These stories are from Crewmembers of the USS America. The stories and accompanying photos from them are used with permission. Thanks guys, for your service and dedication.
For a brief definition of some of the terms undefined in these stories, there is a footnote at the bottom of this page.
Also please note that stories are added as they arrive, so the new ones are at the bottom of the page.


The following was sent by Robert Carroll, ATN3.
REFUELING AT SEA

Thirty years have passed and I still remember that day. It was the summer of 1968. I am on the USS America, the Navy's newest and largest attack carrier. We are somewhere in the Tonkin Gulf. The Viet Nam war is in full swing.

Today the ship will rendezvous with a tanker to take on fuel. Nothing special, I thought, we did this every few days. Although quite impressive to see, "Underway Replenishment" became routine, and I suspect, taken for granted by most.

I worked on the flight deck. I was there for two reasons. My primary function as an Electronics Technician of Attack Squadron 82 was to maintain and troubleshoot the systems of the A7-A aircraft. Secondly, to help the ordnance men move bombs and arm each plane. Since it was impossible for the small number of ordnance men to load thousands of pounds of bombs on each plane for each sortie by themselves, men of all rates and specialties were called upon to help in this capacity.

The tanker maneuvered into position on the starboard (right) side of the carrier. The lines were shot across, and the refueling began. The America had two Destroyer Escorts with her at all times. They needed to refuel also. While the big ships maintained speed, one destroyer pulled alongside the America on her port (left) side and we shot lines to it. The second destroyer pulled alongside the tanker's right side. Lines are shot to it from the tanker. Now the ships are steaming, four abreast, and refueling. An amazing feat I thought, but just routine for these skilled crews.

Now I have to take a moment to explain that the Navy has many traditions. The fact that we were at war does not negate them. One of these being, that while you are refueling, you show your appreciation to the tanker crew by entertaining them with music. Now, an ordinary ship would play records on a loudspeaker toward the tanker. But the America was no ordinary ship! Being a floating city of 5000, we had on board, among other things, a BAND! A live music treat for them.

When the refueling is done and the lines are freed, the ships "BREAKAWAY", that is, they veer off in different directions and the host ship plays its theme song. The theme song of the America was, what else, "AMERICA".

From its vantage point on the flight deck, 80 feet above the water, the band played on as we prepared our aircraft for the next mission. The planes were fueled, the bombs were loaded and we were ready to go. The underway refueling was taking a long time today. The pilots are on the flight deck now. The pilots man their planes. The engines are started and we are all waiting for the refueling to be finished. For safety reasons we can't launch aircraft while refueling. What's taking so long today? There is a plane on each of the four catapults straining to be launched. The "Air Boss" wants the aircraft launched. The four ships are still connected together. Our guys on land need us! They are screaming for our bombs! Finally! The refueling is over, the lines are disconnecting. The order to BREAKAWAY is given. The band starts playing "AMERICA". I brace myself as the 97,000-ton ship turns into the wind..."Launch Aircraft!".....The four ships peel off in different directions, simultaneously jets loaded with bombs are screaming off the flight deck as fast as the catapults can go. And while all this action is going on, all I can hear is..."America, America, God shed His grace on thee..........Was I the only one with a lump in his throat?
Robert Carroll ATN 3
Robert Carroll ATN 3


This from Robert Delgado
Pilots and plane

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself".
John Stuart Mill
English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)

One day aboard a carrier on deployment is just like another. You wake, you eat, you do your job the best you can and hope that you don't screw up and somebody goes home in a body bag because of it. September 13, 1972, was just another day. As a plane captain with VF74, you looked at the flight schedule, you saw who was flying and you prepared your aircraft for the scheduled cat shot. Once the time comes, your plane is spotted on the deck and you and your second mech stay with the plane. You remove the extra tie-down chains to a 6-tiedown with chocks. When the Pilot and RIO show up, you do a walk around with them and a preflight. The RIO goes up first followed by the second mech to help him strap in. The pilot goes up next, followed by the Plane captain to help him strap in. The last thing you do is pull the safety flags on the ejection seat for the pilot, then its down the ladder and await a hot start. Once the engines are started, you are positioned next to the plane in front of the intake and through hand signals with the pilot, you go through a routine of checking the flaps and boundary layer controls, the tail hook, the chaf doors. While you are in front, your second mech is in back watching all the movements. The AO's come up to the plane (ordnance men) and you signal the pilot to put his hands over his head while they make the bombs and missiles hot. You pull the remaining safety flags and show them to the pilot and then you turn your aircraft over to the yellow shirt aircraft handlers. You render your salute and you head to the line shack to await your aircrafts return.

Day after day this is a repeated dance, at least it was until September 13, 1972, and your plane doesn't come home. It's been over 30 years and the sounds and smells and sights of the flight deck are still in my ears, my nose and my mind. I see them on the news, the green shirts, the yellow shirts, the purple shirts and the brown shirts. It is a choreographed dance that goes on the same today as it did then.

Robert "zip" Delgado
Plane Captain (2nd mech. Joe Anon)
VF74
Westpac,USS America, Vietnam 72-73
Med cruise, USS Forrestal, 73-74
Carrier air wing 8 and 17

Robert Delgado is now a Senior Chief in the United States Coast Guard.


This story comes from Lewis Evans

HC-2 Patch

Lew Evans, AE-3, served 18 months as a combat rescue air crewman, aviation electrician, aboard the USS AMERICA with Helicopter Combat Support Squadron II (HC-2, Fleet Angels flying the SH3G), part of CVW-8. (Incidentally, Lew helped design the above squadron patch) During leave in 1972, he got an emergency recall notice to return to base for urgent deployment and found himself on his way to WesPac and the war in Vietnam.

The AMERICA was on duty up north in the Gulf of Tonkin, just off shore. The USS Goldsborough (DDG-20) was our destroyer escort. We had just completed flight operations for that day. It was about 3 a.m…We had been in the rack for a short time when the alarm went off.

"GQ GQ GQ! Launch emergency BARCAP!* Set circle william! All hands to their battle stations!" Our escort had been struck by a missile on the fan tail.

Granny and I had the BARCAP duty. The BARCAP consisted of one helicopter, two fighters, one tanker and one recon aircraft. Their primary mission was to protect the AMERICA and escort her until the carrier could launch a full battle squadron.

We donned our flight gear, and away to the flight deck. We launched and started our survey of the immediate area, while monitoring the status of the destroyer Goldsborough and her crew. We received a radio call from home plate to go to guard radio and stand by for combat instructions. The radio command to our helicopter was to fly a mission x number of miles, 360 degrees from home plate and identify any ship within these waters. If we could not ID these ships we had to fly down over them, turn on our landing flood lights and ID them. The remaining aircraft in the BARCAP was our cover. Our helicopter was rigged for rescue/transport, with no fire power. In other words, we were the bait and sitting duck waiting to get blown out of the sky in North Vietnam waters by the ship that had fired upon the Goldsborough.

Every time we found a ship to ID, we would sweat and pray it was not the enemy. The fear we felt is something hard to describe. We spent six hours completing this mission. I think the whole crew was relieved when we made it back to home plate. The USS Goldsborough had casualties and injured from the missile attack.** We medivaced them the next day. We also transported the less fortunate ones, for their final flight home.

The next time Granny and I were on R&R together we had a few for ole times.

Author's note: "The man I crewed with while in Vietnam, Gary (Granny) Granberg, AD-3, means more to me than a brother. Our duties brought us face to face with the ultimate challenge of fear itself. The opportunity to save lives and carry out combat missions meant only for our own memories was a blessing. Together Gary and I prayed in places no priest would know possible - The fire that destroyed #1 and #2 catapults, the strike on USS Goldsborough, the hit on the USS Newport News where 19 sailors perished. I transferred more military personnel than lived in my hometown (4,768). I am very proud to have served and defended our country."  Lew Evans

*Barrier Combat Air Patrol - A type of defensive mission flown between the battle group and the direction from which it is most likely that enemy attack will come.
**In December 1972, The USS Goldsborough was hit by coastal artillery fire that put a hole five feet wide through an upper deck. The Goldsborough was built by the Puget Sound Bridge and Drydock Company in Seattle, Washington, and was commissioned at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, Washington on 9 November 1963.

SH3G Helo

ACTION ON THE FOC'SLE

It is quiet on the foc'sle. The men of First Division man their sound powered phones and wait for word from the bridge. Finally the words "Let go!" come over the line and signal the release of 60,000 pounds of steel anchor. A deafening roar fills the air as the massive chain plays out, sending the huge anchor plummeting to the sea.

The job of anchoring a ship the size of AMERICA is rarely witnessed by most of the men aboard. For First Division, it is a job that must be done exactly right each time and somehow is never quite routine.

When the announcement, "Set the special sea and anchor detail" rings throughout the ship, the men of First Division prepare for their speciality.

Anchoring is a complicated process of communications between the foc'sle and the bridge. Absolute silence is mandatory. A mistake in anchoring could cost a boatswain's mate his life or result in massive damage to the ship.

The process consists of releasing a hook, called the pelican hook, which secures the anchor chain to the deck. One man, who wears a harness, strikes a pin with a sledge hammer releasing the pelican hook and in turn the anchor chain. Men hold a line connected to the harness. When the man in the harness strikes the pin to release the hook, his shipmates pull him out of the way of the massive chain which runs free. Soon the entire area is engulfed in dust pouring out of the chain locker as the wildcat spins and the chain plays out.

An anchor watch is set around the clock when AMERICA is anchored. Reports are made every half hour to the quarterdeck concerning the strain and angle of the anchor chain.

The famous words, "anchors aweigh", are used to report the anchor breaking away from the bottom when hoisting as opposed to the dropping of the anchor.

Story by SN Lance S. Spicer
From the Nov - Dec 1968 issue of American Spirit

Anchors Aweigh

Photo: SA E. Ford backs off as FN P. J. Tillman begins his swing which will release the pelican hook and 30 tons of steel anchor. Dust flies as each 360 pound link roars out of the chain locker and down the hawse pipe.
This story edited in part and taken from the 1968 Nov Dec issue of the American Spirit.
Photo by PH1 D.W.Chernousky
Click here for the full page, which has two more pics.


23 Feb 2007 For a great USS America story and photos from Clinton J. Deemer, click here.
The Persian Excursion.


13 Mar 2007 An article and photos by Dave Parsons, click here.
The NATO Exercises, Ocean Safari. This page opens in a new window.


24 Feb 2008 Gary Clift of the Royal Australian Navy sent this article telling of a close encounter with the USS America in 1981.


Actual account of the 1986 bombing of Libya

My name is Martin E Kamenar.  I was attached to Airwing One (CVW-1) as staff, straight out of boot camp, from 1984-1988.  Our airwing was attached to the USS AMERICA.  We had squadrons, some of which have since been decommissioned, such as VA-34, HS-11, VAW-123, VF-102, VF-33, and some others I do not remember.  The aircraft of which I will speak in this story are FA-18's (from another ship), A-7's, EA-6B's, F-14's and A-6's.
 
This story is my actual account of the 1986 bombing of Libya as I recall from memory.  I have never spoken of this story nor have I ever written about it.
 
As I was airwing staff, I worked in flight deck control as a status board writer.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with a board writer, I will explain. I was one of the guys who wrote backwards on the big plexiglass screen which the aircraft handler, usually a lieutenant commander, used to know the status of each and every aircraft onboard.  The status of the aircraft is utilized in conjunction with the ouija board.  This is the huge desk that is a mockup of the flight deck.  On the ouija board are templates of every aircraft onboard and it is to scale.  My job was to coordinate with all embarked squadrons (8) and write the status of each aircraft on the board.  The handler would then have his V-1 division guys put a series of nuts and bolts on top of each template so he could know the maintenance requirements of all aircraft at a glance.  For instance, a wing nut on a template would mean a particular aircraft required to be pulled out where it could spread the wings for a particular maintenance procedure.  I won't get in to all the nuts and bolts and the significance of each, but you get the idea.
 
There was a rumor based out of rumor control that we may be going to cross the "line of death".  For those unfamiliar with that term, Colonel Qaddafi of Libya decided to declare the entire gulf of Sidra as his.  International law states a country can only claim 12 miles off their coastline.  Ronald Reagan, being no wimp, decided to show Qaddafi the USA would not recognize his tyrannical declaration and in a show of force made the decision the USA would cross his declared "line of death" as allowed via international law.  Qaddafi made the statement that if anyone crossed that line, "blood will be shed".
Line of Death
 
The late great Ronald Reagan decided to call his bluff.  The USS AMERICA battle group was moved into position.
 
I worked night check (night shift).  We received word that we will be crossing the "line of death" as a show of force and that the USA will not recognize Qaddafi's power grab and we would defend international law.  The order was given and preparations got underway for our southbound journey.
Just before the evening rolled around another carrier received it's orders to get up super close behind the AMERICA.  We were about to play a game of hide and seek with the Russian trollers that were shadowing our battle group.  The Russians knew the tensions were high and moved in closer than normal to observe AMERICA'S movements -so close I could see them on the horizon from the flight deck level.
 
The troller was behind us until the other carrier got on our butts, and I mean ON OUR BUTTS!  She was so close that when I was standing on the fantail, I swore if I got a running start I would be able to make the jump!
 
As darkness began to fall, the troller could not get a visual on the AMERICA, and since the other carrier was so close, they only received one radar signal, yet knew there were two carriers there, so the troller decided to maneuver to our port side.  The other carrier matched her movements to keep  AMERICA in the shadows.  I had never seen nor ever heard of two U.S. aircraft carriers ever maneuvering together in that close proximity of each other.  Believe me, it was beautiful!
 
As soon as darkness fell, the other carrier was ordered to light up like a Christmas tree and begin radar and radio transmissions as we, the AMERICA, were put into total darken ship with our hanger bay doors closed and EMCON ALPHA.  EMCON ALPHA meant we shut down the radar and all radio transmissions.  The troller had no idea what was going on, nor what was about to happen.
 
In the middle of the night, both carriers began "high speed runs", side by side.  This was an effort to further confuse the troller.  While the troller was busy trying to find the AMERICA and separate radar and lights and trying to keep up, we took a hard right turn!  We were on our way to the "line of death" in the dark of night. 
 
During the night flight deck control received the flight schedule for the following morning.  It contained our sortie numbers - exactly how many bombers, fighters and support aircraft were required for this operation.  My job was to get with all the squadrons and receive all their particular maintenance requirements so we could get all the "down" aircraft into an "up" status for our launch.  I spent the night on the "bitchbox" with maintenance chiefs and relaying information to the handler so plane captains could be at each aircraft that required repositioning on the flight deck for low power turns, high power turns, wing spreads, tail over the deck and so on.  V-1 division was busy moving all the aircraft around the deck to meet these requirements along with pulling aircraft out of "deep bury" in the hanger bay and bringing them topside while taking others down to the hanger.  Needless to say, we were a bunch of busy shipmates.  Our excitement was high because this may potentially be the real deal instead of just those boring, day in and day out, exercises and drills.
 
During the evening a maintenance chief of one of the squadrons got a little testy with me.  The handler had told me to get that squadron to put plane captains on a bunch of aircraft to move.  The plane captain is an enlisted person who sits in the cockpit while the aircraft is being towed into position and it cannot be towed without one.  I got on the bitchbox and said to the maintenance chief all the aircraft I needed plane captains on.  He replied, "This is CHIEF yada, (names kept out), AIRMAN.  Speak to me with respect!".  I informed him I was and to put the plane captains on them anyway and hung up.  On a side note, in the morning my SENIOR CHIEF called that maintenance chief and told him, "Hey CHIEF yada, this is SENIOR CHIEF yada.  When MY AIRMAN tells you to do something you do it!  You do not question him or smart mouth him.  He is doing the job of me, a SENIOR CHIEF and you will afford him that same respect".  Well that maintenance chief put his tail between his legs and never gave me another problem.
 
Anyway, my senior chief looked at the flight schedule for our launch and his jaw dropped.  He looked at the status board and his eyes got wide.  He made a comment that when he went to bed, most of the aircraft were either in a down status or in deep bury and here it was that 90% of the birds were up and ready!
 
Since I was properly relieved, I headed down to my rack.  During my slumber, directly under the number 3 wire, I heard the alarm and the call: "GENERAL QUARTERS, GENERAL QUARTERS!  ALL HANDS MAN YOUR BATTLE STATIONS, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!  I WILL REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL".  It was followed by the standard, "All hands move up and forward on the port side, down and aft on the starboard side", but I didn't hear that.  All I heard was "THIS IS NOT A DRILL".  Whoooweee!  The real thing!
 
I arrived up at flight deck control to find out that we were below the "line of death" and there were Libyan patrol boats headed our way.  Next came the order, "NOW LAUNCH THE ALERT FIVES, NOW LAUNCH THE ALERT FIVES".  That meant we were ordered to launch the aircraft that were loaded, manned and running, ready to be airborne in five minutes flat.  The Libyans decided to lock weapons on our aircraft so our aircraft went "weapons hot" and launched harpoon missiles at the menacing patrol boats.  The Harpoons split the boats in half and sank them.  That was just the beginning.
 
We were later ordered to attack Libya.  Prior to our attack, Russia was notified to get out of Libyan ports, which they did.  VA-46 was a squadron of A-7's with the call sign "DECOY".  They flew around off the coast of Libya, within range of Libyan missiles.  All of our aircraft, along with the aircraft from elsewhere, were ordered to maintain radio silence.  We needed Qaddafi to make the first move. 
 
While our A-7's were annoying Qaddafi, there were FA-18's, fully loaded with H.A.R.M. missiles.  The HARM stood for High speed Anti Radar Missile.  It required a radar source to home in on but the Libyans still had their radars off, that is, until our A-7's annoyed Qaddafi enough.  He finally decided to order his SAM missile sites to lock radar on our A-7's.  As soon as he did that, our A-7's broke radio silence with "MISSILE LOCK".  Our boys were then ordered to go "weapons hot" and the A-7's turned tail and got the hell out of there.  Not because of fear but to make room for the FA-18's to come in and launch their HARM missiles to follow that radar source to take out those SAM sites.  While we were destroying all of their SAM sites, the AMERICA's EA-6B's moved in and set up electronic false signals in the sky, making those false signals appear to be aircraft.  Libya began firing missiles at those fake signals.  Our EA-6B's would shut that signal down and open another elsewhere, causing Libya's missiles to go on wild goose chases until they ran out of fuel, falling back down upon themselves, thus blowing themselves and the French Embassy up!  In the meantime, our bombers moved in and we heard the radio call, "FEET DRY", meaning they were now over land to begin the bombing raid.  They took out strategic targets, crippling Libya's retaliation capabilities.
 
Tensions and excitement onboard the USS AMERICA were high.  We launched a literal boat load of fully loaded aircraft to move into harm's way with an outcome that we could not predict.  Then came the call, "FEET WET"!  Our boys left all of the ordinance in Libya and were on their way home.
 
When they got back and landed, all were empty of bombs and not one of them had a scratch on them!
 
Now THAT'S "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED"!
Thank you to all the squadrons and ships company that did the intricate dance to make everything go off without one mistake!
 
My senior chief put me in for a letter of commendation, which I was later awarded.  It was from Admiral H.J. MAUZ Jr, for the job I did to make the operation a success.
 
I wonder what that maintenance chief thought of me then!
AN Martin Kamenar

Two Years Before the Mast Aboard USS America CVA 66

Memoir of a weather forecaster 1973 through 1975

A Memoir
 
 Richard Dana, author of the epic book, "Two Years Before the Mast", wrote his personal account of the wretched treatment he endured as an ordinary seaman while at sea in the mid 1800's.  Unlike the author, I enjoyed two years of exciting and successful experience "before the mast" of the USS America between 1973 and 1975.
The history of America's path to becoming a nation is replete with stories of political and military struggle.  Building and maintaining a strong military was essential in America's early days and the need remains today but on a much different scale.  The first American navy endured many painful failures during its beginning in spite of the bravery displayed by famous mariners like John Paul Jones.  World War II began our country's rapid ascent to becoming the world's greatest armada in history and the fact remains intact today. 
I was fortunate to be a member of the modern navy between 1955 and 1975 and during that time I served in many roles both ashore and at sea.  Perhaps the most intriguing period of my career was wintering over during Antarctica's Operation Deepfreeze in 1958-59.  Additionally, several years out of the twenty I served were spent both as a student and an instructor in the Aerographer's Mate A, B and C schools. 
The subject of this memoir is recounting my two years aboard the USS America CVA 66.  I was leading chief of the weather division and it turned out America was my final duty station before retiring from the navy in August 1975. 
Navy retirement was followed by another 20 year career as a science educator.  In 1998 I retired from all forms of the work world.  Since that final retirement I have focused on writing as a primary past time.  A direct result of that gratifying activity is the writing of this memoir.  My purpose in composing this story is as a contribution to the memorabilia collected for the planned USS America museum. 
 
It seems fitting to begin this manuscript by providing a few vital statistics of our beloved ship.  In addition, I attempt to expose several troubling factors leading to America's inglorious demise:
Keel laid January 9, 1961
Commissioned January 23, 1964
Decommissioned August 9, 1996
 
The USS America's decommissioning was instigated when she was ignored by the Navy's Carrier Service Life Extension Program (SLEP).  Without the vital upkeep provided by that service, USS America quickly fell into devastating disrepair and was relegated to Davy Jones' locker in 2005.  That unglamorous outcome is contrasted to the fate of several other decommissioned U.S. Naval vessels that have been preserved as useful artifacts such as artificial reefs or as museums such as the WWII battleship, USS North Carolina.   In my opinion, a retired navy vessel sold for scrap is an ignoble end for a faithful asset to the defense of our country but I believe the worst destiny of all is the fate that befell our USS America. 
On 4 May 2005, she was scuttled in 15,500 feet of the Atlantic Ocean.  Our former sea going home now lies dead in the muck of the abyss 250 miles east of North Carolina.  Former crew members should rue such an unsophisticated end for our proud sea going lady. With that abomination of the decision makers that relegated her to the ocean deep, I happily reverse tack and hope that you enjoy sharing in my adventures aboard the USS America.
 
                                                                                                      Gene Boland
AGCS 1973-75
 
 
 
 
 
 
After completing the Navy's Associate Degree Completion Program (ADCOP) in mid 1973 I received my expected orders.  My previous assignment had been the training command in Lakehurst, New Jersey where I served as an instructor at the navy's weather school.  I had been in Lakehurst barely a year when I was selected for the college completion program.  I graduated Summa cum laude and believed I still had at least a year or more of shore duty, so I fully anticipated returning to Lakehurst...but that wasn't to be.  Instead my orders read:  Report to the Commanding Officer, USS America CVA 66.  I couldn't believe my eyes and quickly fell into a deep funk...even threatening to go to Canada.  That's when my wife brought me back to my senses and I reluctantly accepted my fate. 
 
Reporting aboard
 
 It took a while for me to regain my composure after receiving such devastating orders and when I finally recovered my wits I did a lot of thinking about how I should handle myself during the next two years aboard ship.  I concluded I had better make the most of the upcoming tour of duty or I would have wasted a productive twenty year career. 
In late August of 1973, I walked up the longest brow (gangplank) I had ever envisioned, let alone ever seen.  After saluting the National Ensign I turned and saluted the OOD saying, "Senior Chief Boland reporting for duty sir." 
The officer took my packet of orders and addressed his messenger: "Escort Senior Chief Boland to his quarters and work space."  As I followed the young seaman, I was humbled by the overwhelming size of the ship.  I worried that I'd never be able to find my way around this behemoth.  After leading me to my sleeping compartment he guided me to the Chief's Mess and finally to my weather office located on the 08 level in the ship's island.  By then I was literally drained of energy after climbing thirteen decks between the Chief's Mess and my office.  "This will take some getting used to..." I wryly mused.
 
Meeting my crew
 
 The first person I met from the weather crew was the ship's Meteorologist.  He was, of course in charge of the weather office but I would be most directly responsible for the products leaving our office. 
I was also expected to maintain high performance standards and morale of the men in my division.  The remaining weather crew consisted of two First Class Petty Officers and six additional lower ranking men. 
Within a day of reporting I learned the ship was being brought up to speed for an upcoming deployment to the Mediterranean.  I was also greeted and briefed by the Senior Chief I was relieving.  One of the most interesting features of this briefing occurred when he handed me a single key and added the warning:  "Take good care of this key.  It's the master for most spaces aboard ship and may come in handy one day.  Don't lose it or let anyone know you have it!"  He went on to explain the chief he relieved had somehow come into possession of the key and no single man onboard the ship, including the CO, knew the leading chief of the weather division had such a valuable piece of property.   
As the ship underwent preparations for the deployment, the weather division was assigning a few men to training sessions and the remaining people were busy collecting needed supplies and equipment.  This semi-relaxed condition changed dramatically once we put to sea. 
Weather division responsibilities while underway included, but were not confined to observing, reporting and recording surface weather conditions and observing weather balloon data from sensing elements used for the measurement of upper atmospheric physical conditions.  Other daily functions included plotting weather data on charts and analyzing it twice a day.  Weather maps formed the basis of our forecasting products.  Once daily, a weather bulletin was printed and delivered to the Captain, the Executive Officer and the Operations Officer.  The bulletin was also routed to each ship department and squadron commander.  Of course we also had the responsibility of upkeep in our spaces.  My exclusive non meteorological duty was conducting periodic inspections of the ship's spaces.  The Meteorologist and I took turns delivering daily weather briefings to the onboard Admiral and his staff as well as visiting dignitaries. Twice daily I briefed squadron ready rooms via the ship's television station.
I quickly discovered because of a heavy work load, members of the weather division didn't have a great deal of spare time while on deployment but somehow we all managed to enjoy ample liberty time in foreign ports.
 
 
 
 
Preparation for a Seven Month Mediterranean Cruise
 
 My earliest shipboard experience took place in 1961 when I was a raw and inexperienced First Class Aerographer's Mate.  I had just reenlisted after a year's broken service and had never officially forecasted weather, especially at sea.  I was in a one man billet and my primary duties included forecasting at-sea weather conditions and observing and recording surface weather while under way.  Sadly, I had no one to advise me or cover my back when I ran into tricky situations and I quickly found myself in an angry hornet's nest.  My monthly weather records were transmitted to the National Weather Records center where they became part of the world's weather archives.  My completed forms were checked for accuracy and proper recording.  I mailed my first set of documents to the center and they produced the fleet's highest percentage of errors.  That coupled with several questionable forecasts made my early relationship with the ship's skipper strained to say the least.  Making matters even more challenging for a young naïve sailor, I accomplished little improvement in my professional skills.  During two cruises to the Middle East I did an inadequate job of forecasting but I was somehow never called to task.  That lack of scrutiny was a key element in my youthful neglect to study the intricacies of my job.  
 Years later when I reported aboard the USS America, I had those embarrassing memories to remind me of my earlier shipboard failures but as a Senior Chief Aerographer's Mate I was expected to be professional and prepared to do more than an adequate job.  Before departing on the first Mediterranean deployment I spent hours researching weather phenomena that could confront the ship's operating ability.  I decided to count only on my contribution and not depend on my boss's involvement so I prepared as though a successful experience was mine alone.  I was especially focused on identifying and forecasting unusual occurrences in all parts of the world that the ship would operate.  I was determined not to look like an inept fool. 
My preparation paid off ten fold during both cruises.  In the following chapter I recount the most interesting and challenging experiences confronting me during my two "Med" cruises.
 
 
 
Mistral
 
 Part of my pre-cruise research on Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea weather uncovered a dangerous wind and sea condition known as the MISTRAL. The Mistral is a localized wind condition that periodically occurs over the western Mediterranean Sea.  Winds, often in excess of 80 to 100 knots, rage out of southern France and over a relatively narrow (25 to 30 miles wide) strip of the sea.  This narrow wind stream is analogous to water spewing from a hose when the hose is squeezed.  Immediately outside of the wind's boundaries, the atmosphere is often calm.  The Mistral is also capable of extending seaward 75 miles or more.  Of course, sea water under the influence of Mistral wind is whipped into waves 30 feet or higher.  Ships in the path of these northerly winds can be and sometimes are sunk or severely damaged.  This background knowledge played a major role in my first important forecast aboard the America.
We were approaching the refueling piers at Rota, Spain as I examined several upper atmosphere forecast charts.  The charts indicated conditions that could lead to the establishment of a Mistral within the ship's planned route.  I immediately alerted my boss but strangely he showed little interest.  Next morning, the ship had just completed the receiving of supplies and fuel and was preparing to shove off for our first destination of Barcelona, Spain when I reviewed the latest forecast charts.  The charts showed continued progress in conditions for Mistral development.  Once again I tried warning my boss and suggested we would be wise to warn of the Captain of this dangerous possibility.  According to America's planned track inside the "Med", if a Mistral did develop we could find ourselves in the middle of a maelstrom.  Once again the Meteorologist demurred by saying that he didn't want to make a mistake and end up apologizing for a bad forecast.  I shrugged my shoulders and walked away.  After all he was the boss and forecasts...good or bad...were ultimately his responsibility anyway.  He was proving far too timid for my liking.
Late that afternoon we transited the Straits of Gibraltar and were well into the Med.  I examined the latest forecast charts and they were even more indicative of a Mistral being established.  I became concerned and charted our planned course and speed.  After repeating that effort two more times, I calculated that if we continued our planned course and speed we would be directly in the path of where the Mistral would occur. 
If my forecast was as solid as I thought it was, the ship would be subjected to exceedingly strong winds and high seas.  That could be catastrophic for the carrier's planes.  Once again I tried convincing my boss he should brief the captain on the strong possibility of a disaster but he didn't accept my reasoning or my forecast.  It was then I told him, "Well sir, if you don't want to warn the skipper I'll do it and take the heat if I'm wrong, but if my forecast is good we could lose planes and receive significant damage.  The captain deserves a heads up!"  He turned away and reminded me it was my funeral.
 
I Brief the Commanding Officer With Crossed Fingers
 
 Once I collected my courage and confidence, I gathered the latest forecast charts and carried them to the bridge.  The Captain was sitting in his bridge chair looking out over a calm sea when I approached him.  I asked if I could brief him on something I believed to be important.  Of course he answered, "Certainly Chief...watcha got?"
 After telling him of the strong potential of us entering into a Mistral he asked. "How sure are you...and why didn't your boss brief me on this?"
 I didn't know how to answer his last question so I went directly to my forecast hoping that he would forget the question about my wayward boss; "Sir...I'm as sure as my data tells me."
 Without hesitation he ordered a new course and speed that would circumvent the predicted storm area.  Now that my jaw tightening forecast was on record I became nervous and a little bit scared.
 The following day's message traffic included a story that told of a British tanker, some 50 miles north of where we would have been, that was broken in half by 100 mile an hour winds and heavy seas and all hands were lost.  I thanked God the Captain had accepted my forecast.  Later that day the skipper rewarded me with the comment, "Well done Senior Chief."   That was more than enough praise for my ego and I silently gloated but never said a word to my boss.     
 
The Destroyers Are Running Out of Gas
 
During my second Atlantic voyage to the Med, we were steaming in company with three destroyers. 
Because the small ships' fuel requirements demanded refueling at least once during the crossing the America was assigned to refuel them about half way across the Atlantic.
A day after leaving Norfolk, we rendezvoused with our three escorts east of Newfoundland and began the trip eastward.  The weather was unsettled with rain and heavy wind because a low pressure system had exited the coast at the same time our small convoy began its trip.  Seas were 10 to 15 feet and slowly growing but the America's size tempered the wave induced effects.  The tiny destroyers weren't so fortunate.  They were being bounced around like ping pong balls.  Each day I analyzed the current weather chart, the low center kept matching our position and sea heights had grown to 20 feet. 
 The storm seemed destined to remain with us and was creating an uncomfortable ride even for the carrier.  Three days out, the Captain asked when these conditions would improve and I had to tell him it didn't look promising for several days.  Then at a longitude just east of Iceland, the skipper called me to the bridge and told me we couldn't refuel the destroyers unless the seas abated and he needed better conditions.  By that time I recognized the weather system creating this havoc would continue raising havoc for the next few days.  I felt badly that I couldn't give him any of the good news he wanted.
 Next day, the Captain began showing subtle signs of panic and informed me that our accompanying ships were "running out of gas".  Concerned and feeling on the spot I told him I'd look over the situation more carefully and brief him again later that day.  I returned to the office and sat at my desk.  I was frustrated, confused and highly stressed.  My boss was equally at a loss for an explanation. 
 As I sat with my head in my hands, a notion suddenly took form in my mind.  I knew we wouldn't be clear of this nasty weather for more than a day and wondered if we could find a protected area of the nearby ocean.  I collected topographic maps of the North Atlantic and looked them over. 
Like a shot out of the dark, my eyes fell on a group of islands just north of the British Isles called the Faeroes.  We were within a few hours of them at the time and I wondered if our mini task force could steam into the "shadow" of the Faeroes.  Prevailing wind direction was aimed directly at the island's western beaches and seas were piling up on their shores.  I reasoned that the islands should provide a shadow zone on their leeward side and provide lower seas heights just east of the island group.
I rushed to the bridge and explained the idea to the captain and he agreed with my logic.  He adjusted our course and speed in order to place the three destroyers and us into that zone.  We arrived there in less than 24 hours and discovered the sea had indeed abated just as I hoped. The destroyers were operating on fumes as they took on a full load of fuel.  I knew the destroyer captains were happy and so was I.
 
I Don't Believe the Wind Instruments
 
 In order for planes to take off an aircraft carrier, sufficient wind speed must come over the end of the flight deck.  Depending on the type of aircraft, it must be 30 knots or more.  One day I was hanging around the bridge watching preparations for an upcoming launch.  Activity on the flight deck was always hectic and very dangerous for anyone or anything in that environment but I marveled at the choreography demonstrated by the multitude of specialists.
 As I stood minding my own business, the captain called me over and said, "Chief...I don't trust our deck wind information and I want you to send one of your men out there and measure direction and speed at various points on the flight deck."  I found it very hard to believe what he had just told me to do.   No one in my crew was trained in the skills needed to be in the middle of flight operations and it was easy to see someone being hurt or even killed in that chaos. 
 "Captain..." I answered.  "I can't endanger any of my men to do that so I'll go out there myself and get your information.  Let me add that I can tell you the answers right now without getting into that mayhem."
 "I'll bet you can Chief but I still want a direct measurement of flight deck wind."
 I grabbed the hand anemometer (measures wind speed and direction) and went onto the flight deck.  I was dressed in standard khakis and didn't wear noise attenuators over my ears (to suppress sound).  I ran around the hectic and noisy deck with jets revving their engines all around me.  This place was the noisiest environment I had ever been in and several of the deck crew looked at me as if I was crazy.  I was!  I went to each of the required spots and measured the wind information.  It was just as I thought.
 Returning to the bridge nearly out of breath, I reported my observations to the captain and he accepted them with a casual "Thank you".  At that moment I felt like punching him.
A Moist Personnel Inspection
 
 During a seven month deployment the Captain normally held personnel inspection on the flight deck while at sea.  On the day of this particular inspection, we were operating in an air mass that was producing widely scattered rain showers.  I noted that in my daily briefing to the Captain and added the promise that we wouldn't have ideal conditions for the inspection. 
 By noon, each of the ship's divisions had gathered on the flight deck and fell into formation.  The uniform for this inspection was dress blues.  Making the situation even more interesting, the ship's Meteorologist was OOD on the bridge.  He had control of the ship's movement during the inspection.  I was on the bridge with him trying to calculate where the showers would be in relation to the ship's position. 
To accomplish that delicate outcome I used maneuvering board techniques on the RADAR screen.  The OOD had to change course and speed a couple of times in order to miss individual rainstorms.
 The crew was in ranks and being inspected when I noticed the ship heading straight for a substantial rainstorm.  I nearly panicked because evaluating moving storms in relation to the ship's movement and future positions was nearly impossible and I had apparently miscalculated.  As a skeptic might have guessed, the ship glided directly into a heavy rain storm with hundreds of sailors in dress blues soaking up the moisture.  Neither I nor my boss ever heard the end of that fiasco.
 
Off Limits – An Officer's Ladder
 
 I had the responsibilities of conducting an Admiral's briefing and ready room TV broadcasts.  During the first Med cruise, I got into a comfortable routine of going from my office, down several decks to the Admiral's boardroom and the TV studio.  One day, well into the second cruise, I had prepared my daily briefings and descended my way down the familiar ladders.  I had completed all briefings and climbed the same familiar ladders I had always climbed when returning to my office.  As I was ascending the last one going to my office, I heard a voice below.  "What are you doing on that ladder Chief?"
 I turned to see the ship's executive officer at the bottom.  Of course I thought he was being friendly with a joke like question. 
I answered in the same vein I thought he was thinking:  "Trying to get to the top of it Commander."
 "I'm serious!  What the hell are you doing on that ladder?  It's an officer's ladder!"
 I couldn't believe what I was hearing and tried explaining this was the same route I had always taken for my scheduled briefings.  He wanted no part of that logic.  "Find another route and stay off this ladder."
 Instantly anger welled up inside me.  I responded with obvious sarcasm:  "Aye aye...SIR!"  As that day progressed I grew angrier by the minute.  That's when I decided I wouldn't change my route and would request Captain's Mast before satisfying that pompous fool.  Several weeks later I was on the same ladder when I felt the presence of someone behind me.  I turned to look and there stood the exec with hands on his hips.  Before he could utter a word I said, "I guess you're wondering why I'm on this ladder."
 "I thought I told you it was an officer's ladder."
 "You did and I want an audience with the Captain to clear this up.  It's on my direct path to perform my duties and I think I should be cut some slack."
 He humphed and departed saying, "Well use it only during your duties."
 
What do you want me to do?
 
 While the ship was tied up to a pier, two brows were set up for on and off traffic to the ship.  Located amidships was the brow used for officers and their guests.  Of course it was festooned with fancy rope work with little America flags hanging from the rope loops.  The second brow, located close to the ship's fantail area was used for enlisted traffic, supply delivery and carrying mess deck garbage off the ship.  It had no fancy decoration and showed small amounts of trash on the walkway.  That setup had bothered me ever since reporting aboard the ship.  During one of my duty days I was the Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD) and one of the responsibilities was ensuring the after brow was covered by the duty watch petty officer and fulfilling his role.  
I was standing next to the brow watching sailors and guests come and go when I noticed two mess deck workers carrying a trash can filled with garbage. 
One of them stumbled on the upper brow and a couple of pieces of garbage spilled onto the walkway including a half eaten portion of pork chop. I hollered at the men and they grumbled but picked up the wayward piece of meat.  I was already steaming when I saw the next victim of the slum surroundings.  I watched as a young woman climbed the brow with an infant nestled in her arms.  She arrived at the top of the brow and hesitated.  The end of the brow was elevated about two feet off the deck and wooden pallets had been stacked there as a step off platform.  It was a truly insulting welcome to visitors and crew.  As the woman carefully stepped onto the pallets, one of the pallet boards cracked in half, sending the lady and her baby flying onto the non skid deck.  Of course everyone in the vicinity helped her to her feet and she was escorted to meet her husband. 
My blood pressure must have shot up to deadly levels when I stomped off to amidships where a Lieutenant was stationed as the OOD.  I quickly approached his side and explained who I was and what had just happened.  He looked at me, seemingly disinterested and said, "So...what do you want me to do?"
That set my teeth on edge and with a valiant effort to remain calm I answered:  "Get someone to fix the brow."
"I can't do anything...sorry."
That obnoxious dereliction of his duties was the straw that broke the camel's back and mine too.  I turned and walked off loudly bellowing, "Well I can!"
I walked directly to the Executive Officer's stateroom and asked his marine sentry to ask permission for me to speak with him.  The marine entered the room and closed the door.  He returned seconds later and said the Commander would see me right then.  (Author's note: This isn't the same exec that had told me to stay off of an officer's ladder a year earlier).
I entered the stateroom and he asked me to sit down.  "What's going on Senior Chief?"  I explained who I was and quickly described what had just happened.  Without displaying expected decorum for his rank I added a few descriptive phrases about integrity, self worth and many other superlatives that described my displeasure.  To my great surprise, he agreed with everything I said and ended by saying, "Thank you Senior Chief...I'll take care of it."  I left feeling a bit better than when I entered his stateroom.
 
Next day, a third brow had been added for the exclusive use of carrying garbage and receiving supply deliveries.  Another brow was used exclusively for human traffic and the pallets had been replaced by a newly constructed step off box. 
A few weeks after that unpleasant episode I was eating in the chief's mess when one of several chiefs a few seats away turned to face me and asked, "Are you the asshole that complained about the brow?"
"If you mean that piece of shit you call a brow...yes it was me."
That perked up the unhappy chief and he retorted, "Well, it never bothered me."
I looked at him and answered, "I can see why..." 
 
Don't Click Your Ring on the Microphone
 
 When the Admiral and his staff were embarked aboard America he was given daily briefings of the ship's schedule, upcoming operations and other command functions.  Before the Admiral made his grand entrance to the room, a group of department heads, squadron commanders and other important members of the Admiral's staff sat around a long, green cloth covered table.  Occasionally, civilian dignitaries attended.  It was all very ceremonial, formal and obviously military.  Within a minute or so after the audience became settled the Chief of Staff would stand and with great aplomb announce, "Gentlemen...the Admiral!"  The Admiral would casually enter the room acting as though he was a head of state.  When he took his seat, that was the signal for the standing audience to take their seats. 
My boss and I shared the weather briefing duty every other day.  Our briefing was first on the docket so when the Admiral nodded his head we stood in front of an oversized map of the Mediterranean area with the day's weather maps pinned to it.  Our presentation and audience questions lasted about ten minutes.   After finishing my part of the briefing I left the room and returned to my office, often grinning like a Cheshire Cat because I considered all the pomp and ceremony a bit over done.  
 Following one of my briefings, the Chief of Staff (an old grizzled Captain) summoned me to his side before I left the room.  He had me bend over so he could speak in a low voice when he said, "Chief.  I want you to go to your boss and tell him what I‘m about to say and I want you to do it verbatim." 
 I assured him I would do that.
 The old Captain continued:  "If you click your ring into the microphone one more time, I'm going to shove it up your ass!" 
 I left the briefing room with a huge smile pasted across my face.  My boss was the Underway OOD working on the bridge so I went directly to the bridge.  The bridge environment was relaxed as I went to his side.  Without trying to keep my voice to a whisper, I told my boss I had a verbatim message for him from the Chief of Staff.  The helmsman, boatswain's mate, and other enlisted members of the bridge crew had noticed me as I spoke with the OOD so they were naturally curious.  I reminded my boss I was ordered to deliver this message verbatim.
 "Well...what did he say?"
 "If you click your ring into the microphone one more time, I'm going to shove it up your ass!"
 My boss responded with..."Was he kidding?"
 I shrugged my shoulders and answered "He wasn't smiling..."
 It isn't hard to guess who did the remainder of Admiral briefings during the cruise.
 
I'm Locked Out
 
 One day during an inspection tour, I was walking down a passageway in officer's country.   A man in a bathrobe and a toilet kit in his hand approached and as we drew closer together, I greeted him.  He didn't appear to be very happy so I asked, "Are you OK?"
 He answered, "Hell no.  I locked my keys in my stateroom and I don't know how to get the damned door open."
 With his seemingly desperate situation I decided to take a chance and help this poor fellow.  I asked, "How good is your memory?  Are you willing to keep a secret?"
 "What?" he answered.
 "If I can help you, can you immediately forget how it happened?"
 He frowned and answered, "If you can get me back into my stateroom my memory will instantly disappear."
 I asked him to lead me to his room whereupon I took out my master key and opened his door.  His response was one of great relief and he entered his room saying only, "Thank you...a lot!"
 That was the one and only time my master key went into action.
Author's Note
 
 I was instrumental in getting my brother assigned aboard America in time for my second cruise.   He was a First Class Aerographer's Mate and very good at weather work.  He acted as my assistant and that year together cured many years of animosity between us. 
 This memoir has awakened my memory of a wonderful two year period of my life and I am fortunate to have gained the experience that this monumental vessel allowed me. 
There were many more interesting occasions in that two year span but they will remain in my head for a wide variety of reasons.
 
"America the beautiful!"
 

Gene Boland, USN retired

Some terminology defined.

VF74: fighter squadron (group) #74

RIO: Radar-Intercept Officer

Plane Captain: Plane captains spend 12 to 15 hours per day with their assigned aircraft. In addition to the constant inspections, brown shirts check fluid levels, prepare the cockpit for flight and ensure there is no foreign object debris that could damage the "bird." Prior to handing the aircraft over to the pilot, the plane captains act as the final set of eyes.

Foc'sle: The forecastle, or foc'sle, is the area of the ship where the equipment to raise and lower the anchors is located.


This page updated 22 Aug 2013