RM2 Kenneth Jordan U.S. Coast Guard (1961-1965)
RM2 Kenneth Jordan
U.S. Coast Guard
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PLEASE DESCRIBE WHO OR WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE COAST GUARD?
My best friend and neighbor growing up didn’t finish high school and went into the Coast Guard four months before graduation. Over the next two years I followed his career since he was stationed only 110 miles away on CGC Coos Bay. I took him back to his ship whenever he came home on liberty or leave and met many of his shipmates.
Two years out of high school it was time for me to consider the military, and since I was familiar with the Coast Guard and how it plays such a significant peacetime mission, the choice was easy.
WHETHER YOU WERE IN THE SERVICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS OR AS A CAREER, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE DIRECTION OR PATH YOU TOOK.
Since high school I had been working for an electronics parts wholesale distributor. Nearly everyone working there had an amateur radio license and encouraged me to get one, which I did (the boss gave me a $5 bonus when I got my call sign). It was my hope to get to radio school and become a shipboard radioman. Near the end of boot camp I took the test with 3 other shipmates. We all made it to school and roomed together. Even though I graduated 2nd in class I didn’t get my 3rd class rate because I failed to copy at 15 words per minute. That really spurred me on when I got to my first ship, and 6 months later I made RM3. My Chief, John Gellings, was a good teacher and I made RM2 eight months later. With two years in I wanted to test myself to see if I wanted to make a career of the service, so I asked for an assignment where there would only be 1 or 2 other radiomen to rely on.
My next assignment in 1962 was to the USCGC Casco (WHEC-370) where I was the only radioman responsible for all communications when underway. With a crew of 45 men it was more like family and I really enjoyed my time on this ship. In cooperation with universities in the eastern United States and international agencies, Casco conducted oceanographic experiments between South America and Africa from August 1, 1963 to August 19, 1963. The Casco was home ported in Boston, MA for the duration of her life in the Coast Guard. The cutter participated in ocean station, law enforcement, and search and rescue operations in the Atlantic Ocean. A balloon shelter was added aft; there were spaces devoted to oceanographic equipment and hydrographic and oceanographic winches were added.
In 1964 I was assigned to the USCGC Hornbeam (WLB-394/NODM); a cutter with a legendary past. Following the collision between passenger ships Andrea Doria and Stockholm off Nantucket on July 26, 1956, Hornbeam assisted with rescue operations. The bow of the Swedish ship crashed through passenger cabins and 46 passengers and crew were killed, sinking the Andrea Doria into the bottom of the Atlantic. Five crewmen of the Stockholm were killed in the collision but she was able to limp back to New York.
On August 7, 1958 Hornbeam assisted rescue operations following the collision between merchant ship Graham and oil taker Gulf Oil in the east passage of Narragansett Bay. On January 29, 1961 she assisted USCGC Spar aground in Narragansett Bay.
While I was assigned to the ship we escorted USS Atka, which was taking on water off New Bedford, MA. That was in March and April 1965. In late November 1965 Hornbeam assisted the merchant ship American Pilot and Maumee Sun following their collision west of the Cape Cod Canal.
A little over six years after I left the Hornbeam, she had her own collision in which she sustained damage to her starboard side. It happened 24, 1972 when she collided with the British merchant ship Docelago. Fortunately there were no casualties aboard either ship.
IF YOU PARTICIPATED IN COMBAT, PEACEKEEPING OR HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS, PLEASE DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT TO YOU AND, IF LIFE-CHANGING, IN WHAT WAY.
Although I served a little over a year in the Vietnam era I did not see combat or go overseas. I do however remember very well going to DEFCON 2 for 13 days during the Cuban Missile Crisis; sometimes referred to as the October Crisis or The Missile Scare. When the Navy was fully deployed, our ship, CGC Casco, was assigned to escort an aircraft carrier from Boston Navy Yard to Cuba. We got underway and had just reached Boston outer harbor when we got word to stand down as the crisis was over. A near miss!
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a tense, 13-day political and military standoff in October 1962 between the leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union over the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores. In a TV address on October 22, 1962, President John Kennedy notified Americans about the presence of the missiles and said the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security. Following this news, many people feared the world was on the brink of nuclear war. However, disaster was avoided when the U.S. agreed to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s (1894-1971) offer to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also secretly agreed to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey.
OF ALL YOUR DUTY STATIONS OR ASSIGNMENTS, WHICH ONE DO YOU HAVE FONDEST MEMORIES OF AND WHY? WHICH ONE WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
My fondest memories were my 18 months on the CGC Hornbeam. It was stationed at Woods Hole on Cape Cod. There were a number of shipmates that I became very good friends with and whenever we were in port we had great times together going ashore.
I had gotten married and was able to live with my wife in an apartment off base. It was a working ship, going out about 3 or 4 days a week, sometimes 3 days in a row staying overnight, but many times out at 8 am and back by 7 PM. I felt our work was useful, and as the only radioman, I felt my job was important.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE, INCLUDING COMBAT, DESCRIBE THE PERSONAL MEMORIES WHICH HAVE IMPACTED YOU MOST?
There are two. While on the CGC Casco we took part in an International Scientific study, EQUALANT II, involving many countries studying the water temperature and weather patterns along the equator. We sailed from Boston, MA to a point off the coast of the Canary Islands and back along the equator to Rio de Janereio, where we had 3 days liberty. In the 30 plus days of sailing I was initiated as a Shellback crossing the equator and we travelled 10,000 nautical miles.
The second memory was a rescue at sea in a hurricane. We had been undergoing efficiency training with the Navy at Gitmo when hurricane Floyd hit Cuba and we were ordered to ride it out at sea. After about 5 days of pretty rough sailing we returned to Gitmo where we were ordered to return to Boston. Riding some still pretty rough seas we were on the outskirts of hurricane Ginny. Off the coast of North Carolina we were ordered by the 5TH District Commander to turn into hurricane Ginny to locate the Navy DE-57 USS Fogg. It was being towed for decommissioning when its tow line broke and the Navy Tug headed to port. There was a 10 man decommissioning crew on board. After 1 1/2 days we found the ship, established communications and stayed with it until the CG Tug Chilula arrived. We then escorted the tow into Norfolk before returning to Boston. The official record states that seas were 65 ft. and winds 90MPH. The Commandant of the Coast Guard sent us a letter of commendation for our efforts.
IF YOU RECEIVED ANY MEDALS FOR VALOR OR AWARDS FOR SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT, PLEASE DESCRIBE HOW THESE WERE EARNED.
The Commandant’s Letter of Commendation for the rescue of DE-57, the good conduct medal for 3 yrs. proficiency and conduct, the sea service ribbon for over 3 yrs. at sea, and the National Defense Ribbon for more than 90 days service after April 1964 when the Vietnam War was declared.
OF ALL THE MEDALS, AWARDS, QUALIFICATION BADGES OR DEVICE YOU RECEIVED, PLEASE DESCRIBE THE ONE(S) MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU AND WHY?
I was proud to be a sea sailor and appreciate my sea service ribbon. The National Defense Medal because I did serve during the Vietnam era and for 18 months was subject to being called for overseas duty.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL(S) FROM YOUR TIME IN THE MILITARY STAND OUT AS HAVING THE MOST POSITIVE IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
My first Chief, John Gellings. There were 10 radiomen on the Casco and he did an excellent job of guiding all of us. I worked very hard to obtain my 2nd Class stripes and when I had completed all the courses and passed all the military questions I brought mypapers to him to sign and pass forward. He told me I had to pass his test first. It was a 40 question open book test, and I spent a lot of time while on watch on an Ocean Station Patrol going through pubs and looking for answers. It took me the whole 30 days, but in the process of searching I kept coming across other interesting information that I would read or note down.
When we arrived back in port he graded my test (38 right out of 40 – two answers I couldn’t find) and sent my papers right in. Smart ways to have me learn even more than I needed. He said he didn’t want anybody learning how to be 2nd class on the job; they needed to know before he would recommend the rate. He was very pleasant and good natured and we had an excellent radio crew because of him.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE WHICH MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE BEEN FUNNY AT THE TIME, BUT STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
There was a St. Patrick’s Day when 4 of us thought it would be neat to wear green neckerchiefs instead of our blue ones. They really stood out on our dress blues, but every bar we went to someone bought us a drink.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR PRESENT OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALTY?
After service I went back to my former civilian job, but 2 years later I started a career in real estate sales. Forty four years later I am still full time selling and I have no plans to stop anytime soon.
I have one son who retired a year ago as a CPO in the Navy and a younger son who just completed his 12th year in the Navy and is an Aviation Machinist’s Mate First Class. My wife and I live in a home we built 14 years ago in a typical New England village. My hobbies are antique cars, gardening on our 7 acres and travel throughout New England.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS SERVING IN THE MILITARY INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND YOUR CAREER?
It taught me to focus and work hard toward my goals. My leadership training has helped me in many ways, and working under great pressure, as during a rescue or emergency at sea, has helped me in life’s further challenges.
BASED ON YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO HAVE RECENTLY JOINED THE COAST GUARD?
Take advantage of every opportunity to learn, do the best job you can, and be respectful to those who have responsibility above you.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU REMEMBER YOUR MILITARY SERVICE AND THE FRIENDS YOU SERVED WITH.
It has connected me with 4 shipmates from boot camp and school. It has also helped me learn about others who had similar experiences to mine and makes me feel like a ‘team member” even after all these years.