Colorful Times on the USS TALLAHATCHIE COUNTY (AVB-2) in Naples, Italy
Old Senior Chief 1946
When I left the USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) in June of 1964, I was released from active duty, to serve the remainder of my six years of obligated service as an inactive reservist . I think I was a civilian for a little over a month before I started looking for a Navy Recruiter. I signed up for six more years in the regular Navy. I was sent to the east coast, to serve with the Atlantic Fleet. When my orders came through, I was sent to the USS TALLAHATCHIE COUNTY (AVB-2), which was homeported in Naples, Italy. The TC traveled around the Mediterranean but our main port of call was Soudha Bay, Crete. It was a modified World War Two class LST and the equipment we carried was mostly bulldozers, trucks and other heavy machinery used by the CB's. We primarily supported the U.S. Navy detachment at the NATO Air Base in Soudha Bay. It was an interesting assignment. There were many Vietnam War veterans on the ship and some of them came from the Mobile Riverine Force. A few of them had served on the PBR's in Vietnam and had heavy combat experience. I won't single people out by using their names but some of them had what we know now as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You never knew what was going to happen on the TC - we had a pretty bad reputation with the Fleet Sailors in the Mediterranean. We were not your conventional sailors. We were allowed to wear civilian clothes on liberty in Naples, while the sailors from the other ships had to wear their uniforms. That made us stand out at the Fleet Landing. To eliminate some of the friction, our CO made it mandatory for us to wear a coat and tie on liberty when an Aircraft Carrier was in port. They were the ones that complained about us the most and they usually carried an Admiral on board. We abided by our CO's order, but we had some pretty wild color schemes when picking out our civilian dress attire. One young lieutenant wore a NATO orange jacket with bright green trousers. a purple shirt and a bright red necktie. That is one of the better examples - in general, the gaudier the better! Our CO knew what was going on but he didn't fuss about it. As far as he was concerned, if we were wearing a coat and tie - we were in compliance. After all - it was the late sixties and things were wild. Needless to say - we were not well liked at the Fleet Landing and there were many fights there. But as soon as the Aircraft Carrier and its escorting ships pulled out, things would settle down to a normal routine for us again. The Italians loved us, as did the Greeks. That also irritated the Fleet Sailors because they could see that they were being charged three times what we paid for drinks, food, etc. The Russians were very suspicious of us - they thought we were some kind of secret spy ship. Our normal cruising speed was about 8 knots. The Russian destroyers used to practice making high speed attack runs on us. Our flank speed was about 11 knots but we could maintain that for only about fifteen minutes or something would blow up. I also had some great friends on the TC. In my division, most of the lower rated enlisted men came from New England - all of them were from somewhere above the Mason-Dixon line. They had great fun with me - with my heavy Texas drawl and country ways. They picked at me a great deal but I held my own with them. I can still do a pretty good imitation of a nasally Boston accent. It was all good natured fun. I served on the TC until shortly before it was decommissioned - I left the ship in Naples in December of 1969 - just before Christmas.