The Last Watch…

Sometimes one gets stuck with the last watch in an organization or a ship, submarine or squadron…

Two examples-

One was my cousin who had the last watch operator watch on USS Scamp, was at the SRP when they cut her open.  He said it was a truly strange experience to be standing there with the last CO and watch the last cut be made, and the ass end of the sub be pulled away…

The other, which I was reminded of last night was the last watch at the TSC in Moffett Field when the P-3s left.  LT Xxxxx had the last watch, the only person in a vacant building, no more secure facilities, just him, a folding chair and a telephone laying on the floor.  He said he spent the last night sitting there staring at the phone, and feed Elvis (the duty mouse) french fries…  Elvis lived in the computer floor in the building and either was never trapped, or had one helluva line of kids…  The LT remembered that Elvis would come up out of the floor, sit and wait patiently for him to drop a fry.  Elvis would pick it up, disappear back into the floor, and be back in about ten minutes.  Lather, rinse, repeat, all night long.  Finally as the sun came up the next morning, he got a call.  Unplug the phone, take the chair, lock the door on your way out.  Turn in the phone and chair at supply and go get on the airplane.  He said in all his 25+ years in the Navy that is STILL the strangest watch he’s ever stood (and to this day claims he heard radio calls, ‘batphones’ ringing, etc throughout the night).


The Last Watch… — 14 Comments

  1. The concept and practice of “last watch” saddens me.

    It’s like watching somebody you love die next to you. Memorable, but not at all fun.

  2. I haven’t stood a last watch, but I have talked to the sailor who stood the last watch on board the back half of my ship before she was towed out for gunnery participate. He said it was a saddest feeling, next to losing him mom, that he had ever felt walking across to the dry dock. I thought it strange that they had a watch on a piece of junk metal (everything useful had been stripped away). But I guess it was to keep dummies for coming on board and getting hurt.

  3. Thank God I never had to go through that during my time in.

  4. Well, the chAir Force doesn’t seem to have the Last Watch concept, but I get the feeling. One day, while working in the Transient Alert shop in Bitburg, GE, (we took care of all of the non-base assigned aircraft), we marshaled and parked a beautifully painted F-4, Michigan or Wisconsin ANG, IIRC. High-gloss paint, full set of decals, the whole nine yards. After parking her, the pilot shut her down and turned it over to my shop. We then towed it to the fuel barn, where she would be defueled, have all her munitions, explosives, etc, removed from her fuselage. And turned into an Aircraft Battle Damage Repair (ABDR) bird. Demolition teams started blowing holes in her carcass to train the repair teams. Shameful demise for such a beautiful bird.

  5. When I was just starting grade school, my father was at Moffett Field, in Airops. There was a carrier air wing, P2Vs and blimps, back then. There were also experimental aircraft and an F4D squadron that was part of NORAD. My father used to talk about flying intercepts on SAC bombers and SAC claiming to have been unintercepted, until the gun camera film was developed.

  6. Not exactly a Last Watch but kinda.

    The Navy used to have a lot of WWII destroyers at various locations around the US being used to train reservists. I spent two years as an active duty crewman on the USS William R. Rush, DD-714 based at Fort Schuyler, Bronx, New York.

    When the Willy R was decommissioned in the summer of 1978 it was not exactly a sad moment because she was recommissioned as the Kang Won DD-922 of the ROK Navy. She went on to serve the ROK Navy until 2000 and is now a museum ship. When we marched off of the ship we knew she was not going to die, but that she would continue to serve.

    A little digging would produce a Kang Won ship’s plate that the Korean snipe who took over my engineroom gave me. And as a side note, try getting this thought across to a non english speaker, “The bilge drain line that cross connects from Main Control to Bravo Three has a hole in it, and a lot of soft patches, but the holes won.” Considerable non verbal communication later, I think we got the point across. Main steam stop valve anyone?

    Willy R story highlights would include:

    We hit the oiler! But in a voice so high pitched that dogs for miles around would perk up their ears.

    The strange feeling of standing in the bilges of the after engineroom and seeing the dive lights shining up through the hull cracks. No double bottoms on these old ladies.

    Having the sounding and security watch sound a space that should have about thirteen feet of tape before hitting bottom use up the whole fifty foot spool and keep going, yes the weight punched a hole through the bottom and began letting in the wet salty stuff.

    Putting a D handle from a foam can hooked to a garter spring on the throttle board and having a label plate made that said, “Main Engine Manual Start. Emergency Use Only.” Then using it when doing indoc watches on less than loved officers. The ship was very old and had a lot of play in the throttle valve operating gear. Picture the engineroom, hot noisy and a huge amount of confusing stuff that could kill you without any warning whatsoever. We would get a bell, the throttleman would open the ahead throttle a turn or so, nothing would happen, and he would report, “Top Watch, No Response on the Main Engine!” The MM Top Watch, me, would then turn to the Under Instruction Officer and order, “Sir, pull the main engine manual start hard!”, the officer would do as directed and like magic, and with another turn of the ahead throttle, the engine would start.

    That was my last active duty ship, I went from there to shore duty, then instead of going back to sea after shore duty I went to CIVLANT, started working for DOD as a mechanic in the Philadelphia Shipyard, and became an active reservist.

    Thank you for priming the memory pump.

    Take care all.

    John in Philly

  7. I left the Navy in March, 1991. I was stationed at Moffett with VP-48. The Boomers were decommissioned later that year. I was glad that I missed the decommissioning ceremony. Last watch or not, it’s hard letting go of something that you’ve put your heart and soul into. 23 years later, and I still miss VP-48 and Moffett too.

  8. MC- It is…

    John- Thank you and that sends shivers down my back.

    N91- Curiousity… Do you know what BT is? I attended that that decom. I was at Moffett 88-92 on CPWP staff.