Harry S. Truman.... The Sequel....
Nigel R. Sadler pays a welcome visit to the carrier during the recent visit to Portsmouth UK on 6th April...
Anchoring in Stokes Bay, Portsmouth on 4th April , she was on her way home after her Gulf deployment handing over the reigns to the USS Carl Vinson on 19th March. She had been at sea continuously for over 40 days and this was the chance for the crew to get some well earned rest in a location that was very popular with the US Navy, England. Before dropping anchor in our waters the ship had launched 2,577 sorties, totalling nearly 13,000 flight hours in support of the Global war on terrorism, something I think you would agree warranted a well earned rest. It was with a great deal of pride when we received the personal invitation from Captain James Gigliotti to come aboard the ship, he had remembered my correspondence from the JMC earlier and was keen to show this awesome vessel off to us, it was all very last minute we had a matter of hours to make arrangements to travel to Portsmouth, we were all to meet at the Unicorn gate, for a 13:00 boarding. Well travelling down it was pouring down with rain, and the high wind was making driving conditions very difficult, thoughts of the sun being out for photographs were far from my mind.
When I arrived in Portsmouth, the other Carrier visitors were recounting the huge wave heights round at Stokes Bay!!! After what seemed a lifetime we boarded the boat to take us out to the ship, it was certainly a rough sailing, but with thoughts of an impending carrier boarding put pay to any thoughts of discomfort. Once we had boarded the ship the visitors were split into two groups, ours was then led by the ships PAO for a personal audience with the Captain, and to our great surprise we were also met by RADM Kilkenny and RADM Tracy. We were plied with home made cookies and cold tea, whilst each of our three distinguished hosts gave welcoming speeches, an excellent start to our visit. RADM Tracy had just handed over the command of CSG 10 to RADM Kilkenny.
After this official start to our visit we were led to the hanger deck to wander round and take photographs, it was also around this time were we made a visit to the ships stores to obtain merchandise , There were many aircraft parked on the hanger deck many pictures were taken for those albums at home. The one thing about a carrier visit I always remember is those aching limbs afterwards, we seemed to climb and descend on never ending deck ladders, watching your head as you went as the gangways are minimal in size, we were fortunate to be able to use the Captains personal routes on a number of occasions, these being off limits to all but a few high ranking officers in the crew. Its at times like this that you realise how unfit you are, and was it me or was the ship always very hot, even though she had one reactor shut down! After much picture taking on the hanger deck we made our way to the Flight Deck Control centre, which houses the 1/16 scale model of the flight deck and hanger bay, denoting the status of all aircraft aboard the ship
The board uses type cut outs of each aircraft with their codes written on, each aircraft has a symbol on it to denote its status, the Navy uses nuts, washers and wing nuts like you would get from the local DIY shop! this manual visual aid enables the flight deck crew to know everything about the positions on the ship and the status of each aircraft. Once we had been given a run down on the operations in the Flight deck Control centre we were then led to the flight deck for some photographic opportunities , guess what the sun was now shining brightly.... phew.. shame the wind was still howling around our ears but that should not affect the pictures.
We wandered the flight deck snapping away, the focus of many including myself were the F-14's of VF-32, this was their last tour and, I spent time finding the jet flown by my VF-32 fighter jockey friend eventually it appeared coded 111, he was on a visit to London but we would exchange mails later, he was soon to start conversion to the Super Hornet upon return to the States, I was unsure how he would take the transit as he really loved those 14's.. I noted that VF-32 had placed a marking on their F-14's as a comment on their distinguished Tomcat career, even the CAG bird was on the stern of the ship for all to see, a nice touch.
After much photography the captain requested our presence on the bridge, so again we climbed about 100 stairs (well it seemed like it to me) where we spent 30 minutes asking questions about the ship, and generally getting to know our distinguished host. We learned that the battle group was dispersed, USS Barry was in Portsmouth harbour, USS Monterey was in Spain with USS Mason. After a visit to Vultures row it was with great disappointment that we were passed the message that we had to leave the ship as our cars were parked in secure parking within the Naval base and had to be moved, the Captain had indicated we could stay for much longer. So it was time to head back to the liberty boat for our transit back to Port, the Captain made it clear that we would always be welcome on board whilst he was in charge, so seeing as it was his first deployment we suspect we may well be meeting our friend again in the not too distant future.., not to mention the new incoming Admiral!
The ship slipped anchor around 10:30 am and sailed for home, the Captain said at "normal" speed this would take around 7 days, if he wound up the reactors they could make it in 4!. USS Barry followed at 13:00 as the fleet started to rejoin for the trip home a few days later reports were coming in of the squadrons arriving home at their various land bases... THANKS GUYS CALL ANYTIME...
The author wishes to thank RADM P D Smith of the ANA and Captain James Gigliotti and his crew for the personal invite to visit , also LCDR Terrence Dudley, US Navy London, the Portsmouth PAO, and Paul Newman,
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