Early 1966, Shipboard in Vietnam…Part 4
After settling into a routine, we all did our best to enjoy our stay in Vietnam. Regular trips over to have a few drinks, shopping, eating at those little roadside stands, etc. Nights were filled with card playing and movies, like at sea, but without the rocking. It was about this time during our stay that the psychic I told you about in an earlier post came aboard with an entourage. The whole visit was sort of hush hush so we got very short notice to get ready for some VIPs. I believe we were told late in the afternoon about their arrival the next day. Anyway, the next day they all come aboard and tour the ship. I did get to meet them all since they came up to the bridge but I don’t remember any names. Just that there was the psychic, a Senator or congressman or two, and three or four guys in dark suits. Since my duty station was on the bridge, I got to listen in as the women psychic told the Captain of her dream that “soon, there will be an attempted sabotage of this ship. Many will die, more will be injured. It will come from an explosive charge attached to the hull below the waterline, if it hasn’t already been attached, it will be within a day or two. The ship will sink, but many men will be recovered from the water.”
Really? Hum. Gotta tell you, no one on the bridge thought much of this ‘prediction’. However, the Captain got orders to inspect the hull so we sent 3 divers over the side and inspected the hull above and below the waterline. We also added to the watches so there were many more eyes scanning the water around the ship day & night, then they loaded a couple landing craft with armed petty officers that slowly circumnavigated the ship all day and night, watching for anything.
Three nights after the psychic left, I’d guess it was near midnight when the ‘Battle Stations’ alarm goes off. This thing is so loud it might have woke up the dead guy down in the freezer. Anyway, since I’m already awake & dressed, it only took me a couple seconds to grab my hat on the way up to the bridge and my battle station. Heart thumping wildly, I flew up the last ladder to the bridge deck and see the sailor on watch working the arc lamp. This is a very large piece of equipment mounted on a gimble that uses carbon rods to create an arc that makes a very large and bright search light. It was unusual for that light to be on at all, it requires permission from the Captain to light it. Anyway, I stop to talk to him since I’m the first one there. I discover that he’d called the Captain, when, during his watch, he’d seen a Vietnamese tug boat motor by our ship about 25 yards off our port bow. While he was watching it like he’s suppose to, it seemed to lurch and leap out of the water, then stop dead, then begin to sink as the sailors about the boat scrambled to get their flotation devices on before they dove into the sea. He got to watch the whole process from the darkened bridge, sounding ‘battle stations’, then calling down below to ask the captain permission to light the lamp (woke up the captain and everything!), he’d lit the arc lamp and was shining it on the wreck to help the ditched sailors and rescuers find their bearings. The bridge’s duty officer was down below goofing off when it happened so the sailor had to make all those decisions by himself.
By now a bunch of officers and petty officers were up on the bridge deck and everyone was watching the show while our boat crews headed a landing craft back to our ship to pick up a medical crew & some rescue gear. By the time they finally got moving and headed toward the wreck, which was by now at the bottom of the harbor, several local fishermen had motored out from shore and were helping the crew aboard their boats. If I recall, the only injury was the tug boat Captain’s pride, one crew member with a broken arm or something, and other minor injuries. It’s pretty hazy now after all these years, but I think our landing craft rushed the injured back to shore while the medico’s treated them.
It turned out that the tug boat had not been looking at their charts because if they had, they would have known that there was an older wreak at the bottom of the harbor, clearly marked on all maritime charts showing where it was and the fact that part of it’s stack assembly was a mere 6 feet or so below the water line depending on tides. It even had a buoy attached to it. The tug boat crew just forgot about it and ran over it, scraping the tugs bottom, opening a large hole, sending the tug to the bottom along side the earlier wreck.
Naturally, we all felt that if there was anything to that psychic’s prediction, that this was probably what she had dreamed about so the whole crew relaxed and a few days later the Captain dropped all the extra watches and the landing craft circling the ship at night. Everything went back to normal.