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Sea Stories - Recent!!

This sub-page is available for stories of the recent past or even of the distant past. If you think of an incident that you want to share with you Classmates, here’s your chance!!

Your WebMeister will “prime the pump” with a tale of the Seawolves of the Delta.

The Great and Grand Tear Gas Adventure

by Charlie Hall aka Seawolf 96 (OinC, HAL-3, Det Nine)

This adventure started out with some tales that my guys gathered from a guy that knows a guy! And as is often the case, there is a mixture of BS and BM (Bullshit and Black Magic) but they came to me with an idea and we hatched that baby into a plan and then into an OpOrder. Where it started I have no idea but one of my guys came to me and told me that he had, from a reliable source that tear gas (a) comes in droppable canister bombs and (b) that if a known VC hangout were bombed with tear gas while the VC were underground they would endure the discomfort and stay underground or in their bunkers until the gas cleared but if they were above ground they would not be able to get into their caves or bunkers due to the tear gas debilitating their senses and so they would be targets for small arms fire such as we carried.

So that led us to go talk to our US contacts in our OpAreas and zero in on known VC living areas. We chose one such as a target: a wooded and brushy area reported to be concealing a number of bunkers and hootches occupied by the local VC elements. We then set about getting our ducks in a row for a glorious assault on the bad guys when and how they might least expect it. One of my pilots went after the tear gas canister bomb and instructions on how to deliver it manually from a Huey. Another worked on the tactics for the assault flight. And still another worked on the weather conditions for the next few days.

So the plan evolved as follows: First we needed to get clearance from the proper RVN authority and we did that through our US Army POC in the chosen area. That was not hard at all and so we moved ahead. My guy came back with the ordnance and instructions. He briefed us all on how to deploy manually and that part seemed simple. So now we had to check the weather for wind conditions. We wanted winds light and STEADY since we wanted the gas to stay put on and near the ground where we deployed it. And that was the forecast for the following day in the area! Tactically the lead ship would fly a crosswind leg at about 2000 feet just upwind of the target area and deploy the weapon at about the center point of the target. The trail ship would be prepared to provide cover fire if necessary. Then both ships would set up in an oval pattern similar to a holding pattern near a US airport. Once the bomb detonated and the gas dispersed the gunners would put in fire as the target bore in their sights. That way we expected to (a) catch the VC above ground and keep them there and (b) deliver considerable firepower on them while they were unprotected. All seemed fairly simple.

Now it was getting close to Go-No Go day and time and all looked good. I decided to lead the flight and chose one of my most experienced Helo Commanders to man the trail ship. The morning came and still everything looked fine for this mission that was designed to bring death and destruction on hordes of the VC enemy who deserved anything we could inflict upon them. Hell hath no fury like a couple of fully armed Hueys with tear gas canister and enthusiastic gunners. So, we launched, called the appropriate US Liaison Officer, got our clearance meaning that no friendlies were in the area, and proceeded to out mission area. I identified the target area and we proceeded to set up the drop. My gunner would unsafe the weapon and arm the radar fuse to detonate at about 200 feet. That would allow the major weapon to deploy the sub-munitions as the canister fell the rest of the way to the ground.

So here we came, not really full of rum, but certainly looking for somebody to put on the bum, the Armored Huey Detachment! The day was CAVU to the moon, the winds were light and steady, and we approached the target from the upwind side. I flew the crosswind leg and my Head Gunner deployed the tear gas canister on my command. We watched it fall and the trail ship called detonation as they could see the white cloud indications. The smaller munitions scattered out from the canister just as advertised, and all was going well!! We were just a moment away from dealing that death and destruction tour enemies! We set up in the oval pattern just upwind of the target and got ready to open fire.

But as a colleague one told me, ‘Nothing ruins an operation like the order to execute!” Just as we began our first firing run, the dastardly wind shifted almost 180 degrees and picked up a bit. All of a sudden, the gas is blowing in our direction and, since it is colorless, we had no warning and both ships got a huge dose of tear gas. Now I have never been in a demonstration turned riot where tear gas was employed to control the crowd but I became well aware of the effects of a dose of tear gas in a huge hurry. So did all the other crewmembers of both birds!! I had trouble breathing, my eyes were stinging, and my orientation skills were debilitated. All that in a New York second (the time between the light turning green and the cab driver behind you honking his horn!) and I was immediately more concerned with maintaining control of my bird that doing anything about any assault on the enemy!

But, after a few very scary moments, things began to clear up and I was almost OK again, just some nasty, stinging eyes that kept me blinking quite a bit. I was in control of my bird, my trail ship commander was in control of his bird, and we were headed home, a bit disconcerted about our failure to execute our planned mission and wondering how come the wind shifted so fast? Damned Weather-Guessers!! Wind and weather, as all pilots know, can be very devious and tricky, especially when you least expect it. We decided that we would not try that plan again but we all thought as often is the case after events like that and also after a Liberty in a strange port, “At the time, it seemed like a pretty good idea!!”

And another tale of more recent vintage!

Swimming in Georgia

Swimming in Georgia in March 2016!!
by Charlie Hall

It was March of 2016 when I went down to South-eastern Georgia to visit my Classmate and old friend and fishing buddy, Jim Paulk, on what had become an almost annual pilgrimage. I arrived on Saturday, March 19, 2106 and was glad to see Pat and Jim and to see that they were aging like me but hanging tough to mobility and activity. Jim, through one of his Farming Buddies, had been given access to a private pond a number of years before this visit. Jim and I had fished this pond many times before and had taken some very nice fish. Jim and I had each caught large-mouth bass over nine pounds by the scales in previous years. Jim had caught several fish over the years that weighed more than five pounds. So we knew well that the pond held some very nice fish. We were hoping to do even better this year that our existing records.

Before I arrived Jim had acquired a new boat that was a little larger and even fancier than the one we had used in previous years. The boat was designed for comfortable fishing with seats that sat on pedestals about a foot tall. The boat was light and easily maneuverable with the trolling motor that Jim ran from the stern seat. All our trips were, at least in part, shakedown cruises for the new boat as every new mobile acquisition, on land or sea, requires some getting used to. And so we were in the process of learning about the boat and how it handled as well as fishing for some potential trophy Bass. We fished on Saturday afternoon, searching for bass, not only large in mouth but large in size.

Saturday afternoon brought us some fish but nothing of any size, mostly small ones in the one to two pound range. Sunday rolled around and the day was windy from the start. We chose to sit around the house and visit while we waited to see what the day’s weather would bring. Around 3 PM, the wind began to die down some and we decided to give the pond a try. And so we loaded up Jim’s Jeep and off we went in search of the monsters we hoped to find. When we reached the pond the wind was still not as quiet as we would have liked but there were lees (out of the wind) on the far side and so it appeared that we had fishing opportunities near the bass beds that we had seen on earlier trips. For those who do not know, bass beds are places in fairly shallow water on the bottom where the fish have swept away the vegetation and debris with their tails so that hat’s left is a shallow depression in the bottom where the females can lay their eggs and the males can come in and deposit their sperm to fertilize the eggs. Of course, other species think of the eggs as dinner so the males, and sometimes the females as well, will stand guard the keep invaders away. Bass beds are prime fishing spots during the Spring when procreation is under way. And so we headed off across the pond to those sites with hope in our hearts and aggression in our souls.

We fished up and down the far bank working our baits over the beds and the nearby places that looked like where we would be if we were bass. We were using plastic worms that are Jim’s preferred lure for this pond, especially at this time of year. The water temperature was not yet as warm as it will be later in the year and the cooler water tends to make the fish a trifle sluggish. We cast and cast, getting some bites and bringing a few fish to the boat, never even thinking about using the net since the fish caught were way too small to need a net. We just pulled them in close to the boat, grabbed the line and hoisted them aboard to remove the hook and send them on their way to grow up and come back in a few years to be our trophy catches. I recall giving each of them instructions to remember that I had not hurt them and to eat well, grow large, and bite my hook a few years from now when he would be a lot bigger. And so that’s the way the afternoon went until we decided to give up, surrender the pond to the trophy fish, and head for home.

Now a little information is needed here to set the stage properly. The boat gets launched and recovered from the beach by hand and the water just offshore, for a few feet, is shallow. However, it gets deep fast after the first few feet so that 10 yards out the water is normally maybe 12-15 feet deep. That’s important and critical to this tale.

Coming home the boat needs to be driven fairly well up the beach if the First Mate (That’s Me!!) is to get ashore with dry feet to pull the boat up a bit more so that the Captain (That’s Jim!!) can debark gracefully. It helps if the weight in the boat is more to the stern than to the bow so that the bow is angled up a bit to allow the boat to slide up the shore nicely. And so I got out of my seat to move back to where Jim was sitting and running the motor. I was standing up which I lived to regret later on. And so we were moving toward the landing site and about 20 yards out, for some unknown reason, the boat lurched a bit and I lost my balance. At that point, physics took over.

Now, please step over here where the Lord High Executioner can’t hear us while I pontificate a bit about those physics. A floating boat has three centers of interest to us now but not seriously considered at the start of this episode. The Center of Buoyancy is the centroid (central point, so to speak) of the mass of water displaced by the boat and its contents. The Center of Gravity is, for practical purposes, the point at which all the mass can be considered to be located. The Metacentre is the point at which a vertical line above the Center of Buoyancy intersects the line perpendicular to the beam of the boat above the Center of Gravity. The distance between the Center of Gravity and the Metacentre is called metacentric height. All that is important for this discussion is that metacentric height is a measure of stability, large being better than small. When metacentric height, which changes with the heeling of the boat gets too small the boat tips over and does not right itself.

When I stood up and moved aft, the boat Center of Gravity was moved upward, thereby reducing the metacentric height and decreasing the boat’s stability, meaning that the boat was apt to tip a bit under small forces. And that’s what happened. Something caused the boat to lurch and the lurch caused the boat to tip a bit and, since my own center of gravity was definitely higher than the side of the boat, over I went. I think I grabbed at Jim to try to steady myself before I fell in but what happened was that I dragged him off his seat a bit. The boat rolled back the other way after my weight was gone and then rolled again in the direction that I had gone over the side. That happened fast and caught Jim way off balance and over he went. So we were both in the water, the motor was running with the tiller off-center a bit, and the boat was running in circles.

Oh, by the way, neither of us were wearing flotation devices and there was nobody in the boat to throw out the floatation cushion.

I went in head first like Scuba divers entering the water and so I don’t know how far down I went. I next recall working to get upright and get to the surface. I opened my eyes and saw the bottom of the boat directly over me and so I had this flash of fear about the propeller hitting me and slicing me up. It was a new motor and the blades were sharp, indeed!! So I somehow got away from the boat and struggled to the surface, thinking that it took forever to get there and get a breath of air. While I was working on getting to the surface and some much-needed air, I must confess that I was as scared as I have been in a very long time. At the surface I was not able to do very much and I thought that I was going to drown since I did not seem to be making any progress toward swimming and was barely keeping my head above water. After a moment of flailing about I settled down a bit and was able to make swimming motions. My fear abated somewhat since I seemed to be able to make some progress toward forward motion. Then I looked off toward the center of the pond for the boat hoping that Jim would pull me out or, at least, tow me to shore. But immediately I saw that the boat was empty and so I looked for Jim. Off to my left I saw a nose and some sunglasses and so I hollered at him and started toward him, thinking that I not only had to save myself but Jim also. I was not very agile since I was dressed for the cool weather and was wearing my Timberland ankle-high barn boots, jeans, and shirt. Before I got to him he got his head out of the water and started to make swimming motions so then I looked for the boat. It was running in circles and the wind was pushing it toward the shore at the place where we expected to land. The motor worried me because I had thoughts of one of us being hit by the propeller. I managed to swim a little toward the boat, and after a bit, I was able to grab hold of the railing. Then I looked for Jim and saw he was making some progress toward the boat and he was shortly able to get a hold on the boat railing. About that time I felt the bottom as the wind has pushed all of us shoreward while we were flailing about trying to survive. Jim was behind me holding on to the railing and as soon as I could stand up, I pushed the boat closer to the shore. When we were almost there, Jim could stand up and he was able to reach the motor tiller and shut off the motor. Then I could control the boat better and got it beached a little. Jim was able to crawl ashore by holding on to the boat and crawling forward. He got to the beach and, using an older overturned boat as a helper, he got to his feet. I called to him to get to the car and start blowing the horn for help. I was just trying to hold the boat in place and move it up the beach a bit so it would not float off. Once I thought that I had the boat well beached ashore I started moving toward the beach to get out of the water. I fell once while trying to get up and out of the water but that was only a minor setback.

Now the private pond belongs to David Brazell and his family, and luckily, it was late afternoon and David was home. The horn soon brought him down to where we were huffing and puffing, just glad to be out of the water. He took over and helped us to get ourselves together. He told us that he would take care of the boat, our gear, and everything. He said that he would charge the battery so that we could fish again when we were ready and sent us on our way home. However, he also delivered a strong ruling saying that we had been fishing for the last time without wearing a flotation device. WEARING, he said. Jim and I were easy to convince and we swore an oath, even more powerful than blood or pinky-swear. We swore on our wet clothes and soggy shoes that we would never venture aboard any boat smaller than a Destroyer Escort without actually wearing a flotation device.

What we got back to Jim’s house we had to face Pat. If we even thought about making up some story to explain our wet clothes, we soon dropped it and fessed up to our mis-adventure. Pat collected our wet clothes and put them in the washer. I rinsed out my barn boots that were muddy inside and out and set them in the garage to dry. A reasonable estimate was that I would be able to wear them again about the Fourth of July!!

And so us Boys in our Eighties managed to survive what was a very harrowing experience. I was both scared for myself and terrified for Jim, especially when I first saw him in the water and nothing but nose and sunglasses were above water. Later I was far less than confident that I could swim to the boat that was being driven away from me by the wind. Second Class endurance swimming at the Academy came to my rescue because I learned back then that I could do a whole lot more even after I thought I was exhausted. After I got to the boat I thought that I would have to swim out to get hold of Jim since he was having trouble getting moving toward the boat. He did manage to get going and got to the boat OK. We did make it to shore and I have no idea how long the whole thing took but it was a really bad time for me until we were both out of the water. And so the Second Battalion Fishing Team finished up that Sunday afternoon, a sadder but wiser bunch. We had a long think and a short talk about landing the boat techniques. Needless to say, nobody stands while the boat is moving anymore. We fished more later on and set on-going records for continuous days without anybody falling overboard and that record continues to climb, perhaps not suitable for Guinness Book but clearly good for us.