New Years 1960

By: J Cooke VMA 121 '59-'61

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!

Sgt Grit wants to hear from you! Leave your comments below or submit your own story!


  • Burger

    8 weeks on MRE’s and UGR’s taste like heaven. One contractor operator would put a can of diced jalapeños in the mac and cheese. Damn, did that taste like REAL food ! Been doing the same ever since coming home.

  • Frank Vanacore

    Remember it well. I was with B-!-7 (B-!-9) on the APA Paul Revere. Only time we had all night liberty, and they cut that short. Spent a few weeks waiting for SEATO to decide what to do. As a squad leader, attended a lot of briefings about the terrain and people of Laos, but nothing came about.

  • Nick van der Does, (Capt. Ret.)

    I was in Korea in ’54/55 at K6 with VMA251, we shared the flight line with VMA121. VMA 212 was across the base as was VMF513.The three VMAs flew AD Skyraiders while 513 flew F3Ds.

  • Bill T

    In 1969 I didn’t cook any of it but I dang sure ate a bunch of it. After living on C-rations for months in Vietnam we were also pulled out and sent to Okinawa. I was with 3/4. To this day I remember Christmas Dinner in Okinawa 1969 as one of the most elaborate Christmas Dinners I ever had. I used to always hear people complaining about military food and how bad it was. Sorry but I don’t remember it that way. Just your average everyday breakfast in the Mess Hall was a true experience. You know life is good when you walk in in the morning and they ask you how you want your eggs cooked and how many.

  • John C. Williamson

    I was a cook with 3/9. First at Vanderbilt Comat Base ( LZ Stud ) in Quang Tri Provence. Then we were pulled out to Okinawa, that was in 1969. For the life of me, I can’t remember the date. But, that Christmas, (1969) we had whole frozen turkeys flown in from the states. We did ” turkey, stuffing, candied yams, black eyed peas and three or four kinds of assorted vegetables, plus salad, and many types of cakes and pies. ” Man, we put out a spread. I do remember that the Okinawaians would steal us blind if we even turned our backs on the food stores, or anything else that wasn’t bolted down. Those were good times. I’ve been cooking for a living since 1968 ( that is when I went to cooks school ). The training I got from the Corps was the stepping stone to the rest of my life. Because of that, I have been able to build a nice living for my wife and daughter. Those four years that I spent as a cook in The Corps were the best ( non-family ) years in my life.

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