Memories and Your Photos

Raymond Foberg

[Ray was the CIC officer on the Hermitage for one year in 1963].

When I was LT(jg) aboard Hermitage in 1963, the most exciting thing, regarding VIPs, that happened to me was that two widely separated columns of ships, including Hermitage in the starboard column, were headed generally north in the Virginia Capes Operating Area (VACAPES).  I was the Hermitage OOD on the open bridge above the pilothouse.   As the two columns of ships headed north, the cruiser USS Newport News out of Norfolk, VA Naval Base was headed south between the two columns.  We knew what was going to happen and we were prepared to render honors.

As the President of the United States John F. Kennedy’s Flag Ship cruised south, the entire crew that was not on watch below decks manned the rail and rendered honors.  

I’m 82+ years old now and I can see that event very easily in my mind’s eye.  I’m sure he was also my CO when we unfortunately “touched” a merchant ship in Ponce, Puerto Rico.  That “touch" opened up about 20 feet of sheet metal our ship's starboard side.  That was where the formerly undamaged XO’s cabin was located. 

That event scared the ____ out of the civilian riding the gondola on the merchantman.

[Ray's year on the Hermitage]
was the third year of my obligated service as a graduate of Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island.

I told my boss at the time, that I would extend my active duty for one year, if I could get shore duty as close to Toronto, Canada as possible (an attractive Canadian young woman was the current object of my affections).

For two years as LT(jg) and a Navy Officer Recruiter in Albany, NY I was attempting to cement USA/Canadian relations (Joan Whyte) on a very frequent basis.  I decided that continuing to be a Naval Reservist on active duty was not a career enhancing option.  So I asked to augment into the U. S. Navy.   Very soon there after, I was promoted to LT USN and assigned to duty as the Plank Owner Communication Officer aboard the brand new helicopter carrier USS Guam (LPH-9) located in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

That was the smartest move I ever made, because I met my future bride in San Juan, Puerto Rico to whom I was married in 1967.  If I hadn’t made that move, three people would never have been born.

I retired as a Commander in 1980.  My wife (a Navy Junior) and I have traveled to and/or lived in 193 countries, states and cities.  Our 53 wedding anniversary will be observed this month.  We have been truly blessed.

Carry on Shipmate.

Did Ike visit the Hermitage?


Gary Goedken

In the latest Hermitage Association newsletter, there was a question of whether IKE was ever aboard the Hermitage. If my memory serves me correctly, I remember seeing IKE on the ship and being escorted to the area of the Captains quarters. A day or two later several of us went into Karachi and we saw IKE give a speech at the US Embassy.

My big thrill was a day or two later at the Karachi Polo Grounds. The Polo match had just finished and I had to get back to the Hermitage for my watch on the signal bridge. I exited the bleachers to my left and I was doing a somewhat fast walk behind the bleachers with my head down. All of a sudden I bumped into someone exiting the center entrance. I looked up and I was shocked to see that I had just bumped into IKE. I quickly saluted him and said I was sorry and continued walking. There was a secret service agent on each side of him. I was wearing my uniform and they saw it happen and must have known that it was accidental so they never stopped or questioned me. I made it back to the ship in time.

In 1964 after JFK was assassinated, I thought back to my bumping into Ike. I’m rather certain that if it had happened after JFK’s assassination, I would have been stopped and thoroughly questioned by the secret service agents.

Frank Stack

In response to Jack Pusel's report that President Eisenhower had visited the Hermitage, Frank Stack replies:

I question the point about Eisenhower being on board the Hermitage's first time in the Med. I think our trip to Karachi (in or about 1960) to transport the President's choppers, for his trip to New Delhi, was the first time in the Med. I was on board and Ike was not to be seen. On the way back, we (the crew) requested that we be allowed to come back via Asia and the Panama Canal, thus making it an around the world cries. The request was rejected, the BUSHIPS said we could stop anywhere in the Med. We voted and Barcelona won and spent Xmas week and New Years in Spain. Another interesting point was that we came through the Suez, on Xmas or Xmas eve. There were some issues in the Mideast at that time (as always) and as we were going through the Canal at night, somebody set off the GQ alarm as a practical joke, on the dockside QD watch station. We never knew who did it.

Jack Pusel sheds more light on Eisenhower:

I tried to research President Eisenhower and did find a reference that the Hermitage once carried his helicopter. When Captain Mathews took over in April 1967,  he wanted to move his cabin to the cabin that was empty and for 07 and above. I was given the job to build a stainless steel headboard for his bed. It had to have cabinets and a top with a lip around it so he could put things in and on top.  I was just E3, but had just got out of Shipfitter A school. I built it and we put it in his new cabin. It was bolted to the floor. That is when I was told that Eisenhower had slept in that cabin on a Med cruise. Who knows? I just know I built a stainless headboard for the cabin that Captain Mathews moved to. 

See our webpage Decommissioning II:

After reporting for duty in the Atlantic Amphibious Force in January 1957, the intervening years have been filled with numerous deployments and amphibious operations, one which provided helicopter transportation for President Eisenhower during his visit to Asia in 1959.

Ernest Warren

I had come aboard the Hermitage in September 1959 after they had been in the Todd shipyard in Brooklyn N.Y.,as an EN2 in A Division.

The ship had been off the Capes of Virginia doing a firing exercise and the Captain left his tv on and caused a big fire in his cabin, wardroom and officers country. This incident caused us to make a trip into Portsmouth shipyard for repairs. We also had a yard period in Baltimore a few years later. I was on board until july 1963 and had some good cruises.

We went through the Med and Suez going to Karachi, Pakistan. We carried one Army and six Marine helicopters for Ike to use in France, Africa and india. We dropped some off in the Med and went on with the rest.

The solant Amity I trip was the one where some ships with us went looking for the cruise ship that was high jacked. We made two trips up the Congo river, the first to take out 750 Guinean troops that were causing trouble in the Congo. The second  time was to deliver tons of corn meal and powdered milk.We made a few good and informative tours on that trip, open pit iron mining and rubber plantation in Liberia. The vinyards in Cape Town was good with plenty of free wine.

The hermitage was the first ship into Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic after their President was killed.

I did 20 years and never made a Med trip on any ship I was on. I was EN1 when I left the Hermitage. I made chief when I was on four years recruiting duty in 1967. I retired in 1971 and now in a nursing home at 82 yrs old


The Hermitage's nickname " Strike Gator" dates from about 1985. It is believed that the Commanding Officer, CDR Condon coined the term.
It appears in the decommissioning pamphlet.

Gary Goedken on "Hermy"

I don’t remember any ships' slogan during the period I was aboard (1959-1961). 'The Strike Gator' sounds reasonable though. Captain Rood was presented an alligator about 2 ft. long from one of the countries we visited in Africa during Solant Amity 1 cruise. His nickname was “Hermy” and he was normally kept in the Captains bathroom during the remainder of our trip. Often times he was brought up to our signal bridge where we would baby sit him. We would often tease him and test his reflexes using longer objects. We didn’t want to get bitten. "Hermy" was a fighter.

Gary Goedken SN

Jim Laurence on "Hermi The Gator"

Thanks for all your good work. I was CO from 1973 to 1975 and never heard the term "Strike Gator" but I love it! We used a cartoon character called "Hermi the Gator" in our POD and other publications. I think it was dreamed up by our XO, Roger Daily, who was quite the cartoonist. He was also the one who instituted the prize for the best compartment cleaner of the month, a bottle of booze on the pier! Oh, the good old days.

Warm regards from a cold Virginia Beach,
Jim Laurance, Captain USN (Ret) 

Ralph Van Horn: Banned from the head


For the first twenty years of it's life the Hermitage did not have sanitary holding tanks in use.  Flush the toilets, take a shower... all grey and black water was discharged straight overboard. 

While on the '76 North Atlantic cruise when we pulled into pulled into Kiel, Germany the heads were secured and guards posted. Leaving the sailors with having to use the pier side facilities.

The ship did have the appropriate holding tanks for holding the black water but the plumbing for using the tanks had never been used. And the pumps for emptying the holding tanks were never installed. 

The room for the pumps were in the engine rooms. We literally called them the xxxx rooms. And the HT's would have been in charge of their maintenance.

During the '78/'79 yard period this was rectified. The plumbing to direct the black water to the holding tanks was corrected and the pumps to empty the holding tanks were installed.

Ralph Van Horn: Soviet spy flight over Hermitage


I took the photo while aboard the Hermitage on the 1976 North Atlantic cruise. They also watched in 1976. Aldrich Ames was hard at work. Russian Bear. The picture doesn't do justice as to just how close the bomber was. A person could easily be seen in the side bubble window. The photo was taken with a Canon gil which had a straight 35mm lens.bubble window.

Don Atkinson: Soviets watch our exercises in Turkey


I reported for duty to the Hermitage in Little Creek Virginia, as a brand new 21 year old Ensign in August, 1957.  The ship was only 6 months old and it was immaculate and air conditioned. (My summer Midshipmen cruises were on the Wisconsin (BB 64), the Purdy (DD 734) and the Sturtevant (DE 239).  Life on them was miserable below decks.) I was assigned the position of Gunnery officer reporting to LT Ted Asherford (sp?) who was head of the Deck department.  Captain Parker was my C.O. A few days later we were on our way to the Med.*   The pictures on the web site bring back fond memories.  It is hard to believe that was almost 59 years ago.  It seems like only yesterday. Thanks for sending.


I made my first Med cruise as Gunnery Officer on the Hermitage in 1957, as a brand new Ensign. We made a NATO amphibious landing in Turkey 30 miles from the Straits of Bosporus and about 100 miles from the USSR. Russian subs surfaced in the middle of our cruising formations every night and Russian destroyers and cruisers played chicken with us for two weeks. When we made the amphibious landings, Russian MIGs flew over our ships, landing craft, and Marines on shore at about 75 to 100 feet in altitude. Captain Parker was our C.O. P.S. We beat the Turks in our mock warfare then went to Sardinia for another amphibious exercise where we whipped the Italians.
Believing that the statute of limitations under the UCMJ has expired, Jack Pusel remembers: A little more than I had hid away on the USS Hermitage. Mr Curry was the only officer that knew where my stock was . He was a good officer. Several times he said, Jack, I could sure use a drink after a long day of ballasting. I told him he had to bring his own coke as I didn't have a mixer. He did. Got me lots of extra liberty . ----Jack Pusel <>  
LITTLE KNOWN TIDBIT OF NAVAL HISTORY... . The U. S. S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) as a combat vessel, carried 48,600 gallons of fresh water for her crew of 475 officers and men.  This was sufficient to last six months of sustained operations at sea.  She carried no evaporators (i.e. fresh water distillers). . However, let it be noted that according to her ship's log, "On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water, 7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and 79,400 gallons of rum." . Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping." . Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and 68,300 gallons of rum. . Then she headed for the Azores, arriving there 12 November.  She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and 64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine. . On 18 November, she set sail for  England.  In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships, salvaging only the rum aboard each. . By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted.  Nevertheless, although unarmed, she made a night raid up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland.  Her landing party captured a whisky distillery and transferred 40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch aboard by dawn.  Then she headed home. . The U.S.S. Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799, with no cannon shot, no food, no powder, no rum, no wine, no whisky, and 38,600 gallons of water.
GO NAVY ----Contributed by Jack Pusel <>
Gerald Horwitz on the commissioning of the HERMITAGE and more GERALD HORWITZ <> "Nothing makes the good old days as good as a poor memory" . As a plank owner of the HERMITAGE it is interesting to reflect back to all the events that took place in Pascagoula, Mississippi as well as Algiers in New Orleans . Pascagoula is a city that bears it's name from an Indian name .....however it also has meaning in Italian and that meeting is "the fat part of the anatomy" . Mississippi was a dry state at the time of the birth of the HERMITAGE. However the closest watering hole to the ship under construction was just a few yards away. The owner of the bar a woman who I believe was going with an officer of the law made it convenient for us to enjoy our usual cordial cocktail hours while enjoying scrumptious oysters at $.25 a piece. And obviously we were all well behaved young men setting the example for others to follow. . We put many miles traveling between Pascagoula and New Orleans . Our exemplary behavior and gourmet appetites also were exhibited in New Orleans by helping with our  contributions to the community. Our good manners and gentlemanly actions, were well received and welcomed by all ... Well except for a few! . Tending the watch on deck I can remember many of my shipmates arriving late and the wonderful excuses they were able to produce. Some unfortunately went to captains mast with consequences that left some unhappy sailors. . There were a few that would entertain some of the local sweater boys by relieving them of their wallets as well leaving a calling card. Some got lucky with the ladies the previous night and came late to work with some pretty funny excuses . Being one of the first air-conditioned enclosed ships, the shakedown cruise was very eventful since every day there was something else that didn't work. . Duty was most difficult particularly for the sailor. We got stationed in Gitmo. We were restricted to base because of a man by the name of Fidel Castro. The duty was extremely rough for this FT3 who had nothing to do he found out there was an officers club. But there were never any officers in the club so he took over the club as his personal station of duty. Swimming pool was great. Steaks were $0.15 etc . Other things of memory ... we sailed to Italy and a couple of the Marines on board decided to go and attend a communist rally unfortunately they did not return alive. . Then there was the time that we were carrying a contingent of Marines and their trucks as well as the amphibious vehicles. They were all loaded onto the flight deck used for landing helicopters etc. The vehicles were tried down with steel cables to prevent them from moving when  we were underway. Again unfortunately when a young Marine went to release the vehicles when we were in Port his head was between the bumpers of two of the vehicles ... when the tension was released his skull was crushed On a lighter side. . Marines were assigned to help us in our daily chores .... several Marines were helping me to paint one of the gun mounts…. he got so pissed that he just took the paint can turned the Can Over and the paint flowed all over the gun mount.
. When the Captain came to inspect ... he commented how magnificent the paint job and what a wonderful job I was doing. . And then there was the time we were doing a practice aerial shoot which consisted of a plane towing a sleeve. My job was in the forward gun director atop the ship. I had just finished working on the  Sperry Rand computer. This was supposed to be a great show with an Admiral a board our ship. As the plane and flew by the Admiral said commence firing. The Captain repeated the order commands commence firing. The lieutenant who shared the director with me said commence firing. As I pulled the trigger to commence firing I looked into my gyroscope computer adjusted sight and saw not the sleeve but the plane. I yelled cease-fire. The Admiral shouted what happened. The Captain shouted what happened. The lieutenant pointed the finger at me. The next day I found myself in the Mess Hall peeling potatoes. . One of the funny jokes I'd like to tell is when a senator's wife was visiting the ship. I was to show her around. We went down to the mess hall and to the bakery where the baker who was extremely overweight and had no shirt on and was sweating profusely was taking a handful of dough  and pressing it against his sweaty navel. I explained to her that he was making sweet rolls for breakfast and that the Naval put a rosette onto the sweet roll. The senator's wife said that this was vile, filthy, disgusting and totally obnoxious. My reply to her was that if she thought that was bad ....she should come down tomorrow when he was preparing donuts with that she ran out. I'm only joking ... It never happened. . You must realize that when I was in the Navy I weighed 103 pounds I was short and with that MO I was assigned to SHORE PATROL in Italy. At that time prostitution was legal there were two lines into the houses of ill repute for the Italians where they had chits for the services to be rendered ...that line stretched for blocks. Then there was the American line which was short and cash only. This was tough duty I got paid by my government eight cents an hour 24 hours a day. This is the job that one must do for their country and fellow man. . Well keeping order in this house was tough! On the first floor there was a room for the officers and it was my job to make sure that everything was going as they desired they were the VIPs. However topside where  the enlisted men were serving their duties,  I was brought into a situation where a very intoxicated sailor could not perform his normal function. The madam in charge of the situation asked me to rid her of the situation. When I saw that it was one of my bunk mates I told her that this man was very very important and then if her employees could not perform their designated duties I might have to close down the operation. Needless to say I served my bunk mate and my country with honor
Plank owner Gerald Horwitz then and now
img_1076 img_1154 GERALD HORWITZ <>

Deckplate musings from Gregory Hausler I remember shortly after our return from the MED cruise on June 4, 1986, the CO held an all-hands formation on the flight deck. He announced to the crew that the ship was going into the yards in Baltimore---the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Sparrow Point Yard, to be exact---for the ship's post-deployment overhaul. The Baltimore deployment was all thanks to a Maryland Representative who saw that the yard was idle and the Congressional District needed an infusion of Government work---money! The crew and families were understandably disappointed. Mayor William Donald Shaffer and the city opened their doors and hearts to the ship and crew. They are our several month-long yard period as pleasant as possible.
From Bill Baetzel, Deck Force about 1972
I have attached a photo of me sitting on a boat fender catching some z's. The picture was taken on the USS Hermitage, sometime in 1972, on the starboard side just aft of the quarterdeck shack. You can see the bow ramp of one of the Herm's LCVPs stowed in it's Welin davit in the background. The captain's gig was stowed above the LCVP. The picturewas taken by one of the fire control technicians stationed on the Hermitage but I don't know his name. All I remember was he had a beard, was an E-3 and came on board sometime in the first half of 1972 (I think). I wish I knew his name so I could give him credit for the photo. I've enjoyed using the picture to show my daughters how hard their old man worked when he was in the Navy. Anyway, feel free to post it on your web site if you'd like. Take care, Bill Baetzel
Bill----I am impressed with your boatswain science.   You know the names of the equipment and how it works.  Your dungarees tell quite a story.   I liked the dungarees, because they were comfortable and looked like work clothes instead of a military uniform.   I always wore Seafarers because the fit was better.  I don't know how comfortable the new Navy camoflage uniforms are, but they sure look better. ---Aaron Finestone
From Charles Samaniego, Signalman about 1971.
. "I don't remember a fire on the Herm. I do remember coming back from the Med and running into bad weather. All hands where notified secure all hatches and stay inside. I remember a marine opened the hatch on the starboard side leading out to the forecastle. As he was exiting the compartment with his one leg through it a wave was coming over the bow. At that time the wave slammed the hatch across his leg. It injured his leg and flooded the first compartment and part of the second compartment.  I believe this was were most of the deck hands bunked. I remember that they had to air lift him off the ship.
.     Don't remember Kenny. He wasn't a sig while I was on board. Charles Willis, Larry Nalepa, Gregory Dodge, Jerry Mink, Aaron and myself.  Those are the ones I remember. I was called "Duck."
page7_3 Photo by Mike Ritzel, 18 April 1972
page7_5 .
Bartender in Ponce, P.R. Photo by Jack Crawford, HERMITAGE 1962-1964

Three sailors on liberty, Photo by Jack Crawford, HERMITAGE 1962-1964.

Left to right: MM3 Elmer Scott (Missouri), MM3 Vernon Robertson (Texas) and MM3 Christopher Johnson (Vermont). Vernon Robertson reports, "We were assigned to #1 Engine Room, working for MM1 Parish. I remember on the way back from our Med Cruise, we had swim call. The Hermitage Captain stopped the ship, flooded the well, and everyone went swimming. I got orders for Nuclear Power School as soon as we got back to Little Creek." Vernon Robertson,

page7_8page7_9page7_10 RM3 Frank Garavelli (about 1970) and his grandfather, Angelo Cattaneo (about 1918). Mr. Cattaneo served in the Army in World War I. See the resemblance?

St. Elmo's Pool Hall on Granby Street

Harry C. Man (1866–1926) St. Elmo Billiards, 113 E. City Hall Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia, ca. 1914

Michael Newell <> wrote:

Aaron, I was reading about "Superior Billards" and Willie Mosconi. Did you ever go to the "St. Elmo's Pool Hall " in downtown Norfolk? It was just off Granby St. and Luther Lassiter "Wimpy" used go in there all the time.He was a world champion straight pool player and I used to watch him practice all the time.Talk about entertainment. Wow! Guys could'nt wait to play him and give their money away. Legend had it that some guy came into town from the horse tracks in Baltimore. I guess he won some money  so he played Wimpy a game of stright pool to 100 and Luther had to break. His break shot was like the rack was still tight.The guy played safe and left Wimpy a break shot. Luther  ran off 100 balls and he never got another shot off.

Watching Wimpy shoot pool was like watching Michael Angelo paint the Sistine Chapel.I have to make it to a Reunion.

Beatle, BT3c
Herm Sailor 64-66 

Dutch Silver shoots two hand at Superior Billiards ("Mosconi's"), Philadelphia, mid-1960's.
For colorful view of Superior Billiards in Philadelphia, click to

Jack Pusel

This was the bridge we crossed over in Subic to get to town. They called it Sh*t river. Many kids were swimming in it as Sailors would throw change over the railing to the kids and they would dive to try and find it. My Dad spent 1930 and 31 there as a Marine Guard then to Shanghai China with the Marines 4 Div in 32 to guard the American families and interest there. I had pictures of him there. All of his scrap book are at the Navy / Marine Memorial in DC . They were on display 1 full year as it was year of the Marines  just after we were at Annapolis for our reunion. Nadine and I picked up 4 grandchildren and 1 Daughter and took them back there to see their great Grandthings.        page7_11 page9_2