U.S.S. McKean Sea Stories

By Dave Hood, USS MCKEAN (DD-784)

The recruiting posters proudly said, "It's Not Just A Job, It's An
I never saw that ad before I joined. I saw it for the first time in a Hot
Rod Magazine that I was reading off-duty. We got great laughs out of it.

But the best one was a television ad that said, "Midwatch, Karakatoa to
port, Sumatra to starboard. Sonar searches the depths and radar pierces the
horizon. A job in the Navy may not let you always go to bed at ten o'clock, but on a
night as beautiful as this, you really don't care.''

We had a couple of bones to pick with that one. First of all, you really do
want to go to bed, and you prayed that some other slob, hopefully the new
boot, would pull the midwatch. Secondly, radar didn't always pierce, rotate,
or radiate, and sonar didn't always ping. Sometimes the ship couldn't even
get underway, and we could blame it on milkshakes.

The USS MCKEAN (DD-784) was a GEARING-class destroyer commissioned 9 June
1945. The first MCKEAN (DD-90 / APD-5) sank off Bougainville in 1943. By
1978 the "Big Mac," as she was known, was an old bucket but when she ran she ran
good and she ran fast. With her four 600 psi boilers, twin turbines, and
twin screws, we could run circles around much newer KNOX-class frigates, bird
farms, oilers, cruisers, and nearly anything else. We were so maneuverable
that Boeing sent its commercial jetfoils and PEGASUS-class hydrofoils out to
play tag with us for their shakedown cruises. Worthy competition.

We called Seattle home and moored up to Pier 90, a downtown pier used
exclusively for unloading Datsuns and for us. The nearest Naval Station was
across Puget Sound at Bremerton. We were used for training reserves, coastal
patrols, and as a weapons testing platform for the Keyport Torpedo Station.
We fired ASROC anti-submarine rockets and Mark 46 torpedoes at them and they
fired Mark 48 torpedoes at us.

We spent a lot of time undergoing repairs in and around the Southern
California area, especially San Diego. August 1978 found us there getting
ready for an operation. Just as your family car needs its oil changed, so
did our turbine engines. Minit-Lube won't come to a pier and remove and replace
20,000 gallons of lube oil, but Pepper Industries will. Pepper Industries
also cleans out McDonalds' deep fat fryers.

On August 19, Pepper Industries and our snipes spent the day changing the
lube oil so we could get underway on the 20th. At 0300 liberty expired and
reveille was held for the snipes so they could start light-off procedures. 0400 was
reveille for the rest of the crew. At 0500 we set the Special Sea and Anchor
Detail, which for linehandlers means you stand around a lot. Put a chaw of
Beechnut in your mouth and wait for the word to castoff. We never got that
word because a 600 pound steam fitting broke in the Forward Fireroom and
would have to be fixed. Underway time was then set for 1200.

At 1100 Special Sea and Anchor was set again. At 1130 they tested the
engines, but only for a minute. It seems that in the engines all of that lube oil
turned into a giant milkshake-; a huge chocolate-colored mess. They hooked
up the phone lines and called Pepper Industries. It seems they had gotten their
trucks messed up, and instead of sending us MIL-SPEC Lube oil, they sent us
a few thousand gallons of used frying fat from the golden arches. Needless to
say, they had to pump it out, and stick in the real stuff.

We finally did get rid of our "milkshake" and we really did get underway.
I'll leave it up to you to figure out if we made the world safe for democracy and
wrecked havoc upon the forces of evil.