USS Georgetown AGTR-2
Sea stories from the USS Georgetown (AGTR-2) by Jimmy Alexander. The names have not been changed as not to protect the guilty; the guilty are proud of their deeds. The fish always get bigger each time a fishing tale is re-told. These stories may have been embellished a little over the years, but generally pretty true to the facts. Some have been watered down a little over the years to protect the guilty. Most of us are older and wiser and don't do the wild stuff anymore.
Southern Log - Caribbean, Central America, South America;
March 1967 - June 1967
Key West, Florida, some time in summer of '67:
RD3 Jimmy "Alex" Alexander, BM3 Steve "Wally" Wallace, and BM1 J. "Boats" Dick hit the beach in Key West. We stopped at a few bars and stores but no drinking...too early.
....early evening, we are walking down Duvall Street and hear someone yelling for us. It is Cap'n Gebler - with Lt. Magill. Cap had heard us on the street and came out of the club they were in. He and Magill invited us in with them. They said it was great with a good band. Cap'n Gebler liked a good time and got along great with all 3 of us...we had run across each other times and had a few drinks and a lot of fun...Cap was a cool guy who liked to have fun (in a class manner)....Mr. Magill was a pretty good guy too and liked to have fun...we had a blast...we sung on stage with the girls in the band and started a contest of making the longest straw....we slipped one straw into another to make the straw longer....before long, we are standing up with our drinks on the floor and the straw reaching down to the drink, getting cheers from the crowd ...I think Cap'n Gebler won...I think Wally's straw was as long as Cap's straw; but it had leaks and would not draw the drink up the straw....we got standing ovations from the crowd - of course we took exaggerated bows....Me, Wally, and Boats said we had to be back on the ship at midnight but Cap said "You're with me, I can be back any time."
Sometime way after midnight, one of our ship's drivers comes to pick up Cap'n Gebler and Lt. Magill in the ship's recreation committee's VW bus and gets 3 extra passengers...we drive up to the gate and the Marine gate guards see the Dixie cups and neckerchiefs on me, Wally, and Boats and figures he is gonna get to write us up...Cap'n Gebler pops his head out with the gold "scrambled eggs" on his hat and says "They're with me." The guards salute, say "Yes sir" and waves us through the gate...Cap just laughs and Lt. Magill just grins and laughs...what a time.....
Across Four Seas - Pacific, Caribbean, Atlantic, Mediterranean; 16 October 1967 - March 1968
Rome, Italy; Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 1967:
A bunch of us took a bus tour of Rome on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, 1967. My remembrances were that it was fairly expensive but Mr. Magill convinced us it could probably be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
We saw: Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, the Catacombs of San Sebastian, the basilica at San Sebastian, Mussolini's balcony, Castle of Saint Angelo (the Pope's fortress), the Forum, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Trevi Fountain, Swiss papal guards, St. Peter's Square - the Vatican, St. Paul's Cathedral.
Noon on Christmas Eve, we were in St. Peter's Square for the blessing of the world by Pope Paul VI. After that, we went back to our hotel. Later, early Christmas Eve, a bunch of us took rides on horse drawn carriages, singing Christmas carols around Rome. Later, we went to a scheduled party in the hotel bar. I think it was open to the public. There was a huge party of Italian doctors and nurses in a private room. Their party was a little dull and quiet; ours was pretty loud with a lot of music, dancing, and singing. We met a few nurses on their way somewhere else and invited them to our party; but, soon, some doctors appeared and escorted them back to their party. But, we had quite a few more nurses who kept sneaking back to our party. Later, the doctors gave in and, I think, started inviting us into their party and vice versa. My recollection was that it was pretty well one large open party after that.
Three Seas to South Africa - Atlantic, Caribbean, Indian Ocean Deployment; 17 September - March 1969
Lourenco-Marques, Mozambique; Fall 1968:
BM3 Steve "Wally" Wallace (Denton, Texas), RD3 Jimmy "Alex" Alexander (Laurens, South Carolina), and QM3 Ken "Blue" Blubaugh (Lima, Ohio) went to the Texas Bar....real swinging bar doors at entrances from 2 streets....western decor.... when the waitresses found out we had a real Texan (Wally had to show his driver's license) in our group, we owned the place....free drinks....free food....laughs.......they had plastic, pin-on "Texas Bar" sheriff's badges - we wore them, of course.....then a fight broke out...and we thought it looked like a fight in the saloons in the movies...we laughed about someone diving into the crowd and knocking everyone down - just like the movies...so I tried it...I dove into the crowd and looked like I bounced off a rubber ball back toward our table...we looked at each other and said "Let's get the hey out of here", or something to that effect.
We went across the street to a restaurant and had some coffee. We had a window seat....watching the bar fight...a crew of Mozambique and Portuguese MP's drove up....they backed up some paddy wagons and jeeps with 50 cal. machine guns at one set of swinging doors on the side street with rifle carrying solders forming a funnel to the paddy wagons. Then an officer with a 3 or 4 K-9 handlers, each with a real mean growling, snarling, barking K-9 entered the other swinging doors from the main street....all you could hear was dogs barking and growling and then people screaming and hollering...tables and chairs falling and glass falling and breaking...then you could see people hauling ass out the swinging doors on the side street side for the safety of the paddy wagons....the soldiers just closed the doors, and the paddy wagons left with the sirens blaring...of course, we are now cold sober now and called a cab to get us back to the ship...we had enough for the night...
Next night...same crew...different bar...another dozen or so more Big G buddies already there...me and a bunch of Big G guys got up on stage and sung some country and western songs....people whooping, laughing & clapping...they had a lady juggler who said she could pick up a chair with her teeth, she did it and got a lot of clapping...she then said she could pick up the chair, with person seated in it, with her teeth...she asked for a volunteer...I was sorta pushed out of my seat into the spotlight by my buddies and she had her volunteer...with a lot of fanfare, she asked me to sit down in the chair and she would pick me up...as I started sitting down, I realized it is impossible for anyone to pick up a person in a chair and knew what was gonna happen...but gravity had already taken hold of me and I could only smile for what seemed to be minutes until my butt hit the floor...of course, I got up and took an exaggerated bow for my "act"....that was the hit of the night along with our large Big G group singing on stage...we had a lot of free drinks...when we were leaving we had a lot of folks yelling and laughing with us...everyone walked off stage; but for some reason, I stepped off the stage onto the tables and walked/hopped across tables to get to the door...of course, more whooping/hollering...they may still be talking about those crazy American sailors....
Port Louis, Mauritius, November 1968:
BM3 Steve "Wally" Wallace, RD3 Jimmy "Alex" Alexander, PC3 Dave Prosser and QM3 Ken "Blue" Blubaugh, (the armed forces are real creative with nicknames) hired a cab driver in Port Louis for the whole day on Thanksgiving Day 1968. The drivers gave you a good deal to hire them for the full day. We left to spend the day at a hotel of a far side of the island. The hotel was run by a retired British Navy Admiral and he planned a Thanksgiving dinner and welcomed the Big G crew. Quite a few other Big G guys did the same thing.
On the drive to the hotel, we stopped at a few roadside bars; we would buy a drink for our driver and he would be ready for us when we were ready to leave. We were basically going uphill all the way and we went through three traffic circles on the way.
We arrived at the hotel, went sailing in a lagoon at the hotel, had a great Thanksgiving dinner, had great conversations with the retired admiral and other crew members, and had a great time at the lagoon beach. We had a few drinks during the day and our driver hung out with his buddies employed at the hotel.
That night we left to return to the ship. Basically, we were going downhill all the way back to Port Louis and only had to turn on the engine in a few flat areas and traffic circles....just had to hit the brakes ever so often to reduce speed....
Our driver also had a few drinks during the day and started driving back, stopping at every roadside bar. Of course, we are all raising hell, hollering, singing, laughing (including our driver, he had become our buddy during the day). After a few bars, our driver said he was too drunk to drive, Wally, Dave, and Blue said they were too drunk to drive and I said I was too drunk to drive. But they all said I was the least drunk; so, they voted for me to drive. Our driver said it was easy...all you had to do was coast downhill, steer and use the brakes occasionally. Of course he was used to driving on the left side of the road.
I did great, I thought. Driving down the mountain, lights on, engine off, just hitting the brakes...everyone hollering, singing, radio blaring, waving at everybody, talking with everyone at each bar... I went through the first small traffic circle OK...
....more bars...more hollering...more singing....more drinks....driving down the mountain...we hit the next, and more crowded, traffic circle...we were all over the traffic circle....laughing....singing....waving at people....honking our horn...the other drivers hollering at us...some waving, some laughing, some shaking their fists at us, some honking their horn....we went around and around the circle...seemed like a dozen times...kept missing our turn...everyone looked like they were getting dizzy....I finally hit the turn and got off the circle and pulled off the road at the first roadside bar....all our eyes were wide open now and the driver sobered up faster than anything I had ever seen....he said he would drive the rest of the way (he didn't want me behind the wheel when we hit the huge traffic circle in downtown Port Louis)...our driver (I forgot his name) said he would never forget us....a lot of other Mauritius residents probably won't forget us either....they may still talk of the crazy American sailors driving down the mountain Thanksgiving Night 1968....if anyone hears of a legend of a wild taxi ride in Mauritius on Thanksgiving '68, let us know....
Recife, Brazil; Carnival week; February, 1969:
SN Hunley (spelling?), SN Chico Gallardo (Brownsville, Texas), SN J. "Loose" McClenney and RD3 Jimmy Alexander hit the beach in Recife during their famous "carnival" week....a lot like Mardi Gras....we wore our dress white uniform off the ship with a pair of our work bell-bottom jeans, sandals and tee shirt rolled up in a towel and swim trunks...the OOD saw the towel/trunks and didn't check our roll...
....we got to a bus station, rented a locker, changed into our sandals, jeans and tee shirt...I bought a gaucho leather hat and some of the guys bought different hats....with these clothes and our dark tropic tans, you wouldn't know we were American sailors unless we talked....but Chico could speak fluent Spanish....no problem....plus we went to a residential side of town where no other sailors were...it was supposed to be off-limits....
....we were passing a large hacienda-style home and met 3 pretty girls sitting on the brick fence around the house....one of the girls and I liked each other right away....it was her house and she invited us all in....her dad owned a large seafood restaurant in Recife (forgot the name)....he always wore a brimmed sailor hat and we nicknamed him Cap'n Bob....he offered us tequila/coconut milk drinks that you sipped out of the coconut through a straw.....
Cap'n Bob took all of us, the girls, and his large family out to a party...lots of food....mild drinking....lots of dancing....the big dance was the one where you form long lines of people connected by holding the person in front of you by the waist ....then you kinda hop/dance to the beat of dot--da, dot--da, dot--dot; dot--da, dot--da, dot--dot; dot--da,dot--da, dot--dot; over and over.....they love it....it was a lot of fun with the huge crowd in the club....
....back at their house, Cap'n Bob and his wife sent the young kids to bed and offers us drinks and coffee....after a while, he and his wife invite me and their daughter (can't remember her name) to the parlor...she and I sit on the loveseat, her parents in chairs across from us....he speaks broken English....I gathered that their daughter really liked me a lot and the parents were thrilled with me also; little did I realize how much....as we were leaving, they invited us back the next night and we all accepted....
....on the way back to the ship....Chico said he couldn't hear the conversation from the next room....but, from the posturing in the chairs in the parlor, the way the girl and parents were looking at me, and Spanish culture, he felt I would be engaged the next night....whoaaaaa....the next night, we wore our uniforms and went to the opposite side of town with the huge crowds and Shore Patrol....Chico be ma buddy.....
More Stories and Buddies:
Ops Dept. (Operations Department); hideout on the Big G; special paint techniques:
Now that the Big G has been decommissioned and all guilty parties with assumed Honorable Discharges, we can let some things out. The Ops Dept. had a great little hideout.
The radar and radio equipment had to be air conditioned. The air conditioning equipment and pipes were in a room with a low hatch in the passageway between the captains cabin and the radio shack. It had a low overhead and lots of pipes, you could only see into the far corners if you got down on your knees and crawled under the pipes...only a few people knew where it was...normally only one person hid out at one time so it would not be found out...sometimes there would be 2 or 3 people there, good place to chit-chat and get a little shut-eye.....RM3 W. Baker (Hollywood, Florida) was the first one to show me where the hide-out was...
....on hot tropic nights you could crawl back to the back corner where the overhead was high enough to sit up and read....you could crawl back with a pillow and blanket with great air conditioning when the berthing compartments were hot...great place to read books, write letters, snooze...also a good place to hide out during the day when hard jobs needed to be done...you would show up after the job was done....someone even had a stash of Sly Fox wine cooling...a shot of cooled vino was nice on a hot night...
Chipping paint with the chipping hammers was a hard job. But, we had found that deck crawlers were great at removing paint from the bulkheads. We got chewed out for using them on bulkheads a few times. So, we kept a few hid away and with a deck crawler going on the deck and some lookouts, we would get one of the crawlers on the bulkheads. They were much faster than the chipping hammers.
Paint sponges. Painting the rails was a slow job. We found, by accident, that sponges were great for painting rails. I think we dropped a sponge into paint once and found it wrapped real well around the rails and you painted the entire rail in one swipe....we used diesel fuel to wet the sponges and rubber gloves to protect our hands....we also found the sponges painted bulkheads real well too....sponges were important for cleaning the ship at sea and the allotment at sea was limited....each department was allowed only so many each week, these were real sponges and were compressed and would expand when wet....we traded things with our buddies for the sponges and collected some while in port and stashed them away....
RM3 W. Baker (Hollywood. Florida), his Harley hog, and Sly Fox:
Baker was a helluva nice guy...he was a quiet guy but could raise hell...he kept his Harley hog in Norfolk...with his Harley network, he had buddies, a ride, and a place to crash in almost any port in the US....the Harley guys were great...if you were a friend of a Harley rider, you were their friend...
....returning to Norfolk one cruise, I did not have enough time to go home to South Carolina for the weekend....Baker invited me to a weekend party at Virginia Beach....we had a place to sleep, great stories, great parties, place to sleep....the tradition was to walk in the door with wine, beer, booze, food....
....on our way to the house on Baker's Harley, we stopped by the grocery for food and beer and Baker's favorite, Sly Fox wine...now Baker knew his Sly Fox...the label had a grinning purple fox for grape wine and a grinning red fox for apple wine...the winery (maybe being a little presumptuous) stamped the date on the bottles with a hand stamp with adjustable, rotating numbers/letters to set a new date...of course the stamp looked
something like this "9 March l969 ".... Baker would not take a Sly Fox vintage before its time...he looked through all the bottles and took only the oldest dates...he would take a 9 March 1969 vintage but would leave a 18 March 1969 vintage to allow it to age another week for someone else....a true connoisseur...
....at the party, Baker breaks out the Sly Fox and starts getting right...he is not quiet now...he is rolling....he is a blast, tells us many stories and then tells us about his buddy, the Sly Fox on the label (of course, I had already heard the story in our Ops hideout)...he said the Fox is grinning at you when you first start drinking it...then he starts grinning bigger as you drink more....later, after more drinks, he starts laughing at and with you...but when he starts talking to you, it is time to call it a night....
In port, Norfolk, Virginia (don't remember the date):
The Big G is tied up to the pier with at least 1 ship tied up inboard to us. Multiple ships tied up to all piers...the base is really crowded too...things are getting boring during the week...SM3 Bobby "Cuts" Cutsforth (Rio, Wisconsin) and RD3 Jimmy "Alex" Alexander are on the flying bridge and notice our Deck Division buddies on the forecastle goofing off and snickering at us while were are having to chip paint...we decide to get them back...
....we had noticed that attention to colors (raising the flag at 8 a.m.) is slightly different by a few minutes on each ship and building...we decide to pull something on our buddies in Deck Division...that night (with everyone down below) one of us gets on the sound powered megaphone and calls down to the other until we tune the volume to be heard only on the forecastle....somewhere around 1.5 on a level of 0 to 10....
Now our plan...the next morning....about 5 minutes before colors we would sneak out on the flying bridge, we would turn on the megaphone and set the dial to 1.5 and in a stern voice, announce "Now on deck.....attention to colors" and make our buddies stand at attention and salute for about a minute, then we would announce "Now, turn to!" and they would go back to work. Then, a few minutes later, the Big G, all the other ships and all the base buildings would call the official attention to colors at 8 a.m....we would get a kick out of their confusion....
So, about 5 minutes to 8 am, I pick up the megaphone, turn it on, and turn the volume to 1.5, sit the megaphone down....we look down to make sure all our buddies are on the forecastle....I pick the megaphone back up, start announcing "Now....on deck....attention....to colors"....as I announce, I am hearing the announcement very, very loudly....loud enough to be heard by all the ships at the piers, all the people on the piers and at the buildings....while announcing, I glance around trying to figure out where the loud announcement is coming from....I realize it is me... everyone as far as we could see are stopping and saluting....I look down and the volume dial is all the way up to 10....I look over and Bobby has a crap-eating grin...he got me....but then we have to start saluting too - to make it look good....then after a long time, we remember we have to end it - so I announce "Turn to". Everybody ends their salute and start back what they were doing...
.....then a few minutes later all the ships and buildings start the official attention to colors....a lot of people stop and salute...a lot of people get confused and keep walking or working, thinking "what the hey - we've already had colors"....a few people get chewed out for not stopping and saluting...Bobby and I sneak off laughing at everyone and ourselves....we are proud of ourselves....we probably saw too many episodes of McHale's Navy....
Gee-dunks, roach coaches, and gee-dunk medals:
Gee-dunk (spelling?) was the name for the on base snack shops. We called them gee-dunks at Great Lakes and also in Norfolk. Don't know where the name came from or the spelling; don't know if this was just an East Coast thing. The grinders, or hero sandwiches, were the favorites. .
Roach coaches were the names we had for the mobile snack shops. I am afraid to know where name came from. The grinders were the big draws on the roach coaches.
Gee-dunk medal was the name we had for the National Defense Ribbon. This was the ribbon everyone had. One joke was that we all got it for surviving the gee-dunks.
Great Lakes Naval Training Center; Great Lakes, Illinois; Boot Camp, B E & E School, and RD "A" School; prior to reporting aboard Big G:
"Right over left....left over right...."
The way we remembered to tie a square knot at boot camp. This was the same way to tie our neckerchiefs too. They drilled this into your head in boot camp; you had to know how to tie a square knot as well as a clove hitch and half hitch.
In Navigation classes at Radar "A" school, this was the way we remembered which side of the channel to stay in when leaving port or returning to port . On leaving port, you kept to the side of the channel with the green, or black, buoys to your right. On returning to port, you kept to the side of the channel with the red buoys to your right. Of course, it was easier to remember coming back into port to keep the Red bouys to your Right when Returning to port. Of course, this saying goes way back in navigation.
"Red...Right....Returning" became a little warm thought of home.
I met 2 buddies from Tennessee who had been station at Fort Knox. They had started Radar "A" school. They knew some girls in Des Plaines, Illinois and invited me to one of the girls guest house. They set me up with a girl friend of theirs - she was a little young. We were eating breakfast in a restaurant in Des Plaines and our waitress was a in her late twenties but very beautiful. I asked her if she had make "red-eye" gravy. I explained it to her and she said it sounded charming. In fact, everything I said to her charmed her. She loved the southern drawl. I got back to the girl's guest house and sneaked off back to the restaurant later. I had coffee and conversation with the waitress and we made plans to go out to eat. But, the girls family had a big cookout and I didn't get back with the waitress (forgot her name). Never saw her again.
RDSN Emmitt Conn; Stringtown, Oklahoma:
My best buddy in RD "A" school. We spent a lot of time in Milwaukee and Chicago. He had a magnetic personality and could make up a wild tale in a heartbeat. We were in a huge art gallery in Chicago and he started describing a painting, making it up as he went along, even getting me to ad lib a little with him. He drew a crowd and had them discussing the painting. I just eased out of the group and watched him. He had them eating out of his hand.
He had a good friend at Marquette University (a girl he met in Stringtown when she was visiting relatives). She was always fixing me up with dates.
SM3 Bobby Cutsforth, "Cuts"; Rio, Wisconsin (pronounced rye oh):
Bobby, "Cuts"...had to be my best buddy while on the Big G....mischievous smile....always had fun with him....he had good stories of his home area around Rio, Cambria, Portage and Madison...I believe CT3 Rataczak was from Cambria, he and Bobby knew of each other back home and he joined us on a few adventures....Bobby was a real ladies man.....he could talk his way into anything ...he could talk his way out of anything....he once had the Norfolk cops chasing him in his old '58 Merc and they finally stopped him with a roadblock....talked his way out of real trouble with the judge....I was told she was a lady judge.....
....while renting an old 2-story row house in Portsmouth while on BOQ, he put a
board from his upstairs window to the upstairs window (houses real close) of a young lady next door....crawled over to her room....her parents hollered to see if someone was upstairs...Bobby started crawling back across the board to his room.....the board either broke or twisted....Bobby ends up in one of the yards....knocking trash cans over...making lots of noise....dogs barking....lights coming on in the neighborhood....parents hollering....someone calls the cops....Bobby sneaks back in his house....cops come by....couldn't prove it was Bobby....had to love him....will never forget him.
BM3 Steve Wallace, "Wally"; Denton, Texas:
Steve, "Wally", was one of my best buddies...look at his big ole Texas grin in the cruise book....always talking to the ladies, silver tongue rascal....always fun....laughing....cutting up....he had some great stories about the huge B-B-Q's around Denton and Dallas-Ft. Worth...lots of good law enforcement stories about his dad (I believe he was a sheriff)....would not have wanted to go through life not knowing him.....
QM3 Ken Blubaugh, "Blue"; Lima, Ohio (pronounced lime eh as in "lima bean":
Kenny, "Blue".... another of my best buddies....always fun....big grin....had a great, infectious laugh....he had good stories of him, his family and friends in Ohio....big water sportsman....he loved skiing, boating, snorkeling....we spent plenty of evenings up in the Quartermaster shack and CIC talking about our homes and families....he was one of the nicest guys I ever met....glad I met him in my lifetime....
RDC Jim Owens:
plank owner...he was my boss....he taught me a lot about radar and life...I figured he would stay on Big G until it was decommissioned....I think he finally got transferred ....he was cool....he was smooth... he was class....loved folk music....a real Joan Baez fan....loved Bob Dylan.....I know he probably liked Jimmy Buffett....had lots and lots of music on reel tape....he had it catalogued.... probably would love CD technology and burning his own CD's...you could listen to him tell stories all night....one of those unforgettable guys...
SN Ed "Covey" Covington; Greensboro, NC:
good buddy....made a buncha weekend runs between Norfolk and Laurens (dropping him off in Greensboro, NC) many times in my '68 Impala...many late Sunday nights and early Monday mornings on I-85 and US58 ...barely making Monday morning muster many times...I missed it once and had "extra duty" cleaning bilges....we burned the pavement on US58 and I-85...
....one trip, Covey was driving back to Norfolk and I gave him directions to get on US58 from I-85 to get to Suffolk....but that if he was sleepy, I would take over at the Norlina truck stop near North Carolina/Virginia border (I had told him you couldn't miss it, you could see it for miles and miles sittin' on top the interstate ramp with 30 or 40 trucks and cars and enough light to light up a small town)....I told him if didn't stop at Norlina, he could stop at South Hill (another huge truck stop at I-85/US58 that could be seen for miles)and I would take over....well, I'm snoozin' away and, later, all of a sudden the car is bouncing all over and things are hitting the bottom of the car....I wake up and we are on an old dirt 'n gravel rut road in the middle of the woods....Covey missed Norlina
....he had missed South Hill,...he got on US58 and missed a turn, turned off onto a secondary paved road, then turned off onto a narrow paved road (thin road bond asphalt with broken pavement and grass growing thru in spots).... then onto the dirt 'n gravel rut road we were on now....I asked him which way he had turned and we retraced all the turns and got back to 58....I was a little ticked but got over it and we had no more problems the rest of the way....
....another trip, Covey, SN Randy Cooke (Rock Hill, SC) and I were driving back to Norfolk....I told Covey we needed to stop for gas at Norlina and if we didn't, we had to stop at South Hill, last stop until Franklin, Va. (probably an hour away)...told him to wake me up when we stopped for gas....well, I'm snoozin' away and all of a sudden we are pulling off the side of the road on US58 in the middle of nowhere and out of gas.....Covey got sleepy and missed the Norlina truck stop....he missed South Hill truck stop....our only hope at 2 or 3 a.m. Monday morning was to catch a service guy headed back to Norfolk....
....well, while we are fussing at Covey, we hear a car in the distance.....it was getting closer by the second, it was hauling boogie.....we figured it was some Navy guys, it was....Randy hitched a ride with them guy and went to a gas station up the road where the people lived in an apartment above the store....he woke them up talked them into giving him some gas....the guys were running late and wouldn't take Randy back to us....so Randy hitched a ride with some local people on the highway....we gassed up and went back to the same gas station.... made Covey wake them up, and filled up....I am pretty sure we gave them a big tip....we fussed at Covey for a while...he deserved it....but then we gave him a little slack....we couldn't stay mad at Covey....
SN Randy Cooke; Rock Hill, SC:
Good friend....made the Norfolk-Charlotte route many times....I would drop him off/ pick him up at an I-85 ramp near Charlotte and head home to S.C...we hit the beach together a few times....had chats about South Carolina summers....Randy visited me in Laurens a few times after he got out of service....nice family....nice wife....
Randy and I caught the Greyhound military express from Charlotte to Norfolk a few times....I would catch a bus in Spartanburg, SC to Charlotte....Randy and I would find each other at Charlotte terminal and hop on the non-stop military express to Norfolk...you could sack out and let someone else do the driving....
.... on one trip my old Clinton, SC hometown buddy, SN Johnny "Sunshine" Rushton (stationed on shore duty at Norfolk) and I caught up with Randy for the military express in Charlotte....I met a girl who was going to visit relatives near Norfolk....she was wearing one of her brother's old Navy dress white uniforms .... of course she looked good in the uniform and was drawing a lot of attention....I didn't waste any time and started to talk to her....she was meeting her brother in Norfolk...,so we sat together all the way back to Norfolk and I got to know her much better....the bus driver kinda gave me eye contact once....we might have been getting to know each other too much....I did not see her after we left the Norfolk station....we wrote to each other a bunch and planned to get together in Charlotte....but then she let me know how young she was, 15 years old (looked 19 or 20)....whoaaaa..... I stopped answering her letters and finally she stopped writing....even forgot her name......
SN "Tonto", "Chief", Tsosie (New Mexico, I think):
American Indian (Navajo, I think)....the ships barber....caught a lot of jokes about "scalping"....he was our buddy....he hit the beach with us a few times....always let a bunch of his buddies keep our hair as long as possible....our hair length was questioned a lot of times and we would sign up for a haircut and Tsosie would trim our hair a little and everyone would be happy....good buddy.....
PC3 Dave Prosser:
Dave got to be one of my best buddies....spend a lot of good times shooting the bull with him on cruises....spent a lot of good times on the beach with him....he was on the infamous Port Louis, Mauritius Thanksgiving '68 taxi ride down the mountain....he was with us on so many adventures....
CT3 Jack Magar:
.....bull of a man....strong as a bull....gentle as a lamb....he became my big buddy....for some reason we got paired off together on Shore Patrol a bunch, seems they liked to pair a big, tough looking guy with a smaller, mild guy...we had SP in Naples, a few other ports, and a bunch of times in Norfolk....I remember the Naples duty best because we were partying and dancing (no drinking) with the ladies while on duty....everyone liked us in the clubs and warned us when the regular SP or Italian police were coming, we could then walk around with a stern look on our face and hold on to our billy sticks, looking tough, until they checked in with us and left....the regular shore patrol chewed us out one time, he heard that some SP guys were dancing in the clubs...they never caught us...Jack was a hell of a good guy....
FN Antonio "Tony" Lofoco:
New Yawk, big Italian grin, good buddy, classic Italian features, girls loved him, we spend a lot of good times in Fort Lauderdale....we kept a suite on the beach at the Sheraton the whole time in port....we signed under one person's name.. paid a deposit and paid at the end of our stay....when any of had the duty, we would let some of our other buddies stay, they just paid their share each day....
Tony liked girls and clothes and good times.....and I had some good looking "civvies" stashed in our "Ops" hideout (college looking clothes)....of course, Tony had to borrow some of my "civvies"....with the clothes, our tropic tans, and Chief Tsosie's long haircuts, we looked like college kids.....on my duty days, I was duty driver for the Georgetown recreation committee VW bus....we gave guys rides into town (my official duties)....I was wearing my bell-bottom jeans, ball cap, and tee shirt, so I looked like some of the other kids on the beach....we would see Big G guys and give them rides until we had been gone too long...we would go back to the ship and then get someone else to need a ride and go out again....of course, we gave as many girls a ride as possible (not our duty, but fun)....we kept the side sliding door open most of the time and basically ran a shuttle run.....
DC3 Denny Sutero:
Another New Yawker, another big Italian grin, he liked hearing about the South and I liked hearing about his New York neighborhoods....Denny went crazy about a girl I met in Fort Lauderdale...she was with her mother and brother at the Navy League "Welcome Wagon"....she was touring the ship with her little brother and everyone was just looking and talking about how beautiful she was...while they were just looking and talking, I volunteered to be her and her little brother's tour guide....she was beautiful and real sweet....just starting college and working at Burdine's dept. store....she also modeled for them....she invited me over to their house for cookouts and get togethers....she or her mother would pick me up/drop me off at the Sheraton in their '64 Mustang convertible....many of our buddies thought I was lucky and many guys in the lobby were envious....Susan and I wrote each other for a while and even talked about getting together back together in Ft. Lauderdale or Key West but kinda dropped it after a while.....Denny was serious about her....he sent word to me through SM1 Steve Frotton and my little brother on the USS Neosho that he contacted her the next time he visited Ft. Lauderdale after I departed....I wouldn't feel bad if he got together with her....he was a great guy....
CT3 Nick Peluso:
good Greek....wild man....everybody liked Nick.....lots of fun.....while flying home to New York once, he was partying at the airport with a group of stewardesses who were getting off duty....they escorted him to his gate and pinned his ticket to his jumper so it wouldn't get lost....he had more drinks on his way home....he couldn't walk too good....it was real late when he got home....he had a steep hill to climb to get to his house....he had to crawl up the hill....then he just crawled into his bed so he wouldn't wake anybody.....next morning Nick's family didn't know he was home and a neighbor asked how Nick was, she said, "I saw him crawling home last night."....his mom must have thought, "That's my Nick."....another of those guys you are glad you met in your life....
RD2 Carl "Tanker" Fields:
Carl was a great guy....big guy, not fat, just big....gentle as a lamb....Carl worked for me and I trained him as a Radarman and later we both passed the RD2 test....he had enough time left so he got the promotion.....I couldn't accept the promotion unless I reenlist for around 4 or 5 months....that would have been my whole summer....I opted for my summer at home....I sneaked in an extra month early out when I was accepted at summer school at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC....next thing you know I am working for Carl....but, he was easy on me.....
CT3 Vinny Scala:
Vinny was a good guy and spent so much time in the forward compartment that I forgot that he was in the aft compartment....ran into him a few times in our adventures on the beach...he remembers some stories that I chose to forget....
QMC "Chief Kil" Kilcummings:
Really liked Chief Kil...he was a "lifer" but understood us guys who just wanted to get our tour over with....easy to talk to....all-around great guy....he told me once that I would forget all those long "mid" watches and time away from home and I would remember the good times....he was right...
RD2 Roger Carney; Abilene, Texas: lots of fun, loved his family and Texas, shipped over to get RD2 but he was looking out for his family, it was OK with us short-timers.
RDC Jim Owens,RD3 John Gardner (Alabama), RDSN Jim Maitlen, RD3 "Rocky" Rothra, SN Roger Feketic, SN "Marty" Martin, SN Trexler, RD2 Ray Gagnon(Nashua, New Hampshire), SN Benson:
RMC Stueben, RM2 Kleckley, RM3 Chuck Burnett, RM3 Joe O'Conner, RM3 W. Baker (Hollywood, Fla.), RM2 Davis, RM3 W. Gilliam (Albuquerque, NM) RMC Harbin, RM3 Larry Downing, RM3 Jim Horstman.
QMC Lindsey, QMC Kilcummings, QM3 Frank Shairba, QM3 Ken "Blue" Blubaugh, QM3 Bobby "Cuts" Cutsforth, SM1 Steve Frotton, QM3 Bob Harris, QM3 Joe Facienda, SM3 Roger French (St. Louis).
3 cruises - 3 Panama Canal transits - thousands of 3 mile runs off Havana Harbor - 3 Captains - 2 XO's - 1 radar boss - 1 ship:
3 Cruises, 4 Panama Canal transits, and 3 mile track off Havana Harbor:
THE SOUTHERN LOG OF USS GEORGETOWN (AGTR-2) MARCH 1967 - JUNE 1967:
San Juan, Puerto Rico; Maracaibo, Venezuela; Panama Canal transit; Colon, Panama; Buenaventura, Colombia; crossing the line as a pollywog; another Panama Canal transit; Key West, Florida (3 times I think and a bunch o' times to the sea buoy for mail, fresh milk, fresh eggs, etc.): a coupla thousand trips back and forth along our 3 mile track off Havana Harbor 6 miles out in "international waters"; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; at sea change of command from CDR Martin B. Betts to CDR Gerard P. Gebler.
3 mile track off Havana Harbor:
On the Southern Log cruise, we monitored Havana Harbor from 6 miles out on a 3 mile track. We wanted to be well past the 3 mile international waters limit. Once we lost headway and had to be towed out to a safe distance by the Coast Guard.
We must have gone back and forth on that 3 mile track a coupla thousand times. When we were going with the current we only had to make a few knots for good steerageway - it took about an hour, or so, to go the distance. Going back against the current it sometimes took hours for the same 3 miles. The current could be varying around 3 knots and the ship going about 3 knots, we were almost stationary, only making headway with current changes.
I got to know the harbor and coastal lights and landmarks so well and how they related to the chart that I could plot our position by eyeball. I could spot Morro castle and eyeball about where we were on the charts within a mile or so. If I could spot least one or more light or landmark, I could pinpoint it by eyeball....
We got a bunch of visits from a Cuban patrol boat. Everyone on the boats looked like Fidel, we heard he sneaked out on the boats on occasion, posing as a crew member. There we were with 2 WWII 50-cal. twin pom-pom guns. The guns would hit the turrets and we could not fire them at a low angle. Useless against patrol boats getting close to us. some of their boats had twin torpedo tubes, two (2) 50-cal. machine guns, and 20 mile surface-to-surface missiles - we were no contest.
ACROSS FOUR SEAS , The Pacific - Caribbean - Atlantic - Mediterranean, Deployment of USS GEORGETOWN (AGTR-2),16 OCTOBER 1967 Through 26 MARCH 1968:
Shakedown at Gitmo, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Kingston, Jamaica "KingJam"; Panama Canal transit (serenaded in the canal by "Up With People" international goodwill group of young people in) 2 days later back thru the Panama Canal; transited Atlantic Ocean to the Med (we found out we were to fill in some duty for our sister ship, the USS Liberty AGTR-5, when she got shot up by the Israelis); Naples, Italy; Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Rome, Italy; I left Naples for emergency leave in S.C. when my dad passed away and went on TAD at Cinclantflt, Norfolk, Va; the ship went on thru Straits of Messina, Augusta, Sicily; and back to Norfolk. I reported back on board when they arrived.
THREE SEAS TO SOUTH AFRICA, ATLANTIC, CARIBBEAN - INDIAN OCEAN DEPLOYMENT, 17 SEPTEMBER 1968 - 8 MARCH 1969:
Port of Spain, Trinidad; crossing the line as a shellback; Lourenco-Marques, Mozambique; Port Louis, Mauritius; Lourenco-Marques again; carnival week in Recife, Brazil; crossing the line as a shellback again, home again at Norfolk; 4 days later home port change of command from CDR Gerard P. Gebler to CDR Richard H. Lackey.
Since CIC was next door to the captain's cabin, we always got to know our captains.
....was my first captain. He was relieved 3 months after I came on board so I got to know him OK but did not have time to know him real well. He treated me great for a young radar "striker". He was a fine officer and all around good guy. He was well liked by the crew.
CDR Gerard P. Gebler:
...."Cap" was my captain for all 3 cruises, from 12 May, 1967 to 12 March, 1969, got to know him very well....I called him "Cap" around the ship and in personal situations but "Captain" when I needed to....spent some good times with "Cap"....in the service and when on duty, there is a line between those in command and the enlisted men....you have to be able to administer command decisions and maintain some formality, if you get too close it could interfere with your judgment...."Cap" respected the tradition....we respected it also....but since we knew each other so long, we did develop a personal friendship that worked (he had that same friendship with quite a few enlisted men)....I think RDC Jim Owens was one of those he had a good friendship with also....Cap was true class....one heck of a good guy.....highly respected and liked by all.....
CDR Lackey :
....was my last captain. I did not have any sea time with him. I knew him only a little over 3 months in port. I was a short-timer getting ready to depart active duty and he was a new captain just getting to know his ship and crew - not much time to get to know someone. He was a fine officer and very likable. He was nice to me the short time I knew him.
LCDR Thomas E. Burt:
Fine officer and fine man. He was all business on the surface but had his nice side. We got to know him well also because we were around him a log on the bridge. He got the job done but still had his light side. I spent my 1st cruise with Mr. Burt. I liked him.
LCDR James J. Bloedorn:
....fine officer, fine man, good fleet record. Very professional and all business. He also had a light side but got the job done first. Spent my 2nd and 3rd cruises with Mr. Bloedorn. I liked him too.
2 OPS Officers:
Lt. V. Cummings:
My first Operations Department officer and Navigator, fine and professional officer, great guy. Had a lot of good conversations with him.
Lt. Raymond Johnson:
Spent my last 2 cruises with Mr. Johnson. Got to know him pretty well. Fine officer and great guy. Spent quite a few quiet times on evening watches in CIC and quartermaster shack chatting with Mr. Johnson...he was almost like a buddy when "off the clock".
1 Radar Boss:
RDC Jim Owens:
Was the only radar boss I knew. He was a plank owner and RD1 when I came on board. He was very well liked and well respected on the ship. Class act.
The Big "G":
The Big G would only make around 10 to 11 knots running near top speed. It seems we got her around 11.5 knots once. It was a slow, lumbering boat but you had to like her. It had a single prop which was OK for liberty ship duty across the ocean; but it wasn't too great for maneuvering.
My first time in Rodman, Panama, the pilot couldn't handle the single prop in the currents and we rammed the pier pretty hard. We had some folks scrambling on the pier. The single prop was OK for liberty ship duty across the ocean but not great in currents.
We also put a dent in an oiler in Norfolk once. The tugs couldn't handle her.
Our antique, steam reciprocating engine:
The engine went down quite a few times. Once in a bad storm off Cape Horn, The engine went down and we lost headway; we turned sideways and listed pretty heavy. There was a possibilty of us swamping. The swells were huge; they looked like mountain peaks when we were at the bottom of a swell looking up to the top of the next swell. It was scary but we survived.
The ever-present Russian trawlers and Russian Navy ships:
We had a lot of Russian company - lots of "trawlers" and, on occasion, Russian Navy ships. Once, after eating breakfast, I headed topside to take over the morning radar watch. I opened a starboard hatch on the main deck; I saw nobody on our decks.
I walked over to the rail and yawned/stretched. I was looking straight at a Russian destroyer that looked only a few hundred feet away. I was looking straight at a Russian sailor who was looking straight at me. I ran down below and he did too. I came back up topside and the Russian sailor was already back topside. There we were taking pictures of each other. I have photos of some of the ships but the ones with the sailor did not develop or were lost.
My Seafarer garbardine dress blue uniform.
While in Radar "A" school in Great Lakes, I bought a tailor-made dress blue uniform. I had a choice of wool or gabardine. The garbardine was actually black, not navy blue. It fit great. The jumper fit snug and had a zipper on the side to be able to get it on. Of course, it was not regulation and not allowed.
A couple of times, I was questioned about the uniform by Shore Patrols in different U.S. cities, but never in foreign countries. In Chicago once, some girls really liked the uniform. They said my uniform looked different and better. They thought I was in special services. I didn't tell them anything different.
I met some girls on the train to Mt. Vesuvius and they thought I was in the U.N. because the uniform was so different from the wool uniforms. Of course, I did not deny it or claim to be with the U.N. But, they were impressed and we had fun.
To all our Big G shipmates who are not with us now:
CDR Gerard "Cap" Gebler
All those I don’t know about.
To our U.S.S. Liberty mates; those who are are not with us and those who survived the Israeli attack. Everyone on that ship was a hero and I hope the truth comes out one day. The Georgetown crew and all Tech Reseach ship crews will always have love and prayers for our Liberty mates.
To our U.S.S. Pueblo mates, those who are not with us and those who survived the Chinese boarding. They were heroes also. The Pueblo crew will always have a special place in the hearts of the Georgetown crew and all Tech Research ship crews.
The following note is posted on the USS Georgetown (AGTR-2) web site:
NOTES AND E-MAILS FROM CREWMATES
The Following is an e-mail from Jimmy Alexander to Gerald Gebler, Jr., son of Captain Gerald P. Gebler. Captain Gebler was my Captain and I don't remember meeting a finer officer.
From: JIMBO41546@aol.com [mailto:JIMBO41546@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, March 27, 2001 8:13 PM
Subject: YOUR DAD
I am Jimmy "Alex" Alexander. I served as RD3 from Feb-67 to July-69. I was on the ship when your dad first came on board and when he departed.
I stood radarman of the watch in CIC which was right next door to the Captain's cabin. It was his habit to drop by CIC and get the 'scoop' on any navigation aids and shipping activity before he went on the bridge. He wanted to see if the Officer on Deck was on his toes.
We got very close with him because our watches and work were next to him. We saw him constantly. He always called me "Alex", not Alexander as is tradition. Most of the time he was saluted and greeted as "Captain".
When we greeted him we sorta tipped our hand toward our head(almost a wave) and greeted him, "Morning, Cap". Many times, officers or other enlisted guys on our ship would cringe a little, thinking we would get in trouble calling Captain Gebler "Cap" and him calling me "Alex". But, I don't think anybody could think twice about the sincere and respectful way we said it. They found out real quick that the entire Operations group had a special relationship with your dad that can only come due to respect with us working so close in keeping us safe with navigation and plotting how close other ships were coming to us.
I don't think I ever met an officer so well liked and respected. Even the guys in the Engineering department liked him and they didn't like many officers.
We were a pretty wild bunch...a little like McHale's Navy. Sometimes, your dad would just shake his head and roll his eyes as if he were saying "I don't want to know what's going on - just take care of business."
Like the time we had a new Quartermaster who wanted to change combinations on all the safes with our Top Secret code books. We were responsible for your dads Code book in our safe - so me and Bobby Cutsforth followed the directions in the safe's manual; but, after we closed the safe we couldn't get the safe open again. We tried and tried could not open.
We talked to some of our buddies in engineering and worked out a deal. I think we traded them some sponges and maybe some maps; they would help us open the safe. So, your dad drops by and we are cutting the safe off the wall. He just shook his head and kept going.
Later in the day, he is walking by the shipfitter's shop and sees us drilling holes in the back of the safe. With the holes in the back, we cut a 6" X 6" square out of the back. We were then able to reach in and open the door from the inside. We took all the Top Secret stuff out and put it in the quartermaster safe. We then reset the combination and reopened it up probably a half-dozen times to make sure the combination worked.
We then welded the square back in place. Your dad dropped back by, I think to check on us this time, and I was grinding the welds flat on the outside and inside. We the sanded the entire safe and repainted it. We then mounted the safe back on the wall and put all the Top Secret stuff back in....all during a normal work day. Looked like nothing every happened. We then had to give your dad the new combination and have him try it out before he could sign off on the change book. He checked the safe out pretty close before he signed it...I think he said something to the effect that it took us a while to change the combination and gave us that sly grin that you know very well....never mentioned all the other stuff.....
I don't think many of us met an officer that was as professional as he was but cool at the same time. We would run into him when we "hit the beach" (went ashore) a few times. He always treated us great...some officers did not hang out at all with enlisted men...not your dad...we had a few drinks or a cup of coffee with him a few times....
He was one hell of a good guy....a lot of us will never forget him......
God bless "Cap" and his family.
In all sincerity,
Jimmy Alexander, "Alex"
Big G Nicknames:
(Origins of nicknames, to the best of memory, in parentheses).
CDR Gerard P. "Cap" Gebler; Captain of the USS Georgetown for 3 cruises; affectionately nicknamed "Cap" by many close to him.
BM3 L. "Tiger Lilly" Jeffers; mild-mannered until riled up.
SN J. "Loose" McClenney; long, gangly walk with arm and legs flailing around.
SN D. "Wimpy" Perry: reminded us of Wimpy "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger on Monday", Popeye's buddy.
SN W. "Winny" Enyart; reminded us of Winny the Poo.
BM3 R. "Porky" Porwolly; last name Porwolly and reminded us of Porky the Pig.
RD3 Carl "Tanker" and "Oiler"Fields; (to the best of my recollection) we got in a silly mood after Carl reported a radar contact as probably and "oliler", meaning the speed was that of an oiler, or tanker. The name "Tanker" stuck.
Lt. R. "Dodo" Johnson; Mr. Johnson was telling us about Mauritius, our next port. He told us about the dodo bird being extinct on the island, the name stuck.
SN R. "Tonto" and "Chief" Tsosie; ship's barber and American India, a natural about indian nicknames and too many corny jokes about "scalping". His friends tired of the jokes quickly.
CT3 D. "Greek" Chorba; Chorba the Greek, we didn't have to dig deep for nicknames.
CT1 J. "Birdman" Starling; self-explanatory.
CT2 M "Wild Man" Cain; wild on the beach.
CT2 G. "Wild Man" King; another wild on the beach. Must be that CT2 thing.
CT2 P. "Kid Man" Sutton; looked like a kid and already a CT2.
CT3 J. "Ferndocker" Fehrn, can see where "Fern" came from but don't know where docker came from. I think it had something to do about docking a big ship; and Fehrn was a little large.
CT3 D. "Tube Man" Matthews; spent a lot of time in his "tube", rack, or bed.
CT3 Charlie "Choctaw Charlie" Gordon; Nick Peluso was the first person I heard call him Choctaw Charlie; we just assumed Charlie was Choctaw descent.
I am fairly sure he was Choctaw descent.
CT3 F. "Mondo" Munger; brought the name from his last duty station, i think something about a movie.
CT3 D. "Bizarre Man" Prey; just a bizarre guy.
CT3 R. "Buz" Sawyer; from the Buz Sawyer newspaper comics.
CTSN Joe "One Man Crowd" Briley; Joe was so fast with his conversations that he threw 2 or 3 sentences or questions at you before you answered the 1st one; CT3 Nick Peluso gave him the nickname (I believe he gave it to him at their last duty station together).
CT2 J. "Fat Cat" Faltz; it was not all about his size, not sure of the full origin.
CT3 P. "Namu" Neff; from Namu the Whale.