by Stu Russell
On February 22 we moved on board the ship. About this time the "word"
went out that we could soon expect twelve hour work days. By the end
of the month we were working 12 hour days. By May 10, the work day
was 15 1/2 hours long, with no end in sight. We figured we'd go to a 24
hour day and work backwards.
On the day before the commissioning ceremony we moved the ship to
another pier. I was put on the deck force for the day and got to help with
the line handling...it was fun to work like a sailor for a change. On the day
of the big event many big wigs were on board. The crew had to wear their dress uniforms, medals and all -- it was a pretty impressive sight. I was resplendent in my white serving outfit, offering hors d'oeuvres to the dignitaries. Some political hack gave a speech about how the PUEBLO would help mankind reap the benefits of the deep. The highlight of the day for me was watching an Army general scuff his shoes on a shackle welded to the deck. Most of us thought the PUEBLO was a pig, but she was our pig, and we took a perverse pride in her. All of the hard work the crew did for the ceremony paid off, all metal was either painted or shone like a mirror. We were right proud of ourselves. My job as a mess cook was taking on new responsibilities and I was making the most of it. I was trading food to the guys in the engine room for instructions on how to operate the ship's laundry and permission to use it on weekends.
The washing machine was a creation out of a Captain Nemo nightmare and required diligence and a modicum of hand-eye coordination to operate. Once my clothes were dry I ran them though our very own Mangle -- I even had creases in my blue jacket. Because I was responsible for the food inventory, I ordered, stored, and supplied the galley as directed by Commisaryman Second Class, Harry Lewis. I received my own key to the galley, which was like having the keys to the kingdom. I had something others wanted and deals could be made. Lewis, Ralph Reed and I always kept some goodies stashed away in the reefer for our elicit trade. The others heading up this crack team were Steve Robin, a Communications Technician (CT) Third Class, Abelon, a Steward striker and Ed Lumsden, a CT striker. It should be noted that a brief discussion of CTís is in order. Prior to the commissioning they started showing up in ones and twos, God's gift to the Navy. These guys were not part of the ship's company, they were a detachment that reported to the National Security Agency. Their mission was to operate the special equipment in the Special Operations Detachment (SOD) Hut. These guys were normal people, but the Navy had pumped them up so much that they were above doing any kind of work aboard the ship other than the secret stuff they did inside their special hiding place. Naturally this led to quite a bit of friction between the ship's company and the detachment.
On May 22, I was rewarded for my devotion to duty. I had done such a good job doing the dishes and the shopping that I was permanently transferred from the deck force to supply. I was promoted to "Jack of the Dust", an old naval rate that had been eliminated around the turn of the century. The hours were long, but I wasn't in a duty section, didn't stand watch and had liberty whenever the work was done. I now had a key to the supply office and used it as my private hideaway after hours, and sometimes even during hours. On the 23rd I bought a box of House of Windsor cigars and passed them out to the crew, telling them that it was "be nice to people day." Over a week had passed since the PUEBLO joined the fleet as AKL-44 and not one word of thanks, official or unofficial, was forthcoming. That's why I got the stoggies. That night I opened the galley for all on board to come in and grab a sandwich or a piece of cake. With my keys to the kingdom, I was the only one who was able to say thanks. Official word from the Navy finally came on what constituted a tour of duty on AGERís. Two years unaccompanied or three years if one brought a wife to Japan. Just think --700 plus days at sea out of 1,095 total. One of our Chiefs with 23 years and going for thirty decided to pull the plug, no way was he going to do that kind of time on a pig like the PUEBLO.
Copyright © 2010 USS PUEBLO Veteran's Association. All rights reserved.
PUEBLO Mess Deck