Friday, May 22, 2015

Flashback Friday - Memorial Day

Yesterday's post segues nicely into the unsung boats of the past.    Think memorable fighting ships of World War II and you may think the USS Enterprise, the most decorated one.  Or maybe the Battleship Missouri, or Arizona.  Perhaps the aircraft carriers we lost in battle might come to mind: Wasp, Hornet, Yorktown,  or the Lexington.  Certainly the Indianapolis comes to mind after Jaws jostled our memories about its fate after delivering the bomb.  

Behind these names were thousands and thousands of support ships, boats and crafts.  Behind the Cruisers, Destroyers, and Subs were every conceivable make of sea-going conveyance, some armed, some not.  Mail boats, supply ships, maintenance vessels,  thousands of ships toiling everyday, out of the spotlight.

This Memorial Day Weekend post is going to focus on one of the Pacific Theater ships that did its job with distinction, but you won't read anywhere in the history books about her.  She was the USS LCI (G)- 61.  She was too small and inconsequential to warrant a real name;  these support boats got numbers instead.  

 The LCI(G)'s were converted to gunboats after being built mainly as LCI(L)'s which were designed as landing craft.  Right after the attack on Pearl Harbor a rush to build landing craft seemed the right thing to do as a way to get soldiers on Pacific islands.  But after our entry into the European theater much of the men and material was send there instead of the Pacific.  Because the Pacific war was deemed secondary to the invasion of Europe, the boats were fitted with guns to shell enemy islands instead.  Actually the gunboats became important as a small craft able to sail into tributaries and river ways to assess enemy locations.         

These are pictures of 61 before it was converted from a landing craft to a gunboat.  It was built in Orange, Texas and begun on August 5, 1942.  It was launched on September 27, 1942, a mere 52 days.   It was commissioned USS LCI(L)-61 on November 12, 1942.   It was reclassified as Landing Craft Infantry(Guns) on June 15, 1944.

Here is the 61, pre-gunboat, actually doing its intended work, as a troop landing craft.  Interesting configuration - it has a traditional bow (that's the anchor in the center) with walkways on either side of the bow.   

On this diagram you can see that guns ere placed at the bow, the stern and one right behind the pilot house.  

Here is a picture of the 61's sister ship, the 67 having been grounded during a Pacific tsunami.  In this picture you can see how the boat was fitted with guns to make it a gunboat.

Our little boat was 158 feet 5 1/2 inches long.  Its maximum speed was 16 knots but could run well at 14 knots all day.  It had a complement of 5 officers and 65 enlisted men as her crew.  Her armament as a gunboat was 2 40 mm guns,  4 20 mm guns,  6 .50 cal machine guns, and 10 MK7 rocket launchers.  She was powered by 2 sets of 4 General Motors diesel engines.  

This inconsequential little boat was awarded campaign ribbons for the following actions:

American Campaign Medal

China Service Medal

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

Navy Occupation Service Medal

Philippines Presidential Citation Unit Medal

Philippine Liberation Medal

World War II Victory Medal

And so our little gunboat plied the waterways of the Philippines Islands.  Places like Mindanao, Cebu and Mindaro.  She was part of the force that recaptured the Philippines in 1945 and the liberation of he Solomon Islands in April and June of 1944.  

They avoided a Japanese torpedo attack one late moonlit night.  Quick action from the helm helped to move the gunboat away from the single torpedo that had been launched.  The moonlight helped just enough to see it coming.   

They also survived a cook/laundry worker who was caught stealing sailor belongings.   Ship crews have their own form of meeting out justice in cases like this.  When this crewman was caught they convened an on-board tribunal of sorts and then dropped him off at the nearest US base.  

The LCI(G)-61 did what all support ships do,  whatever it is asked to do.  The captain of the gunboat, a lieutenant (JG), a 90 day wonder, from 1944 to 1946 was one of thousands of the Greatest Generation that left their jobs or schools and joined the fight.  He was a college student in his Junior year who enlisted in the Navy hoping for submarine service but he was too tall.  He became the commanding officer when the previous captain was moved up to a different ship.  Every time he filled out his reports he requested a transfer to a destroyer.  

And so this college student who a few months removed was busy conceiving college pranks stood at the bridge of a ship in the Pacific.  In navigation class when he mistakenly had his vessel going through an island the instructor wrote on his test paper, "Amazing ship." But here he was on a real ship and navigating for real, too.  He and untold thousands went to war.  Like the countless before him and after in all of the wars,  these guys served and many sacrificed with their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.  Every American, every day should speak a silent thanks to all the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who gave their time and their lives.   We should, perhaps not so silently, yell with joy, "I'm free!"

In 1946, after serving as an occupation force in China, the LCI(G)-61 was decommissioned and struck from the Naval register on February 25, 1946.  She was transferred to the Maritime Commission.  This board was initially responsible for the shipbuilding plans to replace the old vintage World War I ships when the war commenced.  Its job now that the war was over was to decide the fate of the ships that were too many for a peacetime Navy.  The 61 was sold by the Commission on January 17, 1951 with the final entry on the history of the ship, "Sold, Final disposition, fate unknown."  The captain returned to finish his studies at a Midwestern school and would, eventually, marry his college sweetheart.          

That college sweetheart was my mother and that Lieutenant (JG) was my Dad.  Thank you for your service.  And thanks to all the others in the family and my friends who served in the armed forces.    

Thursday, May 21, 2015

BFE Classic - The USS Independence Anchors In St. Petersburg

This Post was First published on Labor Day Weekend in 2011.  

One of the Navy's newest class of warship stopped in St. Petersburg over the weekend en route to its port city of San Diego, via the Panama Canal.  The USS Independence is a new design of warship that gives it speed, in-shore maneuverability and can function in myriad ways instead of a single-dimension ship.  By that I mean it can launch helicopters, Stryker missiles, jettison SEAL/covert ops teams, offload Humvees and when finished can leave the shore areas at 51 mph.  The Independence is one of the first in a new class of littoral combat ships. It's designed to navigate in shallow areas near coasts. It can be outfitted for several different missions, including mine, submarine or surface warfare.

That's damn fast for a 418 foot warship.   

Independence is intended as a small assault transport that can take on various capabilities with the installation of mission modules. The ship is a trimaran design that can make more than 40 knots (74 km/h; 51 mph), and was delivered to the Navy at the end of 2009.

Looking at the beast one might think that it has a complement of perhaps 200 sailors, but in actuality, the Independence has 8 officers and 32 seamen.  40 people!  And guess what else, the ship no longer has a wheel like most ships, but is controlled by joysticks.  This ship is one cool looking guy and looks mean as Hell, too. 

The trimaran design is a whole new concept for the Navy and is projected to go more for the smaller more flexible ships rather than the large outmoded ships we are used to seeing.

Anyway, we went to check her out this past weekend and it was totally awesome. Here are some pictures.  Oh, and by the way, the angled sides help mask detection by radar.

Notice the trimaran design.  You could actually ride a smaller boat in between the outer and main shells of the ship.

I'd hate to be in charge of replacing the windshield wiper blades.

The Independence is 418 feet long.

This is where they off load anything from trucks, personnel carriers and that rubber-type boat is for amphibious activity.

It can handle 2 Sea Stallion helicopters.

From this angle it looks like Darth Vader.

Port security was aided by two small St. Pete Coast Police boats.  I don't really think anyone wants to mess with this guy.

             It seems quaint to see a Ship's Bell on the most modern ship in the fleet.
Ah, tradition.

                            (The following pictures and video were not taken by me.)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Guest Blogger

Today's post is a blatant theft from the Bodine-DILLIGAF website by Jeff Sutor, friend, fellow blogger, and also a practitioner of the Two-State Solution.    

"I hope my friend Mike takes this as a cautionary tale.  Having a home in two states is a difficult thing.  We left Georgia over two weeks ago.  There is so much to do here and so much to wonder about what is going on there.  Torn between two loves.  I understand Mike's desire to escape the South for the familiarity of home.  At the same time while I  am here I miss being there.  The sound of the waves crashing ashore in Georgia.  The sound of the tree frogs in Illinois.  The smell of the marsh.  The odor of the cows across the road here.  Neighbors on Tybee Island.  No house visible from ours here in Illinois.  The quiet isolation here. The bustle of the island and Savannah.  Where to go?  What to do?  How to embrace and balance both?  It is a process we are still trying to learn.  When to stay here?  When to go there?  What to take?  What to leave?  What to have at each house?  

Our return has seen many things that need to be done.  It started with removing the snow blower from the lawn tractor.  The mower deck went on and the yard was mowed.  It was time to weed the flower gardens.  That got started but not finished.  It has been warm and wet so the grass is growing like, well, like grass does in the spring.  It has reawakened from the slumber of winter to the joy of a wet and warm spring.  It seems that a day or two  after the acres of mowing are done here it is time to start again.  In Georgia it is .13 acres to deal with,  in Illinois it is 80 acres.  Everywhere I turn I see something that needs my attention.  Today I sit at the dining room table doing this and watching the rain fall yet again.  No time to get my walk in.  No diet plan at the moment.  Routine is broken.  We spent three days last week watching our granddaughters because John and Mandie had to be in St. Louis for their work.  Yesterday was Mother;'s day so Tammie and two of her three girls came up for a visit.  My Mom and brothers came over.  No exercise and too much food from the grill.  Sometimes life isn't about getting things done but taking a few hours to appreciate what you have and the relationships that fill your life with purpose and joy.  

So, Mike, there is the reality of it all.  When you are here,  you will wonder and hope for what is there.  When you are there you feel the tug of gravity trying to draw you back here.  Jerry's pizza.  Norah's hugs.  Buddy's beer.  Audrey's tumbling.  Aledo,  Galesburg, St. Pete, Tybee and Savannah.  There will always be a reason to be somewhere else doing something else.  You already knew this.  I'm just learning.  Where is the balance?  The only thing i can think is the simple solution.  Be happy where you are and doing whatever it is you are doing at the time.  When I am here I need to be here.  It must be a though there doesn't exist because it cannot.  If I spend all my time missing what is happening there it means I will miss what is happening here as well.  So live in the now.  Be present in the present."      

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

Sewer/septic truck with this inscribed on the back:  "Straight Flush Beats A Full House".


I think this is more true than not, especially in my experience.  So thanks for the beers guys, and the shenanigans.  


Overheard at Farmer's Market Vegetable Stand:

Customer Admiring Vendor Wife's scarf:  "Very nice scarf."

Wife's Husband: "You like her scarf?  Very Nice,  Very Expensive.
Made in Egypt.  By the Pharaohs. 

Customer:  Ramses?

Wife's Husband:  No. Tut. 


Gone Girl and Still Alice were pretty good.  The Homesman, not so much. 


Norah learning to enjoy freedom in the pool with her inflatable ring.


As I was walking along Ulmerton I was stunned when this guy came after me.  He came from the street side and ended up in a grassy knoll.  I swear this guy made the first move. 


As I am on the cusp of losing my Norah for a few weeks, I include this video of her pretending to be reading.  

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sand In Your Crack

 Beach Day 

I won't bore you with commentary.  This is one of those posts that requires no blather from your blogger.  Instead, close your eyes and picture yourself here.  Florida may be inhabited by the mentally challenged but they haven't found a way to wreck this place yet.  Unless you count the speedboat advertising boat rentals in the second picture.  

We have one of those 10' x 10' tents and we put soda and sandwiches in the cooler.  A couple cigars,  maybe a treat, a sand blanket and lawn chairs and stay a few hours.  We people watch, swim in the 84 degree Gulf waters and do some shelling.  Tough to beat a day at the beach.  And yes, Norah loves it.  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Flashback Friday

Graduation season is here.  Just discovered these two pictures of my high school graduation.  By the way, I guess posed pictures have their place in family albums, but generally speaking, if given the opportunity, pictures that are unstaged are usually the best.  With me is the Wombie, of course, on the right and situated in between is Barb Seaton.  She was one of the Seaton gang and graduated with us.  This was taken in our dining room.  There is that blue glass piece that I continue to look for in antique shops on the left.  If I'm not mistaken, that was in my possession at one time and met its demise by a cat.  Reason #1,234,654 to hate the little darlings.    

Propped on the organ bench is my diploma along with a Schlitz can.  I'm not sure what a can of beer and my diploma signifies, since I wouldn't be legal for alcohol for another few years.  Legality aside obtaining beer was no problem back in those days.  It was who you knew and certain doctored drivers license that I still have in my possession.  Besides,  I never did anything illegal or untoward when I was in high school.  Did I?

Barb was a Seaton and having your family found the town made them village VIP's.  John, her dad, was the Mr. Potter of the town but in a nice way.  John and Doris were pretty cool and of course the other kids, Terry and Bill were OK, too.  Doris is still alive and in the Cities someplace, as is Barb and her family.  When Doris left Seaton a few years ago it marked the first time, ever, that there was no Seaton in Seaton.      

High school graduation was a stepping stone along the path to adulthood.  We were all unfinished vessels at that age.  It's sad when I hear of people who never return to their reunions, not even once.  Some kind of unresolved bitterness toward classmates or events prevent them from placing those days in proper context.  To judge us at that point in our lives is like judging humanity at the point we all slimed our way onto the shore for the first time.  Whatever hurts, whatever embarrassments, whatever pain suffered in high school shouldn't ride your shoulders for a lifetime.  If you bullied, make amends.  If someone bullied you, seek them out and ask for an apology.  Or maybe better yet, just move on.  Luckily we didn't have too much of a problem - bro Phil was a senior when the Wombie and I were freshman, and being part of the Seaton gang provided a certain cover.  But whatever slights I did receive have all long ago been forgotten and replaced by more important, more relevant events.  

Thursday, May 14, 2015

You Could Be Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams!*

Calvin (Oh how we could use you now) Coolidge once said that the business of America is business.  And as far as I can tell we really like business involving Drugs, Guns, Movies with Superheroes, and War, declared or otherwise. 

I have a pet theory that along the byways, highways, freeways,  parkways, and roadways of bundled rolls of cash tossed by dealers when the heat gets too hot.  So, when I take off on a good walk around Bedlam I keep my eyes peeled for the green that will bankroll my retirement and keep me in the lifestyle with which I am accustomed. 

No luck so far, but I am getting rich nonetheless with my eyes glued to the gutter, and other places.  You could get rich, too.*  It's not easy but I will show you how and give you tips to become a wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. 

I have written before on this blog of my past copper strikes (non-trademark phrase for finding pennies) and how Floridians are either unaware of the holes in their pockets or routinely toss them out for no apparent reason.  A penny is a penny.  But 600,000 pennies is a small fortune.          

In front of a convenience store.

On the sidewalk.

Along the road.

Another one along the road.

Spotted this one as I was getting out of the car when I went to the beach.

In between the sidewalk and the road. 

Here are some tips so you, too, can become rich.*

  • Don't let traffic or surroundings disturb your concentration.  You must find your "zone" and once in it concentrate on your job at hand.  
  • If you walk in the early morning, at some point you will be heading into the sun.  Coins will reflect making it easier to spot.  
  • On rainy or threatening days take a long handled umbrella.  Put the end into the gutter effluvia and stir it up a bit as you walk.  Sometimes coins are hiding under all the gunk.  
  • Always check out places where people have their hands in their pockets like doorways to businesses, fast food joints, bars, parking lots, convenience stores and adult nudie bars.  
  • If a chunk is missing from your penny, go to the bank and ask them to replace it.  They are obligated if you have 51% of the coin left. 
  • It's OK to take a day off.  Once in a while walk for the pleasure of it and check out your surroundings.
  • If you see one in the middle of the road, look both ways before darting into traffic to retrieve it.

These poor lost lambs have been out in the elements for a long time.  The faces are barely recognizable.

Just last week I found about 13 cents.  At this rate in about 800 years I'll have enough to buy a $5,000 car, barring inflation.  Not bad for just taking a walk, huh?   So get on out there and join in the fun.  Whole families can do it.  Why take a family vacation to Yellowstone when you can drive into a smoggy metropolitan area and walk endlessly for coinage.  You'll have so much fun you'll wonder what it took you so long!

* Your results may not be the same as the Copper Strike King due to persistence, topography, eyesight, age actuarial tables, location, percentage of homeless also canvassing the area and regional outlooks toward money.