The following story and photos submitted by Gary Clift of the Royal Australian Navy.
The photos were taken using an old Brownie Hawkeye Camera.
Click the thumbnail for a larger photo.


Moving up to RAS with an unknown Tanker
USS America is on the Tankers Port Side
GONZO Station NWIO 1981

The following account of a Night RAS with USS America was written by Ex CPO Fire Control Russell Greystone the Webmaster of a web site called ‘gunplot’ that deals with all aspects of the Royal Australian Navy and well worth a visit.

One night in 1981 whilst operating with the America ‘Battle Group’ it was decided at midnight we would go up alongside to carry out a ‘Jackstay Transfer’. It was the middle of the monsoon season in the North West Indian Ocean and on “Gonzo” there was a huge swell running. USS America, so as to enable her to continue flying ops steamed into the wind and we were to take up station 100 feet off her Starboard side from which position we would commence the transfer. It was a filthy night and we had the swell from directly astern, our Chief Coxswain had been medivaced out of the ship in Trincomalee and CPOUC (Sonar) Max Turner was on the helm. Steering was difficult as the swell kept picking up our stern lifting it out of the water and surfing the Brisbane in whichever direction it wanted.

After a very laborious approach we finally made it alongside and commenced passing the lines. Max was wrestling hard with the helm, finding it extremely difficult to keep on course as the swell drove us in its own direction, (reminiscent of a shopping trolley). As we finally ‘hooked up’ an extraordinary large swell picked up our stern and surfed us in toward America. The distance started closing rapidly and the entire RAS Party turned, looked up at the towering aircraft carrier threatening to engulf them. We were moving quickly now and we could clearly see the US Sailors looking down at us from the overhangs.

Memories flashed through my mind of the Belknap incident, where she got too close and was sucked into a carrier’s vortex and of her being pulverized, caught beneath the carriers overhangs. It now seemed that we were going to ‘touch’ and I looked around at my 40 or so seamen manning the jackstay, they were recovering it as quickly as was possible as the distance between the two ships continued to close, all the while, heads turned up, eyes wide open, watching this big steel monster loom over us in the pitch black night.

Our Captain “Gentleman” Jim Dixon, having had enough games for one evening, calmly advised the Navigating Officer to quote “get us out of here ”We increased revolutions on mains and put the wheel over 20 degrees to Starboard and at last finally started pulling away from America. The sailors down aft on the quarterdeck almost being able to reach over the guardrails and touch Americas hull as we did so.

Brisbane heeled over and as we carried out an emergency breakaway I again looked at the relieved faces of the RAS Party and could tell ‘that many of them thought they were going to die this night’ but never one flinched. Apart from having to make up a new Jackstay no damage was done and the new blokes would at least have a yarn to spin at the next beer issue!


Gary mentions in an E-mail to Lee, the following;

In the meantime I have attached a page that I did up some time ago with a bit of 'narrative'borrowed from the "gunplot". Gunplot is a web site run by a bloke called Russ Greystone. Russ was a Petty Officer (later a CPO) on Brisbane for the NWIO deployment. His website is well worth a look.
The photos on the top of the page were taken with a $5.00 Kodak instamatic camera of the day, hence the "superb quality and picture clarity". I beleive the Carrier is you guys but I'm not 100% as you got releived by Indy half way through our deployment, but I dont beleive Indy had that separate mast aft of the Island.
Anyhow its a good yarn, and it was THAT CLOSE, I know, I was one of those young seamen who thought they were going to die that night.
My good mate was rescue swimmer on the quarterdeck and he told me that as the two ships closed, quarterdeck party actually moved towards the guardrails in an attempt to "fend off" (probably not the best idea they ever had).
Anyhow no harm done, and twelve hours after the incident we were laughing and bragging about it, such is the Bravado of youth.
As an aside it was on the AMERICA that I first saw the "Dont Tread on Me" flag, I thought that was the most gung ho, kick ass piece of material ever.
I took it to read, If you piss me off, I'm going to bite you.
I will look for ín company'photos and will talk with the others who were there that I still keep in touch with.

Cheers
Gary

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