1957 Visit to Sydney - Terry Yung
1957 Visit to Sydney
08 Feb 00 11:17:57 -0800
Terry Yung - firstname.lastname@example.org
"CVA-20 Crew Stories" - email@example.com
Following are some random memories I have regarding CVA-20's visit to Sydney, Australia, in late April and early May of 1957. Please add them to the crew comments section of the web page if you think they are acceptable. It has been almost 43 years since what I talk about below happened so I hope my shipmates will forgive me if I don't get something quite right according to the way they remember things.
Two major things should be remembered about our visit to Sydney in terms of how the people treated us. One is that the Bennington was the first major US warship to visit Sydney since WWII. The other is that we were there to help them celebrate Coral Sea Day, a national holiday in Australia. This holiday celebrates the US Navy's victory over the Japanese Navy in the Battle of the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea victory greatly reduced the threat of a Japanese invasion of Australia for which the Australians have been forever grateful.
A day or two before we reached Sydney I was working below decks and heard what sounded like our 5-in. guns being fired. However, being an FT, I knew that no firing exercise was scheduled. My curiosity got the better of me so I hustled topside to see what was happening. The flight deck was already filling up with crew. It turned out that several Australian military jets were breaking the sound barrier over the ship as their way of welcoming us to Australia.
After we entered the harbor we were completely surrounded by many small boats. We could hear whistles, horns, sirens, and people cheering. We were moving with just enough speed to maintain steerage so as not to endanger the small water craft around us. At one point, as we passed under a very high cliff (off to our right I think), a 21-gun salute was fired over us from an old fort located up there. It was quite a moving experience.
We docked just below an area know as Kings Cross. (If I remember correctly, the location where we docked is directly across the harbor from where Sydney's beautiful new opera house is now located but wasn't there in 1957.) We were docked right behind an ocean liner. It was one of the President liners, but I don't remember which one. On the opposite side of the Bennington from the dock, there was a small park overflowing with people who were there to greet our arrival. Many, if not most, of the people in the park were female. A number of us FTs and some GMs raced for the fire control directors and the 5-in. guns on that side of the ship so that we could use their high-powered optical sights to eyeball the girls. It wasn't very long before the word came down to knock it off and secure the guns and directors. There were complaints that we were scaring the civilians by waving the ship's guns around.
On the morning of the holiday itself we were awakened well before reveille by the general quarters, atomic attack, and chemical attack alarms all going off at the same time. A young male voice on the 1MC said that we had been captured by pirates and that they wouldn't let us go until we contributed to a charity he mentioned. Apparently, some college students had rowed a boat out to the after brow we had down on the water side, came aboard, walked the length of the ship and up to the bridge, and set the alarms off without being seen by anyone. You know security was tightened up after that incident!
There are way too many stories to include here about all the happenings while we were in Sydney. The Australians treated us like very special guests. It was almost impossible to pay for a beer. And the girls, well... The Aussies referred to us as Yanks and this didn't go over to well with some of the guys from the South. More than once I heard one of them say "I ain't no damn Yankee." Australian accents were very noticeable on the mess deck as we left Sydney and headed for Pearl Harbor on our way home.
On the way to Pearl we sailed north up the international date line (180 deg longitude) until on 11 May 1957 we reached the equator where we veered to the northeast and Hawaii. Since we crossed the equator at the international date line we became members of the Brotherhood of "Golden" Shellbacks. We had already become Shellbacks after we went through the initiation when we crossed the equator on 24 April on our way to Sydney. I still carry my dog-eared wallet-sized shellback card. There's no way I'm ever going to take a chance of crossing the equator again without being able to prove I've already gone through the initiation. I'm a shellback and not a slimy pollywog!
A 20-year old FT3 at the time of our visit to Sydney. Served onboard Bennington from Aug. 1956 to May 1958.