USS VESUVIUS AE 15

STORIES OF AN AMMUNITION SHIP TOLD BY HER CREWS

VIETNAM STORIES

 

VIETNAM

BY

DAVIE WILSON1963-66 


BIOGRAPHIES AND PHOTOS

BY

CAPT JIM WHEELER,

JIM STRINGFELLOW,

 MARION EASTMAN, ROGER KORTH,

 

 

MORE SHIPMATE PHOTOS/VIDEOS


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JIM WHEELER

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER

ENGINEERING & EXCEUTIVE OFFICER

1963 T0 1964

 

Ever try to get blood out of a Turnip? Well Jim Wheeler is about as talkative about his Navy career as the turnip example. He's full of surprises and amazing stories too.

One of the keys to Jim is understanding that his father was a career Navy Man serving on the USS Blackhawk AD 9 a destroyer tender based out of the Navy's China Station. Jim lived with his mother and brothers where today's Quonset Point Naval Station is located. Jim served on the USS Pennsylvania after boot camp at Newport RI. Does that ship sound familiar to you?

You guessed it; Jim's a Pearl Harbor survivor. Jim and Diana just returned along with about 800 other survivors and about 3200 family members from the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor!

Jim was a salvage diver as well as a Fireman 1st Class on the Pennsylvania and stayed on at Pearl to help with the cleanup.

Jim transferred to the ATR-15 a rescue tug which was at Normandy during the D-Day invasion. The tug was torpedoed and beached and Jim spent 26 days on the beach repairing the hull so that it could be re-floated and returned to England. In October 1944 Jim married an English girl and began his family of 2 sons and 1 daughter.

Enough of the tug, Jim returned to diving and made his way to the submarine service working under Admiral Byrd in you guessed it the Antarctic. He served on 3 submarines the Stickleback, Sennet and the Wolfpack also serving a short time on the Nautilus.

In I948 he attended the Underwater Demolition School and was certified. During Korea he served on two destroyers at Wonsan Harbor. He has some special stories about backing out of North Korea.

Jim had two around the world cruises back to back each trip taking 9 months to complete. By 1959 Jim made Master Diver after serving at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba. He was commissioned a Lt. J. G. and finished Sea1 training at age 39! No doubt he felt every one of those years in training.

In 1963 and in 1964 he served aboard the USS Vesuvius. He went aboard as a Lieutenant and was promoted to a Lieutenant Commander serving as both the Engineering and the Executive Officer for the ship. While on the Vesuvius he received orders to TAD; return to states for recertification in diving, and then report to Subic Bay to work with Seal Team #2. TAD was for a 3 month period, but was extended for 3 more months.

While operating in the Ma Cong Delta of Vietnam seal team #2 experienced an underwater explosion caused by shelling from a number of Vietnamese troops in the area. There were 12 men on the team only 3 (including Jim) survived. They were medivaced to a back area and then shipped to states. Jim spent 3 years in hospital, between Oak Knole Naval Hospital and Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco recovering. After recovery, Jim was medically retired in 1969 at the rank of Commander in Feb.1969.

In his retirement Jim moved to Northern California and began raising cattle. His first wife passed away and in June of 1998 he married Diana, the Lady we all know and love! Jim figures that during his 30 years of Naval Service he has served on 26 ships including battleships, tugs, submarines and aircraft carriers. Jim missed Cruisers and LST's. Not many of our AE Sailors can say that they were at Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Korea and Vietnam. Yes he's had a FULL Navy career!

Article was originally written by Jim Wheeler,Commander, Ret,
and later edited for the AE Sailors Association's newsletter,"Over The Waves"
       

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ANNA & JIM

JAMES STRINGFELLOW

BOATSWAIN MATE

 

FIRST CLASS PETTY OFFICER

 

1971 TO 1974

 

I was on the Vesuvius from January 1, 1971 to September 1974 as a 1ST Class Boatswain Mate. I made three WESTPAC trips and was the last Leading Petty Officer of the 1ST Division Deck Force and the last Boatswain Mate aboard when she was decommissioned.

 

Her last WESTPAC trip was 13 months long. It was a hard one as we passed over 20 short tons of ammunition. We had one heck of a crew and I was proud to have served with them.

 

I have three cruise books from our trips. If anyone is interested, I am listed at classmates.com. If you are a Classmate member then you are welcome to view them.

 

JAMES STRINGFELLOW

SEPTEMBER 17,2003

 

 

 

  JIM'S PHOTOS:      CLUSTER #1  CLUSTER #2

 

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MARION EASTMAN

 

INTERIOR COMMUNICATIONS ELECTRICAN

 

THIRD CLASS PETTY OFFICER

 

1962 to 1964

 

I served on the USS Vesuvius as an IC3, in charge of the movies and the ships communication system. Weather permitting, we showed the movies on the main deck behind the superstructure. We also set up the first two projector system so there wasn't a delay between film reels.

 

Our little department was just off to the side, and one deck below the mess hall.

 

Made a lot of friends and saw a lot of the world. Great duty!

 

MARION EASTMAN

DECEMBER 8, 2003

 

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ROGER/EILEEN

ROGER KORTH

STOREKEEPER

THIRD CLASS PETTY OFFICER

1965 TO 1967


"I was born and raised in New York City.  While attending college in Kansas I joined the Naval Reserves.   I turned down a commission in the Marines, but blew out my knee playing football before graduating, and wasn't qualified to be a naval officer, so I was made a gob.  I spent about three weeks in Treasure Island awaiting assignment and not having been selected to serve on an ice breaker out of Seattle or being assigned shore duty in Hawaii or Florida, per my 'dream chit' the Navy in their infinite wisdom decided I should be a bomb roller in Vietnam and was flown to the Philippines to join the Vesuvius.
My memories resemble most of yours....either in WWII or Korea....sweating in unbearable heat, and rolling bombs for a living.  We spent many long days and nights unrepping anything that needed ammo, from carriers to cruisers to destroyers.  I became a 3rd class Storekeeper.  My unrep duties were telephone talker on the fantail and forecastle talker on special sea and anchor detail, but for breakout duties, I rolled many a bomb with the deck force.  For all the sweat and low pay I loved the Navy and almost considered re-enlisting after visiting Hawaii, Hong Kong, the Philippines and the West Coast, but opted out.
I returned to New York in 67 and went to work as a Material Coordinator for Grumman Aerospace Corporation.  I was in charge of Bailed Aircraft (Navy owned aircraft loaned to Grumman for the research and development of the F14A Tomcat).  I was on the runway when the first aircraft was launched and crashed two and a half minutes later.  But the F14 went on to fame and honor, and starred in the movie Top Gun.  It always amazed me that in Vietnam I could never order any parts with any priority higher than 13, even when we were dead in the water, but when I was at Grumman I had the power to down aircraft with priorities no lower than 7, but usually as high as 3 or 1.
My wife's name is Eileen and we have two daughters, Paula and Stacey.  I'm 61 and my oldest daughter just turned 20.....Don't ask, I was a slow starter.  I've retired from Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages now and substitute teach and am involved with our church.  I've been to one reunion in St. Louis and only a disability has prevented me from attending others.  I love being a Navy Veteran and ammunition ship "survivor."

ROGER KORTH
APRIL 8, 2004

 ROGER'S PHOTO  ALBU    

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IRA & BETTY

IRA A. STOKER

MACHINIST MATE

SECOND CLASS PETTY OFFICER

1963 TO 1966

I was born and raised in the state of Tennessee and grew up in the small town of McKenzie. I graduated in 1962 at the age of seventeen. Because I was so young, I could not find any worthwhile work. Every place that I applied for a job would tell me to go pay my military obligation; then come back and they would hire me. After getting this story over and over again I decided to join the Navy.

The recruiter I talked to say that I was too young and would have to get my father’s signature in order to enlist. After securing the proper paperwork I was off to Memphis to be checked out. I was sworn in on the 6th of July 1962 and sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Center on a night train. After learning what an undisciplined, blind, dirty butt wipe that I was, they slowly molded me into a US Navy sailor with a pair of new smoke rimmed glasses for free.

Upon graduation on the 27th of September 1962, I was given 15 days leave and was to report back to Great Lakes to attend the Machinist Mate School rather than the photography school I had hoped for. Because the MM school was full, I ended up in a holding company from the 12th of October 1962 until the 20th of March 1963. I never saw so much snow in Tennessee in my whole life as the amount I shoveled at the Lakes. I even lumber jacked on the base before the snows hit. I was with base maintenance for three months before I was finally enrolled in school. Hillbillies have a rough time in Yankee land but I did survive MM school and graduated 11th in my class on the 2nd July 1963. I was assigned to a ship called the USS Vesuvius. I asked several sailors what this was, and no one knew. I found one of my teachers and he informed me it was an ammo ship. This was just great! I was assigned to a floating bomb.

I was off for another 15 days leave then aboard a plane to Frisco. I reported to Treasure Island so they could find out where the AE 15 was located. It took two days for them to decide the Vesuvius was headed to Japan. I was put aboard a military hop and flown to Japan by way of Anchorage, Alaska and Yokota, Japan.

I rode a Navy bus to Yokuska and reported in at the base. The people placed me in base maintenance while they searched for the Vesuvius. I spent two weeks doing the three, “S's” (sweep, swab and shine) to the barracks at this base. I really learned to operate a buffing machine without knocking a hole in the wall.

Early in August of 1963, I was called to the office and was told that the Vesuvius was in port and was about to get underway. I grabbed my sea bag and caught a ride to the dock. I located a landing craft and asked if they knew where the Vesuvius was tied up. That got a laugh and the coxswain informed me that this was the last boat going out to her. I then had a suspicion the base had used my free labor up to the last minute.

I reported aboard as a MMFN thinking I would be assigned to M Division and was surprised to learn they were full. Only A Division had an opening. This is where I worked until I was discharged. We repaired laundry, galley, ale, refrigeration, and hydraulics and boat equipment, just about anything that was not in the hole. Chief Ables sent me to AlC & R School in San Diego on the 17th of April 1964 so I could take care of that on the V. I stood the following watchs on my tour: making water, throttle man, aft steering and duty auxiliary man.

I saw ports in Japan Yokosuka, Sasebo, Beppu and Kagoshima), Philippines (Subic Bay, Manila), Hong Kong, Okinawa, Guam and Pearl Harbor. Stateside we were in San Diego, Monterey, San Francisco, Port Chicago and Bremerton. I made two cruises, went through two typhoons, rolled a lot of ammo, and worked with a good group of sailors. I saw a lot of the world for a southern boy. What I saw made me glad that I was an American.

My USS Vesuvius tour shaped my life more than I knew. I was too busy partying, drinking and having a good time to really appreciate what was going on around me. I really missed the camaraderie after getting out. I never had any idea of all those who came before me and after me or all their stories and experiences aboard the Vesuvius. She came to life the same year I did and I have never been able to find out exactly what happen to her. We all should be proud to have walked her decks. I saluted her flag for the last time as a MM2 at Port Chi on the 19th of April 1966 and headed home to McKenzie, Tennessee nine months and twenty-one days past what I had signed up for (THANKS VIETNAM). I was at least alive and there were many who didn't make it back home.

I worked at Ace Appliance Co. in Memphis for thirteen years and then Coca Cola Company in Memphis repairing vending machines for seven years. I have spent the last twenty years working for the Wesley Housing Corporation of Memphis as their Director of Maintenance. We have two nursing homes, which have three assisted and nineteen independent living properties for the elderly. (I are one now!!!!)

I divorced once, married to my second wife, losing her to cancer after twenty-five years. I have been married for eleven years to my main squeeze Betty Lynne. Our joy is our two grand boys (9 & 5) and our biggest vice is fishing. We plan to keep traveling as long as we are able.

I found this web site searching for the exact location of Mount Vesuvius in Naples, Italy for a future trip. We have seen the northern half and have the southern half of Italy to go. So far, I have been to Turkey, Greece, Crete, Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rica, St. John and Germany. We plan to go to Australia and New Zealand in the future.

The Vesuvius missed out on that trip when we were turned around in early August 1964 due to three gunboats trying to sink the Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. Life for all Americans and our crew was never the same after that day.

I am hoping to retire at the end of this year for time is closing in and it is hard to believe that all the young men in my Navy pictures are now old farts like me. I will start writing stories of my memories of things that went on during my tour and get my slides put on disc so Bob can add them to the record, if he so chooses.

God bless all who served aboard the AE 15.

IRA A. STOKER,
APRIL 29, 2006

IRA'S PHOTOS -

 


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TIM & SUSAN

TIM CRLENJAK

YOEMAN 

THIRD CLASS PETTY OFFICER

1969 TO 1973

My family was well-represented in all of America's wars that they were here for. I've got an old, yellowed newspaper clipping from WWII about the Croatian immigrant family with all four sons in the American military, “The Crlenjaks ” (serlenjaks), My dad, George, was in the Army, the other three went Navy. Grandma must have worn out a few Rosaries, but all her boys came back.

I graduated from high school in 1967 when I was only 17. The draft was in full swing for the Viet Nam war and our local draft board was taking boys at about 19, so I had some time to think about it. The ethics of the war were a big issue. Dad would look at me, his only child, and wonder why we were killing people he had never heard of. What had they done to us to deserve this? Reflecting the best of his Slavic ancestry, he agonized over the age-old issue of war and justice. I became the third generation of my Dad's family to work in the Steel mill while I figured out what to do.

One of the young men I met at the mill was Leo George, an affable, always cheerful Arab-American. he might have been of Lebanese descent, like Danny Thomas. I'm not sure. He was a year or so older than me and was drafted out of the mill. He Went through Army boot camp and went straight to 'Nam and into combat. He wrote me a letter of fear and anxiety under fire. I actually wrote back to him while on a flight to an outdoor adventure camp in the Rockies.

He came home in a box weeks later. I went to the funeral, closed casket. His girlfriend, his family, friends, the works. What could I do? Why not go to college? Get four or five deferments, then get married, a couple kids, another deferment, and the war should be done by then. All legal and a very popular alternative, as we know.

But this country had given my family literally everything. Talk about American Idyll? That was my childhood. Plus, I had given a speech in favor of the Vietnam war while in 8th grade. And plus, they killed Leo. Well it was friendly fire, but you get the idea.

So I joined the Navy. Call me a draft dodger, but I didn't know how I would do in the dangerous Army. At that time I didn't know about the adventures of John McCain on the USS FORESTAL a year or two earlier.

I arrived in Great Lakes Naval Training Center about Feb. 17th, 1969. Nothing like boot camp at Great lakes in the winter. From there I went to the USS VESUVIUS (AE-15) at her mooring in San Francisco. So how do you get into the AE Navy? 'Cause the Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS) sends you there!

I served on the Mighty V from 1969 to '73, three deployments: 6 months, 8 months, 13 months. Remember the 36 hour unrep: carriers to the horizon? Riding out the typhoon in Hong Kong harbor? The pallet of Willie Peter that smashed open resulting in the fastest, motivated work party that I ever saw as smoking canisters went over the side. Nice work if you can get it. As FTG Strenge said: "If dunnage is outlawed, only outlaws will have dunnage." Does anybody remember Bangkok, where the tough guys tumbled and the Emerald Buddha revealed the lyrics to "Louie, Louie?." Still crazy after all these years. All the best to our buds on the Paricutin, Haleakala, and all the rest. Clear sailing and a tail wind to all. New Writer of the Purple Rage, Livid in the USA

Tim Crlenjak
March, 2008

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CAPT WILLIAM KINMONT FLINT
 

1962 to1964


Captain Flint was born in San Francisco, California. He graduated from the University of Santa Clara in June 1960. He entered Naval Officer Candidate School at Newport, Rhode Island and was commissioned an Ensign in March 1961. Upon commissioning, he was ordered to the USS Norton Sound (AVM-1) where he served as Damage Control Assistant until June 1962. From there he was ordered to the USS Vesuvius (AE-15) and served as Damage Control Assistant until his release from active duty in March 1964. Upon release from active duty, Capitan Flint affiliated with the Naval Reserve and served for sixty-four months in Department Head and Executive Officer/Navigator tours on board the Naval Reserve Force (NRF) minesweepers THRASHER, WHIPPOORWILL, REAPER and GALLANT.
This was followed by a tour as Training Officer, Naval Ordnance Detachment 2030 under the operational control (OPCON) of Naval Weapons Station, Concord; as Chief Staff Officer, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet Detachment 720 under the OPCON of Destroyer Squadron TWENTY-SEVEN (NRF); as Commanding Officer, Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity (S1MA), San Diego Detachment 120 in support of the USS Tulare (LKA-1 12); as Special Assistant to Commander, Service Squadron THREE; as Reserve Coordinator lPCO, USS Mauna Kea (AE-22); as Commanding Officer, COMNAVSURFPAC Detachment 720 under the OPCON of Commander, Logistics Group ONE; as Mobilization Officer on the Naval Reserve Readiness Command Region TWENTY staff, as Commanding Officer, Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity/Naval Reserve Maintenance Force (SIMA/NRMF), San Francisco (an active duty command) and finally as Commanding Officer, Political-Military Affairs Detachment 2011 under the OPCON of U.S. Military Representative, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Brussels, Belgium.
Captain Flint, along with his PolMil Affairs Detachment, was recalled to active duty for the Persian Gulf War in January 1991 where he served on the NATO staff as Battle Watch Captain. Captain Flint was transferred to retired status on September 1, 1991.
Captain Flint has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Naval Reserve Sea Service Ribbon, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Expert Marksmanship Medals for rifle and pistol. Additionally, Captain Flint is entitled to wear the Surface Warfare Officer Badge, the Commanding Officer, Ashore Badge and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Badge.

US NAVAL FOUNDATION
JUNE 2003

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PHOTOS

 1962-1964 MARION EASTMAN

1963-1964 STAN BUDZ  GMTSN

1963-1968 JUAN SALAS

1964-1966 DALE FINKEN  EM1   (Video)

1964-1966 BOB RICHTER

1966-1970 GREG KOBE

1966-1970 GARY RIDENOUR

1966-1970 DENNIS ROLLIE

1967-1969 JOHN BRUCE  GMG 2 (Video Series on , "Swift Boats" )
Click on Segments # 1, # 2,

1967-1969 GARY MICHAEL

1967-1971 JERRY FLOOD

1967-1971 GARY PENNINGTON

1968-1970 DENNIS JOYCE

1972 -  ?    ORLAND DAVIS

19 ?-19 ?  DENNIS NOTHNAGEL

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