USNS Geiger

As one of the unmarried officers in the unit, I was told to stay at Fort Irwin during the Christmas holiday in 1967. I was seeing Barbara a lot and i really didn't mind staying at the fort and could go home in January.  As it turned out, I finally convinced Barb to come with me to Kansas and to marry me on the way back.  We flew into Vegas and were married there.

When I got back to Fort Irwin, the unit was well into the efforts to put everything in some form of a container and get it ready to ship to Vietnam.  We found out that in spite of what we thought, very darned little of our equipment could be shipped in the bed of our trucks.  If we built boxes, we could put things in the bed of the trucks if the box did not stick up above the side of the beds.  We could leave the windshields on the trucks to get them to Long Beach but everything must be removed, including mirrors.  About a week before the people were bused to Long Beach, the Battalion convoy went down by road.  Some of the people that went down with the trucks were allowed to be supercargo on the equipment ship.  I didn't go with the equipment.

Barbara had to take me out to Fort Irwin that last day.  I was excited to go but reluctant to leave.  There were several wives there to see us off and the buses were sitting there running as we kissed our good by's.    We were told that wee could carry only one duffel bag but like many others, I had a guitar and a small carry on with my dopp kit and a few personal things.  We spend a few hours on the buses and arrived in Long Beach late afternoon.  There was a long list of checks made so that everyone was accounted for.  Missing shipment for deployment to a war zone was some heavy duty felony time.  In the middle of all the checking and counting people, a car pulled up and a set of MP's brought out one of the soldiers that had not come back from his Christmas leave.  He got to spend the entire time on board the ship in the brig.

I don't know why, but the first night on the ship we spent tied to the pier.  Most of the time we spent reading books, playing cards and telling stories about our adventures on leave.  Mostly the enlisted men were in the area below decks and the officers were in the top cabins.  I was in a cabin with 6 or 7 other lieutenants and there was always a card game going.  I learned to play cribbage and by the time we got to Vietnam I was pretty darned good.  I also read the books Hawaii  and the Source both by Michener.   During the trip over, I wrote a letter almost every day and had an ingrown toenail worked on.  It was that same damned toe nail that got knocked off in Panama.   

There were not enough tables to have everyone eat at the same time so we were scheduled to eat in shifts.  A steward would come through the upper cabin and ring a set of bells and announce which seating was to enter the dinning room.  For the first two meals very few of us could eat anything more than crackers and an apple.  The USNS Geiger was a ship that wallowed as it went up and down and it would just make you sick.  Our buddy Herb Bose took it the worse. was soon in the sick bay on fluids.  He got carried off the ship in Subic Bay and flew on to Vietnam when he recovered.  

This brings me to the story of the "Midnight Surfer."  I walked all over the Geiger and explored as much as I could.  I guess that is what Stubbs did and he kept at it until he discovered a rope on one of the decks during one of his midnight forays around the ship.  He took that rope and hid it is a safe place.  Several days went by and when we were a couple of days out of Subic Bay   we were all sleeping in the middle of the night.  The first thing we knew there was anything wrong was when we were told to go to our lifeboat stations and stay there until a head count was completed.  Standing there, we watched one of the life boats lowered and then brought right back up.  The gossip mill started working about some idiot trying to body surf by lowering himself out a port hole on a rope.  After the count was completed,  we were sent back to bed.  The next day I went to sick bay to have my toe nail checked and there was Stubbs all beat up and bloody.  I asked him what happened and he said that he had lowered himself out of a port hole in the latrine.  On the way down to the water, the rope was wet by the spray and he slipped.  He got a pretty bad rope burn under his arm and when he hit the water it separated his shoulder.  Things were OK for a while until one of the guards on deck heard him holler and the "Man Overboard" alarm was sounded.   Imagine their surprise when they found him hanging from a rope.  

Part 2 tomorrow.

MUD - Ahoy mateys there be evil weevils to be in tomorrows chow story

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful blog!!!

    Hoping to learn a lot from your writings....