Shipmates, I just came back from a cruise from Florida to San Diego through the Panama Canal which included several elements
of Stoddard nostalgia.
First, we visited Louisiana and of course went to see the USS Kidd (DD661) which I hadn't visited in a number of years.
If you haven't seen it, you should. While aboard got to see the location of my old bunk, and as a special favor
from one of the guides, I got into the fwd. engine room, which was in great shape. It's really fun to see "our ship"
all over again.
In the museum that is part of the complex, there were pictures of the Civil War and guess what there several
pictures of the USS Choctaw which was James Stoddard's second ship. Stoddard was on Choctaw because he was
transferred from the USS Marmora after he was awarded the Medal of Honor and promoted to Acting Masters Mate. I
think this rank was equivalent to our present Warrant Officer.
What a coincidence!
After Louisiana, we flew to Florida to get on the ship. The main reason we took this cruise was to go through the
Panama Canal. In 1962 Stoddard escorted a convoy of Marines from Camp Pendleton to the Canal for the Cuban
missile crisis and we had a day or two of liberty to see the sights including the Mira Flores Locks - and some
rather weird things in Panama City, but we didn't get to go through the Canal. So ever since I'd always wanted to go
through it some time. It was very interesting, and Panama City is not the same place.
On the way the San Diego, the weather got a bit rough, but the ship had fin stabilizers so it wasn't bad - nothing
like the storm we hit about 400 miles south of the Aleutians on our return from WESTPAC in 1962 when I could have sworn we
were going to split in two!
Finally, we got to San Diego, and of course this was our home port from 1956 until decommissioning in 1969. I have many
memories of the good old 25cent water taxi's. All in all a fun trip, especially seeing a Fletcher destroyer again, and
frankly being at sea. If you want to see a Fletcher near you, there is one in Buffalo NY, and Boston Mass.
While aboard the cruise ship, were lucky to have a personal tour of the bridge with the Captain, and it is so high-tech
that it's unbelievable. You can look at about 200 cameras around the ship, and virtually control everything. The Navy
should look at it.