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  USS Noxubee AOG56

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Noxubee Crest

The Final Days of the USS Noxubee


By Jim Winski

 
I arrived onboard in late December 1974 along with about 6 other "boots". The Noxubee had started her last Med cruise on 7 October 1974 and the Navy flew us to the Med to meet her. When I arrived onboard, the Noxubee was in pretty poor condition; the maximum speed she could make was about 5 knots. We usually cruised at 3.5 knots. The radar didn't work; the fresh water distillers didn't work. Chipping hammers penetrated the hull at the bow.

You'll be happy to know that inspite of the condition of the ship the crew maintained the "Noxubee Spirit". During Christmas shore leave Noxubee sailors got in a bar room brawl with a bunch of guys off the USS Kalamazoo in Toulon, France. As a result the fleet was thrown out of Toulon.

By March the Noxubee was ready to make her final trip home back across the Atlantic. As we were departing Rota, Spain the Captain, Lt. Michael. G. Mullen, read this message to the crew:

"As you depart the Med I congratulate you on a job well done. Your departure marks the end of AOG deployments with the SIXTHFLT. The Fleet will miss the flexibility and can do spirit shown by every AOG which has been deployed to the MED. You and your sister ships can take great pride in the distinguished record you have written. Please pass to all hands a highly deserved well done as Noxubee outchops from the SIXTHFLT for the last time." VADM F.C. Turner USN.

We anticipated a 14 day trip to Little Creek. Instead we ran smack into a hurricane that we couldn't go around so we went through it. We spent the better part of a week in 65-70ft seas. What a ride! Only the 2 best helmsman in each watch section were allowed to steer. We alternated 1 hour on the helm and 1 hour on forward lookout, then back again. The rudder was taking 30 & 30 degrees to stay within 20 degrees of course. The rain and saltwater was blowing horizontally. It was also the only time I saw it rough enough to ring the ship's bell! Eventually, the terrible pounding caused a crack in the hull forward by the chain locker and we started taking on water; we also burnt out an engine and had to divert to Bermuda for repairs.

As if that wasn't bad enough, on the third day of the storm we had a fire onboard. Somehow the anchor capstan controls had accidentally been left energized; the waves were sweeping the forecastle with such force that the capstan kept getting turned on. As luck would have it, a coil of line was laying on top of the capstan motor on the lower deck. Because the motor was constantly being turned on, it heated up and set the line on fire; the fire spread to the laging on the bulkhead and engulfed the compartment. So, we ended up fighting a raging fire while contending with hurricane force winds and 65-70 ft seas!

But we finally did made it back home to Little Creek. The Decommissioning Program sums up the last Med cruise this way:

"During its final deployment to the Sixth Fleet, Noxubee visited 13 foreign ports and transferred over 5 million gallons of fuel while traveling over 17,000 miles. On 11 April 1975, the USS Noxubee, a veteran of the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War, steamed into the Navel Amphibious Base, Little Creek, Virginia for the last time following her final deployment to the U.S. Sixth Fleet."

Over the next 2 1/2 months as the crew was slowly transferred to other ships, those of us that remained proceeded to dismantle the ship piece by piece. From the radar antenna to the engine room every usable piece of equipment or fixture was removed from the ship. We stripped everything from engines to bunks, to life rafts, to furniture, to anchor chains, to galley ovens, to the guns and a thousand other items until it was all gone.

When just the hulk was left a formal decommissioning ceremony was held at Pier 12 Navel Amphibious Base Little Creek, Virginia. At 1400 hours July 1, 1975 the USS Noxubee was officially stricken from the list of active US Naval Ships. The last I heard, the Noxubee was sent to a watery grave as an artificial reef after being used as a target ship. She was sunk somewhere off Cape Hatteras, I think.

As for the crew, we were all presented with certificates as Sailors of the Sargasso Sea - the legendary graveyard of ships. Then we each went our separate ways. That brought to a close the 30 years of service to the United States Navy and the United States of America by the USS Noxubee AOG-56.