From a letter to my grandmother dated August 4, 1971, while the ship was off the coast of Vietnam:
"...On the ocean, far from the smog of inner-cities, the sunrise is always splendid—the colors showing crisp and spectacular through the clear sky. The air is fresh, unless the wind swirls stack gas in one's face. The water is an exquisite aquamarine blue. The depths are visible to quite an extent. Neptune's windows are not yet dirtied by the scourge of pollution. A person can see movement of life below almost unchanged from the days of Adam. The sun is quite hot, as you can imagine. And the humidity reminds me of a typical Michigan summer. The continuous movement of the ship provides a perpetual breeze up topside and makes working outside tolerable . . . .."
The Midway gained a respectable reputation during its tours of duty in Westpac. Several visitors came aboard to look us over while the ship was over there. Among the more notable visitors was the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations), Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr., whose son, Elmo R. III, was a fighter pilot in Vietnam. Commander MACV (Military Assistance Command Vietnam) General Creighton Abrams came aboard, as did US Ambassador to Japan A. H. Meyer. There was Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower J. E. Johnson, and Fumiko Togo, Japanese Ambassador to South Vietnam. The ship also received CINCPACFLT (Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet) Admiral B. Clarey, and Prince Souvanna Phouma of Laos. Prince Phouma was struggling in vain to maintain Laotian neutrality during the Vietnam conflict. [Souvanna Phouma (1902-1984) retained that country's premiership until the People's Democratic Republic of Laos was established in December, 1975.]
We also had the honor of being host to the COMSEVENTHFLT (Commander Seventh Fleet) change of command ceremony. This took place on June 18, 1971. Through that pageantry VADM (Vice Admiral) W. P. Mack relieved VADM M. F. Weisner. My old boot camp and service school friend Roark was subsequently reassigned from Weisner's radio staff to the Midway, where he joined me in Facilities Control.
The occasional visits and ceremonies were feathers in our cap, so to speak, though what we really looked forward to were the visits we made to ports of call. Of these, we most frequently stopped at the Naval Base on Cubi Point, Subic Bay, Philippines, with fewer layovers at Yokosuka and Sasebo, Japan, and fewest stops at the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, with its teeming Hong Kong island and mainland city of Kowloon, plus the mostly rural, New Territories beyond. Besides the obvious pleasures and diversions available at all port cities, just being on dry land that did not move under our feet provided a brief taste of ecstasy.
Many of us were shocked, while at most of our overseas ports, when viewing the fervor with which yardbirds in those countries went after our garbage. They would use whatever they had with them that was handy to scoop up the delectable morsels out of our garbage cans. We also had to be extra careful not to leave things out that easily could be taken. At sea we got into the habit of leaving our dungaree shirts and trousers out while in our racks, ready for immediate entry should general quarters sound. Sometimes the trousers would still be holding our wallets. While the ship was in port, many men discovered too late that there was a time and a place for everything. In port was neither the time nor place to be too trusting. Most of the occurrences just mentioned stemmed from the extreme poverty in which the yardbirds and their families lived. Little did I then dream that years later I would regularly see people picking through garbage and trash bins back in the States.
Copyright 1992, 1998 Charles W. Paige
Last modified: Monday February 21, 2000
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