Chief Nance Remembers...
The Reeves when homeported out of Yokosuka, Japan from 1966 - 1968.
Departed Long Beach, CA, May 26, 1966. Assigned to Seventh Fleet for 720 days. During that time 493 days were underway and 312 days were in the Tonkin Gulf. Reeves steamed 162,000 miles during the deployment, consumed 12,272,000 gallons of fuel taken on during 158 unreps. So that’s 68% of the time underway and 43% of the time on Condition 3 watches with an unrep approximately every four days. During that time the Reeves rescued seven downed pilots, one boatload of refugees and received our first hostile fire. When we were on our way to the Gulf we'd stop in Subic for fuel, our bird (a Huey & crew), a van (a cargo container fitted with intelligence electronics and a crew of spooks) and two .50 caliber machine guns.
"Six days shalt thou labor and do all thou art able,
And on the seventh - holystone the decks and scrape the cable."
While in the Gulf of Tonkin we were continuously on
Condition III watch status. So we would have one missile battery
manned, one missile house, one 3" 50 gun mount, CIC and Weapons
control and ASW. Of course the underway bridge watch sections and the
engineers were doing their part as they never get a break.
The watches were in three sections and in addition to standing two four hour watches every day you were required to participate in ships work during the regular workday. If you had the mid watch it was 2345 hours to 0345 hours at your watch station, grab a few hours sleep, breakfast, quarters and "Commence ships work".
Did you ever have a school of flying fish smack into the forward missile house and the ASROC launcher while you're standing quarters in the area? Happened.
Early chow for lunch, relieve the watch at 1145. Weapons Control calls on the X43J sound powered circuit to let us know that Noon-time Charlie is on his way. OK, I'm ready. Designation received, radar locked on. Weapons Control, Radar 2, target has turned outbound. 1545 you're off watch and the evening is yours. What, did you forget the Unrep?
At 2000 you hear, "Set the Underway Replenishment Detail." As you are proceeding to your amidships station, on a cloudy moonless night, you discover that the 3" gun mount is trained inboard. &%$## that was a hard barrel.
As we get in line behind USS Cimarron (AO-22), the 1MC relays the info that there are only two ships ahead of us for refueling. OK! If things go well, Reeves will start refueling in about three hours. 2300, we're almost done refueling. 2330, unrep is finished and midwatches are secured early so they can go down for mid-rats before relieving the watch.
Now, all you have to do is repeat this for four weeks with some minor variations and you have our standard patrol period in the Gulf. FYI, it seems that Noon-time Charlie flew out of the Hai Phong airport almost every day. Tweren't nothing but a little Mig-17, couldn't do much harm.
During the afternoon, we were informed that an A-1
Skyraider pilot had observed a small boat loaded with Vietnamese out
in the Gulf. As he made as pass on the boat, preparatory to blowing
them out of his free fire zone, they were waving a white cloth at him! He
notified the carrier about this incident and was told to stay in the
area and keep and eye on the boat and the people. The A-1 had hours
of loiter time an so he proceeded to start flying circles for the afternoon.
While this was going on Reeves had been assigned to proceed north to pick up the people and investigate the boat. Speculation runs rampant about the hidden purpose of the mystery boat. Who are they, suicide troops with a bomb underneath the boat? Why would they take the risk of rowing out in the gulf when there planes out there shooting up boats all the time? The first A-1 is relieved by another A-1 and Reeves is steaming on.
After about six hours we reach the area where the
boat is and all the landing party members and security guard force people
draw weapons and ammo at the small arms lockers and the armory. So
along the port side of the ship we have about 40 nervous men armed with
Thompsons, M1s, BARs, 30 Cal machine guns, 50 cal machine guns, M60s
etc. The helo crew broke out their weapons and the 3"-50 gun
mount was manned. We were ready for those rotten suicide bombers
or pirates or whatever! We were ready to turn that wooden terror craft
The whaleboat is launched, and the brave crew motors out to inspect the wooden terror craft and the suicide bombers manning it! Undoubtedly the boat crew is taking the highest risk assignment of the evening. But, where is the danger coming from? Well, no shots were fired, no bomb was located, and the terror bombers were just terrorized refugees.
After getting the four men a woman and her baby on the ship the wooden fishing boat was scuttled and the whaleboat retrieved. Then all the weapons and ammo were returned to storage, the regular Condition III watch was reset and most of the crew returned to the regular routine.
The refugees were berthed in the forward anchor windless room and a helo from the carrier flew them out in the morning. No one on board could speak their language. It did give us something to talk about for a few days.
See Seastories Part II for more.
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