biggest comb that they had collected. The comb had bees stuck all over it. I flicked the poor insects off and after carefully examining the comb I bit into it and discovered that I had somehow missed a bee. She stung me in the roof of the mouth and the stinger stayed imbedded, pumping poison. I couldn’t get it out with my fingers and had to go to our corpsman, who got it with his forceps. The honey was a rich, dark brown and wonderfully sweet. Even though I ate all of it, I didn’t much enjoy it.
I believe it was on this night that a Marine in some other outfit was run over by a tank while he was in his sleeping bag.
The last day there was when we found out about the scorpions. A buddy woke up and was putting on his boot when a white scorpion ran out of it. We all hastily checked our gear.
11. Returning to the York County. When our operation secured, we were taken back to the beach in trucks! This is always a big deal for an infantryman. It was late in the day, and the sun was nearing the horizon. We marched along and I spotted the York County near the shore with her causeways deployed. I notified my platoon sergeant and Lt Smith. They said I didn’t know what I was talking about (I have never been aboard a naval or any other ship without knowing what it looked like and its name/hull number), and we kept going. An officer had a card table set up as a pay table farther down on the beach, and we were being paid in cash, which was unusual. Since my last name begins with “W” I was way back in the line, and the pay line secured due to darkness before I got near the table. I thought we would go back up the beach and to our LST, but we didn’t. We stood around on the beach and it began to get cold. I suggested that we should go back and find our ship, but was told that an LSU was coming to get us and take us back. Finally, after the sun had fully set, an LSU found us in its search-lights and came in for us. It beached in about 4 feet of water and dropped its ramp, and we were ordered to wade out and board. I put my cartridge belt around my neck and with my M-14 at “high port” I joined my buddies in the water, which on me was chest-high. The ocean was cold, but it burned where the salt found the wounds inflicted by the thorns. When our company was aboard, up came the ramp and the LSU began a search for the York County. The coxswain would approach a ship, hail it, and inquire where our LST was. After a couple of midsections, while we stood wet and freezing in the tank bay, we found the ship right where I said it was, close to the beach. We went alongside, and someone on the LSU asked a “Yorker” to deploy a cargo net over the side so his contingent of Marines could climb aboard. After awhile, a cargo net was found and dropped over. We weren’t allowed to climb it, however; someone thought it wasn’t a good idea for us to climb the net in the dark because someone might get injured. So the LSU was ordered to takes in as close as it could, and when it grounded the ramp was dropped and we waded back ashore, did a column left, another column left, and walked the causeway into our ship. This single incident came immediately to mind when I was asked to re-enlist in the USMC, and I told ‘em NO.
A Marine Story I Wanted To Share With The York County Crew
A Story By James Taylor
"Once a Marine"
As I came out of the supermarket that sunny day, pushing my cart of groceries towards my car, I saw an old man with the hood of his car up and a lady sitting inside the car, with the door open. The old man was looking at the engine. I put my groceries away in my car and continued to watch the old gentleman from about twenty-five feet away. I saw a young man in his early twenties with a grocery bag in his arm, walking towards the old man. The old gentleman saw him coming too and took a few steps towards him. I saw the old gentleman point to his open hood and say something. The young man put his grocery bag into what looked like a brand new Cadillac Escalade and then turn back to the old man and I heard him yell at the old gentleman saying, "You shouldn't even be allowed to drive a car at your age." And then with a wave of his hand, he got in his car and peeled rubber out of the parking lot. I saw the old gentleman pull out his handkerchief and mop his brow as he went back to his car and again looked at the engine. He then went to his wife and spoke with her and appeared to tell her it would be okay. I had seen enough and I approached the old man. He saw me coming and stood straight and as I got near him I said, "Looks like your having a problem." He smiled sheepishly and quietly nodded his head. I looked under the hood myself and knew that whatever the problem was, it was beyond me. Looking around I saw a gas station up the road and told the old gentleman that I would be right back. I drove to the station and went inside and saw three attendants working on cars. I approached one of them and related the problem the old man had with his car and offered to pay them if they could follow me back down and help him. The old man had pushed the heavy car under the shade of a tree and appeared to be comforting his wife. When he saw us he straightened up and thanked me for my help. As the mechanics diagnosed the problem (overheated engine) I spoke with the old gentleman. When I shook hands with him earlier he had noticed my Marine Corps ring and had commented about it, telling me that he had been a Marine too. I nodded and asked the usual question, "What outfit did you serve with?" He had mentioned that he served with the first Marine Division at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. He had hit all the big ones and retired from the Corps after the war was over.
As we talked we heard the car engine come on and saw the mechanics lower the hood. They came over to us as the old man reached for his wallet, but was stopped by me and I told him I would just put the bill on my AAA card. He still reached for the wallet and handed me a card that I assumed had his name and address on it and I stuck it in my pocket. We all shook hands all around again and I said my goodbye's to his wife. I then told the two mechanics that I would follow them back up to the station. Once at the station I told them that they had interrupted their own jobs to come along with me and help the old man. I said I wanted to pay for the help, but they refused to charge me. One of them pulled out a card from his pocket looking exactly like the card the old man had given to me. Both of the men told me then, that they were Marine Corps Reserves. Once again we shook hands all around and as I was leaving, one of them told me I should look at the card the old man had given to me and I said I would and drove off. For some reason I had gone about two blocks when I pulled over and took the card out of my pocket and looked at it for a long, long, time. The name of the old gentleman was on the card in golden leaf and under his name........."Congressional Medal of Honor Society." I sat there motionless looking at the card and reading it over and over. I looked up from the card and smiled to no one but myself and marveled that on this day, four Marines had all come together, because one of us needed help. He was an old man alright, but it felt good to have stood next to greatness and courage and an honor to have been in his presence.
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