U.S.S. McKean Sea Stories





A young man joins the navy for many reasons. Some do it for the GI Bill
benefits. Some do it out of family tradition. For others, it's an 
opportunity to grow up and decide what they wish to do with their lives.
Some do it at the demands of a Superior Court judge. I think most
enlisted for the same reason I did - for the adventure. We heard our
fathers, uncles,older brothers and neighbors tell us tales of exotic ports 
of call visited while they served their time at sea. 

Once we swore that oath, the tales only got better. There are some facts
of life that your Uncle Charley won't discuss with you. But that 
Gunner's Mate Second Class that you spent a mid-watch with will tell
you everything, and you just can't wait for your chance to go on a
WESTPAC cruise so that you too can visit Subic Bay and cross the
Perfume River. You are told (and you believe) that every bar-maid in 
Olongapo is a gymnastic goddess waiting to turn a pimply-faced pollywog
into a salty sea-dog -and will do it all night long for only five bucks.

My first exotic port of call was Portland, Oregon in June of 1977. My ship, the
USS McKEAN DD784 was invited to take part in Portland’s annual Rose Festival.
A dozen or so naval vessels from the US and Canada would sail up the Willamette
River and moor at Portland's waterfront. Each ship would offer tours during the day
and the crew would have liberty during the late afternoon and night. Those that
had been to previous Rose Festivals told us younger guys that this was the next
best thing to Subic. We were told that Portland women just loved sailors and that
we had best stock up on "protection." SH3 Verba had stockpiled the ship's store
with condoms and sold out of them the first time he opened the store for business.
He told me that based on his experience at the previous Rose Festival, I should
buy at least a dozen, two dozen would better. I think I bought three dozen, just
in case.

Being only 19 years old, I couldn't go into the waterfront bars so I toured
Portland's other sites where one is likely to meet a hot woman. I walked the 
waterfront park thirty or forty times, walked to the Museum of Science and 
Industry, walked back from the Museum of Science and Industry. (There must
be an Oregon state law that saws that no girl over the age of twelve will ever
visit the science museum.) I went into every department store, record shop,
book store and even a gun shop and failed to be approached by a passionate,
gorgeous and affluent woman who wanted to take advantage of my youth and
virility. I had dinner at a Burger King, returned to the ship, watched a
movie on the mess decks, crawled into my rack and went to sleep.

The next day I had the duty and was stuck on ship. The command, "Rig ship for
visitors," was announced over the 1MC. (That's another great sea-story but 
beyond the scope of this article. Perhaps later.) The ship was open for tours.
I stood the 0800-1200 quarterdeck watch as the Petty Officer of the Watch (POOW).
I told myself that if I couldn't meet any pretty girls in Portland, at least
I could watch them as they came onboard. And perhaps, if I looked really cool,
one might approach me and ask when I get off-duty. Hey, I was young and na´ve.
When my watch ended, I had to give lectures to visitors about the MK 16
ASROC Anti-Submarine Rocket Launcher and the various small arms kept onboard.
To make the lectures more interesting, I would periodically sip coffee from
my mug that had the NUCLEAR WEAPONS TRAINING GROUP PACIFIC logo on it. 
Intrigued, visitors would ask if we had any nukes aboard. I would pause,
take another sip, look real serious and respond, in a dead-pan tone, "I
can neither confirm nor deny the presence of any nuclear weapons on-board any
military installation."

Tours ended at 1700. Those not on-duty went on liberty. I had to remain on-board.
I had another quarterdeck watch to serve starting at 2000. About 1730, the 1MC
sounded. "GMT3 Hood, report to the wardroom." Oh, oh. Never a good place
to be called to. Our CO, Cdr. Larry Smith asked me if I wouldn't mind giving
his family a personal tour of the ship. For some reason, Captain Smith
had taken a shine to me and I felt rather honored that he would ask me to
do this. I realized that this was important and I had better not screw this up. 

I escorted his mother, brother and other relations to Mount 51, our foreword
dual 5"/38 caliber gun mount. I explained how the ammo is hoisted from the
magazine below and manually placed into the trays where it will then be rammed 
into the breech. I listed the duties required of all the men stationed just
in the mount (10 in all) to make it fire up to 24 rounds per gun per
minute. 

I took them down into the berthing compartment for my division. I let them see
how 15 men lived and slept in a space no bigger then the bathroom they had in
their home. I took them up to the torpedo deck and explained our dual
Mk 38 triple mount torpedo tubes. I took them into the galley and the mess
decks and explained how up to 240 hungry sailors were expected to
eat in this cramped space and how, at night, the mess decks doubled as 
a movie theater. 

We went down the main passageway and I pointed out the scuttles leading to
the fire-rooms and engine-rooms. I let them peer down and feel the heat and
hear the noise of the engineering spaces. They wisely declined my invitation
to go down into snipe country.

I pointed out the ship's office, sick bay, armory and oil king shack. I had
no idea what an oil king was nor what he did but I faked it when his mom 
asked me about the functions of that job. I gave them a quick tour of 
officer's country and didn't say a word as they saw the difference between
commissioned and enlisted berthing.

To really impress them, I took them to ASROC last. I started off with a lecture
of ASW & Anti-Submarine warfare. I explained the principle of the modern 
MK 16 system and how the RUR-5A underwater rocket would launch either a
MK 46 torpedo or a MK 13 nuclear depth charge at a hostile Soviet submarine 
that was ready to annihilate the entire West Coast of the United States. I 
pointed out to them the 4 guides, each containing 2 cells. Each cell could
store one weapon. I wanted to really impress them by making the launcher
do something, such as make it turn around (train) and go up and down (elevate).
Unfortunately, the 400-cycle generator that provided power to the electronic
controls was secured for the weekend. But the genius of ASROC was it's
built-in redundancy. I could make it move by controlling it's compressed
air-drive motors. My plan was to remove the center access cover
a curve hunk of metal about the size of a Buick), trip a solenoid by hand
to engage a guide, train the launcher out to the side, elevate a guide and 
open the door and extend a rail. It would be a strong visual effect and give
them something to talk about with their favorite relative, my skipper.

As I wrestled the cover to the side of the deck, I noticed some commotion
going on along the port (river) side of the ship. A 15 ft runabout was along
side the ship, directly under the ASROC deck. A guy was at the tiller and
a REAL LIVE GIRL was lounging in the bow. She was only wearing a bikini.
McKEAN sailors were talking to her and she was starting to wiggle. A sailor
tossed her his ball cap and she took off her top. I didn't know what to do.
Here in front of me were real live bare breasts on a real live woman and
I've got the skipper's mom with me. My entire career could be at stake if
I screw up. On the other hand, there was a live topless girl not twenty
feet from me.

I came up with a brilliant plan. I had everyone stand on the port side of
the ASROC deck and gaze up at the launcher. I stood behind them and continued
my lecture about dmma, T4, MEST tests, shipping containers, nuclear fission
and solid fuel rocket motors. As I babbled, I looked, no, I starred, no, I
gawked as the lovely lady in the boat them slipped out of her bikini bottom
and flashed the ship while sailors tossed money into her boat. I must have
been talking about sea-dye, OTTO fuel, depth set A and depth set B when
I realized that the skipper's mom was leaning over the rail, curious as what
it was that distracted me so. Watching my career sink faster then the HMS HOOD
(no relationship that I know of) the skipper's mom said, "Well, isn't
that sweet." The old man's brother was leaning over the rail so far I was
afraid he was going to fall overboard. The rest of my tour group started
giggling. Just as I realized that this may not be a disaster, the runabout
managed to maneuver directly under an overboard discharge fitting. The 
now-naked gyrating lovely was splashed by a few gallons of a foul-colored
liquid. She cursed loader then a Chief Bos'n Mate and her boat sped off. 

The skipper's mom waited until the boat was out of site. She looked at her
watch and told me that it was now time to join her son. They had dinner plans
in the city somewhere. Without saying a word, I escorted them back to the
wardroom. The Capt. Smith asked if they had an informative tour and his mom
said, "We had a lovely time. It was most informative."
She thanked me and the skipper NEVER said a word about this to me at all.

Capt. Smith, if you're reading this, I'm glad your mom had such a wonderful
sense of humor. I'm glad your brother (I think it was your brother but
it has been 20+years) enjoyed my tour as much, if not more then I did.
And I'm really glad you didn't make me stand evaporator watches for the
next 4 years