MY SEA DOG YEARS…

On 1 January 1976, I reported on board the U.S.S. Bainbridge, CGN-25, at Bremerton, Washington, to join G Division as a Seaman Apprentice striker. The ship I would come to know as the Billy B was nearing the end of an extensive yard period that had included refueling her twin nuclear reactors.

The repairs, modifications, and refueling — which included replacing her 3-inch guns with 20-millimeter cannon and installing a new radar and the Navy Tactical Data System (NTDS) — had been projected to take 19 months, but complications and delays so plagued the process that Bainbridge did not complete the overhaul until 10 September 1976. About halfway through the overhaul, Bainbridge was reclassified a guided-missile cruiser and redesignated CGN-25 on 30 June 1975.

At the conclusion of these repairs and modifications, the warship remained in the Puget Sound area, combining post-overhaul certifications and evaluations with intermittent participation in Operation “Sea Crow,” a long-range aircraft detection exercise carried out in cooperation with Air Force units.

Late in November, Bainbridge sailed for the southern California coast where she carried out series of tactical exercises first with Constellation (CV-64), then with a pair of submarines, and finally with the carrier again. She returned to Bremerton just before Christmas and spent the rest of the year in holiday stand down.

Bainbridge opened 1977 with a voyage to Hawaii. She departed Bremerton on 4 January and reached Oahu on the 10th. After two weeks of tests and inspections, the cruiser headed back to the west coast on 25 January. She arrived in Bremerton on the 30th and began a two-month post-shakedown availability at the shipyard.

She concluded these finishing touches on 31 March and, following several final tests early in April, got underway on the 11th for her new home port, San Diego. Bainbridge resumed active service, out of San Diego, on 14 April. Her routine consisted of more training, particularly refresher training in May, as well as additional inspections and certifications.

She spent most of the first half of August visiting the Seattle Seafair, resuming her training schedule at mid-month. That employment, carried out from San Diego, occupied her time until early December when she began preparations for overseas movement.

Following the usual year end holiday leave and upkeep period, the cruiser completed her deployment preparations during the first nine days of 1978. On 10 January, she cleared San Diego for the first overseas deployment in almost four years. She tarried in the Hawaiian operating area from the 16th to the 23d for drills and then resumed her voyage west.

Bainbridge reached Yokosuka on 3 February but departed again on the 6th for operations near Okinawa. She concluded those exercises on 19 February and steered for Pusan, Korea, where she visited from the 22d to the 28th. The cruiser then conducted operations in the Sea of Japan and in the South China Sea before calling at Singapore between 28 March and 2 April and at Sattahip, Thailand, from 6 to 11 April.

After operating in waters to the west of Luzon, she made a port call at Hong Kong on 22, 23 and 24 April. Bainbridge put into Subic Bay on the 29th but returned to the seas west of Luzon again on 3 May to conduct operations with Midway (CV-41). That duty lasted until 9 May when she headed for Okinawa and the nearby operating area where she drilled until setting course for Pusan, Korea, on 21 May.

The warship passed the last six days of May at Pusan and then made for Yokosuka, where she arrived on 5 June. Bainbridge spent the major part of June at Yokosuka undergoing repairs. She left Yokosuka on 28 June and, after a short stop at Subic Bay on 2 July, embarked on a circuitous voyage home. Sailing by way of Darwin in Australia, the Tonga Islands, and Pearl Harbor, the guided missile cruiser reached San Diego on 9 August.

After the usual post-deployment stand down, which kept her in port for almost two months, Bainbridge headed north to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard where she arrived on 6 October. The shipyard availability there, where she received the new Harpoon missile system, kept her at Bremerton through the end of the year and nearly through the first month of 1979.

Leaving Puget Sound on 27 January, she reentered San Diego on 2 February. There, she resumed a normal training schedule along the California coast that included refresher training, an operational readiness examination and other tests, calibrations, and certifications. This routine lasted well into the summer when attention shifted to preparations for her next deployment.

On 8 August, Bainbridge departed San Diego for the western Pacific. She visited Oahu from 18 to 23 August, stopped briefly at Midway on the 27th, and then arrived in Yokosuka on 2 September. After escorting Ranger (CV-61) to the vicinity of Midway in early September, the guided missile cruiser rendezvoused with TF 75 to carry out Operation “Free Seas 79″ in the Sea of Okhotsk between 15 and 20 September.

Returning to Yokosuka on the 25th, she joined TG 70.1, built around Midway, and sailed by way of Subic Bay to Perth in western Australia for a six-day port call between 20 and 25 October. From there, the task group moved into the Indian Ocean and made a “show the flag” port visit to Mombasa, Kenya, in early November.

During this time, however, political unrest and violence mounted in Iran and, on 20 November, Bainbridge and her task group moved north to the Arabian Sea for contingency operations. The cruiser remained on station there through the end of the year and she was still there when the government of the Shah fell in mid-January 1980.

I was heloed off the Billy B in mid-December and took a slow supply ship to Diego Garcia. From there I flew in a C5A Galaxy to first the Phillipines and then to California where I was discharged from Treasure Island on 28 December.

17 Responses to “MY SEA DOG YEARS…”

  1. Cailin says:

    Wow, Geoff, you did quite a bit in those 4 years. Any pics of you as Sea Dog?
    Cailin

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Cailin,

    Yes. Someday I have to get a scanner.

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  3. Terry says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I’ll be looking forward to pictures, too.

  4. Jeff Hess says:

    Shalom Terry,

    You’re very welcome.

    B’shalom,

    Jeff

  5. robert lake says:

    I was also on the billy B for the very crise your speaking about.I was a HT 3……

  6. Diane Weaver says:

    Jeff, you should have related your shore leave adventures while on WestPac. On the 1978 cruise, didn’t you go on the skiing trip up near the Korean DMZ when we were in Pusan?

    Didn’t you come with us on our climb up Mount Fuji? I stayed in bed in the mountain cabin when everyone else went the rest of the way to the top at dark o’clock in the morning to see the sunrise that didn’t happen because of the volcano being socked in by storm clouds. The next morning we ran down the mountain along a lava cascade and stopped in town, below the mountain to take a hotsee bath. I remember that my clothes were soaking wet and we didn’t have towels to dry off with after the bath so I bought a flimsy souvenir towel, that had to be wrung out several times, and then we had to put our cold wet clothes back on for the long drive back to Yokosuka.

    Hong Kong was a disappointment for me because I had shore patrol one night after standing duty the day before, and then Billy B fled town due to a looming typhoon.

    In Thailand, I remember the gem mine tour and stopping at a restaurant where I foolishly drank the water they served. A day later I had the worst case of runs ever, and peed green out my butt for a couple more days, while we were at sea.

    Then there was the Vietnamese boat people encounter in the South China Sea, followed by rushing to the site where a Kitty Hawk F14 crashed at sea, and we had to fish the floating debris out of the water.

    So many things happened on that cruise that I enjoyed, though crossing the Equator after Singapore was not one of them. Its good to be a Shellback now, though.

    I really miss those days.

  7. Jeff Hess says:

    Diane,

    I didn’t make the ski trip in Korea but I did make the Fuji trip with you. I was really pissed when I finally got home because the shippers lost my Fuji stick, although I do have the flag somewhere. I also remember how good that hot bath felt after the run down the lava flow.

    I took leave in Thailand and spent five totally hedonistic days at the Weekender Hotel. I was probably lucky to come out alive from that.

    I had one night in Hong Kong and pulled SP duty the second day and spent most of that rounding up shipmates before we ran from the typhoon that never struck. I did discover James Clavell in Hong Kong after reading Tai Pan while on duty.

    We remember the good times and thankfully our brains have wiped the bad times (like blowing down the overhead at 2100 after a failed inspection).

    Someday, when all the statutes of limitations have run out, I’ll probably write my memoirs.

    Jeff

  8. Diane Weaver says:

    The best times were playing D&D, where ever we could find the space, with you, Jamie, and Larry!

  9. Jeff Hess says:

    I talk sometimes with some of my students about the roots of D&D. I first played in 1974, but didn’t really get serious until ’76 when I reported on board. I don’t recall who got me interested, but I think Jamie was the primary instigator, and a GMM named Solomon Bryce.

    I actually had some contact with Larry out in California in late ’80s. Jamie I haven’t heard from since leaving the Billy B. Have you ever watched any of the videos of the AD&D games with Will Wheaten?

  10. Diane Weaver says:

    Actually, no, I didn’t know Will Wheaton played D&D, but now that I think of it, I am not surprised. I’m going to have to watch the videos now :-)

  11. Jeff Hess says:

    I get very nostalgic watching the videos because they take me back to the long weekends at the Brewery in San Diego and to all the places we played on board the Bainbridge.

  12. Diane Weaver says:

    Okay, Jeff, I watched Season 4 of Acquisitions Inc at PAX 2010, and I have to say that it was hilarious. I can’t wait to watch them all. :-D

  13. Jeff Hess says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying them. I could so see Wheaten playing at The Brewery.

  14. Diane Weaver says:

    I remember the Brewery. I think we went 3 or 4 times together. It seemed like there was a lot more going on there than D&D :-)

  15. Jeff Hess says:

    Well, D&D does require serious effort and the right mood is conducive to an enjoyable adventure. :)

  16. […] never gained entrance to the Order of The Blue Nose, but some of my shipmates on board the USS Bainbridge did after I was discharged. The arctic is hostile place and sailors venture there at their peril. […]

  17. […] a semi-automatic shotgun with a magazine capacity of more than six rounds. Hell, on board the Bainbridge, the Security Alert Team only carried Remington 870s with four rounds in the tube. All of that is […]

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