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Gary D. Tanner
Memories about my tour with Tallahatchie County
and Souda Bay, Crete


To view the original size picture just click on the picture


I reported for duty aboard USS Tallahatchie County (AVB-2) on New Year’s Eve, 12-31-1966.


This letter I received from LCDR Weyrich describes what my duties were supposed to be, but the Mideast Six Day War changed all of that.


I never really got to know many of the regular ship’s company personnel.


The first few months were a whirlwind.


My second day aboard, 1-2-67, there was a ship’s party at the Flamingo Club in Naples. Some of the first people I became acquainted with, naturally, were some of the people I would be working with. Three of those people are shown in this photograph at the ship’s party.


Clockwise from 9 o’clock:
Myself, AX1 Gary Tanner, AN Williams, AN Bange, ABF3 “Shorty” Beauchamp

As soon as the holidays were over, I started spending almost every day at the Advance Base equipment compound in Naples, only returning to the ship to eat and sleep.


Then, in May 1967, I made Chief. Some interesting pictures of the “chief’s initiation” show some of the people attached to the ship that I never really got to know.


Left to right:
MMCS Krusen, GMGC Weatherford, BMCS King,
MMC Jecusco, CMC Feeley, PNC Yovino

SFC Elliot, the Arkansas Hog Calling Boot, was the life of the party

I guess that drink was for me!

I was still working on getting my CPO uniforms together when we were briefed on the probability of an upcoming Mideast War, which turned out to be the “Six Day War” of June 5-10, 1967. We were told to pack and get ready for deployment to Souda Bay, Crete. Before I really became acquainted with “Chief’s Quarters” aboard ship, we were flown to Souda Bay on Memorial Day weekend, as the advance party, to prepare an emergency evacuation site for civilians fleeing the war zone.


During the advance set-up, the six days of the war, and the evacuation period afterwards, I spent most of my time directing arriving aircraft to designated parking areas. I ran around in a yellow jeep with an ARC-27 UHF radio strapped in the back and a big FOLLOW ME sign across the back end. My radio call sign was “Tallahatchie Portable”.


When the ship returned to Naples in late August or Early September, I was left in charge of a 15 man Advance Base Detachment.


I remained in charge of the detachment until my transfer in November, 1968. The size of the detachment had grown to approximately 50 men by the time I departed.


One reason for the increase in manpower was caused by our requirement to maintain twenty four hour, seven day, radio communications watch.


The reason for that requirement is a “whole ‘nother story”, among others, that took place during my tour as CPO in Charge of the Advance Base Detachment. If anyone is interested in those, I may try to put some more articles together.)


That 24/7 requirement also caused me (the Advance Base Detachment) to be assigned a permanent radio code name and required a set of coding/decoding publications to be on hand. I doubt that I will ever forget that call sign or the one for Tallahatchie County or the VP squadron out of Rota Spain. We also relayed messages and talked to VP squadron aircraft out of Sigonella Sicily. Their call sign escapes me at the moment. I don’t know if those call signs can be put out to the public even today, so I won’t do it unless someone “in the know” says it’s OK. I don’t know that anyone else would be interested anyway.


The name I remember best, after my “Boss”, LCDR Weyrich, is CM1 George Coopmans.


George was my right hand man and second in command the whole time I was in charge of the detachment. George was one of the most dedicated, conscientious, reliable sailors I ever met. I also considered him to be a very close friend, and have thought many times during the ensuing years how much I regret letting our contact evaporate.


George is first on the left in the picture below, taken in the galley at Souda Bay. Next, going clockwise, is AK3 Daniels, back center is unknown, ASC Luter, and yours truly. The guitar neck and hand showing in lower right corner belong to AT1 Wassom who provided us with music almost daily before our evening outdoor movie. The person barely visible at extreme left, holding the beer can, is a third class Air Controlman whose name I cannot recall.


Some other names I remember: LT Richards, CMC Feeley, CPO “Dusty” Rhodes,
AK1 Shaffer, ASE2 Seymour, EO3 Burchett, CM?-EO? Shackleford, CN Lewis


There were numerous Communications personnel that rotated through Souda Bay to help with the required communications watch. Most of those people were only there for short periods and I never got to know them very well.


LCDR  R. G. Anderson signed my transfer evaluation report for the period 17 Jan. ‘68 to 7 Nov. ‘68. I only remember meeting Mr. Anderson one time while the ship was visiting Souda Bay. I must have made one “helluva” first impression, because one of Mr. Anderson’s remarks on my evaluation still gives me pause when I read it: “He never fails to follow orders but is quite emphatic in expressing his views when they are contrary to orders.”
I guess, maybe, I might have been starting to go “stir crazy”.


When I departed company with “The Gray Ghost of The Guinea Coast”, I returned to Helicopter Aircrew duty and began my ‘68-’69 Vietnam tour as Door Gunner and Search and Rescue Aircrewman with HS-6.


AWCS Gary D. Tanner
USN (Ret.)
New Burnside, IL

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