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  USS Noxubee AOG56

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45-59 ribbon bar
Noxubee Crest

First Decommissioning


by Wayne Kent

 

Hell bent on joining the Navy, I joined the USNR on November 12, 1957, the day I turned 17. I was still a senior in high school and that December I experienced my first taste of reserve duty by spending two weeks at Great Lakes Naval Station -- two weeks that would prove beneficial when I went on active duty.

Following graduation from high school, I was ordered to report for active duty in October 1958. Since I was still a SR, I was sent back to Great Lakes for basic training. Having been there the previous December and already having most of my Navy gear, my transition into Navy life was a lot easier than it was for the other recruits in my company.

My company completed training in December, and we waited anxiously for our new orders. At this point of my Navy service I began to get a taste of my adventure as a Noxubee sailor. While my fellow boot camp shipmates were being ordered to ships, schools, and other duty stations, my orders were screwed up. I was first advised that I was being sent to a carrier, and this was changed to reporting to the USS Noxubee AOG-56. I immediately went to my Bluejacket's Manual (which I still have) and read the description of an AOG. Needless to say I wasn't too thrilled about my assignment.

After going home for leave, I left shortly after Christmas for Noxubee's home port, Newport, Rhode Island. I don't know how it is today, but getting to Newport back then was a long trip. Upon arriving late in the evening at the Newport Naval Station, I reported to the Receiving Station and was advised that the Noxubee was tied up at Pier Two. I took a bus to Pier Two and was told by the sentry that the ship was down the pier. Putting my seabag on my shoulder, I walked down the pier past a number of AO's, but when I reached the end of the pier there was no AOG-56! Returning to the sentry, I told him that the ship was not there. He checked his list and it clearly indicated that the ship was there. He probably could tell that I was new to the Navy, so he went with me down the pier to look for the ship. When he saw I was right -- the ship was not there -- he contacted the Receiving Station. They informed him that if the ship was not there they didn't know where it was! I was then sent to the Transit Barracks where I would stay until they found the Noxubee.

After two or three days, I was told that the Noxubee had been found. She was tied up at Pier Two in downtown Newport. Repacking my seabag, I took a taxi to the ship and when I got my first view of the Noxubee with her non-Navy regulation appearance, I really began to wonder about my assignment.

I was assigned to the Deck Department and was advised that the Noxubee would sail after New Year's to Green Cove Springs, Florida (about 25 miles down the St. John's River from Jacksonville) where she would be decommissioned. I guess I was the last person assigned to the ship before the decommissioning.

Any negative feelings that I may have had about being aboard such a non-regulation ship were quickly dispelled. The atmosphere was relaxed and I received warm welcome from the crew. The crew was familiar with my hometown of Orlando, Florida as a set of twins (William and Robert Norman) from Orlando had recently served on the ship. (Bill Norman died of cancer on October 19,1990).

On January 2, 1959 the ship left Newport. After three or four days, we arrived at Jacksonville where we tied up at the USNR Center for a couple of days before sailing down river to Green Cove Springs Naval Base.

Once the ship was tied up, all power on the ship was secured and the crew transferred to one of the barracks where we would live while preparing the ship for decommissioning. Green Cove Springs Naval Base (which closed in 1961) was a mothball fleet site and was a great duty station. The fact that I could go home every week made the duty even greater.

After weeks of preparing the Noxubee for decommissioning, the crew went back aboard and the ship was towed back to Jacksonville for a period in drydock. I remember the trip well as we had no power and all we had to eat was Spam, which we cooked on sterno burners. While the ship was in drydock, the crew lived in a barracks at Jacksonville NAS and was bussed back and forth each day to continue our decommissioning duties on the ship.

Once the drydock work was completed, the ship with its crew was towed back to Green Cove Springs. Upon arrival, the crew lived in of the APL's (barrack ships) that were tied up at the base. On March 6, 1959 our work was complete and the ship was formerly decommissioned.

The crew then left for new duty stations. I had the opportunity to transfer to another AOG or AO in the Med, but I wanted to be assigned to a carrier at Mayport or a DD at Charleston or Key West. As my luck would be, I was assigned to the USS Boxer LPH-4 at Norfolk. The Boxer had just been converted from a CVS to a LPH, and I would serve on her until I completed my active duty. Like my duty on the Noxubee, the Boxer was full of surprises -- but that is another story.

As I look back on brief tour of duty on the Noxubee, I recall those days fondly and wouldn't exchange them for anything. I am proud to have served on this very unconventional ship. I have a picture of the Noxubee, along with the Boxer, hanging in my den, and looking at them brings back a lot of memories. I am glad the Noxubee was able sail again later, and add to her great record.