As I noted in a previous post, I departed the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63) on December 19, 1971.
Although I titled the post on my leaving the Kitty Hawk, “Davis Departing,” I was not actually piped off the aircraft carrier, as I was only a 19-year-old seaman. I was lower than whale shit, as the saying goes.
As I noted in another post, I returned to the Navy in 1974 and received orders to the USS Saugus (YTB-780), a Navy Harbor Tugboat assigned to the floating nuclear submarine base at Holy Loch, Scotland.
Almost immediately, I regretted going back into the Navy, as the Scottish winter is wet, cold and brutal and the work on the tug was tough and sometimes dangerous. But in the two years I served on the tug, I spent most of my time off traveling all over Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and I visited Italy, France and Spain. I also had some most interesting experiences on the tug, which I’ve recounted in previous posts.
On December 28, 1975, I departed the USS Saugus.
I was pissed that a Submarine Squadron 14 officer kept me in Scotland for Christmas and assigned me to a charted plane that was flying a submarine crew home on December 28th.
I felt that I should have been issued a single ticket on a commercial flight prior to Christmas, but my request fell on deaf ears at the squadron office. As the Saugus’ supply petty officer, I had some run-ins with squadron officers, so perhaps this was payback. Or it was simply a way to save a couple of bucks by loading me on an empty seat on a chartered aircraft.
I had already said an emotional goodbye to a Scottish girl that I was seeing, and wanting to avoid another scene, I didn’t call and tell her that I would still be in Scotland for Christmas.
Thankfully, a good friend on the tug, Jim Roland, invited me to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas with him, his wife and another couple.
On December 28th, on a dark, rainy and cold evening, I stepped off the tugboat for the last time in my dress uniform with my sea bag over my shoulder. The tug was tied to a large barge, and I stepped up and through the three slim wires that ran around the barge like a boxer entering a ring.
Despite the bad weather, most of the tug crew came out and gave me a nice sendoff.
Jim Roland was a 2nd class electrician, but he taught himself how to blow a Bosun’s pipe, and he piped me off the tugboat as if I were a captain. Someone yelled out, “Davis Departing.”
The guys saluted me, and I gave a snappy salute back. I was truly touched.
As I walked down the barge to meet the boat that was taking me ashore, I looked in a porthole and saw two crew members sitting glumly at the galley’s table. The tug’s cook and a 1st class engineman didn’t like me, just as I didn’t like them. One might think they'd be to see me gone, but perhaps they didn't like that the other crew members were given me a grand send off.
I mouthed a “fuck you” at them and walked off with a grin.
My orders stated that I was to report to the Philadelphia Navy Base and receive my discharge. As I was from South Philadelphia and lived near the naval base, this suited me just fine.
In a sense, my dual career in government and journalism began at the Philadelphia Naval Base, as I sold Philadelphia newspapers there to the sailors and civilian yard workers as a teenager in the 1960s. So it was fitting that I ended my Navy service there.
And after all these years, I still remember fondly my being piped off the tugboat.
Thanks, shipmates. I'll never forget you.
You can watch a video of a formal piping ashore via the below link:
And you can read my earlier posts on my departing the Kitty Hawk and my service aboard the Saugus via the below links: