Commander Speelman's Doorprize
A BIT OF HISTORY: "...Cdr. Speelman's Door Prize..." Contributed by Jim "Cuda" Gallagher email@example.com..." [18FEB2002]
In the fall of 1969 VS-28 was assigned to the USS Intrepid to make a shakedown to Cuba after Intrepid's yard period. Things did not go well from the "get go". While Intrepid was on her way up Narragansett Bay, She ran aground and pumped hundreds of pounds of mud into the ship (one can still hear the soft tones of "red right returning" if you listen closely on a quiet night). In any case the shakedown to Gitmo was delayed...a day, a week, a couple of weeks. It got to the point where no one on the crew believed we were ever going to leave Quonset Point. We finally backed away from the pier sometime in October '69 and headed for Gitmo. Except that all the sailors who had been told many times we were leaving, didn't really believe it. The result was that there were dozens of car and house keys thrown to the pier that morning for wives, girlfriends and others to take care of the vehicles the sailors were convinced they would drive home that afternoon.
The cruise was a "Cluster F***" from the outset.There was a level of anxiety among everyone on the ship. The old-time Chiefs talking about bad omens (before we got vibes). Well when we got to Gitmo, things went from bad to worse. The Departments were having a tough time setting the different combat conditions on the boat (irreverent airdale talk for a ship of the line). "Set Condition ZEBRA!" was the command over the 1MC. We just couldn't get it done. New crew, the confusion about the ship running aground and the repair period were all working against an expected good performance by the crew.
One afternoon after the Captain of the ship was so disgusted by the crew's performance, he cancelled all liberty to the clubs at Gitmo for Officers and Men of the Intrepid. An hour after this announcement was made the 1MC blared "INTREPID DEPARTING" indicating that the ship's Captain was going ashore.I personally saw Commissioned Officers in OUR US Navy booing the departure of the Captain for the evening while we were anchored in Gitmo Bay.
I watched as cooks from the galley "fished" for sharks off the fantail. I was assigned to a Det with four of our Grumman S2-E's and was allowed to go ashore with the Det as an AT representative to work on the avionics systems, as well as, get some flight time as a crewman in the new Stoofs. The squadron occupied a barracks at Leeward Point in Gitmo across the Bay from the main station. We really had a good time! There was an outdoor club and they had Heineken in 12 ounce cans for a quarter.I learned how to be an aficionado of the drinking game BUZZ. We had a squadron party at the"saltwater pool" and everyone had a great time. We were able to leave the ship and therefore all of its problems in the Bay.
On the way down,as well on back to Quonset there was a particularly motivated individual who spent hours painting the stateroom door of our Skipper, Cdr.Tom Speelman, who was one of my personal heroes in the Navy. ( When I asked Cdr. Speelman why aircrew who also worked on the flight deck couldn't receive aircrew pay, as well as, hazzardous duty pay he responded quite matter of factly" Cuda, you can only get killed once".Wilco Skipper!) Well this sailor spent hours painting the old man's stateroom door. I didn't see it right away but heard it was splendid.
It was an exciting trip back to Quonset in November. The weather was horrible. We deck launched the Stoofs cause there was so much wind over the deck. I watched the planes launch from "vulture's row" the "O-7" level. You couldn't keep your head above the steel for more than twenty seconds. We made it back to Quonset by Thanksgiving. What a great time!
After the Holidays in 1969 we were told we were to be deployed on the USS WASP, shakedown and then a cruise to the Med. Sometime during this time Cdr. Speelman had lamented to one of his pilots about all the time spent painting his stateroom door on the Intrepid" COMMANDING OFFICER... AIR ANTISUBMARINE SQUADRON TWENTY EIGHT...WORLD FAMOUS HUKKERS" What a shame all that work would go for naught.
CHAPTER 4 ...The Intrigue... just trying to fire it up a bit. In any case one of the pilots says "Hey Cuda can I talk to you for a minute.(I'll never forget..he came to the crew's head in LPH-2 to ask me if I would do something for Cdr. Speelman. (I wish I could remember this guy's name, but he knows who he is and maybe will e-mail me) He says "we're having a party on Saturday and we would like to get the Skipper a "door prize". I say "No problem sir what do ya need?" He says "we'd like to give him his stateroom door". I say "how ya gonna do that?" , and he says "you've got the con". (Naval Aviator talk for "I'm Drivin")
A short aside...we had a gut named Kelly in VS-28 who was a 2nd Class Mech with about 10 gold hashmarks and retired from our squadron. The guy spent about 40 years in the Navy and did his job exceptionally well but didn't want the responsibility of leadership. He was 4.0 sailor and did his job and never got in trouble. We all were in tears when he retired.
Well I had this mission. I got five other sailors and a truck and went down to the pier in a truck. I saluted smartly on the afterbrow to a chief that had been in the Navy about four years before Kelly enlisted. We went forward to officer's country and found the Filipino sailor in charge of the staterooms. He asked me to sign for the stateroom key and I sure did Petty Officer Kelly, the guy who had never done anything but said "yes sir and no sir " for 40 years. We took the door off, proceeded to the afterbrow, saluted smartly and returned to LPH-2 with the door that was presented to Cdr. Speelman as a doorprize. I hope nobody loses their retirement as a result of this confession.
Best Wishes and Regards to All My Shipmates, God Bless You All , James F."Cuda" Gallagher
Posted by James Gallagher
Mar 07 2004 05:00:09:000PM