Robert Bailey--Congo and Cuba

Robert and Debbie Bailey at 2015 Reunion

Robert Bailey, from Dillon, South Carolina, served on the HERMITAGE from 1958 to September, as an engineman in A Gang. His entire Navy career was on the HERMITAGE.

Prior to joining the Navy, Robert served two years in the National Guard. He served in Arkansas with Elvis Presley.

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In 1960, the HERMITAGE was dispatched to the Congo, where the newly independent country was enmeshed in a civil war.

"I was home on leave. I received a telegram to report to Morehead City [North Carolina] to meet the ship," Robert said.

"I got on the ship by highline. I had no change of clothes. I was high lined from a tanker to the HERMITAGE. Some other sailors were also high lined. When the ship went up, I went down. I was tied to the bos'ns chair and could not go anywhere," he said.

"We went up the Congo River carrying United Nations troops. They were a mixture from different countries. There was no firing and no liberty. No one wanted to go ashore," Robert said.

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In October 1962, the world was brought to the brink of nuclear war, when Soviet missiles were discovered in Cuba. The United States imposed a naval quarantine of Cuba. Soviet ships carrying missiles turned around and ultimately, the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its missiles from Cuba.

"We were stationed offshore Cuba," Bailey said. "We saw the Russians carrying the missiles back to Russia. President Kennedy called their bluff."

"The crew was not concerned about war. We did what we had to do. We had Eisenhower helicopters on the ship. We had a Marine detachment from Morehead City. Had there been an invasion, we were ready to drop the Marines on the beach in Cuba," Bailey said.

"Being an engineman, I would have been on the boat. I was not scared. I was just doing my job. The HERMITAGE was one of the best ships in the Navy," Bailey said.



I served with Engineman Bailey. I went onboard at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as a Shipfitter Metalsmith FM in January 1961. One cold S.O.B. I came from SFMTS School in San Diego, California. We sailed together until 1964-65. I had some great times everywhere we went. His shop was behind D.C. shop and next to MM shop. My shop was behind it. We saw each other every day, passing through.

Does anyone remember a FN in No. One Boiler Room. His nickname was Clare-a-bell. When we were at GTMO for training he was overcome by the heat when the vents were shut off. I was No. One OBA team leader on the Port D.C. crew. We were at Condition Zebra. We received a call from D.C. Central that we had a man down in No. One Engine Room. When we got to the hatch, I could smell stake gas, changed our OBA's and went in, found Clare-a-bell passed out on the deck.

I had No. Two help me put him on my back in a fireman's lift. I carried him up the long later to the hatchway and my crew took him through the round part of the large hatch. This was not part of any drill. He was out cold. The few put him on a stretcher and took him to sick bay. End of tale.

----Paul Thatcher, SFM-2