The photo below is the sinking USS Towers (DDG-9) on October 9, 2002. She was towed out to sea by the Navy and used as target practice until she sunk. The Towers
is was a Charles F. Adams class guided missile destroyer. It is an upgrade of the Fletcher Class destroyers employed in World War II. Twenty-nine of the Charles F. Adams class were built between 1958 and 1967.
My ship was the USS Conway DD507, the featured image at the top of this post. The Conway was a Fletcher Class destroyer that saw Combat in World War II. I was stationed on the Conway in 1964. Recently I discovered that It was towed out to sea and used for target practice until it sunk sometime in the late 1960s. My eyes were wet when I learned so, even though I always knew very well what was to become her fate.
Sailors get attached to their ship, that’s why they are always referred to in the feminine gender. In the sea-going Navy one’s ship is one’s mother and protector. If you treat her right she will defend and protect you.
Here is a photo of the USS Kimon, D-218, a near copy of the Towers.
Take a look at the main deck just above the 8 in 218 painted on the side of the Kimon. There begins a metal life line that runs aft for a few feet then drops down to less than half and ends right about 90 degrees from the forward stack. My ship the Conway has that same feature, as did all the Fletcher class ships. On my first time at sea I got horribly sea sick. It’s common on the first time at sea and seldom ever happens again.
One can always count on the empathy and concern of one’s ship mates when that happens. In my case, I had the dry heaves. I was hanging over the metal panel described above, convulsing horribly with nothing much comings out my mouth. I had already emptied by stomach, but the heaves will continue for a while.
At that point a 3rd class Boatswains Mate came up behind me and slapped my on the should er as he whispered, “Hey Willis, if something black and hairy comes up, grab it. It’s your asshole.”
I replied, “Thanks Boats, I feel better already.” I could barely talk I was laughing so hard.
We became pretty good friends and shared a few beers in Norfolk bars after that. I wish I knew where he is today. One morning I noticed that Boats had a black eye. When I ask him how he got that his reply was, “I was jumped by 10 marines last night in Norfolk and one of them got in a lucky punch.”
Those were good days for me. I came to love the Conway and all the men who sailed on her. I loved it every time we went to sea, even though we always sailed through Cape Hatteras.
R.I.P Mother Conway, Towers and all the others now serving as man-made reefs for marine life.