Friday, October 17, 2014

Fishing for Fun and Hunting for Heroes

Thought for the day:  Good things come to those who bait.


[Morguefile]
You like to fish? There's nothing quite like being out there on the water just as the sun starts to show its sleepy face. If you've never experienced it, believe me, the under-eye bags are a small price to pay for the privilege of seeing those glorious early morning golden rays shimmer across the water.

[Morguefile]
Anyhow, NO, I'm not going fishing. It's been a lot of years since I had that particular pleasure, but maybe soon. One of the perks of being an old bag in the state of Georgia is we get a free lifetime fishing and hunting license. Cool, huh?

Nope, what we're going fishing for is... fun. With our grandchildren. Which means I'm not actually here at my computer. (Dontcha love Blogger's auto-post feature?) Just because I'm unplugged doesn't mean I'm gonna leave y'all high and dry, though. Nope, I'm gonna leave you with an oldie but goodie rerun. The following was originally posted on November 9, 2011 as Veteran Heroes Get it Done. I hope you enjoy it... along with a few updates.

~~~~~~~

Thought for the day:  As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary. [Ernest Hemingway]


me, at an Atlanta science museum
When you spoke to him on the air, he was JY1, and he had as much fun on amateur radio as anyone else you contacted. Off the air, the friendly Hussein was King Hussein of Jordan. (For a while, he and I even ran the same radio, a Drake TR-7. Pretty cool, huh?)

One of the fascinating aspects of amateur radio is you never know who may come back to you when you put out a call. Could be a king, sheik, politician, entertainer, singer, astronaut, or just a friendly "1938 model with a shiny top," which is how one contact described himself to me when I was operating W4WOW, the station at (now-closed) SciTrek Museum in Atlanta. Not to be a name-dropper, but ... okay, so I AM being a name-dropper ... but some names you may recognize from the amateur radio fraternity are Barry Goldwater, Walter Cronkite, Priscilla Presley, Joe Walsh, (of the Eagles), Ronnie Milsap, Chet Atkins, and Arthur Godfrey. {NOTE: In a 2014 update, actor Tim Allen just got HIS license, too.} Lots of royalty from all over the world. Lots of politicians, and lots of famous people. Since there's amateur radio gear on the International Space Station, as well as on other space crafts, most astronauts are hams, too. And they seem to get as much of a kick out of talking to us earth-bound operators as we get out of talking to them.

So, I've had the privilege of speaking to and meeting some really neat people, of hearing my echoing voice bouncing back at me from a satellite, and even shaking the president's hand. All because of amateur radio.

With Veteran's Day coming up in a couple days, I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite amateur radio experiences, the contacts I will never forget. This is the saga of a group of honest-to-goodness American heroes, who captured both my imagination and my heart. A bunch of geezers who knew how to get 'er done.

[LST 325, Normandy, 1944-Wikipedia- public domain]
In 1943, General Dwight Eisenhower said, No amphibious attack in history had approached this one in size. Along miles of coastline there were hundreds of vessels and small boats afloat and ant-like files of advancing troops ashore. 

Ike was specifically referring to a landing at Sicily, but he could just as easily have said the same about multiple other WWII amphibious landings. And in every one of those landings, the LST was a major player. An indispensable star. LST stands for Landing Ship, Tank, and those vessels were specifically designed to carry tanks, troops, and supplies directly onto enemy shores, a vital job no other vessel was capable of performing.

Fast forward to the late '90s. The non-profit organization USS LST Memorial, Inc., a 10,000-member strong group of LST veterans, wanted to acquire and restore a WWII LST as a museum for the American people. One major problem from the get-go? The United States didn't have any. The government  had already either given away, scrapped, or sold all of them to other countries. At that time, Taiwan had 23, Brazil had a couple, and some were in Mexico and the Philippines.

And as it turned out, some had also been transferred to Greece in 1964 under a Military Assistance Program. After serving as part of the Greek Navy for more than thirty years, the country had mothballed them in Crete several years earlier. Talk about serendipity. Greece was done with them. Ready to scrap 'em. So some of our heroes headed to Greece, negotiated, and picked out the LST with the strongest-looking hull. That proud old vessel, the former LST 325, laid down at the Philadelphia Navy yard and launched in 1942, commissioned in 1943, veteran of multiple campaigns in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, decommissioned in '46, and transferred to Greece in '64, was once again in American hands.

But that was just the beginning.

In July of 2000, a group of mostly WWII veterans, average age 74, went to Crete to undertake the herculean task of getting that old craft seaworthy again. In blistering heat, in the face of countless obstacles, back-breaking work, and frequent stonewalling by the Justice Department, those guys surmounted the insurmountable, and accomplished what some said was impossible.


The Crew

From the time the crew arrived in Crete, an online log chronicled the hurdles they faced, and the mostly good humor with which they faced them. That log is still available, but if you want to read it in chronological order, start at the bottom of the page and work your way up. One entry says, This ain't no job for sissies. And it truly wasn't.

The 8th of August entry reads If you want to know what it is like to be a member of the crew here in Crete, it's very easy to describe, it's hot as Hell and work all the time. (No exaggeration. Temperatures were well over one hundred on deck. Below deck, it was even hotter.)

On the 10th of August- Many needed items missing or damaged beyond use. Since there's another inactive LST tied up alongside us, the usual solution is based on the idea God helps those who help themselves. 

In spite of all the obstacles, in spite of the age and serious illnesses of some of the crew members, LST 325, refurbished and retrofitted with $25,000 worth of satellite navigational equipment, modern communications, computer gear, and life rafts, embarked on a 6500-mile voyage back to the United States on the 14th of November. Private donations of $70,000, plus a 50,000-gallon donation of diesel fuel from BP Oil Company, made the rebuild, repair, and voyage home possible, but it was the hard work and perseverance of those veterans, that crew of senior citizen sailors, that got the job done. 

In case you hadn't already guessed it, amateur radio was part of  the communications aboard that LST, and  WW2LST operated almost every day during the nearly two-month trip across the ocean. The ham originally slated to operate was unable to sail due to illness, so another amateur radio operator among the crew was drafted to pull the duty. You could almost see the twinkle in his eye when Jack Carter apologized on the air to all the hams who were so eager to talk to him, when he said he wasn't used to working pile-ups. (That's when someone puts out a call, and it sounds like half the world's population responds at the same time.) But you know what? He did a terrific job. I had the honor of listening to his conversations many times, and of speaking to him several, and he was always a delight. 

LST 325 arrived in Mobile, Alabama, on January 10, 2001, and our heroes were greeted by cheering crowds. Many newspaper articles were written about them, and the History channel even produced a program about the escapades of this never-give-up group of stubborn, wonderful veterans.

Today, the vessel is moored at its permanent berth in Evansville, Indiana. True to the aspirations of those veterans, it is a museum ship now, available for all of us to see and honor. But most of all, I honor that dauntless group of veterans who made it happen.

[LST-325 in her Evansville home port- Wikipedia]


Amateur radio operators exchange what we call QSL cards to confirm various specifics of our contacts, like date, time, radio frequency, power used, mode, rig, antenna, signal report, and often a personal note, as well. Here is the QSL card confirming my contacts with LST 325. (The MM stands for maritime mobile.)



On the back of the card, in addition to the confirmation specifics, it reads, We are sad to report that Jack Carter became a Silent Key on February 20, 2001 shortly after returning on this voyage of a lifetime.

{NOTE: 2014 update- Although Evansville is still her home port, this floating museum travels to other ports in the country to give more people the opportunity to visit this one-of-a-kind WWII LST. She was in Chattanooga, TN last month.}

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.
~~~~~~

Just a reminder. The lovely Carol Kilgore is still running month-long contests on her website, and this month's swag is an autographed copy of Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, as well as a copy of the sassy Old Broads Waxing Poetic. Just go to her blog and click on the spiffy contest badge in her sidebar. And not just this month... every month! It's fun... and it's FREE. What more do ya want?



76 comments:

  1. I have never been much for fishing but I do love being on a boat and watching sun come up or down... it is a beautiful sight ;)

    I hope you are having lots of fun with the grandchildren, they are the best, I would love to see mine more often ... have a great weekend xox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed. It is more the atmosphere than the activity that enchants me, too. But I do love fresh fish...

      We had a fabulous time. Thanks.

      Delete
  2. Enjoy your time with the grandies. Always enjoy hearing your ham radio stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did. Thanks. Time spent with the little ones always ends too quickly, though, doesn't it? (But it IS good to be back home.)

      Delete
  3. Hope fun is had
    With the grandkids at your pad
    And yeah people need to keep on wishing
    For I'll never have any want to go fishing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had lots of fun
      With everyone.
      Time passed too fast,
      But we had a blast.

      No interest in baiting a hook?
      Oh well, just read a book.
      But do it out there
      In the sweet fresh air.

      Delete
  4. Dear Susan,
    I've never fished in my life (if you don't count catching crabbs with a catcher). As to heroes: Hemingway is right. Maybe I would speak of role models, heroes of everyday life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Britta,

      Crabbing is even more fun than fishing. Even better yet is doing both at the same time.

      Yes, there are a lot of unassuming heroes... or role models... in everyday life if we only open our eyes to the things they do, and appreciate them.

      Delete
  5. Hook a big one. The grandkids will long remember your fishing trips together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I already hooked a big one. Forty-five plus years ago... and I married him!

      Delete
  6. I did fly fishing for about 10 years. I was never an early riser, and preferred the latter part of the day. From early spring to mid-fall, I would come home from work, get my gear and head for the creek. It was a lovely part of my life.

    It is always interesting to read your "ham posts".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now, fly fishing is one thing I've never done, but I think I would love it. I enjoy casting, and trying to hit a specific "target" with a cast. Fly fishing would just amp it up a few notches, right?

      Thanks. I'm glad you like the ham posts.

      Delete
  7. Wow, Susan, what a great post! I loved the part about King Hussein's amateur radio hobby. I had no idea there were so many people involved in that.

    My Hubzam will love reading this one, too.

    Have a great weekend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad ya liked it. There are a LOT of fascinating (and sometimes, surprising) people involved in amateur radio.

      We did! I hope you did, too.

      Delete
  8. My step father used to take me fishing and I loved it. As for the old guys who got that ship in shape and back to home soil...wow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cool! I hope you still get to go every now and then. That pier you had in the header of your blog for a while is just begging for someone to sit out on the end and drop a line.

      You're not kidding. They are definitely WOW kinda guys who know how to "get 'er done."

      Delete
  9. Have a great time with your grandkids. I used to love to fish when I was a girl. I still like it, but now I never catch anything.

    The contest for Susan's book is still open. You can't win if you don't enter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. (We did!) Um, do you still put bait on the hook...? Not that there's anything wrong with enjoying the experience without embracing the whole wiggly bait and fish-cleaning part of the equation...

      Delete
  10. I missed this post on its first run. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for reposting!

    Enjoy those grandkids!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Super! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Makes me feel a little less guilty for doing a re-run.

      We did!!!

      Delete
  11. So glad you re-posted this.
    I so enjoy fishing and fly fishing is one of my favorites.
    Most of all have a great time with the little ones !

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're the second gal who mentioned fly fishing, which is something I've never tried. I reckon I'm gonna have to change that.

      I had a fantastic time with the kiddies. (Now we're in recovery mode...)

      Cheers!

      Delete
  12. have fun with the grandkids and work up a good fish tale. The amateur radio stories,etc were interesting. That is truly a service with a lot of history. Very cool.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No fish tale, but we had a wonderful time with the kids.

      I'm glad you enjoyed hearing a little something about amateur radio.It really IS a cool hobby.

      Delete
  13. I just finished reading the log. Bless those guys. They took on a job that men half their age would balk at.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, cool! I'm really tickled that you read the log.

      Delete
  14. Gosh---I haven't been fishing in YEARS! Now you have me thinking I need to take my granddaughter out to catch a few!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, absolutely! Take your granddaughter fishing. You'll have so much fun.

      Delete
  15. I don't remember this post. It's very interesting. What fun to talk to so many interesting people and meet the president and Ms. Rice.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks.I'm glad it piqued your interest. It was very cool to meet President Bush and Condaleeza Rice, but don't forget Barney! It was pretty neat to meet him, too. (Cute pooch!)

      Delete
  16. What a cool story about the WWII vets restoring that old landing ship! I imagine that when the day's work was done, they'd all sit together and talk about a lot of memories.

    I never knew that amateur radio is such a popular hobby, even among famous people.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, those ol' guys were something else. Stubborn, determined, and not afraid to work hard.

      I think a lot of people would be surprised to know how many amateur radio operators there are in the world.

      Delete
  17. Most enjoyable post, Susan. Have a great visit. I look forward to your return --with you on a family raid and Cowboy Jon on the road, it gets a little lonely in these parts. All my best wishes for happy trails.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, dude. Our trails were very happy, indeed, but it feels good to be back in our own bunkhouse again.

      Delete
  18. Hi Susan .. fishing is not really for me - eating them, then definitely yes. Enjoy the time with the grandkids ... this story looks amazing - I'll need to come back and read anon ...

    But your 'exploits' with Amateur Radio would make an excellent book?

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Hi, Hilary. It's been so many years since I went fishing, I don't even know for sure if it's still for me, either. But I sure have a lot of good memories about all the times I went fishing in the past.

      I'm not sure if I have enough exploits to fill a book, but I plan to have an amateur radio operator in my next book, anyway.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  19. You're right. There's nothing like a sunrise in the sea. Although not on a fishing trip, I once saw the sun coming after spending the night on a boat. Beauitful. Just like your post. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Sunrise is always a beautiful sight, but when out on the water, it's even more beautiful. It feels magical. Thank YOU. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Greetings back at you.

      Delete
  20. SUSKI ~
    I've always enjoyed fishing, but A CATCH OF SIX IS MY LIMIT.

    Say, incidentally, I've been meaning to tell you how much I enjoyed your poetry in the 'Old Broads Waxing Poetic' collection. I certainly agree that “old age can kiss my heinie”, and once you got me to think about it I realized that neither have I “seen bones in a tree”. I think that one must have been my favorite, although I am indeed planning to “read it all anew”.

    Thanks again for the gift! It is much appreciated.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not much challenge in catching THAT kinda six...

      Thanks! I'm glad you liked our poetry. And I hope some of it made you think of your mother.

      Delete
    2. No, the challenge is in trying to walk after a six-catch like that.

      My Ma would certainly have enjoyed a great deal of the poetry in that book. Maybe I'll read some of it to her when next we meet.

      ~ D-FensDogg
      'Loyal American Underground'

      Delete
  21. Great amateur radio stories. I hope you have fun visiting your grandchildren!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed 'em.

      We had a terrific time with the kids.

      Delete
  22. I had to reread the last half. Interesting history and I admire these men.

    I've never been fishing. Enjoy time with the grandchildren.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's pretty amazing what those men were able to accomplish.

      Thanks. We definitely enjoyed our time with them.

      Delete
  23. Although I grew upnin an island, I've never gine fishing but I surely have experienced very early mornings at the ocean. We didn't really live very near the ocean but my grandpa, (who was a navy veteran) and I used to catch the sunrise at the Pacific.

    Very interesting story about the veterans. I've git high respect for them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The early morning at the ocean is more important than the fishing part... especially if you're lucky enough to share the experience with your grandfather.

      I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

      Delete
  24. Loved this post and all the photos, interesting information. Fishing sounds a fun way of spending time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      Fishing isn't for everyone, but it can be a very relaxing thing to do. (Tasty, too!)

      Delete
  25. I don't get fishing... seems like slimy fish and worms are a great way to ruin a lovely ride on a boat :).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA... slimy fish and worms may not be everyone's cuppa tea. So to speak.

      Delete
  26. There's so much history in amateur radio, and I especially enjoyed reading your earlier post about Condoleezza Rice and President Bush! Sounds like you handled yourself like a pro! Hope you share some pictures of your adorable grandchildren later!

    Julie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, amateur radio has a rich history, and there's no telling whose path you might cross because of it.

      Show some pics of the kids? Gee, I dunno... I guess I "could"... (Twisted my arm!)

      Delete
  27. I've never been fishing, but I do like spending time with family, so hopefully that's going well for you.

    Your old post was quite an interesting look at history. And at some pretty badass veterans. "This ain't no job for sissies," indeed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our time with the Florida crew went well, but it's good to be back home in recovery mode.

      Yeah, those guys were definitely badass... and so matter-of-fact about it.

      Delete
  28. I've not been fishing very often, but it always makes me think of A River Runs Through it by Norman McLean.

    And what an interesting Hemingway quote! Very good post.

    Sarah Allen
    (Writing Blog)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I haven't read that book, but it was made into a movie, wasn't it?When I fish, my mind kinda quiets and slows. Very zen-like relaxation.

      Thanks! Glad ya liked it.

      Delete
  29. As you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary. [Ernest Hemingway]

    For me its Jane Goodall, Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepard Conservation Organization, and Neil deGrass Tyson.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My heroes have always been humanitarians and scientists. I guess I'm a sucker for big hearts and big brains.

      Delete
  30. I do love to fish, and fishing with the Grandson although not relaxing and a bit of a challenge is still a lot of fun, they say a bad day fishing is better than...most anything else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point. Fishing alone or with another adult is a lot different from fishing with kids. Forget quiet and relaxation. Lots of time unraveling birds' nests in their reels... getting lines out of trees... freeing lines from underwater rocks... replacing bait, hooks, and sinkers But,bottom line? Yeah, it's still fun.

      Nice to meet you, Jimmy. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Welcome aboard!

      Delete
  31. I'm glad you shared this post again, I missed it before and so enjoyed it. Hope you are having a fantastic time with your cuties!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Well then, I'm glad I shared it again, too! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

      We had a fantabulous time with the cuties, but our furry cuties are reeeeeeally happy to have us back home.

      Delete
  32. I have trouble fishing. I enjoy doing it but I'm usually rooting for the fish to get away, which makes me less than successful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HA, I can see how that could be a bit detrimental to catching any fish. (You might try omitting the bait... that works, too!)

      Delete
  33. This is a great history piece, and a great piece of history about you too!! Love that you got to meet the president. I was laughing at the shrimp scoop, and the cameras. :) I don't like to fish, but my grandpa sure did. Going out there all summer long for Perch was his big thing. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked it. It was definitely cool to shake the president's hand, and to have HIM thank ME for being there... Talk about a humbling moment.

      If your grandpa was out there catching perch all summer, I hope you at least liked to EAT fish!

      Delete
  34. So cool reading about the radios and the fun you've had. Speaking of fun, I hope you and the grandkids had a great time together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some people think amateur radio is kinda dorky, but WE think we're "cool nerds." We've certainly had some cool experiences because of our involvement with radio communications, anyway.

      We had a SUPER time with the kiddos, thanks.

      Delete
  35. I hope you have a wonderful time!! I haven't been fishing in ages and ages! I love your new header :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did!! Thanks.

      Doesn't that header just scream "autumn"? Maybe the weather will follow suit soon.

      Delete
  36. Enjoy the grandchildren, and next time you do go fishing, please invite me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did!

      I live in landlocked Atlanta.You should invite ME to go fishing! HA!

      Delete
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