Commentaries, Reminiscences and Sea Stories
David Royer

First TAGS Tour, USNS Bowditch, 1960
Posted on 10/18/2008

The year was 1960. I was just starting the equipment phase of my training when I was called to personnel, along with Larry Murrish and Raymond Hupke. On the way there we ran into Robert Barkhurst and Ronald Tyson, they were in the class ahead of us, and we all wondered what possible trouble we could be in.

We arrived at personnel and waited until someone could see us, and they read us our orders. We were to report to Naval Hydrographic Office, Suitland, Maryland, for one week of training and then to eight weeks of Special Technology at Dam Neck Virginia. We were then to report to USNS Bowditch T-AGS-21, homeported in Norfolk, VA., except for Hupke, who was to report to the USNS Michelson T-AGS-23. We were given papers for an application for a secret clearance, which we were to complete and return to Personnel ASAP.

Imagine my disappointment! My older brother was an AR Delta during the WW2, and my dad had served on the USS Brooks, a destroyer, and also on the USS Arkansas, a battleship. One of dad's brothers served on the Arkansas too. Another had served on the Arizona prior to WW2; he was an RMC, then a Mustang. I had applied for BB, CA, and DD duty.

Oh well, back to the class room to ask a chief what a T-AGS was. The answer: "I never heard of that! Maybe some kind of missile tracking ship". Well, in the Hydrographic Office they straightened us out, and advised us to bring civvies. What? That is not allowed, we thought, but they said yes, you have plenty of room on these ships.

Part way through Special Technology ET2 John Casebolt , ETRSN Murrish and I were called to the Personel Office, not so scarry now. There we got modifications to our orders to include 4-5 weeks of Computer Maintanence training at Bendix Computer Corporation in Santa Monica, California. Later, when we arrived in Santa Monica, we found that Bendix had moved to Inglewood, Ca.

When it was over we reported seperately now to the Brooklyn Army Terminal for transportation to the ship. That was located at 58st and 1st avenue in Brooklyn, I of course am travelling in Uniform, so the driver of the cab drops me off at the same location but in Manhattan. I get out now nearly broke and do not see anything like a Military building. So I find a pharmacy that was ready to close and asked him where 58th and 1st ave were and he pointed down. I asked about the Army Terminal and he asked if it is in Manhattan.... oh no it is in Brooklyn. I said how can I get there, the taxi ride took up all my money. Showed me the Subway and told me to go there and ask, well I asked so many people. But I finally got off of the train in Brooklyn and had to walk about 4 blocks to check in at about 2 am. I walked down the center of the street because it was really run down.

After a period of time there, I was taken by bus to McGuire AFB, NJ for a flight to London. We were to report to #7 north Audley Street to the naval detachment for arrangements. It was still daylight when we reported to a large building (I found out in 1979 that is the US Embassy in London. A female Lt checked us in and sent us to a small hotel, not the Douglas House. Larry Murrish had rejoined me, we went to the hotel and got a larger room with two beds, hot water and heat in the room, the rest of the crew were in the Douglas House, you needed coins to get heat, or hot water. I was tired to I went to bed, Larry went to the Bar and came back and told me about seeing the Lt, from the Navy. I was unable to sleep so I went to the bar, and I had a drink or two with the LT. and talked to the barmaid. I found out I was hungry so went to the restaurant and had a meal, then back for a night cap. Unfortuantely I did not score with the Lt.

After a few days we were taken to Mildenhall AFB for a trip to Bergen Norway to Meet the USNS Bowditch. It was November and rainy, I had wet soles to my shoes and so I slid down the ladder into Oceanographic Detachment One Space on my "stern" Seabag still on my shoulder. I was too embarrassed to tell Doc Wichendahl that I was hurt. So it was never reported. Too bad, my hip hurts a lot and I learned too late that pride goeth after the fall in some cases.

In May I was transferred to the USNS Dutton and OcDet 2. That story at another time.

The Bendix G-15D, and Other Happenings
Transfer to Dutton
Posted on 10/18/2008

The programs that were used on the Bendix Computers were written in machine language. Because of the limited memory (four kilobytes of rotating memory = drum) only one program could be run at any time. Diagnostics had to be broken up into two parts, diag one, and diag two. If they both passed then we went on to run DIAPER, which was a more intensive check of the operations of the computer.

The main vacume tubes were 5965's used in flip-flops. they were also perhaps used in the preamplifier circuits. There was another tube that was a Cathode Follower circuit. The different flip-flop modules were color coded by the handles, and the color had something to do with the speed of the circuitry. There were tons of diodes in the computers, I think in the range of 3000. These were used in the logic gates. There were thyration used to control the paper tape punchs. As the paper tape reader could be pulled out on slide rails, and there was a switch in there to conserve power by powering of the punch circuitry.

My technicial twin, Larry D. Murrish was always doing things as he understood them. He had a photographic memory, but the flaw was he could not get the technical data to his fingers. He was putting bad parts in the computer and leaving them because he wanted to verify they were indeed bad. The people from Hydroplot used to come get me (I had a later watch and needed some sleep) so I would be irrated at that.

Finally after several wakeups to find it was a tagged module that I had removed in the day prior I just asked was Larry down there earlier? When I got a yes answer I would say I have to sleep so I can go on watch, go get Larry to fix what he broke. We were both seaman so they did not put either in charge even tho I had more navy time and more time as a seaman.

Larry often removed safety covers and when I would try to turn on or off the paper tape punch I would get shocked. I should have wrote him up on the safety concerns. I was called on a major problem in 1961, the computer would not get to even run diag one. I knew something was bad. We had just left port and Larry had been doing something. He said after about a week, I think it is a bad drum. (A clue that I missed - I believe that he tried to adjust a read head on the drum, and wiped out the clock track) We worked 72 hours straight and then they let us take turns sleeping 4 hours, he went first. We did this for the entire cruise, and then we had an ET1 working with Larry and Chief Love with me. They just did 12 hours with us and would rotate. Just about a week before the second month was up in May Chief Love and I jury rigged the read/write drum channels so that we had a pass of diag one and proved that there was a bad spot on the drum.

We both passed the 3rd class exam, and orders came to transfer one ETR3 to the Dutton who was trained in Bendix, I volunteered and got off the ship just as it was ready to sail. The computer had been fixed, and was running. Abe Lincoln of Bendix came out with the new Drum, and I worked my ass off to get the computer fixed. I was engaged then to Eldbjorg Brekke and I spent the month of May until the Dutton arrived with her. I later found out that the computer went down and stayed down for another two months. Larry had put in some unapproved vacume tubes to test the computer and Abe Lincoln was angry. He said if he ever got another call to that ship he would quit his job rather than go.

Second Bowditch Tour
Posted on 10/19/2008

My second tour on the Bowditch came after my departure from Cape Canaveral.

I was kind of suprised, but knew what to expect this time. My orders were for a delay in route to Attend Navaids Training (AN/WPN-3 and AN/BRN-3 --Loran-C and Satellite Navigation) and report to Brooklyn Army terminal for further transfer to the Bowditch. I followed the orders even tho I knew that the ship was operating in the Pacific. After 2-3 weeks I was flown out to San Francisco to go to Treasure Islands Transit Barracks. I spend a few weeks there as they did not know what to do with me. I had to muster and then was free to come and go. I was E5 now. I spent a lot of time in the Ham Radio Shack. Finally they take me off to Travis AFB for the most terrible flight ever. 12 hours in the air, crying babies and sick people. Jammed into a 707 (Military) with 6 seats across. No space to stretch a leg or a finger. Finally we got to some AFB in Japan, where they loaded us into a bus and took us to Yokosuka and the transit barracks. I spent 2 weeks or more there. I had cinderella liberty but did not have money to spend so I was restricted to base because they would not pay me. (I spend 2-3 useless weeks in Brooklyn, another 2-3 weeks in Treasure island and at least 2 weeks in Yokosuka awaiting the ship. I could have been doing something useful if the Navy had its stuff together. Finally the ship arrived, and I was aboard and it was a real happy reunion, Frog King was there, and I think Merrill F Stone who came to rescue me from the transit barracks. It was a really good time, after reporting aboard, getting settled down on the ship, the CO explained that to avoid Cinderella Liberty they cut us leave papers, that were torn up when the ship sailed.

Someone suggested going to a bar, and that was the best news that I had heard in at least 2 weeks. We wound up in the Black Rose Bar the approved (medically) places had a white square painted near the top of the door with a black stenciled letter 'A' on that, it was the indication that the girls working there were grade a prime. We had one case of VD that one of the guys picked up when he met a girl on the street. There were two brands of beer here in the Black Rose, Kirin (it was like drinking razor blades) and another brand that I liked but do not remember. Here in the black rose I was to go into my very first UNISEX restroom. The hinges on the door squeeked a bit, and I was draining some beer when I heard the squeek and then no one was beside me at the trough, so I turned my head - there was a girl there. She walked over to the hole in the floor, raised her dress dropped her panties, and squatted and let fly, as I was pissing up the wall in my angst. I had ocassion to see the hole in the floor later - there were footprints where you were supposed to place your feet to enable you to squat and hit the hole. I guess that it worked as there was no messes on the floor.

Since we were the only US Navy Sailors to be paid in Dollars, in port we were able to do a lot of things that other sailors could not do. The civilians on the ship would not accept the Script as pay so the ship carried only green dollars. Each morning the Girl I was with (Joey or Joy - I never understood the way it was said) would give me dollars from the prior day for me to go to the base and change to yen for her. She would pay my taxi back to the base, and return. Each night she gave me fare back to the ship and to return. I just had to watch her sucker the second cook for drinks and she would take him to her place and he would pass out and then she came to her cousins place and spent the night with me, until time to go wake the cook. It was a good racket.

Before I boarded the ship, we had one of the Navy guys break his leg and he had a cast on it, he told me about going to the International Hotel with his "girl" and having sex with the cast on his leg. During the course of activity he kicked a hole in the wall. He was charged for the repairs, I guess that rice paper can get expensive, as that was all the wall was made of, except for the frame it was held with.

We had that inport and a sea period while the Olympic games went on, and then came to Yokosuka for a one day period and departed for the transit through the canal and to our Major Yard overhaul in Brooklyn Navy Yard. USS Connie was being built at about that time, so the barracks were quite full with us and the crew for the Constellation.

More about the shipyard and later.

Third Bowditch Tour
Posted on 10/21/2008

Upon graduation from ETB School, I am now an ETC with Orders to "T-AGS-21" again. deja vu all over again. I go to McGuire AFB, I do not remember going to the Army Transit barracks this time, but I was married, and she was a Brooklyn woman so I could have just be commuting. At McGuire I met a Storekeeper First Class, we were just two of the sailors among a lot of AF and Army guys, we were talking and he was going to a ship called.... USNS Bowditch.... I said me too, this is my 3rd tour. So I got a lot of questions, and I also met ET2 Larkin there, we did not get on the Aircraft together, I wound up in First Class (TWA Charter) flight only thing we did not get was the drinks. Nice treatment. Arrived in Rota, to transit to await further transit to the Ship, enjoyed the chiefs club while there at least 2 weeks. We were to phone in to check in and other wise it was really relaxed. Finally it was time to board a cargo aircraft to Naples Italy, our orders just said to Livorno and the Bowditch, there was some people to meet the plane in Naples and they were directing all partys to the transit barracks, I said no, we (me, SK1, and ET2) have orders to Livorno Italy, there is nothing saying to report to Naples Transit/Receiving Station, so we are going to Livorno. The LT, finally relented and let us go, what could he do? We took a train to Rome, and had to change to a different train station to go to Livorno. In Rome the Taxi driver scammed us, charged us a ton of Lira and when I converted that later it was about $150.00 for each of us. Maybe 4-7 miles. So at about 2 am we arrive at a hotel in Livorno, I did not know where the ship was located, too tired to check so we went to the room, 3 single beds, and the old guy (about 90 years old) bellhop tried to carry all our bags up to the room. In the room he wanted to bring hookers, after flying cargo class I was more interested in a bed than a woman. Some how he did not believe that could be, viva AMORE!

We arrive to the Bowditch, Livorno is hot and Humid, I expect that Hell would be about that hot, but not so humid. My stateroom only ever got as cool as 104 degrees, It was up to as high as 114. The poor ac guy he tried, but nothing worked right to cool us. The SASS sonar room was running about 62-64 degrees and Where the BRN and Sins were was usually not warmer than 68 degrees. Staterooms in #2 hold were cooler. SCC I think got a bit warm at times but the Loran-c and PDRs worked fine.

The SK1, PN1 and I usually went places together, we were all married and tried to do simular things. I was the only chief, the LT wanted us all to call him Joe when we were off the ship, I told him: "No, sir I can not do that, I might slip up when on the ship, easier to call you Sir at all times." A lot of my crew called him Dad and Joe.

One really hot evening in the Med, Bill the Sk, Dale the PN and Bill Keenan the steward from Belfast, and several others, I think John Musgrove, and some MSC crew were drinking coffee on deck (cooler) awaiting the bingo game that was in the wardroom. The ship was doing surveys so turns were regular and we all had a glimpse of something in the sky, it was a greenish cloud, kind of a pale green, and it condensed and got darker, finally something shot off at about 40-45 degrees and the remainder of the cloud disapeared. I do not know what that was, never saw anything like that before or since. Someone said, "did you see that?" Everyone said, "YES." and we never talked about it again.

We finally left the Med and started North.

Having departed the Med. we did pick up (or resurveys) a lot of the rest of the year. We got out into the Norwegian Sea, and were between Ireland and Iceland a bit. We made an inport in Glasgow, and visited the Locarno Ballroom/Pub. Met a nice woman from a pipe and drum band, she was a jolly lady. When I heard that she and the people in the band wore Kilts, I said: " I have always wanted to know..." she replied without waiting for it all to be said, "I always say feel and find out!" She took us, Bill, Dale, Margaret, another woman and I to an Indian restaurant. We all liked spicy food so she ordered for us, well we had melted lips and drank at least a pitcher of water except for Marian. She was saying it could be hotter. If it were hotter we would have had embers in our plates. I think the other five of us were sitting with tears in our eyes.

We got back to Bergen Norway, which made Bill, Dale and I really happy, as we had all been there before, they had visited on some other ships, and I of course on my home. We had a wonderful time there, and Dale and I flew back from some other port to see it again.

We weathered some grand storms, and we had to go to a shipyard for a day or two in Amsterdam to repair 200-300 cracks in the hull that were over two inches.

Amsterdam was where Boot Chief Emily visited the place of window shoping and came out after wrapping up his purchase. He was coming out of the shop when we spotted him, the "lady" came out and got into a Lotus Europa and roared off into the night. We teased him about making her payment on the car. This was 1969 so a Lotus Europa would sell for about $5-6000.00 maybe more depending upon the extras.

Next month we entered Newcastle upon Tyne and the shipyard, we could only be on the ship for watch standing, there was no water or food. Nice shipyard even tho there was a strike that delayed our stay. Bill, Dale and I shared a flat in Whitley Bay, and that was okay, except the need to shovel in coins to keep the lights and gas coming in. It was over Christmas time, and we gave a party for some kids from orphanages. It was a wonderful day. Oh, our flat was cold, there was a gas heater in the living room but the bay window leaked air so badly that the wind off of the English channel caused the Drapes (heavy ones) to wave in the wind. Bill got some packing materials and stuffed around the window frames to help out, you could sit in close to the fire with your legs cooking any your ears freezing. So we spent a lot of time in a private club (Grays Club) where it was open after the pubs closed, and it had gambling. The Sperry rep (Navdac I think) would go in and play blackjack, he was good. He won a lot of dough there. (Pounds of it.) I saw him bet 10 pounds and split 3 times and win all of them.

Eventually all good things must end, and I had been on for a year and a few days when we came to Copenhagen, I got orders to the Observation Island EAG-154 and Port Canaveral, Florida. I enjoyed the inport there and departed for the USA on a DC-8 by PANAM. There were just 8 passengers in Coach so we were all moved up to first class and enjoyed having more Flight Attendants (or were they Stewardesses in those days) than one each. It was after sunset as we departed, and flew a great circle route, going north the sun rose again, then later set anew, turning west, the sun rose and set again. No one crew or passenger had ever experienced that before. Right time of day/year and route.

Oh, during the shipyard in Newcastle upon Tyne they repaired the cracks and finally got the leak above my stateroom plugged (welded) and I did not have to wake up to put my feet into ICE water. On the way into Copenhagen, my brown wellington boots, were worn out on the side, one had a nice hole, so before departing the ocean I gave them the deep six, however the one that did not have the hole in the side stayed upright and floated in our wake. I wonder if it washed up on some shore. Some country may still be trying to solve a cold case.

That is the last of my 3 tours on my home on the sea, I feel it was my home, and I think she deserved a nice retirement like the Dutton got. It was not the ships fault that she died from a renegade ship.

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