My brother found the Destroyers Online page while doing some research on the
USS Bremerton (CA130), my Dad's WW2 home, and brought it to my attention.
I was stationed aboard the Whipple from December 1977 until February 1980 and
remember you well.
I read your story
on the refugee rescue with great interest and it brought back not a few memories.
What I remember most of the rescue was coming on deck and seeing that 60' foot
teak river patrol boat wallowing in the waves, packed to overflowing with people.
I was awakened from a post-lunch siesta and was still a little foggy around the
edges, but that site snapped me wide awake! I remember some of the other bosuns
trying to get a heaving line to that boat and they kept coming up short. Several
weeks before we (First Division) had been repairing and making new heaving lines.
I had made up two extra long lines and had one hidden in the aft bosun's locker,
which I retrieved. After wetting the line and preparing it for throwing, I yelled
for a clear path to throw and let the monkey fist fly. The line went straight up
the boat from stem to stern, and everyone on the boat and fantail cheered. A hawser
was tied to the end of the heaving line and the refugees hauled it to their boat and
secured it to the bullnose. The boat was brought along the port side of the Whipple.
SN Fiorino and BM1 Renner then boarded the boat and assessed the situation.
I fashioned a sling from rope and hung over the side quickly followed by
he on the forward end of the boat and I on the aft end. We then started taking
the refugees aboard; Renner and Fiorino handed them up to Smith and I.
We had to time the transfers with the rise and fall of the boat. It was raining
hard and the seas were around 10 feet so the swell was causing the boat to rise
and fall over 20 feet at times making our timing critical. Some of the refugees
attempted to grab the cargo net that was rigged on the side of the Whipple and
haul themselves aboard. I think one slipped and nearly got caught between the
boat and the ship before Renner managed to pull him to safety. All four of us
received the Navy Marine Corp Medal for our efforts. I was happy to see at least
one of the refugees made it and is doing well!
I believe I still have various newspapers I picked up in Hong Kong with articles
and pictures detailing the rescue. I would be happy to scan and send them to you
if you like. I also have lots of pictures showing life on the Whipple most taken
during WESTPAC 78. I may also have some of the Solomon Island Independence Day
festivities. I, too, was one of the ships photographers. HTC Black and I had a
black and white dark room set up in the CHT tank room under the HT shop where
I would develop and print lots of the pictures that ended up in the WESTPAC 78
I was also the ships librarian (we never did figure out how to keep the books on the
shelves in heavy seas!). I remember after riding out the hurricane that chased us
out of Hong Kong, going to the library which was all the way aft, above the rudder
equipment room, and finding all the books sloshing back and forth on the deck. It
took hours to get the books back on shelves, but we never did get them into order
again. When the Whipple was doing anything over about 12 knots, and especially when
at full or flank speed, that room would shake, shimmy and was so loud, you couldn't
see straight because of the propeller cavitation.
I have often wondered what became of those I had the privilege to serve with on the
Whipple. I take great pleasure in telling some of these sea stories as the Whipple
made a major contribution to my life. I eventually struck for Data Processing Tech,
went to A school in San Diego and was subsequently transferred to NARDAC in Washington
DC. I arrived at NARDAC August 26, 1980 and have made the Washington DC area my home.
I extended 2 years in the Navy to take advantage of additional training. I completed
my obligation September 16, 1983 and because my rate was overmaned, decided to become
a civilian. Sometimes I wish I could do it again for a few weeks; those were exciting