THE "REAL" NAVY
I had always heard that serving on a U.S. Navy destroyer was known as the "real" Navy. After reporting for duty on the U.S.S. Hamner DD718 I found out why they called it arduous sea duty. We sailed every Monday and came in on Friday. We held gunfire and damage control drills until we were sharp but exhausted.
One week we were assigned burial-at-sea duty, and we had two families aboard for the sad task of scattering their loved ones ashes at sea. Two other Chiefs and I had volunteered for the service. One of the sailors having his ashes left to the Pacific was named Percy. We were all in formation and the honor guard had fired the salute. The winds shifted just as the ashes were dumped and they blew back on the crew. I was making my way to the CPO mess when I asked one of my fellow chiefs what he thought of the event he had just participated in. He said, "Well, I don't know; I have Percy all over my dress blues."
All the training and dedication paid off when we plucked a downed pilot out of Haiphong harbor in North Vietnam. I talked to the pilot, Cmdr. Moss, after we dried him off and made him comfortable. He told me there is no way to practice ejecting from a jet airplane. He said, "When you push the button your head and your butt swap places and your sense of direction is lost." The aircraft carrier paid the traditional ransom in gallons of ice-cream for the safe return of their pilot, and his grateful family sent goodies to the crew of the Hamner every Christmas the years I was on her. I was very proud of my tour of duty in the "real navy".
© 2001 Maurice D. Karst
I have included the following newspaper write up with the THE "REAL" NAVY story and the rescue of Comdr. Moss because when you have the reputation of being a B.S. Artist, some stories require proof.
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