Cruise Report # Twenty-nine– Day 51 – Sunday, November 11, 2007

At Sea, on the Coral Sea

From the Ships Navigator

Today we will sail on an east-northeasterly course with an average speed of 22.5 knots towards Suva, Fiji Islands. The total sailing distance between Noumea and Suva is 800 nautical miles. The weather forecast calls for a temperature of 78 degrees and a moderate breeze blowing from the east-northeast with a force of 4.

Veterans Day 2007

Our daily program listed two items of significance to me;
10:45AM Veterans Day Meet in the Crows Nest, deck 9, and
11:00AM Two minutes of Silence Veterans Day Observance

As over 100 ancient warriors this brotherhood began gathering to pay tribute to fallen comrades and began sharing past experiences, I struck up a conversation with a gentleman about ten years my senior. I asked if sailing through these waters brought back unpleasant memories, and he shared the following life experience. He had joined the Navy at the age of 17, and was stationed on a destroyer, I think it was the USS Reed, (Note The Destroyer pictured below is not the USS Reed but is of the same class of the USS Reed) and his ship was one of several that were providing support to the troop ships that were disembarking soldiers and marines for one of the many landings on the Japanese held islands. At this point in the war, the Japanese were desperately sacrificing their young airmen as Kamikaze pilots. On this particular day the landing force was under fierce attack by these human bombs. He was assigned to what is known in the Navy as the “black gang,” a ships division that was responsible for the ships engines. He had just opened a hatch to go topside when to his horror he saw a plane just split seconds from hitting his ships superstructure. Slamming the hatch shut probably saved his life, however in the next few seconds he felt his ship list heavily from the explosion, as it was sinking. He made it to the low side of the main deck and stepped into the water just as his ship sank taking over 100 of his shipmates to their death. He and the rest of the survivors spent around 45 minutes in the water before small landing craft in the area picked them up. Later he was attached to the cruiser USS Nashville that was returning stateside to have the portion of her bow replaced that was blown off in a Kamikaze attack. After 30 days leave, he was returned to San Diego, CA and was certain that he would have to return to the war, but was kept in San Diego until the end of the war. He was just a few months shy of his 21st birthday when he was discharged and returned home. Sometime I forget a persons name immediately after I am introduced; however, because of what this young man, along with millions of others, contributed to the freedoms we enjoy today, the name of Walter Fox will not easily slip from my memory. Thank you, Walter.

At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, 2007, a long blast on the ships whistle signaled for two minutes of silence, and I could not help but think that that signal was also saying thank you to the many young men of Walter’s generation whose final resting place was below the waters we were sailing through.

Later, Barbara and I attended the lecture on our next port by Frank Buckingham. Frank is an English gentleman and is of the same generation as Walter, and lived through the horrors of WWII in his country. His acknowledgement of the sacrifices of our veterans was extremely heartfelt and appreciated by all. Later that evening our cruise director, Bruce Scudder, shared how his father had instilled in him a deep love and respect for what his father referred to as our country’s heroes. Then he asked those who had served to rise and be acknowledged. Those who stood were substantial in numbers. How proud I was to be a part of that company of men and women

In memory of our country’s fallen men and women, we bid you a proud farewell from 21 Degrees South – 172 East.

Jack W. Cummings RMC USN (ret)

Barbara A. Cummings (Loyal Navy Wife)

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