Getting to Boot Camp!!

Arriving at Boot Camp!! 

Service Week at Boot Camp!! 

Life at Boot Camp!! 

Choosing a Navy Career at Boot Camp!! 





Getting to Boot Camp!! 

I left home on December 26, 1967, after lunch. There were relatives at the house for Christmas and hardly anyone seemed to take note that I was leaving for the Navy. This is not entirely unreasonable because the norm for the day in my home town was that young guys joined the Navy Reserves in order to avoid the draft and going to Viet Nam. My next older sister, Anita, was the only person who said much of anything or seemed to care. I believe they all thought I would be back in a few weeks and then simply be doing weekend drills in Norfolk. I was joining the Big Navy !!

So, my sister drove me downtown to catch the Greyhound Bus in front of the Pontiac dealer on Tomlinson Avenue in Moundsville, West Virginia, my home town. I took the bus to Huntington, WV, where I met the recruiters and they took all of us entrants over to the Armed Forces Entrance Examining Station (AFEES) in Ashland, Kentucky. There, we had our induction physicals early in the morning and those of us who passed were sworn in around noon that very day. 

Interestingly, I signed up at the Navy Recruiting station in Charleston, WV, but my recruitment was credited to a Saint Louis, MO, recruiter who had not made his numbers that month. 

From there, I was taken to a local airport and flew on to Cincinnati, OH. I almost did not survive this flight. About halfway, the small twin engine, six passenger prop plane hit a major air pocket. I was watching people play golf from an altitude of probably five or six thousand feet when all of a sudden, the floor fell out from under the plane. A steward who had a tray of drinks hit the ceiling along with his tray and the drinks he was carrying went EVERYWHERE and were dripping from the ceiling even afterward. He commented it was the worst he'd ever seen. By judging from the golf course, I believe we lost at least half our altitude !! 

The flight from Cincinnati on to O'Hare Airport in Chicago was a VERY comfortable DC-3 (tri-motor) flight. When we got near Chicago, a major blizzard had started that ultimately plopped several feet of snow on the area. I never saw the ground the entire time I was there.

The Navy had a station in the airport where I met up with other new guys flying in and we were taken on to Great Lakes Naval Training Center, about 20 miles north of Chicago.  We arrived about midnight and were taken to an old barracks where we got some sleep and were awakened about 5 AM.


Arriving At Boot Camp!! 

The first thing that happened on that first day, of course,  was the haircuts.  We then were marched over to another barracks carrying our belongings and told we had to clean it.  After about six hours of cleaning, it was about 6PM and we were able to stop, shower, march over to the mess hall and eat supper, etc.  At 9PM, they came in and told us we had to move to another barracks.  We did.  When we got there, we were told we had to clean it.  After about six hours of cleaning, we were able sleep for about two hours, but then it was 5 AM and time to go to breakfast.  When we got back to our barracks, we were told we had to move to another barracks.  When we got there, we were told we had to clean it.  Ad infinitum for five days.  I got about eight total hours of sleep in those five days.

Then we finally moved into what actually became our real barracks for the rest of our time there.  The first thing we did was --- clean it.

To teach us how tough we had to be, they didn't turn on the heat and they didn't allow us to use our one thin, wool Navy blanket at night.  Mind you, there was a blizzard and temperatures were getting down to below zero at night.  One guy froze to death on the second night.. The next night, another guy froze to death.

Another thing we started doing right away was standing guard - on everything.  We even had guards out all night on the dumpsters.  Dumpster Watch.  What a blast!!  Again, it was well below zero outside at night and you're supposed to be standing at Parade Rest guarding the dumpster.  A guy was found frozen to death by the dumpster on the third morning.   

That made THREE dead guys out of our little 60 man company in three days.  The fourth day we stood at attention while two Congressmen walked around asking questions.  They were dumbfounded.   They DID have an impact.  The rules were changed immediately so that there was no marching whenever the temperature was below 20 degrees and the dumpster watches had to be changed out every 15 minutes in those conditions.  (It had been two hour watches.)

One day, the FBI came in and arrested this Puerto Rican from New York City whom we were told later was a gang leader who had tried to avoid arrest by slipping out of town by joining the Navy.  They had arranged a cover story to catch him by surprise.  they jumped him and threw the cuffs on like in a movie, only this was for real.  We never saw him again, of course, nor did we care.  We already had enough problems of our own.


Service Week at Boot Camp!! 

Service Week in the Bakery; 2nd degree burn from grease pan.


Life at Boot Camp!! 

We had various inspections every day, several a day by the "Recruit Company Commander (our guy) and twice every day by our "real" Company Commander, "Mr. A. S. Lamp. Boatswains Mate Chief, United States Navy".  They would inspect our lockers to make sure everything was stowed properly.  In a full size, upright locker  cabinet, you were only allowed to use one shelf.  All the rest of the shelves were required to be 100% ready for inspection on zero notice.  For instance, if I had 10 T-shirts, eight of them were perfectly washed, perfectly folded and kept on the inspection shelf.  The other two were the only ones I was allowed to wear and they were kept on the one useable shelf.  Of course, the useable shelf was inspected right along with the inspection-ready stuff, so it really didn't make much difference.  These guys also inspected our bunk to make sure it was fitted and made properly.  (Yes, quarters WERE definitely bounced !!)  They also inspected the showers and rest rooms.  Just like the clothing locker, we had about 16 toilets and same number of urinals, but all but two of each were set aside for inspection and roped off.  In addition to that, we had several inspections by officers throughout the week.  THose were the ones in the barracks.  We also had inspections in the drill hall in one uniform or another at least twice per week.  Usually one in full dress uniform and one in a working uniform.

One day, we had an inspection.  The guy next to me dilly-dallied around and was unable to put his toothbrush away before the inspector came around the corner.  He stuck it under my pillow on my bunk, but there was nothing I could do because the inspectors were already coming down the line.  Of course, the toothbrush was found and they likewise found that the guy next to me was missing his.  We each got an hour of military instruction in the gym, meaning close order drill with a fake rifle doing things like holding it with outstretched arms for 15 minutes at a time and stuff like that.  If you even flinched, you got another hour of drill time.  I passed the drill.

I got even with that jerk a few days later when we were marching in formation into the drill hall (a HUGE gym that probably had 8 or 10 basketball courts in it, at least) for a "formal" company inspection.  He was on my left and we were marching four abreast.  I was on the outside right column.  As we were marching through the last left-wheel to get into formation with the senior officer standing on the review stand, I swung my left boot out wide and brought the heel sharply down on his right spit-shined boot and ground it in a bit.  Of course, his shoeshine was wrecked.  He got an hour of drill time and I didn't.  The rest of the time in Boot Camp he tried to get one up on me again, but I held him off.


Brigade Drill Flag.

Sit-ups champion.

500 deep knee bends back-to-back and falling down steps bleeding profusely.

Learning to survive on the ocean with your hat.  Now it doesn't work.

"Liberty!"  (I didn't even know what they were talking about at first.)

48 of 56 guys went to the USS AMERICA.



Choosing a Navy Career at Boot Camp!! 

How I became a "submariner":   In Boot Camp, unless you signed up on a designated program, (i.e., headed for a specific career line), you went through a bunch of aptitude tests and career counselor (CC)  interviews.  I didn't.  I just signed up for a normal four-year hitch.

The aptitude tests were more about what you already knew than your aptitude.  I scored about 78 on the language test, but I wasn't interested in doing that.  I scored much higher on all the other sections.  I scored 48 out of a possible 100 on the mechanical aptitude.  80% of the mechanical aptitude test was showing pictures of tools and things like that and asking what they were.  Later, I came to recall seeing a picture of inside calipers, for instance, that at the time I had NO idea what they were.  So they determined I had no aptitude whatsoever about mechanical stuff.  12 years later, I was Engineer Officer of a nuclear submarine responsible for all of the engineering on the entire ship.  Great test, huh?

So I ended up sitting in Career Counseling interviews with these 1st Class Petty Officers trying to figure out where to stick me in the Navy.  I will never forget until the day I die the following, VERBATIM dialogue which resulted in me becoming a submariner:

CC:    Are you interested in any special programs?

Me:    What are special programs?

CC:    Oh, things like aviation, SEALS or submarines.

Me:    Do they get extra pay?

CC:    Yes.

Me:    Who gets the most?

CC:    They all get the same.  It's called Hazardous Duty Pay and the amount depends on your rank.  It's all the same.

Me:    Hazardous Duty Pay?  How much is it?

CC:    It's $55 per month.

Me:    Which one of those special programs is the most dangerous?

CC:    Oh, probably the aviators.  There's always somebody getting hurt on the flight decks of the carriers.

Me:    Then which one's the safest?

CC:    Oh, undoubtedly the submarines.  They have the best safety record in the Navy.

Me:    Then sign me up!