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Away From Home

Allen Whitt, Navy Veteran

There were some things that made us feel even farther from home.

A typhoon in the South China Sea off Vietnam battered my aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea with winds of 95 knots, almost 110 miles per hour. The gale created 40-foot waves, and we streamed directly into them to lessen their impact. The 900-foot-plus ship pitched forward and back in a slight rocking motion, and occasionally waves would slam into the sides of the ship and create a booming THUD that would make the entire ship shudder.

Our escort ships, destroyers and destroyer escorts, with maybe a frigate or light cruiser, had a much rougher time. Destroyers would disappear in wave troughs, leaving only the tops of their masts visible. Next, as the waves rolled by them, they would rise up and smash their bows through the wave crests like breaching whales, creating great explosions of white water that would sweep back over the entire length of the ships.

The sea was whipped into a powerful, threatening, gray monster that made us feel small and weak, and keenly aware of the thousands of miles of the deep, open, seemingly endless, Pacific Ocean between us and the familiar shores that kept our families safe.




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