I was happily settled on the
Noxubee in Pearl Harbor. I was part of the re commissioning crew, the
trip though the Panama Canal, and the 1967 Vietnam Cruise. In Hawaii
we had our routine, you know, going to the geedunk, or on the beach,
or renting or borrowing a car to drive around the island, complete
with a loaf of bread, bologna, cheese, mayo, mustard and, oh yea, that
cooler of beer. Man we had some good times.
Then it happened. The USS Genesee AOG-8 was tied up on the other
side of the pier, getting ready to go to Nam. We were scheduled to
leave in April, 1968 and the Genesee in March 1968. They need a 2nd
Class Engineman. Out of the 3 of us on the Noxubee I was the only one
that wasn't married. So, I was chosen to transfer to the Genesee. I
had 2 days to say my goodbyes and pack my bag.
I still remember boarding the Genesee that first day. It felt like
was I entering a different world. The crew was 180 degrees apart from
the Noxubee crew. When I first got in the crews quarters allot of the
guys were bragging about the length of their hair, they were scruffy,
and the ship was filthy. They made fun of me for coming from the
"good ship." I can't remember their exact words, but it was
like they didn't think much of "My Ship." They could tell I
was proud of the Noxubee and my shipmates- we were a family. The
Genesee was more like the bad news bears.
We set sail for Viet Nam and when we were about 8 hours or so out
at sea the generator stopped and we were dead in the water. The other
generator didn't work when we left port. So we had no backup. I think
I was the only one with experience on diesels, because there were 1 or
2 guys willing to hold the emergency lights while I was pulling
pistons out of the engine to replace them. We were dead in the water
for about 8 hours I think until we got the generator running.
The Genesee had been in the water without a major overhaul for 26
years and it showed. The Noxubee was easy duty and was a
"new" ship compared to the Genesee. The Genesee was taken
out of commission for only 6 months in 1950 then Korea happened, so it
was back in duty and stayed active.
I guess the Noxubee got the pumping record in 1967. They beat us
(Genesee) by a whole bunch. But, we had problem after problem with
engines, pumps, you name it. We were a broken down ship. Just a couple
days out to sea in 1968 heading for Nam I was topside and the Captain
stopped and told me that we were going to get the pumping record this
cruise and take it away from the Noxubee. I looked and him and said
"There's no way." I still had the Noxubee pride.
He wanted the record so bad. We went to Cua Viet to pump fuel, the
hose had broken off the bottom lay as it usually did during the
monsoon season. He decided to cruise up the Cua Viet River and decided
to spend the night in order to save time. The first night was fine,
but on the 2nd night the Viet Cong had us zeroed in and they hit us.
April 23, 1968-- I had the 4-8 watch. In my opinion, the worst
watch you can have. So, needless to say, I was in my rack and asleep
about 15 minutes after my watch cause 0330 and my next watch comes
around pretty quick.
At 2323 hours I was awakened to the sound of explosions and GQ
siren. My GQ station was the emergency fire pump (EFP). Being an
Engineman, our quarters were back aft. The EFP room is forward 1 deck
below main deck.
I emerged from the aft portion of the ship to the tank tops which
were lit up by a yellow glow created by the fire that was on the barge
tied up alongside. It must have been hit by the 1st rocket. I swear
that my feet didn't touch the tanks tops but twice while crossing them
from aft to forward to get to my GQ station.
I got to my GQ station and put on my headset and they were
screaming for water. The hit knocked out the power and the fire pumps
with them. I started the old Buda diesel engine and it showed over 100
psi immediately. I radioed that it was on and they should have water
to fight the fire. All I got was more screaming that they had no
water, I responded with something like, "Impossible, I show 100
psi and the valve is wide open." I cracked open the bleed off
port and there was water. They finally cut the ropes tying the barge
to us and let it float down the river. We took a few more hits and I
found out later that one hit hit the tanks tops on the port side
forward killing one of my friends, DC3 Art Ball who I played cards
with. Art and another Damage Controlman were checking for damage in
the passageway leading to the tank tops. Shrapnel from the exploding
rocket came through the hatch and went through my friend's chest,
killing him. When he fell the other guy got hit in the chest also. He
was medevac'd by helicopter to the hospital. He recovered and rejoined
us in about 3 months after the attack.
The battleship USS New Jersey was off the coast and started lobbing
some 16" shells inland, but no one knew where the Viet Cong were.
The ship couldn't move either because the tide was out and we were
hard aground, sitting on the sand. It wasn't until the next morning
that we could get out of there. I have pictures of shrapnel holes in
the tank tops and smoke stack.
The next morning after we got out to sea I started to work on the
emergency fire pump. Why wouldn't it pump water, after all it was just
worked on while we were in the Philipines? I took the globe valve
apart and found that it was installed backwards. When a globe valve is
backwards the water pressure is actually pushing down on the valve
seat forcing the valve closed. I turned the valve around, restarted
the engine and tested the pump. It worked fine, just a little late.
Here's another mishap that happened to the Genesee. On May 1, 1968
just after the Cua Viet attack we were at Hue or Cua Viet, I can't
remember which because I was always in the Engineroom and didn't get
to see much landscape. The hose was broken off the bottom still, so I
think it was probably back in Cua Viet. Anyway, we were fueling
bladder boats. Two of our guys were on the bladder boat hooking up the
hose when the engine started throwing out sparks. One of the guys was
new to the ship, SA Daniel Schaffer, was apparently looking at the
sparks and got too close just as the boat blew up. He was blown into
the water and the 2nd Class Damage Controlman got 2nd degree burns
over alot of his body. He came back to the ship after his stint in the
hospital. The seaman was not found, but they think his body washed
ashore a couple weeks after the incident.
I don't know where anyone is from the Genesee. But, I did put my
name in the ships registry on Classmates.com. About the time I was
getting off the ship for discharge, the Feds came aboard a arrested at
least one guy for drugs. Marijuana was always being smoked on board
and who knows what else. I tell you I couldn't have been on 2 more
different ships of the same class.