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Prior posts told of what the Newport News had done.  In the future I want to describe what happened on October 1, 1972 and its aftermath.  But this tale is about those shipmates who remain forever young like a lost high school sweetheart from a youth long gone.  I must at least show there faces.      

I'm old enough to like folk music and Phil Ochs was a great songwriter.  This song was on his album I Ain't Marching Anymore.  It may seem strange to choose a song from an anti-war activist's album to commemorate men who fought in a war, but the song fits.  The liner notes (remarks on the backs of record covers for those too young to remember) almost apologized for this track, but being anti-war did not mean disrespecting those who fought it.

I don't know what the rest of my shipmates did in Hong Kong.  It was the only chance during the deployment we had to become individuals.  Some chose to go out in go in groups, others relished the rare opportunity for spontaneity.  

Continued below.  Warning picture heavy.

Longing for release from structure and the chance to remember who I was,  I caught the liberty boat and set off aimlessly.  Going through a area with small shops some displaying tanks of live eels for food I learned that it is a very bad idea to order pizza in a place where 90% of the people are lactose intolerant.  Unless you like burnt flat bread covered with ketchup.  I wandered through the city taking in sights so unfamiliar I couldn't form enough thoughts to be confused.

Around dusk a quiet small bar appeared.  Comfortable sitting in a dimly lit booth I was able to order a beer and contentedly not plan my next move.  A lovely sweet woman who worked at the establishment sat across from me and told me I was supposed to buy her some overpriced drinks.  It was dark, I had been at sea a long time and was drinking, but I do remember her as lovely and sweet.  By this time I took instruction well so I complied with her request.  After a while I was led back to the kitchen sat at a small table and was given a bowl of food and some chopsticks to eat with.  As we talked a couple of other women who worked there came back.  After observing me for a while someone took pity on my inept efforts to feed myself and gave me one of those porcelain spoons to eat with.  There was some side conversation going on which I did not understand.  It may as well have been in Chinese, oh right.  Anyway I finally got the idea that I was being judged. I didn't have any place to go, it was their bar and their land so, oh well.

After a while she and I were walking to her apartment.  Along the way an older man asked for some money and I was told always give money to beggars.  Further down the street we passed some men on the sidewalk and she muttered "Japanese bastards".  I decided I was going to have to find out a way to tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese other than long names Japanese and short names Chinese.  

When we walked up to her place and she open the door I was amazed.  I thought I knew the entire spectrum of colors.  Walls were haze grey, the floor was a dark bluish deck gray, equipment and racks were a light tan tinted machine gray.  Food was a greyish meat, next to reconstituted light gray potatoes with green grey canned vegetables covered with gravy.  You slept on dingy grey sheets underneath a low hanging grey mattress which you would hit if your leg was bent too much when you rolled over.  There was a gray steel panel that separated your head from the guy in the rack next to you which would say "WTF?" if you hit it.  The only question I had about colors is whether you spelled them grey or gray.  

When she opened the door it was like when Dorothy landed in Oz.  There were greens, reds, yellows and pinks.  It was huge, maybe 300 square feet.  Probably bigger than the Captain's quarters.  There was bed with white sheets that you could sit upright on without hitting your head on anything.  Also it smelled nothing like a room with 90 men  who had taken showers at a variety of times in the past and sat over an occasionally overflowing tank of JP6 fuel oil.  In the morning I returned to the ship and came back each afternoon for the rest of the week.  She showed me around the city.  One afternoon we went to the top of peak overlooking the city and harbor.  It was spectacular.  

At the end of the week she pulled a letter out of a drawer and asked me to read it to her.  It was from sailor.  I laid there and read the sincere and touching private thoughts of another man to her.  She asked me to and I did, but God it was embarrassing.  When I was finished she asked me not to send her a letter.  I did.

On September 18th we left for Subic and spent a few days in port doing routine maintenance.  With the ship off of the gunline for almost two weeks we starting speculating about when we would return to Norfolk.  It had been said we would probably be back by Thanksgiving.  Then it was back to the Gulf of Tonkin.

24 September
NEWPORT NEWS joined TU 77.1.1 late in the evening, and General Quarters was called away at 2245
25 September
Operating with TU 77.1.1 NEWPORT NEWS conducted two missions against the Thanh Hoa and Vinh areas thorough the early hours of the day. She fired 377 8-inch and 100 5-inch rounds at 9 targets, and received 100 rounds of hostile fire.  
Upon completion of the second mission, she reported to CTG 75.9 in MR I.  There she fired an additional two missions accounting for 39 8-inch and 12 5-inch rounds.  At 1200 she rearmed with the USS VESUVIUS (AE 15)
26 September
Supporting VNMC units once more, NEWPORT NEWS fired 12 missions and 406 8-inch rounds and 122 5-inch rounds.  No GDA was observed.
27 September
Four missions were fired by the ship, accounting for 120 8-inch and nine 5-inch rounds.
At 1107 NEWPORT NEWS rearmed with the USS VESUVIUS (AE 15)
28 September
Twelve missions during the day gave the ship its first confirmed GDA since the line period began on the 25th.  Firing 420 8-inch and 20 5-inch rounds the ship caused four secondary explosions, two fires and destroyed six structures.
29 September
The morning began with another rearming from the USS VESUVIUS (AE 15) at 0720.  
Returning to the line the ship fired three missions accounting for 263 8-inch round and 15 5-inch rounds.  Damage amounted to four structures destroyed, five damaged and 50 yards of trenches destroyed.
30 September
Eight missions were fired, totaling 190 8-inch and 133 5-inch causing three secondary explosions, three structures destroyed and six damaged and two enemy killed in action.  
At midnight I reported to the Electronic Warfare room in the aft of the ship for the midnight to 0400 watch.  The ship was slow firing H & I, Harassment and Interdiction, which is shooting of some rounds toward positions were enemy action has been observed in the past to keep them awake.  As we chatted with the earlier watch as we relieved the two crewman getting ready to turn in, we noticed an odd firing of a round.  The sort of sound you might in your car transmission the week before you are stranded on the side road waiting for a tow truck.  

The intercom was keyed and there was a slight pause as if the speaker was taking a breath and thinking 'Speak clearly, separate your words, and use a command voice'.  Then the alarm:  

FIRE, FIRE, FIRE;   FIRE IN TURRET TWO.  GENERAL QUARTERS GENERAL QUARTERS.  ALL HANDS MAN YOUR FIRE STATIONS, then the ominous ALL NONESSENTIAL PERSONNEL REPORT TO THE FANTAIL.    

Herman Acker_edited-1       Age:  19         Hometown:  Reserve, Louisiana

acker times picayune

Bergman


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Age:  
20        
Hometown:  
Baltimore
Maryland

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Clark
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*              
 Age:
 22        
Hometown:  
Vienna
Georgia

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Clinard


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Age:  
21          
Hometown:  
Maysfield
Texas


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Dailey
   
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Age:  
20        
Hometown:    
Marshfield
Massachusetts

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Davis
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*    
Age:  
19          
Hometown:  
Shreveport
Louisiana

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Deal
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Age:  
21          
Hometown:  
Taylorsville
North Carolina

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Grisafi
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Age:  
21          
Hometown:  
Springfield
Pennsylvania

Note:  Died October 3rd from smoke inhalation.
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Harrison
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Age:  
19          
Hometown:  
Clifton Forge
Virginia

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Hawker
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Age:  
27          
Hometown:  
Sutherlin
Virginia

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Kikkert
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Age:  
18          
Hometown:  
Munster
Indiana

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McEleney
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Age:  
19          
Hometown:  
Medford
Massachusetts

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Moore
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Age:  
20          
Hometown:  
Philadelphia
Pennsylvania

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Pilot
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*    
Age:  
18          
Hometown:  
Salisbury,
North Carolina

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Robinson
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Age:  
20          
Hometown:  
Baltimore
Maryland

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*Rose
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Age:  
37          
Hometown:  
Indianapolis
Indiana

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Rucker
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*
   
Age:  
18          
Hometown:  
Baltimore
Maryland

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Scheller
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*
   
Age:  
18          
Hometown:  
Rahway
New Jersey

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Scott
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Age:  
20          
Hometown:  
Seymour
Missouri

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Tessman
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*Age:  
19          
Hometown:  
New Britain
Connecticut

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Lyle Lovett - Family Reserve.  Please listen, take another look at my former shipmates and shed a tear.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Next:  The investigation and aftermath. I am going to finish this in two or three more diaries.  Have a pleasant Veterans Day

Please read my comment below which I didn't want to add to the narrative.

Originally posted to Ron Aker on Fri Nov 08, 2013 at 03:49 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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