I have now read every one of the stories from the 72 Westpac and they are all true, but there is one story that can finally be told. I think
the statute of limitations has finally run.
We had fallen into a routine of doing Linebacker Strikes at night and then gunline operations during the day. On this particular occasion, we had stayed up most of the night for
the sole purpose of firing random rounds into North Vietnam to keep them awake all night. I must admit I never really understood the logic behing "harrassment and interdiction fire." It was mid-afternoon and we had been
assigned a station somewhere away from the immediate action. We were steaming slowly in a series of ninety degree turns keeping a box around our station which was about 2000 yards off the beach. It was hot and everyone was beat.
I was in CIC standing watch with another junior officer who name I will decline to mention. Other ships on the gunline were taking occasional fire from the beach but it was quiet in our area. The radar picture was often
cluttered so conning the ship was pretty much left up to the bridge watch who could actually see what was out there. I was startled back to my senses by the sounds of a radarman's head hitting the plot board as he fell to sleep.
The unnamed junior officer and I then decided to walk out on the bridge for a breath of fresh air.
We found the bridge watch as alert as the watchstanders in CIC. We also found the OOD and the JOOD (also unnamed) on the
wing of the bridge, leaned back, watching something which was happening aft. It was then we noticed we seemed awfully close to the beach. I mean really close to the beach. I mean damn close to the beach. Simultaneously, the unnamed
junior officer and myself remarked about our position in a loud and spirited way. The OOD and the JOOD turned and were immediately ashen faced. We were headed
directly at the beach. The OOD order a turn with full rudder and
kicked up the speed. As we turned the ship shuddered for just a moment and we watched the muddy water from the bottom churn up under stern.
We immediately headed directly away from the beach. I don't think the OOD or the
JOOD took a breath for the rest of the watch. There was a call from the Captain inquiring about the abrupt manuver but I left the bridge so as not to be a witness to the explanation. That was also the last time I saw any of one of
us get sleepy on watch.
I guess you could call this "The Day the Gods Smiled on Us."
Robert G. Chadwell