Dear Family and Friends of
Since I wrote you last, Virgo
has been very busy We have just completed our second
deployment "on the line" in support of
the Navys operations in Vietnam, and are now in Subic Bay
loading ammunition for another trip
I'd like first of all to tell
you about the ships we've met and replenished, and some of the
things theyve been doing Our first customer, on February
12, was USS TICONDEROGA Although TICO is the oldest aircraft
carrier in these waters, she is still doing a tremendous job
Her pilots fly bombing strikes against supply targets in
Vietnam almost daily Our first time alongside her, TICO
treated us to a spectacular and ear-shattering display of
aircraft launching and recovery operations while our
replenishment operations were going on.
Next we re1plished the
nuclear powered carrier USS ENTERPRISE, the worlds largest
warship. Her immense size dwarfed Virgo. Our first meeting
with the big"E" was at night, well before any of us
had breakfast on the morning of the 16th. As she came
alongside, her band was serenading us with "Oh what a
Beautiful Morning". It was too early to tell.
We completed our carrier commitments
the following day by rearming the carrier Hancock. In the
first six days of operations in the Tonkin Gulf we had
transferred over 1300 tons of ammunition. A back-breaking,
around - the clock job, but we were rewarded by fine
compliments from the carriers skippers.
After we had given all our
bombs to the carriers, we started South from Yankee station,
passing bullets to destroyers scattered all the way down the
coastline to Saigon. They are fighting a different type of war
from the carriers. Some of them are assigned to Naval Gunfire
Support duties, firing at Viet Cong emplacements on the beach
and in denying the Viet Cong any re-supply via coastal waters.
These ships have been most effective in both of these roles.
The destroyers we serviced during our first trip include USS
CUNNINGHAM, TURNER JOY, DUNCAN, MYLES C. FOX, MADDOX, DEHAVEN,
and NORRIS, each one named for some past Navy hero, and all
now working hard to live up to their namesakes' reputation for
valor Between February 19 and 27, Virgo gave 368 tons of
ammunition to these destroyers, which they promptly deposited
on the Viet Gong.
USS MADDOX is typical of
these small, hardworking ships. She was the destroyer which
North Vietnamese torpedo boats tried to sink in the now-famous
Tonkin Gulf incident of August 2, 1964. More recently, just
prior to our first replenishment of MADDOX, she made a direct
hit on a large enemy ammunition dump in South Vietnam,
resulting in a spectacular explosion that lit the sky for many
miles. It was a crippling blow to enemy operations in that
area, and earned her accommodation from General Westmoreland.
USS BRISTER, a radar picket
type destroyer escort, also scored a big hit while Virgo was
in the area. BRISTER picked up a 100-foot steel hulled ship on
her radar, and then took it under fire when it was identified
as an enemy vessel. The boat blew up, leaving nothing larger
than a piece of steel plate 1 foot by 7 feet. It had been full
of ammunition and guns for the Viet Gong.
We have also been servicing
two rocket-launching landing ships, WHITE RIVER, and CLARION
RIVER. These small, homely looking ships are armed with rocket
launchers. They lie close in shore, and can lay down heavy
concentrated fire in support of troop operations. At our first
meeting with CLARION RIVER we gave them 20 bags of mail. To
thank Virgo, she demonstrated her rocket firing ability,
giving us an early taste of the Fourth of July on a
I might add that although we
can see quite a bit of the action from our ship, particularly
at night when illumination flares are fired, we always remain
at a safe distance from the beach and act as interested
After a week in Subic Bay
(March 2 to 10) taking on another load of ammunition, Virgo
returned to "the line" March 12. In one hectic first
day, your men transferred 614 tons of ammunition to six ships,
including the carrier KITTY Hawk, the missile-armed cruiser
CANBERRA, and four destroyers accompanying her: EDSON,
STODDARD, COLLETT, and INGERSOLL. After such a busy day, it
seemed almost easy when we gave 1187 tons of bombs to HANCOCK
and USS BON HOMME RICHARD in five days, and 688 tons of
bullets to eight destroyers along the Vietnam coastline during
the period March 13 to April 5.
By now almost all our kinks
have been straightened out. The replenishments are going very
smoothly. The men look like regular pros. Recently three
destroyer commanding officers commended us for the finest
underway replenishment they have ever experienced in West Pac.
It makes us feel pretty good to be singled out in this manner
by ships who have been operating here for over six months.
Shortly before our recent
return to port, we were happy to replenish Her Majesty's
Australian Ship HOBART, an Australian destroyer which has come
from "down under" to help the U. S. Navy in Vietnam.
Occasionally we feel the
tension experienced by those directly involved in the
Vietnamese conflict. I am particularly reminded of a night in
early March. We were scheduled to replenish the carrier
HANCOCK, but just before she came alongside, she passed word
to us that two of her pilots had gone into the water near the
North Vietnamese mainland, and our replenishment would have
been delayed. Several destroyers raced to the scene, and
HANCOCK launched planes and helicopters to press the search
for the downed pilots. Shore fire from the North Vietnamese
was intense, and visibility was poor. The running commentary
which we received from HANCOCK told us that armed North
Vietnamese boats were approaching one of the pilots when the
first helicopters arrived. Then, two additional planes sent
out on the search crashed, raising the total to four pilots in
the water. The search continued through the night while we
stood by waiting for the replenishment to start. Fortunately,
the incident had a fairly happy ending. Helicopters recovered
two of the pilots and the oiler USS PONCHATOULA, another
hard working member of Pacific Service Force along with Virgo,
spotted one of the pilots and picked him up many miles from
the original scene of action. The next morning while we
replenished HANCOCK, a helicopter brought the pilot back from
PONCHATOULA, We watched as his squadron mates
greeted him on the flight deck of the carrier.
This is the way it goes. As
you can easily see your men have been working hard, often
responding to calls for ammunition in the dead of night, often
putting in long hours with little sleep. But there
have been lighter moments too, and some periods of rest,
relaxation and fun.
When Virgos busy schedule
permits, we stop the ship for a few hours, in some likely
looking spot, and sound "Fish Call". We're not going
to put the Vietnamese fishing industry out of business, but it
is a change in pace. Winners in our fishing derby
include: Radarman W. H. SMITH, Seaman David BRADLEY, Steward
D.G. MARAAN, and LTJG Charlie RIGGS. I
have always respected sailors' imagination and ingenuity but I
never realized its full potential until we started fishing.
Almost any kind of string becomes a fish line in their hands.
Some of the men even made their own fish hooks. Signalman
First Class Marcus WICKLINE became so enthusiastic when
"fish call" was sounded that he held the bait and
threw his fishing outfit over the side, or so I've been told.
During one quiet afternoon of
fishing, a Navy Swift boat came out from the shore area to pay
us a visit. "I just wanted to see what a big ship was
like again," said the boat's skipper. As it
turned out he also was interested in getting some fresh fruit,
which we were glad to give the Swiftie. These
little boats, descendants of the PT boats of World War II
fame, have a hard dangerous job, they patrol alongside the
coastline, stopping the suspicious looking junks and sampans
and making sure no supplies are being smuggled to the Viet
Cong. In return for Virgo's favor the Swift boat took some of
our crew on a short, but fast ride.
On our way back to Subic
after our first tour "on the line", we celebrated
the Pacific Service Force's 25th anniversary. Since Virgo is a
member of Pacific Service Force of long standing, we did
things up quite properly. The ships cooks set up a barbeque
pit on the fantail, where they grilled hot dogs and
hamburgers. Chief Commisaryman Robert WINTERS, an
artist when it comes to decorating cakes, supplied an original
masterpiece decorated with Virgo's and Pacific Service Force's
emblems in eight edible colors.
While Virgo is in Subic Day,
a little place called Grande Island has provided many a
relaxing and pleasure-filled moment for your men. During our
stay in Subic in early March, the crew held two parties on
Grande Island, complete with charcoal broiled steaks, soft
drinks, and beer. The first day, the enlisted men
challenged the officers and chief petty officers to a softball
game, then got trounced by a score so high that I cannot in
clear conscience record it here. (Fortunately for
the winners, the star pitcher for the enlisted men was on duty
on the ship the first day. He pitched in a game the
next day, and nobody touched him.
For those of you interested
in things historical,. I have several items to pass along.
First: Virgo, a seasoned veteran of World War II, and
participant in most of the major Pacific naval battles of that
war, has been invited to send a representatives to the
upcoming Coral Sea Festival. It is being staged by the
Australian Government to celebrate the 25th Anniversary
of the Battle of the Coral Sea, during which the Japanese
invasion fleet was turned back from its move on Australia.
Virgos representatives are Machinist Mate First Class
Douglas C HAMMER, and Engineman Second Class Dennis N YOUNG.
They will board the nuclear-powered cruiser USS LONG BEACH in
a few days and spend two months aboard her, as she visits the
sites of the most famous naval battles of the war. LONG BEACH
will also spend ten days in Sydney, Australia, at climax of
the Coral Sea Festival.
Second: fans of MR. ROBERTS,
the side-splitting story of Navy life during World War II,
will be interested to know that Virgo reportedly was the ship
that inspired it all. According to scuttlebutt, rumors, etc.,
Thomas HEEGAN, the author of the book, was communications
officer on Virgo from August 1944 until the end of the war.
You can still see the spot outside the Captain's Cabin where a
steel bracket held in place the Captain's palm tree.
To bring us back to the
present, Virgo plans to leave Subic Bay, April 14, heading to
Manila, Philippine lslands for two days visit to the capital
city. It will be the first time Virgo has been in a
"liberty port" since coming to the Western Pacific
nearly three months ago; your men deserve the break in the
routine. Manila we will return to "the line" for
another month of providing support to the ships in the Seventh
I have recently commended
three of our engineers for their performance of duty, Senior
Chief Boilerman John E. LEACH, Machinist Mate Second Class
David L BROOKS, and Machinery Repairman Second Class Rodney A.
WILLIAMS. These men exercised much ingenuity in repairing a
broken pump in the ships fresh water distilling plant,
without which we simply could not have operated at sea for
more than a few days.
Congratulations are in order
to six men who advanced in rate since I last wrote you. The
men and their new rates are Richard A. PARTLOW, seaman; David
P. BRADLEY, seaman; Richard W. HOWE, seaman; Richard L. La
CHANCE, engineman fireman; Jerry L. REISINGER, seaman
apprentice; and Sayles B. ROTHMEYER, seaman.
Virgo also has two proud new
fathers, Electricians Mate Third Class Lester K. REYNOLDS and
Storekeeper Second Class Gerald L. GORHAM. Congratulations to
them, and their wives
Several men have jioned
Virgos crew in recent week. Lt. Donald E. MACHOLZ and ENS.
Stepben R. PARER are newly reported officers. Seaman Richard
F. DURAN, Gunners Mate First Class Benny J HENDRICKSON,Seaman
Recruit Bobby L. MASSEY, Gunners Mate Seaman Apprentice Dana
S. QUANSTROM and Hospital Corpsman Third Class Larry W. SMITH
are new enlisted members.
H. R. MACMILLIAN, Commanding