Bob Hoag's Stoddard Nostalgia Trip

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.

Bob Hoag

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