Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Sailor's Story (a gunner)



Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class William E. Scroggins

Commissioned 13 July 1968
Decommissioned 20 November 1988


In 1968 I reached my 18th birthday on January the 8th. At about 11 or 12 years of age I had acquired an intense interest in the sea and ships of all types. By my 18th birthday I had read everything I could get my hands on about the sea and seafaring. I had read all the classic sea novels, Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”, Rudyard Kipling’s “Captains Courageous”, Jack London’s “The Sea Wolf”, Richard Henry Dana’s “Two Years Before the Mast”, Robert Louis Stephenson’s “Treasure Island” and “Kidnapped”, and all of C.S. Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower saga. I did not like high school and wasn’t doing well in my studies, my interest lying primarily with things nautical. I decided to quit high school and on January 24, I enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the recruiting station in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. I was sent to the old AAFES building (Army & Air Force Examination Station) in Dallas, Texas. There I was tested, given a medical examination and sworn in to the United States Navy as a Seaman Recruit (E-1). About 10 or 12 of us flew that night to San Diego, California. This was my first time to be away from home, so I was scared to death!

We were met at Lindbergh Field in San Diego by a Marine corporal. At first he was very cordial and politely asked us to follow him outside to the front entrance of the airport terminal. There we found another group of newly arrived recruits. On arriving outside the Marine had a sudden personality change and began screaming at us and made us stand in the formation with the other group at parade rest. He told us to keep our mouths shut and eyes straight ahead. Some of the group didn’t know what parade rest was and had to be shown. I had taken ROTC (Reserve Officer’s Training Corps) in high school and was familiar with military drill. The Marine corporal caught the guy standing next to me chewing gum. He made this guy spit the gum into his hand and stuck it on the end of his nose! We stood in front of the airport in formation for about two hours, our group growing larger as planes arrived from all over the country. A Navy bus finally arrived and we were loaded aboard and transported to the Recruit Training Center, U.S. Naval Station, San Diego, California. We arrived there at about 2230 (11:30 P.M.). We got off the bus and were led into an asphalt covered courtyard in the middle of a barracks quadrangle. The entrance to this courtyard had a sign on an archway which said, “WELCOME ABOARD! YOU ARE NOW MEN OF THE UNITED STATES NAVY.” Inside the courtyard on the asphalt were painted yellow footprints which had black numbers in the middle. We were told to pick out a set of footprints and stand on them. The number that was painted on the footprints was used as a muster number for us for the next couple of days....... (Bill continues his story in a later post and includes his life aboard USS O'Callahan ... Come back later for more installments!)

1 comment:

Buzz Creek said...

This is a great narrative story. I can relate entirely, even though I was ensconced in 'officers country' for my tour. And my time in O'Callahan was 1971-73 Well told! Thanks, Bill!