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⚓️ SEA STORIES CLG4(1962-1964)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "The enclosed setting of life aboard a ship allows an author to portray a social world in miniature, with characters cut off from the outside world and forced to interact in cramped and stressful conditions".
Little Rock (CL-92), a Cleveland-class cruiser launched in 1945, converted to a Galveston-class cruiser in the late 1950s, and serving in that capacity as CLG-4 and CG-4 until decommissioning on 22 November 1976. It is currently part of the museum at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park.

In June of 1962, seven of us left the processing center at the Washington DC Naval Air Station for our assignment aboard the U.S.S. Little Rock. Wayne had the most time in grade and was also the ranking three stripe seaman. He was designated to carry the orders for the rest of us two stripe seaman apprentices. He was also issued cash to pay for our travel expenses. Wayne was only a couple months into his tour of duty when he was mailed the dreaded letter. “Don, I just got a Dear John letter”. It was difficult watching him go through the gamut of emotions when he got dumped. Lucky me, for my tour of duty I received a perfume enhanced love letter every mail call. I eventually married the girl who waited for me.

From DC we traveled by Greyhound bus and didn't arrive in Norfolk Virginia until about 2 o'clock in the morning. The ship wasn't there. It was moored across town in Portsmouth, VA. We boarded another bus to complete the final leg of our journey. As we waited on a corner a city bus came barreling down the street. It came to a screeching stop just a few feet past us and we hopped aboard. That was the first time I saw a female driving a bus.

The ship was undergoing major upgrading and maintenance. In the darkness the "Rock" didn't look like a majestic fighting ship. She was moored to the peer in an unsightly fashion. Water pipes and electrical lines were running everywhere. Steam was hissing out of the vents and the pungent smell of diesel fuel was in the air. We came aboard and checked in with the officer of the deck. My first time descending below decks immediately produced an eerie feeling. Everything appeared dark green with red lights strategically positioned for nighttime navigation. Sailors were sleeping in bunks stacked in rows four and five feet high with their arms and legs hanging out every which way. I snuck into a Chiefs quarters washroom and took out my contact lenses and plopped into an empty bunk located near the stern of the ship. After about only two hours sleep the morning revelry whistle blew. The ship came to life. "Sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms give the ship a clean sweep down fore and aft. Sweep down all lower decks, ladder and passageways. Dump all trash in the proper receptacles provided on the pier”. I thought to myself, welcome to the next two years of your life sailor boy. Observing the work day on "Rock" for the first time I had an ominous feeling and began thinking, “This is really a dangerous place, I'll be lucky if nothing happens to me during my two years aboard this ship.

After a couple days of paperwork and orientation I was assigned living quarters and battle station. My designated battle station was three levels down at very the bottom of the ship. It’s official designation was the 5 inch gun mount lower handling room. My job consisted of handling cases of gun powder to the guy operating the elevator hoist. The operator would then engage the elevator mechanism and send the powder casings up the hoist to gun's upper handling room. There wasn’t any ventilation in that lower compartment when the hatch was sealed. I was always groggy and lethargic after hours of breathing that stale air. If there was an accident or we got torpedoed I would have been history. If the powder room blew up, I’d go out the bottom of the ship and wind up in Davy Jones locker. The sea crabs on the ocean floor would eventually recycle me into the earth's ecosystem.

In October of 1962 my ship participated in the naval blockade of Cuba. The world on the brink of nuclear war while we negotiated with the Russians over the withdrawal of their nuclear missiles. Stationed Soviet missiles were manned by Cubans and aimed at America. At that time my ship was one of four warships that carried surface missiles. If World War III had started we would've nuked Cuba off the face of the earth. Lurking Russian submarines armed with nuclear torpedoes were a threat to our ships. The Russians would have retaliated and blown the bottom of my ship off. For sure I would have been some crustaceans radio active meal immediately after the holocaust had destroyed most of humanity. The Navy awarded me two citations for my service in the Cuban Missile Crisis. To earn the medals I chipped and painted, worked in the mess hall and cleaned toilets while the "Rock" was participating in the Cuban blockade. At the time, I really had no idea what was going on in the World and how precarious the situation was.

I have one mentionable “war” story regarding the Cuban blockade. I was ordered to stand a deck watch while the ship was anchored in Guantanamo Bay Cuba. Before going on the midnight watch the Marine in charge instructed me, “you sound the alarm if observing anything that even looks like a Russian pigeon”. For three uneventful hours, I paced up and down the side of the main deck keeping alert for enemy frogmen trying to sneak board the ship. I was armed with only a nightstick. The Marine also instructed us guards, “if you see a frog man crawling up the side of the ship hook up the water hose and flush them off”
“ yeah right”, I thought to myself, “I'll get a bayonet stuck up my ass as I'm trying to hook up a firehose” For extra security, we had a small boat with Marines armed with machine guns circling the ship all night. The next day a Russian cargo ship came into the harbor and passed within ten thousand meters of us. To this day in my minds eye, I can still clearly see the hammer and sickle on the smoke stack. I heard an unconfirmed scuttlebutt that we had trained our five inch guns on the freighter as it sailed past.

Man Overboard, four blasts of the ships whistle meant there was a man in the water. Three sailors had jumped over the side during my two year stint. All of them were retrieved. I was involved in two of the rescues. When the alarm sounded my responsibility was to man the forward line and guide the rescue whaleboat as it was lowered over the side. Several sailors would board the small boat and go to aid of the waterborne sailor. The first rescue happened as we were leaving the port of Kingston Jamaica. I was sitting topside in the furness compartment on overboard duty. I was writing a letter to my girl. The furnace room was a hangout and used to burn top secret documents. As the scuttlebutt goes, a lieutenant observed a Chief Petty Officer (CPO) taking his clothes off. The Lieutenant asked the CPO, “little too warm for you Chief?”. The CPO gave the higher ranked lieutenant the finger and dove off the ship. He was seen doing the butterfly stroke as he swam away. Just as we were launching our whaleboat, the captain of the Jamaican Harbor-pilot boat diverted his course and rescued the Chief Petty Officer for us.

The Marines stationed aboard we're often assigned ceremonial duties and protected our captain and visiting dignitaries. If needed they could be used as an armed reaction force. They also guarded the missile house and brig. Us Gunnersmates had some interaction with the Marine contingent. The rest of the crew got the hell out of the away when they saw a Marine coming down the passageway. Occasionally they would come down to the armory for various reasons involving firearms. One time I had come down from topside to the armory when a second class Gunnersmate happened to mention that the Marines we're supervising discharge of small arms off the fantail. My buddy and I got back there just in time to have a marine instruct us how to shoot a couple rounds from a M1 Grand into the ocean. I have no problem hitting the water with the couple of shots they allowed me to take. That was the one and only time I fired a weapon while in the Navy. A Marine on guard duty stationed in the missile house was demoted when he accidentally shot off a round with his side arm. We used to call Marines jar heads and sea going bellhop’s - Not to their face of course. There was scuttlebutt going around that the ship was holding a boxing match to be held during a “smoker” on the fantail of the ship. I spread a fake rumor that I was a boxer. Sometime later a smaller tough looking Marine confronted me in a passageway. He asked, “are you the guy I'm supposed to fight?” Needless to say I acted dumb and denied I was at fighter.

The second overboard incident happened in the Mediterranean Sea involved a Marine. I remember him as the largest of the forty man contingent. He was noted sitting on the outside of the safety railing with his legs dangling over the side of the ship. A sailor asked him what he was doing on the other side of the safety railings. He did not respond and pushed off for the fifteen foot drop into the ocean. The sea swells were twenty to thirty foot high at the time. I again helped launch the whaleboat by steading the lines as it was lowered over the side. The sea was so rough the small whaleboat would at times disappear from view as it navigated the choppy waters on way to the Marine. The Marine Gunny Sergeant went along for the recovery. He jerked the big Marine into the whaleboat for the rescue. The suicidal Marine was immediately helicoptered off the ship and never to be seen again.

The third man overboard was the weirdest of them all. Our noon chow break was from 11:30 to 1:00 P.M. It was a warm sunny day in the Mediterranean. During beautiful days like that it was common for sailors to come topside and get some fresh air and sun themselves on the main deck before the Boatswains mate whistle signaled them back to work. We sunbathers would use our folded up white hats as a makeshift pillow. On that particular day, instead of returning to work we were scheduled to go to battle stations and practice warfare drills. The alarm sounded and every sailor scurried to his assigned battle station. One sailor didn't. He jumped out of his resting position and went over the railing. In the confusion, no one saw him go over the side and no man overboard alarm was sounded. There just happened to be a ship following in our wake. That ship alerted our captain of the man in the water. We immediately launched our helicopter and fished the guy out. A couple of days later I saw the guy in the crew's lounge. He was just sitting there staring straight ahead while seemly in a some sort of trance. Maybe he a had a mental breakdown or had just thought the alarm meant for him to abandon ship. In that era, the Navy had over five hundred ships in service. I often wondered how many sailors were lost at sea because of accidents and suicides.

Twice I jumped over the side of ship. On a very warm day while stationed in the Mediterranean Sea the captain let the crew go overboard for swim. Marines armed with rifles were strategically positioned in whaleboats to guard the swimmers from possible shark attacks. I never tried it, but we were learned in boot camp to stay afloat without a lifejacket. We were taught to capture air in our shirt, pants and white hat. Also in boot camp they told us to stick our finger up our ass in case the ship blew apart while sinking. Any sailor caught with holes or torn clothing was confronted and reminded of Navy regulations. If the sailor didn’t comply he was written up. The normal punishment for such infractions was a shit job to be completed after the regular workday. If that extra duty caused additional obstinance or the offender mouthed off, he was ordered to stand for captains mass. Disrespect to a superior or refusing to obey orders was a serious offense. Depending on the circumstances, the captain would have the mans hair cut off and sentenced to a stay in the brig for three days. My bunk and locker was located 15 feet from the brig. I often heard the relentless harassment the Marines dished out to the jailed inmate. “You’re a monkey”, the Marine would scream, the captive would then immediately place his nose on the top rung of the cells cross bar. “You’re a cockroach”, meant the sailor would then have to comply by squatting down on the cell deck. Back and forth they would work on the prisoner until he usually cried for his mother or the chaplain. If the offender had to be transported around the ship the Marine would shout, “Gangway prisoner”. Any sailor that happened to be in the passageway had to step aside and let the prisoner pass. A typical trip was a head call or escorting the inmate to the mess hall.

“Swim call will commence at 13:00 hundred on the starboard side”, that announcement over the ships IMC voice system was more of necessity than a pleasure during a Caribbean cruise. The ships desalinization system wasn't converting enough sea water for the crew to use the showers. If swimming in the ocean wasn't a choice I would take a sponge bath at the fresh water drinking fountain. If I was particularly grimy and dirty, taking a salt water shower was the last resort. The unheated sea water never really mixed well with regular bathing soap. During one such outage a shipmate named Benny, we nicknamed him Bear, had just lathered himself up with soap when the ship switched over to cold seawater. He screamed out in vain.” I’m born to lose!” He was constantly telling entertaining stories about the unusual incidents in life. In every story he somehow wound on the short end of the stick. Benny had a dark and thick full body hair. He had more hair on his back then some of us had on our heads. After drinking and carousing in a bar in a foreign port, Benny came back to the ship and stripped down to his undershorts revealing tiny little crabs crawling all over his body. He was issued a white medicated powder as a remedy.

One day aboard ship we were loading missiles from the pier to the upper level deck of the missile house. A strong-back was attached to a crane cable for the job. A strong-back is an attachment to a crane that assists in moving a missile from one surface to another. On one such delivery the crane operator lifted a missile from the pier and set it on the ship's deck. He then raised the strong-back vertically to leave the missile on the ship's deck. A shipmate had removed the strong-back retention pins but for some inexplicable reason put his fingertips back inside the vacant holes. The Boatswains Mate raising the crane and attached strong-back and accidentally sheered the sailors finger tips off. I happened to be standing right there when the deck officer whipped out his hanky and told me to pick the fingertip up off the deck. I started to leave for sickbay but the officer stopped me an pointed to the other finger tip dangling from the strong-back. Following the blood trail down several decks and forward to sick bay was my next move. I happened to meet a corpsman in the passageway as he was going from one compartment to another. I asked him where the injured sailor was. He drew my attention to the operating room. I said, “here’s his fingers tips”. I never saw the injured shipmate but heard that the ship's doctor was unable to re-attach the finger tips. There was a formal investigation into the accident and I testified as to my recollection of events.


Compartment B202L midships was my first bunking station before leaving the deck force and transferring to the Gunnery Division which was bunked in the most forward compartment. Bending over for three hours and Holy stoning a second time was the motivation for me to put it in for the transfer. Being a Gunnersmate striker was much more fun and interesting. One time after the 5 inch gun mount completed a firing exercise I was ordered to mount the barrel and ride it like a cowboy while greasing the vertical shaft. While doing so I happened to look up at the bridge and saw the captain looking down at me. He had just ordered the ship to full speed and was watching me hanging on for dear life as the ship pitched enrolled. After firing the 5 inch gun, we also had to run a 10 foot pole with a wire brush on the end to clean the residue out of the gun barrel.
“Hey Winze go down to the armory and Smoky we'll show you the nomenclature of the 1911 45 caliber pistol”. I followed the orders and watched a real old second-class Gunnersmate nicknamed Smoky demonstrate. He had bullets in the gun and was waving it around showing us how to handle a loaded gun. He was nervous and shaking considerably as he moved the gun around. A couple of times he pointed it right at me. Needless to say I thought he might accidentally blow a hole in me until I realized the bullets we're powder-less because of the holes drilled into the casing. Refueling out and sea from a tanker coming alongside was another adventure. I stood alongside a second-class Gunnersmate as he shot off a 410 shotgun high up on the oil tankers rigging. The guns projectile was a soft lighted plastic device with a nylon line attached. I held a coffee can as about 200 yards of line followed the projectile over to the oil tanker. I'm guessing the crew of the tanker we're too happy with us for shooting the line so high up into the superstructure instead of directly across from us to their main deck.

Little Rock stern
*Scorched stern of the ship after a missile was shot off.

A Gunnersmate told me he was on a ship that shot off a missile that turned around and and flew past the ship.
That was on my mind the time I watched a missile launch. The rocket took off and then slowed down and started to make a loop.
I thought to myself, holy shit that thing is coming back at us. Then, POW! They blew it up.

Gunners-mates Banks, Boone, and Eddy Groves also still stick in my memory. Eddy and I had just passed the fleet exam for Third Class Gunners-mate. Somehow we had the test answers before we even took the exam for Petty Officer. It was a Saturday night when we decided to drink some booze and celebrate our promotions. After taps and sometime during the late evening hours I heard an awful sounding thud from a few feet from my bunk. Eddy had rolled out of his four foot high bunk and landed on the steel deck. The thud sound was his head smacking the green tile that covered the metal deck. He was groggy and incoherent as I helped him back into his rack. Sunday morning it was Eddy's turn to stand guard duty. He was barely responsive to the wakeup call. I just let him continue to sleep all day. Eddy slept another 24 hours and didn't climb out of his bunk until Monday morning roll call. Nothing ever came of the incident. I never did sew on my Third Class stripes before being discharged from active duty. The Navy had held back promotions because of budget cuts. That proved to be a blessing in disguise because the Vietnam conflict was just starting to heat up. Listed as a Navy Reservist with firearm qualifications might have been enough for the Navy to call me back to active duty. Although It's been over 50 years since I left the Navy, I still have dreams of being called back to active duty on the Little Rock. The ship is now a tourist attraction. Three times I have gone back to the Buffalo and reminisced aboard the ship.

Except for the admiral's billet and the officers quarters, alcohol was forbidden aboard ship. It was a common practice for the “Lifers” to smuggle booze aboard ship. The ship was at sea when a second class petty officer had consumed all his stash. I was taking a sip from the water fountain when he approached me and said, “Hey Winze do have any shaving lotion”. I didn’t comply.
On shore leave,”Spending money like a drunken sailor" didn't apply to me! Besides I only made $72 a month. I got drunk a couple of times but never did anything thing really stupid. One of my young shipmates did get infatuated with drinking and carousing with the bar maids in France. He was so smitten by these youthful vixens that he re-upped for six more years and a six grand in spending cash.
After a night of liberty in a foreign port, it was commonplace to see half naked sailors passed out and sprawled all over the deck when the morning lights were turned on. One such morning Jesse Banks woke me up for my turn to go on watch. He warned me not to jump out of my bunk and step on that dick below. A Second Class Gunners-mate named Boone was lying on his back with his private part's sticking out of his shorts. His “junk” was waving in the air. Needless to say I didn't do any damage to his family jewels when I jumped down from my bunk.

From Wikipedia,
From the free encyclopedia, the USS Little Rock CLG 4 Epidemic (1963) In the notorious post-dysenteric cases of Reiters disease which occurred among the members of the crew of the USS Little Rock. The 'reactive arthritis' developed predominantly in individuals carrying the appropriate HLA antigens. An epidemic of Shigella gastroenteritis which affected about half the sailors out of a crew of 1,200 was followed by 9 cases of "Reiters disease".
It was a terrible three or four days aboard ship when the epidemic hit. I was too miserable to go down to sick bay and wait in line for treatment and having the incident recorded on my service record. Straying too far from the head was my other main concern. The waiting lines were starting to form and my shipmates were hoarding toilet paper. We eventually ran out of the soft white paper towels and issued brown hand drying towels. Not finding a proper place to relieve himself a desperate crew member did his job in a sink designated for rinsing mops and emptying buckets. I also saw blood running down the leg of another stricken sailor. It was at least three days before I felt well enough to make it down to the mess hall for some nourishment. I suspect having a latent case of "Reiters disease”. I can't prove it. The symptoms always clear up before I can go to the VA and have a doc check me over. The next time I react to food poisoning they told me to the visit emergency room. No thanks! In the first place, I'll stay away from open aired buffets featuring tacos and sour cream. A full body rash is not worth a couple of bucks of Government benefits!

During my shipboard tenure, a couple of shipmates came to me in a tearful state. One shipmate said he is in love with two women and needed my opinion on which one to settle down with. I remember telling him to stick with his steady girl the and not the new one with the pretty long red hair. I really felt unqualified to give lovelorn advice at that time of my life. Years later he drove from New York with his wife to attend my wedding. She was not the pretty redhead. My parents let them stay in their extra bedroom. The night before my big day I rented a room at the YMCA located up the street.

The second incident was a little more serious. I was sitting on my bunk near my locker writing a letter home. A shipmate approached me with tears in his eyes. He said that he was being kicked out of the Navy for homosexual activity. He was very distraught because he didn't want to face his father who was a police chief back home. I never saw him after that conversation. Scuttlebutt had it that nine sailors were caught in a sting and immediately flown off the ship and discharged.

In the spring of 1963, the U.S.S. Little Rock with a crew of almost 1000 sailed for deployment in the Sixth Fleet. Captain Paine had orders to sail the ship to the Mediterranean sea for flagship duties. The “Rock” would then billet an Admiral. The Three Star Admiral would oversee all naval operations in that part of the World. After that eight month deployment we were to head back home.

The Med cruise had been more of a sightseeing experience than work. That was for most of the crew, not for low ranking deckhands like me. We did ships maintenance and miscellaneous duties every day while at sea. We called work, “shit jobs”. I had a weekday shit job for several months straight, I was a head cleaner. The Navy and Marine Corps have their own vernacular. A “head” is the bathroom, a wall is the “bulkhead”, stairs are “ladders” and ceilings and floors are “overheads” and “decks” respectively. Once, the inspecting officer gave me the highest possible rating for my daily cleaning. He gave the urinals, commodes, sinks, shower stalls and even the deck an “Outstanding” grade. I rewarded myself by taking a rest of the afternoon off. My hiding place was the cruise lounge or leaving the ship and riding the bus around the base for an afternoon.

Securing the ship to the dock and replenishing stores and ammunition was also a deckhand's responsibility. The Navy calls those chores “working parties”. Carrying 50 pound boxes of frozen food below decks from the pier wasn't too tough but 125 pound shell on my shoulder was a little too much for me. I only weighed about hundred and 115 pounds at the time. I made it from the tractor trailer and up two flights of stairs with one projectile but that was all I could do.

Unrated deckhands were always the last sailors to go on liberty. The work was so abundant that we were granted lesser time than the rest of the crew. There was hardly enough time to go inland for sightseeing so most guys got drunk at the bars along the coast line. I even saw the “Rocks” Chaplin come back from liberty staggering drunk. Fist fights and torn uniforms were a common occurrence. I took a couple blows to the face from Jesse Banks in one such incident. I eventually learned my lesson and stayed out of bars and just went sight seeing.

It was a race against time and mother nature to make it back across the Atlantic for Christmas. We did manage to make it to Norfolk Virginia the day before Christmas. That same day I flew home and spent Christmas Eve with my family and girl friend.

I’m sure that home bound crossing had caused considerable trepidation amongst the ship's crew. The crossing had not only physically challenged the ship's construction integrity but it also rattled a lot of nerves. For most of the return voyage we bucked 70 foot waves rolling in from the West. At times the bow of the ship went right through the waves instead of sailing over them. Several times the sea swells washed water over the deck and it penetrated the two lower handling rooms. Sea water had somehow forced its way around the forward gun barrels and down into the ship. During some of the more heavy pounding I kept reassuring myself that this was an adventure and I would live to tell my grandchildren about it. Not since World War II had the Navy lost a whole ship and its crew to a gale intensity storm. I never once got sea sick. Regular meals in the mess hall were entirely avoided. Getting away from my peeked looking and seasick shipmates was also a habit. Peanut butter and crackers were my only nourishment. That snack also kept my stomach settled. The ships chain locker room was located forward of all the main bunking compartments. It became my hangout during rough seas. That locker was as far forward in the ship that I could go. From there, I would ride out the worst of the storm in solitude. Inside the locker, I could feel the ship shutter every time the bow was suspended and then came crashing down in between the swells. After the storm abated somewhat, I would go back to my regular living quarters located midships. There I noticed a stress crack in a core steel beam near my bunk. It's a wonder that the thousand foot long ship hadn’t cracked in half.

That return from the Mediterranean and sailing through that Atlantic gale is second only to my first hairy experience at sea. My first time at sea the Rock sailed into a hurricane. We had no weather warning before we left port for that three day “Sea Trial” off Cape Hatterus. Todays state of the art weather forecasting was not available back then. I'm sure if we had a weather warning the captain would have never put the shipping in such danger. My yeoman buddy Lee worked in the engineering office and claimed the ship recorded a sideways roll that theoretically should have sunk us. Seeing chairs flying across the deck and hearing typewriters crashing down off of shelves were a little unnerving. If the ship had rolled too far sideways water would have entered the smokestacks and blew the ship apart. Back home my girlfriend had read about that near catastrophe in the newspapers.

As we approached home port that Christmas Eve day the rated gunners mates seemed to be in a tizzy. I wasn’t sure if they had drunk the last of their aftershave or what? They woke us deckhands up earlier than normal. They issued orders for us to wash all the sea salt crystals off the gun mounts and barrels. That was not a pleasant thing to do at 5:00 in the morning under ice cold temperatures and howling sea winds.

As we docked and the deck crew tossed the first rope to the pier. The deck officer dutifully recorded the minute in the ships log. That exact minute was critical. A couple of gunners mates had run a scheme where they sold 60 chances representing each individual docking minute. Over a the eight month period, they sold the chances for $20 each. I had enough common sense not take up the offer. During the med cruise, I was scammed when I put down $10 in advance to buy a brand new Italian made handgun. Later that same morning we docked and I happened to see the shipmate with the winning minute scurry down to the armory. He went to collect his $1200 payoff. The pool money collected during the cruise was missing. Scuttlebutt had it that over the past eight months the gunners mates gambled it all away playing poker. Shortly after that most of the perpetrators managed to get themselves transferred off the ship.
Donald Winze
E3 Gunners Mate Striker
USS Little Rock CLG4
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as of 11/18/2019