1968 Newsletter

Jim Walters sent in a copy of a 1968 Newsletter

Transcribed from a quarterly Atakapa Newsletter bearing the date July '68. This was signed by Lt.J. O. Cullipher:

I will begin by apologizing for the late edition of this newsletter and will excuse myself by blaming it on a busy at-sea schedule. We have come a long way since I left you in our last newsletter; we are once again a full fledged "steamer". We finally completed our shipyard overhaul in the second week in April. It was a busy yard period but the time after was even busier. Upon departing the shipyard we proceeded to Little Creek and spent the rest of April in updating our organization and in putting the ship back into a normal routine. We also devoted many hours to team training in preparation for two weeks operation with the Underway Training Unit.

On 29 April a staff of specialists in each phase of shipboard organization came aboard and began inspecting our organization as it was outlined "on paper". After insuring that our organization was workable in theory, (we did have to make a few changes), we began the real test by putting our ideas into action. For the next two week we got underway about 0800 daily and returned to Little Creek at about 1700. We spent nine very busy days in the Chesapeake Bay drilling in all phases of operations and emergencies.

Our typical day began at 0800 when we departed Little Creek and proceeded out into our assigned operating area just inside the famous Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Shortly after passing the jetty at the entrance to Little Creek we simulated entering a minefield which had a 200 yard wide channel swept through it by one of our minesweepers. We tested our navigational and shiphandling abilities by attempting to remain within the channel while compensating for nature's tricky forces of wind and current and while having compass casualties imposed by the observers. Upon leaving the minefield we immediately simulated low visibility and proceeded using only radar as the means of navigation.

With the lifting of the simulated fog we sounded General Quarters and assumed a condition of war during which we were attacked by aircraft, submarines, and a nuclear weapon. During all of these "attacks" the engineers were experiencing numerous machinery casualties, repair parties were fighting fires and controlling flooding, gunnery personnel were firing their mounts and operations personnel were maneuvering the ship and coordinating our efforts with higher command. Naturally, after all of that, we sunk and had to simulate abandoning ship.

We ended general quarters about 1130 and anchored for lunch. The anchoring exercise was known as a "precision anchoring" as an observer would pick a point on the chart and we were required to drop our anchor within 25 yards of that spot.

During the afternoon we practiced various general drills such as fire at sea, man overboard, and numerous engineering casualties. We returned to our berth at Little Creek at about 1700. Everyone was tired and a bit rattled, but better prepared to do our jobs.

The final day of our training consisted of a four hour underway period during which all of the evolutions we had been practicing were imposed in quick succession. Every phase was observed and graded by a staff of observers and a final written evaluation was submitted. This serves as a basis for our superiors to decide how capable we are in carrying out whatever mission they desire to assign. Naturally, Atakapa did quite well and we made know to everyone that we could handle all assignments.

After completion of this "final exam" we returned to Little Creek and remained inport until we departed on our current deployment on 13 June. During this last four weeks we had an administrative inspection by our squadron commander, which we again did well, and spent the remainder of our time overhauling two of our main engines and loading the fuel, supplies, and groceries necessary for a long deployment.

On 13 June Atakapa departed base and headed East for duty with the Atlantic Fleet. We had a fairly routine crossing with only a couple of rough days during which many members of the crew acquired their "sea legs". With expert navigation we sighted the northern islands of the Azores on the 21st and we arrived in the port of Ponta DelGado, on the island of San Miguel, on 22 June.

Our stop in the Azores was basically meant to be a final fuel and supply stop but we all managed to take in a few sights. The Portuguese on these islands are basically farmers and fishermen and their daily life revolves around their work. The primary means of entertainment consists of sitting on a bench and relaxing after a days labor. Consequently, it was not the best stop for entertainment but it was relaxing after a few days at sea. Many members of the crew managed to trade Atakapa belt buckles for French sailor hats with the crew of a French destroyer. (White berets with a red tassel). We departed the Azores on 25 June and headed south for the area of the Canary Islands. Here is where I will leave you until next quarters newsletter.

In closing I would like to welcome aboard all of the new people we have received during the quarter and would again like to invite you to write any time that I may answer any questions or be of any assistance to you.

Sincerely, [signed] J.O. Cullipher