Sea story: Valencia oranges (1976)

It had been cold and rainy, typical for the Mediterranean in late February, but when we pulled into Valencia, Spain, the sun came out for a while. The air was still cool, so I knew that this was going to be wonderful bicycling weather. By now, I had ridden my new bicycle in four countries. The streets of Toulon, Naples, Piraeus, Barcelona and Palma de Majorca were familiar to me. I knew almost nothing about Valencia, but from the charts I could tell that the topography by the coast was gentle. Continue reading

Sea story: silver at the Cruiser Olympics (1975)

When USS WH Standley (CG-32) moored at Naval Base Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1975, there was a different thread of excitement running through the crew, in addition to the usual thrill of being back in home port. We had received a challenge from the other Belknap-class cruiser in town to a “cruiser Olympics.” It was rare for both ships to be home at the same time, so some sort of celebration was in order.

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Sea story: Riding the French Riviera (1975)

One of our first ports-of-call in the spring of 1975 was Toulon on the French Riviera between Marseilles and Cannes. USS William H. Standley (CG-32), a guided missile cruiser homeported in Charleston SC, was on deployment to the US Sixth Fleet (“Med Cruise”) with her new Assistant Operations Officer, Lieutenant. J.T. Hine. Toulon was the French Navy’s big base on the Mediterranean; the other was Brest, on the Atlantic. Continue reading

Sea story: War Games in the Dark (1974)

Dark. Absolutely dark. Deep inside USS Little Rock (CLG-4), the lights were all red, so that the night watch could accommodate their eyes. It had been more than four hours since I had seen white light, and I had gone out on deck early to let my night vision become as sharp as possible. It also helped that I knew the location of every knee-knocker and trip hazard by feel and by heart.

clg4 bw

I reported to the bridge at 23:35 and sought out the Officer of the Deck (OOD). As Jerry gave me the run-down on the latest details, my bridge team was doing the same: lookouts, quartermasters, helmsmen, messengers, and status board keepers. The Captain was coming and going between Combat Information Center (CIC or “Combat”) and the bridge. He was always aware of where we were and what we were doing, but he knew that his OOD was driving the ship.

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Sea story: Showing the flag in Alexandria (1974)

“On the bridge! This is Lieutenant Hine, Lieutenant Lonquist has the Deck!”

“This is Lieutenant Lonquist. I have the Deck.”

“Aye, aye, sir!” the seven men on the bridge watch shouted.

Sixth Fleet BadgeI headed down the starboard side toward the signal bridge. The sky was brilliant with stars, but no moon. We were cutting through the smooth, dark waters of the Eastern Mediterranean at an easy 20 knots, heading East-Southeast.

I felt a mixture of excitement, elation, and exhaustion as I headed for the door leading to my stateroom, eight decks below. Tomorrow, we would be arriving in Alexandria, Egypt, for the first official visit by an American warship since 1958. Sixteen years is a long time in Mideast politics, and a lot was hanging on this visit.  Continue reading