Category Archives: Sea Stories

Now that’s teamwork

Posted by Lex, on August 12, 2008


Witch doctor, US Navy save hiker

A MELBOURNE lawyer who became seriously ill while hiking on the Kokoda Trail was guarded by a witch doctor in a remote Papua New Guinea village until she was rescued by the US Navy.

Debra Paver had seizures and fell into a coma on the trail last week.

While she clung to life, a woman witch doctor brandishing a machete watched over her…

At the request of the US embassy in Port Moresby, a helicopter was sent on Friday from the ship.

The helicopter landed on a small patch of land in the mountains in thick fog at 1800 metres.

Ms Paver, 44, of Brighton East, was flown to the USNS Mercy and admitted to the intensive care unit where she began to recover from hyponatremia, low sodium levels in the blood.

Join the Navy, see the world. Provide material support to Papua New Guinian witch doctors.

Some guys will do anything for a little liberty.

Update: As Sim points out in comments, the Mercy’s CO has his own blog and talks about the event. Cool.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Navy, Sea Stories

Introducing Whisper

By lex, on March 4th, 2011

Perspicacious readers will have by now noted that your hosts store of “there I was” stories of naval derring-do  have, well: diminished. Either through the telling, distance or the egregious assaults made by father time upon our brain cells.

So we’re offering up a guest posting position to one Whisper, active FA-18 pilot and patriot. See how that goes.

So without further ado, here y’are.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Naval Aviation, Neptunus Lex, Sea Stories, Whisper

Passages. Sad Passages.

Brownsville, Texas
It is where ships go to die.
Forrestal and Saratoga are unrecognizable.
Constellation arrived a couple of weeks ago.
The three Good Ships I made cruises on are in the queue. Independence, Ranger and Kitty Hawk.
It hurts.
Old friends they are to so many who chose the sea.
The times are indeed, a changing.






Filed under Carriers, Good Ships, History, Lex, Navy, Really Good Stuff, Remember, Sea Stories, Shipmates, Ships and the Sea

The Rooskies

“Goldie, how many times have I told you guys that I don’t want no horsin’ around on the airplane?” The words came from B-52 Aircraft Commander Major Kong in the dark movie Dr. Strangelove in response to being apprised by Lt. Goldie, his radio operator, that Wing Attack Plan R for Romeo was in effect. Nuclear war with the Rooskies.

Slim Pickens (Major Kong) and his crew get ready to go toe to toe with nukes. And before they can be recalled the CRM 114 radio that should receive the message calling off the attack destroys itself, and Major Kong’s crew becomes the opening act to World War III.

I don’t propose at all that I am an expert on the CRM 114, in fact it doesn’t exist. It was made up for the movie, although we all know there has to be some device or devices like it out there. Continue reading


Filed under Carriers, Funny Stuff, Naval Aviation, Navy, Sea Stories

Her final voyage: Navy’s first super-carrier USS Forrestal begins journey to the scrapyard after being sold for ONE CENT

Having served in Independence and Ranger, this does tug at the heart strings a bit. I did serve in those years with men who were aboard Forrestal during the tragedy of 1967.

The Navy has paid one cent under a contract to have the 60-year-old vessel dismantled by All Star Metals in the Gulf port of Brownsville.

The decommissioned aircraft carrier Ex-USS Forrestal, pictured in 2010, is now on its final voyage to the scrap heap in Texas
The decommissioned aircraft carrier Ex-USS Forrestal, pictured in 2010, is now on its final voyage to the scrap heap in Texas

Tugboat Alex McAllister pushes the USS Forrestal into the Delaware River on the aircraft carrier's final voyage from Navy Shipyard in south Philadelphia
Tugboat Alex McAllister pushes the USS Forrestal into the Delaware River on the aircraft carrier’s final voyage from Navy Shipyard in south Philadelphia
The times are indeed a changin……………………………


Filed under Good Ships, History, Navy, Remember, Sea Stories, Ships and the Sea

Treasure Map

I’m currently reading Theodore Roscoe’s United States Submarine Operations In World War 2. This particular edition was probably a first edition published in 1949(!) by the United States Naval Institute Press. It’s even looks like it was published in 1949:

From the preface:

This volume is not the official operational history. Strictly speaking, it is not a history, nor is it to be studied as such. Herein, in the narrative form, the reader will the inspiring saga of submarining. For the student, the technical side is featured. And many aspects of submarine warfare which would ordinarily be excluded from a purely historical text are detailed and discussed.

It’s in my care for now, on loan from the Pritzker Military Library. I wanted to see if there are historical parallels between the sub campaign in the pacific to seeing how reasonable it would be to use SSNs/SSKs to contain the PLAN within the first island chain.

Going through the first chapter I found this enclosed in the book:


It’s an unknown newspaper clipping detailing the moorings of Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 at 7:55am.

The other side of the clipping features an ad for a book called “Home Before Dark” by Eileen Bassing. According to a quick Google search it was first published in 1957.


That leads me to believe the map and newspaper were published in 1957.

The map itself is very interesting as it details most of the ships in port and even tells I what some witnesses were doing moments before the attack.

Even more unusual, the paper left a stain on the page which makes me believe maybe it hasn’t been seen since 1957. Who knows.

Anyway, this is a treasure map and maybe, if the reader know more than I, of some historical significance.

Just amazing…you never know what you’re going to in and on these books.


Filed under Books, Navy, Sea Stories, Shipmates, Ships and the Sea, Submarines, Uncategorized

One Foot

All carrier aviators have a story or two to tell, and I have a tale of working the carrier at night to offer.

I am a little bit reluctant to pass on some of my stories because of the fear of honking my own horn.

On the other hand, if the tales aren’t told, what will be left in the passdown log for generations to come?

This incident happened when I did my turn in the A-6 back in the 1970’s. At the time I was young and invincible… Continue reading


Filed under Flying, Naval Aviation, Sea Stories

Shakespeare’s Meet Up Hot Wash

We had a great time there last night, with Mary, Beth, her husband Armando, Padre Harvey and his bride Tamara, Dwight, and Patrick. I only got two pics to come out, but hopefully Beth can get the pics Mary took, and Patrick needs to forward a few. Dwight too, for that matter.


Shakes 2 Shakes

Much Guinness and a fair amount of Jameson (and the odd gin and tonic) and some fantastic stories from Mary. Lots of hugging, laughing, and just plain fun.

It was a hoot. I’ve been to quite a few blog inspired meet ups over the years, and it’s always amazing how you meet people for the first time, and you pick up your previous online conversations without a break. If you’ve never done one, you really should do so.

Padre Harvey kicked it off with a very nice invocation. He also said something that touched Mary. Pointing to the seemingly sparsely populated venue, he stressed that every seat there was filled, by you, dear Lexicans, in spirit.

And I’ll never hear the song “Roxanne” the same way again (inside joke).


Filed under Family, Sea Stories, Shipmates

The Switch Part 2, or Keep Right

Joe and I headed out from North Island in our KA-6D (the one with the living room switch to control the tail hook) to catch up with the Connie, she was steaming west under the typical low cloud cover found in the Socal ops area every morning. It didn’t take long to pick up the azimuth and dme on the tacan and zero in on the ship. Joe checked in with Warchief, filled in all the blanks for those on the carrier who needed to know ‘zackly who we were and what our intentions were, and we switched over to approach.

This is where it got interesting. The shipboard controller we contacted said he’d be glad to give us a precision approach (CCA) to the Connie, basically a talk down (the needles were out of service), but he mentioned that his radar had undergone maintenance in port and wasn’t calibrated yet. Question marks flew around in my brain pan, non-calibrated radar wasn’t in my database. Had to ask, what does that mean to us? The answer was that we might not be precisely on course as he brings us down through the clag to land.

Not precisely on course? This didn’t resonate much with me as being a big problem. If there were mountains around and cumulo-granite clouds to reckon with my worry factor might have been higher, but what the hey, how far off can it be? It’s daytime, no storms, no rain. Let’s press on.

Can you pick up on the vibes here? A jury rigged tail hook switch, a brand new never-been-to-the-boat B/N in the right seat, and now a shipboard radar that may or may not be capable of accurate guidance.

The wisdom of many years of aviation since then give me pause as I write this. Grampaw Pettibone surely would be asking, “What was this lad thinking?” My present self says “Not much” and my past self had no thought other than OK, we’ll deal with things as they come, forward with enthusiasm. Joe’s first look at the back end of the boat would be fun for both of us, right? Right! Onward!
Onward it was, through the clouds, into the descent, drop the gear, flaps, and the all important tail hook, start the approach. The approach indexers on the glare shield are not flashing, which confirms that the hook is down and the living room switch on Joe’s side is working.

The approach was sterling. Got all the “on glide path, on course” callouts over and over again, with minor deviations here and there. I was impressing myself so much with my airmanship…
Joe and I get to the point where we are just about breaking out of the overcast, there is ocean below on both sides of the jet, Joe tells me there is another ship out here, he can see the wake off to the right, and the controller gives us the call I’d heard so many times before: “three quarter mile, call the ball.”
Which is where I look up and see the ship, pick up the meatball, call paddles and continue on to trap aboard the big grey boat.

Didn’t happen that way, though.

I look up, we pop out of the overcast, and I look ahead at nothing but the deep blue sea! What the…!

Joe comes up on the ICS and says there is a carrier over here and I look to the right to see the Connie, we are maybe a quarter to half a mile left abeam the ship. Well sonovagun, that’s what the radar guy meant about “not precisely on course.” Joe’s first look at the back end of the boat didn’t ‘zackly turn out the way I intended. Nice look at the side, though.

No chance to save this approach, it’s a go around, add the power and suck the gear up to get back in the pattern, go downwind, and try again.
Wonder what Joe’s thinking over there? Wonder what the LSO thinks of my aviation skills? Bet he’s never seen a jet at the 180 going the wrong way…
Back with the controller again, now I’m getting proactive and asking questions. Can you adjust the radar? We were waaaay left of the boat when we broke out of the clouds.

Nope, can’t just change the settings, how about another approach? Hmmm, OK, let’s try again. I tell Joe my game plan, we will fly the approach to the right and see what happens.

That’s what we did, at about 2 miles from the Connie I made a turn to the right and held it for a handful of potatoes while the controller gave me the “Going slightly right of course, going right of course, going well right of course” litany. Rolled back on to the ship’s heading when I couldn’t stand it anymore and kept going with the “well right of course” callout coming over and over.
Got to the “three quarter mile…” call and we popped out of the clag with the Connie darn near dead ahead! Woo hoo, this is too good!
Joe is struck silent at this point, I make the ball call, on glideslope and correcting to centerline.

“Roger Ball”, comes the welcome response, followed by “Wave it off, foul deck.”
Fill in the language here for me. You can match my words but not exceed them, I’m sure. #$%^$ and @#*& apply. Full power, back into the overcast, downwind again. Joe talks to the controller. Now I’m silent.
Again the approach, again the right turn at 2 miles, again we hold well right of course all the way down.

Pop out of the clouds right where we should be. Good start, call the ball, deck is clear. “Roger Ball.”

Fly the ball all the way, keep it in the center, watch the line up, paddles has nothing to say. Bam, hit the deck, full power, wait for the deceleration, and…we accelerate down the deck and take off again as paddles tells me what I already know: “Bolter bolter bolter.”

Well, poop. The hook skipped over the 3 and 4 wires. You may match my words once again but surely cannot exceed them. Only one bolter, the LSO doesn’t need to repeat himself, I mutter.

Wonder what Joe’s thinking over there?

Again the trek downwind, again the approach, again the right turn at 2 miles, again we hold well right of course all the way down.
Pop out of the clouds right where we should be. Good start, call the ball, deck is clear. “Roger Ball.”

This time we hit the deck and are slammed against our restraints. Huzzah!

Joe has his first trap.

The wire pulls us back, the taxi director in front gives the hook up signal, I flip the living room switch to the off position and push the hook retract button. It all works. Joe folds the wings.

The deck is alive with moving planes and people, we are directed to a tie down spot in front of the bridge and shut down. Joe waits at the base of his boarding ladder for me to come get him. I guide him through the jet blasts and whirling props to a ladder that takes us below the flight deck.

Once below, we stop and take our helmets off. Joe is a sweaty mess, and so am I. He looks at me with a big grin and says, “That was amazing! Is it always like that?”

Once in a lifetime you are handed a straight line.  Joe just gave me mine.

“No, Joe,” I said. “Sometimes it gets exciting.”

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Filed under Carriers, Flying, Naval Aviation, Sea Stories

The Switch

It was a morning in February of ’77, I remember it well for all the unusual things that happened that day, starting with the fact that my carrier, the Constellation, and my A-6 squadron had left San Diego without me.

Seems that there was a broken KA-6D, a tanker version of the A-6, sitting on the ramp at North Island awaiting repair, and my squadron skipper assigned me to sit with the plane until it was fixed. Why the plane was not on the Connie already along with the rest of the squadron was never addressed and I viewed the assignment as a chance for another trap. Carrier pilots are greedy like that.
Oh, and another thing, says the skipper, there’s a new B/N that just joined the squadron, Joe is his name, we pulled him out of the RAG before he had any CQ, so bring him up to speed with the full carrier ops brief while you are waiting on the jet.

There are two ways to look at having a complete FNG in the cockpit going to the boat for the first time, I chose to view taking a new B/N to the boat for the first time ever in his career as a treat and a privilege. Joe would get the best brief I could give and his first look at the back end of the Connie would be fun for both of us.

So the Connie has gone to sea and we–Joe and I–will catch up with her today. I meet Joe for the first time in the ramp ops spaces, he was cheery, enthusiastic, and attentive. Leaving ATC behind and getting into the pattern at an aircraft carrier is a whole new world, the lingo is all new, the landing pattern is different, the tempo is stepped up greatly. There was a lot to pass on to Joe, he was expected to handle the radio comm for the entire flight and he was busy taking notes as we briefed. We also had to go over the nuances of the systems on his side of the airplane. Joe had been flying A-6E’s in the RAG going through his training. The B/N’s side of the A-6E is a plethora of switches and knobs, an inertial nav system, a radar system, an attack computer, and other things I could only speculate about, me being just the driver of such a vehicle.

However, the tanker A-6 was a different story, I knew all about Joe’s side of this airplane. His panel was a blank grey expanse suitable for post it notes and doodling, except for an 8 day u wind it clock.

Then the maintenance Chief comes in to let us know what is going on with the tanker sitting out on the ramp.

Seems that the problem is with the tail hook, he says, there is a short in the system somewhere. What happens is when the hook handle is pulled in the cockpit the hook extends to the proper position and then immediately retracts again.
The Chief now has my full attention, it would be really good to have a tail hook that works to land on the boat. Joe is paying even more attention to the Chief than he did me.

The Chief went on to explain that the problem lies with a tiny switch behind the hook release handle that controls the hook lift circuit. The switch is broken and we don’t have any available here, says the chief, so we’ve had to “make do” with some other parts.

What other parts, I ask.

Well sir, Mr. B, says the Chief, I made a quick trip to the Base Exchange and got a switch that will do the job. You’ll see it when you get out to the jet, says he as he walks out the door. Your jet is ready when you are.
Joe and I finish up the brief, gather up our gear, and walk out to the jet. Joe goes up the steps on his side of the airplane to settle in while I do the walk around, and then I step up to strap in on my side.

I get to the cockpit and sit down. Joe is staring at the panel in front of him.
There, next to the 8 day u wind it clock, is an ivory wall switch like you might see in any room of your house, complete with matching cover plate. Two white wires come out from behind the top of the plate and wind their way up the panel, behind the glare shield, then down between the instruments and disappear behind the hook release handle.

The Chief is right behind me at the top of my boarding ladder and he leans in to explain what we are seeing. Mr. B, we didn’t have time to check the circuit properly, so you’ll have to start up and we’ll see which position of the switch makes things work right, says he.

You’re kidding, I said. Got to be kidding.

Nope, says the Chief with a smile, go with me on this.

And descends the ladder.

I decide to go with the Chief on this, what the heck. The ship is getting farther out to sea every minute, let’s get started, Joe.

We run the checklists, put power and air to the jet and start the engines. Everything looks good, I give the Chief the signal to disconnect the power and air, after that we are ready to check the hook operation.

The Chief signals drop the hook. I pull the handle and there is a dull thump way behind me, followed by another dull thump. The Chief shakes his head and pantomimes that the hook went down and then immediately retracted. He makes a gesture with his right hand as though he is turning the lights on in his living room.

I look at the wall switch, which is in the “off” (down) position. I flip it to the “on” (up) position and nod to the Chief. He gives me the hook down signal.
I pull the handle. There is a single thump.

The Chief smiles.

He gives me the hook up signal. I push the retract button and look at the Chief. He shakes his head and motions that the hook is still down.

I put the switch to the “off” position and push the button. There is a faint thump and the Chief smiles and gives me a thumbs up.

We go through this routine a couple of more times and confirm that in order to make the logic of the thing work the wall switch must be in the “on” position to drop the hook and in the “off” position to raise the hook.

I then take out the grease pencil I have in my shoulder pocket and mark “DOWN” on the panel next to the switch in the “on” position. And then next to the “off” position I write “UP”.

Then I give the Chief the thumbs up and tell Joe to call ground control and tell them we are ready to taxi for takeoff.

No response. Joe? Joe?

He’s still sitting there, staring at the ivory wall switch, wondering how it is that his first operational day in the world’s mightiest nuclear navy could start out with base exchange parts and grease pencil instructions.

Little did either of us know that the day was going to be full of the unexpected.

But that’s another story.

06-04-2018 Part 2 is here – Ed.

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Filed under Flying, Funny Stuff, Naval Aviation, Sea Stories, Uncategorized