in Geezer

Letters from Grandma: 5 Nov 1989

[Note: Read this post first for an introduction.]

This letter to Grandma came near the tail end of my 3 month deployment for PACEX 89. That was the first of my three deployments and included Japan as the sole port visit. Long after that deployment I marveled at how my ship seemed to leave a series of major earthquakes in its wake as it sailed counter-clockwise around the Northern Pacific.

The visit to Nagasaki, where the world’s second atomic bomb was used in anger, was heartbreaking. More recently I’ve come to understand just how fanatical many Japanese were during the war and that the invasion of the Japanese mainland surely would’ve resulted in a million or more deaths. There is no doubt in my mind about the insanity of nuclear war, but I don’t know if I were President Truman that I would not have made the same choice.

This deployment gave me a really good taste of sea life and I think I took to it. I would have two, six-month WestPac deployments ahead of me before I left the Navy.

Oh, and fortunately my shipmates were wrong about me being UNC or Duke material!

10:25 PM 5 Nov 89 [age:20]


I’ve been pretty busy onboard the Elliot lately and was sure glad your letter came in! You qualified as the first letter I got during this two-month deployment! And the sports clippings made the three other Florida State fans in my division very happy. I am looking forward to getting home to see those games for myself (the captain announced FSU’s win over South Carolina about an hour ago).

This trip is just about over now (we pull back into San Diego in less than a week) and it ends the longest time I’ll ever be at sea without a liberty port. We began Sept. 16 with one week off the Southern Cal. coast (“SoCal” in Navyese), came in for the weekend, then went straight up the coast to Alaska. I was disappointed not to stop there (didn’t get near Prince William Sound, either) but did catch a few breathtaking shots of the Aleutian Islands. The water was really calm all the way up to the Bering Sea, when we started getting shook up (we had 50 MPH winds on deck). We stayed up there for about five days and then went to Sasebo, Japan, near Nagasaki (which I toured). We dodged one typhoon on the way and two on the way back! It’s an experience I won’t soon forget!

Japan was a very interesting country and if the exchange rate was any better, I would’ve loved it. We stayed there three days and most of the ship took tours of Nagasaki or went out on the town. The people were really friendly to us, most of the schoolchildren were waving to us, smiling and practicing their English. They also practiced their high-fives, too!

Nagasaki was really depressing. The city is bustling, but the museum was something I will never forget. I brought a booklet back, but it doesn’t compare to seeing for yourself. I hope that no one has to go through that again.

I heard about Hugo and the earthquake just after I left and didn’t get a look at the damage to both until Japan. I’m glad Aunt Pat’s cottage made it – I was worried. Also the news I got today about Lora-Lee and her husband relieved me, too.

There were quite a few things I missed while I was gone. We heard there were earthquakes in the Aleutian Islands (the night after we left), San Francisco, Northern China, Northern Japan (a few days after we left), and three Pacific typhoons and one Atlantic hurricane!

Not a very safe two months for the Navy, either. I heard a trainer jet crashed on the Lexington not long ago, an oiler caught fire in the Indian Ocean, one FA-18 dropped a bomb on another ship’s bow (didn’t detonate), and the 138 sailors arrested in Portugal.

Luckily my ship stayed calm in Sasebo and my division really impressed the admirals during this exercise so we have a very good chance of getting the best ports during our deployment soon (including Australia!). I’m excited. As tiring as this trip’s been, the ports are what it’s all about.

As things look now I’ll be home from Dec 1 (PM) to Dec 17 (PM). Dad’s letter today said it looks like I’ll be helping with the move – in a way I’m glad to be a “plank-owner” of the house.

Been saving lots of money lately, not that it’s been easy, on my paycheck, especially. I should have a pretty nice car by next summer. The Navy can teach you to save money or blow it…

On Tuesday I will finish up the last of the two college history courses I’ve been taking since the trip began. It hasn’t been easy after twelve hours of watch, but I managed to find the time. I got a “B” in “Western Civilization” and an “A” (hopefully!) in U.S. History. I have already signed up for algebra. In addition I am studying for advancement, and trying to learn all about the ship, spend time learning Japanese and a computer language I just got. There are at least four untouched paperbacks in my locker! I won’t know the meaning of R+R! College should be easy after this (the guys think I’m UNC or Duke material)…

Well, gotta wrap it up tonight. Tell Krista and Charlie hello for me. Will call you in December and we’ll see if that phone and light can’t get fixed!