From Eric Mittwer 1964-1966

Pieces of information and tidbits from a fellow shipmate( Eric Mittwer) to Bill Endter, our historian!

If any of the shipmates that has cruise books, then some of the information you can look up for your information if you did not know what they consisted of.


I'm Eric Mittwer RM3, OC division and have just the other day started some correspondence with some "Will Do" shipmates. Below are the beginnings of said correspondence. I'm not pictured in the group portrait probably because I was on duty.

While most of what I say may be anecdotal, it will at least add comment which can help those who may not have been there or just plain forgot. Being a radioman, I was privy to much of what was going on around us and also, being the official photographer on board at the time, I was allowed (directed) to go pretty much wherever I wanted. I took many rolls of film and turned most of them over to the cruise book team so don't have them anymore. I can't remember our Captains name before Big Foot Fernandez, was it Willis??? He was a great guy, got along really well with him… Remembering having to wake him from time to time with a 'flash' message for his review, decision and signature. Big Foot pushed his way around on the bridge so the bridge crew knew to keep clear… He didn't like being woken up, always gave me a snarl… I have to admit tho', he was a great shot with an M1 Garand. He kept one racked next to his captain's chair and would occasionally break it out to shoot flying fish. Would hit about four out of five.

One time we came across a shiny object floating in the distance. We slowly approached and discovered a fuel tank floating in the middle of nowhere. We went to target practice with the forward 3inch gun. I think it got off a half dozen rounds or so before it jammed so went to the aft tub whereby I believe it blew the tank out of the water but it stopped working or the Captain had had enough ammo wasting so went with the starboard fifty cal. I remember seeing splashes all around the tank but nothing to sink it…. Big Foot came storming out and blasted it with his M1. I don't remember if he sank it but I do recall hearing the clunk clank. I also remember the look on his face and the hell of going to GQ drills time and time again after that incident.

I took many if not most of the photos in the Cruise Book as mentioned. However as I look thru the book I notice most don't have captions of value and frankly most don't need them. But some do since they just don't make sense unless it's explained… SO, I thought I might and if can recall, would add some comments.

Apart from the photo of the USS Newell another interesting note would be the photo of the tanker on page 23, that is the USS Cimarron. In this photo we took on supplies. She went up coast to refuel more vessels then about two week later came back down. My second tour was about to be over with only a couple of weeks to go so after topping off I was high-lined from Wilhoite to Cimarron. WOW, now that was an 'E' ticket.

Wilhoite broke off and went back on station without me, I was now part of the radio crew aboard Cimarron. We later rendezvoused with the USS Intrepid CV11 and of all things she off loaded fuel to Cimarron…. Well so much for that.

I'll reference the cruise book by page number beginning with the dedication page as page one. I did not take any of the formal group portraits. Page 7 center right is a Vietnamese junk we found adrift. We, after a thorough search finding only a few rats and a still warm cook stove towed it to Danang. No explanation was ever made of the lack of crew.

Page 22 shows photos of Sampans being interrogated. That would be obvious, however, it doesn't explain that on occasion we would detain some supposed fishermen and turn them over to Swift Boat Captains for additional interrogation, (page 23 center) or handcuff them to the fantail railing where 'Mahuiki' GMG2 (page 8, shown in extra large hard hat upper right photo) would stand guard holding an ominous shot gun of which he was exceptionally talented and having demonstrated his skill by tossing a few clays and promptly destroying them all in front of the prisoners. The photo on the lower right is another view of the adrift junk.. Oh yes, if my memory serves me right, the prisoners really liked our food. Came from the officers mess…. Just kidding.

Pages 7, 12 and 13 showing some of the aftermath of the motor launch Davit which collapsed during a lift of a search party. Page 13, top left photo, Capt. Willis asking questions. T. Thompson RM3 had taken my place aboard the boat since the captain didn't want enlisted married men placed in obvious danger. That would be Willis not Fernandez.

After he was brought aboard and checked by the medic, he came below and flopped onto his bunk… Shortly, over the PA came, "for those involved in the davit incident, report to sick bay and [ splice the main sail ('mailsl') ]. He dashed off and I said what's "splice the mainsl". I should have known. Have a shot of Brandy.

I love that photo on page 33 with the guys far out in the ocean splashing around with the motor whale boat circling on shark watch. Did I say the motor whale boat is not commissioned??? Did I say beer???

I'm going to send this off… Let me know if I'm going anywhere with this or if it's "we already know"… Or, "your memory stinks". Hummm, now that I read it back it reads more like a memoir…. Oh well.

To bad we don't have a cruise book on the pacific north patrols. I had some great shots of the bow going under water. The captain timed a turn really badly and rolled us so far over the antennas were drowned in the face of a huge wave. We lost some radar and fried some radio equipment. After we got to calmer, I said calmer not calm, seas, I was invited to teach Morse code to the sonar men in the sonar room. I was given a brief introduction of the equipment and all was well when after some time I noticed a scrambled sonar screen. I said 'hey what's this' or something like that…. Sonar man flipped a couple of switches and said he didn't know but reported to the bridge. Turned out we had lost our sonar dome in the heavy seas.

Gads this is fun. I have to stop and save it for a reunion.