The Bow Ramp

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Personal Anecdote about Fletchers and Mexico

Way, way back in my (greatly) mis-spent youth, I was a young 17 year old Navy Reservist. I had just completed boot camp, and was sent to San Diego for an additional two-weeks of training aboard a Fletcher class Reserve Force ship. The name of that ship has unfortunately been lost in the mental landfill of my memories. I do remember that we got underway for some gunnery exercises, followed by a weekend liberty in Ensenada, Mexico. This was memorable for a number of reasons. It was my first time underway on a ship. It was my first time in a foreign country. It was also the first time it dawned on me that being in the service just might be a tad dangerous. We had fired off several rounds of 5" and I was admiring the fall of shot around the target sled when things got quiet sooner than expected. The gun mount had experienced a mis-fire. Now how you take care of one of those depends on how hot the gun has become from firing the previous rounds. I forget the exact procedure that was followed, but I seem to recall something about evacuating the mount, and one gunner beating on the breech with a hammer to free the round.

The other thing I remember about that ship has to do with the nickname for the Fletchers. They were commonly referred to as "flexible Fletchers." Now many people will say that came from the fact that during WW II, they were assigned to many different roles (hence, were flexible.) However, while standing on the stern of that destroyer looking forward up the main deck, I could easily see the deck bending as the ship cut it's way through the long Pacific Ocean swells. This flexing of the hull is known as "working" and happens to a certain degree on all ships. However, that phenomenon on the "flexible" Fletchers was the most pronounced of any ship I ever set sail on.

As for that weekend in Ensenada? The less said the better, but I do enjoy Mexican cervesa to this day.