In fact, Ensign Herbert Charpoit Jones received the Medal of Honor. On board the California , after rescuing a wounded Sailor, he took command of an antiaircraft gun until it ran out of ammunition. He then organized and led a party to supply ammunition to the gun battery after the mechanical hoists were put out of action. Lying gravely wounded by a bomb in a small compartment engulfed in flames, he refused aid, telling two Sailors that he was "done for," and to save themselves.
Ensign Jones is buried in the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Grave G-76, on Point Loma in San Diego. I "adopted" his memory more than a decade ago and every 7 December place a small red poinsettia at his gravesite. For now, I am his neighbor.
'The Truth About Tonkin'
(See P. Paterson, pp. 52-59, February 2008 Naval History )
Captain Thomas W. Glickman, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Commander Paterson's account brought back memories. From February 1963 to February 1965, I was a message center duty officer in the Joint Chiefs of Staff Message Center. In that capacity, I handled thousand of incoming and outgoing messages. Two of those messages were the directive for the OPLAN-34A operations in early August 1964 and the directive for what was the USS Maddox 's (DD-731) DeSoto patrol mission. At the time, each was just another message to cross the desk during my watch.
My first knowledge of the Tonkin Gulf incident was a flash-precedence message from CINCPAC indicating that North Vietnamese motor torpedo boats had engaged the Maddox, the ship was countering the attack, and aircraft from the Ticonderoga (CVA-14) were assisting. Upon receipt, I called the National Military Command Center (NMCC) and told the team chief that I had an important message I was hand carrying to him. When I arrived in the NMCC, the chief read the message, handed it to me, and told me to show it to the deputy director for operations (DDO). (As a result of recommendations following the Cuban Missile Crisis, a flag or general officer served as the DDO on each NMCC shift.)
I took the message to the DDO's office and saw the general on duty had his feet on the desk and was asleep. I woke him and showed him the message. He read it, and handed it back, saying "Why wake me? This looks like a Seventh Fleet matter." I have often wondered what would have happened if others had that same thought.
Two days later the second Tonkin Gulf "incident" evoked a flurry of messages including one that queried, "Was it a flock of birds?" By that time, planning for the Pierce Arrow retaliatory air strikes was under way. Every message I saw indicated there would be no advance warning of the strikes. Thus, our watch section was surprised when we saw President Lyndon Johnson's television report that the strikes were to take place.
During the next several days, and in spite of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, some in Congress had doubts that there was not a nexus between the DeSoto Patrol and the OPLAN-34A and there was talk of a possible inquiry into the matter. That concerned me because I had handled the two messages detailing those operations. I expressed my concern to our assistant officer in charge who told me to forget it.
As part of the follow-up investigation, Washington directed that all information pertaining to the incidents as well as statements from participants be sent as top-secret, flash-precedence messages to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for evaluation. I was on duty when a number of those messages arrived at the Pentagon in a deluge. Although originally intended for the Secretary of Defense and joint chiefs, the message center was directed to readdress them to the White House and State Department, and it was done. Before too long, I received a telephone call from the State Department requesting we cease sending the messages to them because their flash precedence had essentially cut off all other incoming internal communications from diplomatic posts throughout the world. Instead, their regularly scheduled courier would pick-up the messages.
Commander Paterson is mistaken regarding the boats involved in the OPLAN-34A attacks on Hon Me and Hon Ngu islands during the night of 30-31 July 1964. The four Nasty-type fast patrol boats (PTF) used in these two raids were in fact the property of the U.S. Navy, although they were manned by Vietnamese nationals. Edwin E. Moise cites in Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996) that the PTFs were never transferred to the South Vietnamese Navy (Hai-Quan Viet-Nam) and were under the direct control of a U.S. Navy Mobile Support Team at My Khe (near DaNang).
Built in Norway by Boatservice Ltd. A/S, the PTFs were production versions of an experimental torpedo boat built as a private venture. This boat was subsequently taken over by the Royal Norwegian Navy and named Nasty. The U.S. Navy PTFs were armed with two single 40-mm and two 20-mm cannon. No torpedo tubes were mounted. With the U.S. Navy controlling both the OPLAN-34A and DeSoto operations, it is not surprising that the North Vietmanese torpedo boats responded aggessively when the Maddox neared Hon Me Island on 2 August.
'Who Knocked the Enterprise Out of the War?'
(See K. Sugahara, pp. 38-45, April 2008 Naval History )
Captain Lawrence B. Brennan, U.S. Navy, JAGC
The moving account of Mr. Sugahara's efforts to identify Lieutenant (junior grade) Shunsuke Tomiyasu, Imperial Japanese Navy, as the man who ended the combat career of the USS Enterprise (CV-6) in May 1945 reopens memories of another historic event that occured 35 years later.
An unintended consequence of Lieutenant Tomiyasu's final mission directly led to the decision by Secretary of the Navy Edward Hidalgo—who had been an air combat intelligence officer on board the Enterprise —to create an exception to the Navy's ban on alcohol on board its warships in April 1980. To mark the 100th consecutive day under way of the USS Nimitz (CVN-68) during the Iranian hostage crisis, the secretary allowed each crewman two beers.
The message authorizing the Nimitz to "splice the main brace" shocked her commanding officer, Captain John R. Batzler. When the carrier was deployed to the Indian Ocean, ultimately to launch the unsuccessful Iranian hostage rescue mission, I was her legal officer and designated by the XO, Captain Dick Macke, one of the first "beer officers" since Admiral William F. Halsey Jr. was a junior officer. With no beer on board, we were somehow able to locate more than 12,000 cans of it and have them delivered. The logistics in locating and moving so much beer in a short time was remarkable.
Years later, I learned from his Enterprise shipmate and an assistant secretary of the Navy, Joseph Doyle, that the secretary's willingness to allow the beer on board was based on the fact that the Enterprise 's beer was destroyed by the kamikaze strike on her forward elevator. With no intent to profane the memory of another naval officer, I have fondly remembered the final moments of Lieutenant Tomiyasu's life when I annually mark the day and recall my tour in the Nimitz , the debacle at Desert One, and 144 consecutive days at sea.
(See N. Polmar, pp. 14-15, April 2008 Naval History )
Thanks to Norman Polmar for his article on the Grumman F9F Panther where he mentions that the aircraft starred in James Michener's The Bridges at Toko-Ri in the early 1950s.
Certainly in the 1954 film, starring William Holden and Grace Kelly, the F9F was the aircraft flown. However, my memory of reading the novel from some 50 years ago is that the McDonnell F2H Banshee was illustrated as the aircraft in use, specifically the F2H-2, which had no dihedral on the horizontal stabilizers. In neither the book nor the film was the name of the aircraft mentioned; in the film it was obvious what was being flown, and in the book the aircraft was shown, unidentified, in accompanying illustrations.
'Bush Donated World War II Service Revolver'
(See Naval History News, p. 9, October 2007 Naval History )
Captain Merle L. Harbourt, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)
Since when have military personnel been permitted to "donate" a weapon that was government issue?
In Iraq we are missing thousands of AK-47s. No big deal, but U.S. purchases belong to the good old USA.
'The Sculpin's Lost Mission'
(See C. R. Larson, pp. 28-35, February 2008, and C. R. Ryan, pp. 6-7, April 2008 Naval History )
Mr. Ryan surmises that "the (submarine) Combat Patrol Insignia was only awarded during World War II. . . ." In fact, the USS Pickerel (SS-524) earned combat dolphins in the Korean War. But to my knowledge she's the only one to be so awarded after World War II.
(See R. Cressman, pp. 12-13, February 2008 Naval History )
Commander Frank L. Shelley, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)
Let me open with the stipulation that nomenclature of any sailing rig is good for a fight in anybody's bar. However, while eschewing violence, the description of the two-masted rig for the USS Bancroft /USRC Itasca (page 12) as a "schooner" must be challenged. Absent any hint of a fore and aft sail on the foremast, the use of schooner at the very least requires the seldom used and awkward qualified term brig schooner.
There are a host of names for this particular configuration, varying by location of the namer. The most common usages are brigantine, favored by our British and Canadian cousins, and hermaphrodite brig is the prevailing Yankee choice.
The Itasca trained two future Coast Guard Commandants: Admiral Joseph F. Farley, class of 1912 (Commandant 1946-49) and Vice Admiral Merlin O'Neill, class of 1912 (Commandant 1949-54).
The article states that the cadet practice ship Bancroft departed Tompkinsville, New York, and arrived in Smyrna—Izmir, Turkey—after a voyage of 1,631 nautical miles. I suspect that that was just the Gibraltar to Symrna leg of the journey, the actual distance of the trip would have been near 4,398 nautical miles.
(See R. Cressman, p.12, December 2007 Naval History )
Lance L. Terrell
Mr. Cressman erred in stating that the USS Idaho (BB-24) was sent to the Panama Canal Zone to "ensure a peaceful election." I am certain he was referring to the situation across the border in the Republic of Panama, where indeed there were elections, if you want to call them that, often punctuated with gunfire and violence.
The zone was a U.S. territory administered by a non-elected government appointed by the President and serving under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Army. During the entire existence of the U.S. administered Canal Zone, from 1904 to 1978, there were never elections of any kind.