Sacramento Class Fast Combat Support Ship
Length 793 ft
Beam 107 ft
Draft 38 ft (Max)
Speed 26 Kt
Compliment 22 Officers, 530 Enlisted
Aircraft - two CH46E Sea Knight helicopters
Armament NATO Sparrow missiles, two twin 40mm gun
mounts, replaced by two Phalanx CIWS
Propulsion four boilers, two geared steam
turbines, two shafts, 100,000 shaft horsepower
Sacramento and her sister ship USS
Camden (AOE-2), are unique in that their propulsion
systems were originally to be
installed in the uncompleted Iowa class battleship, USS
Kentucky (BB-66. (8 Boilers and 4 steam turbines)
When it was decided to scrap USS Kentucky, the Navy split the
engineering plant and installed half in USS Sacramento and half
in USS Camden.
Laid down, June 30, 1961, Sacramento was the last ship built at
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Bremerton, WA.
Launched, September 14, 1963
Commissioned USS Sacramento (AOE-1), March
Decommissioned, October 1, 2004, at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard,
at the NAVSEA Inactive Ships On-site Maintenance Office,
Marine, Brownsville, TX., for scrapping, in lieu of use as a
target. April 13, 2007
completed, July 11, 2008
My Duties with USS
May 1980 - Jul 1981
In May 1980 I decided to convert from Naval Reserves and
rejoined the Regular Navy. I received orders to the USS
Sacramento, which was in the middle of a WestPac Cruise.
I was again sent to Treasure
Island for processing. I was then sent to Travis
AFB for charter flight to Subic Bay.
From Subic Bay we flew by C-5 to
Diego Garcia, an atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
- Things are different now, but in 1980, Diego Garcia was
primitive at best. The transit personnel compound was just
a series of huts in the middle of nowhere. The huts were
platforms raised up a couple feet off the ground. (presumably to
keep creepy crawling things from crawling in our bunks.)
The walls of the huts were 4 X 8 sheets of plywood - set
sideways with a screened 1 1/2 ft gap to
the floor and another screened 1 1/2 ft gap to the roof, so
there was some air flow. The semi-solid walls gave the
illusion of a some privacy. (I guess it is not right for
the guys in the next hut to see your naked butt, but, it is
perfectly OK for the other 20 strangers in your hut.) The roof
was made of corrugated metal and when the coconuts fell (which
they did every night) made an awful racket. The showers
were in the middle of the crushed coral compound and were simply
smelly Army canvas tarps hung on a ring of poles to sort of
resemble walls. There was no roof and anyone could see half way
up your leg - Eek! The latrines were also centrally
located in the middle of the compound. It was a scene
right out of M*A*S*H or Gilligan's Island. Most of the
guys bitched and complained, but, to me the whole thing was like
Boy Scout Summer Camp all over again, only much hotter.
(AFS-1) came to Diego Garcia to pick up supplies and
transit personnel (like me) and take us to our ultimate
destination. When it was time to leave, we were taken to a
small craft pier to await the boat that would take us to the USS
Mars. It was a long, hot wait. I noticed a
strange noise from under the pier and being bored I hopped down
to see what it was. There, bobbing in the water, I found 4
cans of Olympia beer and 4 cans of Budweiser still attached to
their plastic 6 pack holders. It was like manna from
heaven! OK, it was only 8 cans of warm beer which provided
only a couple of swallows for each of us, but at the time, free
beer fished from the waters of the the Indian Ocean tasted
greater than the finest beers of Europe. It reminded me of
Bob Hope in "The
Private Navy of Sgt O'Farrell."
The USS Mars rendezvoused with the Sacramento in the Arabian Sea
(This was during the Iranian Hostage crisis, now know as Operation
Eagle Claw.) The Mars and Sacramento were along side
each other doing a replenishment. Personnel for transfer
reported to the flight deck and received a full safety
briefing. We were then fitted with our flight
deck cranial, flight life vests and received another
briefing on how to use them. We boarded the CH-46
helicopter and were given yet another briefing. We were
strapped in and were double checked.
Lift off . . .
> . . . set down.
That was it! An hour of preps and safety briefings, checks
and double checks for a flight that lasted less than 30
seconds. So much for my first and last ride in a CH-46.
Although the Sacramento was much larger than the destroyers I
was used to, the QM gang was about the same size. There
were 6 of us including our Chief. And like a destroyer, we
all depended on each other. Every QM did everything and
backed each other up. It was just like Rick and me on the
USS Hamner and I assumed that it was normal for all QMs.
Our Navigator, Lt Cheeseman, and our QMC, Bob Colcleasure, insisted that each of us learn and be able to perform
all aspects of navigation, including celestial. The LT and QMC taught
all of us the art celestial navigation and we all loved it. We prepared the sight list, we kept time and we
also assisted in the solving and plotting the sight
reduction. We believed that was what all QMs did.
It was on Sacramento that I earned my Master Helmsman
qualification. I also crossed the equator and become a Shellback.
What was my scariest time on the Sacramento? Hmm.
Well, there was the time when I was on the helm transiting out
of Pearl Harbor when, just off Hospital
Point, the ship suddenly experienced split rudders, (when
the two rudders point in a different directions.) Technically,
we were "out of control," but, thanks to training, that was
relatively easily to correct and was quickly fixed.
Another scary time was while refueling the USS
Davidson in the Arabian Sea. The Davidson caught
fire in a fuel strainer and went DIW while the span wires were
still tension fore and aft. I was on the helm and for some
reason I had just glanced at the Davidson through the stbd
bridge door only to see the her suddenly disappear from
view. That freaked me out! All I could do was focus
hard on keeping the course, especially because we had astern
bells rung up before they could disconnect. (Astern bells makes
steering especially tricky.) I was able to maintain course
and everyone on deck did their job just as they had been trained
and the emergency disconnect was performed perfectly with no
casualties. Nothing was made of it because everyone
performed just as we had been trained, but it sure was scary!
In Hawaii, Lt Cheeseman took emergency leave and left the
ship. During the two week transit to Puget Sound the QM
gang filled in for his navigation duties and performed all of
the celestial sights. I was told later that Jr QMs, like
us, were not supposed to be able to do that. We just did it because it needed to be done. We
just beleived that was the way all QMs did things.
Upon arrival from WestPac, Sacramento went into overhaul and in
Sept '81 the whole QM Gang earned advancement. I remember
that once a shipyard worker came to the bridge and noticed three
QM2's (E-5) were chipping paint and he asked why. "Well, our 1st
class (E-6) was in the chart room doing paper work." He
then asked why our juniors weren't doing this type of manual
labor and we told him that we did have one junior QM, (E-4) but,
he was the berthing compartment cleaner that week. Again, that was just the way we believed all QMs did
things. I loved those guys!
July of 1981 BuPers
said that a local ship was losing their leading QM and I was
transferred TAD to USS