One Navy Lady
edited: Thursday, January 04, 2007
By Flying Fox AKA Ted L Glines
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2007
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Toledo was a Lady, indeed ...
USS Toledo (CA-133),
by Ted L Glines
USS Toledo, a 13,600-ton Baltimore class heavy cruiser built at Camden, New Jersey was commissioned in October 1946. Following a Caribbean area shakedown cruise, in April 1947 she went to the Far East by way of the Suez Canal to begin a career of regular WestPac deployments.
Toledo had just completed the third of these cruises when the outbreak of the Korean War in late June 1950 caused a hurried return to Asiatic waters. From July through October, her guns helped United Nations forces slow and stop the North Korean invaders, then, in landings at Inchon and Wonsan, throw them into retreat. In 1951 and 1952-53, Toledo made two more Korean War tours to provide gunfire support for the forces ashore.
Following the end of the Korean war in July 1953, Toledo continued her Seventh Fleet services, deploying six more times through November 1959. In January 1955, she supported the evacuation of the Tachen Islands, off the coast of China. The cruiser visited Australia in April and May 1958, as part of the commemoration of the 16th anniversary of the Battle of Coral Sea. USS Toledo was decommissioned in May 1960. She stayed in "mothballs" until October 1974, when she was sold for scrapping.
I was an Interior Communications Electrician, which means that I spent my days repairing cardboard boxes full of damaged sound-powered telephones, and sometimes I got to work on the gyro-repeater units which translated the movements of our onboard gyrocompass to the main gun turrets (allowing them to have steady aim while the ship swayed and pitched in heavy seas). My Battle Station was Damage Control Central, which was a dark "Star Wars" compartment deep in the ship's gut, where I monitored switching banks of green and blue and sometimes red lights (a red light indicated a power failure in some section of the ship -- and it was my responsibility to reroute power to that failed section).
To the men who serve, their ship is a "she," a living breathing lady who needs constant care and loving. And we rocked to the music of the 50s piped over Toledo's PA system.
During my time in Toledo (you were always IN your ship, never on her), we visited Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines, Formosa, Hong Kong, and we even sailed up the river to Saigon. Contrary to what is claimed in the official copy above, we never did get to Australia (that visit to Sydney was planned but we were recalled to the States -- very disappointing to me).
Our anti-aircraft crews were a wild bunch of jokers. To give them firing practice, one of the Naval Air Stations would send an old Martin bomber over us -- towing a target sleeve behind it on a long cable. Our gunners could not be bothered with the target sleeve. Nope -- they'd shoot the cable right behind the towing bomber! Needless to say, many old Martin bombers streaked for home! We laughed a lot.
Hong Kong was wild and way different from any other place we saw. Hong Kong was under British control at that time. It was pre-dawn when we first sailed into Hong Kong harbor. There before us were the miriad lights of this city rising up against the black mountain behind it. And, there in the dockside foreground, was this gargantuan Pepsi sign! I kid you not, it was a shocker. But Hong Kong was like that; an easy mix of old traditional China and cutting edge modern -- communism and capitalism merged together (far better than Chinatown in San Francisco). In one area of the harbor was a whole "city" of people who lived in their sampans, and who constantly came alongside Toledo hawking their (sometimes quite interesting) wares. Hong Kong was one big "Alice's Restaurant" where you could get anything you desired. Enough said about that ...
It was against the rules for any Navy person to wear uniforms which were modified in any way. But all of us in Toledo had dress-blue uniforms specially tailored in Hong Kong -- with dragons embroidered inside the lower sleeves. When we were onshore, it was our pride to roll up those sleeves and display our dragons! The Shore Patrol people knew better than to bother us.
Perhaps the saddest time in my life, the most personally devestating experience, was when we docked Toledo in Long Beach at the Naval Shipyard, and were forced to strip her down so she could lose her flag and be sent into "mothballs." It was like putting your mother into bed and telling her to die ...