13 July, 2012

Helter Swelter

It’s hot - in Central New York, mind you. Yesterday it was 90. Today it supposed to be 91. They’re predicting 90 for tomorrow. That’s well above average (80˚F) for us, but I don’t mind.

I grew up in weather like this. And without air conditioning, thank you. I’m no longer used to it though, and it certainly puts a strain on my already weakened cardio-vascular system. That I did feel today. So what! I dislike the cold even more (see As Cold As It Gets). You’ll never hear me complain about the heat – not very loudly anyway - although I might whimper a tad as it beats my body into submission.

It may be because of the summer of 1969. I had been assigned to a guided missile frigate that was completing what was known as refresher or underway training. This was an extended period of training used to get a crew back up to speed after an long period (about a year) in the shipyard for overhaul. So I flew south to join my ship, the USS Belknap, DLG-26 (later CG-26) - 547 feet and 8957 tons of United States Navy steel. And, yes, there are some things you never forget. We practiced this response in case we were ever asked a particular question: "While it's true we have the capability to carry nuclear weapons, I can neither confirm nor deny their presence on board." Speaking of heat!!!

I arrived in June and spent the next two months with her in wonderful Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Yes, that's the same place of today's current events. Other than the Officers' Club, it doesn’t have much going for it. It’s also on the desert end of the island, and what I promise you is that it is the last place you want to be during the weeks that surround the summer solstice.

If my memory serves me well, you could count on the temperature being well over 100 every day, and the humidity was not far behind. I suppose even then you could have secluded yourself in some air conditioned space – except for one thing, the training runs. Many of them were designed to simulate warfare situations during which ventilation systems are shut down. Nooooooooooo. Pretend you're in a sealed tin can sitting in the sun and you'll get the idea.

So … do I complain about the heat? Nope. It’s positively balmy here.
Not long after I left the ship, she joined the US 7th Fleet for duty off the coast of Viet Nam. If you want to visit her, she’s at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean about 250 miles east of Norfolk, Virginia where she was ingloriously sunk after being used for target practice.