I have written about our Crystal’s Sexy Senior Citizens Breakfast Club. Al met a retired navy man, Fred, who had worked with Judge Advocate General (JAG). Fred felt like he had seen Al somewhere before. The two of them got along great and had such fun swapping navy stories. After two months Al happened to wear his McCaffery cap to breakfast. Fred asked, “Were you on that ship in 1965 in the Adriatic Sea? “ “Yes,” Al replied. “Do you remember when that navy ship the KasKaskia cut a Liberian tanker in half?” “Yes, I do,” said Al. “We came to the rescue to put the fire out and I was the away swimmer. I pulled a bunch of the guys out of the water.” “I knew it,” said Fred. “I was the first one you pulled out, the one without the life jacket.” Then he turned to the other senior citizens and announced, “This man saved my life!” I have met Fred and his wife and heard him tell this story, so I know Al is not exaggerating.
What a small world! And here’s how Al became the away swimmer. His ship was in port in Jamaica and he was up on the mast. He looked down and saw dolphins playing with manta rays in pristine aqua water and could not resist the temptation! He dove off the mast, swam under the boat and came up on the other side. Everyone was looking over the railing where he had dived. Since he did not come up on that side, they assumed he was hurt and called for a “Man Overboard!” rescue! When he was called into the Commanding Officer’s (CO) office, the CO asked him where he had learned to dive like that. He replied, “At Kingsley Lake near Jacksonville. They have a 100 foot diving board where the special ops from Camp Blanding used to train.” That’s when the CO made him the away swimmer.
And here’s an ironic twist to Fred’s story. He had been in the navy for 12-15 years on shore duty, but needed sea duty to make the rank of chief. So he was assigned to the KasKaskia and his very first night aboard – his very first night on sea duty! – was the night it collided with the Liberian tanker!
By the way, I should mention that the oiler USS Kaskaskia A0-27 was not at fault in the incident. The World Court charged the captain of the Liberian tanker with negligence.
Pictures are from our tour of St. Augustine. Two show the Spanish fort with its walls made of coquina. The British attacked from the sea and tried to take it over but the soft coquina absorbed their cannon shells! And there I am in a shop that makes replicas of period costumes for the last 300 years, including guns. That’s me posing with a working seventeenth century flintlock pistol. In the first picture, I’m thinking, “Hmm, now, how does this thing work?” In the second picture I’m thinking, “I’ve got it!”