Steve Shaw's Story
I enlisted in 1970 at the age of 17. By this time the war in Vietnam had depleted Navy manpower to the extent that recruiters were offering two year active duty enlistments for reservists. I spent my first year at home completing weekend reserve drills, a two week accelerated boot camp in San Diego and a week of training at sea aboard a destroyer escort out of Long Beach while finishing high school. In the fall of 1971 I received active duty orders to the Okie Boat. After 3 months of the obligatory mess cooking and another 3 months in 2nd and later 1st Division, Deck-Weapons section I was convinced that swabbing decks and painting bulkheads were not to be my life's goal. I completed the Petty Officers manual and tests for Postal Clerk but was continuously advised that the Navy was not going to invest the time and training in a two year reservist and to forget about it. So one afternoon I put on my dress blues and with another chit in hand requesting Postal Clerk "A" school I hand walked the paperwork up my chain of command. I truly believe each officer thought that the next officer above him would deny the request and they wouldn't have to tell this young kid that he had no future in a Navy that preferred to develop his occupational skills in the cooking, painting and janitorial fields. I then hand walked the approvals to the Yeoman staff and made sure my request was sent off to "Never, Never Land."
Just hours before the ship was to depart for that fateful April 1972 combat cruise I received orders to report to San Diego for Postal Clerk Class "A" school! After finishing school I was looking forward to finishing out my short tour of duty stateside but it was the Navy's way to return me, at great cost, all the way back to the CLG-5 even though the ship would be over its compliment for postal clerks and necessitate my further transfer. But no amount of explaining or complaining was going to change "the Navy way" and I returned to the ship in June 72 and served aboard until Oct 72. After turning down offers of extended re-enlistment or transfer to West Pac ships currently deployed in the Orient I took my best offer and agreed to a transfer at no cost to the Navy to a tin can (destroyer), back in San Diego where I lived happily ever after until my discharge in 1973. The receipt of my transfer orders at sea, my departure on Black Beard One to Da Nang and later Saigon where I had to bribe my way out of the country is a whole other story.
Initially the intention of this journal was to share my Navy experience with my own friends and family. I had always felt that my time as a sailor aboard the Okie Boat was served in a vacuum. I was there and participated in so many naval missions without ever being told "why" or "where" or "what" was really happening. My job was to follow orders and little more. As I researched my past I was able to build upon others who unselfishly shared their information and actually develop some procedural and historical perspective in regards to an enlisted man's duties and environment during these years. Upon completion of this manuscript I realized that others who served as enlisted men aboard the Okie Boat may also enjoy these stories and hope that it will serve to refresh many of the memories of their own adventures from a time so long ago. And for those of you who wonder why the stories of fabled bars and a girl in every port haven't been included, well, if you've ever run across those few rare photos of that one night in Subic in a dusty old box stuck out in the garage ... some things are better off left to the imagination!! Enjoy.
The story is divided into ten parts so you won't have to wait for it all to load before you can start reading. Each part was prepared as a PDF file. Just click on the links to open each part.