Saturday, July 04, 2009

For You, Nuckle Kim

On this Independence Day, I'd like to do something a little different. Normally, what I'm about to do would be more appropriate on Memorial or Veterans Day. But, as we all owe a debt of gratitude to the warriors of the past, today is as good a day as any to thank those who have served.

Today, I thank my Nuckle Kim. He was married to my mother's sister, and as a child I couldn't pronounce Uncle. I could say Nuckle (think knuckle). He got such a charge out of that he decided it would be his name to me for all time. Even today he signs his emails to me with that sobriquet.

Back in the early sixties, he and his family lived in OKC, so we visited once in a while. On one of our visits, Kim had to leave for work. He was in a suit and tie - the appropriate uniform for his job. I, the innocent toddler, asked him if he was "going to the field." It's what Daddy did when he stepped out the door for his job. This incident became part of the family lore - apparently I was "so cute."

Another activity that took his time when he "went to work" was his commitment to the Naval Reserves. I can remember pictures of him in his dress uniform - he cut a very trim figure. I was pretty impressed, and if I'd ever signed on the dotted line, it was gonna be Navy all the way. He served in WWII and the Korean War, as well as the Naval Reserves.

He gave me the short version of his military career in a couple of emails. I have more or less combined them below the pictures - the story is told in his own words.

This is Kim in a gun tub from his old ship USS Cronin (DEC704) at a museum in Albany, NY.

The USS Hornet (CV-12) in her WWII configuration.

The USS President Hayes (APA-20)

The USS Buckley (DE51). The USS Cronin (DEC704) and the USS Laning (APD55) were both Buckley Class Destroyer Escorts.

I was on the USS Hornet (CV-12) and the USS President Hayes (APA-20 at the tail end of WW2 and on the USS Laning (APD-55) and the USS Cronin (DEC-704) in the Korean war. Total service time was about 5 years. Spent the next 22 years in the reserve and retired as a Commander.

The USS Hornet was the most exciting duty. I was a wide eyed 17 year old small town Okla. boy that really learned a lot in the 18 months I was on her. On VJ day, (the day Japan surrendered) I had shore patrol duty in San Francisco (the ship was in Hunters Point Navy Base loading for the invasion of Japan. What a night that was! We spent the next 3 weeks off-loading most of the supplys we had been loading for 6 weeks -- and welding 8000 bunks on the hanger deck. They turned us into a huge troop transport. We made 7 trips to the Pacific Rim bringing back about 10,000 troops each time. These poor guys had only 2 meals a day and had to take salt water showers -- but I never heard one complaint!
I transferred to the Pres. Hayes because she was assigned to Operation Bikini (the atomic bomb test site at Bikini atoll) -- and I wanted to see one of those bombs go off. We made trips between San Francisco, Hawaii and Bikini with supplies -- and we were never there when they set off a bomb -- so I missed it all!

I was on two destroyer escort ships -- The Cronin and the Laning. These were slightly smaller than the DD's (we had turbo-electric drives rather than straight steam turbine drives) with not quite as much horsepower.

But our missions were even more dangerous. The Laning was an APD class and it's job was to run in close to shore at high speed and drop off frogmen (UDT teams) in rubber boats who would blow up underwater barriers and mines just before we made an amphibious landing. Usually at night. A stealth operation with no supporting aircraft or big guns from battleships -- but the enemy always knew we were there and tried to give us a rousing welcome.

The Cronin was a DEC class and it's mission was to steam up and anchor about 2000 yards off a beach just before a landing. It then acted as line of departure control of the LCVP, LSMRs and LSTs as they lined up to make a controlled joint run into the beach. As you can imagine, the DEC's also got a mighty welcome from our little Nippon friends, although we did have big battleship gun and aircraft support.

The duty on Laning and Cronin was mostly patrol and practice invasion landings in the Atlantic and Caribbean. One of the trips stands out in my mind. We took part in a cold weather landing operation in Goose Bay Labrador. Then a run through the Ice to Tule Greenland. Colder than a soda jerk's fingers -- and we had to stand OOD (Officer of the Deck) watches on the open bridge! 4 hours on and 4 hours off. God it was cold.
I guess I was lucky. Got to spend quality time next to great prop driven aircraft (too early for jets) -- F6Fs. SP2Cs, TBMs. F4Us, F8Fs and even a training aircraft, an SNJ specially reinforced for carrier landings. In fact, I took my first airplane ride in that SNJ, thanks to a friendly Ensign pilot who was going with (redacted name of relative) at the time. Also got to see a lot of the world and live through many experiences that shaped my life to come. It was a great time to be alive (much better than today) and I wouldn't take a million for the memories.

It was the greatest effort this Nation has ever put together -- and I'm proud to have been a part of it. However, I do wonder if it was all for naught the way our President and a number of idiot congressman are giving our country and way of living away.

Like most veterans, he underplays his role. He always projects his life on board as a sailing adventure. I'm sure it was all that, but if one reads between the lines, one can see the sacrifice and courage.

And I hope and pray it wasn't all for naught.


threecollie said...

A big thank you to him and all the others who served or still serve...and a happy Fourth to you. Take care.

The Local Malcontent said...

Be sure and thank him for his fine service to America from me, please?
Without a doubt, that sure was America's Best Generation.

drjim said...

Thank him for me, too.
Wasn't the Buckley-class used in "The Enemy Below"?

Jeffro said...

Nuckle Kim stops by every now and again - so he's seen all your thanks! drjim - according to Wikipedia, the ship is the USS Whitehurst (DE-634), a Buckley class DE.

I gotta admit it was entertaining and informative to look up the Wikipedia articles to research this post a bit.

RT said...

Thank you for your service, Nuckle Kim! :)

Thank you for sharing the stories, too.

SteveK said...

Hi Jeff. What a great tribute! I'm sure my dad was gratified and honored to read this post. He definitely deserves our thanks. Thank you too, for recognizing his contributions to Freedom.

Hope you had a great Fourth of July holiday!

Cousin Steve

Jeffro said...

Thanks, Cousin Steve! He emailed me earlier thanking me for remembering an "old fart!"

Anna said...

Yep.. thanks you Nuckle Kim.
They're aren't enough like you out there anymore