The following comments have been made by the crew members of the various ships taking part in, 1) the Solant Amity Cruise, 2) the search for and capture of the Santa Maria, 3) Marines who may have sailed with the ships listed below during their stint with the infantry between 1959 to 1963 AND 4) "Visitors" fortunate enough to have stumbled upon our site and have something to say.

To proceed directly to the messages from any one source, mouse click one of the following:

Boxer, Damato, Donner, Chewaucan, Forrest Sherman, Fremont, Gearing, Graham County, Hermitage, Jonas Ingram, Meredith, Mattabesset, Nespelen, New, Seawolf SSN-575, Spiegel Grove, Suffolk County, Van Voorhis, Vogelgesang, York County, Wilson, Neptune Aircraft of VW-4, Visitors' Remarks




[ The U.S.S. Damato (DD-871) was named for Corporal Anthony Peter Damato, USMC. Corporal Damato was killed in action 19 February 1944 at Eniwetok, when he threw himself on a hand grenade to save the lives of his companions. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for this heroic self-sacrifice.
The ship was built at Bethlehem Steel Corporation’s Staten Island shipyard, and was sponsored by Mrs. A. P. Damato. DD-871 was commissioned on 27 April 1946, with Commander I. S. Preseler in command. ]

DICK MASON [ ]: Thank you very much, you did an old tin can sailors heart good. The info on the Santa Maria was great and will be passed around the Damato website for a long time I am sure. I will get some input from the guys on the Damato with me at the time we were in Recife and chased the dam thing around. Most of the guys remember the House on Stilts to be sure but will get more info for you. Thanks again Dick

JIM CARTEN [ ]: I was there. The picture you might have seen of the Santa Maria was the one I took.. Did sixteen trips to the Carib ( Gitmo was a must!). Was there in '59 when they shut down the perimeter, was also at the Bay of Pigs, and got off the Damato right after the Santa Maria thing.

ROGER HOBBS [] : I read your story about the santa maria today just wanted to say that i was on the uss damato, as a 3rd Class Machinist Mate, when we chased the santa maria from porto rico to receifee brazil we were ru nning full speed for 7 days and nights was quiet an experience.
My brother Eugene Hobbs [BT3] and myself both on the Damato 60-61. After a north atlantic cruise we got transfered to galveston tx got out in 64. I think we went to about 13 foreign contries while we were on the Damato. We even got in on the John Glenn space capsul recovery episode and the cuba missile crises. I was raised in wv but got married in galveston tx while serving on the Wren dd568 and ive been in tx ever since. So is my brother Eugene They called me "Hoopy" because i was a hill billy fron wv had a good time though and got along good with everyone.


Vic Di Chiro [ ] Hello Site Webmaster, I was in B-Division and just to let you know the Donner visited Simonstown, Port Elizabeth, Capetown, South Africa. We also visited Monrovia, Presidents Bay, Liberia. Port of Spain Trinadad. We were supposed to go to Rio, but got in the way of a hurricane. Well thats about it for now.




ARNOLD A. ANGER []: Like yourself, I can say that many things that happened to me while on board the Gearing are still with me today. The gun mount where the picture was taken from was the gun mount that was mine. She was called Mt 42, a twin barrel 40mm, I took care of her for almost 2 1/2 years and she was fine when I left the ship. One day when shooting, we did such a good job of shooting that the skipper fought for an " E " for the side of the mount but to no avail. No 40mm ever got an " E " before so they turned him down as well. The only part of the target sleeve that was left was the ring itself and two feet of the sleeve. I had a good crew on that mount and and I kept her operating in peek condition. Your trip sounded great to me , hope that your memories are as fond as mine are, she was a good ship to say the least. I am glad that you had a good time on her and helped to keep her sailing into the wind. Thanks for being a part of the Gearing crew. [Arnold A. Anger, Gunners Mate 3 Class]

BOB BATTIATO []: I served as a Machist Mate on the Gearing when you marines were on board. I worked in the forward engine room and can remember pulling liberty with you guys in a little village in Bathurst, Gambia and while tied up to three more destroyers dockside in Recife, Brazil. I'm that Italian guy from N.J.and my picture can be found in the cruise book. What a great cruise and great time.

PERRY BENSON [Perry S. Benson, Ensign USS Gearing 1961(]: The experience with the Gearing Marines was a good one. I think it demonstrated the traditional closeness we often heard of, but perhaps not often saw, between the Navy and the Marine Corps.
After service on the Gearing, I left to attend Submarine School and subsequent submarines service for about ten years. I then transferred into the ordnance logistics business, eventually commanding a Weapons Station ... with assigned Marine Barracks. I ended my military service doing four years as the CO of the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center.
Anyway, I'm sure glad to hear from the sailors and marines of the USS Gearing from a time so very long ago. Time and good fortune has been kind to me.
The Gearing was a wonderful learning experience for me. Folks like Chief Norfolk, BM1 "Soupy" Campbell and all the rest that molded, trained and corrected me. In this process Marines have always contributed.
[Editor's note: A more complete history of the former "Ensign" and later to retire as Captain Benson can be found in an extensive article written in the December '04 issue of the Post Solant Amity found at and I would urge you to take a "look see."
It was Captain Benson's son, Bill, a former Marine Sergeant that nearly thirty years after his father's stint on the Gearing served in a Weapon's Platoon of the same infantry battalion as the Gearing Marines. He'd found our website, the Acrobat files of the Solant Cruise and pictures of his father. Bill wrote to us in November of '04 to provide an update on his dad. That information and a really nice story, written by Bill, was published in the March '05 issue of Post Solant Amity that helps put into perspective the life, times and importance of peace time service.]

GEORGE BITSOLI, []: CROSS TRAINED and NEARLY FISH BAIT. While aboard the Gearing, we Marines all had the opportunity for a bit of cross training with the Navy folks. We were assigned roles according to the compartment in which we bunked. If with the Deck Force, you stood watches on the helm. With Enginemen, watches were done boilerside. As I crashed with Sonar and Fire Direction elements, I stood sonar watch…with the best of them
Remember that 0300: "General quarters, general quarters! All hands, man your battle… blah, blah, blah?" Yep, that was me. I was the one monitoring the Sonar Stack the night we encountered the unidentified Soviet sub.
I'd been turning the dials required for a normal search pattern when, for me, it became panic city. The "ping" gave way to an "echo" CONTACT response. I quickly moved out of the way and let the "knew-what-he-was-doing" sonarman fly into action and advise the bridge; which brought on the "general quarters!" and the scrambling of a rudely awakened ship's complement to stations.
I remember, as well, how the next day everyone onboard was after my butt!
"Next time, ping 180 degrees in the other direction [thus ignoring the receipt] when making ANY contact OR ELSE,"
the less than well intentioned crew admonished. "No more middle of the night GQ stuff or you're instant shark food!" Geeez, I guess some folks, even then, weren't able to take a joke, huh? [G. Bitsoli, former Cpl/USMC].

JOHN DANIEL []: Luxury liner Santa Maria stolen by Portuguese rebels was first intercepted by the destroyer USS Gearing and brought to a halt... We had a Rear Admiral aboard ship and established communications with a Captain Galvao on board the Santa Maria to determine if the hijacking was an act of revolution or piracy on the high seas. Captain Galvao and his rebels sought asylum in Brazil and were escorted to port by the USS Gearing.
USS Gearing also carried Marines into the Congo for use by the UN if necessary. Initially, we were part of Eisenhower's People-to- People program to visit various countries along the western coast of Africa from Dakar, Republic de Senegal to Capetown, South Africa. I was a member of the crew as an Electronic Technician and maintained communications aboard the USS Gearing during that time period.

VICTOR FREDDA [ ]: Nice job on the page. I've read it before but haven't had a chance to write. I was the gun Boss on the Gearing at that time and was the guy that called you all out to pull the idiot reporters off the life line so we could get the other fool out of the water.
I really enjoyed having you marines on board, especially to help in standing watches. We were a bit short handed then.
I think I saw a copy of an excerpt from the deck log with Sam MacMurray's signature but I was wondering if there were any other deck logs available. Does anyone know? I spent a lot of time on the bridge during that operation and it would be interesting to read what I had written when I was 24 year old. It was kind of a choppy day when we dispatched Admiral Smith to the liner and we almost dumped him and the motor-whaleboat into the Atlantic. I also remember scaring the devil out of Lieut. Thompson while going into Abidjan one evening, when Captain Tingle told me to go in at full speed. I'm confident, however, that neither of those circumstances will be found in those logs.
Vic Fredda (Ex-Lieut.,USN)

JOHN MILLER []: I have just been looking over your web-site WOW! Nice job. I was a Second Class Radioman aboard the Gearing 1959-1961 and remember the cruise like it was yesterday. I was going to offer the use of my Solant-Amity cruise book, but seems like you already have one.
I have been in e-mail contact with former Marine Trevor Davies a number of times, going back and forth over times we spent aboard the Gearing. At the time, I also got to know L/Cpl Peyton pretty well. Would you happen to know his address? Lance Corporal Peyton worked with us in the Radio Central.
We swabbies enjoyed having you guys onboard. Great experience for both the Navy and the Marines. I did visit the web site and I am impressed. It was very well done. I have already passed the info about the website onto Chuck Adamo and Clarence Hudgins, two of the guys that were on the Gearing when we were. They were both radiomen. If I can be of any assistance, I'm only a "click" away.

KENNETH M. SANDERSON []: I was aboard the Gearing at the same time you were. Then a Ltjg, I was the staff officer for Capt. Ebenzer F. Porter, ComDesDiv 222, who was riding the Gearing as the man in charge of the Solant Amity "fleet," including the LST you and your fellow marines had been aboard before you joined us. As I recall (and my memory is VERY bad), Capt. Porter's staff consisted of a yeoman, a radioman, and me. Not much! I can assure you that the arrival of the marines on the Gearing was as exotic to us as it was to you.
I remember that for several days after Henrique Galvao and his group hijacked the Santa Maria, no one knew where the ship was, though the Navy and everyone else was trying hard to find her. The first sighting of the liner was made and reported to the world by a Danish freighter.
To commemorate the occasion, some clever soul adapted the SAC motto "Sleep soundly tonight. The Strategic Air Command is watching over you."
The new motto was: "Sleep soundly tonight. The Danish merchant marine is watching over you." At the time, it seemed very funny. Maybe less so, nowadays.
It all seems very long ago, now. It's good to communicate with someone who was there then and who remembers that time.
I left the Gearing at the end of the Solant Amity cruise and served on another destroyer until the spring of 1964, when I left the Navy.
I taught school for a couple of years, came to California for graduate school, and spent almost 30 years as an editor in The Mark Twain Papers at the University of California, Berkeley. I am now retired, living in Oakland. May I ask how you have spent the years since those heady days at sea?
Thanks for posting the Gearing information. Best regards, Ken Sanderson
Those weeks on the Gearing were for this Marine among the best of my four years in the service. Never did get to like the coffee on the bridge, but the Solant experience has been this long remembered. And, I'm proud to say, it's likely that few Marines such as myself have EVER handled the helm of a destroyer! It was an outstanding experience. [ Ed Shea, former Gearing crewmember and Pfc/USMC ]

ROBERT HONER []: The coffee wasn't that bad. I was an SM3 and made some of "that" coffee for the bridge gang. I remember you and it doesn't seem all that long ago,does it?
Glad to hear you're still kicking, Bob
Yaaa, Bob, I'm lingering but didn't acquire a liking for all...until I was fifty something. Too many other things, including tea, I had a hankering for rather than coffee.
And, the memory of coffee aboard the Gearing stood out because one looooong night I wanted so much for just about anything I could enjoy. It was not to be...but it did keep me awake ...for, probably, three days.
I'm so glad you've come "out of the cold" and hope you've found the Gearing Cruise Book amid the many pages of Solant Amity. It's been fun putting all of that stuff together including the videos. Please stay safe.
Your Gearing shipmate of yesteryear; Ed (Shea)


WAYNE HALLORAN [ ]: The other day I got an email from George Bitsoli who I don't know from a hole in the wall, It was the subject of the email that caught my eye "SOLANT AMITY 1" I was a 17 year old sailor on the USS Graham County LST1176 (1960/1964) so of course I opened it. As I was looking in amazement at all you have on the site I came across the picture on the far left in the second row showing a bunch of guys on deck watching one of the guys kissing the belly of the big black guy in the middle. Well, I think I'm the guy in the middle of the picture just to the right (his right) of the guy in the pink outfit with the yellow hat. After that shock I continued to look through your site & came across your biography & low & behold I see you are my "brother." I just retired from the FDNY after 30 years (1969/1999) as a Bronx firefighter, all my time in Eng75. I'm sure the more we talk there will be people we both know & knew since 9/11. I'm just amazed at the coincidence.

Here's a photo of Wayne Halloran, Jack Oaks along with his wife Carolyn, and Fred Hessling at an October 2002 reunion. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Shipmates & Marines:
This is my email address list of guys with which I served on the the USS Graham County LST 1176.
I was onboard from 1960 to 1964 I was 17 years old & was separated form the ship in Spain just before I turned 21.
I know I will see a few of you at the October '06 St. Louis reunion & we will have our usual good time, hope next year all of us can make it wherever it is, TIME IS RUNNING SHORT. Remember "we really do have fun"-----------Wayne


ROBERT JONCZYK [] I was a DK3 (Disbursing Clerk) assigned to the Graham County. I worked with a LCPL Murray who maintained the Marine records. Don’t see him listed on any of the rosters. Any news or whereabouts
on him???

[Editor's response: LCpl Murray’s name is not on the roster of personnel for Golf Company that we received from Headquarters Marine Corps…which took an enormous effort to get, believe me.
He was likely a member of Headquarters and Service (H&S) Company over-seeing personnel issues for the entire detachment of not just the infantry company but AmTrak and numerous other attached units of the command.In addition, I’ve not personally received an email or the like from him. Had he done so, I would have published it on our “Comments” page.
I’m sorry but appreciate your interest in reaching out.]

Bob's Re: "Thanks for your effort. It took all these years to remember his name! [ Bob Jonczyk- Lieutenant, Schaumburg FD (Disabled)]"

JACK L. OAKS [ ]: This is the picture of the Congo river I was telling you about. [ Now on the website ] The land in the center and right center is an island, on the right side of the island you can barely make out a house sitting on top of the island.
There was one unpleasant thing I do remember about the cruise. It was the local police coming aboard in Cape Town, South Africa and telling every one at Quarters the penalty for mixing of blacks and whites on shore...... So much of a fine, so many days in jail and 60 lashes! I thought I was in the wrong century!!! Yet it was 1961 not 1861. This guy was strutting back and forth with his swagger stick tucked under his arm like he owned The ''76'.......
I also remember the destroyer taking off for Brazil while we were steaming off the coast of Africa..... She made a turn for the west that would have made anybody proud. You could almost see her fantail squat and then she was gone . If I remember any more incidents I will let you know ....... Thanks for the opportunity .....


[The Hermitage was built in 1819. The USS Hermitage was commissioned on December 14, 1956. Decommissioned October 2, 1989/ Stricken: January 24, 2001. Transferred to Brazil: November 28, 1989 by lease/ Name in Brazilian service: Ceara/ Purchased by Brazil: January 24, 2001/ Fate: still active in Brazilian Navy.]

ROSS S. PLASTERER []: I'm living in Norfolk, Virginia and remember Solant was a GREAT cruise.

Editor's note: Serving as a Lieutenant pilot and maintenance officer during the Solant Amity I "cruise," Ross Plasterer continued to serve America for decades, ultimately as a Major General.

All members of G-2-6 thank you for your extensive service to our nation.

His biography is provided below.

Major General Ross S. Plasterer was the former Inspector General of the Marine Corps, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington D.C.
Born on May 11, 1935 in Lebanon, Pa., he graduated from high school there in 1953 and entered Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pa. Graduating in 1957 with a B.S. degree in Accounting, he was commissioned a Marine second lieutenant in December 1957. He also holds an M.B.A. degree in Financial Management from Widener College (1973), and an M.A. degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California (1976).
He completed the 20th Officer Candidate Course at Quantico, Va., then entered flight training at NAS Pensacola, Fla., in January 1958. Upon completion of flight training, he was designated a Naval Aviator in July 1959. He was promoted to first lieutenant that same month.
In September 1959, he joined HMR-264, MAG-26, MCAS New River, for duty as Fight Line Officer, flying H-34s. He then became the Aircraft Maintenance Officer prior to transferring to HMM-162 in August 1963. During this period, he was promoted to captain in July 1962.
Deployed to Vietnam in June 1964, General Plasterer served as Aircraft Maintenance Officer of HMM-162 until May 1965. Returning to the states in June, he joined HMX-1 in July 1965 for a three-year tour as Executive Aircraft Maintenance Officer and Presidential Command Pilot at Quantico. He was promoted to major in June 1967.
General Plasterer returned to Vietnam for a second tour in September 1968, for duty with MAG-16, as Aircraft Maintenance Officer, HML-167 flying H-1 gunships. He later was assigned as the Operations Officer, HMM-165, flying the H46s.
Ordered back from overseas in November 1969, he transferred to Philadelphia, Pa., for duty as Officer-in-Charge, Officer Selection Office. He was selected to attend the Advanced Degree Program in January 1972, completing his requirements for an M.B.A. degree.
From June 1973 to June 1976, he served as Helo Project Officer and Operations Officer, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Five, China Lake, Calif. In conjunction with this duty, he also attended classes at the University of Southern California, where he earned his master's degree. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in July 1974.
In July 1976, General Plasterer returned overseas for duty as Commanding Officer, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165, MAG-36, 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing on Okinawa. Transferred back to the states in July 1977, he returned to Cherry Point for a two-year tour as Management Services Officer/Controller, at the Naval Air Rework Facility.
He attended the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa., from July 1979 to June 1980, and upon completion was ordered to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., for duty as Head, Disbursing Branch, Fiscal Division. While attending school, he was promoted to colonel in June 1980.
During September 1982, he returned to the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, as Head, MAG-26/29 reorganization team. The following February, he became the Commanding Officer, MAG-29.
General Plasterer assumed duty as Commanding Officer, 22d Marine Amphibious Unit in June 1984. While serving in this assignment, he was selected in February 1985 for promotion to brigadier general. He was advanced to that grade on May 16, 1985 and assigned duty as the Assistant Wing Commander, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, FMF, Pacific, MCAS, El Toro, California, on June 14, 1985. He was assigned additional duties as the Commanding General, 5th Marine Amphibious Brigade on July 1, 1985. General Plasterer was assigned duty as the Commanding General, 3d Force Service Support Group (Rein), FMF, Pacific, Okinawa, on June 13, 1986. He served in this capacity until Sept. 9, 1987, when he was assigned duty as the Commanding General, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing/Deputy Commander, III Marine Expeditionary Force, FMF, Pacific, Okinawa, Japan. He was advanced to major general on May 2, 1988. General Plasterer was assigned duty as the Director, Plans and Policy Directorate, USCINCLANT, Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 8, 1989. He served in this capacity until September 1991, and assumed his current assignment on Oct. 1, 1991.
His personal decorations include: the Legion of Merit; the Distinguished Flying Cross with two gold stars in lieu of a second and third award; Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V"; Purple Heart; Air Medal with two gold stars and Numeral 52; and the Combat Action Ribbon. He is entitled to wear the Presidential Service Badge. In his career, General Plasterer has flown over 6,800 hours.
Major General Plasterer is married to the former Lesley L. Daigle of Jennings, Louisiana, and has four children, Michael, Penny, Kevin and Jodi

ROSS R. BROWNE III [ ]: I was in both the Communication Platoon and 81mm Mortar Platoon with H&S Company of. 2/6. After the Solant Cruise I went to division comm.
I had the privilage of being on this cruise and still have wonderful memories that I still share with fellow veterans' and friends. This cruise was definitely one of the highlights of my life.
Enough said: May god bless and SEMPER FI; Browne, Ross R. III - L/Cpl at the time.

CHARLIE LA MARR [Died: 19Dec2011]: Born 11September26 in Indianapolis, IN. On the Solant Amity cruise, I was a GySgt and maintenance chief of the H-34 helicopters with HMR 264 Sub Unit One, on the Hermitage.
I've some very fond memories of that great cruise and, in addition to IT being such a success, many success stories came of it. 
My maintenance officer, Lt. Ross Plasterer, was a struggling lieutenant just trying to stay in the Corps at the time. He went on to be the Presidential pilot in HMX-1 at Quantico and retired as a Major General. 
Our CO, Maj Dock Pegues, held the permanent rank of MSgt and had gone through flight school in WWII as a corporal!.  Sadly, I've lost track of him over the years.  The only one I still correspond with is, then SSgt Loy, who retired as a WO and lives in Nevada.
I ended my career, 1943-1946, 1948-1968, at Pax.  When there, I was maintenance chief of the rotary wing division of Naval Air Test Center.  I headed up the test program for the CH-53A helicopter.  After retirement I went back to Southern California and wrote maintenance technical manuals at Lockheed for 22 years.  I wrote manuals on several different aircraft ending with 11-years on the F-117A Stealth Fighter when it was highly classified and created in the notorious Area 51. After retirement from Lockheed I came back here because we have family here and my military benefits. 
At the VFW and the Moose we Marines tell the sailors and civilians that the reason we come to the club is the give it some class.
From time - to - time I can give you some of the tales of the USS Hermitage, if you wish.  I too, was on the Boxer along with several other carriers and LSD's.  When in helicopters you are with the grunts. I served in fighter and transport squadrons but helo's is my first love. I would have it no other way.
I checked your web site and read about Ron Smith (Now deceased. Ironically, they died on the same date!!).  I occasionally listen to him on WBAL Baltimore radio. I agree with most of his commentary. I live in Southern Maryland, nine miles from the Naval Air Warfare Center at NAS Patuxent River.  I retired from there in 1968 with the rank of MSgt. I then worked 22 years for Lockheed as a technical writer retiring in 1990.  Keeping up a large house and an acre of grass and flowers keeps me occupied.  However I have been a volunteer for the Maryland State Police, criminal investigations for 13 years.  No pay but interesting work.  I work about six - eight hours a week.
The web sites are great.  I checked the Hermitage site and could only recognize myself in the group photo. I do have many pictures but they are the 35MM slides. I don't have a projector right now. Haven't looked at the slides for years. I will be more than happy to go through them and see if I can come up with some interesting ones for you.  They are not doing any good in my store room.
I apologize for not contacting you sooner.  Briefly, a lot has happened in the last year and I am trying to get caught up. My wife of 47 years passed away in 2001. Then, in February 2002, I met a widow through her daughter.  This Saturday (02/08/03) we are getting married. I know I am robbing the cradle as I am 76 and she is 65. Semper Fi.

[The editor of the Solant Amity website, in speaking with his wife Rosalie, learned some things more about Charlie than was provided by the man when alive. Flattering things. And, as well, some documents of importance to those of us who were part of SoLant Amity I but, more importantly, about a man who lived and LED an examplary life.
For example, as Charlie made no mention of his early service, we never knew that he was a Heavy Equipment Operator in the SeaBees of World II, serving in the Pacific Theater. He'd entered the Navy on 16Sep43 and was mustered out on 5May46. Thereafter, while working he attended Aero Industries Technical Institute from which, in March 1948, he graduated as a certified Aircraft and Aircraft Engine Mechanic. Shortly thereafter he joined the Marine Corps.
Though, Charlie elaborated on his marriages, he did not say that he was the father of three, step-father to four, grandfather to seventeen, great grand-father to 23 and great-great grandfather to 7. How great was that!

May have been while an enlisted SeaBee.

Aircraft and Engine
Aircraft Mechanic - 1948

Rosemary & Charles
LaMarr - Date Unknown

Rosalie & Charles LaMarr
Circa 2005

Rosemary & Charlie
date unknown

Orders: USS Wasp and the
Belgian, Congo - June 1960

Orders to HMR-264
May 1960

Promoted to Master Sergeant in
Capetown, South Africa

Oooorah, Master Sergeant! You WILL be remembered by us all.

More on the USS Hermitage's Solant Amity I involvment can be found at , though you might come to believe there were only sailors on the ship.

DOCK H. PEGUES [Died: 14Jan2012] was born on 18Mar1922 in Dallas, Texas. And until we heard from the retired Lieutenant Colonel's daughter, Gabrielle, on 1Feb2012 we'd not been able to learn very much about the man. It appears that the Colonel had accumulated numerous documents specifically related to Solant Amity I...something he must have perceived as important to him for yet inknown reasons. And Gabrielle has suggested she would like to see them displayed on our website. While waiting for those documents however, and with his daughter's approval, the following Eulogy...written and provided by her at her father's funeral furnished so that you all have something more of an insight into the man who led so many during his three decades of service in the Marine Corps:

"President Ronald Regan once said,
Some people live an entire lifetime wondering if they've made a difference in the world, Marines don't have that problem.
"My dad, Dock Pegues, began his life in Dallas, Texas on March 18, 1922 as the only son of Perry Pegues & Francis Haile ( Pegues). He had a younger sister, Martha Jo, who was also born in Dallas. And, some years later, two more sisters, Patsy and Nan “arrived.” The family moved to Luna, New Mexico, a small mountain town, when he was young because my grandfather had lost his job during those depression years and, too, because of Dock’s severe asthma problems...alleviated by the climate change offered by New Mexico. Here the family thrived: learning to hunt, fish, raise rabbits, and grow vegetables to help sustain them all. They were by no worldly measure wealthy but my grandparents made ends meet to raise their family and eventually buy land and build a home.
" There was no high school in Luna, so Dock had to live away from home at a young age to attend school in Springerville, AZ. During one summer break he and his friend Melvin rode their bicycles through the Grand Canyon on their way to Los Angeles, where they hopped a freight train to San Francisco to see the World’s Fair. This was in 1939.
"He began college at New Mexico State University to study Animal Husbandry but, when our country was drawn into WWII, he made plans to join the service as did many young men at that time of national crisis. He and Melvin wanted to be Army paratroopers, and after standing in a line all day, were told the Army couldn’t take any more men. As they dejectedly retreated back down the hall, a tall Marine Sergeant stopped them & ushered them into the SMC enlistment office. He promised them a dinner meal if they would sign up. As they were very hungry and without money, they eagerly signed up, were fed and promptly shipped off to California for training.
"This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave" ~ Elmer Davis (1890-1958)
Freedom is not free, but the U.S. Marine Corps will pay most of your share. ~ Ned Dolan
"After basic training, he was sent to radio school in San Diego. Upon completion he was posted to Ewa Field in Hawaii. His skill as a radio operator earned him a place as the radio operator in his commanding officer’s airplane. He loved the flying and soon applied for pilot training. At first denied entry by the flight surgeon because of a dental “over bite,” he persisted and was eventually accepted…the result of changes in both regulations and equipment. Specifically, the mere installation of an oxygen tube to the mask made the difference.
"In the course of his flight training he was posted to a training field in Memphis, Tennessee. This is where he spotted Neda Bernardini, eldest daughter of Italian emigrants Reggilo & Evelina Bernardini, coming out of the library with her girlfriend Bobo. He followed these two young ladies (today we’d call that stalking) as they giggled & whispered about the young Marine close behind, deciding that Bobo should be the one to talk to him. As fate would have it, Neda ended up going out with him and they fell in love. Upon asking Reggilo for his daughters hand in marriage, he was promptly run off by a shotgun wielding father. That cemented their relationship. After a quick marriage, Dock was granted some leave and they hitch-hiked to Luna for a sort of a honeymoon and family introduction. The year was 1946. WWII had ended a year earlier.

Circa 1958
"It wasn’t long before the kids came along – Michael in 1947, Patrick-1948, Yvonne-1950, Chris-1952, Andy-1955, Gabrielle-1957, Tony-1962, and Katrina-1964. Interspersed between all those kids was the military life - two more wars, Korea & Vietnam, changing from Corsairs (He had 99 carrier landings. When asked why he didn’t get his Century for 100 landings, he simply said “I saw too many friends go in the drink and it’s not worth it.”) to helicopters, military honors (Distinguished Flying Cross for rescuing a downed jet pilot at night in the dark Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian islands) several overseas tours of duty (He loved Japan & the Orient, particularly the people. And we loved getting the tabi socks & tabi’s, the jewelry boxes, kimonos, rice-paper covered candies and many other gifts he’d send home), moves to various bases on the eastern & western seaboards, finally landing as XO of LTA in Tustin, California. (There used to be a base where the blimp hangars are.) Here he retired from the USMC after 30 years as a Lieutenant Colonel.
"Now down to 5 kids at home, they bought Mom’s dream house brand new in Mission Viejo where they lived the remainder of their earthly lives. Dad became an insurance salesman for Equitable after he retired and quickly built up a large customer base, mostly in the Asian communities.
He did well with insurance sales because he truly cared about helping his clients, often going over and above just selling policies by lending money to help buy a home or car or to start a business, providing counsel and family assistance to many people.

1 May 1958
"After he retired once again, he visited and cared for a number of his comrades as they fell ill and helped their widows sort through all the red-tape when they passed. He neither boasted nor spoke of these things, seeming to follow what Paul teaches us in Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
"I saw how my Dad had become a humble, caring man. My pastor often will say - Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

To observe a Marine is inspirational, to be a Marine is exceptional. ~ Unknown

"I’ll always see my Dad as a handsome king in his dress whites and shiny sword heading off to the Marine Corps ball with his beautiful queen and I

In retirement
find peace in the knowledge that they are together again for all eternity in paradise where I have no doubt Dad was greeted with a loving “Well done, good and faithful servant” by Jesus and just behind Neda and his family, a line of Marines and soldiers who went before him that had been waiting to give him a hearty handshake or clap on the back. You see, it’s not about how well you started the race, it’s about how well you finish it.

"I know without a doubt I will see both Mom & Dad again when they come to greet me at heaven’s gate. My prayer is that I will someday see you there as well.
"I found some other quotes that reminded me of Dad:
A ship without Marines is like a garment without buttons. ~ Admiral David D. Porter, USN
"He spent a good bit of time aboard ships. We have a scrapbook of one particular cruise called the Solant Amity that you can look through.
Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death. ~ Omar Bradley
"Dad always said anyone who said they weren’t scared when in battle was either a liar or an idiot.
"And this one from General James F. Amos, 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps:
A Marine is a Marine. I set that policy two weeks ago - there's no such thing as a former Marine. You're a Marine, just in a different uniform and you're in a different phase of your life. But you'll always be a Marine because you went to Parris Island, San Diego or the hills of Quantico. There's no such thing as a former Marine.

[Editor's note: Semper fi, Colonel. And thank you Gabrielle for sharing your thoughts about your dad and but a small part of his history.

BUCK FLETCHER []: Now a retired USMC Staff Sergeant and living in Winchester, VA, I was on the USS Hermitage in 1963, during SoLant III, and served with Second Force Recon . I just read the website about the Congo crisis and recalled that UDT21 was also on the Hermitage at the time.
I'd like to hear from anyone that was on the Hermitage during SoLant Amity III episode, so we might catch up on old times. SF from Winchester,VA.




BARRY JAMES "FRENCHY" FOURNIER [ ]: Now living in Michigan, I was a QM2 aboard the Mattabesset from the the summer of 1961 till I got out in September of 1963. All the crew knew me as Frenchy. New to this interent stuff, I would like to know if their is a way to get a list of locations where some of the guys are. If any members of the crew find this notice, drop me an email: "Frenchy," former QM2, Golden Shellback


For more information on the Gas n' Go Fleet's connection with the Solant Amity Cruises, read the summary found at:

DICK J. LANDRY []: Wow, it's amazing to finally locate someone who can confirm that 2nd Platoon, G/2/6, did in fact live aboard an AOG for about three or four weeks during the Solant Amity I cruise.
I never wrote down or documented any of the stuff I did during that time. Too busy with chicken-shit I guess. It was, however, a rare experience.
The Nespelen's Captain, in order I think, to relieve our boredom and keep the Marines and Sailors from each others throats, had Marines trained in various jobs on the ship. I got really lucky as I got to be a helmsman.
I can still remember the "sign in" routine when reporting to the OD on the bridge for a watch at the helm. It went something like this: "Sir, Private Landry, requesting permission to take the helm. Steering course 160 degrees, turning 1400 revolutions on the right screw, 1250 revolutions on the left screw, Sir." It was a real blast; but it wasn't easy to stay on course and you could always tell when a Marine was steering the ship because the ship's wake looked like a big zig zag line.
And, the Navy food was great!
I'll go through my old stuff to see if I can find some pictures. Crossing the Equator was a blast too. I remember it was 95 degrees at 6:00 AM! I've got some pictures of the shellback initiations, boxing smokers etc. Do you know the date we crossed and do you have any idea where a guy can get a Shellback Certificate? If I come up with any good stuff I'll get it to you on a CD or email attachment.
After Solant Amity, I made a Med Cruise with the 8th Marines, on the USS Boxer, probably in 1962. Any contacts you know of for that one?
Damn, are the Marines doing a great job in Iraq or what? Our troops are so professional and dedicated. I couldn't be prouder as a former US Marine. March 1959 - April 1963 were four of the best years of my life, though I didn't know it then!
Thanks again and Semper Fi. Former L/Cpl. R. J. (Dick) Landry USMC

GEORGE BITSOLI, []: During the Santa Maria incident the tanker ship's role, to the best of my recollection, was just trying to "keep up".
After running search patterns off of the West African coast, we steamed full throttle back across the Atlantic to a point near Recife Brazil where the pirated ship had been sighted. I was told we were making speeds of around 34.5 knots,. The Gearing sailors advised me that the ship was spec'd to do 35 knots when new. ["Oooops, Nespelen, ....where are you ?"]
However, at some point, we all got together, refueled, took the Admiral...making the Gearing the Flag Ship...embassy officials and world wide news organization representative aboard and took off to make initial contact with the Santa Maria.
With the Admiral aboard, we Marines, instead of our enjoying our wash and wear uniform environment, now had to get back to the Spit and Polish routine (very rude) of an Admiral's Marine Guard Detachment role, while simultaneously making plans how to board and retake the Santa Maria if needed.
As an aside, I never fully trusted news reporters since that incident, after hearing one describe our encounter into his portable tape recorder by saying that "a naval and Marine entourage forcefully subdued" the Santa Maria after a "chase on the High Seas"....and "doing 80 knots" in the process!!!
Whoa! Where were the swashbuckling Errol Flynn, Robert Taylor and still more buccaneer Hollywood types? The press was clearly in need of a " reality check, pleeezzze!"
When the incident was successfully concluded, and after some fin-again-liberty in Recife, it was back across the Atlantic to resume our Solant Amity Operations in various West African ports, with demonstration amphibious landings and the like.
And, through it all, there when needed was the Nespelen, doing its duty and understandably struggling keep up ["Nespelen, time for Liberty Call....where are you ?"]



[On January 25th, 1961 SEAWOLF was ordered to find and track the Portuguese Passenger Liner SANTA MARIA, which pirates had seized two days earlier. The submarine contacted the liner off the coast of Brazil on February 1st. After the SANTA MARIA surrendered, the SEAWOLF returned to San Juan and continued East Coast operations.]


KEVIN FLATLEY [ ]: Semper Fi Brother! HooRah! I will add the link & I appreciate the info! I, too, am a former Marine - 73/75, but served aboard the Spiegel Grove as an Operations Specialist (Radarman) from 80-83.... I would be honored if your permitted me to list you on our contact page under the embarked Marines section. ....Also, we have a reunion association that you are greatly invited to join - please drop our secretary Chuck Siedshlag an email at and tell him I sent you! Our reunion in 2003 is in Key Largo, where the ship is 'homeported' now! As for Solant Amity IV - I don't know of that one, but that's not to say that therewasn't one. The Solant Amity's went down a little bit before I was able to enlist! :) I look forward to hearing back from you Marine!
Best regards, Kevin Flatley (Kevin) PFC - USMC (M60) 1973-1975 OS2 aboard 1980-1983 USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32) Association President and Historian

DAVE OVERSTREET []: Looking for some info about a Navy ship I was aboard in '61-'62, the USS Spiegel Grove LSD-32. I checked all your pages and didn't see my temporary-duty USMC "shipmate" Callahan, assigned to the Grove's ET Shop during that cruise. Sure would be nice to see him again -- one of the nicest guys I ever met (he and I even get past the "jarhead/deck-ape" thing).
Best regards, Dave Overstreet




THOMAS DeLANGE []: Ed, it was fun reading your article on your experiences aboard the USS Gearing and it’s role in the capture of the Santa Maria.
During the Santa Maria incident I was an RM3 and, if I recall correctly, had a confidential security clearance. I remember our receiving some encrypted traffic that the OPs officer decoded and took to the Captain, but I was never privy to what it was about. Although I do recall that we made a sudden turn east and headed for Brazil.
I was a radioman aboard the Gearing’s sister ship, the USS Vogelgesang DD-862 which, for a time, billeted the 1st Platoon of G-2-6 as we steamed “all ahead full” to intercept the Santa Maria. Shipboard scuttlebutt had it that our orders were to intercept, fire a warning shot across her bow and, if she failed to heave-to, sink the ship(!) and pick up the surviving passengers and crew. However accurate the speculations were, I’m sure glad we didn’t have to do that.
As a side note, it was my understanding that the submerged nuclear submarine, USS Nautilus, had been tailing the Santa Maria at the time.
We at first and unexpectedly encountered Vera Cruz, the Santa Maria’s sister ship. The result: a full and resounding “General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands man your battle stations. This is not a drill.” From my station as starboard lookout I watched the passengers of the Vera Cruz happily wave at our approaching ship. Then, and just as clearly, as the Vogelgesang made a sharp turn to port and our guns came to bear for what appeared to be a likely broadside, their waving hands dropped into a terrified, white-knuckled rail grasping mode.
Confirming the ID of Vera Cruz, we continued our pursuit of the Santa Maria, then reported to be just offshore of the Recife, Brazil harbor and more than just a few miles away.
Eventually the Santa Maria was docked in Recife and we dropped anchor at the mouth to the harbor, effectively blocking her escape, should she try.
The next day we docked and stayed there for four days, where a drink cost 100 cruzeiros...a DIME?
The Belgian Congo was where I got to go ashore and play Marine. It seems that the Corps’ radio equipment could not contact the naval radio equipment aboard the ship. I was issued a portable radio, M1 and .45 cal pistol. A grunt was assigned to me to turn the hand cranked generator for the radio when I needed to contact the ship and relay the Marine’s traffic. Shortly after landing on the beach there was a virtual snowfall of paratroopers (well over a hundred) dropped to the west of our location. It was only shortly thereafter that we withdrew back to the ship.
I know that it was the Congo, as we stood off the African coast for roughly thirty days, and the landing was done in this time period. I was never made privy to who the troops were or why they were dropping in for a visit. During the time that we were on the beachhead, several Marines moved inland, but the group I was with stayed at the landing site and waited for their return. The only radio traffic that I passed was a request for the whale boat to come back and pick us up. Again, no answers were provided and questions were discouraged. The upside? Well, I didn’t have to dig a foxhole. :-)
Speaking of jogging memories, wasn’t it in Dakar, Senegal that a certain group of Marines dropped by the Soviet embassy and removed the USSR’s flag, taking it to their ship, and hanging it in their quarters? As a result it nearly caused an international incident. I think at that time everyone was back on the LST. Of course, we solid, upstanding sailors would never have done such a thing. Had ya’ll invited us, now that might have been a different matter. :-)
The more I think back on some of these things the more I start remembering. In our visit to Cape Town, South Africa the one thing that really stands out in my mind is like so many others, the indoctrination (think orientation or extremely strong warnings) that we were given before going ashore. One of the things that were stressed was that we were not to speak to a black woman under any conditions, not even just to ask directions. If seen talking to a black woman we would automatically be arrested for solicitation. And of course, we were completely subject to the local laws. Should we be incarcerated in the local jail when the ship sailed we would be left behind and noted as AWOL.
On the brighter side, the people in Cape Town were fantastic. A local couple met George Lander and I on the dock, just as wecame off the ship for liberty. We were invited to their home for dinner and they took us sight-seeing around Cape Town, including a visit to the Indian Ocean side to see it. They kept apologizing because their daughter wasn’t present to meet us. When we saw a photograph of their daughter, we were sorry that she wasn’t there as well. The one really outstanding memory of Cape Town was the day that we sailed. There was a jetty that extended into the harbor for some distance. Not only was the dock inundated with people seeing us off, but along the rocky jetty people were lined up waving goodbye with hands, white shirts or blouses or just a piece of clothe. There were more people seeing us off at Cape Town than there had been at our home port at the beginning of the cruise. It is my understanding that several men kept in contact with some of the women they met there and later married them. The fact that the mini-skirt was already in vogue there at the time had some bearing, I am sure, and the fact that the available women out-numbered the available men something like three to one also influenced influenced the situation.
Thinking back to Recife reminds me of the one quasi-confrontation between myself and two Marines at the Moulin Rouge night club. Of course, everyone had been partaking of the refreshments. I was just finishing up in the head when two gentlemen of the Corps entered. I squared away my uniform and headed for the exit about the same time they began utilizing the plumbing. One of the Marines called out to me, “Swab, in the Marine Corps they taught us to wash our hands afterwards.”
Not thinking, which I had a knack for; I called back over my shoulder, “In the Navy they taught us not to piss on our hands”. The words had barely left my lips when I had second thoughts about having voiced them. Feeling that a decidedly different approach was appropriate in view of the fact that no one was really in the kind of shape one needed to be to tactfully apologize. Thus, retreat WAS the better part of valor in this particular case. I immediately moved to the street rather than my table, hoping to be out-of-sight before they exited the head.
Apparently my decision and actions thereafter proved successful as I was able to enjoy the rest of my liberty without pain or having to accept the limited view furnished from a hospital window. Guys, if you should happen to read this and recall me… I do apologize and use the excuse of being temporarily out of my mind. I had to be insane to have said what I did. :-))))
For some reason I have not been able to recall which port it was that we put into that had all the problems with rebels. We posted extra guards on the bow and fantail with 45’s and M1’s. The government there provided extra security in the form of additional jeep patrol with machine guns mounted in the back of the jeep. When we went on liberty there were troops all over town. Machine gun carrying jeeps patrolling the streets, armed military stationed outside the entrance to stores and other business establishments. I recall walking into what appeared to be a department store where two soldiers stood, one with a rifle, the other a machine gun, weapons held butt against hip with muzzles at forty-five degrees. My smiling and trying to say hello to them was a waste of time. They simply stared at you like they were upset because they weren’t off enjoying themselves. We got too close to the governor’s residence and suddenly had a few troops pop out of nowhere with their weapons across their chests and indicating that we needed to turn around and go back the way we came. It wasn’t until this happened that we realized there were troops dug in all around the grounds. In strolling down the road the jeeps would drive slowly past and every now and then one of them would swing their machine gun to bear down on us as we walked along. Despite the fact that I refused to show concern as a member of the US Navy, it all was getting to me until I headed back to the ship and didn’t bother with liberty the rest of the time that we were there.
Yep, lots of memories rolling over me. And thanks for the website that's made it all possible.
I can be reached at 409 Chestnut Ridge Rd., Lot 9 in Andersonville, TN 37705 and reached by phone at 1-865.745.1345.

RON KELLAR [ ]:I was very happy to hear from you. Yes, there were Marines on our ship too...and a great bunch of guys they were! One, who was assigned to stand a signal watch with us Signalmen was nicknamed Policabio. Not sure about the spelling. I have his real name in an address book but I do not have his address. Those were great times. I also have 8mm movies I transferred to VHS tape of our Shellback initiation when we crossed the equator. Sorry, I do not have any of the Marines who were on board for that short period of time. I will check the Web site. Best to you... Ron Kellar, SM2.
[More from Ron, 21 Jun 04] Ed, I cannot thank you enough for the information you are providing. I was on the Vogelgesang DD862 and our ship did not make a Cruise Book. Boy, was I pleased to see you put the entire Gearing DD710 Cruise Book on your web site. I printed all 76 pages and have them in a notebook. I knew some of the Gearing guys, and where they went, we went, and what they did, we did so it is almost as if their Cruise Book is my Cruise Book. Through your information I am now trying to get in touch with some old friends. One of whom is Balboza in Brooklyn, NY. He was one of the Marines aboard the Vogie. You have produced a great, great memory lane. As an aside, I noticed that one of the email addresses you send info to is: Wayne Ave. is less than a mile from me and it is just off Highway 75 here in Kenova, WV, my present hometown. Well, thanks again and keep up the great work. You get a "Bravo Zulu". Signal flag code for "Job well done!" Ron Kellar SM2.
Then, in part because of a tongue in cheek remark made about George Bitsoli [USMC] still possessing a "72 hour pass," Ron on Memorial Day weekend of 2011 came clean about his still having his "late sleeper" chit:



He also explained that: ""OC" Division is "Operations, Communications" Division. Being a Signalman, I was in communications and that was lumped under Radioman, Operations. Also, the late sleeper chit was given to those that stood the midnight to 0400 watch. It allowed them to sleep until 0700 instead of 0600. Each division had similar chits for their particular division. The cord was so you could wrap it around the aluminum rack one's canvas mat was roped to. These chits were prized items and I don't remember now how I ended up with it...but I got it AND I USE IT!"
[ Editors note: Damn! The things you learn if you live long enough. Think of the times in your life when you could have used a "chit" like Ron's to keep someone from waking you after a night of labor or debauchery.
Oh, and I didn't miss that bit he mentioned about grabbing some extra "zzzzs" after a midnight-to-0400 watch, either. Imagine, if you will: Work 0000-0400, make your way back to a rack on an aircraft carrier...not the short walk Ron may have had on a destroyer, you then get to crap-out and sleep ONE more hour than the rest of the crew, until 7 am, before doing whatever it is the Navy deemed it necessary for you to do. Ohh, yaaaah. The "sailor's, or any service life, for me....!" You betcha. Then again, the Navy always did have access to coffee.

Then on 1/6/13, after Ron received some recipes for both White and Red SOS sauce I'd distributed to the Solant Amity I clan, he sent the following email about his efforts in restoring the Destroyer DD-724 Laffey in the Charleston, SC museum.]
"Ed, Thanks. I am printing these recipes out and will send to other shipmates. We get some SOS when we work in the Destroyer DD-724 Laffey in the Charleston, SC museum. We pay $9 a day to work fixin' up the ship to look like it did when it was lived on, so tourists can see how we lived. They feed us aboard the ship, some authentic Navy chow and some regular chow. We sleep/shower on the ship and on our last night they feed us a grilled out steak dinner. They provide the beer each evening starting at 6:30 when the tourists have to leave. We work hard, take lots of coffee breaks and oh, the sea tales we all can tell. If anyone had told me when I was 19 on the Vogelgesang that, when I retired, I would pay to chip paint, swab decks and work on a tin can I would have told them they were crazy. Retirement is fun, just not enough time and money to do all I would like to do. Thanks again for the recipes. Ron"

NORMAN LOWRANCE [ ]: I was aboard the Vogie (USS Vogelgesang DD862) during this cruise. I think that we were in Abidjan when we got word that the Santa Maria had been hijacked on the open seas. It was hijacked by someone named Galvao. We made contact with the ship and escorted it into Recife, Brazil if my memory is correct. [ After so many years ago come the senior moments. Ha!!)
I know that some Marines and Navy guys married girls from Cape town....
I'm sending a few pictures of the Vogelgesang. [ Now on the website ] A few of the pictures were made after the ship came out of the navy dry docks after under going Fram conversions. The Vogelgesang now belongs to the Mexican navy. If you look closely at the pictures you can see that a couple of 5" gun mounts were removed and the bridge super structure has been altered. The pictures with the two gun mounts on the bow is the way the Vogie looked in 1960.

JACK RIDDELL []: Oh yes - I do remember Recife. Who'd have guessed. I looked at the web site and it does stir up some great memories of an amazing cruise. I will check to see if I have anything in my records about SolantAmity. For the most part, however, I have pretty clear recollections of that cruise. The incident with the Santa Maria was only part of the story.
I also remember with disbelief the time we pulled into Capetown and they split the crew between Caucasians and non-Caucasians and local police gave separate lectures to each group about the accepted customs under Aparthied.
When we were in Dakar, I met a couple of French guys who were there for Christmas from Gambia. We became friends while drinking at a local bar and he invited me and a friend to a hotel restaurant for a big meal. It was pretty great. But that wasn't the end of the story. When the Vogelgesang dropped anchor at Bathurst, a large yacht pulled alongside. You guessed it - the French guys. Turns out they were in charge of a big road building project in Gambia and had been living there for over a year. The Captain, impressed that I had such "influential" friends, granted me dungaree liberty. They took me on an all-day trip into the country to show off their road project. Along the way, I was introduced to all the village Head Men, each of which offered me gifts. At one stop, I was given the hand of a young African girl and told she was mine to take. Of course, I was in a state of panic because didn't know how to handle this situation. The French guys were cracking up as they witnessed my distress. Finally, an interpreter explained that the Navy did not allow such "gifts" and I made a hasty exit from the scene. Later that day, we reached the end of the road and there were two very large, air conditioned trailers. They had a large generator going full steam to supply the power. Inside, they again treated me to a gourmet meal prepared by a French chef who was permanently on the site. Leave it to the French to take care of the food at any cost! And of course, they had some great wines there too.
Happiest of Holiday greetings, Jack Riddell, [CWO - USN, Retired]


[ Ship was named after Robert Lee Wilson, who was Born 24 May, 1921, in Centralia, Illinois and enlisted in the Marines in Chicago on 9 September 1941. After training at San Diego, California, he joined The men of the 1st Marine Division on 7 to 9 August 1942 in Landing Assaults against a number of strongly defended positions on Tulagi, Gavatu, Tanaambogo, Florida, Guadalcanal and British Soloman Island. His division completely routed out all enemy forces and seized a most valuable base and airfield. Wilson shared in the Presidential Unit Citation awarded the 1st Marine Division, Reinforced for actions on Guadalcanal, and in a Presidential Unit Citation awarded the 2nd Marine Division, Reinforced for the seizure and occupation of the Japanese-held Atoll of Tarawa, Gilbert Island, 20 to 24 November 1944. Pfc Robert Lee Wilson was mortally wounded in action while taking party in the capture and occupation of the Marianas Islands. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 2nd Battalion 6th Marine Division during action against enemy Japanese forces on Tinian on 3 August 1944, while advancing toward enemy troops, Private First Class Wilson threw himself on an enemy grenade sacrificing himself to save a group of companions.]

ROBERT SARGENT [ ]: I served aboard the RL Wilson when the Santa Maria was hijacked and we chased it around the Atlantic and ended up in Recife Brazil. I read your notation about the Santa Maria. and it brought back so many memories.

BILL MASSINGAL [ ]: I was checking out your web link on the USS Wilson website and write to tell you I was on the Wilson when we chased the Santa Maria and I have to tell , WE HAD SOME REALLY GOOD TIMES.

GEROLD R. RICKS [ ]: Ed, This is one fantastic site on that particular ( Santa Maria ) incident. I put the link on the Robert L Wilson History page, please leave me a message in the guest book. I was a lifer and retired Navy, so check out my personal site also. God Bless all the Marines I knew and worked with in the Navy. GGRicks


Ronald Robrahn [] Shipmates: It is with deep sympathy that I announce the passing of James E. Tallent SN 1960-1963.
James lost his battle with cancer on Aug. 28, 2008. James was registered to attend the 2008 reunion in York Pa. Jim had volunteered to be the disc jockey for the reunion and struggled to be with us in October, right to the end.


Bender, Doug []: Happy to hear from you in reference to the Santa Maria incident. I was assigned to Crew 2 with Lt. Lincoln as my Meteorology Officer. We left Rosy for Trinidad and then flew a search mission and landed in Belem,Brazil.
The next day we flew a search mission and found the ship and circled it for a period of time and then proceeded to Recife where we were met by a armed guard and they seized our a/c.We then spent the next several days in Recife until the incident was over.
The photo that you see in the VW-4 web site was taken by one of our photographers in the squadron and since we all chummed around I was fortunate to receive it. I do have some other pictures somewhere in my archives and hope to find them and will see if I can send you some-God willing- you know many moves and 30 plus years. Good luck on your endeavour- Doug Bender

FRED GHARIS [ ]: Hi Ed; I read with interest your account of the cruise ship Santa Maria and its hijacking in 1961 on the USS Gearing's website. I too have remembrances of that incident. I was a flight crewman with the Navy's Hurricane Hunters stationed in Puerto Rico. We had taken off on a short 2 day trip to Jacksonville, Florida when we received a message about the hijacking and were ordered to turn around and start an air search for the ship. We landed on the island of Trinidad off the coast of Venezuela for food and fuel and took off again. With our long range radar used for hurricanes, we found many targets (ships) and made low passes over them trying to find the Santa Maria.
We landed in Belem, Brazil which is maybe 50 miles up the Amazon river from the Atlantic. We went into town and found a place to crash and burn and get some rest. When we went back to the airport the next day, we found we had been joined with other Navy aircraft from as far away as Rota, Spain. We took off again in search of the ship and landed about 20 hours later in Recife, Brazil. Again, we found a place to get some rest. The next day, we went back to the airport and our plane was surrounded by Brazilian army personnel. We were told that we could not leave and were interned in the country.
Thirteen days later, the US Embassy sent someone to us to provide us with some money. I had left Puerto Rico in a flight suit with one change of skivvies and about $20 in my pocket. Needless to say, we were hurting for clothes and money but, in retrospect, it all made for one hell of an adventure. - Fred Gharis, Georgetown, Texas


MICHAEL SIANO [ ]: I had been in Hotel Company and was transfered to "G" for the Solant Amity cruise but missed the movement, as I remained in the Lejeune hospital with a bad foot infection. So, instead, I got to hang around J-ville and K-town for 6 months until all of "G" returned from the cruise, salty as all get out. Interesting times, the 60's. Glad I was there and have been able to refresh my memories by way of the Solant Amity website. Semper fi to all, Michael Siano.

PATRICK JOHNSON [ ]: I've just spent the last hour and a half looking through your website. The incident with the Santa Maria was an event to write home about. Most people just don't know about the many, many times the US is called upon to help out in situations around the world. It's "Help us Uncle Sam!" when they're in trouble and "I hate the US!" when they don't need you. Thank goodness for the Marines and the Navy that takes them where they need to go. Pat Johnston

JIM McDONALD [ ]: I'm an old 1st MarDiv Marine who got around a bit. Ist Landing Support Company, 1st Pioneer Battalion, Marine Air Det USS Princeton LPH5 (1st MAW), MABS 47, 4th AW, 3rd ANGLICO, 4th MarDiv, "C", "Det B", and H&S Btrys of 4th LAAM Bn, 4th MAW. all between 1958 and 1998.
I think your website is great and I'm always glad to meet another Marine.
Attached is the near 1Mb Iwo Jima Power Point presentation you requested. I received no verbage with the photo's but it gives you a pretty good idea of what the terrain was like for the Marines who fought and died there. Though it seems to have a great deal more vegetation than was the case in 1945.
One of my former CO's (retired last December as an O-6 in Marine Corps Systems Command) was on the tour with John Bradley's son when they installed a plaque on the island. He also brought back some of the volcanic ash/sand and I have a tiny bit of that as well.
I'm hoping to get there with Military Tours before my ability to travel is gone
Semper Fi, Jim McDonald, CWO4 USMCR Retired, Newark, CA
"That [state] which separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting by fools." Thucydides, 'The Peloponnesian Wars'

TODD M. ANDERSON []: I was a member of “G” Co.2/6 and a member of the 2nd platoon. I served with “G” Co. from 1979 to late 1980, then transferred to 1/6 and after returning from a Med float caught a NATO with 1/6 and later transferred to 2/3 out of K Bay where I caught 2 west pacs. All in 4 fours. Busy and wonderful times. (LPTA - SCI/D - May No Soldier Walk Alone )

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