Saturday, November 16, 2013

Where'd She Go?

Beaumont, Texas.

In the haze of the Southeast Texas sky, the shape and color of the vessel is unmistakable — boxy and gray with a flat top and a superstructure perched on the right side of the deck.

The deck doesn't have quite enough room for a conventional fixed-wing aircraft, like a clunky old dive bomber from 70 years ago or a sleek and lethal supersonic spear of an F-18.

The ship, christened the Nassau, once served the country as a Tarawa-class helicopter assault carrier.

That class of ship is named for a grim island battle in World War II, which took a heavy toll on the Marines who fought it.

The Nassau was one of five of the amphibious assault ships and is now in the Inactive Ship Maintenance anchorage in the Neches River, where the Cape class of military cargo ships also are berthed.

I served aboard Nassau twice. First time we crossdecked from USS Belknap(CG-26) at sea, the Nassau sent an LCU to pick us up; we clambered down a netting ladder from the cruiser into the LCU, which sailed back to the Nassau and into her cavernous well deck. The second time I served on her as she went to relieve the USS Guam (LPH-6) in the eastern Mediterranean right around the time that the US Marine barracks in Lebanon got blown up. We crossdecked via helicopter on that trip, my only helicopter flight to date.

When the Tarawa-class LHA's were designed and built they didn't bother with fastening down the tables on the mess decks, using folding cafeteria-style tables instead, believing - - incorrectly, as it turned out - - that the ships wouldn't roll enough to require fastened-down mess tables. I remember eating chow more than once on the deck, with all of the tables roped off securely in one corner, as the ship rolled back and forth. Nassau and Saipan (LHA-2) both had probaby the best cinnamon rolls of any Navy ship I served on. I remember one sailor, though, a heavy smoker, who habitually carried a mini-bottle of Tabasco in his shirt pocket and I watched him put Tabasco on the cinnamon rolls one morning - - smoking had destroyed his sense of smell to the point where it as the only thing he could still taste.

1 comment:

Old NFO said...

Yep, that was a 'minor' issue with that class, and I still carry a bottle of Tabasco! Gotta do SOMETHING to kill the taste of airline food! :-)