1961-1970 - Memories
Tom Mamon RD3
I have read the histories of the Waller and have a couple of corrections and stories to add. I joined the ship in Norfolk right out of Boot Camp and Radar "A" School in Great Lakes in June of 1968.
We left on the Vietnam cruse on September 22, 1968 and returned on April 18, 1969. We were in DesDev 362, consisting of the USS Robert L. Wilson DD 847, The USS Corry DD 817 and The Douglas H. Fox DD 779. About a day outside of Norfolk the Fox had a flashback in it's boiler and several crewmen were killed and/or injured, the Wilson took the injured to Charleston and the Sorry escorted the Fox into Charleston and we, on the Waller were told to continue on to San Diego. We reunited with the Wilson and the Sorry there.
While on station at Phan Thiet, the Captain had us anchor (not in any reports I am sure) but it sure made us accurate! I remember one night right before getting off watch (around 2000) the ship getting a call for NGFS for 60 rounds of 5 inch shell. At the time the ship had been swung by the tide in such a way only the aft gun could be shot. All sixty round came from that mount and since my compartment was under that mount, I went to sleep (when you are port and starboard you sleep whenever you can) while all the ceiling lights broke and fell while the 60 rounds where fired until the compartment was completely dark (except for the red lights). The next day the EM's replaced all the lights, but not for the last time.
After we got back to Subic Bay the barrels of both mounts were changed. There was a lot of trouble getting the front barrel out. The tender (an older one with a full crane) dropped a cable down into the barrel and tried to pull it out (after a day or so using a hammer device to turn the barrel). They tried sever times with the Tender leaning over and the Waller being pulled out of the water. I was in Combat and felt the ship rise and then fall. After picking the ship up, the cable broke and the ship dropped into the water pretty hard. I remember the tender crew standing along the rails while their ship rocked back and forth probably more than when at sea. (I think they finally had to cut the barrel out with torches) When it when to the bottom in June of 70 (bummer) the guns had only been fired about ten times with the new barrels.
Also while plane guarding with the USS Ranger we had the unfortunate occasion to have to pick up a downed pilot who crashed. His body was kept in the cooler until we reached Subic Bay. It was a night take off, during the day the helicopters could get to any down pilots well before us and save them.
After returning to Norfolk on April 18, 1969, the ship underwent an extensive inspection. There were rumors of going to Bayonne, NJ as a training ship (I was supposed to stay aboard), or being sold to the Italian Navy. Alas Waller was well past it prime and was just decommissioned. (it was never a training ship.) I was there for the decommissioning and after leave I was transferred to the USS Hawkins DD 873.
I am not sure what of any of this you will want to use but I can assure you it is all true as I was there. I was a RD3 in the Operations Department, OI Division and worked in the Combat Information Center (CIC).
Tom Mamon at email@example.com