We ( VMA- 121) were aboard the Coral Sea on New Years 1960. We had been at sea for two weeks or so, and expected a great liberty to bring in the New Year. My section caught the duty, so we were aboard that first night in port. At some dark hour that New Years Day morning, the Bosun piped over the speaker, “All hands go to your sea duty stations” ! Looking around our compartment, most of the bunks were empty. We really weren’t going anywhere, most of our guys were missing. After a very short nap, we were blasted again. This time it was the ships’ exec, who admonished that all hands were to go to their sea duty stations, as we were getting underway, immediately. Those of us who were there, dressed and went topside, awaiting further word.
After the sun came up (still boot camp early ) we were ordered to stay clear of the flight deck. Naturally, everyone found a good seat somewhere, and waited for the festivities to start. Very soon the sound of choppers could be heard. These were H 34s, reciprocal engine, Korean war vintage. “Clear the flight deck” , rang out, and a new hustle-bustle for the “good seats” broke out. We spent the day cruising the coast of Okinawa, while the MP’s and Shore patrol rounded up troops from various “places” ashore, and brought them back aboard. The first scene reminded me of a scene in the movie, Mr. Roberts (James Cagney / Henry Fonda / Jack Lemmon). A Marine stepped off the chopper. He was not in proper uniform. (I have photo evidence). As he stepped out of the chopper we saw a young lad dressed in shoes, one sock, skivie drawers w/ T-shirt, and “piss-cutter” hat. Truly a vision. The rest of the “liberty party” were not much better. The communists had invaded Laos New Years eve. The plan was to take the Marine close air support squadrons south, off-load them into Thailand, and support our Army advisors. We were very short timers, with about two months to go to the end of the tour. Someone saw the time remaining, and sent the whole outfit home shortly after this event. As an aside, we were scheduled to make port calls in New Zealand and Australia before our tour was over. All of our Old Salts were telling us stories of liberty there. Unfortunately, we never got to go, we came home.
Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!