Return from Carrier Quals

Return from Carrier Quals

In the early sixties the aircraft carriers at Pearl Harbor docked at the old Battle Ship Row in front of the Arizona Memorial on Ford Island. I was a plane captain on A4Ds in VMA-212 based at Kaneohe Bay on the other side of Oahu from”61” to “63”. On return from one of these qualification cruises and after 20 or 30 hours of constant flight quarters, without a break, we plane captains were tired and dirty and taking a break on the hangar deck in the number two elevator opening. The elevator being up gave a huge picture window to the passing scene as we passed down the “slot” around Ford Island. Somebody broke out a deck of cards and several of us were playing eucre on an overturned box. The ships’ crew had been ordered into dress whites and lined the flight deck, shoulder to shoulder. As we passed outgoing ships the Captain would announce “Attention to Port”, or “Attention to Starboard” and all the swabbies rendered hand salutes to the outgoing ships, which did the same in response with their crews. Needless to say, a bunch of dirty, tired Marines looking at these passing swabbies all spit shined and rested did not appreciate the tradition we were observing. We had our own version of the hand salute that got passed to the outgoing vessels. This made for very astonished expressions from one sub as I recall. Sailors in a row, from fore to aft and up the conning tower, mouths agape at the dirty, green humanoids disrespecting their ship. Anyway, as we rounded Ford Island preparing to dock, the captain announced, “Attention to Starboard” and there coming into view was the new (at the time) Arizona Memorial, flying the stars and stripes as a still commissioned ship of the Navy. Every man jack one of us stood at attention and saluted that beautiful flag and as we passed slowly by and into the slip just in front of the memorial. No way could we not honor those brave men. Still brings a tear to my eye remembering.

Cpl. Norm Spilleth
1960 to 1964

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