Stories from the Pacific / Viet Nam Era
Allan Wilson: posted 10/01/11
On Monday 01 October 1973 in Key West, FL at 11:00 A.M., I was standing on the pier with the USS Kretchmer DER329 getting ready to be decommissioned for a final time.
I was sitting next to a Vice Admiral (in his white uniform), he was the last Commanding Officer of Key West Naval Air Station. I was wearing a blue sports jacket and had a tie that I bought that morning. Also present was Joseph Edel, RM3 and Postal Clerk of the USS Kretchmer from Newport, RI to South Vietnam, he also was wearing a suit. Joseph had a camera that he bought in Japan in 1959. He was aboard the 329 16 Jan. 1961 to 05 July 1966. I was aboard Friday, 13 Nov. 1964 (Newport) to Monday, 12 Feb. 1968 (Yokosuka, Japan).
I had tears in my eyes as the Ensign was lowered for the final time. The whole ceremony took about fifteen minutes, but I wouldn't have missed it. Afterward, the crew left the ship and it was turned over to the SRF, next I went to the Key West Officers club and had a slice of cake and saw a table on the side with about 100 USS Kretchmer decommissioning ceremony booklets, somehow they all came into my hands, I was thinking about Reunions yet to be. Next I took a final look at a "friend" that was alone. I enjoyed being a crew member, being in 1st Div. was in almost every space on the ship.
Back in May, 1965, the weekend before got word the 329 was going to Vietnam, I had the job of painting the port numbers on Saturday and the 329 Sunday next to the pier in Newport. Then on Monday, we went to the ammo. pier and loaded up for a gun-shoot in the Atlantic, while going down the Narragansett Bay the RM's got a message that the 329 was headed for South Vietnam and we headed back to the ammo. pier to unload before going to Boston Naval Shipyard.
How I got the name "Skokie".
On 02 Sept. 1966, at sea off the coast of South Vietnam, in the POD it said, the Ship is looking for a NEW barber (that would be from 1st Div.). I and another Deck Ape applied for the job. Capt. Chinn got each of us a "guinea pig", that was about to go to XO Mast (he and the Capt. would drop all charges if they agreed to a hair cut from the"barbers"). I gave the better haircut and became the new Ship's Barber. The barber shop was between Sick Bay and the Ship's Office, one deck below the Main Deck. Two days later the ship did a high-line with an AO at midnight for JP-5 and new crewmen. We got seven new snipes aboard, all from Ohio, none knew each other before joining the Navy. They were all FA's right out of Great Lakes EN school. They all became my new "customers". I wasn't that good as a barber, just got around, as the SH1 told me how to cut hair. I started to "hang out" with the snipes. My Mom would send me the local Thursday newspaper, it came two weeks after it was published. It was called the "Skokie Life". Soon one of the snipes put an "R" after Life and some called me Skokie Lifer, I had been on the ship almost two years. Next some one called me "Skokie" and that became my new name. Many EN and EM's got nicknames, if you had a nickname from a snipe, you were in. On the ship, when we went to Hong Kong, many men had "patches" sewn on the back of them. I had, on the back of my blue working jacket, "The Skokie Kid" in yellow thread and below that a big patch "Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club 65 66 67 Vietnam". For all the sewing and Patches it cost less than $5.00. Will bring it next year, 2012. The blue working jacket still goes on. To this day, when I visit Ohio, they still call me "Skokie:.
"I was only aboard for a short while, from late April through December of 1966. I went to the Kretchmer from a destroyer, DDR 808, the Dennis J. Buckley after voluntarily accepted orders originally issued to a friend of mine on the Buckely. He and his fiance had plans for her to come down from Portland, Oregon and they were to get married there. His going to the Kretchmer, which was then right back in WEST PAC and home ported in Guam would have ruined their plans. I transferred to the Kretchmer in his place. Sorry, but my memories of that time are too vague to recall interesting anecdotes about shipboard life. I kinda remember enjoyable stops in ports and a day now and then anchoring near remote islands for picnics, swimming and games as rest and relaxation to provide welcome breaks from picket duty off Vietnam. These seemed too few and far between, however."
Bryan Clay: 6/30/11
"This is a story that happened to two former Kretchmer shipmates sometime after the year 2000. The first of these shipmates was J.A. Willis who served aboard the "Mighty K" during WWII. He and I were sitting around my house with all the family one Thanksgiving Day, after having a sumptous Thanksgiving meal. We both live in a small rural SE Oklahoma town of about 6,000 population. We began talking about our military days and comparing stories. I asked him what ships he served aboard during WWII. He named two ships, with one being the Kretchmer. I said "What?" Thought I had misunderstood him, since I'm kind of deaf. He repeated the USS Kretchmer DE329. I then told him that I served aboard the USS Kretchmer DER329 in 1968 and 1969! J.A. is my step-father-in-law!!! It is truely a small world!!!