Monday, May 28, 2007

I'm back from the U.S.S. Massachusetts!

Thanks EVERYONE who did me the honor of wishing me and mine a Happy Anniversary. It was a relaxing day with cards exchanged, gushy sentiments that grossed out the kids and a tasty cake to sweeten the event. ;-)

Memorial Day became more than just a day to me this weekend.

I was away for a few days to celebrate Memorial Day by revisiting Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts. We toured once again the U.S.S. Massachusetts. This time however, we were also able to take in the attack submarine, U.S.S. Lionfish and the Soviet-built Missile Corvette Hiddensee.
However, I have come back with more than pictorial memories on this trip.

I am compelled to share this experience with you, my wonderful visitors.

I didn't get his name.

I didn't seek him out.

But he shared with me, a total stranger, a bit of history.

Me and my family were walking around the memorial section of the battleship when I noticed a man facing the wall that listed the names of men associated with the U.S.S. Massachusetts.

I could tell that it meant something to him; what - I wasn't sure. He turned and made a few comments and then, you know .... you can tell when someone wants or needs an ear.

I ended up being that ear.

He told me that he was a tail gunner in Vietnam. Flew over 270 missions.

He talked about the politics of the time and how there are similarities in the current war situation in Iraq. Scary thought.

It amazed me that he was hale and hearty - a survior, a veteran. BUT, he lost buddies. He killed in the line of duty and I could see, he wasn't comfortable with that memory. Even decades later, it still haunted him.

You know the old adages you hear, "It's war, it's kill or be killed. Us or them." Basically, that is unacceptable. He certainly didn't accept those platitudes from me. They don't make it better, or comfortable or right. Those words don't embrace the emotions that still occur all the while doing what they're trained and ordered to do.

He came from California but three times a year, he comes out to Mass. He said that his first marriage didn't survive Vietnam. But he is one of the lucky ones. He's kept in touch with his first wife and she's happily remarried. He too is happy in a marriage of 18 years that is still is going strong with his second wife.
I was so happy to hear that this veteran found happiness and acceptance. My hope is that it helps to balance out the ghosts that still haunt him from a period of time that he sacrificed for our country.
His being there and willing to share his viewpoints and memories of that time, truly made Memorial Day more real for me. He has my greatest respect. Indeed, all military personnel past and present have it.
He made history personal, a face to the story. He gave me the honor of sharing a glimpse into his past while I looked into his eyes as he took that journey in front of me.
No book, documentary or news reports can ever capture that - being with and getting the eyewitness account of someone who was there.
And yet, I will never know his name.

The Top of the U.S.S. Massachusetts

The second Picture is the BRIG. Want to know what I noticed about that room? There is NO toilet! Did they use chamber pots? There are no port holes, no holes in the floor. I was left bemused.

Does anyone know the answer to this?

Two men to a Brig. There's not even a sink in there!

Picture #3 -

The emblem on the side of the Sub. NO I didn't have to lean too far over to get it. *gg*

Look! Look! I swear, there was only 15 inches of room between the bottom of the bunk and those pipes. I can only hope those pipes had wires going through them and not hot stuff. Oh, and the bunk is right over a HUGE torpedo!!!!

WWII submarines were excruciatingly tight, small, cramped and primitive. I mean, Look at this doorway. It's only about four feet high! I won't even tell you how many times I bumped my knees, LOL
Believe it or not, my head never got bumped once. Go figure. ;-)
Again, respect those that served because it HAD to have been hell!

So, that's part one of my pictorial Memorial Day Weekend.


Brandy said...

I've been inside a submarine on tour as well. The door ways, lack of portholes and cramped quarters make me antsy. It's hard to believe that you then add personel to these ships.
As Chris is a veteran, we know the cost many pay. He never saw war, but his Uncles did. As did many of mine. The price they pay for our freedom, are parts of their soul. I don't know how they live with that, pieces missing. But, I am ever thankful. What's the saying? "freedom isn't free".

Annalee Blysse said...

Sounds like a fun way to spend the weekend.

Mailyn said...

Looks like you had a fun weekend! Mine wasn't as exciting....except for POTC3.

Bailey Stewart said...

My father wouldn't talk about WWII for a long time, not until he was old and retired. oh, he'd talk about funny things, but not about what he did - the sniper he killed in North Africa, etc. You could tell it disturbed him, having killed someone.

Great post.

Michele said...

Ah! Brandy, then you understand exactly how I was feeling as I stood, or tried to, in that sub.
And, Yes, Freedom isn't free - but so many forget that. Or try to.
Annalee, Howdy! Yes indeed, it was fun. It's amazing how quickly time flies when you ARE having fun. Hard to believe we're home already and back to work. *sigh*


Mailyn! You saw POTC3?? How was it? What did you think? I'm hearing things all over the board. That sounds like a nice weekend too! So glad to see you here
Thanks :-)

Bailey! You're right, many won't talk about it. THat's why I was surprised at first that he was sharing even the little bit he did.
I didn't expect that. I guess there are execptions. And yeah, that must have been pretty deep and upsetting for your dad. Whoa.

Thanks for sharing that with me.

Abram Katz said...

Buy change I saw your blog about the USS Massachusetts and your interaction with the Vietnam vet. It was touching. I've visited the battleship numerous times, and I try to imagine what it would have been like to be aboard at Casablanca or the Pacific. It emphasizes the truism that unless you've been there, you can't truly understand war.

Michele said...

Thank you for your comment, Abram!
I am glad you found my post and shared with me your opinion.

I'm also glad that I wrote this because as time goes on, memories dim. This helps keep it fresh and alive.

And you're right, war depicted in movies is no where near the reality of the emotions and experiences of those who've been there. It's right to remember that as well.

Happy 4th of July to you!

Anonymous said...

The quarters on an Ohio class submarine aren't cramped. They're just fine to me.

Michele said...

Hi Robert!
Wow, you've slept in those quarters? On a sub?
I'm impressed. I mean, it would make me a bit paranoid to be that you are obviously a much better adjusted person than I am.
I'm glad you stopped by.
Thanks for the perspective.

DestroyerDivine said...

I stayed overnight on this ship when i was about 8 years old. I went with my Cub Scout group at the time. Apparently the Battleship is haunted, seeing as late at night, between 12 and 3 AM, we all heard a continuous banging noise coming from afar, and some went to investigate and found nothing but a large pipe from which the noise was resonating. The pipe only came halfway down to the floor where it was open at the end, so nothing could have been inside of it as it was completely hollow. It sounded as if someone was hitting it with a wrench. I guess i'll never know, I've heard similar stories from people who have stayed there, but nobody seems to be able to figure it out.

Michele said...

Hi, DestroyerDevine!
A LOT of cubscouts still camp out overnight on the ship. And it would not surprise me at all if it were truly haunted. I wonder if the Ghost Hunters have investigated yet, if not, they should. Heck, they did our library. *VBG*

Thank you so much for leaving such an interesting and fascinating comment! I enjoyed reading it. Have a great summer 2010!!