Saturday, November 26, 2011

What Surprise?

By Philip Gardocki

The fall of communism in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s has been much ballyhooed as a "surprise". An ignorant press reported that the CIA failed to report on the eminent demise of the Soviet Union. I am sure that the CIA just grinned, accepted the criticism and went back to work, because, in the Intelligence game, it is better for you to be thought a fool and have your opponents lower their guard.

Berlin Wall Left
Our policy against the Soviet Union during the Cold War was one of "Containment". This basically meant confronting any expansion and suppressing any dangerous trade links. The Containment policy was formulated by George Kennan (1904-2005) in 1947, and was followed by all presidents up through George Bush Sr. George Kennan predicted that this policy would either cause the collapse of the Soviet Union or force them to change their policies.

In 1975, I attended a Christmas party with other military friends including one Air Force cadet. He told me that he had recently attended a lecture given by a CIA representative. The representative had predicted that the Soviet Union would economically collapse in about 6 years – the CIA was obviously wrong about the date but not the event or the cause.

With the creation of the so-called "Star Wars" program, Ronald Reagan opened a new avenue to spend money on the military. We could barely afford it but the Soviets definitely could not. They tried and failed to keep up with us.

There were many critics of the "Star Wars" program; some was just the usual knee-jerk reaction against anything military but much of the criticism was valid, because, first and foremost, "Star Wars" was a fraud. Its major purpose wasn't to protect the US and our allies from Soviet missile strikes, it was to push the Soviets over the economic brink. If anything good came out of the program itself, so much the better. This conclusion has been validated by the memoirs of both Margaret Thatcher and Alexander Haig.

I am sure there were more indicators than this but I wonder why I still hear that communism’s fall was a "surprise".

A Swede's Story

Technicare's DR-960 Digital Subtraction
Angiography X-Ray Machine.
Related to Philip Gardocki by Jon Johansson 
One of my classmates in Technicare's Digital X-Ray class was Jon Johansson, who was from Sweden, and this is his Cold War Story – Phil.

My company had sent a group of us to an electronics convention in Vilnius, Lithuania, then a reluctant part of the Soviet Union. We were to man a booth for a few days, showing off our products. On the first day, one of my co-workers discovered a listening device planted in our hotel room. We were surprised at the clumsiness of this effort and had nothing to hide.

For the rest of the convention, we amused ourselves by talking into every vase, picture frame, and inanimate object we could find. It was great fun!

The jokes stopped when the minders showed up. We were breaking down our displays when two rough looking men started watching us. They had long coats, hats and just stared at us as we worked. It was like a movie. They then followed us onto the ferry we took to cross the Baltic Sea to Stockholm. Then, they even got onto our train. They did not leave the train station and I assume they went home, but the message was clear, "We know where you live and we can get you when we want."

Another Attempt to Start World War Three

By Philip Gardocki

Shortly after the Arab-Israeli 1967 war, a US Navy cruiser was patrolling the eastern Mediterranean. The search radar started picking up an aircraft. The course was plotted, and it was determined to be heading towards Egypt. Signal returns were so strong that it had to be a very large aircraft, probably a Soviet Bear. The Bear was a large, four-prop, long-ranged bomber that was also commonly used for air transport and resupply tasks.

Shipboard standard duties involved watching all aircraft in range and the late night and boredom made this aircraft the main topic of discussion on the cruiser. Since it was a slow moving prop plane and search radars have a very long range, it was going to be observed for over an hour.

Soviet Tupolov-95
Nato Codename: Bear
When the plane came into missile range, the Captain came into CIC and ordered tracking radars onto the target. This in itself was not unusual and was part of the normal hassling of the opposing sides when in close contact. It was unusual when he ordered missiles on the rail, and started the launch sequences. The realization of the situation started filtering through the combat team; this Captain was going to shoot down the Russian Bear and possibly start a Third World War. No officer challenged the Captain on his intentions. In the radar room in the aft section of the ship, the fire control radar men turned off their radars. In that day, the radars were Tube driven, and, once off, could not be restarted for 15 minutes.

The Captain ordered the radars restarted, and had explained to him that the radars were vacuum tube driven, and once off, their oscillators would not synchronize for 15 minutes, rendering them useless. No one reminded him that since the radars were were on and in reality were already warmed up, that there was a special mode called "Battle Short" that would have brought them up in 15 seconds.

The Captain ranted, threatened, and then looked on helplessly as the Bear slowly pulled out of range. Two days later, the Captain retired, and a new Captain showed up by helicopter.

What Was More Dangerous Than the U.S. Airforce?

By Philip Gardocki

The winter weather over Germany is fairly hostile to aircraft, particularly to pilots with low levels of training and with poorly maintained equipment that was not designed with an all-weather capability. The Soviet Air Force, while huge, was not very well maintained, and, in spite of an effort to maintain combat readiness, the fear of pilots defecting meant the planes were not often flown. This led to a condition where it was dangerous to fly in inclement weather.
Dead MIG-23

This situation was exploited by the U. S. Air Force. Whenever the weather would turn bad, a training flight was scheduled along the East German border. The Soviets would respond with their own matching flight along their side of the border, and occasionally, they would lose an aircraft due to their poor maintenance and training.

However, the competition was not always so one-sided.

No war is completely unbalanced and no nation with military aspirations wants to be caught out of date, either technically, or doctrinally. The Korean War was no exception. Most nations were above board with their support and participation, but some were not. For political reasons, the Soviet Union chose not intervene with military forces in the Korean War, though it certainly provided most of the heavy equipment for the Chinese and the North Koreans.

In an effort not to fall behind in jet combat doctrine, the Soviets sent the 176th Guards Fighter Regiment to fight on the side of the North Koreans. This unit, which was populated with a fair number of Soviet World War II aces, was flying the first production model Soviet jet fighters and became a major thorn in the U. N. side. Some of their pilots became the first jet fighter aces in the world. Overall, they claimed a kill ratio of almost 3-1, despite the fact the Russians and North Koreans were outnumbered 10-1 in the air and the Russians were not allowed to communicate over their aircraft radios, except in Korean.

To be fair, the 176th numbers are in dispute and their professed "kills" exceeded the losses that the U. N. experienced. It still is a testament to of what can be done when you mix the right skills with good equipment.

Living On The Line Of Death

By Philip Gardocki

2011 was a poignant year for me.  The “Arab Spring” has me thinking back to 1981, when our destroyer was cruising in the Mediterranean.  Having a standoff with Libya’s Colonel Kaddafi, and later as a show of support for the newly minted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

This story occurred in 1981, shortly after the "Gulf of Sidra Incident", and after the events described in the Cold War Story, "A Bad Day For Communism." This takes place in an environment of heightened military readiness.

I was asked by the Weapons Officer, otherwise known as "Weaps", to come to his office for a discussion. At this time, our ship was hovering about 15 miles from Libya, where we were being offered as a "dare". While we were 3 miles outside of Libyan territorial waters, we were 185 miles inside of Libya’s declared "Line of Death."

Once Weaps assured me that I was not in any trouble,* the conversation began in earnest. It was a confused and disjointed affair as Weaps didn’t know exactly what he wanted, but was trying to explain the situation in a round about manner, and thought we had a method for dealing with the situation. And if this makes no sense to you, then you have a good feel of the how the conversation went.

Eventually he went to the black board and drew out the tactical problem. In short, he wanted to know if we could shoot at aircraft that were operating from an airbase that had a mountain between us and them.

I informed him, that as a beam riding missile, as soon as the mountain cut the beam, our missile would self destruct. Weaps stated that he knew that, but he thought we had a mechanism that would allow us to shoot over the mountain at the airfield beyond it.

The lights went on. "Oh, you are talking about shore bombardment, yes we can do that!" Weaps brightened, this was the answer he was looking for! I thought rapidly, dredging up what was, at most, a 15 minute lecture on a "worse case scenario," from a class two years earlier, while knowing that this was nothing we practiced, but was possible.  This was in the day before the Navy had access to cruise missiles, and most of the navy’s guns were 5".  A mode of operation called "Shore Bombardment" with Terrier missiles was set as a contingency plan, just in case…

Got it!

My body language must have shifted, from pensive thought to full realization, and Weaps could see that, and looked on with great anticipation at the epiphany I was about to invoke. He might have had thoughts of his next yearly review, with mentions of innovation and diligence.

"We can set one of our missiles to detonate at a Cartesian coordinate point that is just about the point where it would lose the beam."

"How will that help?" asked Weaps.

"That should be close enough for the airburst to take out most of the aircraft on the airfield." I said.

Paling slightly, he asked, "Air burst?"

"Oh yes, shore bombardment is only with nuke’s."

In retrospect, I have often wondered about this conversation. The reputation I had with the chain of command must have been a conflicting one. On one side I am sure I was considered flaky, temperamental, and held our officers with low regard. On the other side, I was an excellent troubleshooter, a team player,  scored in the upper 2% of the Armed Forces Qualification Test, and was an armchair military historian. Somehow, despite the anti-fraternization rules separating the officers from the men, the Weapons Officer thought that I was probably the only person that could answer his question and on later examination, he was right.

*I was not a troublemaker, but at least thrice, through no fault of my own, I have embarrassed the XO, once in front of his subordinates, once in front of the Captain, and once to the US Ambassador to Peru.  See the Cold War Story "The Road to Leavenworth" for one of these events.

Requiem for an Inadvertent Cold Warrior

By Philip Gardocki

This is not a real story. There is no plot, no point to be made, and no punch line at the end. It is an example of how life can throw weird curve balls at you, and how one can adapt to unexpected circumstances. This is the story of Robert Eugene Brantly (1925 – 1985). While I knew him, he was a poet, rogue, father, manager and union leader - an overall renaissance man. His history before I knew him is rather vague; not that he was keeping secrets, but because we didn’t talk much. I was his step child and if he wanted to marry my mother, then I was just part of the deal.

There were leaks about his past and, when I thought about them, they didn’t always add up. He had stories of being drill sergeant in the Army, delivering ice in Cuba, served as a bodyguard all around South America, had a officers commission in the Merchant Marine, had dealings with the CIA, spoke fluent Spanish and Korean(?), was a boxer, robbed a bank and once broke a friend out of jail. He was descended from a rich southern family with extensive political connections. His father was part of the team that invented the cathode ray tube and he grew the stock rewards from that into a comfortable life.

While Robert was intellectually gifted and skipped grades in elementary school, he was also a typical "only child" rich kid. When he proved uncontrollable he was sent to a military school, the Valley Forge Military Academy. World War II broke out and the students were graduated early to provide manpower. Using the family’s political pull, he received the rank of commissioned midshipman. This is a rank below that of ensign but above any of the enlisted ranks. In that role, he traveled the Atlantic convoy routes to England, Morocco, and France, but, other than storms, he was never in any combat.

Following WWII, he left the service and spent most, if not all, of his time down south. It was around this time he broke one man out of a Mexican jail. However, the event that directed the rest of his life, started with barroom brawl. The fight ended with a plain-clothes, off duty deputy being knocked out by him. He was arrested and bail was posted by his father. This was the Deep South in the late 1940’s and, if you hit a cop, you were going to do time on a chain gang.

Realizing this, Robert skipped bail, and caught the next boat to Cuba. For doing this, he was forever disowned by his father. He made ends meet by delivering ice, and after a while, this english speaking Ice Man was noticed by an executive of General Electric.  Who hired him to be a bodyguard for his business travels around South America. As the son of an electrical engineer, he knew a bit about electricity, and, when the executive was reassigned state side, Robert was offered a job managing electric barges in Seoul, South Korea. At the time, it was a common practice to build electric generation plants on barges and then ship them to needed areas around the world.

Very early on June 25th, 1950, there was a knock at the door. It was opened quickly as Robert’s manservant entered. His manservant had an unusual military background. In World War II, he had been a Korean corporal in the Japanese Army, where all the Japanese bias and bigotry normally kept any such recruits in the rank of private.  To have achieved non-com status in that environment implied a high degree of competence.  He said simply, "Chinese come, we go."  The Korean War had just erupted, and Seoul was overrun on day 1.  Robert Brantly had just become an inadvertent Cold Warrior.

With a bent towards scorched earth, they sank the three electric barges and hot-wired a jeep, which got them half way to Pusan before running out of gas. Joining the hundreds of thousands of refuges on foot, they made their way to the Pusan Perimeter, where the United Nations forces (mostly American) dug in their heels. The refuges were not evacuated, possibly as a sign of our determination to stay but more likely because Japan would not have accepted them. Eventually, this fluent English speaking refugee was noticed and he was approached there by the Central Intelligence Agency and spent the war as a security guard for an antiaircraft radar installation.

When the war ended, and now certain that the law wasn’t looking for him any more, he returned to the United States.  He joined the army, and, being a former near officer and well connected, landed a job as a drill sergeant. He also got married and had two sons. Army life didn’t really suit him and, after a few years, he left.

October 1956 rolled around and he got an unusual request. When he told the story later, he described it thus: "You wouldn’t believe it. It was right out of a movie. I was given the address of an abandoned warehouse on the docks of Philadelphia. It was dark and foggy. When I got inside the building, I was hit with blinding lights and could barely make out three figures. They were all in suits and they all were named Mr. Smith. They wanted me to accept a job, without telling me what the job was. It didn’t take long for me to figure out they wanted me to parachute into Hungary, to help with the revolt against the Soviets. Of course, I turned them down."

Robert spent the next 20 years in a variety of jobs. He divorced and remarried, was a manager in some jobs and was a union president in another. Over the course of time, he rescued a payroll from a burning building, got an award for efficiency and was fired for incompetence later in the same month. He also never filed federal taxes but was never charged for it, although the local IRS chief knew exactly who and where he was.

A month after we buried him, my mother’s house was burgled. My mother’s 80 pound Elk Hound was found hiding behind the furnace, a pee spot on the floor to mark the spot where she must have been when the burglars entered the house. Nothing was stolen but everything was ransacked. I suspect the CIA was looking for something.  But do they typically search homes of long retired auxiliaries? There just might be more to this Cold War Story than I will ever know.

Did the Cold War Save Lives?

By Philip Gardocki

Despite the press’s increasing focus on the wars around the world, you are far safer from war than you think.

Because of efforts to avoid the unthinkable, the world has avoided another world-wide war of the sort that have been occurring periodically for the last 500 years. Spain fought for world dominance in the 1500s. Later, all the European powers were involved in power struggles to one degree or another. By the 1700’s there was a world wide conflict between France and England, of which the French and Indian War, our Revolutionary War, and the Napoleonic era were just continuations. With France subdued, the English proceeded to establish and consolidate conquests all over the world against indigenous peoples.

By the late Nineteenth Century, the Germanic peoples pulled themselves together and became the dominant force in Europe. With a more modern infrastructure, and better organizational skills, they defeated France in 1870 and began to surpass England in economic power. When Germany tried to establish trading enclaves elsewhere in the world they found that all the choice spots were taken and were forced to establish themselves a niche empire whose very presence helped lay the groundwork for two world wars.

The hard numbers can never be known for previous centuries but, in this century, if you lived from 1900 to 1950, your odds of dying as a result of war were in the 4.5% range. About three billion people have lived in that timeframe and about 140 million were killed due to war or associated purges. From 1950 – 2000, your odds were around .8% or less. About 7 billion people have lived in that timeframe and about 60 million died from war or associated purges. If you avoided living in a communist country, the odds shift downward to 4.1% in the early part of the century and .2% of the later half.

Also consider that, if you extrapolate about 1% of the worlds population died in World War One, and 5% died in World War Two, the cost of a late Twentieth century World War Three, even without nukes, could easily have been 250 million, and more likely, a billion.

Be Careful What You Ask For

By Philip Gardocki

Refueling at sea is probably the second* most difficult and dangerous operation that is performed regularly by the navies of the West. It is performed far less often by other navies of the world and almost never by the old East Bloc navies. It is the reason why the West can force project everywhere in the world.

DDG cutting through the waves.
Note this is a normal clear day, and not
hurricane conditions described here.
It is easy to see why refueling at sea is so dangerous. You have two or three ships, over 500 feet long, moving in parallel courses around 120 feet from each other for extended periods of time over a surface that is moving them up and down, port and starboard. While the ships are working against their destruction because of the venturi principle, you have between them, high tension cables, communication lines and fuel hoses. On these platforms you have the men who are tending the cables, moving the goods and communicating the information through multiple layers of command. If it doesn’t work perfectly, supplies could get drenched, men could be lost overboard or, in the worse case, ships crash.

To prevent accidents, the US Navy practices refueling just about every other day when a ship is at sea. It becomes so completely routine and boring that you forget just how dangerous it is. At one point, my job in this evolution was serving as phone talker to the other ship. I would pass messages from the tanker to the our First Officer and to another phone talker who was hooked to our Engineering.

One Sunday**, we were waiting for our turn at the pumps. This was one of those days that writers of the sea love to describe, in their most overused and picturesque prose, as, "The sea was made of glass." I say this, because up until then I can’t say I ever saw such a flat surface on the ocean. Due to a mechanical problem with the oiler, we had been waiting for several hours. In a fit of pique, I went to the First Officer in charge of the forward operations, and asked him, "Where is the adventure?"

I had a reputation for being a wise-ass, and his eyes narrowed; he didn’t want to be made a fool of, but couldn’t see where I was coming from. "What?" was all he replied.

"The Navy promised me an adventure and I haven’t had it yet."

The lights went on. The current Navy recruiting slogan was "It’s not a job. It’s an adventure." As he made a faux backhand at me he retorted, "Get out of here."

Within three days, I ate those words. More accurately, I had them hurled back at me by the 90 mile per hour winds of a force 2 hurricane. The violent pitching and the yawing of the ship had made even the hardened sailors a bit queasy.  We were taking on white water on the O2 deck (Translation, the waves were breaking over the second level of the ship above the water line.), this is normally about 45 feet above sea level.  To increase the stability of the ship, it was decided to top off the tanks with an extra hundred tons of fuel. How we found a British oiler at night and in that hurricane, I’ll never know. The only way the First Officer could find me was to go the phone jack I was plugged into and then follow the wire, hand over hand.

"Were hooked up, tell them to start," He shouted over the wind!

I yelled into the microphone, "How much pressure can you give us?" On a normal day, I would expect an answer like 50 pounds per square inch, which would take us 25 minutes to refuel and hope for 75 pounds per square inch, which would then take only 15 minutes. This, however, was not a normal day.

"We can give you 150 pounds per square inch," replied the British-accented voice.

I paused a second, as I have never had a 3 digit number offered to me before.

"Are you sure?"

"Of course. Now, if number 4 wasn’t acting up, we would be giving you 175."  Thank God for interservice rivalry one-upmanship and showing off!

I screamed into the ears of the engineering phone talker, "Can we handle 150 pounds per square inch?"

Despite being only a foot away, I couldn’t see the shock on his face, but there was a significant pause before he repeated my request into his headset. After only a few seconds he screamed back, "Go!  Ahead!"

"Give us 150," I shouted into my headset.

Then, over the noise of the waves crashing into the ASROC launcher, and the hurricane force winds, was a new noise.  A humming sound that grew steadily louder and louder. It was the sound that oil makes, when 3,750 gallons per minute travels through a reinforced rubber hose that is suspended in air by a steel cable that is tensioned to 10,000 pounds per square inch. I peered into the dark at the barely illuminated hose and like everyone else, backed away, pondering the forces involved. The First Officer ordered all nonessential personnel indoors. For eight minutes we wondered if the hose would blow.

Thanks to excellent nautical engineering, coupled with monitored routine maintenance, it didn’t blow, but it did take sledge hammer to bust the hose loose, and the residual pressure of the fuel oil ruined several uniforms when it released.

The Captain ordered medicinal brandy to be issued but it was actually Jack Daniels whiskey. I don't really care for whiskey, but I never had a drink at sea before, and as this oppurtunity was not likely to ever happen again, I endulged.  Everyone in the refueling detail got one very carefully measured shot, issued by the corpsman. Who, in turn took advantage of the situation to get royally crocked, and subsequently found out why you don’t want to drink heavily in ship that is bobbing like a cork.

* The most dangerous is carrier air operations.

** You always refuel on Sunday.

Battle off Dong Hoi

By Philip Gardocki

This story was told to me by one of the “Talos” radar men on the Oklahoma City, CG-5. Other facts I looked up.
USS Sterett, CG-31, Cruising at Sea.
On April 19th, 1972, during a major North Vietnam offensive, a task force of four US ships was sailing off the coast of Vietnam . They were the USS Higbee DD-806, USS Oklahoma City CG-5, USS Sterett CG-31, and the Lloyd Thomas DD-764.  They were attacked by three North Vietnamese MiGs.

In an attempt to surprise the task force, the MiGs came in low, described as "getting their feet wet". Despite the official stories, they did not surprise the task force, which had spotted them long before engagement range and were ready to shoot. Two ships, the Oklahoma City , and the Sterett, had anti-aircraft missiles, while the Higbee and the Lloyd Thomas were armed with dual purpose 5” guns. All ships were at battle stations.

What was inexplicable were the orders to "break track" on the MiGs issued to the “Talos” radars, and, presumably, to the Sterett’s “Terrier” radars. “Track” or “Lock” means the radar is automatically following a target and updating the fire control computer several hundred times a second. For reasons unknown, the missile cruisers were ordered not to fire at the incoming aircraft, but the two gun destroyers were given weapons free orders.*

The radar men on the Oklahoma City obeyed orders and broke track, but they locked back on immediately. When this was discovered, they were ordered to break track again and stay that way. Once again, the radar men obeyed the letter of the order but not the spirit, and, using their manual skills with the knobs and wheels, followed the planes without the automatic tracking circuits. This was also caught, and they were then ordered to place their radars in a centerline position and not to move them until ordered.

So, with helpless horror, they got to watch as one of those aircraft, dropped a 250lb bomb on the Higbee, destroying its aft 5” gun mount. Luckily the gun mount was empty as it had a round jammed in the barrel. The twelve-man gun crew had been ordered out while it was being hosed down to keep it from exploding. Four men were wounded, some critically.

On the Sterett, someone had had enough, and fired two “Terriers”, which downed a MiG**. Later that day she targeted another unidentified inbound aircraft and downed it as well.***

The official story is unchanged, that the four ships were surprised but responded well. I have not found one “conspiracy” page on this event, so mine is the first.

*One possibility I had heard was an inherent distrust of missile systems among the admiralty, not unlike the distrust of radar systems in WWII.

**This claim is now in dispute.  Apparently we now have the names of the attacking pilots, Le Xuan Di and Nguyen Van Bay, of the 923rd Fighter Regiment.  Both pilots returned to base and are available for commentary on this incident.  That something was shot down by the Sterett's terriers is not in dispute.  As the downing was visually witnessed.  One conjecture now is that there was an inbound Styx missile along with the MIGs.
***The Sterett was having an eventful cruise, as she also shot down two MiGs on March 30th - possibly a post WWII record.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Another Crack in the Wall

By Philip Gardocki

In the early 1980’s, at the same time I was attending a class for a digital imaging X-Ray system, there was another class populated by six mainland Chinese. Their government had bought some CAT scanners and sent some people to school to learn how to maintain them.

One of the first things we noted about this group was that two were always dressed in green and four were always dressed in grey. After time went by, we noted that the four dressed in grey did not know much but were learning. Those dressed in green didn’t know anything and never learned anything. All six men were married and had one child each.

We were amused of their misconceptions they had about us and set about to dissolving as many as we could. A big issue they brought up was about food. They believed that the CIA built the supermarket that was visible from their hotel.

"Why would the CIA do that?" we asked.

"To convince us there were no food riots."

"What food riots?"

And they actually said this, "There is no way a capitalist society can grow enough food to feed itself."

A consensus was reached that there was no way we were going to overcome this a lifetime ingrained indoctrination without some serious visual aids. After all, we were obviously all in the employ of the CIA and duty bound to convince these men that all was well with our capitalist society. So, we took them on a road trip.

We got in their minivan and took them to a different supermarket and then another, and another, and another. Eventually, we asked, "Do you think the CIA built all of these?"

Most of them looked down, not willing to admit that they were convinced, but one offered a half hearted counter argument, "If you Americans have so much to eat, then why do you eat potatoes?"
This question took us back. "Why do you say that?"

"Because potatoes are what we feed the pigs, and only the poorest peasants eat potatoes."

Now it was our turn to be embarrassed. Our only possible reply was, "We like potatoes."

Epilog. I believe we convinced them we were for real and one of them even became a Cleveland Indians fan. After they returned to China, Glen would send a newspaper to him every week, so he could keep up to date on his team. The Chinese censors dutifully snipped anything offensive out of the world, local and political sections of the paper before delivering it. After two years of this, Glen received a letter.

          You can stop sending me the paper. They figured out why I was getting it, and now they just snip out the baseball section.

And the Band Played On

By Philip Gardocki

My first duty station was onboard the USS Oklahoma City, CG-5, otherwise known as the "Okie boat" or the "The Grey Ghost of the Pacific Coast." She was modified with extra communications equipment and berthing to support an Admiral’s staff, and was serving as the Commander of the Seventh Fleet’s flagship. She also had a significant "deck force" of four divisions and, as such, the electronics’ personnel were not required to man many of the extra details required to run a warship.

I was in our radar room during a refueling evolution, just staying out of the way of the real work topside. This radar room was a former 6" gun magazine and was located deep in the bowels of the ship. My boss handed Yowell and me a pair of buckets and sponges and said, "Number 5 needs some help."

Somewhere in the Pacific, USS Enterprise, CVN-65, refueling
USS Oklahoma City, CG-5, as photographed by the Author.
We understood immediately. Number 5 was our twin radar room across the corridor from us. They had a chronic problem with the condensation feed from the air conditioner in the compartment above them. The condensation would block up and cause a small flood that would then seep through the strike down hatch that was above their electronic equipment. Paperwork was filed to fix that hatch and feed, but nothing had been approved or implemented yet.

When I arrived in Number 5, I can’t say what I saw was abnormal. Yowell and I had been sent over here to help sop up water before but we were both "newbie’s", and I couldn’t say if I really noticed there was more water there or not, until my bucket was full. I remember noting that I had never filled a bucket before during one of these "problems".

I went up the ladder to dump the bucket in the upstairs head. This was a climb up a vertical tube that ended in a water tight door that is supposed to be "always" open. Not only was it shut, it was locked ("dogged down") with 6 latches ("dogs"). Whoever set those dogs was a lot stronger than I was. As I sought enough leverage to pry up the dogs, I cursed, "Who the hell set Zebra ("locked") on this door!"

The epiphany came when I released the last dog and saw the compartment above Number 5 and 6 had at least 3 feet of water in it. We were sinking! I slammed the hatch shut and started to redog it. Then, I remembered my buckets and realized that another three gallons wasn’t going to matter, so I opened the hatch, and emptied it. In a state of mild panic, I reset the dogs, probably tighter than before, and returned to the Radar rooms, breathless with the news, "The compartment above us is flooded!"

The looks on everyone’s face except Yowell’s told me that this was not new information. With the scorn reserved for us "pollywogs", I was told, "We know it’s flooded."

"Aren’t we sinking?" I replied.

"No, it’s just a break in the fire mains."

"Why weren’t there any alarms about this?" After all, there were supposed to be alarms covering any catastrophic events.

The answer, "Do you think the Admiral’s Flagship is going to admit it is sinking while conducting refueling?"

I have imagined the scene, the two ships moving through the waters at a stately pace, the Seventh Fleet Band playing a rag and the Oklahoma City slowly listing starboard. There were no audible alarms and no visible excitement. Like the emperor who had no clothes, everyone knew something was wrong, but was not willing to admit it. Beneath the pretended calm, frantic men were doing their best of avert a disaster. One engineer, who was in charge of distributing the fuel to the various tanks, was adjusting the flow to the starboard tanks, making the ship list even more than it should. His bed was in the port side of the flooded compartment and, while some beds were going to be wet, it didn’t have to be his bed! In the grand scheme of things, he was probably right - the same number of people were going to be inconvenienced whether or not the ship was listing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spontaneous Teleportation

By Philip Gardocki 

I know of one case of spontaneous teleportation done by a human. This was related to me by Steve Miller, who I would be regard as a stable individual, and not prone to make things up. It involved a "Buzzard Ex" (for more information on this weapon, see Cold Wars Stories "Buzzard Ex" ) in the Mediterranean. Steven was "Talos" missile man on the USS Albany. Their "Buzzard Ex" shoot was going much better than the one in the Pacific and the shooters actually nailed two of the more than 40 missiles shot off.

The booster that remained on the rails*
The Albany also had one of those "Ut Oh’s" that firing liquid fuel rockets sometimes bring. Steven was about 2-300 feet away from the missile launcher, descending down an outside set of stairs, when the latest missile was fired off. But instead of the characteristic large whoosh with a very noticeable Doppler shift, this one went bang. He saw the sustainer, that is, the missile end, go ballistic into the sea, but the booster was still attached to the launcher, and was now spraying 100 foot flames from both the front and back of the booster.

One instant later, he was two floors down, and setting Zebra (locking) the door to his radar room. According to him, no time had passed, he did not traverse the intervening stairs and he was just there.

I know there is a certain lack of scientific evidence to this story, but I have another one where there is less ambiguity.

Last Talos leaving the USS Albany.*
This also involves a missile launch (surprise, surprise) from the USS Oklahoma City CG-5, and there were about 20 or so men watching missile shoots from what we referred to as our back porch. Also present was an 8mm video camera. The missile launched but, instead of heading outbound, it went almost straight up. Everyone followed the smoke trail until it was almost out of sight when the smoke trail made 180 degree loop. The "Talos" missile was now descending at over 1600 miles per hour straight down. At the last instant, it turned starboard, went out to sea and self destructed. As measured by the recorded camera footage, the total time of flight time was less than 10 seconds, with less than 4 seconds from the time the missile hit apogee to self destruct.

With the exception of the cameraman and one other, everyone else had fled into the adjacent office, and set Zebra.  There is no way 20 men could get through that door in 30 seconds, much less the 4 seconds from apogee. The only answer is that, for a moment, those men either teleported or became more real than the aluminum wall, and, while in that state, were able to go through it.

*Contrary to the claims painted on these two missiles, neither were the last Talos missiles fired.  Some were fired from Barking Sands missile sites well into the 90's

You May be a Russian Spy Ship

By Philip Gardocki

During one short cruise off of the Korean coast, it was announced that we were being observed by a Soviet spy ship posing as a fishing trawler. We received orders to shut down all radiating elements, radars, sonar, anything that emits radiation that the Russians would be interested in.  And then, we largely ignored them.
How can you tell if a fishing trawler is a Russian spy ship? Well, to borrow the parlance from Jeff Foxworthy:

  • If you have more antennas then fishing booms, you may be a Russian spy ship.
  • If the school of fish you are chasing is always in the direction of a US cruiser, you may be a Russian spy ship.
  • If somebody on that cruiser moons you, and you know the Captain’s name, have the correct frequency and the equipment to call him and complain about it, you may be a Russian spy ship.

Buzzard Ex.

By Philip Gardocki

My first missile system was “Talos”, referred to as “the long arm of the fleet.” She was second tier of an envisioned 4-tier aircraft defense layer. The first tier was fighter aircraft, the second “Talos” with its official range* of 75 miles. Tier three was “Terrier”, with its official range of 20 miles and finally “Tartar”, with a 10 mile range. There was some rivalry between the missile men. As “Talos” had the longest range, I felt superior and sorry for my rivals. “Terrier” was newer and deployed on more modern ships, so they felt superior. Everyone I knew felt sorry for “Tartar” missile men. 

As technology improved, the range of “Terrier” and “Tartar” missiles improved, but “Talos”, which was so large it could only be supported by the converted hulls of World War Two cruisers, was destined for the scrap heap. In their thrifty way, the Navy decided to use a number of “Talos” missiles as targets for one and all to shoot at.

Somewhere in the Pacific, a Talos missile
launched by USS Oklahoma City, CG-5,
 as photographed by the author.
This targeting of “Talos” was called “Buzzard Ex”. All the newer antimissile/antiaircraft systems were chomping at the bit to claim a “buzzard kill”. How can you miss - these missiles are almost as big as MiG-17, and are going to move in a straight line. It was going to be a turkey shoot.
But my friend, Jeff, regarded this as a serious problem, and he and I put a lot of thought into it while building a pyramid of beer cans in the bar that was built on the pier, located half way between our two ships. Like all the shooters, Jeff would regard this as a serious personal coup if one of his “Terrier” missiles hit one of my “Talos” missiles.

There were a number of problems. The first is the crossing target problem. It is relatively easy to shoot down a target that is moving straight towards you, it is much harder to shoot one that is moving tangentially. The second was the speed problem. “Talos” actually breaks the speed of sound as it leaves the rail, so reaction time is very short. Also, “Talos” is faster than “Terrier” by a small amount -  mach 2.5 vice 2.2. This provides a very narrow window to shoot in.

On the “Talos” side, there was plotting to make a tough problem even worse. One suggestion was to break the missile's speed regulators. Since “Talos” was a ramjet, the faster it went, the faster it could go, until it lost structural integrity. There was also a conspiracy to mess up the count down so the firing ships would not have any advanced warning. Neither of these nefarious schemes were implemented and we needn’t have worried.
“Buzzard Ex” in the Pacific started with the Oklahoma City launching and five ships, including the Long Beach , also a “Talos” ship, and the Worden, Jeff’s ship, which sported a “Terrier” Mod 5 system. In the air were Tomcats from the Enterprise battle group with their “ Phoenix ” air-to-air missiles.

I heard later that, after the first “Talos” launched, our communications people heard all kinds of comments from the shooters, ranging from “What the?”, “Where is it?”, and, my favorite, “Ready when you are!” It was very gratifying. The Long Beach, with her phased array radar, had fast reaction software that was designed to automatically acquire and shoot at targets. Unfortunately, since the “Talos” missile was a crossing target, the computer assigned it a low priority. However, every other ship in the fleet was a high priority, as the radar failed to identify all the ships as friendly. Her four “Terrier” radars and two missile launchers slewed and acquired the nearest four ships, and only some quick thinking prevented a tragedy.

The second “Buzzard” launched with only one shooter getting a lock on, they fired, but missed. Four more “Buzzard” missiles were fired, with zero intercepts before it happened.

The Weapons Officer pressed the fire button, and the missile didn’t fire. As “Ut-Oh’s” go, this is somewhere between minor and major. Both specialized equipment and protocols have been developed to deal with this situation. The options are: 

A: Wait 3 hours for the batteries to drain, then, in theory, bring the missile into the missile house for diagnoses and repair.

B: Using 3,000psi of compressed air, "Dud Eject" the missile into the sea.
Our Weapons officer, in a career defining move**, chose option C: Bring the defective, and what turned out to be battery acid spitting missile, back into the missile house. Now all "Talos" missilemen go to the same school, and prominently displayed in the foyer of the school, was a picture of a target ship that had been hit by a by a “Talos” missile. In that picture, you can clearly see a bow, a stern, and nothing else above the waterline.  And this ship was hit by a missile without an explosive warhead, all the damage was just from the liquid fuel. If a missile ignited its engines in the missile house, the resulting explosion in the Pacific would be recorded by seismologists in Iceland . As soon as the missile house crew looked into the wrong end, and given the situation, there was no right end, of this smoking, sparking, and spitting telephone pole of death, they shut the armored missle doors, spun the launcher to a less dangerous angle, and ignored all orders to stow it.  When his order was rejected by missile house personal, the Weapons Officer went into a rage. This rant, performed before his men, his Captain, and the Commander of Seventh fleet, who was a three-star admiral in line for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was taped and provided us with amusement for weeks to come.

In the end, we followed option A: but “Buzzard Ex” was at an end in the Pacific. 

Despite nearly always having different assignments, Fate had placed Jeff and I together a number of times***. On one such time, in Jacksonville , he proudly showed me a broken “Talos” missile painted on his radar director.

Jeff had gotten a second crack at “Talos” after his transfer to the USS Dale. The ship was upgraded to “Terrier” Mod 8, and, with his experience, he was successful in shooting down a “Talos” missile launched by another good friend, Steve Miller, then stationed on the USS Albany. Steven and I had met earlier that year in San Francisco and he described his end of the shoot. But, that is another Cold War Story,
*A note on official capabilities. The rule of thumb is this: the British always understate their capabilities and the Soviets always overstate their capabilities. What the Americans do depends on how they are trying to convince Congress. For instance, we will understate an existing system, when looking to replace it. They will overstate a system when trying to convince Congress to buy it.

**The stake in the heart kind.
*** Yokosuka, Subic Bay, Damneck, Jacksonville, Naples and Houston .

Design Flaw?

By Phil Gardocki
My Navy role was as a ship-to-air missile man. I did not really keep up with the advancements in anti submarine warfare. What I knew was interpreted from World War Two events and Hollywood movies of dealing with subs with limited endurance, usually less than 24 hours, being brought to the surface after a dramatic cat and mouse game.

You can imagine the great excitement when it was announced that our squadron of three destroyers had run across a Soviet submarine, believed to be a Foxtrot. We were going to see if we could bring it to the surface. I was only an observer in this evolution, and watched the slow dance of three ships moving counter-clock wise in a slow circle, each ship taking turns actively pinging the waters and tracking the sub in the depths. As the hours went by, our anticipation grew, to be the first to spot boiling waters that would herald the arrival of the ascending ship.

Then, as the days went by, our agitation grew, as sleepless night were spent listening to the high energy squeal of the sonars. On the third day, one of our ships had to break formation, as it was running low on fuel. We knew that we were also only 24 hours from that breakpoint ourselves.

I finally asked myself the question, "How long can it stay down there?" I realized I had the answer and went to my book,  All the World’s Navies.

The answer is 28 days.
Yes, a diesel powered Soviet Sub can stay underwater longer than a United States destroyer can stay above it.

Soviet Foxtrot Sub Underway.

Same Foxtrot, 2 weeks later.

Naval Intelligence?

By Phil Gardocki

Once, I attended a briefing of Soviet ship capabilities, given by Naval Intelligence. After the briefing, I approached the officer, and queried him about the up to date specs on the Typhoon-class submarine, as he had stated this was newly acquired information and my information that was at least two years old.

I soon found out that I knew more than he did, and when he asked me where I got my information from, I told him I subscribed to "Strategy and Tactics" Magazine.  

He wrote down the title, and said he would check into that.

Black Sea Follies

By Phil Gardocki

Late in 1981, our ship, the USS King, had the opportunity to sail in the Black Sea. This was a rare instance, but also a direct tweak of the Soviet nose. Part of that tweaking involved flying the “Battle Flag.” I don’t know the dimensions, but it was HUGE. Think of flag images that a marching band would create during the Super Bowl, and you will be in the ballpark. We also created an absurd looking antenna to give the Soviets something new to look at. My suggestion of sealing a boom box with a continuous tape playing sonar- type noises overboard for the Soviets to find was ignored.

Late one night, I was awakened by Conroy, one of our fire control missile men, with an unusual request, “Combat wants to speak to you.” Combat was short for the Combat Information Center , the nerve center of the ship.

“Huh,” came my sleep deprived answer.

Reading from a note, he asked, “They want to know if you know what a Sverdlov is?”

I was in luck, I knew that one. “It’s a Soviet six inch gun cruiser.” I replied.

He looked at me and said simply, “They really want to know if you know which Sverdlov it is.”

Muttering “Give me a break!” I got out of my hammock, and headed for the headset that was our link to Combat. The fog in my brain was clearing, and then came the realization that someone in Combat, was aware of my hobbies.

“Combat, this is Director 5.”

“Hi Phil!” this is Cooper. Ah!  That answered one question. FTM1 Cooper was my official boss, but had zero experience with AN/SPG 55 Radar systems, and left the practical running the rear radars to a triumvirate of Silcott, Cerjanic, and me.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“We have picked up a Sverdlov that is on an intercept course with us at dawn, and we want to know if you can identify which one it is?”

Grabbing my copy of All the Worlds Navies, I headed for the well-thumbed section near the end of the book. Stalling for time, I asked incredulously, “Don’t they have a copy of Jane’s Fighting Ships up there?”
“They do, but it is locked up, and no one here has the key.”

I have never felt more uncomfortable with the Navy than that moment. Nothing life threatening was going on, but the fact that only way we were going to identify a possible hostile relied upon someone’s whose hobby was the study of naval warfare, and the coincidence that someone who knew of that hobby happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Having had time to scan the Sverdlov class, I asked, “Ok, what radars are we detecting?”

Sverdlov class, 16,000 tons, 12 6" guns,  12 4" guns, 10 21" torpedoes.
I would have counted it as a coup to have identified the exact ship, but it was not to be; it was one of the unmodified twelve models that comprised the bulk of the class. And I did not have my copy of SPI's "Sixth Fleet" to see which ones were assigned to the Black Sea. Whoever it was, it turned away shortly before dawn and we never did see it.

A Bad Day For Communism

By Philip Gardocki

It was September 1981. And "Colonel" Mohamar Quaddaffi, Dictator of Libya, claimed as territorial waters, all of the Mediterranean within 200 miles of the Libyan shoreline. The fact that this included Sicily and Malta did not seem to bother the Dictator. In response to this, President Reagan sent a Navy Carrier group to operate within the 200 mile "Line of Death" but outside of the 12 miles considered territorial waters by the rest of the world. It was then reported that Libyan aircraft attacked aircraft from the Nimitz, which was operating in the Mediterranean. The Nimitz aircraft shot down two Libyan aircraft.

Largely unreported at this time was 48 hour confrontation between a Navy cruiser and Libyan forces containing a submarine, a missile boat, and at intervals at least two aircraft. At times, all weapon doors were open on the Libyan forces. The Libyans eventually stood down and retired.

It was in this environment that our destroyer, the USS King, DDG-41 arrived in the Mediterranean. The incidents described were less than two days old and already there were tee shirts of downed Libyan aircraft, and camels being targeted by Harpoon missiles. Initially we were unaffected by the events and had shore leave in Marseilles, France. Then, we were ordered to sail with the Oliver Hazard Perry, FFG-7, to sneak up on the Soviet Flagship in the Mediterranean, the "large antisubmarine warship" Leningrad, currently operating in Libyan waters.
Large Antisubmarine Warship Leningrad, off the coast of Libya,
as photographed by the author.

I was skeptical we would be successful. Besides being the flagship of the Soviet Navy in the Mediterranean, the Leningrad had a goodly number of radars and over 20 helicopters for air search. When you consider that the Libyans were feeling very watchful on their territory, the odds looked slim that we were going to sneak up on them.

A day later, we were towing the Oliver Hazard Perry back to port. She had a single turbine engine design and when it failed, she was immobile. It was a bad day for Democracy. We dropped her off in Marseilles and, four days later, alone, we were back on our original mission of hunting bear and antagonizing a minor power. 

Early one morning, after several days sailing, there was an announcement that we were closing in on the Leningrad.  OK, how did we do this?

It was really nothing that we did. The Soviets spent most of their budget on building weapons and next to nothing maintaining them. In the case of their Navy, ships did not use any equipment that was not necessary. Leningrad was at anchor, radars off, helicopters stowed, engines cold. As soon as our ship broke the horizon, her escorting destroyer, a Krivak*, raised steam, and sailed to intercept us. Once we were identified, the Leningrad raised steam, and started running away. The maximum speed of the Leningrad was about 38 knots, while ours was 33, and she began to pull away from us.

I was disappointed at our inability to get a close-up view of this ship, when suddenly, the cloud of smoke emanating from her stack ceased. Her engines had failed! So it was, we closed on to the flagship of the Soviet Navy, at 5 knots. By my estimate, there was over $100,000 of camera gear on deck, none of it government owned, and we were snapping pictures with abandonment.

And we offered to provide technical help. But our offer was ignored. 

It was a bad for day for Communism.

After the initial cruise by, we took our post at a respectful distance of maybe 5 miles. By mid afternoon, Leningrad raised steam again. Then, in what only could be considered a show for our benefit, she lit off her radars, exercised her missile launchers and launched most of her helicopters. She looked like a grey beehive with 20 helicopters buzzing around her.

Then, she lost one. It looked like an invisible hand just reached up from the water and plucked it out of the sky.

We offered to help. Our offer was ignored.

It was a bad for day for Communism.

* The Soviets also classified the Krivak class as "large antisubmarine warships".

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Road to Leavenworth

By Philip Gardocki
This is my favorite sea story. It happened to me. And, if only one thing had changed, I could have been sent to the Marine-guarded prison of Leavenworth. That is, if the Navy would have stood for the embarrassment of the courts-martial!

In 1981, we were at sea, in the middle of the Atlantic, and on the way to Europe. I was on “Roving Patrol.” That is to say, I was armed with a .45 automatic pistol, and my job was to roam the ship, in a random fashion, checking on the sensitive areas of the ship. I was to report my existence to two different places, the missile house, and the bridge, every half hour, but not on the half hour. It was during this watch that the ship was also conducting a Man Overboard Drill.

During a Man Overboard Drill, every crewman gets mustered and counted, in order to find out who, and how many men were overboard. Usually, a few random individuals are pulled aside before the drill to test the system and woe betide the department head who fails to report those missing people.

Now there are a host of rules regarding the behaviors of a Roving Patrol, all of which make sense by themselves and most make sense in groups. However, some, as we are about to see, come in direct conflict with other rules, and common sense has to be relied upon.

One of the rules is that the Roving Patrol cannot be summoned anywhere by electronic means. This is to prevent an intruder who has access to the intercom, in Navy terms, the “1MC”, from summoning the Rover to his doom. However, the Man Overboard Drill is such a summoning and was not covered by any exception. However, we were a thousand miles from land; and clearly this was not some attempt to disable the Rover, and, so, I reported to my Man Overboard Drill muster area.

While we were all mustered, below decks, in our living compartments, another order was issued on the intercom, “Roving Patrol, lay to the bridge!”

At first, I did not comprehend what I had just heard. Here was a broadcast order that is a cause for a security alert. You could see the realization filter through the group below decks, as most of us were on the Guard Force and were the first responders for a security alert.

We dashed to armory, pausing only to make sure that the missile house guard was at his post. En-route, the order was repeated, “Roving Patrol, lay to the bridge!” I could not think of why this was happening, particularly during a Man Overboard Drill. I did not think it a coincidence; this request for my presence, coupled with the fact that all the ship's personnel, not directly involved with rescue efforts, were effectively locked below decks.

The armory corridor was flooded with personnel, because, normally, a security alert is done after working hours, so the normal duty force of 10-12 men had swelled to 50 or so. Three things became evident:
1) The Duty Gunners Mate, who has the keys to the armory, was not present.
2) None of our security officers or chief petty officers were present.
3) While I was not quite the most senior man present, I was the Rover, and lacking any clear line of command, I was in charge.

Here is the information I had: there was a strange coincidence of timing a security alert with a Man Overboard Drill, this had the effect of locking most of the crew below decks and there was the lack of any command personnel. This led me to conclude that there was a mutiny going on, led by the XO. Even at that time, I knew this was irrational, but did not have time to come up with alternatives. All this was moot however, as our preassigned duties were clear. We, the Guard Force, were required to secure the ship until a lawful chain of command could be established, and while lacking in weapons, we did have five times our normal numbers to perform this task. Being a war gamer, I had already laid out in my mind the tactics to secure all our assigned objectives, including taking the bridge in a three-pronged attack. I also knew I was going to Leavenworth for taking advantage of this situation to, however briefly, take command of this ship, if only for the purpose of returning it the Captain.

Now, what was actually happening was this: the ship was at Man Overboard Drill stations. All the security officers were performing their alternate duties with that in mind - one was driving the ship, one was in a boat in the water, and one was directing recovery efforts. One was the Duty Officer of the Deck, while the XO and CO were on the bridge wing observing the activities. All chief petty officers were conducting musters of their men, and all first classes were being mustered at their muster stations. The Duty Gunner’s Mate was asleep in the 40mm magazine, and was unaware of the activities requiring his attention. In the water was the floatation dummy, “Oscar”. Someone on the bridge mused if Oscar could be hit with a .45 cal pistol from the bridge wing. The Captain said that he could, and bets were made. It was decided that the Roving Patrol’s pistol was the fastest gun to get a hold of, and that is why I was summoned to the bridge.

Obviously the XO did not know what he was doing, but the Junior Officer of the Deck did, and stated, “He won’t come, or worse, he will come.” As a lowly ensign, coupled with being short and fat, he was ignored. Whether he thought I would come complacently in violation of the protocols or with 50 armed men, he didn’t get to mention. But he did move smartly to a corner of the bridge where he wouldn’t be trampled from any of the entrance points to the bridge.

While my fertile imagination came up with a fantasy scenario, the XO had come up with the reason for my nonappearance and picked up the microphone to the intercom and issued the order, “Secure for security alert!”

By now, you probably get the pattern. An order to secure over the intercom is an order to launch a security alert, particularly if this is issued by someone who knows the security protocols. This only reinforced the fantasy in my mind and I started organizing to assault the bridge, when, down from the bridge came the Master at Arms, who had been sent by the XO to the armory to get a gun.

The Master at Arms looked at all of us and said, “What are you all doing here?”

Me, “We are at security alert.”

Master at Arms, “The XO said to secure.”

Me, “No.”

Master at Arms, now looking at the locked door of the armory, “Get me a .45.”

Me, “If we could get into there, we would be gone by now.”

Master at Arms, to me, “Give me your gun!”

Me, “No.”

At this time I should point some of the unsaid conflicts going on here. The Master at Arms is the police chief of a ship. He is in charge of maintaining order, detecting illegal activity and enforcing punishments. The position alone garners a low level of hatred among the ranks. This particular Master at Arms also had personal foibles, which I won’t go into, that made him more unlikable than most. Also, as a chief petty officer, he outranked me by two grades, and I was normally subject to his lawful orders. As the story so far makes clear, this was not a normal situation. At that time there were only six men on the ship who could direct me. He was not one of those six, but, because of his normal authority, he was not used to anyone in the ranks defying him.

The Master at Arms got up on the balls of his feet, his hands making fists, and I recalled that he was also Golden Gloves.

I knew what was going to happen. I was going to go down, very hard. A room full of men all took in a breath, and in that eternal second before impact, I read the common thought shared among them all, “We are going to get to beat up the Chief Master at Arms, and we’ll get away with it!”

He also read that thought, swallowed down his pride, relaxed, and departed. For your information, during a security alert, no one but the security team is allowed to move about the ship. Therefore, allowing him to leave was a violation but no one saw fit to enforce this.

I took another minute to recover from this encounter, during which, we were becoming aware that this was just a big mistake, but were still order bound to respond. Two squads were sent to the priority one areas of the ship, and a delegation was about to be sent to the bridge, when the Duty Weapons Officer was sent to the armory and we were properly secured from security alert.

Since I was still on watch, I meandered onto the bridge, wondering what could possibly have caused such a problem.

Arriving, I signed the rover log as required, observed more brass on the starboard bridge wing than I was comfortable dealing with, and struck up a conversation with the Junior Officer of the Deck. He gave me the update about the desire to plug poor “Oscar” from the bridge wing. At this point, the XO motioned me to the bridge wing. The Captain looked at me and gave me the order, “Give me your gun!”

Unfortunately, there was another one of those preexisting orders to filter through that conflicted with this. I can clearly surrender my gun ONLY to the next watch, any of the 4 security officers or the XO. In the example given, I do not even surrender it to an admiral. However the Captain was a hole in this order set. I was just coming to the conclusion, that it is his ship, he gets what he wants, when he reissued the order, “I am your Captain, give me your gun!” I shrugged, handed him the gun and ammo, and backed away.

Footnote: You can hit a dummy floating in the water from an elevated position of about 60 feet, and an angle of about 45 degrees with a .45 caliber pistol.

Epilog: An entry in the ship’s newspaper, one week later: “Well done to the Guard Force which performed exceptionally well in the previous week’s drill. Especially noted is Petty Officer Gardocki, in the performance of his duties under unusual circumstances.”

The notice hidden on the back page, bottom right.

The editor of the newspaper was the XO.

I Can't, Sir!

By Philip Gardocki
This took place around 1975. This gives you an idea of the military mindset regarding its enlisted personnel of the time. Unfortunately this mindset eventually led to tragic consequences.

All service men serve multiple duties. In the Navy, only the most educated personnel were assumed responsible enough to guard the ship from intruders. So, the PRP, or Personal Reliability Program, was populated mainly with Electronic Technicians, otherwise called "Twigits"*. Drills to lock down the sensitive areas of the ships were practiced daily, but usually after normal working hours.

One winter evening, on board USS Oklahoma City CG-5, such a drill found a petty officer, dressed only in a towel, wet from a shower, and positioned at the highest point of the ship with his pistol. When a drill was over, no man could actually leave his post until personally relieved by an officer in the security chain of command. Shivering from the cold, he waited an interminable time for the weapons officer to relieve him. The officer, a new ensign, climbed to the O5 level, and issued an order, "Sailor, load your gun."

As this was not the expected order, the surprised petty officer did nothing but shiver for about 10 seconds.
The officer repeated the order, "Sailor, load your gun."

Finally, the Petty Officer responded, "I can’t, sir."

The officer, actually perked up, thinking he was going to get to berate someone for incompetence."Why not?" he asked.

"I wasn’t issued any ammunition," replied the Petty Officer.

This story was probably replayed thousands of times. The most egregious variation on the story may be that M-16’s were being stolen from cadets guarding the gates at West Point. It finally hit home hard enough that the lunacy of sending unarmed men to defend sensitive areas was eventually reversed, and the first reaction teams were issued ammunition - with the admonition of a courts martial should anyone actually load a weapon without express orders.

  *The derisive and or affectionate titles for the various enlisted job classifications were "Twiget", "Snipe", "Airdale", "Nuke", "Bubblehead", "Rider", "Scope Dope", "Pecker Checker", "Rivithead", "Sub-mariner" and "Deck Ape".
Tragic consequences.
Dateline Lebanon , October 23, 1983 . 241 marines were killed when their barracks was targeted by a suicide truck bomber. Even though the barracks was guarded by several machine gun nests, none of the weapons were loaded.

What are Stories of the Cold War?

by Phil Gardocki

This feature has its roots one evening at a COLD WARS HMGS Miniatures Convention. It is best described as a very late evening bull session where Jeff Billings, an old shipmate, and I traded stories before what appeared to be an enraptured audience. Of course, it was late, there was beer and maybe the audience was not as enthralled as I thought. By strict definitions of the word, Jeff and I are both "veterans." But, I do not think of myself as a veteran when compared to real combat soldiers. But, as we were in the post-Vietnam War Navy and armed conflicts were rare, we were very rarely endangered and then, usually only by the incompetence of our own armed forces.

When I had enlisted in 1975, the morale of the armed services had been crushed. It was not the crisp professional force we have seen performing since 1990. It was an organization despised by the general populace, manned with the lower crust of society, given no purpose and treated by the management as incompetent. The morale problems are better described by General Fred Franks book, "Into The Storm"*, which I highly recommend.

Throw into the mix a force pool from the public education system that had, for "school assemblies", apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic movies like Failsafe, Dr Strangelove, Planet of the Apes, On the Beach and the message was clear: "You are going to be dead in 5 years, so what does it matter?" It is no wonder so many of my generation turned to drugs. As a historian, I know my generation did not have it rough, and in fact, it was the most privileged, educated, and wealthy generation ever, but it is the nature of every generation to think it had it rough. I will say, in our defense, the "Baby Boomers" were the first generation that grew up with the constant reminder that they could be annihilated in a few hours.

Into this environment is placed "Stories of the Cold War." These are not stories I just "heard" but either happened to me or I can actually put a face on the participants.

*I know Tom Clancy's name dominates the landscape of the cover, but the book was still written by General Franks.