Category Archives: Navy

Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make

DiAndGeneBeckstrom

Perhaps it’s my age.

In recent years I’ve been accumulating some new friends, like Gene Beckstrom above.

I met Gene a few short years ago at a Navy ship reunion in 2013. Gene was a WW-II Navy veteran who served from 1943-46 on one of those small destroyers – they call them “tin cans” because that’s kind of how they are built. Fast but fragile when under attack by enemy ships or a howling sea.  But the young men aboard were as tough as steel.

Then in 1946 Gene joined the Army, and in June 1950 his unit was called to the Pusan Perimeter to stave off the North Korean invasion of South Korea. Gene was  a Combat Engineer and fought that brutal war up and down the Korean peninsula.

Gene served 20 years in the Army, including a short stint in Vietnam.

On retirement Gene went back to school and became a Baptist pastor serving the northern Minnesota border region where he and his wife started 19 ministries over a 25 year span.

You can’t help but fall in love with these guys … these guys from that “greatest generation.” They saved freedom in the world by pushing back … by resisting  the tyrannies of their day.  Pushing back and resoundly defeating Fascism, Nazism and Communism.

I put Gene on my call list and would call him now and then. Around Christmas time I got my phone out to call a few of these old friends. I knew that one of those times I would dial and there would be no answer.

As I picked up my phone, Gene’s was the first number. I knew and was thinking it at the time I dialed “one of these times I would call and Gene wouldn’t be there.”

These are the Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make.

SamThomas1SamThomas2

Sam Thomas served on the USS Porterfield DD-682 with Gene Beckstrom through those many sea battles of the South Pacific. I met Sam at that 2013 ship reunion.

Sam, as far as I can tell was the founder of the Balch/Porterfield reunion association and had attended 40 straight reunions to 2015. He called me a month or so prior to the 2016 reunion and told me his body just wouldn’t allow him to make 41.

I talked with Sam just after learning of Gene’s passing late in 2016, and then again just a week or two prior to his passing in January 2017.  A real gentleman … a friend and a shipmate although we served on Porterfield two decades apart.

These are the Phone Calls I Don’t Like To Make.

Bitter-sweet friendships. Sweet in knowing them … bitter in knowing the friendship would be short.

Don Johnson – March 2017

Middlebury’s Statement of Principle

Middlebury College students protest Charles Murray, March 2. Photo: Associated Press

Middlebury College students protest Charles Murray, March 2. Photo: Associated Press

Middlebury’s Statement of Principle

[Note from Don Johnson – author of this blog Read what many of my generation thought about such actions by clicking the link below – AYFP]

https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/02/02/i-may-not-agree-with-what-you-are-saying-but-i-will-defend-to-the-death-your-right-to-say-it/

Learning is possible only where free, reasoned and civil speech is respected.

By Jay Parini  and  Keegan Callanan  March 6, 2017 7:36 p.m. ET   615  COMMENTS

WSJ | 2017-03-07T00:36:00.000Z

Middlebury, Vt.

On Thursday roughly 100 of our 2,500 students prevented a controversial visiting speaker, Charles Murray, from communicating with his audience on the campus of Middlebury College. Mr. Murray was silenced by loud chants and foot-stomping; the commotion lasted nearly half an hour before college officials moved him to a private room to deliver his address into a camera. But even the simulcast to the auditorium was silenced by more protests and multiple fire alarms.

As Mr. Murray was leaving, a group of as-yet-unidentified assailants mobbed him and seriously injured one of our faculty colleagues. In view of these unacceptable acts, we have produced a document stating core principles that seem to us unassailable in the context of higher education within a free society. Many colleagues have joined us by signing their names to this document; the full list of signatories is available online. [Emphasis – AYFP]

***

The principles are as follows:

Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.

Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.

The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.

The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.

Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.

Students have the right to challenge and even to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.

A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.

No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.

No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.

The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.

The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.

The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.

A good education produces modesty with respect to our own intellectual powers and opinions as well as openness to considering contrary views.

All our students possess the strength, in head and in heart, to consider and evaluate challenging opinions from every quarter.

We are steadfast in our purpose to provide all current and future students an education on this model, and we encourage our colleagues at colleges across the country to do the same.

***

The list of signatories is available at FreeInquiryBlog.wordpress.com.

Mr. Parini is a professor of English and Mr. Callanan a professor of political science at Middlebury College.

Copyright ©2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Crass Capitalist Marketing Campaign – Part 1

You’ve seen Springsteen’s memoir — look at mine, it’s more interesting — see below.

____________________________________

It’s time for a crass Capitalist marketing  campaign – meaning I’m trying to sell a few of my books here. So take a look and if you see something you like, buy 40 or 50 copies to give away to your friends and relatives — or at least one for  yourself.

They’re really good.

First watch the following video which is a companion to the book which follows:

Life at sea

And here is the book:

http://www.blurb.com/books/6608466-i-didn-t-want-to-worry-you-mom

image

Then there is this dystopian short story I wrote a few years back.

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/5113602-the-old-man-in-apartment-620

image

And now along with Bruce Springsteen,  I’ve written my own memoir:

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http://www.blurb.com/books/7249256-a-yearning-for-publius

 

YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

An interesting story from my old shipmate and new Hungarian friend.

 

MrvonD3VonD Navy

YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN

by Adam von Dioszeghy

Fifty years is a long time. People die. Generations die. Babies are born. Buildings are torn down and new ones go up. Ships are scrapped and new ones launched. Some types of music pass out of favor and others rise to the top. Old habits cease and new ones take hold. In general, things change.

Most of us don’t like change; at least, we don’t like those things to change that we have not only become accustomed to but that we like a lot. And yet, change is inevitable, like it or not. The hardest thing to take is the unexpected change of something that you would have sworn would never change. You go into a thing, expecting it to be JUST as you knew it and….bam! it’s gone. Or it is now something totally different than what it used to be, than what you knew it to be.

I served as a Naval officer in the conflict know as the “Vietnam War”. It started in 1964 and ended in 1975. I was involved in the front end, on a destroyer (USS Porterfield DD682); my last deployment was in 1967, on the same old destroyer. When my tour ended, I said my good byes in Yokosuka, Japan, flew back to the US – to be specific, to Travis Air Force Base in Northern California – went to law school, practiced law and lived another kind of life. But I never forgot Vietnam or the Navy. As hard as the experience was, it left an indelible mark on my life and on my persona. I still say, “say again” instead of, please repeat it, or “you’re coming in garbled and unreadable” instead of, I didn’t understand you, and “we’ve been rotating and radiating” instead of, we’ve been moving about aimlessly. When we are getting ready to go somewhere, I say, “single up all lines”. Fortunately, my wife understands me and my idiosyncracies. This speaks volumes for her and her kindness.

In 2000, we moved back to the land of my birth, Hungary. The Navy faded further and further back in my mind. But – as tangents go – it never quite reached the point of being completely forgotten. Some of the Navy pictures still hang on the walls. My old “official” Navy baseball cap is still around, and I still wear it; it has the name of my ship and my name, rank and position (ASW or Anti-Submarine Warfare officer) on it. It has survived 50 years of use and abuse. Not like some other things…but I’m getting ahead of my story.

In 2016, Aliz and I decided that it was time to visit our old homeland, the U.S.of A. We had not been there since 2009. Our last home was in Napa Valley, California, so that was the major destination we had in mind. But we had friends all over the State, so we made arrangements to see as many of them as possible. One such friend was Martha, the widow of one of my shipmates on the Porterfield. In fact, he was not just a shipmate but my superior officer, as he was head of the Weapons Department, ASW being a part thereof. He was also the best friend I had on the ship. He left the Porterfield late in 1966 to pursue a Naval career, which he managed to do excellently…as he did most things. Sadly, he died after a short illness, battling pancreatic cancer, in 1999. Aliz and I kept in touch with Martha, his widow. So, as we planned our journey, we decided to include a trip to San Diego to visit her.

The Porterfield was homeported in San Diego. Although Martha and Todd lived in various places in the States, they returned there when he retired, and she still resides there.

The San Diego Naval Base has always been a big and important one, and it has stayed that way even after some down-sizing by the Navy. The destroyers and cruisers of the fleet were “housed” at the “32nd Street Naval Station”. I had many wonderful memories of the base; well, not so much of the base itself, as its Officers’ Club, affectionately referred to as “O Club”. Rarely did a day go by when – after “libs” began (for you non-Navy types, that is the commencement of liberty…usually about 16:00 hours…or 4 p.m.) – the officers would gather at the O Club for a few drinks (one, two, seven or eight) and for discussions of the disgusting habits of the CO (Commanding Officer) or the XO (Executive Officer) or the idiotic ways of the Navy. When the ship would go out for excercises on Monday morning, and return Friday afternoon, it was inevitable that all officers (not on duty) would gather at the O Club, occasionally even joined by wives and/or girlfriends. From time to time, such gatherings would “deterriorate” into dinner, and a very late night, indeed. Cops, way back then, were a little more forgiving of drunk driving, especially by “warriors”. I’m happy to report that there were never any accidents, let alone ones with death or injury attached. God looks after fools, little children and – apparently – drunken Naval officers. As a personal aside, on one occasion, our ship came back after a particularly difficult and trying week at sea, and was followed by an unusually enthusiastic evening of drinking and dining, with even more than the usually copious amount of imbibing. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that the next morning – a Saturday – I had to take the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) on Point Loma at a unversity there. When the test began, I was not even hung over: I was still inebriated. For reasons only known to the Man Upstrairs, I got a high score on the test, and managed to get admitted into Stanford Law School. Apologies for the digression….

So, as you see, the O Club was an essential part of my Naval experience. And as memories would occasionally surface, it featured prominently in my recollections. However, the distance to Hungary and our very infrequent trips to the US reduced the chances of ever seeing my beloved O Club again. And then came the visit of 2016.

Before going to visit Martha, Aliz and I decided to stay a couple of days at a hotel in downtown San Diego and see some old sights. And, of course, go to the O Club for a drink, “strolling down memory lane”; Aliz had heard so much about the place, I desperately wanted her to come and re-live a few moments with me in that iconic place.

Of course, San Diego had also changed in 50 years. There were new freeways criss-crossing it, new high-rises, changing views and the redesign of the center of town, making recognition of old things difficult. As Aliz and I sat in a downtown bar, I asked the bartender if he was local. He shook his head…he was new in town. So I said,

“Then, I guess, You wouldn’t know how to get to 32nd street from here?”

Before he answered, a nice young man, sitting at the end of the bar, with a baseball cap turned backwards on his head, said to me,

“Do you mean the Naval Base?”

I lit up like a lamp.

“Yeah, the 32nd Street Naval Station!”, was my enthusiastic reply. The young man pulled out his smart phone, punched in some data, and commenced telling me how to get to it, using some freeways. I was so happy I could have danced a jig. It looked like Fate wanted us to go memory-hunting. I couldn’t wait till the next afternoon so we could make our pilgrimage.

The next afternoon came, and my excitement rose to new heights. I told story after story to Aliz about those wonderful times at the O club so many years ago. How every time one of us “made rank” (being promoted to a higher rank), he had to host a “wetting down party” for all the other officers in the wardroom….a financial “hit” of no inconsiderable measure to his pocket book. She hid her boredom well, and was waiting to see and experience the “scene of the crimes” herself. I followed the instructions of my young friend of the previous day and made the approach to the gate of the base. I tried to search my memory to see if anything looked familiar, but the surrounding area had changed too much. The entry, which was quite active and busy back in the 60s, seemed much less so; and yet, there was a line of cars waiting to enter. Finally, I pulled up to the Marine sentry.

My heart was beating pretty fast as I handed the Marine my Navy i.d. card. The card was dated Sept. 21, 1968, and the accompanying photo was of the same vintage. It took some imagination to match the face of the 30 year-old officer, staring back at you – with a decidedly military look – with the face of the 77 year-old geezer sitting at the wheel of the car seeking entry. However, the old i.d card had “indefinite” for the expiration date, so the card was – technically! – valid. The Marine stared at the card, as if he was looking at a ghost. He looked at the photo and then he looked at me. Finally, his hand flew to his cap in a salute.

“Good afternoon, Sir. May I help you?” Deja vu was all over me. The spool of time was being rewound.

“Good afternoon, Marine”, I replied. “I haven’t been on this base since the Vietnam War….almost 50 years ago. Can you direct me to the Officers’ Club so I can show my wife where we had about the only fun back in those long-gone, hard days”, I continued. “I have forgotten where it is.”

There was a pause, and the Marine – still standing at attention – slowly replied.

“I’m afraid, Sir, that there is no longer an Officers’ Club on this base.”

I was stunned. I couldn’t have heard right. WHAT? NO OFFICERS’ CLUB ON A NAVY BASE??? I almost didn’t know what to say to him. Then I gathered my wits about me and turned back to him.

“Where do the officers do their drinking when the ship ties up after a hard week of exercises at sea?” I asked.

“I’m afraid I don’t know , Sir….all I know is that there is no Officers’ Club on this base….hasn’t been one since women entered the Navy fighting force. Now, I don’t know if the two events are connected…”, said the Marine. I shook my head and continued my seemingly hopeless task (meanwhile, the line behind me was getting longer, but no one honked the horn): “Do you mean to tell me that you can’t even have a BEER on this base??!!” The laconic answer was: “I’m afraid you can’t, SIR!”

I was devastated. There was nothing else I could do. My wife was remarkably silent and placid beside me. I straightened in my seat (as much as I could), and said to the Marine:

“Thank you, Marine…I’m sorry I bothered you.” The Marine straightened – which was unnecessary being that he was as straight as could be – tightened his salute and said, in parting:

“No problem, SIR! And I’m sorry, SIR! I understand how you feel, Sir. And, thank you for serving in ‘Nam, SIR!” My hand flew to my coverless head, and my salute was as snappy as his. I put the car in gear, negotiated a U-turn and headed out the gate. The folks behind me probably wondered what that was all about. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell that any of them could have guessed.

Aliz and I did not speak until we were back on I-5, heading north. She must have know how I felt and did not want to disturb my thoughts. I looked at her – her face reflecting the setting sun – and I thought that her eyes were a bit more moist than usual. I smiled, as our eyes met, and said:

“Thomas Wolfe couldn’t have said it better: ‘You can’t go home again'”.

I got just a little drunk that night in a nice, civilized, civilian bar.

 

More of Adam von Dioszeghy (Mr. von D as we called him back then) here:

http://www.amazon.com/BRIDGING-TWO-WORLDS-Memories-Reflections/dp/1622878663/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

BRIDGING TWO WORLDS: A Book Report & a Friend

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This is a story of a life. The life of a shipmate of mine on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) — Adam von Dioszeghy.

Mr. VonD as he was called in the mid 1960s (1964-67) was our Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) officer. He was also the Officer in charge down in IC-Plot where he and I served elbow-to-elbow during General Quarters. He was a crazy and fun man to be around, and since he had a “von” in his name and an accent I always thought he was Dutch.

This book is much more than Adam’s Navy remembrances. It begins with 7 year old Adam and his mother in the bomb shelter basement of their Budapest Hungary apartment building during World War II with war raging all around them — from the bombers above and the Germans and Russian Red Army across and down the street.  It continues post war with life under brutal Communist rule and continues to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution when young teenage Adam is twice wounded and he and his mother have to flee the country with nothing but the clothes on their back.
They eventually make it to the US, speaking no English at all, where Adam gets a University degree from Stanford and then joins the Navy and is assigned to Porterfield where I knew him — not very well because he was an officer an I was enlisted.
Following his Navy service Adam returns to Stanford where he gets a Law degree and practices law in California for many years.
He and his wife moved to Hungary about 7-10 years ago and have a small 7 acre farm where they enjoy life and make home-made Hungarian wine. I hope some day to be sitting with them with my wife sipping some of that wine and enjoying the Hungarian countryside and their company.
I hooked up again with Adam recently through the magic of my 1966 WestPac cruise book and the internet. We have been corresponding with each other via email — after all these years he is my very first pen pal.
I highly recommend Adam’s book. It is a man’s life written in a very readable style — much humor and much attention to detail that is amazing to read. It’s much more than a man’s Navy experiences and covers a young 7 year old boy in the midst of the carnage of WW-II, life under Communist rule; the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and escape in the middle of the night. It tells of a young man and his mother assimilating as refugees into a brand new country and culture, having to learn the new language as they go, the adventures lived, and successes achieved along the way.
An amazing book by an amazing man making a new life in a new world — and no, he’s not Dutch.

MrvonD3VonD Navy

Here’s a link to the book, now go buy it!

BRIDGING TWO WORLDS: Memories and Reflections

On old long syne — 2015

600px-John_Masey_Wright_-_John_Rogers_-_Robert_Burns_-_Auld_Lang_Syne
(click on the image above)

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne*?
CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
CHORUS
We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.
CHORUS
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.
CHORUS
And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auld_Lang_Syne

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to1xT93IlUI

Should auld acquaintance be forgot  … ?

Pushing on to 72 years means many “auld acquaintance’s” there behind me, but with fewer coming along with me.

It’s been a good life!  … Easy?  Well in a very broad sense yes it has been easy, but there are those times, in the midst of it all, when it has seemed hard and troublesome.

But then I think on the many “auld acquaintance’s” and I am indeed a very grateful and blessed man. Blessed by God with much family — parents who loved me and raised me with love … a wonderful woman, a wife, as a lifelong companion, lover  and friend  … a wonderful son and wonderful daughter (I love you both!) … three wonderful grandchildren … and two brothers.

And the other family spread out all over this amazing nation and across the world. Father in law, mother in lay, brothers and sisters in law, aunts & uncles – cousins aplenty, both mine and Diana’s. I love and have loved them all.

Friends – some lifelong and some new. Friends across this fruited land and far away places like The Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Hungary, Fiji, Zambia, Italy, South Africa.

In 2015 I was amazingly able to renew some truly “auld acquaintance’s.” Old meaning from the days of my youth and  early adulthood:

Here are a few:

________________

Coach Sam Jankovich.

Coach SamCoachSam now 

You can read about Coach Sam’s storied career at the link above, but let me tell you the story of how he and I are connected and how we became reconnected this past year. 

Sam and I are Butte Montana natives, and after having gone our separate ways following high school, I didn’t give much thought to Sam, and I’m sure he could not have remembered me as an undistinguished skinny high school kid.

But then a few years ago Sam’s son Sam bought the iconic M&M bar in Butte and set out to reestablish it a watering hole in uptown Butte.

Young Sam

A few years ago while visiting Butte we met young Sam in the M&M, had a beer and exchanged pleasantries. Sam brought us to the back of the bar where he had a “Sam Jankovich Hall of Fame” display with many mementos of his father.

While looking at all of this stuff I mentioned to Sam that I remembered his dad from Butte High. Sam, expecting I was perhaps a football jock, was surprised and laughed when I told him that his dad taught me typing.  That’s right … Coach Sam, football legend,  also taught typing, and I am forever grateful for that skill.

Sam gave me his dad’s phone number in Haydon Lake Idaho and said “give him a call. So I tucked the number in my wallet for a couple of years.

Then in August 2015, while walking a trail in Idaho not far from Sam’s place in Haydon Lake, I took that number from my wallet and called:

Coach: Hello …
Me: Hello Mr. Jankovich (you should always address a teacher as Mr. Miss or Mrs.)  This is Don Johnson, you may remember me from your days at Butte High.
Coach: Well the name sounds familiar … (he’s thinking football.)
Me: You’re perhaps thinking I’m one of your players, but actually Mr. Jankovich I remember you as my typing teacher.
Coach: “ … laughter … ”
Me: “ … laughter … ” I’m in your neighborhood for awhile, and it would sure be nice to see you again.
Sam: Well what a surprise. Tell ya what, I’m going to Butte this weekend, and if you are still around next week when I get back why don’t you come on over and we’ll have a drink and talk Butte.
Me: Sounds like a plan, I’ll call next week.
Sam: Ya know I hear from my players now and then, and sometimes we get together. But you are the very first of my typing students to ever give me a call … laughter … laughter.

So the next week I visited Sam at his house and we had a cup of coffee and talked Butte. And as I was leaving he said “next time bring your wife … I’d like to meet her.”

_____________

Major Mark (Foxy) Foxwell

Foxwell1MarkFoxwell-1_2004

Mark Foxwell was the Air Force Officer in Charge at Tyndall AFB Florida in 1977 when we installed the ACMI range there. We worked with him on an almost daily basis back then and he was one class act and fun to be around, to say nothing about how helpful he was in coordination things we both needed.  The following is the e-mail I sent to him recently, followed by his reply.

Hi “Foxy” It’s been many a year, but we worked together at the ACMI at Tyndall. I was part of the Cubic crew that installed the range back in 1977.
I think of those days every now and then, and they were good times … and I remember working with you with your dedication and good hummer.
Your name came up last night in one of those strange “small world” events. My daughter’s friend Krissy was at our house baking Christmas cookies and they took a break to make some Red Beans & Rice. It smelled really good and I made the remark that it reminded me of my days in Panama City with my old friend Ed Burdik. Krissy perked up and said “you were in Panama City? That’s where I was born … my dad was a F-106 pilot stationed at Tyndall.” And as it turned out we were all there together at the same time.
I don’t know her dad’s name, but when I find out I will send it to you per chance you may know one another.
Another name that came up was Skip Sanders. I knew Skip over the years as I continued working Cubic Air Ranges and we would run into one another on occasion.
I don’t know what you did following Tyndall, but you may be interested in knowing a bit about what happened to ACMI in the subsequent years. You can take a look at http://www.cubic.com and see the latest. The last project I worked, in 2009, was what is called P-5 and handles 72 aircraft and the pretty much the entire battle space (computer technology is wonderful).
And I put together my own remembrances and history of the system and its people at: https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/interesting-people-i-have-met-cubic-defense-systems/
It’s good to see your face once more.
Regards,
Don Johnson

Mark’s reply:

Wow, Don, what a pleasant surprise to hear from you. Working with you and Cubic on the ACMI helped really propel my career; I got promoted early after that stint at Tyndall, later became IWS Commander, then on to Europe and F-16s. I retired as the Tyndall Base Commander in late 1992. I do not recognize Krissy; but certainly I relished knowing and working with Skip Sanders. Thank You for contacting me. Let’s keep in touch.

________________

Jack Hix

JackHix2JackHix3Jack Hix FT SeamanJackHix4

Jack and I were Fire Control Technicians (FTG) who operated and maintained the equipment associated with controlling the five 5” guns we had on board. We served together on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) in 1965-66 and then did our active reserve duty from 1966-69 on board the USS Shields (DD-596) also  a Fletcher class tin can.

We were both married, and had apartments off base and were quite good friends during those years. But as time moved on we went our separate ways and lost contact with one another.

Then in recent weeks I was able to contact Jack via Facebook. Not much conversation yet, but hopefully that will change and I hope to see Jack at the 2016 ship reunion in San Diego where he still lives.

___________

LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy (Mr. vonD)

VonD NavyMrvonD3

Adam von Dioszeghy was the ASW (Anti-Submarine-Warfare) Officer during the time I was on the USS Porterfield (DD-682) in 1965-66. Mr. vonD was also the Officer in Charge of IC-Plot during General Quarters, and we spent a good deal of time together side by side, along with Jack Hix,  running the Fire Control Computer. Mr. vonD, being the officer also had the responsibility for actually pulling the triggers which shot our matched set of 5 –  5”/38 Caliber guns.

My normal underway watch station was the Bridge watch where I actually took my turn as helmsman and steered the ship as well as phone talker, look-out and Lee Helmsman where I relayed ship speed to the engine rooms via an Engine Order Telegraph. Mr. vonD was one of the Officers of the Deck, and and we worked together there as well.

The following is the e-mail message where we hooked up again after almost 50 years:

Hello Mrs. Von Dioszeghy,
I hope you get this message, and I hope I have the right people to send this to.
I was in the Navy back in 1965-66 on board the USS Porterfield (DD-682) and at one of my General Quarters stations in a place called IC-Plot was this crazy guy LTJG Adam von Dioszeghy who was the officer in charge in that space and the guy that actually pulled the gun triggers. I was an FT Seaman at the time and made FT 3’rd class on the Porterfield.
If he is the guy, it would b e great to say hello once more after all these years.
My wife and I and another couple from Ridgecrest CA visited Hungary several years ago and enjoyed it very much. We spent a week at Keszthely, and then a week at Budapest. We enjoyed our time in both places very much, and at Keszthely met a couple of Americans that snow bird between Tucson and Keszthely.
Looking at your pictures, it looks like you have a lovely place and a good life.
In recent years, I have rekindled a passionate interest in things Navy and have published a book and put together a video of life at sea. You can see them at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sloZqBsalZc
and
http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/6608466-i-didn-t-want-to-worry-you-mom?class=book-title
The Porterfield has had reunions for 40 years now, and my wife and I have attended the last three and have met and re-met sailors and family going back to 1943 through 1969 — it’s been an amazing experience for me.
I am in charge of organizing the 2016 reunion in San Diego next September, and if ya’ll are the Von Dioszeghys I think you are, we would love to see you there. I know it’s a long shot, but hey if the question is never asked, the answer is always no. Short of that, a greeting from Adam would be most welcomed by the group.

And his response:

Hi Don…yes indeed, I am the one and only crazy guy in IC-plot. As you may recall, everyone called me Mr. vonD. I’d like to keep in touch with you, so here is my e-mail (better than Facebook): xxxxxxxxx@yyyy.com. I also have written a book, which contains a number of Porterfield stories: the link to it has already been sent to you. I will order your book right now….can’t wait to read it. I loved your video about life at sea (and the story of the Murphy which I didn’t know). I have just looked through my 1965 cruise book and found the picture of second division, but I don’t know where you are in it…please tell me the row and the number (I’m sure you have the cruise book). I’m looking forward to hearing from you VERY SOON! Happy New Year! Adam von Dioszeghy

It turns out that Adam was a Hungarian refugee who escaped in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution. Years later in 2005 he and his wife bought a small farm outside of Budapest and now live there.  Someday I’m hoping they will invite us over to sip a bit of their home made wine and chat a bit.

________________

So there you have it from the end of 2015. I enjoy life, and I enjoy learning the life stories of others. I hope you have enjoyed my time travel with a few of my auld acquaintance’s

Don Johnson – December 2015

 

 

What Course to Make Good 1SD?

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That’s Balch with USS Yorktown at Midway.

“What Course to Make Good 1SD?”

Will I ever forget that “interrogative (query)”?  It was early 1965 and I was a young Seaman standing my first bridge watch as the USS Porterfield (DD-682) departed San Diego for local ops.

But that’s not the question from the Officer of the Deck (OOD) I heard that day as the phone talker between the Bridge and the Combat Information Center (CIC) . What I heard was “Ask Combat:  yadayada – yadaompah –nyatnyat?”  Embarrassed to admit I had no idea what the OOD said, I talked into the Sound Powered Phone and said “Combat Bridge: blahblahblay –yadayaday—yada?”

The OOD again: “That’s not what I said!  — Ask Combat: … nyatnyat – yadayada – yadaompah?”

Even more embarrassed, and intimidated beyond belief and still not able to understand, I again opened the mike and blurted out “Combat bridge: nyatnyat – yadayada – yadaompah?”

The OOD again:That’s not what I said!  — “. But this time he picked up the handset and said – “Combat Bridge – what course to make good 1SD?” 1SD being the designation of the outermost navigation buoy encountered  when entering or leaving San Diego harbor. The OOD was asking how to steer the ship successfully out of the harbor. (Was he messing with my head a bit?)

Jargon – it’s important!  Details – they’re important!

____

Now these many years later it’s my turn for the “interrogative:”

“What Course to Make Good 1SD?”

We have the 41’st annual reunion of the USS Balch/USS Porterfield coming up in mid September 2016 … and yes it will be in San Diego. So I am asking all you sailors of those two fine ships – families – friends – those just getting out of the cold … “set your course to 1SD”  Only this time that navigation buoy will mark our return once more, and the arrival will be a runway, parking lot or a train station – not a pier.

At the last reunion in Denver I was surrounded by a bunch of mean looking old salts carrying rubber hoses, swabs and coffee cups and was told in no uncertain terms that I was to be the OOD for the upcoming 41’st reunion. 

Well I was just a lowly enlisted guy and had no experience conning a ship, let alone a ship reunion.  For all I knew my job was to swindle a bunch of drunken sailors out of their paycheck (but those rubber hoses still bothered me a bit).

So the first thing I did was find someone a whole lot smarter than me and turn him loose as Quartermaster.

So I quickly found this guy Rob Wallace in San Diego who has been doing this reunion thing for over 20 years and has organized over 700 military (mostly Navy) over that time in San Diego. Rob and I have e-mailed back and forth and did this talker thing several times, me being Bridge and Rob being Combat. Anyway Rob is putting together what I think will be a fantastic and very enjoyable reunion package for us.

The details are still in work, and Diana and I will be traveling to 1SD (San Diego) mid January to check out and pick one of three hotels that Rob has identified.  Following that, I think we will be ready to publish the schedule and details – probably February would be my estimate.

I know some of you have not been to San Diego in many years, and others like myself called it home after our Navy life. But remember this:

All of us have San Diego Navy roots.

 

 

Don Johnson – December 2015

Heroes

I ran across this memorial in Port Townsend Washington the other day. It honors Marvin Shields, a Medal of Honor sailor and Navy CB, who was born and raised in this small Washington town along Puget Sound. I was attracted to this memorial because I served on the USS Shields (DD-596) as a reservist out of San Diego back in the mid-late 1960s – but a different Shields. (click on the photo)WP_20150818_12_27_34_Pro

This was just days after I met a fellow at the 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Western Montana along I-90 and the Clark Fork River. This fellow was about my age (~70), a little rough looking along the edges with a grey pony tail, a denim vest and a head scarf showing he was a Vietnam Vet. In talking with this fellow I learned that he had spent 3 years in Vietnam in the early 70s as an Army Medevac pilot.

I got thinking about this guy and his time in the Army in those days. He may not have looked the part, but this guy was a real hero. He undoubtedly saved many a soldier and Marine, and most likely also saw many who didn’t make it back alive and whose names are written on “The Wall”  in DC. This pilot risked his life every time he took off in that medevac hello in a race to save lives.

Marvin Shields was one of those who was medevac’d out but didn’t make it back, and died in that place far away from Port Townsend.

Along with the Medal of Honor, Shields had a ship named after him — meet USS Marvin Shields (FF-1066).

USS Marvin Shields (FF-1066)

Thank you Marvin Shields – and all others who gave the full measure.

Don Johnson – August 2015

In Defense of the VA

[From the wilds of Northern Idaho]

image

I’ve recently enrolled in the VA in Connecticut, and am happy to report that I am pleased with what they have offered me thus far.

Background

I served in the Navy back in the mid-late 1960s including one deployment to Vietnam aboard an old WW-II Fletcher class destroyer.

Following my active duty, I was able to complete a college degree with the help of the GI Bill, and later we financed our first house through a VA loan.

But in the years to follow I pretty much lost any contact with the VA.

Then several years ago at a ship reunion, a former shipmate encouraged me to enroll in the VA – Mike was severely injured aboard  our ship when a wave washed over the fantail and sent Mike crashing into various metal parts and up against the safety netting at the edge of the ship.

Mike cautioned me that the VA consists of two parts; the administrative part and the medical part, and that they don’t necessary talk to one another and thus I would have to be, for the most part, my own advocate.  This turned out to be true as follows:

When I first applied in person I was rejected based on a means test, but was told that if I could qualify as a “brown water” sailor then I would be able to enroll. This started a long process of tracking down my service records that went on well over a year across several Navy agencies.

The biggest problem I had was that my requests for records and status updates were passed back and forth between Virginia and St. Louis where each claimed that the other was the responsible agency.

In frustration after more than a year of this game of administrative ping-pong, I went back to the same office where I originally applied, seeking some sort of advocacy. The lady behind the desk became my advocate, especially when I showed her what she referred to as my “me book” containing all of my service records in a three ring binder.  These records showed that I was indeed a “brown water sailor.”

A “brown water sailor” is one who served in the inland waterways and harbors of Vietnam, and the reason we are called that is primarily because of Agent Orange that was used extensively as a defoliant, and was washed into the rivers and streams. Our ship sat at anchor for several days in Da Nang harbor for Naval Gun Fire Support, and while there we took on fresh water from barges. This water was used for washing down the ship, showering, cooking, brushing teeth, washing clothes and other uses, so we were potentially ingesting Agent Orange during this time and for several days after leaving Da Nang. This exposure to Agent Orange qualified me for enrollment in the VA health care system.

My time at the Connecticut VA

The Connecticut VA is affiliated with the Yale University School of Medicine and the University of Connecticut Schools of Medicine and Dentistry

My time with the VA has been impressive in the quality and timeliness of the service there. The problems and scandals associated with the VA  in recent years have been well publicized, and I can’t speak to those issues hear. But I can describe the sort of service I receive at the VA in West Haven, Connecticut.

Once enrolled, my primary doctor set me up with a wide range of appointments as I describe below:

Audiology:

Like many my age, hearing has taking to the door and is exiting my life far faster than I would have liked.

I’ve worn hearing aids for 6+ years now and am on my second set. Life without them is a real chore and I miss so much of what used to be a vital part of the life experience. Hearing aids are an amazing device, but by no means replace original equipment.

So when offered an appointment at the VA audiology center I couldn’t pass it up to see what options I might have. My current aides are still under warranty, so the doctor advised that I keep what I have until the warranty expires and then come in for a new pair. She also gave me a list of the vendors they use, about six or eight as I recall.  When researching the options available throughout the various manufactures, I am amazed at the continual advances in the technology.

That the VA offers hearing aids is not surprising given the exposure many veterans have to loud and continual noise … be it gunfire, jet engines, drill sergeants and more.

Optometry

I was due for new glasses, and so I now have them.

Further, in examining my eyes the doctor notices and commented on a twitch I have on the left side of my face, and asked if I would like her to set up an appointment with a neurologist. The examining neurologist informed me that I don’t have a “twitch”, but rather a “semi-facial spasm.” How’s that for a name?

So then I had a Cat-Scan where a wonderful soft and fuzzy little kitten snuggled up and around my head trying to lick away that awful spasm.  Wern’t that way at all — they put me a small cage right below where a construction crew was blasting away above me with jack hammers for about an hour.

The good news of the CT scan is that they found nothing alarming. The bad news is that they found nothing … when I talked with the neurologist this morning I asked if they found any brains – sorry, he said they are all gone.

I will have a follow up when I get home (why would I ever want to leave this amazing Idaho?) and they will hopefully give me some sort of treatment that will keep me from winking at all those pretty girls  (Diana will like that!)

That an eye exam generated a neurology session and a CT scan amazes and pleases me … not something to expect at Pearl Vision or Costco.

Ultrasound

Another session I had was in the Ultrasound clinic where they examined my heart and various arteries and veins including down and into the abdomen area.

Psychiatry

A concern of the VA, as well as in the general population is suicide – especially among the young.

So when I had my entry interview the interviewer asked if I suffer from or have had periods of depression – also questions about have I ever had thoughts of suicide. I answered yes to both questions. 

So when I was offered an appointment with a psychiatrist I thought … why not … never done that before.

I’ve had two appointments thus far and have enjoyed them very much, and so far he hasn’t tried to “fix’ me or try to explore my inner most being …  just a real nice guy and great conversation between the two of us. Sometimes I think I may be helping him as well. Anyway I enjoy the sessions and have been invited back.


Bottom line as I’ve said is … I am very pleased with the VA and encourage any veteran reading this to at least look into and consider the VA.

Don Johnson – July 2015

Transgender Shipmates?

SecDev

The military steps up for transgender service members

(From the Washington Post)

LESS THAN five years after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the U.S. military is taking the next step toward treating all service members fairly. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced Monday that next year, after a six-month study, transgender Americans will be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces. It’s a long overdue shift toward justice for the country and those who defend it.

Transgender in the military – interviewsSoldierNavyVet

Top brass have  bought into this JointChiefs

This old sailor doesn’t think this transgender military  is such a good idea.

Perhaps they would fit into and do a good job in the “day job” functioning of the Navy, the radio shack, sonar shack, ships store and office. 

radio

But take a look at the day-by-day night-by-night life of a long term deployment on a Navy Destroyer of the type I served on in the mid-sixties.  The young men you see averaged about 22 years of age (I was 20), and as you can see we were crammed into some pretty tight places and had to work and live with one another in close quarters.

The jobs we had were jobs for men, not jobs for women, and especially not jobs for men or women who were confused about what sex they were. Fortunately back then we didn’t have to concern ourselves with  such matters and didn’t have to worry about falling in love with or having an affair with someone in the next bunk. We didn’t talk about it, but we pretty much knew who we were …

Bunks

bunks2Bunks6Head1Head2Head4Head6Head7

Sorry to have to educate the PhD psychologists and DoD bureaucrats, but human nature seldom if ever changes, and the problems of mixing all manner of sexual flavors (in reality there are only two)  in small combat units is not a matter of fairness, but rather a matter of assigning the best men for the job. As much as I like “The Last Ship”, naval combat is a man’s job.  

Take a look at Some interesting video of life at sea:

(Again from the Washington Post)

One final, federal frontier is the military, where Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, when asked about the ban on transgender service members, said that his test was simple: “Are they going to be excellent service members?”


Is this is a frontier we want to enter as a culture? 

Oregon allowing 15-year-olds to get state-subsidized sex-change operations

… under a first-in-the-nation policy quietly enacted in January that many parents are only now finding out about, 15-year-olds are now allowed to get a sex-change operation. Many residents are stunned to learn they can do it without parental notification — and the state will even pay for it through its Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan.

…  “It is trespassing on the hearts, the minds, the bodies of our children,” said Lori Porter of Parents’ Rights in Education. “They’re our children. And for a decision, a life-altering decision like that to be done unbeknownst to a parent or guardian, it’s mindboggling.”

A fifteen year old undergoing sex change …  and parents noticing and concerned with the the change but not knowing that it’s happening under the guidance of school officials who will soon disappear from the child’s influence? 

How is this different from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s?


Transgender issues may be the next front in California’s culture wars

It was a California law that, no matter what, was bound to generate interest: Public school students would be allowed to use bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding with their gender identities, not their anatomy at birth.

Transgender rights advocates hailed the first-of-its-kind measure, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago, as a significant victory.

Will we be seeing hormonally charged 15 year old boys declaring themselves to be girls one day and demanding to go to the girls locker room to shower? This is institutionally sanctioned insanity.

 

Don Johnson – July 2015