Sunday, January 29, 2017

"Navy Daze: Coming Of Age In The 1960s Aboard A Navy Destroyer"

"I would not trade my Navy experience for anything," writes Michael Halldorson (now a board member of Chico's Janet Turner Print Museum). His memoir tells "the story of a young man from a small northern California town who, with no clear direction in life, joined the Navy and came of age aboard a destroyer during the Vietnam War."

The tale of Halldorson's two tours of duty aboard the USS Hopewell (which began in 1964) is written with honesty and self-deprecating good humor. "Navy Daze: Coming Of Age In The 1960s Aboard A Navy Destroyer" ($20.50 in paperback from Heritage Books, follows a "tin can sailor" with a little too much liberty, somewhat obsessed with "girls, cars, alcohol."

There are "vivid memories of having my nose broken in Japan and a tooth sheared off in the Philippines; both incidents took place in drinking establishments ashore." There are better memories, but also the daily routine, "hours-on-end spent inside a hot and humid five-inch gun mount while patrolling off the coast of South Vietnam."

The big guns would fire offshore to protect troops inland, but, at least during the first tour, "we did not know the effectiveness of our fire. … Our reality was the smell of gunpowder, the noise and violent shaking of the gunmount, and the acrid air inside the mount."

On leave, "one of the highlights of my visit to Chico was going out for a beer in my dress blues with a friend at a new restaurant, the Italian Cottage. The owners … furnished me a gratis pitcher of beer. I have never forgotten that act of kindness they bestowed upon me, especially with the way that the general public treated us."

And the ship's fate? "I found out my former destroyer was resting on the seafloor off San Clemente Island in southern California, sent to the bottom while serving as an unmanned target ship during a test of a new type missile."

Photographs, diagrams, and explanations of nautical terms help readers enter the life of a young sailor-artist on a journey of self-discovery (with stops at a few bars along the way).

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