The Impressive USS….

..NEW JERSEY (BB-62)

October 1968-Shelling by the USS New Jersey

Like so many in the U.S. Navy, I followed with interest the re-commissioning of the World War II battleship, USS New Jersey, anticipating that it’s massive 16 inch guns might be useful in supporting ground troops in action within range of their enormous capabilities.

In October 1968, the USS New Jersey made its first appearance in the Vietnam War.

Please click on the link for more New Jersey history, as follows:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_New_Jersey_(BB-62)

During the early evening hours of another Terminal Naval Post Office sortie from Camp Tien Sha to the Danang airbase to unload a civilian cargo airliner of its personal mail and packages sent from stateside loved ones, headed for APO/FPO San Francisco mailing addresses, I was sitting on the end of the empty cargo bay of my 5 ton bobtail truck, which was parked in the cavernous, dilapidated Vietnamese hanger we used to break down mail pallets without having to deal with the usual monsoon-like rainstorms.

Suddenly, I felt the ground beneath me shake in the same manner as the earth shook back in Southern California during an earthquake. Moments after, what sounded like thunder was only the concussion from the firing of the large naval rifles. Apparently, the vibration from the impact of the 2000 pound projectiles traveled faster than the sound of firing the guns.

Apparently satisfied that this was not a Vietnamese version of an earthquake, I dismounted the back of my truck and was walking across the interior of the hanger, when another salvo from the impressive battleship reached its target, approximately 10 miles south of Danang. The vibrations from that salvo, then dislodged a large, steel lighting fixture weighing several hundred pounds (constructed in the form of a large grapefruit slicer) from the ceiling of the hanger, causing it to fall directly to the concrete slab below.

Unfortunately, the lighting fixture fell directly on to my intended path across the hanger. Fortunately, Fate had generously prevented me from taking one additional step as the fixture crashed to the ground in front of me. My immediate thought was, had I taken one more step, I would have been crushed and killed by the falling steel fixture. My next thought, after happily realizing that I was still alive, was, “Dang, I wouldn’t have gotten a Purple Heart for that!”

Despite the near miss, I was pleased that the great battleship was being used to destroy the enemy somewhere on that rainy night.

Comments can be made to zakturango@excite.com.

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