Diesels To Boomers
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"remembrance is what makes us what we are ..."
Read remembrances that have been posted at The Virtual Wall for JACK EDWARD LUNTSFORD
You can add your own there also.
Chief Luntsford displays AK-47 rifles... captured from
Viet Cong soldiers during the Upper Saigon River Campaign
PBR River Division 554 photos
7/1/69
PHU YEN, SOUTH VIETNAM
Hostile died of wounds
Remembering a Shipmate: Jack Luntsford
by Sid Harrison ETCM(SS) USN(Ret) Contact
Just a former COB ...who remembers a shipmate. 
Spring 1997
 Prologue
It was sometime before Memorial Day and I had called my brother in the midwest just to chat. He said he was cleaning out his basement and had quite a collection of stuff that had belonged to our dad. Dad died in 1987 and mom a few years later. My brother remarked about the memories associated with dad's tools and the care he took of them - he had been an electrical contractor and was very meticulous about his equipment. Well we began waxing philosophical about life and how the average person when he dies has little that is left except for a few scattered photos, some documentation at the court house, and memories. All the things one prizes are given away to kids, friends and neighbors or end up in yard sales.

The ancients kept memories alive by tales around the fire and reenactments of great deeds and exploits. Our culture by a few Kodak prints and with some markers at the hometown cemetery.

Then there is THE WALL and all of that musing about life's fleetness got me to thinking about a shipmate I knew once whose name is engraved in that WALL. I wrote the following for in all honesty, my own benefit, as a declaration that at least for a time one is remembered. The historical events that gave rise to the WALL require no review here. But at least for someone who passed through my life there is more than just a few dusty papers at the courthouse and the yardsale of ones life.

Years ago when the kids were still home we all went to DC. It was Easter time and we visited the WALL. They have books there where you can look up names and circumstances of loss. I looked up Jack's name and found it was near his birth date. As I become a year older each year I think of that.

I give you my memory of Jack.

Jack could sure hit
A sailor I once knew said there were three kinds of shipmates: friends, buddies and military acquaintances. Friends are with you for most of your life. Buddies are guys you raised a lot of hell with in far off ports a long time ago and that you might see from time to time. And military acquaintances are guys you stood some watches with, shared some BS sessions over coffee, never see again and rarely ever remember.

Unless there are circumstances.

This is a story of one shipmate that I never forgot: Jack Luntsford of the submarine USS Alexander Hamilton SSBN 617 Gold.

It was in the fall of 1968 shortly before my last run on the 617 before going to Instructor Duty. It was noon and I had gone to the Sub Base cafeteria for lunch. As he came walking toward me I at first didn't recognize him in his CPO dress blues. He always did seem ill at ease in a dress uniform anyway, and this was the first time I had seen him since he had made Chief. He looked especially uncomfortable like someone had tried to put dress blues on a refrigerator. I thought his neck tie would pop at any minute.

We shook hands and talked for awhile swapping the usual information that servicemen do when they meet after being separated. A few inquiries about former shipmates were made and responded to. I knew he was assigned to an engineering inspection team and traveled some and I asked him how it was going. He didn't seem too happy with the job, although knowing him I'm sure he was performing superbly. He always did. I remember he told me that he wasn't cut out for administrative duties and he had to get out of it. We finished our coffees, made some more pass-time talk, shook hands and went our separate ways. That was the last time I saw Jack Luntsford.

He was one of the truly tough guys that  I ever knew. Other than a beer-ball-game, I doubt if he had ever voluntarily engaged in an athletic activity simply to work out. We have all, I'm sure, known a man like that. A man whom it seems was born with naturally uncommon strength and hard muscle. I remember him as a man of simple tastes and simple pleasures and he was one of the hardest working and hardest playing sailors I ever knew. I also recall him as not given to pretense or what is today called attitude. With the passing of years I have come to think of Jack as typifying a unique quality of submarining and submariners that sets them apart from much larger military commands. I believe it is a quality most often seen in specialized or elite units; those close-knit organizations where a man's performance counts above all else.

To the submariner, competence means more than monkey-skills in a narrow specialty. It is in fact, an institutional obsession ranked above all other considerations. In submarines the word competence takes on an extra dimension or meaning: the man who can be totally and absolutely relied upon - one who goes the distance. Marginal sailors and officers in larger units, aided by the barriers of their very size, can hide behind a facade of rank and military pretense. Not so the submarine, with it's confined space and intensely focused tasks the individual becomes an open book to his shipmates.

Competence can be a saving grace for submariners, who for the most part have a natural affinity for non-conformity, harboring disdain for the "recruiting poster" superficialities of military life.

Jack Luntsford was a competent submariner.

There was a song years ago by the late Jim Croce about "...you don't tug on superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind..." And that verse ended with "...and you don't mess around with Slim". That also applied to Jack when he was going full bore during an upkeep period. The pressure of the cold-war boomer's 28 day upkeep was often a sleepless blur of hard work. Both for the sake of the patrol's mission, and to meet the challenges of the unforgiving sea it is critical that tasks be done perfectly. I remember Jack going at it for long, unbroken stretches - rarely even stopping to shave, sleep or cleanup. Stopping only to eat, sometimes stretching out on a benchseat and going to sleep after a meal where no mess cook dared wake him.

I wasn't a close steaming buddy with Jack. Few could keep up with him. But Tex came the closest. Tex was a hard charging Machinist Mate whom one should not cross.

One night during an upkeep when Tex was assigned to mess cooking, he and Jack came rolling back off a rare night's liberty. Embroiled in a heated argument they could be heard noisily making their way through the boat down to the crew's dinette where it began to get serious. Tex swung on Jack who pushed him away. Tex went down but  too hardheaded and too drunk to quit he kept flailing away. Reluctantly, Jack, with his options limited weighed into Tex, pounding him until some shipmates pulled them apart.

A few hours later as a wobbly Tex went about his breakfast duties, his face swollen and his eyes nearly shut, a crew member said something to him about the big scrap the night before. Tex forced a smile past his split lip and mumbled, "That goddamned Jack can sure hit".

Also Read   Mike Rankin Remembers Jack

Epilogue
The information is re-printed from 
The Vietnam Wall Memorial website.
LUNTSFORD , JACK EDWARD - MMC(SS)
Navy 32 year old Single, Caucasian Male
Born on 4/4/37
From KINGSPORT, TN
Length of service 14 years
His tour of duty began 2/4/69
Casualty was on 7/1/69
PHU YEN, SOUTH VIETNAM
Hostile died of wounds
GROUND CASUALTY
OTHER EXPLOSIVE DEVICE
Body was recovered
Religion PROTESTANT - NO PREFERENCE
Panel 21W . Line 43

His rate as engraved in the Wall does not include
the SS designation. I have added here the proper 
SS designator. I think he would prefer that.
Jack would have turned 60 on 4 April 1997.

.
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
With a link to The Wall
Other relevant "external" links:
"By Sea, Air, and Land" An Official USN Web Site
Vietnam Brownwater Navy
Visit the PBR Forces Veterans Association, Inc
also Useful Links
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