Sid's N T I N S Locker
by John K. Ellett, RMC USN(Ret)
Chapters:  1  ||  3  ||  4  ||  5  ||  6
Chapter Two

Onward and Upward.

After my re-entry to the active Fleet from the Reserves, and my graduation from Radioman "A" School where I learned Naval Communications, basic electronics, and most importantly, to send and receive Morse Code, I had been transferred across San Diego Bay to a unit called Fleet Air Wing Fourteen.  There I was employed “flight following” patrol aircraft from Naval Air Station North Island.  We monitored radios and communicated with the airborne aircraft, as required.  This monitoring usually amounted to receiving hourly reports of “Ops Normal” indicating they had nothing to report.  All hands on watch prayed that those reports would continue, as it got quite “busy” if an airplane missed his hourly report.

After a couple of years of this I was transferred TAD (Temporary Additional Duty) to the Naval Communications Station, San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Horrible duty!  The COMMSTA was downtown in San Juan, a short stroll from the Candado Section (Tourism area, horribly expensive, right on the beach) and other tourist attractions such as Old Town San Juan.  I was there as ‘extra help’ for an upcoming Atlantic Fleet Exercise.  This took about three months to accomplish the TAD, and then, off I went.

Before leaving San Diego, I had purchased a house in Merced, CA, about 400 miles north of ‘Dago‘. After transporting my wife, all my belongings and such to Merced, I had traveled to San Francisco and onward to Norfolk, VA and thence to San Juan.  Upon departure, I took a few days leave and journeyed back to Merced and then back to Norfolk and onward to New York City. From there, I was airlifted to Madrid, Spain, bussed to Torrejon AFB and then to Rota Spain for FURTHER transfer. Thus the large number of air miles noted at the head of this missive.

At Torrejon I found myself in the company of a Chief Petty Officer and two other lower rated people. Since the base had no “room in the inn” they placed us in a no-longer-meeting-Air Force- Regulations barracks, so called.

‘The Hilton’ will suffice to describe this hovel.  According to the Chief, he had never had such wonderful accommodations in his entire career with the U.S. Navy.  We were on our own, no one to supervise us, no one to tell us what we were supposed to do or anything like that.  It was an Enlisted Man’s idea of Heaven.  All we had to do was find the Mess Hall, eat our great meals and dodge out of sight again.

And then, one of the junior people decided he would find out when our transportation was departing.  I could have killed that man!  It appears that the Air Force had “lost” us.

We were not checked into the Taj Mahal that they called ‘Temporary Housing’.  Therefore to the Air Force mind, we were not on the base, had departed or just disappeared in a cloud of blue smoke. As the Chief said “Hell, if not for HIM!, I could have retired here“.  I believe that there is still a bounty out for this young man.

If not, there should be.  See sentiments below for elaboration.

The idjit mentioned above had duly enquired, which led the Air Force to decide we did exist after all, and “BAM!” there our orders were.  Man, I would love to get my ancient hands on that 2nd Class PO.  Burning at the stake would not be good enough for him, now or at that time.  Our little heaven was gone and we were on our way again.

I soon found myself at the Naval Base Rota Spain which was shared with the Spanish Navy.  GREAT duty, especially after San Juan!  NOT!  We were housed in a Quonset Hut.  The Petty Officers’ Club was housed in another one just like it so it didn’t seem if we really gone anywhere when we went from one to the other.  We were promised ’liberty’ to go into town, after we had been aboard the station for six months.  Gawd forbid such a fate!

After a few days of drinking coffee at the base ‘canteen’, I received notice that my transportation would be arriving the next day.  I envisioned a commercial flight to the Island of Malta, where my ship would shortly arrive.  Unfortunately, and alas, this was not to be.

My transportation was an S2F, known in the trade as a “Stoof”, normally, at that time, employed as a hunter of submarines.

This particular plane was engaged in what is known as COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery).  They ran the mail to and from the ship, picked up urgently required parts for non-functioning machinery and occasional passengers.  Please notice the ranking.

After all the other ’stuff’ had been loaded aboard the aircraft, my seatmate and I were waved aboard.

I found that the Navy was very concerned with the well being of their precious cargo on the COD. Therefore we were assigned seats all the way forwards facing rearwards, where we could view the various heavy parts and the mailbags.  They were stowed that way, reading from front to back, starting with the passengers.  I was informed by a very helpful crewmember that the stowage was that way, so if something untoward happened the passengers would be able to cushion the rest of the cargo, and hopefully keep it from crashing through into the cockpit, thereby spilling the pilot’s coffee.

Needless to say, this increased my morale immensely, especially since we had an Ensign driving. For those not in the know, that meant that our pilot had only been in the Navy for a very short time and was probably not yet trusted to play with the ’real’ toys.

Off we went, out to sea which for some reason, from an aircraft looks very hard and wet.  But, there is quite a very lot of it.

Shortly, we were informed that we were approaching USS AMERICA, our destination.  I had read that an aircraft carrier is a very large ship, and I knew this was true having served on the USS HORNET.  However......  From the air, sitting backward and viewing it through a very small window in the side of the aircraft, the description of appearing “like a postage stamp” was somewhat overstated, my Aunt Nellie! Our intended landing area appeared to about the size of a “zit” to a teenager...There was a wake behind the ship, and then there was a spot on the water.  Any other description would be quite a bit overblown.

We began to ’wibble-wobble’ in the air and lost way too much airspeed, in my judgment. Then, the engines, all both of them, increased speed, somewhat belatedly I thought.  “WHAM!” and we were onboard the carrier, and jerked to a stop in no time by the arresting cables.  A carrier landing is truly a controlled crash.  Home at last I figured, at least for the time being anyway.

Sid's N T I N S Locker
Chapters:  1  ||  3  ||  4  ||  5  ||  6