Shipmates of the U.S.S. Cavalier APA 37
We were THE "READY SHIP" Seventh Fleet stationed at Subic Bay P.I. We recently embarked several hundred U.S. Marines including a ten man unit of the U.S. Navy elite U.D.T. That was the Underwater Demolition Team, pre-seals, that traveled with us to Okinawa and then on to Subic Bay during the beautifully serene summer of 1964.
With our Deck Division aptly handling the Hawsers, we secured alongside the new pier at Subic and dusted off our Liberty cards. With spit polished shoes to protect, most of the ship's crew, to avoid the ever muddy streets, had forked over a nickel, loaded into the multi-colored Jeepneys, and headed to beautiful downtown Oolongapo. The Cavalier's liberty party, as the ambassadorial representatives of the U.S. Navy, were doing their part to support the world economy and bring good cheer and contraband cigarettes to the girls of the New Hong Kong Bar and other such internationally famous tourist attractions.
The singing and dancing, drinking, and consumption of numerous servings of "Monkey on the Stick" were in full swing when the Shore Patrol was seen and heard in the streets telling all to return to the ship immediately and make preparation for getting underway! So, all said, " good-bye" to their newly found true loves and hoofed it back to the Mighty Cav. Why are we leaving such a glorious haven we all wondered? Now the ear piercing, screeching melody from the Boson's pipe whistled through the, circa 1938, Hi-Fi system accompanied with the following: Now hear this, Now hear this, this is the Captain speaking. We have orders to move to deeper water as a major storm system is moving into the area, that is all.
We headed out to no man's water, but strange as it may seem the sun shown brightly and the puffy white clouds jumped around in the clear blue skies. What is going on? Where are we? Scuttlebutt soon spread that we were not anywhere? But were in fact cruising in a 2 mile square pattern somewhere in the South China Sea; off the little known country of Viet Nam. Why? Where is the storm? Why are we darkening ship at night? Why nothing but red light allowed on deck and no loud noise? Why was the smoking lamp not lit on deck? Well, soon the Captain confessed and we found out that there was not really a storm, at least not yet! The typhoon ruse was keep secret that the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" had just taken place and we were THE READY SHIP. For 60 days we patrolled, ran out of provisions, turned puking sea sick marines (that hung out and blocked all the companion ways) into cracker jack sailors resulting in the formation of a Titanium strength bond, as the Fleet Marine Force became one with our ships' crew.
After 2 months at sea, word came that we would be relieved on picket by another member of the "Gator Navy" and that we would soon make way back to our home away from home..Subic Bay. Just as we were feeling that relief was in sight, that covert diversion, that falacious forcasted typhoon, to everybody's surprise made its appearance and hit us with avengence!
Now hear this, Now here this, crackled the speakers, Make Fast Make Fast, Secure all water tight doors, batton down all hatches fore and aft and clear all weather decks. The pale, pastel blue sunny skies of the Western Pacific turned an ugly dark gray, darker than the bulkheads of the mighty Cavalier. Water tight, like a corked bottle, with the bow turned into the wind she fearlessly faced the roaring seas. Captain Kendrick held her steady into the wind as the bow, time and time again, plunged steeply below the ever churning water line and bounced back up into the air as if stretching for the sunshine. Over and over again the ship nearly completely submerged into the now dark gray green of the turbulent, cresting abyss.
Massive waves to 60 feet broke high over the bow and crashed into the glass protecting the Con. For 3 days and nights the crew and the marines toughed out the storm. Our fantastic CS division, Sailors like Chief Jensen, CS1 O'Neal, and CS3 Jim Mitchell always kept something around to eat, though we were near bare on provisions. But, who could forget the fresh hot home made bread that our cooks keep constantly on hand; three hundred loaves a day! What a jesture to keep moral high. We had soup and Cool Aid through straws at times, and it seemed an ordinary occurrence to see footprints on the bulkheads of the mess decks as crew members had to make their way fore and aft during 50 degree rolls.
The huge steel "I" beams that formed the ribs of the ship were visibly torqued into smooth "S" shapes which could also be seen best amidship on the mess decks. Amazingly, as fast as it came upon us... it left. The cresting fulminating foamy whirlpool was gone and the seas calmed to a smooth glasslike surface as all divisions turned two and damage repair began. Once again, we were able to sleep without being tied into the bunks to avoid being dumped onto the ever raising and falling deck. An experience of a lifetime had come to and end as we proudly and happily cruised eastward toward San Diego, our true home port, yet sadly, never to return to Subic.
On that cruise aside from numerous tatoo removals and customized circumcisions, we performed two emergency appendectomy and the crew was up to the task of helping we docs during this stressful time by keeping the ship always on course, always into the wind and "steady as she goes."
Wishing you all God speed,
George M. Fisher HM3 "doc"