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Memories of Donald Midyett, '55 - '57
I was on the Bergall during the years of 1955 to 1957 and made RM3. I was discharged while the boat was in Portsmouth, NH for repairs.
Some ports I've seen
My first duty was on the
USS Hornet (CVA-12). While on her I visited Asia. We
left Norfolk, Va., went to Gitmo Bay, Cuba, than to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, then
to Ciudad Trujillo, Dominican Republic, than back to Mayport and Norfolk, Va.
That was the shake down cruise.
We then left Norfolk, VA, and went to Lisbon, Portugal, than to Naples, Italy, then to Port Said, Egypt. At Port Said, Egypt, we started through the Suez Canal down to Colombo, Ceylon. We then went to Singapore, crossed the equator south of Singapore and went to Sidney Australia. We left Sidney, Australia and went North to Hong Kong, back to Manila in the Philippines, Subic Bay, then North to Yokosuka, Japan. On the way back home, we stopped at Hawaii, and docked at San Diego, CA. I went to Radio School after boot camp at Great Lakes, IL and then I went on the Hornet CVA-12 after I finished Radio School in New Port, RI.
I met some real nice
people on that tour. Here's a couple "friends" that I befriended in
Japan in 1954. Oh, those were fun times!
I enjoyed playing Chess with this cutie... or was that Chest?
When the Hornet CVA-12 reached the states, I then put in for Sub School and
went back to the East Coast to New London, CT. The rest is
history. I got out of Sub School and headed back to Europe and the
Med for a year on the Bergall. During the four years I was in the Navy, I was at
sea or in some school, I was never stationed on a base.
I was very lucky, got to serve on two great ships, the Hornet, and the Bergall and saw a great deal of the world and came home in one piece. I went from a ship with a crew of 3,000 men to a boat with a crew of 65 men. That was a big change for me. I was too damn horny and mean to get hurt.
I was in battle only once and that was in French Indo China, when we took the French out. They were all shot up and it was a big mess. Some stupid surface boat came out from nowhere and started shooting at us. We launched a plane and sank the SOB in about 15 minutes. That was the end of him and the only time I saw actual shooting. In the Battle off Hainan Island, near French IndoChina, using three Douglas Skyraiders and four F4U Corsairs, Propeller-driven planes, the Hornet shot down two attacking communist fighters. The air battle lasted only two or three minutes. This was the only time I was in the Navy that I went to General Quarters and it was not a drill.
Who killed the PT boat?
One morning in New London, two or three of our subs were going out for exercises for the day and we were to come back that evening. To make a long story short, one of the boats (I don't think it was the Bergall) shot a torpedo and the torpedo went through the port side of a wooden PT boat. That night, we came back to the pier in New London and a little later, a tug boat came up the river towing a PT Boat with a torpedo sticking out of its port side. Everyone got a big kick out of that one, but I really don't think the Bergall fired the torpedo. One of the other two boats must have fired it. They probably didn't set the depth correct or the torpedo was corrupt and did not run correct. The torpedo's had no war heads on them at that time, they were just for practice.
The escape tower in New London
My first escape was in sub school was
with a Momson Lung, that was bull shit. After I was on the
Bergall a few months, John Sorge and I went down and made a free escape, which
is much better. We did a 25 ft first, than went to 50 ft
and than the final was 100 ft. I liked the free ascent
much better, they could stick that Lung up their butts. The British
worked out the free escape method and gave it to the US.
At 100 Ft, your lungs have about 44 psi in them, you just open your mouth as you come up and let the air out, for the air pressure at sea level is around 14 psi. The air is coming out of your lungs so fast, you can't take in water. When you hit the top, you want to make sure you have all of the air out of your lungs. It was fun, except I always had trouble popping my left ear. Once I got it popped and equal to sea pressure I was okay.
Don't pass the Radio Room and bend over!
I took my chair (from the radio room)
down to the metal shop in New London and had sides plates welded on the back,
sides and bottom part of the chair with a door on the front and made myself an
extra locker. Outside the radio room was a drain in the passageway
and we had a 50 cent piece soldered to the floor grate. Someone new aboard the
ship (like officers in sub school) would kick it and it would not move. When
they bent over to pick it up it was our job to reach out the radio room door to
"Goose" them. Mattie, one of the cooks, goosed "Moose" (the CO) one night when
he came down the after battery hatch in civilian clothes by mistake.
Moose said, "Mattie, I will see you in my quarters, come Monday". We had a ball
over that one. Everyone got goosed on that boat. You should have
seen the new officers we took out trying to pick up that 50 cents. We would
reach our hand out the radio door and goose them. We were all waiting for
someone new to bend over and try and get the 50 cents. It was real funny and you
should have seen the look on their face. They had been HAD and they
I had a hydraulic line running through my small locker that always seemed to leak and I use to get oil on my whites all of the time. One morning at muster, the "Moose" asked if I didn't have a better pair of whites. I told him, "These ARE new whites. Get the line going through my locker fixed with no oil leaks and I would be happy." He looked at me a little funny, but that afternoon, the oil line was repaired and there were no more oil leaks.
I use to run the Sonar gear when we
were submerged. It was located under the tables where the enlisted men ate, just
before going into the after battery. You went down through a hatch
in the middle of the floor and you were in the bottom of the ship by yourself.
I picked up a tanker one day off the starboard bow. The officer on
the scope said there was nothing out there. I keep telling them that
there was a tanker about 10 degrees off the starboard bow with a bent prop or
screw. When we came to the surface, they picked it up on radar and
it was 32 miles off the starboard bow where I said it was. 32
miles was damn good back in the 50's. Our equipment was not
that good. "Moose" could not believe it but I had good hearing
and I could hear that tanker out there. So, during general
quarters, I was always down in the hole on the Sonar gear by myself.
Hell, if something ever happened, I would have never gotten out of that damn
hole. I also went to Sub Sonar School in Key West, Fl. during
one ever hot summer. Here's our radio room on the old girl
Two Brothers on the Bergall
We had two brothers on the Bergall
named Weissbach, Joe and Larry. They were in the Navy Reserves and
both had college scholarships to play hockey at Brown University when they got
out of the Navy. They lived in the "Nunt" outside of Boston, Mass.
ET3 Don Dresch, RM3 Mike Grosser and myself spend the weekend at their house
near Boston on the water front. The Weissbach brother's dad was a
retired Merchant Marine Captain and loved his ale. They lived in a
three story house on the side of a hill on the beach and his mother and another
lady made custom made drapes on the 3rd floor. They had big
industrial machines up there to make drapes. Mr. Weissbach had a
refrigerator on each floor stocked with ale. I can remember
this like it happened yesterday.
While in Portsmouth, NH, we use to drive up to Dover Maine, in my 1956 Ford, and play hockey at the hockey rink at the University of Maine which was an outside rink. They use to close at 9:00 PM to the public and we would play hockey until midnight. The Weissbach brothers could skate like mad, better than the hockey players on the University of Maine's hockey team.
How NOT to make Ice Cream!
While on the Bergall we were always
running out of flashlight batteries and we were always running down to the New
London Ship's Supply Depot to get more.
Behind the movie projector's screen in the crew's mess was an ice cream machine. It was never used and no one knew how to use it. It was built into the bulkhead of the boat and, like I said, never used.
One weekend, when I had duty, the off watch crew were watching movies in the crew's mess. Someone got the bright idea to make ice cream and the cook on duty, I think it was Matty the 2nd Class Cook, thought he could operate the ice cream machine. So he got the ingredients ready to make the ice cream and someone poured the ingredients into the top of the ice cream machine, started it up, and the ice cream machine made one hell of a noise. It sounded like it was about to fall apart.
Someone opened up the ice cream machine and, guess what, we found the flashlight batteries. The machine was FULL of flashlight batteries. Space on the Bergall was limited and we stored goods everywhere, in duct work, under bunks and any place not used was a storage space. Someone had stored all of the flashlight batteries in the ice cream machine and forgot about them. You talk about a mess! It took us the rest of the evening to clean up that mess, to make Matty, the cook happy. Matty kept a very clean mess deck. We learned our lesson from that deal and would look inside before you turn on something that has not been used over a period of time. You never knew what may be stored inside.
The Med Cruise of '55
It took 11 days to get to the Med, so three of us got together and studied like mad for a week. We all three qualified on our way to the Med in the 11 days it took us to get there. We figured it was time to get it over with and, at sea, we had the time. A lot of the shipmates helped us as we went from compartment to compartment. While in Nice, France, during the 1955/56 cruise, a nice looking young lady wanted to come aboard and set up a stand to sell us perfume. I was just an SN and had not made RM3 yet and was just getting off the topside watch. I think I had the topside watch from 8:00 AM until noon. I told the young lady that I would go below and ask the duty officer (I forget who was the duty officer at that time.). I found the duty officer and told him that a very nice young lady wanted to put a stand on deck and sell perfume to us. He looked at me, and said, "I don't think that would be a good idea". I then told the duty officer that I thought the very nice sweet young lady was not wearing any underwear. The duty officer's eyes lit up and he said, "Have her put her stand back by the after battery hatch". I took the young lady back to the after battery hatch and had her put her stand where the whole crew could get a good look. When everyone walked under the after battery hatch, it was "heads up". The young lady sold all of her perfume in no time. She was sharp and knew what she was doing.
Here's a group of us taking a tour from
Nice to the French Alps (November, 1955). I'm the the back row, 3rd
from the right, standing next to the tall Chief Petty Officer. The
small Chief P.O. is Chief Morgan, the COB (Chief of the Boat) for the Med
During the trip, one of the men from
the other sub was trying to open a can of 35mm film with a knife and cut his
thumb real bad. We were coming down the mountain from our visit to the top on
the bus, so we stopped in a little French town where Americans had not stopped
for months, they were glad to see us. We stopped to see if they had
a doctor and the CPOs (one was Chief Morgan) took him to a French doctor
and the doctor did his best but said we should get him back to town and to a
hospital as soon as possible. During this time, the rest of us found
a wine cellar and we were buying drinks for 5 cents a glass. After
about 30 minutes, you knew the shape the rest of us were in. The
wine cellar was full of all different kinds of wine and we HAD to sample them
all before we left. The shipmate who cut his thumb was also a
little bombed and could feel no pain.
The CPOs decided it would be better to drive him back down the mountain in a car instead of the bus, a car would make better time. The only car in the French town (an old VW) was owned by a Catholic Priest, so the Catholic Priest, one of the CPOs, and the shipmate with the cut thumb got into the car and headed back down the mountain. The rest of us got back into the bus and started our trip back down the mountain to return to Nice, France. On the way back down the mountain, stopped along side of the road was the Priest in his VW and standing on the side of the road was the CPO and the shipmate who cut his thumb. The shipmate who cut his thumb had to take a piss, so here he is relieving himself, with the CPO holding him up so he would not fall off the side of road and roll down the mountain side. To make a long story short, the bus beat the car back to Nice France.
While we were touring the area, we saw
the castle of Louis IV .
and this lovely French church..
We spent New Years in Monte Carlo,
France in 1955 on our Med cruise. I ran around with RM3 Mike Grosser
and RT3 Don Dresch at that time. Grosser and I were always out to make a buck.
Dec 31, I had the radio watch for both boats, I think from 8:00 AM until Noon. I
had Liberty that New Year's Eve. When I got off watch, my day was done.
Here's the old girl tied up inside of the the USS Jallao in Monte Carlo ("Moose"
was the senior officer, so we got pier side mooring and they had to climb across
and the famous casino.
Grosser came running into the radio shack, and said. "Give me some money real quick". He had a whole case of cigarettes out on the dock that the boats were tied up to. The cigarettes was suppose to go to a ship out in the harbor but they could not get the cigarettes through customs. We went 50/50 and bought the cigarettes for 75 cents a carton.
Grosser than hired a little French boy on a motor bike to go out and sell the cigarettes for us. The boy knew where to get rid of them. We gave him a few cartons at a time to sell at $4.50 per carton, we did not trust him with the whole case at one time. We made a deal with the French boy, paid for his gas, and paid him a commission to sell the cigarettes. This made him happy, we paid him a good commission. By mid-afternoon, the French boy had sold all of the cigarettes and we both had a roll of Franks so big we could not carry them in our pants. I think the exchange was 350 Franks to a Dollar at that time.
Grosser, Dresch, and myself went on liberty that New Year's Eve. We ended up in some dance hall that had a round stage with three bands on it. One was a country western band and the other two played other types of music. One band would play, the stage would turn and another band would play. The place was loaded with nice young ladies. We had big buck from selling the cigarettes and we were buying drinks for everyone in the place. The last thing I can remember was popping corks off the ceiling. When I work up, I was back on the Bergall in my bunk, I don't remember how I got back there. Everyone said I had a real good time, I sure don't remember it.
Here's Norm Ferland and Mike Grosser in
front of our Christmas tree that we "got" for $2.00. We gave someone
around $10.00 to purchase a Christmas Tree in town. They drank up
around $8.00 of the $10.00 and came back with a $2.00 tree. Who
would think a Bergall sailor would pull THAT? (any of us!)
and a shot looking aft at the city...
We had a beautiful location.
When we did not have duty or on watch, we could walk off and on the boat at
will. There was a cafe across the street from the dock and we would run over
there and get a bit to eat and work up some business with the local people.
Grosser and I were always looking for a way to make a buck.
We left there and went to Italy.
Well, if you're going to Pisa you just HAVE to visit the tower, huh?
Norm Ferland, Mike Grosser, Don Dresch, and myself use to run around together.
The four of us hitchhiked up to Pisa on a lumber truck in the rain... and it
rained all day... but there were four of us, out for a good time, so the rain
was the LEAST of our worries. I think Grosser had the drinks
with him, he use to hide it in the arm of his P-Coat as we went off the boat, or
in the lining of his P-coat. We were good at hiding things when
getting off the boat and going on liberty. We took a bus back to the
But, how many have seen the beautiful
structure from the OTHER side?
Here's Norm in front!
Here's Mike up front.
And three up top... Don Dresch, Norm
Ferland and Mike Grosser.
Here's the look back into the town from
Among our ventures, we found a wine
cellar for "recreation" in Livorno (Leghorn). Here's Mike and Norm
with the daughter of the cellar owner.
During WWII, the German's called it
Leghorn, Italy. It was a German U-Boat base at that time.
The U.S. and the British bombed it for 360 days without letting up, the U.S.
would bomb the city at night, and the British would bomb during the day time.
The only standing building of any size in the old city was a Catholic Church.
The church had some holes in it, but it was still standing. After WWII,
the population went two or three miles from the old city of Leghorn and built a
new city with American aid and named it Livorno. So we called it
Leghorn or Livorno, both were the
We did not spend much time in the old city, we spent most of our time in the new city of Livorno. The best pizza I ever ate in my life was in Livorno, Italy. They had large stone ovens and cooked the pizza on big red hot stones. One of those great pizza's with a beer and you had a complete meal.
The Bergall stopped at Gibraltar on our way back from the Med Cruise to take on fuel oil before returning to the states. You could hear the apes up in the hills at night making all kind of sounds. The hills are full of apes on the Rock. We took on fuel oil for the engines, so nobody went on liberty as we were only there for about four hours to take on fuel. So, it was not the local girls that we heard, no one left the Bergall that night. Maybe some Engine Man got off the boat and found a nice looking ape, It is hard to tell what those guys would do, they lived a different live than we did.
The 30 minute radar repair
We had an RT1 (radar tech) on the
Bergall-320 named Cole. This RT1 was good, as sharp as a tack and he
knew his stuff. He was from New York and his father was an Iron
Worker in New York City.
On the Med Cruise or in the North Atlantic somewhere (I forget) we took water down the Coning Tower Hatch in a storm and shorted out the radar gear. Cole went to work on the radar to dry it out and to repair it.
The Moose got on his microphone from his State Room and asked Cole up in the Coning Tower how long it would take to fix the radar. Cole got on his microphone and told the Moose about thirty minutes.
After about a half hour, the Moose got on his microphone again and asked Cole if the radar was fixed yet. Cole answered back, "Not yet Captain, I am still working on it."
After another half hour, the Moose got on his microphone again and asked Cole if the radar was fixed yet. Cole answered back, "Not yet Captain, I am still working on it."
The Moose yelled back up to the Coning Tower, "I thought you could fix the radar in about thirty minutes". Cole yelled back, "I can fix it in about thirty minutes, Captain, but it may take me all day to find out what is wrong with this damn thing".
The Moose came out of his State Room, went up the Coning Tower Ladder and into the Coning Tower at about 90 mph. All hell broke lose up there. I don't know what was said between the two, but before the watch was over, the radar was fixed and everything was back to normal. Just a normal day at sea on the Bergall-320.
How we lost our wine!
We had air conditioning on the Bergall
but the air conditioning was not for the crew. We did not have
solid state equipment back in 1955/1957. All of the radio, radar and
sonar equipment had big vacuum tubes in them and they got real hot.
The air conditioning was to cool the equipment.
While in France, the crew was buying tons of wine, champagne and perfume to take back home. I mean we were buying a LOT and had to have some place to store it. As we ate the food from the coolers, we would replace the food with wine and champagne bottles. We took the grills off the air conditioning duct work and stored wine and perfume bottles in the duct work of the air conditioning and put the grills back on the duct work. We had wine, champagne and perfume stored everywhere.
On the way back to the states, the "Moose" decided to snorkel. So we dive to snorkel depth and snorkeled all day. You could only snorkel with two engines running because the snorkel air intake valve was not as large as the 36" main induction valve used when you ran all four engines on the surface.
The snorkel air intake valve had electrodes around it, so if it hit a big wave, it would close and the engines would pull the air from inside the boat. The engines had an auto shut down and if you pulled a six inch vacuum inside the boat the two engines would shut down automatically. Well, six inches of vacuum is one heck of a drop in air pressure throughout the boat! It's close to having a window blow out on an airliner at altitude... your ears pop... NOW! (At least, you HOPE they pop! Otherwise the pain will take you to your knees.)
We were snorkeling in heavy seas and that intake valve would open and close about every two or three minutes pulling a four or five inch vacuum inside the boat. Our ear drums were going nuts and everyone was popping their ears.
What the "Moose" did not realize was that when we pulled a four or five inch vacuum inside the boat, the engines were pulling the corks out of our wine, champagne and perfume bottles. He did not realize how much we had aboard the boat and we had tons of the stuff. We had wine, champagne and perfume running out the air conditioning duct work, the stuff was running down the bulkheads, it was running everywhere we had it stored.
The Bergall smelled like a French Whore House for days. I lost about half of the perfume I was bringing home because they lost their corks and the perfume was running everywhere.
The only way to get rid of the smell was to fire up all four engines while on the surface, open the forward and after torpedo hatches, close the main engine induction valve and suck the air through the boat. That vacuum would pull the blankets off your bunk. Boy, we had a mad crew for a few days!
Beach time and other fun!
Grosser was always up to something. We were swimming one day at Ocean Beach in New London, and it got dark and we couldn't find him. Everyone had left the beach and all you could see on the beach was a blanket out in the middle of the beach. Guess what? Under the blanket was Grosser and some girl. We were friggin' animals, you can count on that. Mike use to have a saying, he would only buy a girl in a bar one drink, he was not going to waste the whole evening buying some girl drinks and not make out. If he did not make out after one drink, he would find a new girl. He was the leader of "our" "Rat Pack".
Before I was on the Bergall and went to Sub School, I was on the USS Hornet CVA-12 for one year. and we made a cruise around the world to Korean waters and the South China Sea so the Bergall's Med cruise was my second trip to Lisbon. I told everyone on the Bergall that they would end up at the Texas Bar before the night was over! I was in many of the countries twice while in the Med. I was in a total of 38 different countries.
Looking at the interior pictures on Tony Porazzo's page, I sure remember the movie projector in the Crew's Mess. We had a movie called "Riding Shotgun" and we saw it about ten times. One day we ran it backward just for fun and it was a great hit! We had a juke box remote on the wall, like on the tables in a restaurant, with the main unit down below under the eating tables in the Sonar room. We wired it so you would get 5 songs for a nickel, and one song for a quarter. When someone new came aboard, a guest, they got taken because they would always go for the quarter option!
When I went to Radio School, at
Newport, RI, you did not get the RM-3 rating when you finished school.
Later, after you finished radio school, you got your RM-3 when you graduated.
Back when I was in the Navy, you had to wait six months after school and than take the test on a Navy Base after you finished radio school. The reason it took me so long to get the RM-3 is because I was at sea for a year on the Hornet, In Sub School for three months and attended Sub Sonar School at Key West, then I went to sea on the Bergall for a year on the Med cruise. You could not make rate while at sea or in school and I was at sea or in some school all of the time. Maybe this is why the officers and COB on the Bergall were always nice to me. I never did get a shit job, just stood my radio watch and did a little painting. The COB, Chief Morgan, treated me like his own son and was always looking out for me.
When I took the first test, I did not pass. I passed everything but coping CW. Everyone was raising hell for none could copy the tapes. A few months later, while on the Bergall at New London, I went back and took the copy CW over and passed. They had cut some new tapes that we could read and copy. So it took me three years to make RM-3, being at sea or in school all of the
time. Then they changed the rules and gave you RM-3 when you finished Radio School. Sparks (RM-1) told me not to worry about it, I was a good operator and the officers knew it.
A bunch of us old guys really got pissed over the new rating system. It did us no good. With the new rules I would have been RM-1 when discharged. I passed the RM-2 test at Portsmouth, NH, when the Bergall was in the shipyards, but got discharged before it was time to get my rating, so they discharged me as an RM-3. I got discharged one month early to start college. If I had stayed in the Navy that month, I would have been an RM-2 when discharged. I told them to stick it, I was going home to start I.U at mid-term.
I used to copy around 40 words per
minutes, top speed and, in order to do this, you had to copy or practice at
least two hours a day. If you did not copy each day, you got out of
rhythm and really slowed down. When I went to Sub School for three
months and came aboard the Bergall-320, it took me two or three weeks to get my
speed back up to par, because I had not copied for three months. I
would sit for hours when I was off watch and copy Fox Skids to get my speed back
up. The operator on duty would help me send for I would send to him and let him
copy me so I could get my speed up to par on sending.
You had to copy each day or you lost your rhythm and could not copy shit. It took hours of practice each day, about like paying the piano. Piano players have a rhythm and have to practice each day or you lose it. The good old days are gone, I don't think I would like the Navy today. Everyone's job was like an art. The engine men used a lot of art to keep those damn old engines running. How about the electricians keeping water in the batteries and cutting out the bad cells as they went bad. It was an art to know which cell to take out of service and which one to keep in service. It is a different Navy today.
Our wonderful cooks!
Frederich W. Tinker was the cook that could not cook, he baked at night, baking pies and cakes. He was a good baker, but no one could stand his cooking, we called him "Tinker Bell". Jack E. Cody, was the 1st Class cook and head of the Galley. Ernie E. Mathews was called "Matty" for short. He was the 2nd Class Cook and a real nice guy.
Trying to get some rest.
My bunk was in the After Battery where most of the "animals" lived. At first I had a top bunk. I had a coax speaker over that bunk and that damn coax speaker was right over my head. Every time we dove that damn thing would go off and I about jumped out of my skin. One early morning I had just got off the midnight to 4:00 AM radio watch, got in bed at 4:00 AM, said to myself, "Boy, I can get two hours sleep before 6:00 AM." That damn speaker went off just as I was about to get some sleep. I said to myself, that does it. I went into the crews mess, got myself an ice pick, went back and put about 50 holes in that damn coax speaker. I fixed it good, it did not wake me up anymore. No one said a word about it, I think they were glad to get rid of it. Was that destroying government property? hee....hee....
My top bunk also had a hand operated ballast valve over it for a back up safety measure. They use to practice using it to vent a ballast tank. So, you had to get out of your bunk and drop the bunk down off the chains. They had a three foot pipe they used to open the valve and it took two men on the end of this three foot pipe to get the valve open and shut. Boy, that made your day when you just got off watch and wanted some rest. When they got done and you got your bunk put back up with the chains, the damn valve would leak oil on your bunk. Nothing like living on the Bergall, live was never dull.
Later on I got a lower bunk, the bottom bunk. It was much better except if the SOB above you came in drunk and puked everywhere, you had it. You could have killed the SOB. I got puked on a couple of times and I put a stop to that. Some of the shipmates who had bunks on top of the torpedoes lost their bunk when they loaded torpedoes. That would be fun, just get off watch and your bunk is gone, laying somewhere on the deck. The After Battery room was much better to sleep in except when some asshole would vent the shit tank and smell up the place. Nothing like living inside a sewer pipe 12 ft wide. I don't think I could take it today at my age, you had to be young and not let things upset you too much.
The After Battery may not have been the most "fun" place to sleep but I know the guys sleeping in the FTR and ATR said their berths were like sleeping on an elevator constantly going up and down. Hell in high seas, it would be a 20 ft drop, than back up again for the next wave for those poor guys. Some ride. The After Battery was much better, more the center of the boat and a lot less rocking.
Set the trim.
One of the things a young officer learns is how, when submerged, to trim the boat for an even keel (balanced for and aft). This is accomplished by pumping water from the trim tanks either fore or aft to compensate for the immediate trim of the boat and was a real indicator of the quality of the dive officer. Young officers on our boat weren't considered sacred so sometimes we would think of things to do to make their life just a bit crazy. We saw it as our job and if you can't do it well... think up something better.
About twenty of us would gather in the after torpedo room, when the young officer would get the boat trim, we would all go to forward torpedo room in groups of one or two. He keep wondering why he couldn't keep the boat trim. He would get it trimmed again and we would go to the after torpedo room and the boat was out of trim again, it would drive them nuts, believe me.
Don't bring your fiancée aboard!
One weekend while in New London, I had duty with the duty crew. We did not have a radio watch in port, so I had the below deck watch one Saturday night from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM.
The duty crew had the
movie projector set up in the crew's mess and we had been watching movies all
day when we did not have a watch to stand.
We had a new Ensign aboard the boat who also had the duty. He was not married, but engaged to be married. That Saturday night, the new Ensign invited his bride-to-be aboard to watch a movie after supper (I think she had supper with him in the officer's mess). I guess they could not stand to be apart for a couple or days or he didn't trust her to be by herself at home alone.
After supper, someone started another movie, the Ensign and his engaged lady were sitting in front of the movie screen on two chairs from the radio shack and the rest of the crew were sitting at the tables drinking coffee, eating a snack and watching the movie. About 7:45 PM, I went into the after battery to wake up the shipmate who was to have the top side watch at 8:00 PM. He had been sleeping and was not at the movie. I woke up the top side watch and he got up out of his bunk, so I went back to the crew's mess to watch some of the movie as I was getting off watch at 8:00 PM and the below deck watch, who came on at 8:00 PM, was there with me ready to take over the watch. The shipmate who was to take the top side watch came through the after battery hatch with one leg in his pants, the other leg out, he was getting dressed as he came through the hatch about five feet from where the Ensign and his bride-to-be were sitting. The crew's mess was dark, the movie was playing and you couldn't see anything coming into the mess hall, only the bright movie light from the projector. The shipmate taking the top side watch yells out, "What is the fucking movie about, does it have a fucking name". I guess the Ensign's bride-to-be turned about six shades of red and the poor Ensign about shit his pants. The crews mess turned silent, all you could hear was the projector running. It turned so silent, it was like a morgue, you could hear a pin drop.
I could hardly keep from laughing out loud, it was so funny. I got out of there after spilling coffee all over myself climbing over everyone else trying to get out of the crew's mess at the same time. I went into the radio shack and shut the door with a couple of other shipmates.
I never learned what happened to the Ensign and his bride-to-be, I think they went to the officer's state room. I guess the shipmate stood his 8:00 PM top side watch and the movies were over for that night. Another normal day on the Bergall.
Each hour NSS (Washington
DC) would send Fox Skids to all ships in your area. You would
copy the headings of each message, if the Fox Skid was to your call sign, or in
the Info Part of the skid, you would copy the whole message. Some
messages were in text, some were in Code to go to the decoding room.
If the Fox Skid was not to your call sign, you would just
copy the heading.
During a four hour watch, you may copy from 20 to 60 Fox Skids per watch, depending on how heavy the traffic was during your watch. So you sat there for four hours, had a smoke, a cup of coffee and copied like mad. I liked the 12:00 PM to 4:00 AM watch, traffic was light. The 8:00 PM to midnight watch was a bitch, if you missed the baseball scored, you were in the shits with the crew.
Everything you copied were into the radio lot for the day. The headings were very important for it told you how to set the crypto machines. All radio messages went by Zebra Time, Big Ben in London, England. This is how the communication office set up his crypto machine, by the code sent and the Zebra time. We had a clock in the radio shack set on Zebra Time. As the time change and the day change, the decoding machine were set different. So, if you messed up a heading, you were in the shits. They
could not set up their decoding machine correct to read the message.
If it don't move, Paint It!
As all sailors know,
Friday is Field Day aboard ship in the U.S. Navy. While on the USS Hornet
CVA-12, we left Japan on our way back to the states. When it was Friday, we had
Field Day on that Friday. We crossed the International Date Line that night.
When we woke up the next morning it was Friday again. They set the
clocks back 24 hours that night, when the ship crossed the
International Date Line and we had another Field Day and cleaned what we cleaned the day before. We had two Fridays in the same week.
One Friday while on the Bergall, the Communications Officer, I forget his name, told Speed RM1 that he wanted the Radio Shack deck painted. Speed RM1 came to me and told me that I had the pleasure of painting the Radio Shack deck come Friday.
The Decoding Room was next to the Radio Shack. I was not cleared for secret or top secret decoding so I never entered that room but the Communications Officer was working in the decoding room that Friday. I had the Radio Shack deck scraped down, had all of the rust and lose paint taken off and I was getting ready to apply the paint. Speed RM1 said it looked nice and that it was ready to paint.
The Communication officer came into the Radio Shack and stood inside the doorway as I was getting out a brush and getting a can of paint open. The Communication Officer told Speed RM1, "If it does not move, paint it". I started to paint the deck with a brush and the Communication Officer just stood there and watched me. He was in my way as there was very little room to turn around in the Radio Shack. He would not move so I ran the paint brush over one tip of his Navy black dress shoes. He now had the tip of one shoe painted Navy gray. Speed RM1 about had a heart attack. I told Speed RM1 that I was just obeying orders, the Communications Officer said, "If it does not move, paint it", so I painted one of his shoes Navy gray.
The Communications Officer never got mad. He left the Radio Shack saying nothing and he never said one word about the subject as long as we both were on the Bergall. I think he realized he had said too much. He should have said nothing at all. He was always very nice to me and we got along fine for the remaining years that we both were on the Bergall.
We never polished any decks, but we used gals of Mineral Spirits on the tile decks to clean up the oil. The damn stuff would eat up your hands. We wore gloves but it was hard to get into small spots, so you took off your gloves, got a rag with Mineral Spirits and cleaned it. On Field Day, we would use gals of it and you could smell it all over the boat. The stuff came in 5 gal buckets and we cleaned everything with it. The stainless and brass pipes, we would polish and buff. The engine men would track oil everywhere and all we ever used on the decks was Mineral Spirits for wiping up the oil.
We took care of shipmates.
We had returned from the Med Cruise, the Moose had left the boat and we had a new Captain (Lcdr. Herbert Harris-Warren). The XO was still Lt William "Sandy" Sandeford. He was a real nice officer, he was the one that qualified me on the way to the Med. Sandy got done in the Sonar hole with me one day when we were at general quarters and tried his best to get me to re-enlist. He was really a nice officer, he and Moose made a good pair. I Liked Sandy a lot, he would stand up for the crew.
Don Dresch had his car on
the base, I think it was a 1953 Plymouth and it was before I had my Ford on the
base. I had just received my Good Conduct Metal for three years of
Good Conduct in the Navy.
One Saturday night, Don Dresch and I had dates with a couple girls from the CT College for Women. We took them to a movie in downtown New London, got them a couple of beers, a bit to eat and took them back to their dorm. They had to be in my mid-night, so we got them back in time, to keep them out of trouble.
Don Dresch was driving and when we got back to the base, Dresch has to take a piss, I guess the two beers had their effects on him. He was standing on the blacktop parking lot, taking a piss on the grass, when two Marine MP's pulled up in a Navy pickup truck. One of the Marine MP's walked over to Dresch and started to give him a very hard time. I went over and told the Marine MP to let up a little, Dresch was okay, I would take care of him and get him back inside the dorm. Dresch was not hurting anything. The Marine MP started to give me a real hard time, he was all over me for trying to help Dresch.
I looked at him real good, realized he was the same rank as I was, so I decked him real good. I knocked the SOB out and he was laying knocked out, face down, on the parking lot. The other Marine MP in the truck got my I.D.
The next morning, the communications officer came to me and told me that I had been written up for decking a Marine PM. He said, "What the hell did you hit him with, they had to take him to sick bay". I said, "My fist, I damn near broke my hand". He then asked me if I wanted to press charges against the Marine PM. I asked the communications office what would I get from my doings. He said if it was up to me, "I would give you a medal, but you will get a Captain's Mass and most likely two weeks restriction". I said, "If that is all, forget it, and I will take the two weeks restriction, the Marine PM was not worth messing with".
I had a Captain's Mass with the new Captain. He asked me if I was sorry for fighting, I said, "Hell no, if it happened again, I would do the same thing, anyone that messes with my shipmates was going to get decked". To make a long story short, I got the two weeks restriction from the new Captain on the Bergall. No more Good Conduct Medals, hee...hee..
Speed RM1 came to me and said, "The whole crew is with you for standing up for Dresch, decking a Marine MP and taking your medicine. To show you our respect, you will have no watches to stand during the next two weeks, take it easy, and I will stand your radio watches for you". I told Speed "I don't do things that way, I am on this damn boat for two weeks and can't go anywhere. Please go and tell the Communications Office and the COB, that for the next two weeks, I will stand the radio watch and the below deck watches for any married man, so he can go home to his wife in the evening." I was going to show that Captain that he could not get to me, and make him eat Crow.
Speed went and told the communications officer and the COB want I planned to do and they both got a big kick out of it and gave their okay. For the two weeks, I stood a lot of radio watches and a lot of below deck watches. The whole crew was behind me, enlisted men and officers and I sure made that Captain ate Crow. He could do nothing about it, the communication officer, and the COB gave me their permission, they were on my side. The Captain never spoke to me again while I was on the Bergall. He left the boat when we got to Portsmouth, NH and I never saw him again. I never spoke to him again as I remember. Matty, the 2nd class cook, fed me like a king for two weeks, even served me coffee at times and called me "Sir". I had a ball, I made a game out of it. The crew saw that I was making the Captain look like shit, they were eating it up.
What makes the story funny, while in Portsmouth, I was called on one Saturday night to stand MP duty in downtown Portsmouth. I was to report to the police station at around 6:00 PM for MP duty. I was to stand MP duty with a Marine, go from bar to bar to make sure everything was okay. What to my wonder, the Marine I was to stand MP duty with was the same Marine I decked in New London. He had been transferred to Portsmouth. He remembered me and would say nothing the whole night. I made it very clear to him, if we found one of my shipmates or any sailor drunk in a bar, or causing trouble, the sailor was not going back to the police station and get written up. We would call a taxi and get him back to his dorm on the base. I didn't give a damn what he did with any Marine he found out of order. I also made him walk one step behind me or I would deck him again, I was getting discharged in a week and I didn't give a shit. We got along fine that evening doing MP duty, he kept his mouth shut all evening, walked a little behind me, and gave me no lip. We found no one out of order the whole evening.
It was the fault of that Demon Rum!
The Bergall was back from
the Med and "Moose" had left and we had a new Captain. We were not
ready for the Portsmouth Shipyards yet so we just messed around. We
took off one week to go down to Bermuda to pick up a load of booze for the
officers club. Rum was ninety cents a fifth, VO was $1.40 a fifth
and there were no tax stamps on the bottles. We were
allowed to buy some for ourselves. We had the Bergall full, the tubes had booze in them, you name it, we had booze stacked everywhere. When we got back to New London, we would sell our excess to the bars downtown, they would keep it hid in their back room and pour it into the bottles on the bar with the tax stamps on it. We made a a few pay checks getting rid of the excess booze we bought.
One of the shipmates just got married, I think it was John Sorg, so that Saturday afternoon around 2:00 PM, I went over to his apartment to visit. I had a date with a girl at the Ct College for Woman that night and was to pick her up around 6:00 PM for dinner and a movie. We started drinking that damn rum that afternoon and about 5:00 PM I left to go over to New London to pick up my date for the evening. When I got about half way there, that damn rum hit me like a brick.
I ran my Ford through the toll gate on the bridge from Groton to New London. I didn't hit anything or anyone, I just ran the toll gate, went through it and set off kinds of bells. I was getting into bad shape by this time. The police were waiting for me at the other end of the bridge. They took me to the local lock up and I guess I went to sleep. They must have phoned the Bergall because when I woke up there were two of my shipmates with SP bands on their arms to take me back to the Bergall. They had a Navy pickup, so one drove me and my Ford and the other drove the Navy pickup truck back to the base.
I had to go to traffic court and it was going to cost me $200.00. I had to phone home for money from my savings because I sent most of my pay back home for school when I got out of the service. I didn't have the $200.00 to pay the court so good old Matty, the cook, loaned me the $200.00 to pay the court with no interest. When I got the money in the mail from home I paid Matty back at once.
Now the radiomen picked up the mail while we were in port and when I went up to pick up the mail there would be a letter from the state of CT. I knew what they wanted and it was my driver's license. I had an Indiana driver license and I was not about to give it up. I would hide the letter from the state of CT and never answer them. About once a week there would be a letter from the state of CT addressed to me. To be on the safe side, I wrote the state of Indiana and told them that I lost my drivers license and the state of Indiana mailed me a new one. Had to think fast. Now I had two Indiana drivers licenses. When we went to Portsmouth, a bunch of us came back to New London one weekend to get our cars. When I got back to Portsmouth with my car, I mailed the state of CT my old drivers license to get them off my back and kept the new one I received from Indiana. I never again heard from the state of CT. I was glad to get out of the state of CT and get to NH.
I never took another drop of that damn rum, I have never taken a rum drink to this day. I learned the hard way that rum will get to you real fast. You think you are okay, but when it hits you, you have had it. I learned my lesson the hard way, my date for that evening never forgave me and it cost me $200.00 for drinking that damn stuff that Saturday afternoon. I only had myself to blame.
We were all animals, but we always tried to help each other out of trouble, like Matty loaning me the $200.00 or when I decked the Marine MP who got on Don Dresch's back when Don was taking a piss on the grass while standing on the black top parking lot. If we ever had a war, I would still go to war with the crew we had on the Bergall, we were shipmates living in a sewer pipe together, and we looked out for each other.
We planned to blow the sanitation tank through the ship's whistle.
When you stood on the
bridge on the Bergall, the ship's whistle was behind you about waist high.
We had a bunch of officers from sub school that were aboard the boat one night, many of them were on the bridge with the duty officer trying to learn what ever they were suppose to learn. A bunch of us were in the crew's mess, trying to think of a way to blow the sanitation tank through the ship's whistle, spray them with shit and make it look like a big mistake, maybe an act of God or something.
Anyway to make a long story short, the officers on the bridge broke up, went to their state rooms, we gave up the idea and never got the job done. If we had gotten the job done, we would have made history that night for a Bergall first.
When you got six of seven of us together, with time on our hands, we could think up all kinds of stuff to do. I guess we were always thinking of something different to do or pull a joke on someone.
Later I will tell you the story when we though Grosser had the crabs and we dusted him with DDT powder and the time we were up on the rails in dry dock, blew the sanitation tank, the hose to the sewer came off and we blew shit all over the yard workers cars parked next to the dock. That was not an act of God, I never washed so many cars in my life time, along with a few other shipmates.
The great toboggan ride.
I remember the ship stores
at Portsmouth would rent winter sporting goods at a very low prices.
One weekend, Larry Weissbach, Don Dresch, I and Don's buddy from Illinois (who
was on the sub tender) went down and rented ice skates and a toboggan.
We were going to Dover, Maine and ice skate at the University of Maine while on
liberty. We strapped the four man toboggan to the top of my Ford and
off all four of us went. We also took a few cold beers with
us. (Many sad tales begin this way!)
We skated until the outdoor rink closed, then we started to drive around looking for a toboggan slide. We finally found a big toboggan slide at a fraternity house, it had snowed and there was a lot of snow on the ground. It was around 10:00 PM by then but we said, "That would be one nice slide to go down."
One of us went up to the fraternity house, knocked on the door and asked if we could use their toboggan slide. They said sure, it was okay and they even turned on the flood lights for us. We loaded the toboggan on to the slide, all four of us got on, the back person pulled the pin and down we went about 50 mph, the snow was flying everywhere and the person in front could not even see.
What they did not tell us, at the bottom of the slide, a few yards out, was a creek and the water was not frozen. Here we were, asshole deep, sitting in a creek of water freezing our buns off. The boys at the fraternity house turned off the flood lights, locked the doors and left us in the dark freezing to death. We could have killed them by that time. We were wet, cold, and freezing.
Next door was a Sorority House. They heard all of the noise, turned on their flood lights and saw us standing there freezing to death and they invited us inside. In the kitchen was a very large cast iron black wood stove. They gave us blankets, we took off our clothes, put the blankets around us and the girls dried our clothes on the large stove. They gave us hot coffee and some food to warm us up as we sat next to the warm stove.
We started to shoot the bull with the girls, telling big sea stories (mostly bullshit) and the house mother was getting a big kick out of it. She was laughing her butt off at us and our stories. Since three of us were from the mid-west (Illinois and Indiana), we did not make much of an impression on the girls. I think they thought we were all farmers from the mid-west. The only one making out was Larry, because he was from Boston. Larry was getting their names, phone numbers and addresses. They would not give us other three the time of day. We were just hicks from the mid-west.
By this time, it was midnight, our clothes were dry, so we got dressed and thanked them all for helping us. I remember the House Mother giving me a kiss on the cheek and telling us boys to be careful driving back and to stay out of trouble. We tied the toboggan back on top of my Ford and off we drove.
Hell, we were out of beer and we still had time to find someplace open before it was time to go back to the base. We were not going to let a little creek of freezing water slow us down, we were still on liberty.
Pulling a prank on a pal.
I have a confession to
make, it is a prank I pulled on Don Dresch over forty five years ago and he
never knew about it.
There was a popular night club in New London, it was owned by some Greeks and had a band every Saturday night. It also had a dance floor and served drinks. Don had a gray Plymouth in New London and he took it back home, while on leave, before we went to Portsmouth, because he didn't want to take it up to N.H.
There were two girls that we always ended up with at that night club, the one I had was older than me and was a school teacher (at least that is what she told me). They lived somewhere south of New London and we used to take them home after the club closed. I don't remember their names, it has been so long ago.
The last time we had them out and the last time we used Don's car to take them home after the club closed, I hid her white underpants and her bra back behind his back seat. I tucked them down between the back of the seat and the bottom of the seat. I knew he was taking his car back home when he went on leave. The girl I was with got a big kick out of it, it was a brilliant idea we came up with.
I have always wondered after he took his car back home, if anyone in his family had found them while cleaning out the car. I was always hoping someone in his family would find them and wonder what "Old Don Dresch" was up to in New London.
We had a ball back then, we were animals you know
Where My Whites Went.
When I getting ready to be
discharged at Portsmouth, I wanted to get my teeth cleaned. When I
went down to the Naval Clinic with my papers, they checked my teeth, but could
not clean them because they didn't have the time. There was a little
Navy Korean Dentist there and I asked him if he had his family there on the
base. He said, "Yes". I said "Okay Sir, how would you
like a tin of coffee, if I came down after you closed up for the day and you
cleaned my teeth before I get discharged". He said, "You get me the
tin of coffee and I will clean your teeth one night after we close for the day".
Matty, the 2nd class cook was cooking on the base in the barracks we were staying in, so I went to see Matty and told him he could have all of my whites when I got discharged if he would get me a tin of coffee. Since we were about the same size, Matty told me to leave my car unlocked and there would be a tin of coffee in it the next day.
I phone the dental clinic, got the dentist on the phone and I told him to be there the next night as I was coming down with a tin of coffee and I wanted my teeth cleaned. So, I went down the next night, gave the dentist the tin of coffee and got my teeth cleaned. A few days later when I got discharged, Matty got all of my whites for cooking. So, like any good Bergall shipmate, this is how you got things done. Everything had a price and if you were going to survive on that boat you had better learn how to wheel and deal. That is the way we got things done, while on the Bergall.
My name's proud heritage
You may notice that "Midyett" is not a
common name, so I will note a little history lesson. I always wanted
to be in the Navy for the Midyett's started the Coast Guard and Oct. the 27th is
my birthday which used to be "Navy Day" when I was a child.
Matthew Midyett came to Bodie Island, Mann's Harbor, NC, back around 1600 from Normandy France. Normandy France at this time in our history was owned by England. Spelling Midyett with a "y" is the English way to spell it. The family started life saving stations along the outer banks of NC for the English.
About the same time came a man born in England named "Edward Teach", better know as "Black Beard the Pirate". Black Beard was hired by the English to raid Spanish ships. He made his home port also at Bodie Island, Mann's Harbor, NC, and use to sleep in the Governor's home in NC. The Midyett's and some of Black Beard's men from his three ships use to go out and save a ship that broke up on the outer banks. They would save the people and keep the ship and its cargo for bounty. When the English and Spanish made peace, Black Beard kept on being a pirate. He became a pain in the ass, so the English got rid of him. The U.S. turned these life saving stations into the Coast Guard. Many of the Midyett's young girls married the sailors off Black Beard's three ships. The name was spelled different ways: Midyett, Midyette, Midgett, Midgette, but no matter how you spell it, they all came from Matthew Midyett who landed at Bodie Island NC around 1600. He was a ship captain and was ship wrecked off the coast of the outer banks of NC. He was a French "Huguenot", a French Protestant of the 16th and 17th centuries. I have the whole history written out with all of the court dates, which came from Spencer Midyett, a (now deceased) big oil man down in Texas.
In 1979 I went to the Outer Banks of NC for a family reunion and a Coast Guard Cutter was being named after the family. It was on national TV at that time. I had a ball as I was the only person there who had served on a submarine, the rest were from the Coast Guard. The name Midyett is the most common name listed in the Coast Guard books.
While on the Bergall in New London, a young officer from the Coast Guard School named "Midyett", came over to the Bergall to visit me. We had a long talk and I told him that I knew the family history. He invited me over to the school in New London, so on Saturday afternoon when I had liberty I use to go over there and read books on the family's name.
Now, I'm a wheeler/dealer and I had a purpose in mind and that was to get into that damn Conn. College for Women. The men from the Coast Guard School were dating the girls from the Conn. College for Women. I made friends with some of the students in the Coast Guard School and with my last name it was easy to make friends with them. Many had the same last name. They got me into some of their dances and parties with the Conn. College for Woman girls and I met some nice looking ladies, MANY nice looking ladies. By being in the right place at the right time and being born with the right name, I got more than I could handle while in New London. My sex life was running in high gear.
So, just like business, you don't have to be a big brain or a college professor. A lot depends on using your head, a lot of luck and being in the right place at the right time. Believe me, I know and at 68 years of age, I still run my life the same. Why change, when it has worked for you for the past 68 years? Here I am with a "local girl", in 2000. She's pretty much an airhead... but I can deal with that!
Think I'm Proud of the USCGC Midgett (WHEC-726) ?
The 378-foot High Endurance Cutter class are the largest cutters, aside from the two Polar Class Icebreakers, ever built for the Coast Guard. They are powered by diesel engines and gas turbines, and have controllable-pitch propellers. Equipped with a helicopter flight deck, retractable hangar, and the facilities to support helicopter deployment, these 12 cutters were introduced to the Coast Guard inventory in the 1960s. Highly versatile and capable of performing a variety of missions, these cutters operate throughout the world's oceans.
Established: The U.S.
Coast Guard Cutter Midgett's keel was laid at Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans,
La., as the 12th and final cutter of the 378-foot Hamilton-class.
Commissioned March 17, 1972, Midgett was home ported from 1972 to 1991 in
Alameda, Calif. Midgett was decommissioned Jan. 7, 1991, and entered
Todd Shipyard in Seattle for upgrades as part of the Fleet Renovation and
Maintenance (FRAM) Project. After its completion, the cutter was
delivered to the Coast Guard in Seattle April 2, 1992.
What she does: The Midgett’s missions of search and rescue, maritime law enforcement, marine environmental protection, and military readiness, keep the ship underway for approximately 185 days a year. The Midgett has participated in international search and rescue exercises with Russia, two major alien migration interdiction cases, seven major joint military operations with the U.S. Navy in addition to standard patrols enforcing fisheries regulations and serving as a search and rescue platform for the dangerous Bering Sea fisheries.
Latest operational activities: From June 18 to Dec. 18, 1999, Midgett again made history, deploying with the USS Constellation Battle Group to the Arabian Gulf in the place of a Navy frigate. During this mission the Midgett crew conducted boardings of cargo vessels transiting in and out of Iraq to enforce United Nations sanctions and prevent smuggling. During the three months in the gulf, Midgett boarding teams conducted 36 boardings, and inspected more than 2,275 cargo containers. The Midgett conducted a six-day escort of the motor vessel Four Corners I, which was diverted for carrying illegal Iraqi oil. Along with the boardings, Midgett participated in nation building exercises with Saudi Arabia, Oman, France, England, Thailand, the Republic of Korea and provided training and education to both the Kuwaiti Coast Guard and Royal Thai Navy Officers.
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