Frank James Kampa, Sr.

                             Interview with Frank Kampa Sr.

                   Veterans’ Memorial Hall Oral History Program

                                          March 25, 2015


                     Veterans’ Memorial Hall is a program

                   of the St. Louis County Historical Society


© March 25, 2015 by the St. Louis County Historical Society

All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy and recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the St. Louis County Historical Society.


Veterans’ Memorial Hall Oral History Program

Interview with Frank Kampa Sr.

Duluth, Minnesota

March 25, 2015

Ron Hein, Interviewer

Frank Kampa: FK

Ron Hein: RH


Track 1


RH:  My name is Ron Hein. The date is March 25, 2015. I’m conducting this interview at the home of Frank Kampa. Frank.

FK:  Hi, Ron. Thanks for coming over. My name is Frank James Kampa Sr. I was born here in Duluth, on October of 1943. I’ve been around here for a while and I’ve essentially lived in Duluth my entire life, except for my time on active duty and roughly one year after I came off active duty I stayed in the San Diego area. Other than that I’ve lived here all of my life.

I went to Duluth schools, several of which no longer exist; I graduated from Denfield in 1961. I went to some training as an x-ray technician at St Luke’s Hospital for a year and then I enrolled at UMD, University of Minnesota, Duluth. Four years later I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree, major in Biology and a minor in Art. Three days after my graduation I ended up on active duty with the United States Navy.

RH:  So, why did you decided to enlist, Frank?

FK:  Well, I enlisted when I was 17 years old; I had to get the signature of my parents to authorize my enlistment since I was not yet 18. I did that because back in those days, the draft was still in effect and I knew I would be very likely drafted. I wanted to have some choice as to where I served and under what conditions. I also wanted to make sure that I had some form of training.

When I graduated from high school, I had applied for a two year training course to be an x-ray technician at St Luke’.  That particular course required that I complete the entire two years or I would have to start over. It was actually a form of free labor for the hospital in return for training. I applied to that school and was told it was full, so at that point I went to my friendly Naval Reserve recruiter. At that point they were still on Park Point at the Naval Reserve Center and I talked to them about what the Navy could do for me. So I completed some initial testing.  My scores with the initial testing were high enough so they assured me I could have any navy training school that was offered. I think the highest cutting score required was 110 for an ARI/GCT [Arithmetic Test & General Classification Test] and I had 122, so I was assured of training and got my parents’ permission and signed up.

A week later I received a letter of acceptance from St Luke’s, they had suddenly developed an opening. So I went back to the Naval Reserve Center, explained the situation to them and said, “Look, I’d like to have this training as an x-ray technician before I go on active duty.” Well, normally in those days back in 1961, I actually enlisted on September 12, 1961; they had what was called a PAD [Planned Active Duty Date]. The normal PAD was 13 months from your date of enlistment and I’d already burned a month or so, essentially a year later. They assured me that I could apply for a deferment for that training, because the Navy would be happy to accept me with additional training. So they did. I got the deferment and I did, I went to train at St Luke’s.

The following year they came back and cancelled my deferment and said, “Yes, we understand, but right now the needs of the service are we want you on active duty and we are only deferring people for college attendance.”

At this point it was one month past the time when you could normally enroll in college. Fortunately one of the executive officers a fellow by the name of Bruce Rutherford, of the unit I belonged to, which was the Naval Reserve Service Division 9107- M [medium].

The executive officer happened to work for the University of MN Duluth, in the administrative department. Considering that things had just fallen apart for me for the plans they had assured me I could have, Bruce said come on up to UMD and apply. We’ll see what we can do for you.

Well, my background is very blue collar, no one had ever been to college in my immediate family and my parents said, “Hey, if you want to go for it, we’ll do what we can to support you.” So, I went up and I applied late, because Bruce facilitated that. Three days later I was enrolled in college. The Navy then deferred me for four years. I completed my four years at UMD and because of various scheduling, some of it because of required active duty training with the Navy, it looked like I could not fit one of my required courses in. So we asked the department of the Navy if they would extend my deferment from June of 1966 for three months to allow me to get a class in during summer session and get my degree. They said, “No.”

So, faced with that, I had to go back to the university. This is a story that pretty much stayed with me as well as many other people that the needs of the service pretty much override what you think you want. It almost seemed like at every opportunity they had they just decided on what I hadn’t asked for, but that’s the way it is when you’re running several hundred thousand men. You’ve got to do what seems best for the service and I understand that, but it is a frustrating thing. It is also an important lesson. Sometimes when you belong to big organizations you have to fit in, you joined them, they didn’t join you.

I did manage to make some arrangements, although the Naval Reserve Unit I belonged to got a real plum assignment for the two week training duty that year. They were going to go to Bermuda for two weeks of training. I had to cancel that because I had to take a special course for, and I will say a meaningless course, for my art minor. In order to complete that minor I had to work directly for the department head for a seminar, during the two weeks I would have gone to Bermuda. Which I did, and as a result on June 6, 1966, I graduated with my degree in hand and three days later on June 9th, I was activated. Once again, not exactly under the conditions I had hoped for.

In 1965, I was as a junior I applied for ROC [Reserve Officer Candidate School]. The answer came back, “ROC is full, OCS [Officer Training Command] is open, apply again next year.” For OCS, you applied in your senior year. Instead of going two summers, you went once for 13 weeks instead of two sessions of six and a half weeks. So, the following year, I believe it was in January of 1966, I applied for OCS. The answer came back, “OCS is full, but ROC is open but now it’s too late.”

So, on the 9th of June, 1966, I went on active duty as radio man in third class with over four years of seniority. While I was at the Reserve Center, I ended up teaching radio man classes and was a section leader and a whole bunch of stuff like that. I had done just fine with the Navy; however, it was not my plan to go active as a third class radio man and as an E-4. It was the Navy’s plan, so I did and they received me with open arms in Philadelphia, replacement depot.

I arrived in the third week of the heat wave, where the ninth baby had just died of heat stroke. The water source for Philadelphia had just gone bad because of the heat. Fortunately it wasn’t lethal, it was just very bad tasting.  So, I spent a month or so at the replacement depot awaiting assignment and ended up assigned to an APD, which stands for Attack Personnel Destroyer, in Little Creek, just outside of North Fork, Virginia, which is the Amphibious Fleet. It was the USS Liddle APD-60. So, what it was is a destroyer escort where they had modified the bridge structure so that you could put 30 SEALs in racks and take them to the beach. So, they would jump off of the ship into their little rubber boats, go into the beach and the ship would back up from the shore about 150 yards and act as a radio station for whatever they found. Unfortunately, the budget was such that the ship had never been quite completed so; it was what we and the Navy called, “nailed to the pier.” [both laugh]

So, it was not what I would call—and I was a radio man, which was actually the primary function of this destroyer. I was to act as communications station, for as long as it lasted because unfortunately that distance from the beach, you were also an excellent a large grey target. It was somewhat expected that you would transmit as long as you lasted.  The only time the ship ever moved, was when they pulled away the peer to move over to the yards to get completed, several months after I arrived.

In the meantime I had made good friends with the third class Yeoman, [they perform administrative and clerical work] and in talking, it came up that I was a college graduate. He said, “Well you know there are billets to OCS that go unused every year from the fleet, because we don’t have that many people in your situation where they’re enlisted people and have a college degree.” So I said, “Well, let’s apply” and we did, and they accepted me.  

So, I ended up going to Officer Candidate School at Newport, Rhode Island in March of 1967. I had been activated in June of ’66. So, I managed to stay in North Fork, which was their very worst season and stayed wet for 60 days because of the humidity in late fall, which is considerably different than fall in Duluth. In any event, I did go to New Port, at that point I had just been advanced to radio man, second class. Technically I had taken the test and not yet sewed on the Rockers [uniform patches].   

As it turns out, as an OCS candidate, you’re considered to be an E-5 anyhow, so it was a “wash”. The advantage I had was at this point, I was over five years in, so I was actually earning almost a living wage, because of my longevity, rather than my rank. Because of my experience and training in the Reserves, when I got to OCS, I had quite an advantage as far as knowing what was going on. A fair amount of what they teach in OCS is actually information that I had actually already learned. So, as a result, I was what they call a “white name tag” which is the top of the class, top 10 percent. I’ll explain in a minute why I was so interested in having that.

They also have what’s called the gig system there, which is if you get a red gig; it’s something you didn’t do quite right. They specialize in giving red gigs for darn near everything. I mean it’s a point of pride in the so called upper classmen that they can give out red gigs. You can also get a blue gig for doing something extra right.

In the—I can’t remember if it was our first or second week there, they issued our clothing. I had arrived in my service dress blues for enlisted and they issued us clothing and casually mentioned the cost of this distribution of clothing is $450.00.

In my second year of college I had married, and by the time I went on active duty, we had two children. So, ironically I was ineligible for the draft, but since I’d already signed up, of course I had to go. I also had the family responsibility of a wife and two children. When they said $450.00 and if you flunk out you will have to repay us. I could not afford that. I did not have enough money to feed my family, if I had to repay that clothing allowance. So, I determined that I was going to do everything right and I did. I got my white name tag for the wrong reasons and when I graduated from OCS, actually the week before I graduated I talked to the class commander who is the number one recruit and was the battalion commander for our class. In talking, we got to “How many red gigs do you have?” That was a common question. Since he didn’t know my name and hadn’t seen my name tag, I told him the truth, because I was pretty sure he’d search me out and fix this if he knew how to find me. I said, “I have zero red gigs and I have 18 blue gigs.” Which is unheard of and then I left. [laughs]

The reason he didn’t know who I was is if you got a white name tag, you got an extra three hours of liberty on Wednesday nights and you could go over to the officers’ club and drink. The part I left out is this; my family is genetically prone to alcoholism. My dad died of it, and I am a recovering alcoholic. I have two sons who are recovering alcoholics and I had started to drink, once I turned twenty one. So when they waved an extra three hours of drinking in front of me, I made darn sure I got a white name tag. We would get some liberty on weekends and let’s just say that whenever I had the chance, I overindulged. In between times while I was on active duty and duty status, I had the capability of staying sober and I was quite competent. My average for all the classes in OCS was 3.95. The reason I bring that up is this, once I ended up on active duty, although I know that the Navy is not responsible for giving me alcoholism, they provided a situation where it could blossom and it did. A lot of the worst things that happened to me as the result of drinking too much happened to me while I was on active duty and during a tour in Vietnam. That’s the way it is, a lot of that went on.

I’ve actually been to boot camp three times. I went for two weeks as a seaman recruit and a lot of people say, Yeah, but that’s not a real boot camp. You know something? It is, because you have to learn everything they did in 13 weeks for the regulars, in two weeks. So the only thing that didn’t happen is you had to stand it longer. OCS of course, is boot camp for officers.

In June of 1967, I got my commission as an ensign [entry level commissioned officer] and at that time the Navy was rather desperate for pilots. That was the big push when you became an officer, if you wanted a really sexy job, you became a pilot.

So I applied for pilot training in the Navy and was accepted. I had to wait a couple of months at the North Fork Naval Station and then I went into Naval Aviation Candidate School. That would have been in October of ’67 that I got there. It’s actually a boot camp for aviation candidates.

I looked a lot like them, except that I already had my commission by virtue of having completed OCS. A lot of people at that point were going directly to aviation candidate school directly from college. So it really was another boot camp.

I completed that and went into naval basic training in Pensacola, Florida and started flying.

The ironic part of that is, because of the way the Navy was training its pilots, you actually spent a lot of time in trainers on the ground. You were doing everything you had to do and of course in addition to the book work, you literally had to learn everything about an airplane. Why it stayed up in the air and why it didn’t and all that stuff. As a result I ended up doing my solo flights and aerobatics without enough time in the air to get a civilian pilot license to fly a Cessna. That required I believe, I can’t remember now if it was 18 or 28 hours in the air. I had completed my solo flight training and aerobatics with 16 hours in the air.

At that point, my plan— I was married and had two children and I’m thinking, you know the only way I can have my family with me is if I fly the one airplane that the Navy has, that does not land on aircraft carriers. That’s a P-3 Orion, which is actually used for anti-submarine warfare and for long range flights. The wings don’t fold, so it’s too darn wide to land on an aircraft carrier. Plus, I was a radio man and a lot of what they do in the air is communications on the P-3s. They are usually stationed next to a naval radio station.


Tape 1


So, all this came together in my brilliant little mind and I thought I will apply for P-3 school [Orion aircraft]. Now here’s the problem, you have to be in the top 10 percent of the class to be able to request what you wanted. So, I was in the top 10 percent of the class and coincidently, because of my time in the Reserves, I was earning more as an ensign than the lieutenant instructors who were sitting behind me, when I was in the air, which helped. I would also say it wasn’t what I would call riches, but I was better off than a lot of the poor folks who were there with me, who didn’t have the time and rate.  At this time I was an ensign over six years, which was a nice paying job.

Now, you have to realize that the main thing they were trying to do in naval basic training was convince you that you wanted to be a jet pilot. P-3 Orion’s do not have jet engines, technically. They are actually turbo props, which is a jet engine with a propeller. So, with sufficient prodding, I decided I would apply for jet training, because that’s where the real glamour was. I was accepted and ended up going over to Meridian, Mississippi, which is basic training for transition into jets. I flew several hops [flights] there in a jet, that was an exciting time, so was landing them. At this point it was all landing on the ground.

One weekend, my wife and family were still in Pensacola and I was in Meridian, Mississippi, being trained. One weekend I had developed a tooth ache actually, and I went to see the dentist. They loaded me up with some Novocain, did some drilling, fixing, and stuff like that.

I wasn’t feeling all that good. I had a hop and this was a Friday afternoon.

I had a hop I was supposed to fly later on in the afternoon and after that I would drive back to Pensacola to see my family for the weekend. Because I wasn’t feeling all that great and I just had the equivalent of a root canal, I called over and said, “I can’t make the hop today.” I went ahead and drove home mid-afternoon, spent the weekend with my family, and came back on Sunday night.

On Monday morning I was called into the executive’s officer’s office and he said, “You didn’t fly your hop on Friday.” I said, “Yes, sir.” He said, “That’s not the way we do it. How would you like to be an enlisted man?” I looked at him and I said, “Pardon, sir.”

He said, “If we wash you out of here, you’re going to be an enlisted man.” Well what he didn’t know was that I had completed OCS before aviation school, which meant he could bust me out of flight training, but he couldn’t make me an enlisted man. I would still be an ensign. I thought, you idiot. This is not the very first time, what I shall call, lack of leadership, particularly in the airdale [naval aviator] community, but it irritated me. I don’t always handle irritation that well. This time I took it and I said, “Well, yes sir, I’ll try and make sure”—and I left his office. I walked out in the hall and I started to think.

Now here’s the thing, to be a naval aviator, if you want to do that, it has to be number one, period.  Ahead of all else in your life, where you are going to get yourself killed and the guy in the seat behind you killed. It takes that kind of dedication, and I knew it. I started to think. Do I have that dedication? Am I willing to give up my family? Am I willing to give up everything except flying and concentrate solely on that? The answer was, no. No, it does not quite have that precedence in my life, and I realized I was in the wrong spot. So I walked back into his office and I said, “Sir, I wish to drop on my own request.” Now that’s called, DOR, dropping on request. The Navy has its rules, once you say that, they can’t argue with you, you are dropped. That’s the Navy’s smart way of handling it, because they also know that if you don’t have that dedication, you don’t belong there. All you’re going to do is cost them money and lives, including your own, probably.

So, I dropped. I ended up going to a communications school for three weeks, which, by the way, I was number one in the first two classes. In the third class, I tutored the guy who was number one, and I was number two. Then they put me on an aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, in San Diego, as Ships Company. I think this was their idea of punishment. I didn’t mind, the nice thing about an aircraft carrier, it’s got two escalators, fourteen floors, an elevator, a popcorn machine, a movie theatre, lots of stuff. In many ways it’s sort of a better assignment to have than a little teeny ship like that APD out of North Fork. You get your own—well you don’t get your own state room until you are a lieutenant. At that point I was a lieutenant JG [junior grade]. So, I at least got a two man state room. Because I was Ships Company, they put me down below deck, just above the engineering section in a place called sleepy hollow. It was called sleepy hollow because it was quiet. The bad news is when the air conditioning went off; it got really warm down there because you were sitting over a boiler room. That’s the way naval service is, it’s a trade off, it’s never really purely great and in many respects never really purely evil, because I understand that my military history is far more lenient, than many, who are in the service. There are a lot of people out there in the jungles at that time, that would have almost literally “killed” to have my situation, and I know that. There were difficulties, being away from family.

I arrived in June of 1968 and they assigned me to the radio division. I was a communications officer for the communications division on the ship, which made sense. This is where all my history was. Incidentally, that ship is large enough so that there are five communications officers on the ship. So I had one of five divisions and my particular division was radio man.

Because of my enlisted training, I had a little different attitude towards being a naval leader than a lot of the OCS graduates and quite frankly, a lot of the “ring knockers”.

They are the people that went to the academy. Because of my enlisted training, I had that additional viewpoint of what it was like for the enlisted men. I mean, I had served in a communications division as an enlisted man. As a result, I kept that viewpoint in mind and I think it did alter my style of leadership. Which over the years, and by the way, I will say, I stayed with the Naval Reserve for just over 29 years.


Track 1


Over the years, I think the men I commanded respected my way of leadership and I always took them into account, as much as I could. Of course, you have the needs of the service. Sometimes I had to have them do things or I had to do things that weren’t particularly pleasant, but that’s what you had to do, to get the job done.

As it turns out, when I joined the Kitty Hawk, I had just come back from an overseas deployment to Vietnam. Back in those days they would come back in for six months and then deploy for nine months. So I walked aboard as they came back in and the communications division had cut—the policy at that point seemed to be, at least on the Kitty Hawk, they would cut people a little extra slack while you were off on deployment, because of the difficulty of the deployment situation. So, they weren’t quite so strict on military discipline, on military looks, cleanliness on the ship, on stuff like that. They expected you to perform your job quite as close to perfect as you could, because people’s lives depended on that. Some of the other stuff sort of went “by the wayside” and haircuts weren’t paid too much attention to, and military decorum. In any event, the department head, for the communications division, was an aviation officer, what we call an airdale. On the aircraft carrier, all department heads except two, are airdales, the two department heads that aren’t, are medical and engineering.  They are what you call black shoe officers or fleet officers. Airdales historically are a little looser on their discipline. Their emphasis is on flying, and that’s okay, I got no argument with that.

When I came aboard, the department head interviewed me and he said, “I’m going to give you the communications division and I want you to clean them up. He said, “The place is a pigsty, we’ve got some problems with discipline and I want you to take care of that.” I said, “Yes, Sir.” I took care of it, and I knew how to do that. As a result, during the six months that I had that division, nobody went to captain’s mast [non-judicial punishment], we just took care of it. The place got clean, it got smart, and it was a darn good division.

Then on the day we deployed to Vietnam, which, by the way, was two days after Christmas, he transferred me to the deck department. I did go back and see him a month later and said, “What’s going on here?” They gave me the excuse that I had not been to a particular communications school. Well, the other four officers had never been a radio man either [both laughing].


Tape 1


So I knew that was a cover story. I went back and said, “Commander, why did you transfer me?” He said, “I didn’t think you could loosen up and let them have their leeway.”

He was wrong, because for the nine months in the deployment, I had a deck division, fourth division and I’ll say this right off the top, boatswain mates [deck crew], they don’t have that great a reputation, but they are some of the finest sailors in the Navy.  They took care of me and I took care of them, and by the way, we never went to captain’s mast. The officer that took over for me as communications officer was at captain’s mast every single week of the deployment. Dragging his men in and having the captain take care of what he should have been taking care of. That’s one of those things that happened in the service. He did the best he could, he was just an idiot.  

So, pretty much standard deployment at that time, the Kitty Hawk, went to Vietnam. I had one interesting thing that happened on the way over. Historically, as you went past Hawaii, every carrier that went to Vietnam would be joined by a “bear”. A “bear” is a long range Russian bomber and normally they would fly over head and the carrier would put up what was called a CAP [combat air patrol]. By the way, on a carrier, that is their main defense; their, CAP. That’s what is expected to handle incoming. If anything went on you would always put up a CAP and it was usually at least two F-4’s and it could be as many as five or ten of them.

When we left Hawaii and headed for Vietnam, we automatically put a CAP up and sure enough, the “bear” showed up. I happened to be on the bridge at that point, because as a deck division officer, I was also a bridge watch officer, one of them. I would be sitting there and the captain was sitting in his chair and I was standing alongside of him. At that point I was the junior officer of the deck. There are three officers on duty at any given time, on the deck, around the clock, when you are under way. My main job was actually to give directions to the helm. We always filtered commands to steer the ship or to change speed, up or down, through an officer to the enlisted men who were actually standing at the operational controls. That was so the officer could make sure that the commands were correct and were not dangerous.

I’m standing my junior officer of the deck watch, a captain’s sitting there, as many captain’s do, relaxed in his chair looking somewhat bored. The “bear” showed up and he flew over us and I saw the captain look up and the bomb bay doors on the bomber were open, which is not usual. So, we obviously had an airdale in the Russian bomber who was trying to show a little extra “moxie”. The captain came up on the surface to air radio, which is not encrypted. We do that very deliberately, because sometimes you want to say things that you want the enemy to hear. He said words to the effect, “Bear, this is the captain of the Kitty Hawk, I see you have your bomb bay doors open. I’m putting an F-4 on each of your wings and if those doors don’t close, I’ll blow your ass out of the air.” The doors closed and we proceeded to Vietnam. Things like that happen.

RH:  [laughs]

FK:  So then the normal tour into Vietnam was you’d go into port at Subic Bay, in the Philippines. You would spend roughly three weeks in port, one week getting to Vietnam, and you would spend a month on the line.

There was what they called Yankee Station, which was a circle in the Gulf of Tonkin, an imaginary circle drawn in the Gulf of Tonkin.

It was a pie that was divided up into three slices and each slice had a carrier. At that time, four carriers were on the line. One was in port and three were on the line, each in one third of that circle. Within that circle you would run race track patterns and you would rush into the wind to launch planes and there’s just enough time to launch the wing. Then they would go out on combat missions. Then you would turn around and run back down, wind in preparation for having them land. Then you would turn into the wind and there was just enough time at 30 plus knots, because quite often we had to make our own wind for the planes. There just wasn’t that much wind, and it was variable, which is always a challenge when you are steering the ship. You had to get 30 knots of wind across the deck or the planes didn’t want to land or take off. Then you would turn into the wind, recover the aircraft, turn around run down wind, turn around launch the next wing, turn around, and run down wind. So that you were always racing in a race track pattern, to get into the wind, to either launch or recover aircraft. You would do that for 30 days. I’m sorry, I misstated myself. When you went into port it was for ten days.


Tape 1


That way you would have one ship in port for ten days and three ships doing three ten day sections for 30 days on the line. Then you would rotate off the line for ten days. You would do that for nine months. Every couple months one of the aircraft carriers would head back to the states and another aircraft carrier would join the four that we are operating in the Gulf of Tonkin. That was the nature of the deployment. You are required often to do flight ops of up to 24 hours a day. Sometimes 12 hours a day, sometimes 24, just depended on what the needs of the Navy were in support of the combat troops ashore.

At that point, we were in a war zone, and receiving combat pay. Although we were not running around on the ground, there were certain risks involved. Another little aside, there was plenty of what were called junks, small fishing boats, in the Gulf of Tonkin. Most of them were Russian. They were actually outfitted to report on our maneuvers, so they were communications trollers. One of their favorite things to do, particularly when a new carrier came on the line for a new deployment, is they would float around in front of you. They’d try to make you change course, because you weren’t supposed to run them over, bad relations. Another interesting thing they would do is quite often they had a least a couple of ladies serving on the ship, so they could get out on the fantail of that little troller and wave to us and let us know they had women. They had women, and oh, vodka by the way. [both laugh] Just little games you play.

When we got there for our first time on the line, they were doing their thing running around in front of us. We were constantly changing course, and finally our captain, who apparently wasn’t real long on frustration ability, called battery, sent a message back to our control area which was actually Comp 7th fleet, which was out of Hawaii. He got permission to once again pick up that little radio, that was unencrypted and he said, “Trollers, this is the Kitty Hawk, be advised I have just received permission that I do not have to change course if you get in front of me.”

The amazing thing was, I happen to be on the bridge when he transmitted that. All of the trollers in front of us suddenly separated, never had another problem with a troller. [both laugh]

In the meantime, that alcoholism I mentioned was not doing well for me. Whenever I was on liberty, let’s just say I don’t remember a lot of liberty when I was over there. I was still functioning quite well, as long as I was on duty. Our liberty was primarily in Subic Bay.

They had a little place called Grande Island; it was an island out in the middle of Subic Bay. The Navy essentially owned the island, but they only used the very north end of it for radar installation. What they did, because of the venereal disease rates in Subic Bay and Olongapo, they set up two service clubs on Grande Island. One of them was enlisted and well actually it was a combined thing, just two sides of the same room. Essentially they were clubs where you could go and well, drink. Due to the nature of an aircraft carrier, you can’t just sort of go up to the island and park. We had to use little boats, “Mike”  boats that acted as shuttles from the ships to bring the sailors. You had a choice, you could go on liberty in Olongapo or you could go on liberty to Grande Island. The plus on Grande Island was the drinks were ten cents apiece. They set up huge vats, I would say about 15 feet on a side and filled them with ice and beer, and it was free. Of course there were beaches where you could swim and they would provide snorkels, goggles, flippers, and stuff like that.

In the evening you would have the service club. There were no women and no VD.  So, the Navy would provide this incentive to go take your liberty that you had while you were in the Philippines, out on Grande Island. Which quite a few people did. They also required shore patrol, because when everybody got “drunked” up at night, putting them back into the “Mike” boats and getting them back to the ship could actually turn into a situation where the Filipinos had, oh, little guys about four feet tall, with repeating shotguns. That was technically so they could guard the radar station. What they gave us was shore patrol and fire hoses. You would literally wash them off the pier into the “Mike” boats, if things got a little too rugged.

All of the officers had to take their turn being shore patrol officer. My particular time, I went out there and sure enough everybody got “drunked” up and I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the guys—we didn’t have to use the fire hoses that night. I did have one of my own boatswain mates [deck seaman], who had been out spear fishing. He had his spear gun on his lap and I went over and talked to him and I said, “Boats, you are welcome to have the spear gun, just make sure you leave it unslung.” A couple minutes later one of my men that I had on shore patrol, came up to me and said, “Sir, take a look.” There he sat with the darn spear gun loaded. We managed to get it away from him and he never got his spear gun back. In the meantime, one of the guys who was really pretty “loaded”, fell into the water between the “Mike” boat and the peer. I got over there and some of the people said, “We’ve got him. We’re pulling him into the boat.” What we didn’t know at the time is that whoever had gotten him, let go. He did sink and die. That was one of four people that we lost during that entire nine month deployment. The other three were engine men that had gone down into a void to check and the air was bad, they asphyxiated. Other than that we never lost a life and never had a serious injury. I ended up with unit commendation and a personal letter of commendation, because I was also an underway replenishment safety officer. We really did our jobs very well.

Most of the way into the deployment, and I don’t remember the exact month, but I think it was roughly July of 1968, might have been August. You were allowed to go into Hong Kong for liberty for five days and only five days and only once during a deployment.

Hong Kong was considered a premiere place to have liberty, and it was, I might add. The British controlled it and that was their rules at the time. Also and interestingly enough, and I’ll digress here a little bit, when you are on liberty they warned you things like the store fronts that are painted red, don’t go in that store. It’s actually controlled by the Chinese communists. That’s their little signal it’s one of their little stores, and we’ve got sailors disappearing, while they are on liberty.

We went to Hong Kong; we had to pull in and anchor out and go in by boat, because they couldn’t take a full size aircraft carrier at the peers. I happen to have liberty the first night in and so I went, well of course, to a bar. I was having a few drinks and relaxing.

Suddenly the shore patrol came through and said, “We have an emergency recall and everybody has to return to the ship.” I think it was by 18:00 that evening and at this point it was 13:00 in the afternoon. My sense of duty said, go and go now. I packed up and headed back to the ship, still in pretty good shape. We had an entire plane full of officer’s wives fly into Hong Kong to meet their husbands. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but 120 some odd of our officers disappeared into the hills with their families [laughs], on the emergency recall. We ended up sailing out of Hong Kong, short complement [number of people onboard], not exactly knowing where we were headed. As it turned out, we ended up in Korea.


Tape 1


What had happened was, we had an EC-121, which is actually a spy plane, a radar spy plane. It had been flying just out of sight of Korean waters and international waters, up in air space. They were shot down by the Koreans, claiming that they were in Korean waters. We knew that they weren’t. As a result, we sent a task force in there. The only thing we could draw from at that time was our seventh fleet that was in Vietnam. As a result, the people that were on station in Vietnam, on Yankee station, they stayed there.

We were the carrier that was on rotation for liberty, so we ended up going to Korea. We took a sub task force over there. We had our carrier, plus a cruiser, about 17 destroyers, destroyer escorts, and three underway replenishment ships. That’s important, because normally we had what’s called and AOE, which is an underway replenishment ship that can handle oil, plus stores, plus bombs. They could come along side once every three days and replenishes the ship, and it usually took four to six hours for an underway replenishment. You have two ships going side by side within 50 to 70 feet of each other. You had five hoses coming over with black oil, two with JP-5. Then you would have helicopters flying bomb fins and five whips in which you would take winches from the two ships and connect the wires together and take pellets. One winch would play out while the other winch drew in and you would transfer pellets from the ship to the carrier. That’s where the bombs were. Commonly we’d come over in pellets of six 2,000 pound bombs and then—no three 2,000 pound bombs or six 500 pound bombs. That would go on for three or four hours and you would get everything you needed for three days. That was important because the same officers that had their own division to run, plus they were standing bridge watches, and supervising underway replenishments. You could manage that if you only had to underway replenishment every three days. They couldn’t afford to send an AOE with us, so they sent a bomb ship, a supply ship, and an oiler.

It meant we had to underway replenishment every day, because they could only transfer one thing at a time. We did underway replenishment at night, but only when we absolutely had to. It was just much easier during the day time.

As a result of that, we went out on the line for 45 days. Towards the end of those 45 days, I ended up in sick bay with exhaustion, because I could not walk on a level deck without being drenched in sweat. It was from fatigue. I was trying to keep up with everything, because we were short on officers, we were also cut from one in six watches, down to one in three.

So we were standing two deck watches every day, plus an underway replenishment watch, plus running our division. Plus, if there were any battle drills we were also the damage control officers. You just don’t get enough sleep; it’s the Navy’s form of combat fatigue.

Here’s the other part, as that was the physical fatigue. Once we got there, I went up on a bridge to stand a watch the first day we were on line off of Korea. There were four planes on the catapults, four F-4s. The catapults were hot, which meant they were ready to launch. You could tell that because when a catapult was ready to launch, steam comes up out of the track and it’s loaded with steam. They use steam to actually launch the planes. So we knew the “cats” were hot and furthermore there were pilots sitting in the planes, with the canopy up. Basically what that meant, was we were ready to launch, within ten seconds. All that would have to happen, is a pilot puts on his helmet, the canopy drops, and you start to launch. We had no “cap”[combat air patrol], and that is our primary defense. We knew there was no “cap”, because there they were sitting on the deck. I’m wondering, what is going on. We’re supposedly in an emergency situation, we’ve got planes ready to launch, and no combat air patrol. I suspect there also may have been a nuclear submarine running around under us, but they never told us about that, exactly. Other than we tracked a few things that could go faster than we could under water, when we were on top of the water. Our max speed was over 30 knots, pretty much told us what was down there. No idea. 

Well, it went on this way for several days and they are out there 24 hours a day. We’ve got four pilots in the planes, “hot cats” ready to go and the squadron down in the hanger bay ready to come up on deck and fly. We just didn’t know. A week or two into the watch, I was looking at the planes, and I suddenly realized that there were some weapons on the wings that I had never seen before. As it turned out, I was the junior officer of the deck and the officer of the deck happened to be a young weapons officer, another lieutenant JG. So I went down and I said, “What are those?” He said, “I can’t tell you.” I looked at him and said, “What do you mean you can’t tell me?” He said, “Well, it’s classified.” I said, “What do you think I’m going to do, swim ashore and tell somebody”? He said, “Can’t tell you.” So I said, “Okay.”

Nobody ever talked about it, but we had a Marine detachment [US Marines aboard Navy ships as part of security & defense] aboard. Their main thing that they do, other than repel boarders, which is not usually needed on an aircraft carrier; they did with certain weapons that went unnamed, they had to have a marine guard on the weapon from the time it left the place where it was stored, to the time it was placed on the plane. Obviously what nobody was saying was they were nuclear weapons. So I pretty well figured, we’re sitting here nuclear armed and ready to go. Later on in that same watch, we had several manuals available to us on the bridge.

Two of them were Jane’s Fighting Ships and Jane’s Fighting Airplanes. Which are produced by civilians, but they generally describe the weapons and stuff of warfare. Just because I was sort of bored, we weren’t flying, just sailing and steaming back and forth off the coast of Korea. So I started reading, for lack of anything else to do on my watch. I started reading Jane’s Fighting Airplanes and in there they had an F-4 and on it was a picture of the plane, with that same weapon on the wing. They went on to describe the weapon and it was called a standard arm missile.  It has its own radar and what does, is waits for radar to hit it and then it follows the radar down to the radar director, and blows it up. They mentioned it can be nuclear armed. [laughs] So I called my friend over who was the weapons office and I said, “See that weapon down there that you can’t tell me what it is?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Take a look at Jane’s Fighting Airplanes.”  He said, “You can’t tell me it’s in there!” I said, “Oh yes I can.”[laughs]


Tape 1


Here’s the point, I’m thinking you know, if those planes take off, I’m not going to have a home to go to, even if I do survive. That was the mental part of the fatigue that I suffered while I was there. Now this is nothing, compared to being in the Battle of the Bulge or something like that.

It was pretty impressive to me. I still wake up with dreams about that. I keep telling myself, you know, what you had wasn’t all that bad, but that doesn’t stop the dreams.

I completed the nine month deployment and I was getting a little lonely for my family. This was my first longest and only extensive time away from my family. I decided to go on leave and fly back ahead of the ship, so I could get a little extra leave time to reacquaint myself with my family. That was another little feature of the Vietnam War. When I went to get on the plane in Hawaii, and fly back, they told me I could not wear my uniform. They said all officers must fly in civilian clothes. That was because of the protestors waiting for us at the airport. We knew from experience that if you flew in uniform, they would spit on you; call you a baby killer and all of that good stuff. I like free speech and I think it’s necessary. It took me a lot of time to get over that. Not only was there no parade coming back, but you had to sneak into your own country.

It’s sort of like the people these days that cause the patriot guard riders to come into where they were demonstrating at military funerals, and screaming out that they deserved to die and stuff like that. There’s a balance that has to be struck. I’m not saying we should put them in prison, but I’m not saying they should be allowed to do that either. I think in large part we have learned with our military returning, that has become socially unacceptable to do for the most part. That’s a good thing.

Anyhow, I came back to a change of home port where we were going to go into the yards in Bremerton, Washington. Now at this point, I’d been on active duty. Originally I had a two year obligation. When I took my commission I had to obligate for a total of four years. I was now three years into my obligation. We came back to San Diego, which was our home port, and we changed home ports to Bremerton. The day after the ship hit Bremerton, we got a radio message saying they were discharging 15 percent of our officers early. In my case I was nine months early, because we didn’t need that many officers while we were in a shipyard. They said, “You’ve got two choices, and you’ve got 15 days.

You can either augment, (which meant I’d go regular and sign up for another four years, with the idea in mind, that I would probably spend 20 years on active duty), or you can get off active duty in one week.”I went home to my wife and mind you, I’d been home for a week. I said, “Here’s the choice dear.” She said, “Well, if you want to augment, you can, but you’re going to do it without me.” I knew my deployment had been hard on her. So, I said, “Okay, that’s it, I’ll get off active duty.” The net result though, for the needs of the service, is when you get off active duty, you get one move of your household paid for by the military. We had been home ported in San Diego for a couple of years at that point and decided we’d go back to San Diego. I used that one move to get back to San Diego.

I went to work then for Public Finances. An assistant manager is actually a collections manager, for a finance company, in Pacific Beach, one of the suburbs of San Diego. That lasted for about a year. The drinking that had gotten worse while I was on active duty, now pretty much took over my life, because I was no longer on duty. You just don’t need the same level of readiness and preparedness in civilian life that you do on the line in military life. So the drinking got to be a much bigger feature. Not to mention that the company I worked for measured their annual picnics, the success of their annual picnics, in the number of divorces that it generated.

Let’s just say they drank a little. Being a collections manager is a fairly high stress occupation. Let’s just say when you are not talking to somebody on the phone and at the end of the business day, you go out and have happy hour. [dog barking] My happy hours got fairly extensive.

At the end of that year, those of us that know about alcoholism, have a thing called the geographic cure. [dog barking] Basically it’s when you’re drinking starts to cause everything to go downhill. When things start to go downhill because of your drinking, you decide, if I just move somewhere else and get a fresh start, everything will be better. Of course, the problem moves with you, but that’s not the way you think when you are experiencing it. At that time my dad was now getting pretty sick, this was now 1970, late 1970. So we decided we should go back while dads still alive.

We returned here to Duluth, and I’ve been here ever since. Once I got back to Duluth, I applied for and got a job as a probation officer, for St. Louis County. I stayed with that for 32 years.  Also, when I had gotten off active duty, I rejoined the Naval Reserve in San Diego, and when I came back to Duluth, I actually rejoined the unit I had signed up with, in 1961. I stayed with the Naval Reserve for a total of 29 years, three months and some odd days.  When all was said and done, I ended up with four active duty for trainings as an enlisted man, 20 active duty for trainings, as an officer. I attained the rank of commander. Because of some “cut throat” politics, and I’m not going to bother to go into the details, I ended up being passed over for O-5, or captain in the Naval Reserve. I decided I had done my time. I retired from active drilling in the Reserves, in 1988 and was in a non drilling status for a couple of years. My final retirement was in October 1, 1990. I’ve been in a fully retired status since then.

I don’t feel right without making a couple of comments in my observances and what we are doing with the Naval Reserves, or with all of the Reserves at this point. What I will say is this; I am not that much in favor of an all volunteer army, because I think what we’ve turned it into is essentially an economic mercenary force. Now there are plenty of people that still volunteer for patriotic reasons and serve because they feel that it’s appropriate to serve their country.

I don’t want to in any way detract from them. I really think we should have a form of the draft in shape, where everybody is required to perform some form of service to their country, as a requirement for citizenship. I just believe that is appropriate. The problem is, and I get the impression, this is just my own impression, that the abolishment of the draft was more for the purpose of people that are moneyed and in power, so that they did not have to serve, and their families did not have to serve. The dangerous part of that is, we now have a congress with less than 15 percent of its members who have any form of military service. They simply don’t understand what our service members sacrifice, why, and why it’s necessary. It doesn’t cost them anything to go to war. I do not like war and I don’t think anyone who has been in one does.  I understand they are necessary in certain circumstances. I would sure feel a lot more comfortable if the people in control of our government were primarily people who truly understand how terrible war is, and only use it as what I was taught. I did two sessions in naval war college as a Reservist. I was taught there, that war is an extension of diplomacy by other means, but it’s the last resort means. That part is not sufficiently understood anymore. It has become an economic thing and I don’t believe that is the true purpose of war.

Having said that on my soap box, do you have any questions of me?

RH:  No. I really appreciate the depths to which you have been willing to talk about your military service and how it affected you personally. It’s difficult to do sometimes, and I really appreciate the fact that you were willing to do that.

FK:  Oh, and I will add one other thing, too. Thirty-five years ago I did go to treatment and have been in recovery for 35 years now. It’s been that long since I’ve had a drink of any form. I did end up being certified as a counselor, both by the Navy and in civilian life. I think that we need to pay attention these problems that are so easily acquired as sort of a sideline of military service, as well as any high impact thing that you can do. God knows many of our veterans are bedeviled by problems with drugs, alcohol, and post traumatic stress syndrome. We need to continue to do the very best we can to help them with that. I’m a living example that something can be done with it. I do not regret anything I had to give up for the service of my country. I’m glad I did it once, and I am equally as glad I didn’t have to do it again, however, should it become necessary, you know how to find me.

end of interview

Track 1


Transcribed by Helen Hase

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