Soot, as a weapon? Recalling the Mediterranean Cold War in the Sixties

USS F. D. ROOSEVELT (CVA 42) underway in the Mediterranean. The "light grey haze" coming from the stacks when the boilers were operating at the right settings, changed to black, sooty clouds when the ship "blew tubes."
USS F. D. ROOSEVELT (CVA 42) underway in the Mediterranean. The “light grey haze” coming from the stacks when the boilers were operating at the right settings, changed to black, sooty clouds when the ship “blew tubes.”

When the Cuban Missile Crisis blew up (bad choice of words?) in October 1962, the ROOSEVELT (CVA 42) had just left NS Mayport for its umpteenth Med deployment. The newly married JO’s (junior officers) would gather on the fan tail to watch the wake that pointed towards the brides they had left.  Misty eyes were the uniform of the day.  In my case it was not just my “bride,” but my two-day old daughter that I had to leave.  I had held her just twice.

We were approaching the Straits of Gibralter and steaming East at slow speeds when the message traffic spiked as never before. Messages were mimeoed (remember that?), posted on bulletin boards, and even passed from hand-to-hand.

Fantastic, we junior officers thought at the time over bad coffee and clouds of cigarette smoke in the Wardroom, we are trained, armed and ready to take on any threat…surely they will turn us around and we can go down there to kick some butt. Heck, we knew those “waters,” we had just spent six weeks of Refresher Training (RefTra) at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).  The proud ship and its air group were the “readiest” in the Navy.  Here we are…send us.

My beautiful picture
Ensigns on the fantail. Following the wake back to Mayport in 1962.

In those days, personal or even service ribbons were scarce.  Not even a National Defense Medal (“being alive in ’65” as it was known later) ribbon.  None of us junior officers had ANY ribbons at the time to wear on our brand new “blues.” The Navy Expeditionary Medal would look really nice, we agreed.

Also, a Cuban excursion would give us some salty sea stories to improve on: “Well, there I was…at OCS…in cold Newport…standing in the rain…for at least 15 minutes…waitin’ for chow…can you believe that…is that bad, or what?”)

Sad to report, our course remained about 090…as we bored holes in the water on the way to Gibraltar. I believe they sent the Sara…but I know they didn’t send us…although God knows we were more than willing.

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About Tracy Connors

Tracy D. Connors graduated from Jacksonville University (AA), University of Florida (BA), the University of Rhode Island (MA), and Capella University (Ph.D. with Distinction, human services management, 2013). Ph.D. (Honorary), Leadership Excellence, Jacksonville University, December, 2013. Designated a "Distinguished Dolphin" by Jacksonville University, Feb. 2, 2010.

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