Dockside Bunks

by kfrego

Five Marines from Kaneohe Crash Crew, myself included, were transferred to helicopter squadron HMM-161 in Feb of 1965. Our assignment was to provide aircraft fire fighting capability for the squadron for upcoming military manuevers for the 1st Marine Brigade. We reported to Pearl Harbor for deployment. We would be transported by ship and make an amphibious landing on San Clemente Island off of Camp Pendleton. We had our own crash fire truck and all the supplies to support squadron activities. All of the helicopters and personnel of HMM-161 were assigned to the helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima. Our crew of five Marines were assigned to a cargo ship AKA-104 USS Seminole with our crash truck, the CO’s jeep, and all of the cargo not essential to launch the helicopters off the Iwo Jima. We were the only Marines on the Seminole. We were also the only people not permanently assigned to the Seminole. While the ship was being loaded we lived on cots in the open warehouse adjacent to the docks. Everything we owned was with us.

We sailed out of Pearl Harbor for several days training while the rest of our convoy formed. We sailed in huge circles firing the 34mm guns at floating balloons and doing drills. After several days we were called back into Pearl Harbor. We went directly to the West Lock area which were the ammunition docks. All non essential cargo for our maneuvers was off loaded and replaced with ammuntion, grave markers, caskets, and emergency medical supplies. Our crew of five was delegated to the open warehouse quarters while loading the ship.

Two Australian ships were on R&R at Pearl Harbor. We became acquainted with the Aussies and visited their ships. We raced electric fork lifts at our dock at night. They thought it was funny that the Navy made us live in an open warehouse on the dock. The Aussies liked Marines and Seabees. They also liked raising hell, drinking, and fighting with sailors. It didn’t take long for us to wear out our welcome at the Enlisted Mens Club at Pearl Harbor. The Executive Officer of the Seminole warned us not to get his attention again. We listened.

Just before we left Pearl Harbor our ship had a ships party at a recreation area. It was a good time. Several ships had parties in different areas of the park. The mike boats used the admirals dock to get people to shore at the park. While taking the left overs back to ship, a bunch of sailors on shore started throwing food at sailors on the dock. Of course the sailors on the dock returned fire. The Captain of the Seminole and several others were summoned to the admirals office next morning. The dock got cleaned and a lot of people got shit details for a long time.

Our escapades with the Aussies and Seabees got us a stern warning………….enough to keep us out of the food fight and dock cleaning.