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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.

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Burger - June 9, 2020

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 - June 9, 2020

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.) - June 9, 2020

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 - June 9, 2020

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 - June 9, 2020

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.

Floyd white - June 9, 2020

Was with 9th Marines when we were sent to Laos. If memory serves me right we “guarded” a abandoned air strip. Many years later we were awarded the Global Expeditionary medal ….

Dennis Noble - June 9, 2020

I served 2 years, almost to the day, stationed at San Miguel, Philippines. Of that time, as a Marine working with the Naval Security Group I spent 13 months aboard 3 different ships mostly working off the coast of Viet Nam. New Year’s Eve? Christmas? I had to have served through 2 of them while there and, by the life of me, I cannot remember any kind of celebrations. I do remember skipping a stop at Okinawa while aboard the USS Sterett because of Chinese New Year. If we celebrated Christmas or New Year in any big way at all I’m sure I’d have remembered. Being in small detachments aboard these ships perhaps we weren’t privy to any holiday parties. One Christmas and New Year, 1968-69, was spent in port at Yokusuka, Japan but I still don’t recall any celebrations. I guess those were just like any other day while away from home and family. Seemed like that to me any way. This was war time and the military is on duty every day – the enemy doesn’t rest either, I suppose. God bless all the vets out there and hopefully, those that aren’t with us are with Him. Wishing all a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year! God bless the troops! God bless America! A Proud Marine.

William G. Fortune - June 9, 2020

Well we were on liberty in Olangapo at Subic Bay in the Philippines and were all shoved back aboard ship before new years eve on the “Peter Rabbit” (Paul Revere) and the guys wound up doing in 3 to 4 hours what they had planned to do all night. We steamed out of port going as fast as an APA could and met up with a helicopter carrier (don’t remember which) sent some Marines in to Laos to evac an airfield. Then cut holes in the South China Sea. (fun times) I won a “Cruise Book” for the cartoon I did of the event.

W Rusty Lane - June 9, 2020

I was aboard the USS Coral Sea – CVA 43 from 1971 to 1972 on a west PAC cruise to Vietnam. When New Years eve came around, I remember the Sgt. Maj. of our squadron (VMA-224) went on a chopper to DaNang and came back with a load of liquor for each request put in to him for a bottle of this or that (hooch). When he got back to the ship, some squid threw out his seabag and you could hear the glass break. Most everyone got their hooch although I did not partake in such matters aboard ship. I didn’t want to get caught drinking aboard a US Naval vessel. Our squadron Sgt.Maj. didn’t care (yeah, you, Sgt.Maj. Bisessi) if you’re still living. Most of the Marines in the squadron had fun that night aboard ship. Oh yeah, I was in VMA-121 when I first got to Cherry Point in early 1970. Then got transferred to VMA-224 for awhile. Then they sent me to Sub Unit 1, Marine Airbase Squadron 14 at Bogue Field about 9 miles south of Cherry Point. That’s where I spent most of my time in the Marine Corps. I was transferred back to SU-1 MABS-14 Bogue Field, after returning from Vietnam with VMA (AW) – 224.

Jack Henchy - June 9, 2020

I believe I was involved in this same operation,only not on the Coral Sea but some LST. We left the Philippines after maneuvers,boarded the LST and sailed around the South Pacific for two to three weeks.No one ever explained what we were doing there. Later I heard rumors of some kind of action in Laos/Thailand,but nothing definitive I’d love to hear what really was the cause of our “Cruise”.

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