An Excited Young Man

Oct 72-July 73.


I joined the Navy when I was seventeen year's old.  After completing boot camp and BT school I was stationed aboard the USS Bordelon.


Soon after I arrived on the ship we left for Vietnam.  I was a young man, excited at the thought of going half way around the world and the places and things I would see.  I share a lot of stories with my children who think I should write a book about some of the things we did. While in Vietnam I never missed a chance to go above the bridge and hang out with the lookout to watch the show. The radio crew was usually there with a military radio so we could listen to talk between the chopper crews who flew low near the jungle to draw fire and watch as the jets dropped their bombs. At night we watched the tracer fire and bombs going off.     


One night after getting off watch, I went to my favorite spot above the bridge and talked to the lookout. We had fired our guns for hours that day during a mission. Everything was quiet as we sat still in the water with several other ships near the North Vietnam coast.  I could see the coast line and see a lot of guns firing on land.


There was tracer and artillery fire going in all directions.  I asked the lookout what was going on and he told me some kind of battle. I saw these red lights blink on and off and asked the lookout what those light were for?  He told me that the lights came on just before the artillery fired, some kind of warning to the gun crew. 


 A few minutes later a high pitched sound came by my head.  It sounded like a big bumble bee. The lookout and I looked at each other and I said "what was that". A few minutes later we heard a high pitch sound and saw the water splash near the port side of the ship.  The sounds and splashes kept coming, one right after the other.  I counted seven before I realized someone was shooting at our ship.


As the lookout reported to the bridge what was going on, I decided I did not like the view from the lookout station anymore and leaped for the ladder going down to the main deck.


It was a long drop, but to this day I do not remember touching the ladder.  When I got in side of the ship I ran into several crew members who saw the look on my face which told them what just happened!  The ship moved a few minutes later from our position. I later found out that the North Vietnamese eight inch guns fired about eight or ten rounds at us and that this was no big deal because this went on all the time!


The next day as I met the XO in the passageway. He told me he wanted to talk to me. Someone must have told him I witnessed what happened the night before because he asked what I saw.  After I told him, I just knew I was going to be in trouble but he just laughed and told me, from now on, wear a flack jacket when I was with the lookout!


I would like also to add a few details not in the story told on the Bordelon Home Page when we lost our turbine during a linebacker operation.


Before the linebacker operation began, we were given a briefing on our mission.


The Bordelon was going along with several other ships to support our troops assaulting North Vietnamese gun and rocket sites. Because we were the oldest ship on the mission we were picked as the decoy. We were to draw the North Vietnamese fire so the other ships could take out their guns and rockets.


 My job was to wear a flack jacket and be ready to cool the barrel of the aft gun mount with a fire hose in the event of a misfire.


We did our job drawing fire from the Vietnamese and everything was going as planned until we lost our starboard turbine.  The ship slowed to a crawl while we were under heavy fire.  Our guns continued to fire while we made our slow escape out of the range of the Vietnamese guns.  After we were safe, the Captain addressed the crew and explained what happened and how lucky we were.  He explained about the turbine failure and shore gunfire and told us that the USS Lawrence took out a rocket site whose radar was locked on our ship, ready to fire.  He then told us that it was our duty to buy the drinks for the crew of the USS Lawrence when we got to Subic Bay for repairs.


We were not a crew to disobey an order from our Captain, so we did just as we were ordered!


 Russ Bernard BTFN