In service as a naval auxiliary we were preparing to deliver necessary materials to the troops already present in Vietnam.
The better part of the days and nights had been full with loading of supplies including the earlier mentioned jelly bombs. With the end of the week arriving way too soon for me, the time had come to hit the open sea.
Early Saturday morning the Pilot (Harbormaster) has boarded the ship. The dock workers have left the ship and it’s now 90% in our control. It’ll become 100% once the Harbormaster has left us to the open sea. He will guide the ship out from the docks towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
I said my prayers; ‘You Lord are the only one to protect us and help us come back safe to our families and homes … if it is Your will.’ The fear of the unknown did rise up in me, it was more real now that the knots of the ropes which kept us at the docks had been released.
I went back in to serve breakfast to my lot (the officers). A tray of coffee and pastries was taken up to the Bridge for the Pilot also. As I recall it took about half a day going through the narrow passages, simply having to go at a crawl as we’re not yet out in the open sea. Then it happened.
I was back out on deck now when the engines were cut. I looked out around the ship at the waters below and saw the little Pilot’s boat with all his rubber tires secured completely around; bumper boats!
It was time for the Harbormaster to leave us to our own devices. We weren’t yet at the Golden Gate but I could easily see it in the distance. The rope ladder was rolled back up seconds after he touched floor on his little boat. I keep saying little in contrast to our gigantic ship.
The rumble and vibration of the engines firing back up to full throttle was thrilling I openly admit. We’re headed into the open sea. There’s already no turning back; we had several jobs to do and we’d do them to the best of our potential.
I found myself momentarily concerned with the ship’s smokestacks being able to clear the bridge. I knew in my mind of course they wouldn’t attempt this without a thousand successful experiences. Still, child-like I wondered.
And looking in the direction of the Golden Gate, the beauty of this moment overrode my looming thoughts of danger which we would soon be facing, point in fact I didn’t fully understand what in actuality it was going to be. I was truly in this moment.
Most of us were out on deck taking in this last peaceful mental picture for a memoir of home; it was so beautiful to me.
Everything appeared toy-like as the cars passed one another on the bridge. We’d already passed Sausalito at the changing of the Harbormaster’s guidance and now the homes up on the hillsides were as though a giant’s child placed his Monopoly toy houses along them.
As we were passing underneath the bridge another ship was coming into the Bay; an interesting sight by its own rights. We all turned now to look back upon the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge as he was quickly becoming a view in the past.
Our ship was now dashing upon the open sea. Into the sunset we were headed. Oh! It was time to get back to work … had to serve the officers their lunch.
a little extra information from: http://www.usmm.org/vietnam.html
The Military Sea Transportation Service had the job of bringing war supplies to Vietnam –– 10,000 miles from the Pacific coast. MSTS had four separate customers to serve: the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. MSTS ships were staffed by “civilian” crews, but carried 95% of the supplies used by our Armed Forces in Vietnam including bombs and ammunition into combat zones under fire.
MSTS took about 100 Victory ships out of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (mothball fleet), repaired them, and assigned them to private companies for operation to carry ammunition across the Pacific. MSTS carried guns, tanks, trucks, trains, riverboats, barges, helicopters, bombers, fighters, reconnaissance planes, food, fuel, and medical supplies. By 1965 MSTS had 300 freighters and tankers supplying Vietnam, with an average of 75 ships and over 3,000 merchant mariners in Vietnamese ports at any time.