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  USS Noxubee AOG56

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Noxubee Crest

My Years, 1955 - 1957


By Bob Wood

 
You'll have to bear with me on dates as at this time of my life and its associated forgetfulness, I could almost hide my own Easter eggs.

Bob Wood I served on the Noxubee from approximately late April '55 until approximately June '57.I had enlisted in the Navy in Aug '53 and had to wait till Feb '54 to be sworn in due to the massive amount of enlistments at the time. I did my boot training at Bainbridge, MD. and after boot camp remained at Bainbridge to attend a 44 week FT (Fire Control Tech), "A" school there. It was really convenient as I lived in South Jersey at the time and made a lot of weekends home during my "A" school time.

When I graduated FT school and the billets were announced, I was stunned to see my assignment, USS Noxubee AOG-56. I inquired as to exactly what type of ship the Noxubee was and was told by an old salt instructor that it was a gas barge. This was really a big let down as most all of my class mates went to carriers and men-of-war ships. I suffered much teasing and jeering from my classmates over this, however, it turned out they were the ones who lost out.

As it finally turned out, my worst fears of serving on a "gas barge" couldn't have more wrong. My time aboard the Noxubee was some of the best time of my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

My first sight of the ship was at the end of the pier at Newport, RI where I was welcomed aboard by my two fellow FT's, a second class named Bjiordan and a first class named Roberts, both of whose first names escape me. They were both very happy to see me as they had to maintain the gear an keep the cleaning spaces scrubbed and painted as first and second class petty officers.

Bjiordan and Roberts were quite friendly and didn't dump everything on me, pitching in with the upkeep on the cleaning spaces, however it was short lived as both were short timers and were gone rather quickly. Shortly after I came aboard, I had enough time in grade to take the 3rd class test, which I passed readily. That was a god-send as I missed the joys of mess cooking and compartment cleaning.

On August 19, 1955, we departed Newport to Hamilton, Bermuda on our way to a Med deployment and a whole new education for a young sailor who would turn 19 in two days, August 23rd.

I was to make 2 Med cruises aboard the Noxubee and although I thoroughly enjoyed each and every place visited, the events I remember can't be attributed a specific cruise. It could have been the 1955 cruise or it may have on the 1956 cruise.

The Navy had given the Pakistani Government a bunch of wooden hulled minesweepers and we escorted 3 of them across the Atlantic. They were manned by the Pakistani Navy and left us when we got to Gibraltar.

Some of the more memorable things I remembered from the 2 Med cruises are:

In Gibraltar we tied up outboard of 2 British Destroyers, which we had to cross over to get to the pier. The smell eminating from the ships was something else. I don't know if it was from spoiling food or the mutton they were so fond of but the memory of the stench has remained for 45 years.

The first time we visited Tripoli, Libya, I was amazed at finding sand bagged machine gun nests set up in a main square, manned by British soldiers. Lybia was still under British rule from WWII.

Snorkeling adjacent to the ship in Tripoli and spearing fish for the Arab workers who were manning the pumping equipment offloading the Noxubee. They were astounded by our productivity and ever thankful to receive the fish and squid we speared. Snorkeling was quite popular in Italy and the masks, spring loaded spear guns, fins, etc. were relatively reasonable to acquire.

Steaming through the Straits of Messina between Sicily and Italy while the volcano, Stromboli, was erupting big time, quite a show.

The famous "Gut" section in Valetta, Malta. Almost as much fun as East Main Street in Norfolk, VA , except the bar ladies weren't as heavily tattooed as the ladies in Norfolk and wore perfume.

We visited Toranto, Italy on June 16-18, 1956. Toranto was the main Naval port of the Italian Navy during WWII. In 1941, British aircraft carrier launched torpedo-aircraft sunk the bulk of the Italian Navy, including its entire battleship force at their moorings. Much of the wreckage remained still and the harbor was crowded with sunken hulks,highly visible as we steamed past to our mooring."

The kids and adults in Naples, who while passing you on the street, would hit the bottom of your jumper pocket, hoping to dislodge and make airborne, money, wallet, cigarettes, etc, which they would snatch and run away with.

The time a taxi detoured to a remote area and stopped so his 3 consorts could jump out of the darkness, threaten me with clubs and rob me of my wallet, watch, cigarettes and lighter. The driver was nice enough, however, to drive back to the place he picked me up. What I would have given for my S&W Model 60, 5 shot at the time, although I'd probably still be in jail for defending myself.

The ever present Bum Boats in Naples Harbor looking to steal the brass fittings and macramé off the Captains Gig or the fittings off the whaleboat. Some did actually paint the sides for scrap mooring lines and the garbage from the mess deck. Some came to sell boots and whatever or trade for cigarettes, which was illegal and quite rewarding.

The barber aptly named Luigi. He arrived daily when we were in Naples by bum boat and was allowed to set up on the well deck and give haircuts, which were in short supply on the Noxubee at the time. Funny man, Luigi, he was middle aged, very slight in stature and although couldn't speak much English, could keep you entertained by watching his animated facial expressions and body language. Strange how I am remembering things from 45 years ago and sometimes can't remember my own telephone number.

The beautiful luxury liner, Andrea Dora, frequently tied up to the pier where we had to walk past it from where our whaleboat dropped off the liberty party to the gate to the city of Naples. The Andrea Dora was involved in a collision with the ship Stockholm in the summer of 1956 and sunk off Long Island, NY.

Operating independently of the fleet and wearing blue jeans and tee shirts, even Levi's if you had them, most of the time, in port, entering and leaving. Having Barcelona to ourselves for periods without any fleet competition. My lady friend would appear in a taxi at the gangway at Liberty call, heavily perfumed and ready to go dancing. ( Hey, I was 19 years old and single... )

While steaming from Barcelona on a very rough day, a First Class Machinist Mate named Evans, broke the rules and paid with his life. For whatever unknown reason, Evans ventured down onto the well deck without a lifejacket and was swept over the side by a large wave to perish in the sea, devastating the Captain and crew. Our Captain was a very stern and fair, ex WW2 Quartermaster and mustang regular Navy LT, R.J. Dermody. This man was really totally devastated as we steamed in circles all day hoping to find Evans, who would never be found or heard from again.

Another memorable item is the lack of personal hygiene experienced from the Europeans of the time. It is almost as if they hadn't invented bath tubs and showers there. This phenomenon was noticed throughout the countries of the Med and not particularly welcome. (sorry to offend anyone, but thats the way I remember things.)

The Med trips were a real education for me and no value could be assigned to the pleasures I enjoyed there.

Back on the Newport Scene I have some fond memories of Newport such as:

A major racial incident at an Enlisted Club in Newport, I can't recall just where but Fats Domino was appearing at the time and a big "knock em down, drag em out" occurred one evening. The papers reported Fats on top of his piano ducking flying chairs, glasses and beer pitchers.

The infamous M-19 mooring buoy and armpit location of Newport. I was aboard one very, very cold, windy and snowy night with the usual skeleton crew. The storm really raged and we were all scared to death of breaking loose from the bouy and having to get underway in an emergency. It was a very scary night and no one slept. In the morning we found out that the new, at the time, destroyer, USS Willis Lee, had broken her mooring and went aground. Also a whaleboat bringing a liberty party to one of the ships in the bay got lost in the storm and was found the next day with all aboard frozen to death.

Leo's First and Last Stop Bar just outside the gate where the Noxubee tied up in Newport. I was a regular at Leo's, a member of the bar, however, not a lawyer. Leo was an old man who had 2 sons, the younger one, Nelson, if I remember right, was the evening bartender and keeper of the peace. The older son was an amateur boxer and one night brought Archie Moore into the place and introduced him around. Archie at the time was a contender and had not yet won any titles. I had many good times at Leo's and cultivated several interesting relationships with the barmaids. (Hey, I was single.)

The little hole in the wall greasy spoon restaurant across the street from Leo's where I frequently finished up the night with a bacon and egg sandwich. That Narragansett draft beer used to work up an appetite.

At about this time, the Navy had re-instituted the draft and I was blessed with a striker and as it turned out, a good friend as well. He was a young lawyer who had passed the bar and then had gotten drafted. Talk about bad luck. He and I shared the upkeep of the gear and cleaning spaces and did liberty together for the most part. He would be about 75 years old today and I lost touch with him years ago. His name was Alexander Pentecost III, and was from Pittsburgh, PA area. Anyone know Alex ?

I would sure like to get ahold of the deck logs for the years I was aboard just to read my old entries. I used to stand Gangway watch when in port and at sea I sometimes manned the radar behind the chartroom on the bridge and in later times I stood boatswains mate of the watch as there were so few boatswain mates aboard. I also served as messdeck master-at-arms for a while.

It was good to hear from someone who served aboard and of this webpage. All these years since 1957 and I've never ran across anyone I served with. I went from the Noxubee to the west coast and aboard the USS Toledo CA-133 and made a 7 month westpac cruise which included a trip to Australia to attend the annual Coral Sea Celebration and got out in April 1959.

Anyway, I hope I haven't bored you with an old mans memories. They are very dear to me and I'm sure, familiar to anyone who served aboard during the 50's. Hopefully some of you will identify with what I have offered and hopefully it will trigger your own memories which you can in turn offer to us here.

Regards to all shipmates, old and new.... I'll never forget the USS Noxubee AOG-56. (I can't as I have the damn thing tattooed on my arm.)

Bob Wood

Amazing what a
few years does
to a fella ain't it ?


Noxubee Crest

1955 - 1956 Ports of Call

By Bob Wood

 
Below are a listing of the official steaming itineraries of the USS Noxubee for the years 1955 and 1956 showing the number of days at sea, where she left from, where she was going, miles steamed and dates.


Sea Itinerary For U.S.S. Noxubee AOG 56 for the Year 1955
      Commanding Officer: R.J. Dermody, Lt. USN

Days							 	
at                                          Distance
Sea:  From:                To:              Traveled: Dates:

3   Newport, RI          Jacksonville, FL     900    March 7-10
5   Jacksonville, FL     Roosevelt Roads, PR 1150    March 11-16
2   Roosevelt Roads, PR  Guantanamo, Cuba     600    March 19-21
2   Guantanamo, Cuba     Roosevelt Roads, PR  600    March 22-24
2   Roosevelt Roads, PR  Guantanamo, Cuba     600    March 29-31
2   Guantanamo, Cuba     Roosevelt Roads, PR  600    April 1-3
2   Roosevelt Roads, PR  Guantanamo, Cuba     600    April 5-7
2   Guantanamo, Cuba     Roosevelt Roads, PR  600    April 8-10
4   Roosevelt Roads, PR  Newport, RI         1400    April 17-21
1   Newport, RI          Norfolk, VA          350    June 13-14
1   Norfolk, VA          Newport, RI          350    July 1-2
3   Newport, RI          Bermuda              600    Aug 19-22
12  Bermuda              Gibraltar           2950    Aug 23-Sept 4
4   Gibraltar            Malta               1000    Sept 6-10
2   Malta                Barcelona, Spain     668    Sept 12-14
3   Barcelona, Spain     Tripoli, Libya       760    Sept 20-23
3   Tripoli, Libya       Livorno, Italy       700    Sept 26-29
1   Livorno, Italy       Gulf Juan, France    134    Sept 30-Oct 1
2   Gulf Juan, France    Naples, Italy        367    Oct 8-10
5   Naples, Italy        Iskenderun, Turkey  1100    Oct 15-20
5   Iskenderun, Turkey   Tripoli, Libya      1200    Oct 22-27
3   Tripoli, Libya       Barcelona, Spain     760    Oct 29-Nov 1
3   Barcelona, Spain     Naples, Italy        558    Nov 15-18
1   Naples, Italy        Malta                328    Nov 21-22
2   Malta                Tripoli, Libya       200    Nov 25-27
4   Tripoli, Libya       Gibraltar           1100    Nov 28-Dec 2
10  Gibraltar            Newport, RI         3100    Dec 4-14

89 Total Days at Sea	 Total Miles traveled: 23,275


Sea Itinerary For U.S.S. Noxubee AOG 56	For the Year 1956
      Commanding Officer: R.J. Dermody Lt. USN

Days
at                                       Distance
Sea:  From:               To:            Traveled:  Dates:


1   Newport, RI         Boston, MA           100    Jan 3-4
1   Boston, MA          Newport, RI          100    March 5-6
1   Newport, RI         Norfolk, VA          350    April 23-24
1   Norfolk, VA         Newport, RI          350    May 1-2
3   Newport, RI         Bermuda              600    May 21-24
9   Bermuda             Gibraltar           2950    May 27-June 6
4   Gibraltar           Malta               1000    June 7-11
1   Malta               Toranto, Italy       300    June 13-14
2   Toranto, Italy      Naples, Italy        400    June 16-18
2   Naples, Italy       Tripoli, Libya       528    June 20-22
2   Tripoli, Libya      Naples, Italy        528    June 23-25
2   Naples, Italy       Tripoli, Libya       528    June 26-30
2   Tripoli, Libya      Naples, Italy        528    July 5-7
1   Naples, Italy       Malta                328    July 16-17
1   Malta               Naples, Italy        328    July 19-20
3   Naples, Italy       Suda Bay, Crete      640    July 23-26
1   Suda Bay, Crete     Izmir, Turkey        200    July 30-31
4   Izmir, Turkey       Barcelona, Spain    1300    Aug 2-6
3   Barcelona, Spain    Tripoli, Libya       760    Aug 17-20
2   Tripoli, Libya      Naples, Italy        528    Aug 23-25
2   Naples, Italy       Barcelona, Spain     558    Aug 29-31
2   Barcelona, Spain    Palermo, Sicily      570    Sept 1-3
1   Palermo, Sicily     Tripoli, Libya       350    Sept 5-6
2   Tripoli, Libya      Toronto, Italy       480    Sept 8-10
2   Toronto, Italy      Naples, Italy        360    Sept 18-20
1   Naples, Italy       Malta                328    Sept 24-25
3   Malta               Larnica, Cypress     960    Sept 27-30
4   Larnica, Cypress    Malta                960    Sept 30-Oct 5
1   Malta               Naples, Italy        328    Oct 6-7
3   Naples, Italy       Gibraltar            952    Oct 15-18
10  Gibraltar           Newport, RI         3100    Oct 19-29

75 Total Days at Sea   Total Miles traveled: 21,322

         Retyped from original copy, Oct 29, 2000
          by: Bob Wood, FT3, USS Noxubee AOG 56
                       1955 - 1957