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." 


Fire at Sea!

Do you smell smoke?  That was the question being asked in the passageway outside DC Central at about 2000.  There was a distinct smell of smoke and it wasn't cigarettes.  The staterooms, berthing compartments and offices in the area were quickly checked and the results were negative.  The OOD had been notified while the checks were being made and GQ sounded shortly.  We were about a day out of Subic on our way to the Gulf of Tonkin (where else?).  The personnel manning the optical gun directors up on the 03 level aft of the after mack reported a hot deck. When the damage control party inspected the area they determined that the transmitter room for the aft 55B fire control radar was on fire. 

The hose team popped the lock off the WTD but, when opened the heat was so intense that all they could do was spray water into the transmitter room.  Since we only had one radar on each end this transmitter room only had half the equipment it was designed for and the other half was full of cardboard boxes with large expensive transmitter tubes and a lot of flammable packing material.  This space was located over the three inch Ready Service Magazine and the proximity to that ammo caused some anxiety.  About this time another opening that could be used to get water on the flames appeared.  A portion of the aluminum overhead in the transmitter room melted and collapsed into the room.  A hose was dropped into the opening with the nozzle open and some progress was now being made to get that fire under control.

After the fire was out the investigation started.  All the ashes were sifted to try to find any remains of an incendiary device.  To the best of my knowledge nothing suspicious was found.  But, now Reeves was going on patrol at North SAR with only half of the missile batteries operational.  Didn't seem like too bad a deal, the North Vietnamese had pretty well learned not to mess with Uncle Sam's canoe club.  Of course we expected to get those regular visits from noon-time Charley.  We didn't know what would happen if we didn't lock one of those radars on him.  We did have problems with the #2 radar, of course we had problems with those radars all the time.  But, the radar crew did manage to get the damn thing to track at noon and all was well. 

A4 Rescue

Most of the pilot rescues were made well away from the ship and were kind of anonymous events.  On this Saturday there was an A4 flying hot straight and normal through the bright blue sky above us.  Looked pretty normal till he punched out!  No radio traffic not even a "How do you do?"  The sea was calm and the pilot hit the water less than half a mile from Reeves, so the whale boat was launched to make the pickup. 

This pilot had taken a 37 MM through the arm.  His arm was only attached by a few strands of skin so he used his flight suit belt to make sure it didn't get misplaced during the rescue. 

He knew where Reeves would be so after the hit he just pointed the nose toward us and ejected when he thought he had achieved CPA.  After the pickup our doctor stabilized the pilot, had his arm packed in ice and the Jolly Green came from the carrier to return the pilot to better medical care. He did write some letters to the ship expressing gratitude for saving his butt.  There was nothing that could be done for the arm.

Combat Action

As these incidents go, ours wasn't much.  Well, it wasn't much unless you were the downed pilot, a member of the helo crew or on the North Vietnamese gun crew.  All of those people would tell you it was a hairy bit. 

In the middle of the afternoon "Set the Helo Detail" rang out.  There was a pilot down in-country and we were receiving his emergency transponder loud and clear.  Reeves turned to launch the helo and commenced a run toward shore. 

There was a fuel problem, in that the helo might not have enough to make the return flight if things didn't go well on the rescue.  Of course there were some people, on the beach, that intended to turn this into a disaster for the Reeves' helo crew.  The helo is in-country, Reeves is running for the beach, our shotgun (USS Blue DD-744 with two twin 5"38 gun mounts) is spoiling for a little action and the downed pilot is wounded, out of his head and hiding. 

The decision is made to put a helo crewmember on the ground to search for the pilot and the helo will take evasive action to avoid the hostile machine gun fire.  North Vietnamese search parties are in the area trying to find the pilot or the crewmember and taking shots at the helo when it passes by.  The pilot is found, by the crewmember! 

Pilot is out of his head and thinks his rescuer is the enemy so he is resisting rescue.  Simple solution, large crewmember subdues pilot.  Helo returns, makes the personnel pickup, avoids getting shot out of the sky and bags ass for the beach. 

Back on Reeves it is about 1600 and I've been relieved from watch and am up on deck getting a little fresh air when the Helo Detail is alerted that our bird is returning.  I look up and see that Huey go past us at max knots.  Hey, I thought he was low on fuel. What's going on?  When a Huey is at max speed about 10 ft off the water, it is standing on its nose and that big rotor is pulling it through the air.  Whumpp! Whummp!  Huh? What is this Whumpp shit and what are those black clouds scattered around the vicinity of the helo and the Reeves? 

Then I realize, those bastards are shooting at us!  About that time I see flame belching from those 5" on the Blue. Realizing that a dungaree shirt is not nearly enough body armor for this situation I head for my GQ station.  The DD silences the gun battery, our helo returns to a safe landing, the pilot survives and the good guys have a minor victory.  Medals are handed out and years later the entire crew receives the Combat Action Ribbon.

Noplace Really

On our way back to the USA we were going by way of Sydney, Australia; Christchurch, New Zealand and Pago Pago.  Obviously, the shortest and most direct route. 

After we had initiated the "wogs" and received passage through the domain of King Neptune it was time for our scheduled fuel stop.  If you check the charts, there aren't many gas stations down that way.  We were told by an announcement over the 1MC that we were stopping at an Australian facility and we were not, repeat not, to fraternize with any of the natives.  ??? 

The off watch sections were being allowed to go ashore and the Australian Navy had opened their club to us.  Well, now that was a ray of sunshine!  So some of us put on dress whites and booked passage on the liberty boat for an afternoon ashore at "noplace". 

The club was simple, unairconditioned, and quickly ran out of cold brews.  But, if you were willing to partake of warm ale, that was available.  The warm ale had the habit of spraying about half the can on the ceiling when opened.  Well, some of us decided that this sitting and drinking was entirely too boring so they wanted to return to the ship.  ??? 

When they arrived at the pier the ship's boat wasn't there waiting for them so, they contracted with the local natives for passage back to the ship.  Do you readers remember that earlier part about the natives?  Well, the first dugout sank! 

Everyone made it back to the pier, although a little damper.  So, did the four scoundrels from Fox division take heed of the omen?  No, they contracted for another boat!  Well, that one made it back to the ship.  And, who do you think greeted them upon their arrival? 

Do the initials XO mean anything to you?  Well the XO remembered that 1MC announcement and secured their liberty for the five days we were in Sydney. 

Returned to Long Beach, CA August 12, 1968

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