herm-1960Roy  V. Island picships BBALL TEAM 57-61
Found these old Hermitage photos when I moved. I thought you might enjoy them.  The Hermitage basketball team played other ship's teams when in port as well as base teams. The only chance we had to play a team while on the SoLant Amity cruise was in Cape Town. After the game we attended a party at one of the local teams' home. Team uniforms mysteriously disappeared after use by a group of Marines for a game. My memory has escaped me as to the team members names, perhaps others can help.
---Roy Gay  MM-5



I vaguely remember Bailey. I was aboard NOV 58 to JAN 62. I was transferred to the Thetis Bay, an LPH. I was on board for SOLANT AMITY I. As Bob mentioned, we went up the Congo River, about 100 miles up the river as I remember, to Matadi. We picked up some troops from Northern Africa. They were UN forces. The UN determined that the Congo was a Russian Ally and they did not want American allied forces supporting the Belgian Congo. I remember tying up in Matadi, and the African troops had all kind of contraband. They had pillaged on the way to Matadi. The Captain ordered them to leave all of it on the pier, if they wanted transportation back to Northern Africa.

They were a motley crew. We kept them in the well deck for the four or five day trip up to the Ivory Coast. They were not allowed to come out of the well deck for the whole trip.

We were the first Naval ship in Cape Town since 1948. As I remember we hit all of the Weest coast African countries from the Ivory Coast to Cape Town. Pretty much they were all Third World countries, except Cape Town which was great, as long as you were white. Apartheid was the rule of law at that time. As I remember we had an African American on quarterdeck watch when we tied up in Cape Town. At that time, the watch had a holstered .45 in foreign ports. The Chief of Police came on board to tell us the dos and don'ts and made the BM2 take off his .45. The captain removed the BMM2 from the Wwatch.

My Division mates as I remember, Gene Longstreth, Bob Polancich, Neal Presby, Bean, Frank Beraldo (a deck spa Ha-Ha, but a good friend), Shaeffer from Maryland.

The other thing that came to mind was there were two brothers from Mississippi, one was an IC and the other one was in the carpentry shop. We would play poker in the IC room, sometimes all night long. The two of them would constantly cheat, boy one raising when he had noting but knew his brother had a good hand.



I was on the Hermitage for the SoLant Amity cruise from December 1960 to May 1961. The Com Des Flot Four band was on the cruise and performed in all ports---San Juan, Trinidad, Recife, Monrovia, Togo Lome, Point Noire, 75 miles up the Congo river delivering grain and picking up Ghanan troops and returning them to Accra. Down to Cape Town, back up to the Canary Islands and Rota, Spain. It is ironic that it went to Brazil. Upon leaving port Sec 31' helicopters blew the roof of a very popular gathering place.



Click for information on the HERMITAGE Marines

The following materials were contributed by George Bitsoli, a Marine stationed on the HERMITAGE, in 1960-1961, as part of the SoLant Amity I (South Atlantic Friendship Operation). You may contact George at

George writes:

“G” Company 2nd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment


I am a former Marine who was a member of a Task Force of which the USS Hermitage was part. Operation SoLant Amity I was part of President Kennedy's people to people program. We may imagine that Soland Aminty I was meant to show the flag in the face of Soviet expansionism.

We visited Brazil on the way to Africa. We participated in the search and rescue of the hijacked Portuguese passenger ocean liner Santa Maria. The Hermitage took part in the emergency evacuation of UN. peacekeeping troops from the Congo. We also participated with Congo famine relief efforts.

America's first encounter with modern day terrorism may have been the Santa Maria incident. On January 23, 1961 the Portuguese ocean liner Santa Maria was hijacked. On January 25 while in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, we were alerted believing the terrorists were heading for Angola. We were in Africa at the time as a fully reinforced infantry unit, including helicopter, amtraks, Ontos and a Navy UDT unit. We of the Third Platoon of G Company were detached to the Destroyer USS Gearing.

Normally destroyers did not have troops on board, so we had to filter in with the ship's crew throughout the ship for any available bunk space. During the days we would accompany the Navy folks as they did their jobs. For example, in my compartment were members of Sonar and Fire Direction, so I would stand watch with them and man the Sonar equipment. During one watch in the middle of the night we did pick up what we believed to be a Soviet submarine in the area, and of course I bailed out to let the Navy folks who knew what they were doing take over. Naturally, I was not the most popular person on ship for causing the middle of the night 'General Quarters".

Our ship ran search patterns off the coast of Africa, as part of an International search. It was initially thought that the terrorists would be heading for Angola with the Santa Maria and passengers.

During the ship's takeover, some killing of the ship's crew occured. Eventually the Santa Maria was spotted off the coast of Brazil, and we were dispatched to intercept it and participate in a rescue if necessary. The USS Gearing first went back to Racife, Brazil to refuel and pick up more than 60 international news reporters, the U.S. Admiral sent down from the Carribean and State Department folks who were to handle the negotiations.

The USS Gearing became the " Flag Ship " for the Operation. We Marines were utilized as a normal guard detachment. (Hey, no fair... we were Infantry Grunts,.. yuk... spit shine shoes and polished brass standing Guard... rude ). We were the first vessel to encounter the captured liner, and then commenced to circle it. Two destroyers---USS Robert Wilson and USS Damato--plus a U.S. submarine and aircrfaft came to assist. Further development of events, and a book to reference it are described on the Solant Amity Web Site.

Last lines of a longer poem written by a Sailor aboard the USS Gearing and included in the
DD-710 USS Gearing's Cruise Book
The moral of this story we may humble add,
To Captain Galvao, who shouldn't be sad.
His attempt at revolution, which was his aim,
Did not succeed, but gave him great fame.
So again if he should try to reign,
Beware all airlines, it could be your plane......

Ironically sort of prophetic.... Shortly thereafter commenced the era with several incidents of plane hijackings.

When ever hearing of them, I always was reminded of those poetic lines.

Semper Fi
George Bitsoli

God Bless the USA and our Military who protect us all.

Solant Amity website


Web resources on Solant Amity I and Santa Maria incident


Santa Maria and USS Gearing