USS PROVIDENCE (CLG-6)
17 JUNE 1972 - 15 JUNE 1973
Tue, 11 Apr 2000 19:57:53 EDT
There are so many anecdotes that I remember that deal with my days in PROVIDENCE. I have been unequivocal in insisting that the best job I ever held, and the best command I ever had, was Commanding Officer PROVIDENCE. But time, illness, and aging have mixed up my memory to the extent that I can't remember names of many of the wonderful shipmates that I had in 1972-73. Herb Nelson was the Exec, and he relieved me in command as we prepared the ship for decommissioning after our return from Viet Nam.
One anecdote that comes to mind involved George Gaines, who had the unenviable
assignment of Gunnery Officer and JA Talker on the bridge with me on all the
raids that we made north of the DMZ. We got to know each other pretty
well, but two nights after I had relieved Ken Haynes as skipper, I had my
first venture north of the DMZ. It was about one or two o'clock in
the morning, and we were at General Quarters with all four boilers on the line. I stepped out on the starboard wing of the bridge, and there was George hanging in there as we came under what proved to be very intense shore fire. My first comment to George was, "What are these buzzing sounds going over our heads?" George answered, "Those are bullets, Captain."
Our task that night was to take the military barracks and artillery positions
along the coast of Thanh Hoa under fire. Because of mines that had been
dropped by our Air Force friends in the middle of Thanh Hoa harbor, there
weren't very many evasive courses that we could use getting in and out of
firing position. You had to make a high speed run toward the coast,
the appropriate point slow to 16 knots and move along the shore firing at the assigned targets as you went. This was a very exciting, challenging, and scary mission! I ducked inside the pilot house and looked at the bright flashes directly ahead of us. I asked the wonderful young officer who was the OOD what those were, and he said they were coming from the little island
in the center of Thanh Hoa harbor. I cut through the pilot house to get on the port wing of the bridge and thought I saw Bud Reagan, who was my Chaplain, standing there. I said, "Get out of the way, Bud, I'm coming through," and clapped him on the shoulder as I went by. I was later somewhat chagrined to find that the "Bud" I had pushed asid was in fact Admiral John
Kern who was the embarked Flag. I confirmed that what the OOD had said was correct and ordered our triple 6-inch gun turret to take the island under fire. The results were stupendous and dramatic. The entire top of the mountain on this little island seemed to explode. We had hit munitions and fuel with incredible results--three towering bursts of flame about one minute
apart. There were no further shots fired by the enemy.
Later, as we were preparing the after action report, Admiral Kern joined us, and I immediately apologized for having called him "Bud" while pushing him aside. He answered by saying, "Paul, I've been called 'Bud' by my friends all my life, and that was a magnificent display of surface gunnery." I thanked him profusely and finished up the report which I found to be limited to reporting three secondaries on Thanh Hoa island and that I could embellish the report no further.
PAUL C. GIBBONS, JR. RADM