Moments in History, Uncategorized

“LEFT FULL RUDDER!”

Carrier donuts

Carrier donuts

U-turn!

USS Coral Sea (CV-43) – the 3rd and final ship of the WWII era Midway class Aircraft Carriers, shows off with a demonstration of just how incredibly maneuverable these ships were, 1953.

Along with her older sisters USS Midway (CV-41) and USS Franklin D Rosevelt (CV-42), these triplets were the US Navy’s first “Super-carriers” as they were then known, a superlative that would eventually come to describe the much larger Forrestal design, and even more so those that followed. But for nearly a decade, these three remained the largest and most capable warships in the world.

They had some inherent sea-keeping issues such as a low freeboard – the flightdeck wasn’t very high so bluewater (unbroken waves) would regularly crash over the bow in high seas. And they tended to bob like corks… especially the Midway which had its hull widened to address the freeboard issue, only to create an even bigger monster with a fast roll center, which also caused the ship to corkscrew in rough weather.  It was such a wild ride our system’s gyros would regularly go on the fritz during storms, necessitating a trip up the aft radar tower to fix them, in the rain, in the dark, with only a red penlight to see with, trying not to short anything out or electrocute yourself while planes tried in vain to land down below you. Good times!

These 3 sisters were known to cause the sea-legs of even the saltiest sailors to wobble as they chewed on crackers, even more so than the smaller escort ships that accompanied her (which we joked went over one wave, then under two). They certainly put hair on the chest of all who sailed upon her decks.

BUT, they could also turn on Neptune’s dime.

Nearly 40 years after the lead photo was taken, in February 1991 we would have some fun with that maneuverability via her sister ship the USS Midway.

The morning after the Desert Storm ceasefire, all 4 carriers in the Persian Gulf “Battle Force Zulu” (USS Midway, USS Ranger, USS America & USS Theodore Roosevelt) and their “Plane-Guards” (USS Leyte Gulf , USS Bunker Hill  & USS Normandy) got together for a historic photo opportunity. Rarely had so many carriers ever been together in one place, let alone inside the gulf. It was a colossal Kodak moment.

Battle Force Zulu 2

 BUT… while we waited for the 4th carrier (America, if I recall correctly) to finish recovery flight-ops and join us, the rest of the gathered warships lined up for a parade of sorts, and played a game of “Follow the Leader”.

As the oldest, and also the flag-ship of the 7th fleet, the ancient warrior Midway led the flotilla  And, as the only forward deployed carrier, after 2 decades of being home-ported in the Far East our command had also developed quite the sense of humor.

Just after all the ships got lined up in a nice neat row, the captain joyfully called out “LEFT FULL RUDDER!!” over the 1MC (ships’s public address system), and we Midway goofballs laughed from our decks as a significant portion of the United States Navy’s firepower scattered and scrambled to get turned back around.

Later dudes! Ha-ha!

Later dudes! Ha-ha!

No sooner than the giant carriers and their escorts got lined back up… “RIGHT FULL RUDDER, Ha-ha-ha!”

Ships freaking everywhere...

Ships freaking everywhere…

It was an amusing afternoon.

Eventually we all got into formation, took the following photos, then peeled off to our different homes around the globe, having captured a brief moment in history… and a few well deserved laughs.

USS America joins formation

USS America joins formation

Stop messing around!

Stop messing around!

Say Cheese..

Say Cheese..

Farewell bretheren...

Farewell bretheren…

I found very few photos of the actual parade & moments leading up to the photo op, but these give a pretty good representation of what it was like that fateful day in February when a bunch of us got to go home, but not before we showed these younger whipper-snappers a thing or two.

(Images are all official US Navy photos, but graciously sourced via a few of my favorite websites, http://www.midwaysailor.com and http://www.usscoralsea.net)

 

Carriers, CCW from bottom left: Midway (CV-41), Ranger (CV-61, one of my Grandpa’s ships!), America (CV-66),Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71),
Aegis cruisers: Bunker Hill (CG-52), Leyte Gulf (CG-55) & Normandy (CG-60)

  • Add "carrier donuts" to the reasons I am proud to take racing advice from Sparky.

  • Very cool story. That must have been hilarious.

    • Thanks! It was a hoot!

      • Number_Six

        That was awesome!

  • I guess the 1991 Gulf War was the last hurrah for WWII vintage military gear. Between the Midway and several small arms such as the 1911 45 auto, a few M3 grease guns tucked away in tanks and miscellaneous armored vehicles, and a few M1 Garrard on some ships.

    Ten years later it was all gone.

    • Don't forget Battleships, and good old Subic Bay.

      Just about everything I grew up with, and served with during the cold war is gone now too. A-6 Intruders F-14 Tomcats, S-3 Vikings… most the old bases.

      I was on the Midway somewhere off the coast of Russia when the wall came down. Not too long after that I was walking through the hanger bay when a Russian twin-rotor helo came right up to the elevator doors and hung out for a minute, waving at us. We all stopped and stared, kinda waved back, eyes popped out and jaws on the deck.

      One of our helos was chilling out behind them and escorting them around. A month or two earlier we'd have shot them out of the sky. Suddenly we were making googly-faces at each-other and waving peace signs.

      (full disclosure, we had ran into a group of Russian sailors in Seoul Korea before the wall came down and gotten drunk with them. Could have gotten in huge trouble, but they were funny as hell. I traded one of them a dollar for a ruble, they say he got a better deal, but I'll never part with it. Recently found it again in my memento bag…

      …also, NEVER get drunk with Russian sailors, if you know what's good for you.)

      <img src="https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/37624_1548067266168_1019151_n.jpg&quot; width="600">
      (Battleship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) does a cruise-by of USS Midway in the gulf)

      • How could I forget the battleships?! I was typing too late. Amazing how much has changed in the 22 years since 1991 compared to say from 1969 to 1991.

      • Edit: Pusan, not Seoul. If memory serves me correctly you can't really even sail into Seoul.

        At least, not without one hell of a running start.

        • Number_Six

          If you were drinking with Russian sailors then you were in Busan. Texas Street in Busan used to be a huge Russian enclave and super seedy back in the day. It's been cleaned up a lot since then but western civilians still need to avoid a few spots at night…

          • It was in fact Texas Street, and for exactly all the reasons you mention. Heh-heh-heh. Although at the time the Russians didn't seem to be quite as prominent (at least not in the areas we hung out in).

            But I still can't get used to calling it "Busan". I have NO idea why the Navy always called it Pusan, and the rest of the world… doesn't.

            We were under strict orders to avoid Green Street, as to avoid drunken clashes (fights) with the other US services. It's almost like we had a reputation or something…

          • Number_Six

            There is no correct Busan/Pusan. The first consonant is kind of like an aspirated "b" in the regional dialect but if you're speaking standard Seoul Korean, then it's more like a "p". Same with k/g – Kyeongju/Gyeongju and t/d – Taegu/Daegu.

            We had awesome times drinking with random US service folk. It was when they were sober they were kind of unbearable pricks!

            Hey, is this true: some sailors we took out on the piss in Daegu told us they were from a fleet of transports loaded with shitloads of mothballed tanks and artillery and such, who sailed around waiting for notice in case war broke out with North Korea. The story seemed sketchy but believable at the same time…

          • Vairship

            That would have been the Maritime Pre-Positiong Force (and more particularly MPSRON 3) http://www.msc.navy.mil/mpsthree/

    • AlexiusG55

      Also the cool old 50s stuff on the British end- Victors and Buccaneers!

  • schigleymischke

    Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine, thank God for you everyone.

  • This reminds me of a joke.

    An Air Force officer and Navy officer are standing next to each other in a bar bathroom. The Navy officer finishes and walks out. A few minutes later, the Air Force officer walks up to him and says, "In the Air Force they teach us to wash our hands when we finish in the restroom." The Navy officer responds, "In the Navy they teach us to not piss on our hands."

    Very cool post, Sparky!

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