United States Navy

Service Reflections of YN2 John Berry, U.S. Navy (1968-1972)


The following Reflections represents YN2 John Berry’s legacy of his military service from 1968 to 1972. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life. Start recording your own Military Memories HERE.

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Navy.

1968 Company 717 Boot Camp

I joined the Navy in 1968 and was able to get the choice of what I wanted to do in the military. During World War II, my father was in the Navy, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. From my hometown of Odessa, Texas, you had to drive at least a hundred miles in any direction to find a river or lake.

By joining the Navy, there would be water nearby. If there’s water, then there’s fishing! When I joined in 68, you either went to the branch of service you wanted or were up for the draft. I talked to the recruiters and asked my dad to sign for me. He wouldn’t sign because of Vietnam going on. I had to wait until I turned 18.

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

ISB Cat Lai, Vietnam

I didn’t really have a path. I just went where the Navy sent me. The only choice I really had was to go to Vietnam. I knew from the beginning to always do my best to attain a higher rank. I thought to myself if I achieved promotions, it would mean I was doing my job to the best of my ability. I knew I wanted to be a yeoman. My dad told me what they were as he was a World War II veteran.

After we crossed the bridge and settled in, our CC asked who could type, and several raised their hands. He yelled at me to report to the battalion office as our battalion yeoman. Bootcamp just got easier. I no longer went with the company to classes unless they were “must” classes in order to graduate. I also got ahead of the line chow pass on a dog tag. Was also made an RPO1. Then when I got my orders for Yeoman, A school, things were really looking up. So far, things were looking up. I only did one hitch, but it was right there towards the best part of my life. I remember for a year or so, there was itching to go back and re-up. I still wish I had.

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?

USS Crockett (PG-88)

The closest I came to combat was on board the USS Crockett (PG-88) and firing gunfire support when called upon. We operated off the coast of Vietnam for Operation Market Time Patrol. Our job was to combat the smuggling of men and equipment for the war. Most of the time, it was just steaming up and down the coast keeping an eye out for suspicious activity.

After the Crockett, I served in-country Vietnam. Now on my 70th birthday, I still wonder how I would react to combat. It was a blessing not to have been in combat and a mystery as to how I would have faced it.

Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.

USS Crockett

I was serving in USS Crockett (PG-88) and remembered a time I was terrified. I was on the helm, and we were steaming in a light fog. Then all of a sudden, there was a big freighter bearing down on us. Luckily the Captain was on the bridge and ordered a hard right rudder and full speed ahead. We managed to get out of the way. I still don’t know why CIC never picked the other ship up on radar.

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?


I believe it would be the USS Crockett (PG-88). It was my first ship and the first time out of the United States. We were mostly on market time patrol off the coast of Vietnam and operated out of Cam Ranh Bay. With a General Electric LM 1500 gas turbine engine, she would skim across the water.

We also went to some good liberty ports like Subic Bay and Hong Kong. It was what I wanted from the Navy, to see as much of the world I could. When I got my R and R while stationed at Naval Advisory Group, Vietnam, I went to Bangkok. Another country and a good time.

My least favorite was MINELANT Staff in Charleston, S.C. It was an 8-5 job, 5 days a week unless you had duty on the weekend. Being on the admiral’s staff, it was spit and polish every day. I had to look, dress, and be 4.0 each day. Not saying wearing the uniform with pride was a bad thing, but it was expected each day. You couldn’t learn much about the Navy sitting in an office job 40 hours a week.

From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.

Olongapo Jeepney

I believe it was when I made PO2.

There were two of us promoted the same day, and we were tossed overboard into the South China Sea. My main memories were the liberty ports around the Pacific. I went to places I had never heard about and did stuff I wouldn’t even have dreamed about. Before the Navy, I had never been out of Texas, but here I was halfway around the world. It’s like the recruiting posters say It’s Not A Job, It’s An Adventure!

There are so many memories of the Navy it’s hard to reflect on them all. Just hoping as I grow older, I’ll be able to recall the best and the worst.

What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?

Pier at Cam Rahn Bay

I believe what I am most proud of was serving in Vietnam. I was told before leaving that I was put in for the Navy Achievement Medal. It was given to me at a Navy Reserve place close to my home. There was no ceremony or anything fancy. That part didn’t matter because I received the medal for doing my job, and the Senior Chief I worked for was aware of it.

I am proud of my Navy Achievement Medal because I can look at it and see my accomplishments! I also received the Staff Service Honor Medal, Second Class, from the Vietnamese Navy, although it was never entered on my service record because I had two days left in-country by the time I received it.

I worked my way up to second class in around two years and am quite proud of that. The harder you work, the more you receive.

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?

I think it is my Navy Achievement Medal. It means to me that I worked hard at my job and somebody noticed. I also have a Staff Service Honor Medal from the Vietnamese

Navy, which really means something. Then there’s the been there, done that medals and unit medals showing I served!

I’m also proud of all the duty station plaques I received. I got one for each of the places I served.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

LCDR Robert Walker

It is LT Robert O. Walker, USN. He was a Mustang LT who worked his way up through the ranks. I went to work for him and a YN2 in the Force Personnel Office at MINELANT Staff when I was a YNSN. LT Walker took the time to teach me how to be a Yeoman and a Sailor. My mentor LCDR Walker is now a member of NTWS.

There are two profiles for him: one I did and the one he and his wife put up. I didn’t miss much. It was good to finally contact him after all these years, thanks to NTWS.

I got to see him after Charleston at Nha Be, Vietnam, in 1972. It was good to catch up.

List the names of old friends you served with, at which locations, and recount what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.

USS Crockett

At Commander Mine Force Atlantic Fleet Staff, there were two shipmates that I will always remember SKSN Ronnie (Willie) Williams, NTWS sought profile #595785, and YN3 Jimmie Bryan NTWS sought profile #560909. I filled out the sought profiles on both these men hoping to get in touch with them again.

Another shipmate is SM3 Dennis McDonald from Torrance, California. We served together on the USS Crockett (PG-88), and he transferred to Beach Jumper Unit One in 1971.

My best shipmate was EN1 Jimmy Haithcock. We served on USS Crockett. He also showed up at Intermediate Support Base, Cat Lai, RVN, about two days before transferring. We still got together in Saigon for some real good liberty. I invited him to join NTWS, and he is now a member.

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 are no particular times, just good liberty ports like Subic Bay PI and Hong Kong. I pulled shore patrol in Hong Kong, and it was actually a fun time. Everyone would laugh with us and have a good time. I remember when I made second class while serving in USS Crockett (PG-88) and was tossed overboard into the South China Sea. The Captain said I went in too easy, and I was tossed in again after putting up a better fight.

Then there was the time in Olongapo when a bar girl pulled a butterfly knife on me. A shipment and I hit the door running and banged into a Shore Patrol. We explained what happened, and they said to keep running.

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?

Oil drilling platform in the Mediterranean

I went to work in the oilfield as a Roughneck on oil well drilling rigs all over the United States. I did this until I had to medically retire, or else I’d probably still be doing it.

What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?

I am a VFW member, the Mobile Riverine Force Association, and the Patrol Gunboat Association. I don’t have any specific benefits other than keeping up with new and old military friends. I am now a member of the American Legion. I keep up with my full membership in NTWS, so I can also try to find people I knew from other service branches.

I am now a Life Member of NTWS.

I am also a member of USAA.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?

The military taught me to do the job I have to do and do it to the best of my ability. It taught me that nothing in life is free, and you have to earn it for yourself. I miss the travel and fun times in the Navy. I also miss the friendships with shipmates.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Navy?

Cam Rahn Bay

To those still serving, I would say the military is something not to be taken for granted. It is a privilege to serve and do the best you can with it. If you need help to complete your mission, there is always a shipmate that will be there. Always strive to upgrade your rank. Prove to others and yourself that you are capable of achieving a position with more responsibility.

Also, take pictures of all the places you serve and the countries you go to for duty or liberty. It’s always good to look at the pictures and remember what you or your shipmates were really doing in your younger years.

In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

I have found people I haven’t seen or heard from in thirty to forty years. They are now my shipmates again. Without Togetherweserved.com, we would still be wondering, ‘Whatever happened to ol’ so and so’?

I noticed while going through the forums would help bring back memories of my time in the Navy. NTWS has helped me remember my time in, and it is good to have those memories.

Boot Camp, Units, Combat Operations

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Tags: American Legion, Cam Ranh Bay, Hong Kong, Mobile Riverine Force Association, Navy, Navy Achievement Medal, Nha Be, Operation Market Time Patrol, Patrol Gunboat Association, Staff Service Honor Medal, Subic Bay, TogetherWeServed.com, TWS, USS Crockett (PG-88), VFW member, Vietnam, World War II


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