Sea Stories

On My Shoulders

Hector Cardenas QM3

The bridge is the best place to be in a ship.

I was a Quartermaster in a small rocket gunship, the USS Carronade (IFS-1), during the Vietnam War. Vietnam is a beautiful country and I especially remember navigating along or into some beautiful beaches and coves. We spent almost all our time on the shallow coast of that country and most of our navigation was visual and radar. For the high seas we had Loran and celestial. We only had three QMs aboard; I was 20 years old and an E4 when QMC Schneider said he was taking a plane from Cam Rahn Bay to get married and would meet up with us in Okinawa. I almost had a heart attack when he said to me, "You get her there safe."

We steamed from Vietnam to Subic Bay in the Philippines for supplies and R&R, then up the Taiwan Straits where that same year the USS Frank Knox, a DD, had run aground on a reef. We had some bad weather through the Straits; we only did 12 knots and for half a day were too close to the Loran station to get a good fix. Our navigation officer was our communications officer; not much help there for this kid. I don't think I slept a wink. When we did get a good fix we were right on our DR and we tied up at White Beach, Okinawa safely. Was I glad to see the Chief!

For a twenty-year-old from land-locked San Antonio, Texas, I still consider that event one of the greatest feats of my life. I enjoyed my years on the bridge and have always longed for those days while trying to forget most of the bad stuff we did in that war.

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