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.
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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.”
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.
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 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.
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.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.