LTC, USA, Ret.
Battery Commander of the Bristol Nike Site
and Dave Harrington
married 42 years!
Some random notes on Bristol, RI, Jul 64 - Aug 65
I have fond memories of going down into Bristol to “Tweet” Balzano’s, and having a chirico sandwich. Tweet’s was in what could only be described as an old chicken coop. It was popular with the local community, and got a lot of business travelers going between Providence and Newport. Great food. I see on the web that it’s still in business.
got to know the skipper of the Coast Guard Cutter which was based in Bristol.
The ship was a bouy tender, USCGC Spar. He invited the families of his
crewmen out on a working afternoon in Narraganset Bay, and invited my wife
and me along. It was an interesting trip. One thinks of Coast Guard cutters
as being white, but this is not so for bouy tenders. Their work is DIRTY,
and they paint them black, with good reason. It was a pleasant trip on
the Bay, and we got to observe some of their work.
I remember being very frustrated when he invited me to go out on the ship for the running of the America’s Cup that year. His ship was to be part of the escorts for the running of the race, and he had ‘ringside’ to the day’s events. I was really looking forward to it, but the day before the Cup races began, the battery was notified on a DA IG Inspection (of Special Weapons activity) and I had to decline. Rats!!
The Fourth of July is a BIG deal in Bristol. The Battery was always invited to participate (I know the troops really loved that!). While I enjoyed the festivities, I was bothered that the truck we had to use to pull the missile in the parade downtown was a dump truck. Somehow, I don’t associate dump trucks with missiles. But there wasn’t anything else available as a prime mover. The Coast Guard skipper had a house on the parade route, and after we had completed the route of march, I got to watch the last of the parade from his porch. From there, on to some of the festivities…
drew our rations from Ft Devens, MA. During this period, somebody decided
that we should draw from Newport (RI) Naval base, which was much closer.
Made sense to me, but the Navy’s ration supply system is very different.
They were used to supporting ships, which would be gone for extended periods.
Everything, especially things like condiments, was issued in case lots.
So the Mess Sgt, had to get things like ‘Texas Pete’ in case/box lots (24
bottles/box). Since most of our people were from New England, there wasn’t
much demand for hot sauce, so I suspect that when the site was closed,
there was still some left over from when we ‘bought’ the first case.
The Army had a Master Menu, issued monthly, intended to tell the whole Army what it would be serving (along with the recipes, and ordering quantities). Of course the Navy did it differently. The battery was given a monthly budget, and we ordered from Newport, and had to stay with budget. Our new Mess Sgt had run an Officer’s Club in Kaiserslautern before we got him, and he was very adaptable to this system, fortunately. He used the Master Menu as a general guide, but, with a much better selection of foodstuffs available from the Navy, he really got into some excellent and varied menu items. We busted the budget badly the first month, but I convinced everyone that it was because we had to buy such large quantities of condiments as an original draw. We experimented with such things as roast duck, which everyone seemed to like, except the cooks, who had to de-bone the duck. Very labor intensive preparation. Excellent meal.
The Mess Sgt also started giving people a choice of entrees for the dinner and supper meals, and a good selection of items for breakfast, rather than the standard one entrée fits all. His ideas were rather innovative for the time, but I know the Army used a lot of these ideas later on. My last assignment was at Ft. Lee, VA, where the cook’s school is located, and I talked about this with some of the Food Service people there.
One time the 1st Region ARADCOM commander visited us, and the Mess Hall put on a real feast for lunch; a choice of steaks and other meats, lots of veggies, and choices of desserts. And to top it off, he had an ice sculpture as a centerpiece. The troops loved it (well, the food anyway). The CG took due notice of it. About two months later the Mess Sgt was plucked from the battery, and moved to the Headquarters Battery Mess at Newburgh, NY, where 1st Region headquarters was located. I think we all missed him; his replacement had a tough act to follow. I wish I remembered his name.
Thanksgiving meals were a big deal in the Army. As you may remember, families were invited to the Mess Halls, and there were all sorts of foods made available. Mt Hope, where the IFC area was sited, was the location of King Philip’s Chair, where King Philip (also called Metacom), one of the Wampanog chiefs had his home. At the time of the Pilgrims, Massasoit was a chief of the area, and he traveled from the Narragansett Bay area (possibly Warren RI) to Plymouth for the first Thanksgiving. Many years later, Philip, his son, led a brutal war against the colonists, but in the end the Narragansetts and the Wampanogs were almost wiped out. You probably recognize many of these names from streets in Bristol.
1964 was a Presidential election year. Sometime in November, I got a call from Battalion headquarters. Someone wanted to know how many of our folks had voted in the election. It struck me as rather absurd to report this, as there was no way of knowing, especially with absentee ballots. I gave them a figure of 93%. About 3 months later, the Battalion Commander came by and presented me with an award from Region Headquarters for such a high level of participation. Go figure.
any of the Pit Rats who read this, I had a very good Launcher Platoon.
When the Region CMMI team came around, they passed the battery as a whole,
but they also said the C Battery had the first Launcher Platoon to pass
the inspection first time. That was quite a deal.
The Launch area was the target of a penetration test by the Army Military Intelligence. This was security test to determine if they could get a simulated explosive into the pits. It started off with a simulated survey crew working along Metacom Ave in front of the fence line. The guards watched them, until the time they came to the gate and wanted to get in to ‘shoot’ a distance thru the exclusion area. At that time, they were not allowed in, but we also called the State Police, who sent a trooper to check these guys out. As they say, ‘busted’. When they had to admit who/what they were to the trooper, they all came up to the Orderly Room, where we were able to call off the trooper, who was ready to make their life miserable. Typical of inspectors, they carped about being able to wander outside the Launch Area with their telescopes, without being challenged. Where did they think the trooper came from??
Interestingly, I knew one of the three people on the ‘Survey’ team, as we had both grown up in Milton, MA. He was the son of ‘Elbie’ Fletcher, who had played major league baseball in the mid-30’s to late 40’s. -- Lord, I am dating myself. –Time for a Google search?
I came to Bristol, I had been stationed in Ft Banks/Ft Heath, in Winthrop,
MA, at the Brigade Headquarters (AADCP). My first son was born at Chelsea
Naval Hospital. My wife’s pediatrician was a Navy doctor. He had been transferred
to the Naval Hospital in Newport, RI. When I was transferred to Bristol,
my wife was expecting again, and she wound up with the same pediatrician.
We always joke that we were able to bring the Navy doctor with us when
we moved. Our second boy was born in January of ’65. My wife was given
a private room, as a CAPTAIN’s wife, with all the trimmings. The nurses
at Newport Naval all thought that she was very young for a Captain’s wife.
Everything was fine, until I made a mistake and showed up in uniform one
day. They discovered that I was an Army Captain, not a Navy CAPTAIN. For
those who don’t know the difference, a Navy Captain is the same as an Army
Colonel. And the Navy believes in RHIP. Oh well.
She was moved to a semi-private room later that day.
Battery was called on SNAP during the time she was in the hospital. I got
to bring her home (to the quarters at the closed Nike site in Swansea),
on Saturday Morning, and left to WSMR that night.
One thing sticks out in my mind. As I was waiting for my shoot, I was pacing up and down outside the BC van. Dave O’Brien, the Acq operator sidles up to me, and asks if I’d like a stick of gum.
“Sure, thanks” I said, opening it up.
“Oh yes, Captain. One thing I don’t want you to forget. I’ll help point out the target for you.” says O’Brien. “Oh, and one other thing…”.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“Don’t f*^&* up”.
With that encouragement, there was no way I could, right?
We had a great trip, firing a 95.0.
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