A Memoir of US Navy Days, over 50 Years Ago— with Geographical and Historical Information

I joined the regular U.S Navy (as distinct from the Naval Reserve) in August, 1954 when I was 17 years old. I had graduated Berkeley High School in June, 1953 at age 16 and was not at all ready for more studies. I had a few part-time and full-time jobs, but was essentially footloose and hanging out with youths who had no positively-focused direction. My dad was the agent in orienting me toward the Navy. The Korean “Police Action” or “Conflict” had officially ended in 1953 through an armistice (there hasn’t been a declaration of war by the US Congress in any armed conflict since the Second World War), but the U.S. government allowed those who joined the military before early 1955 to be eligible for the Korean G.I. Bill, giving me a modest subsidy when I later attended college and university.

[Please click on all images for a clearer view]

I underwent Boot Camp training for 11 weeks at The US Naval Basic Training Center in San Diego. It is no longer there; it is being redeveloped into an “urban village.”

Taking a smoke in the laundry area (all hand washed and hung for drying on these poles) during the short noon break from studies and exercises

Taking a smoke in the laundry area (all hand washed and hung for drying on these poles) during the short noon break from studies and exercises

After Boot Camp I was assigned to the U.S. Naval Electronics “A” School on Treasure Island, California—in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Treasure Island is a completely flat, artificial island attached to Yerba Buena Island, where the middle of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is anchored. The island was built by the federal government for the purpose of staging the Golden Gate International Exposition in the summers of 1939 and 1940 in celebration of the two newly-built bridges. The bridge was dedicated in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge was dedicated in 1937. After the exposition, the island was to be an airport for Pan American Airline’s Pacific Rim service of flying boats, including the famous China Clipper. Due to wartime needs, it was soon turned into a naval base from 1941 to 1997.

Teasure Island in SF Bay-Google

Several commands were located there:

  • Naval Receiving station for sailors and Marines bound for duty in Pacific
  • Naval Schools Command
  • Naval Station Command for administering the island
  • Western Sea Frontier Command, including “WESTPAC” (Western Pacific) to which I would later be assigned

After completing my studies to be an electronics technician, I was assigned further training in San Diego for sea duty in a group that would later be ship’s crew to the USS Bon Homme Richard, CVA-31, an Essex Class aircraft carrier then undergoing major reconstruction at the Naval Ship yard at Hunters Point, San Francisco. Hunters Point Naval Shipyard has since been abandoned and has reverted to the City and County of San Francisco.

The Bon Homme Richard has since been scrapped and its famous name is now attached to LHD-6, an Amphibious Assault Ship

The Bon Homme Richard has since been scrapped and its famous name is now attached to LHD-6, an Amphibious Assault Ship

The shipyard modernized the “Bonnie Dick” with, among many other improvements, a canted flight deck, steam catapults and modern electronic equipment, the latter using vacuum tubes because transistors were still in development.

Pavellas, Yarbrough & Cronan

Pavellas, Yarbrough & Cronan

When I was aboard, 1956-1957, we had two Far East “cruises.” We maneuvered and exercised with other ships and took shore leave in many Japanese ports, and in: Okinawa; Subic Bay, The Philippines; and, Hong Kong, BCC. The ship and all the bases in the US on which I was stationed are now all gone. During my service Fidel Castro was fomenting his revolution in Cuba, the Suez Crisis occurred and President Eisenhower enunciated the “Eisenhower Doctrine” which implied that he would send the Marines into Lebanon.

[Please click on the image to see the yellow pin markers indicating our ports of call]

[Please click on the image to see the yellow pin markers indicating our ports of call]

What remains for me are memories of shipboard life, of foreign ports, of great friendships; and, an appreciation for the values of leadership, teamwork and discipline.

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About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate Californian living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
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2 Responses to A Memoir of US Navy Days, over 50 Years Ago— with Geographical and Historical Information

  1. Arnaldo Pita says:

    Hi my name is Arnaldo E. Pita, I served with Pavellas in the USS Bon Homme Richard in the early 50´s. Please if there is any way to contact him let me know. This is my son´s email: ericsusy@yahoo.com and my phone number in Puerto Rico is 787-724-3642.
    I would really enjoy talking to him.

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