1966-1967 West Pac Memories #3 Paul Trombetta
Memories of West Pac, 1966-1967
by Paul Trombetta AX3 and AX2 and almost AX3 again (HS-8)
Installment #3- Who hung those rockets on the S2's?
In case any of you were wondering, I do have a lot of pictures and other memorabilia to add to this dissertation. I was sort of a packrat on this cruise and saved just about everything. When I finish rambling on, I'll send all of the pictures that match up with my story. Now, where was I?
Oh yes, making up my lovely rack so near the stars. Well, I decided to look around and see just what I got myself into. This forward space on the O2 level was between the two 5" guns. It was three compartments and one head. And what a head it was.
5 fresh water showers and one that said "salt water". Hmmmm, I wonder what that is used for??? Mirrors made out of shiny metal over stainless steel sinks whose faucets wouldn't stay on. And the crappers- all lined up in a row- no dividers- no privacy, but you could touch knees with someone taking a dump across from you.
Up forward there was a hatch and a long, steep stairway down to a huge space. Cavernous would be the term. I later found out that this was the fore castle (fo'csle). The big anchor chains were there and it was really a good place to get away from it all, which I did many times in the next 8 months. It was sorta my private domain, until the ships band started practicing in there when I was trying to sleep, but that's another story.
I wonder what things look like from the gun tub. I walked out to the starboard side and, uh-oh- looks like we are making way- where's those damned seasick pills? This isn't so bad. A big ship like this probably doesn't go up and down too much, right?
It seemed to take hours to get past the breakwater, but now we were really moving along. These carrier qualifications were so that the pilots could learn how to land and take off from the flight deck. Sheesh.....I thought they already knew how. What's that loud noise? The 1 MC? The bosun' s pipe- not too melodic but got my attention. "Now hear this. Commmmeeeennnnce flight operations.
I am on the night shift, assigned to HS-8's Radio/Sonar shop. The shop is all the way aft, about 1/2 way up the hanger bay. It's a long walk from the berthing space to the shop. No problem. I'll find it later. I've got 3 hours to kill before 7 pm. I'm going to go watch those pilots learn how to land on this thing.
There was a hell of a racket from the forward port gun tub. I could see the S-2's taking off and flying a pattern. I need to get a better view. How do I get to the Island? I sure as hell am not going to climb up to the catwalk and run across the flight deck. Lets see- go back to the hanger deck and walk over to the middle, starboard side. I hear that there is an escalator- man, this is downtown. Yep, there it is- just like at Sears.
At the top I find myself in the island and in a very noisy environment. I asked a green shirt if there was a place that I could watch the flight operations from and he told me to take those stairs and keep climbing until I get to the top. Man, what a view from up here. Next time I'm going to bring my movie camera. Here comes one now.
An S-2 was making an approach.....getting closer.....wave off. Here comes another. Getting closer.....closer.....wave off. And another......yep, you guessed it..... wave of. This went on and on and I was getting really bored, and then one landed- caught the last wire and I thought that wire would never stop unraveling. Safely aboard- but wait! Not taking the elevator home- going forward to be shot off once again after a very fast refueling. These guys have guts.
And what are they doing? Hanging something that looks like a rocket under the wings. This went on, aircraft after aircraft until there were about 6 of them airborne with rockets under the wings. Something that looked like a sled was being dragged behind the ship about this time and it looks like we were going to see some shooting practice.
Each of the aircraft took turns making a shooting run on this sled. I hope to hell that they can shoot straight. That sled isn't very far off our stern. One by one, the planes shot some rockets. Most missed the sled, but one or two came pretty close. Now it's time to recover these aircraft. What's that I see? Rockets still hanging to the wings of 4 airplanes? Yep, that's what they were.
We had a repeat of the same thing. Approach, wave off. Approach, wave off. After about to go arounds each, they finally started actually landing and the first plane was on a perfect approach. LSO seemed to be leaping for joy- nope- he was leaping for the safety net.... wave off. Man that was close. I even ducked.
Next one actually caught a wire and the rockets which were hanging on the wing broke loose and skidded down the flight deck. Everyone was running and ducking and getting out of the way. It didn't blow, thank God. Would you believe that each and every aircraft recovered that had unlaunched rockets, lost them when they trapped and the rockets skidded off the flight deck after making a hell of a mess along the way. I really don't know the reason why, but for the rest of the carrier qual's and the entire westpac cruise, I never saw another aircraft carry a rocket on a wing. I wonder why?
Coming soon- installment 4..... Now, just where is that damned shop and what's darken ship?