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Personal Experiences

USS CALOOSAHATCHEE

AO-98


The Caloosahatchee AO-98, (ca loos a hatch ee) was just into a four-month deployment with the 6th Fleet when I joined her at Valletta, Malta in Dec of 1966. Liberty Ports included Gibraltar; Barcelona, Spain; Toulon, France; Pisa, Gata, Naples and Taranto, Italy; Palma De Malorica; Ismir, Turkey and Suda Bay, Crete. Other than the liberty ports there were only two incidents that come to mind. The first, when both of our 40-foot liberty boats ended up on the sea wall at Naples. The Second, when a Signalman Striker, who shall remain anonymous (yes, I know his name), broke the US Colors upside down on the main mast in Taranto harbor when we "Dressed Ship" for Presidents Day. It wasn't pretty!

After being extended twice we finally arrived at Newport, RI in April 1967, about the time the Arabs and Israelis started the Six-Day War.

We spent the spring of 67 making sorties into the Atlantic, mostly refueling ships coming back from 6th Fleet. On one occasion, we meet the Randolph, CVS-15 out of Norfolk and her escorts. The Carrier pulled along the port side and the destroyers took turns along the starboard side. As soon as the destroyers were topped off, the carrier released them and they headed to Newport with every intention of beating us back, which usually happened. After we finished topping of the carrier, we headed back and promptly ran into a storm. The destroyers had to slow down and for once we beat the DD's back to port.

In early June we departed Newport and refueled 34 ships, which were part of a NATO exercise. Then we continued south to eventually refuel the USS Forestall CV-59, of the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.
We were suppose to have liberty in Dakar, Senegal but they wouldn't let us anchor as we had a mixed crew
Of course, all us Pollywogs became Shellbacks when we crossed the Equator.

The Quarter Masters posted our position on a chart in the mess decks every day showing where we were and the distance and bearing to the nearest land. On day the directions read "Two Miles, Straight Down"
What should have been three or four hour replenishment for the Forestall became a four day ordeal. Between the winds and currents it was a exceedingly difficult. As many will remember, the USS Forestall had a major fire a month later off the coast of Vietnam.

The USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. DD-850, part of 6th Fleet, also joined us. She had been trapped on the wrong end of the Suez Canal in April. We filled her fuel tanks and passed several thousand gallons of fresh water. Her crew had been taking salt-water showers quite awhile.

In July we arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What a time, four days in port after 38 days at sea.

The harbor pilot ran the Kennedy into the pier and repair crews spent almost the entire time in port fixing her bow to make her seaworthy. Except for topping off the Kennedy every three or four days not much happened on the way home and both ships arrived at Newport, RI in July.

This was the last major cruise taken by AO-98 prior to going into the yards in Norfolk. She had her bridge section replaced with a new one that was 100 ft longer and was otherwise completely refurbished.

I had the chance to see her again in the early 70's when she topped off the destroyer I was taking my two-week reserve training on. She sure looked big from a destroyer!


 

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