Appointed Squadron Embarkation NCOIC (April '65)
To this day I don't know who submitted my name to become the squadron embarkation NCOIC for the April '65 bash aboard the Sweat P (USS Princeton LPH 5). My suspicions are it was GySgt. Slaski and or SSgt. Abie Bloomfield. It could have been Mr. Radford or Capt. Gleason. In any case I got a 30 day vacation in Okinawa to become an embark expert. When I returned from the school I was transported back from Chu Lai by jeep and as I got out of the jeep Mr. Radford greeted me with I now have my Embark NCOIC I hadn't even put down my sea bag when Capt. Coleman stepped out of the Maintenance Tent and said he's maintenance's Embark man at this point Lt. Zamora stepped out of the S 4 tent and said no I was his embark man when from behind me comes the voice of Col. Somerville and he ended the discussion with "Sorry Gentlemen he is my Embarkation NCOIC."
The day came to embark ( a separate tale by itself) the squadron was aboard and the last plane with Col. Sommervile as pilot and Capt. Coleman as second seat with Sgt. Barnes as crew chief and the 1stSgt. we made a tour of the squadron area to make sure all items had been embarked. When the tour was completed and the Col. was satisfied that we were in fact done flew to the ship. I had no sooner put my feet on the flight deck than Mr. Radford came out of the island and told me that there was a UHF radio needing repair in the radio shop. At which point Col. Sommerville put his hand on my left shoulder and said Sgt. Peck do you think you can get lost aboard this ship until we get to the Philippines. "Aye Aye Sir" and I proceeded to get lost. He could not have made me any prouder by saying a job well done.
There are three things I remember about Col. Sommervillie
1. The shortness of his acceptance speech at the Squadron Change of Command as CO "Gentleman we have a war to fight dismissed!"
2. His physical presence.
3. Being told by the Col. to get lost and have him mean it in a good way.
We were heading ever west. The USS Princeton,
otherwise known as "Sweet Pea" was churning and burning: (So was Watts.
Burn baby burn.) I was on the hanger deck loading or unloading
aircraft as the powers that be had again changed the load scheme of things
for each aircraft. I was in the process of goofing off when an Officer
approached who I greeted with customary salute and he returned the greeting.
Then in the dim recesses of my mind something was wrong with the picture
this officer presented. So I booked on down aft between the aircraft
and the bulkhead and got ahead of this “Officer.” Again I presented
my self properly and greeted this “Officer”. He acknowledged the
greeting and gave me a rather sharp look. Bells were now going off
in the cranial firehouse something sure as hell wrong with this “Officer”.
I traveled further aft and again stepped out to greet the “Officer.”
This time as soon as I had greeted him he began to rip a piece out of my
butt for being a smart assed Marine when it dawned on me what was wrong
with the picture this “Officer” presented. In the middle of having
my butt chewed I said, “ Excuse me Sir, but your are either a Major
wanting to be a Lieutenant or a Lieutenant wanting to be a Major or a dumb
assed enlisted man that doesn't know what officers uniforms look like.”
This really lit his burn my ass fires when I further said,
“Your flight suit says Major and your hat says Lieutenant SIR!!”
He grabbed that piss cutter and stood looking at it for a moment and started
to storm off to oblivion I guess. He did stop and thank me however.
Never saw that individual again.
I had just gotten my combat/flight pay and went to the Ky Ha post exchange (PX) which was a tent in the middle of a large red mud hole with merchandise displayed on wooden pallets. They had a Boluva Accutron that I had wanted for some time so being a selfish gent I bought it.
The following day I was with Sgt. Gordon J. Barnes in some god-forsaken area and our guns were smoking going in. While in the zone something slammed my left wrist. I took a quick look, the hand was still working and there was no blood so back to shooting and caring on. When the helo had lifted and we made the transition to forward flight and the smoke had cleared I looked again at my wrist nothing. The watch was gone! Then I looked down and there on the window opening lay the wrist strap.
The next day I didn't have any gun runs and still had some Military Payment Currency, otherwise known as "funny money" left so I trekked back to the PX. I still had enough to get a Seiko Auto Wind. This would be a good choice because I figured I would be able to keep it wound what with all the screwing around I had to do in the avionics shop.
The following day I was again assigned to the guns
and was sitting on a jerry can filled with water for the flight.
One of the troops walked by with a 10 or 12 foot piece of timber on his
shoulder (Talk of a chip on the shoulder) and I said, "Good morning."
Then just as if the scene had been drawn from the "Keystone Cops", he reacted
and spun around laying the timber on my shoulder and knocking me off the
jerry can. You guessed it, Sieko busted, so back to my tried and
true Timex. I had that Timex for years and couldn't even throw it
The Avionics shop had been tasked to provide two NCOs for Shore Patrol (SP) in Olongapo PI. Sgt, Dave Magee and I volunteered (you know we did) for the duty.
Sgt. Dave Magee drew the town side that evening and I drew the Fleet Landing. Cinderella liberty was the rule of the day and it was nearing the last liberty boat call. The regular SPs from the base had just brought a bus full of well oiled Sailors and Marines to the landing.
Among this group was one fine "Purple Fox" Sgt. His uniform and appearance was that of a Marine ready for inspection, until you looked into his eyes. He was a couple of clicks off center. The town SP tour guards were due at the Fleet Landing so they could make the last liberty launch. Knowing that Dave Magee would be with them to help, I kept our Fox with me.
Sgt. Magee came back from town in about ten minutes and we both guided our Sgt. to the liberty boat. When we had gotten on the Mike boat I went down in the well of the boat and Sgt. Magee helped the Sgt. down the ladder while I guided his feet into the rungs. We placed him up against the bulkhead and in about one half a flea fart he oozed to the horizontal position on the deck.
When we got to the "Sweet Pea" (USS Princeton) we reversed the procedure and prepared to board the ship. Sgt. Magee and I had the Fox between us when he insisted he could make it on his own. There was a foot to a foot and a half swell when our Sgt. made a lurch toward the boarding ladder and missed, went straight between the Mike boat and the Princeton.
When we looked over the side, the only thing on the water was a piss cutter (slang for the soft fore and aft hat). We missed catching him the first time he surfaced, and again the only thing on the surface was the piss cutter. We almost missed him on the second surfacing because we were laughing so hard. We did get him on his second appearance. He still insisted he was capable of making the ship under his own power. He screwed his piss cutter on so that it was out of shape on his head with the eagle, globe and anchor centered on his forehead. His glasses were three sheets to the portside. He made the landing, swayed and lurched his way up the ladder to the after-brow way toward the Officer of the Deck, which was a Chief Bosons Mate.
The Chief had gotten used to the "Purple Foxes" evening
activities. Our Sgt. had the presence of mind to have his ID card
in his left hand. The Chief was doing every thing in his power to
keep from laughing. After saluting the national ensign the Sgt. with
green slim on his uniform, hat askew and glasses cocked raised his right
hand in a fairly close rendition of a second salute and requested permission
to come aboard. The Chief could not contain the laugher any longer
and began to give permission when our "Fox" said, " Haven't you ever seen
a drunk Marine before?" Permission was granted and the
Sgt. took about two steps on the quarterdeck and abruptly slapped
the deck with his forehead. He finally had reached the objective
and his autopilot turned his light switch to the off position. Sgt.
Magee and I carried him back to quarters.
William V. Peck's History Index
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