Saturday, January 20, 2018

Highlining - September, 1965

My dad was not much of a shutterbug, so I was surprised to find today's photos while going through some boxes of family slides (mostly taken by my grandpa). They are dated "September, 1965", and were taken while my dad was aboard the USS Towers (DDG-9) - a guided missile destroyer that he served on for several years. I wish I could ask him about the photos, but he passed away three years ago.

It is possible that the Towers was heading toward the South China Sea and/or the Gulf of Tonkin, patrolling the waters east of Vietnam. The only notation on the four slides was the word "highlining", which appears to involve the transfer of supplies from one vessel to another via the use of ropes, pulleys, and nets.

This first photo is my favorite of the bunch, just because you get a sense of what it was like to be on that rather cramped deck. 

This one is pretty neat too, with an aircraft carrier - the USS Ranger (CV-61) in the distance; a transport helicopter hovers above the deck, while a smaller vessel flanks the carrier.

Clearly HQ has received our urgent request for more Beefaroni! 

I am imagining how tricky this must have been with two ships pitching and rolling, although the sea looks relatively placid. My dad didn't talk about his Navy days a lot (especially the time he spent in Vietnam... he would get quiet and look down at his hands and sort of mumble), but I do remember him talking about enduring some intense storms.

More supplies. Using my uncanny powers of deduction, I can tell that this net contains 100 bags of Utz potato chips.

I hope you have enjoyed today's salty photos!


Nanook said...


"Join the Navy, see the world". Or at least a lot of water... Or the transferring of supplies...

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, these are all such wonderful photos. The fact that your dad took them makes them even more special. In the middle of that first pic, there appears to be a rectangular box-shaped cage with a built-in seat, hanging from one of the ropes. I'm guessing that was used for transferring a person from one ship to another without using watercraft. It reminds me of the cage they used to rescue people from the burning building in "The Towering Inferno."

K. Martinez said...

These are really cool pics. As a child, I had the opportunity to go on board a destroyer at Treasure Island with my third grade class and I remember it being an awesome and amazing experience. We got to tour the ship and were also given a great lunch at the ship's mess hall. Probably the best field trip ever courtey of one of my classmates as her father was in the Navy.

Interesting that your dad didn't talk much about his experience in the Vietnam War. My dad would often share with me his stories and experience in the Korean War. He himself was in the Air Force. He shared some very interesting stories about people and personalities.

I hope you have more pics of your dad's military experience. Would love to see more if you have more. Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic!, you are correct. The breeches buoy seen in the first pic is the same type of contraption used in the rescue scene from 'The Towering Inferno".

K. Martinez said...

Major, wanted to add that I appreciate the story about "highlining" as I've never heard of that term or process before. Very interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

And I love Beefaroni and still have it on rare occasion.

Scott Lane said...

I love these! And, yes, they're that much more special for having been taken by your father.
I'm suddenly craving Utz Potato Chips and Beefaroni for breakfast.

Chuck said...

In the first photo, you can see Towers' Mk 112 anti-submarine rocket (ASROC) launcher. It's the boxy structure with a letter "A" painted on the side, which explains why they were nicknamed the "Matchbox" launchers. The ASROC system consisted of a rocket-propelled booster that carried a payload of either an acoustic homing torpedo or a W44 nuclear depth charge. Charles F. Adams-class guided missile destroyers like Towers carried one Mk 112 launcher, capable of housing up to eight ASROCs at a time.

Aboard the Ranger in the second photo we see to the left (aft) of the "island" (the above-deck structure with the number "61" painted on it) five examples of some variant of the A-3 Skywarrior. To the right (fore) of the island we see five A-4 Skyhawks, a CH-46 Sea Knight hovering over the deck with some sort of slung load, what might be an F-8 Crusader with its wings folded, and at least nine examples of the F-4 Phantom II, with possibly more in another row on the opposite side of the flight deck. If you look to the right of the island and below the flight deck, you can see right through the hangar deck to the sea beyond.

Alongside Ranger is USS Guadalupe (AO-32), a Cimarron-class fleet replenishment oiler. This also appears to be the ship seen replenishing Towers in the other photos. I'm assuming these were all taken the same day.

Looking at the histories of all three ships, these photos were almost certainly taken in the South China Sea or Gulf of Tonkin between mid-January and mid-April of 1965.

In the last photo, we can see Towers' launch hanging in its davits to the left of the netted cargo.

Note how every sailor is wearing a life preserver and many are wearing helmets. With cargo swinging about between two ships whose relative positions are constantly changing even under the most skillful helmsmen, there is a very real danger of being hit on the head or knocked overboard during highlining operations.

Also of note is that in all of these photos, the only officers or chief petty officers visible are three tan-uniformed men leaning against the rails on Guadalupe above the cargo net in the third photo (although, of course, we know there was an officer behind the camera aboard Towers). That doesn't mean that they are too proud to get their hands dirty but merely reflects their job managing the entire operation. It's also a testament to the high level of training of the rest of the crew that they don't need management breathing down their necks all of the time to get the job done.

These have been a real treat, Major, and I really appreciate you sharing them with us.

Chuck said...

I just noticed a couple of other details in the first photo.

The two hoses seen in the upper left are fuel and water lines used to replenish the tanks aboard Towers.

You can also see a small boat with a windscreen hanging just above and afore the replenishment hoses. This would actually be the ship's launch. The boat I noted earlier is probably a lifeboat, although it could be used for other utility work.

For reference, I found a photo of Towers underway that features the starboard (right) side of the ship. You can see the launch, the ASROC launcher, and the lifeboat that show up in today's photos. Your dad would have been standing on the aft corner of the raised walkway just afore and level with the ASROC launcher and below the funnel with the red vertical stripe.

And, just to give you an idea of what this operation looks like from a few hundred yards away, here's a photo of Albany-class guided missile cruiser USS Chicago (CG-11; ex Baltimore-class CA-136) replenishing Towers in the 1970s.

Patrick Devlin said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Major. I've always been a fan of things nautical and navy related, so thanks Chuck for that great summation of UNREP (underway replenishment) and ship's ID, too.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don’t know about my dad getting to see the world, but he sure got to see lots of Asia. My mom would periodically fly out to meet him in Hong Kong, and I know he spent time in Japan - as well as going to Vietnam of course.

TokyoMagic!, yeah, I was really surprised to find these photos - I’m not sure I could find ANY other pictures that I could say were definitely taken by him. Guess what? I’ve never seen “The Towering Inferno”! However, I can recommend the SCTV version.

K. Martinez, my dad used to take us aboard ships at the Navy bases (Virginia, San Diego, etc), but I don’t remember much about them, except looking down the barrels of the big guns, and what seemed like a huge gap between the top of the gangplank and the actual deck of the ship. I’m sure I had to be lifted and carried across! My dad would talk about fun or crazy times aboard ship or in port, but when Vietnam came up, he didn’t talk much. My sister once tried to interview him for a class project, and he just wouldn’t go into it. To this day I really don’t know why.

K. Martinez, I’ve never had Beefaroni, but I used to like Chef Boyardee’s raviolis! I wonder if I would like them now??

Scott Lane, I think you owe it to yourself to splurge and have an elegant lunch of Beefaroni and potato chips!

Chuck, I was hoping you would do your “Chuck thing” (it’s been a while!) on today’s photos, and man, I am not disappointed! So much great info. It always helps to have somebody who actually knows what they are talking about (unlike me)! I wonder what my dad’s rank would have been in ’65… he retired as a Commander. Maybe he was a Lieutenant? Just a guess of course. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful information.

Chuck II, I noticed the two different small boats… the one with the “Towers” painted on it sure looks like a lifeboat. I used to look for pictures of my dad’s old ship online - of course now there are tons, but they used to be kind of hard to find. Last year I met Ken Martinez and TokyoMagic! at the Orange Empire Railway Museum, and met a guy (Ralph) who was familiar with the old DDG-9.

Patrick Devlin, you’d think that, being the son of a Navy man, I would know more than I do. I learned nothing! ;-)

Melissa said...


"Join the Navy, see the world". Or at least a lot of water...

We joined the Navy to see the world,
And what did we see? We saw the sea!

My other grandfather served on a supply ship in the South Pacific during WWII; allowing for updated equipment twenty years later, it's kind of nice to see what sort of procedures he might have been doing.

Thanks for sharing your Dad's pictures! I'm sure it's a bit different than posting strangers'.

JG said...

Major, thanks for these special photos, and thanks Chuck, for doing the "Chuck Thing".

There were several Navy veterans in my family, Army as well. No stories from either branch.