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USS Bexar (APA-237)
Homeport: San Diego , CA

April 1967 - September 1968

I reported aboard the USS Bexar (pronounced Bear) as a new 2nd class Electronics Technician in April of 1967. I remember that the ship was all the way out on the end of pier 8, of the 32nd Street Naval Station, and I had to lug that heavy sea bag (on a very warm day) all the way to the brow. If you've never seen pier 8, well it seems like it's a half mile long or more at times. Later, Janet and I settled into a one-bedroom apartment on Louisiana Street, again in the North Park area of San Diego.

Dubious reputation . . . .
his ship also had the dubious reputation as to having participated in the nuclear bomb testing at Bikini Atoll (this may explain why the cockroaches on board were so big). It also had the distinction of transporting Lee Harvey Oswald, and his marine unit (Aug/Sept 1957), overseas to Astugi Japan.

Several schools invested . . . .
nce aboard, the ship invested several communication equipment schools in me (SRC-20/21, WRT-2, and UCC-1). For ex-techs who have worked on the WRT-2, the transmitters we had were not the reliable Westinghouse versions, instead we had a cheaper (and less reliable) knock-off brand (which the name escapes me right now). They had continual tuning problems, but I enjoyed working on them. The SRC-20/21 UHF tranceivers were recent replacements for the old Ted/Reds.

This was back in the day where you had to actually repair each module in the equipment - you couldn't just simply requisition a whole new module. I remember taking one of the RF modules to the MOTU unit in Hawaii, because it wouldn't tune across the band. In an attempt to bend the tuning tabs, the MOTU tech ended up breaking off one of the tuning tabs. Then, he tried soldering it back on the shaft with a 600W soldering iron - we then watched several of the remaining tuning tabs drop off the shaft, one by one! Then, he hands it back to me and says "sorry, I can't fix it!" That transceiver sat CASREP'd for quite awhile, until we got another RF module. The OPS boss also wrote a nasty letter to the CO of MOTU 1 Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. I also worked on the portable VHF radios that were used in the boats during landings. These weren't the nice new solid-state models, these radios had the old 1,2 and 3-volt filament vacuum tubes, that we ordered and expended by the bushels full. In addition, the boat commanders abused the hell out of the radios, which made it even more difficult in keeping them operational. Plus, the salt air created all kinds of corrosion problems with the antennas and racks. These school investments also got me out of a set of orders later on. The orders were to attend survival school, some type of 4-week hand-to-hand combat training course (they obviously didn't have a picture of me), and then to somewhere in-country Vietnam. I was at my in-laws on leave at the time and my division officer called me to tell me they were going to get them cancelled - which was fine with me! The orders came from CincPacFlt, Hawaii - I didn't know they even issued personnel transfer orders!



Away All Boats

Marines laying around one of the forward hatches. I believe the open hatch
in the background is the AN/SPS-10 surface search radar room.

Marines assembling at their debark stations


WestPac Deployment . . . .
round October of 1967, the ship departed on an 8 month WestPac cruise. Our port-o-calls were Pearl Harbor HI, Yokosuka Japan, Sasebo Japan, Okinawa, Subic Bay P.I., Hong Kong B.C.C., Vung Tau Vietnam, Bangkok Thailand and Singapore. Janet moved back with her folks during this period. The first stop was DaNang, Vietnam, where we off loaded a marine unit (which had to stay below decks the whole trip across) and several tons of ammunition. During this deployment, we spent about 4 months of this period in Vung Tau Vietnam supporting River Assault Squadrons 13 and 15 who were conducting assault incursions up the tributaries of the Mekong River Delta area. The only harrowing (if you want to call it that) experiences I had during this 4 months was riding a river boat up the pitch-black Saigon River, at night, to take a piece of electronic equipment to another ship (our time standard, due to a major electrical casualty onboard the Bexar). Walking several miles through the country side (unarmed) after being stranded on the beach by an Army boat. Another ET and myself were working on teletype/crypto gear on an LST, which had to get underway. They pawned us off to an Army river boat, which promised us a ride back, but changed their mind and dumped us on the beach. It was an interesting and long walk, back to town, craning our necks to make sure nothing hostile was going to jump out at us from the bushes. It was by far more hazardous standing shore patrol on the pier and trying to put all the drunks in the boats to go back to the ship. We got liberty about once a month, half the crew on Saturday and the other half on Sunday.

Here are a few photos of that WestPac Cruise in 1967-1968:

I don't climb masts at sea . . . .
I remember the time, while at sea, that we had some kind of antenna problem on the forward mast. Somehow, I got elected to climb the mast to investigate along with another technician (don't remember who). I had never climbed a mast before, out at sea anyway. Well, I'm not very fond of heights anyway and it took them a while to talk me back down - I clung onto that mast and I wasn't moving! I just remember the ship's motion was amplified several times up on that mast, not to mention the stack gas was extremely nauseating. I never climbed a mast at sea again! I also refused to be high lined or helloed over to another ship - they can wait until they're in port and tied to a pier or anchored before I go aboard!


Boxing smoker at sea.

Training ROK Marines. . . .
n late January or early February of 1968, we were sitting in Sasebo Japan around the time when the North Koreans took the USS Pueblo. We were immediately dispatched to Yang Po Rie, Korea for ‘wet net’ training of 5,000 Korean 5th Division Marine troops, for two weeks. At this time, I believe they were still deciding whether to go into North Korea and recapture it. South Korea in February has to be one of the coldest places there is in the world! I couldn't put on enough clothes, or blankets when sleeping. They required radio technicians in the boat commander's boats during each landing and I like to froze to death!


Picking Up Thai Troops . . . .
uring this period, we went up the Saigon River to Saigon. While there, we picked up 1800 Thailand King Cobra troops to take back to a hero's welcome in Bangkok. On the way to Bangkok, the cooks set up two chow lines. One line for ship's company and the other for the Thailand troops. We had the usual fare, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, etc. and the Thais had rice, fish, fish (stinky) sauce, etc. Well, after the first day, the Thais wanted the same as what we were eating. So, guess who ate nothing but fish and rice for the next several days! We had rice pudding, rice for cereal, rice cakes, boiled rice, fried rice, you name it! It took quite a while before I could eat rice again.


My Shellback Certificate - 1968


Crossing the Equator . . . .
On our way to Singapore, we dipped below the equator to have a crossing the line ceremony. We went from being pollywogs to shellbacks upon completing the appropriate initiation (by the shellback's on board). The initiation comprised of crawling through a canvas chute full of garbage, while they beat the tar out of you with pieces of old fire hoses, and going through several other likewise unpleasantries (i.e., kissing the greased belly of the baby, dunking in the coffin, taking the truth serum, etc.). I remember I was pushing the person in front of me (in the chute) because he wasn't moving fast enough! We also lost chunks of our hair, which they cut out with scissors - most of us all got butch haircuts afterwards. It was an experience. Later on, on the USS Chicago, I got to be on the other side.

More Bexar photos . . . .
ere are some photos - courtesy of Jim Engelken. Jim served on the USS Bexar (1956-58) as a Radioman. We served together on the USS Chicago (1978-79). Thanks Jim.

USS Bexar Heading Out to Sea - San Diego, CA

USS Bexar - Assembly Circle

USS Bexar - LCVP At Debark Station, Taking On Marines

USS Bexar - LCM Along Side

USS Bexar - Marine Troops Around No. 2 Hatch

USS Bexar - Sunset At Sea

USS Bexar - Mt. Fuji, Japan


Shore Patrol experience . . . .
believe some of my worst experiences standing Shore Patrol occurred during this deployment, primarily in Subic Bay, PI. I remember having the inside (just inside the gate) Jeepney/Taxi stand during The USS Bon Homme Richard's (CVA-31) last night in port (and a payday night no less). I remember that just before midnight (when the gates close), a stampede of several thousand drunk and unruly sailors came streaming through the gates. And, most of them headed for the Jeepney/Taxi/Cattle-Car stands just inside the gates - looking for a ride back to their ship. I believe there were only four of us Shore Patrol personnel for the only Jeepney/Taxi stand, and I was the senior guy. When it occurred to all the drunks that there were only four of us, and only a limited number of Jeepney's and Taxi's, well you can pretty much guess that the situation became a little dicey (to say the least) rapidly. I remember this CPO yelling at me and directing me to keep everyone in an orderly line and not to take any guff off anyone. I said to the CPO "I don't mean any disrespect Chief, but I'm not getting myself killed trying to keep these drunks in line and if you feel compelled to write me up, be my guest!" Well, I didn't get written up and we did our best to keep everything as orderly as we could without pissing anyone off (too much). I remember some of the junior Shore Patrol personnel had to ride the Cattle-Cars (big passenger trailers hooked to a semi) and many of them got the daylights stomped out of them that night. The other unpleasant time I had on Shore Patrol was riding the Grande Island boat. I learned the best way to stand that duty was to take off your Shore Patrol brassard, hide your night stick, and play like you're just one of the drunks. Later, as a CWO2 on the Chicago, I was able to select (out of the duty group from all commands) whom I wanted to walk my beat with - I picked the two biggest Marines I could find.

My wife and son - taken upon return from WestPac 1968.
My Wife and son - After returning from WestPac 1968.


Deployment return . . . .
On September 20, 1968, after a long 8-month deployment, we finally arrived back in San Diego. The ship was met by my wife, new baby boy (Warren Jr., who was born just prior to our departure), and my wife's parents. I had all my WestPac purchases laid out on the pier and it looked like I was going to open my own retail store. I think I brought back a set of china or silverware for every relative my wife had - Ha! Not to mention all my stereo gear and our own china and silverware sets, etc.

Sailor of the Quarter . . . .
was voted "sailor-of-the-quarter" for Operations Department, a few months after reporting aboard. I believe my appearance had a lot to do with it as I always wore starched and pressed dungarees. Being an ex-ship serviceman, I was used to wearing starched and pressed uniforms.


CO - Captain Forrest S. Peterson
CO - Captain Forrest S. Peterson


Opinion . . . .
Of the ships I've been stationed on, I would have to say the Bexar is not one of my favorites. We called it the Bexar Maru (pronouncing it as it looks). Each morning, I would have to wrestle the cockroaches over my shaving kit. Once in a while at night, a cockroach would run over your face or body. The worst sound you could hear in the head, was ggguuurrrrggglle! It meant the drains were backing up and you'd better move fast! The sea water strainer in our berthing compartment burst more than once, drenching us with sea water when we were sleeping at night. We also had to chase down rats several times as they would come aboard in the Marines' equipment when we carried Marines. Not to mention chasing down a small pig, that some inebriated sailor won in a contest and brought on board in Hong Kong. Then, there was the time I poured milk into my dry cereal and watched it start moving! The food on board was the worst of my Navy career! Our skipper was Captain F. S. Peterson (who later became the skipper of the Enterprise and eventually went on to become a Vice Admiral). He flew the X-15, I know, because he made (it wasn't voluntary) the whole crew watch his home movies of him flying it. I believe he was the only Navy pilot to fly the X-15 and he set many records during his flights. The Bexar was a short stay before becoming CO of the carrier Enterprise (he needed a deep draft command prior to taking the helm of the Big "E" - I believe he was XO of the Enterprise before taking command of the Bexar). My ex-brother-in-law was a new CWO on the Enterprise when F.S. Peterson was the skipper and if I remember right, he thought he was a pretty good skipper and liked him.

Why is it that the Navy likes vaporizers so much? It must be a perquisite for making Admiral, as several that I have served under, or have heard of, made Admiral - i.e., USS Chicago's Capt Piotti and Cdr Reimann, USS Bexar's Capt F.S. Peterson, USS Sunfish's Cdr Zack Pate, and others. I'm sure the answer is because they bring results - even at the expense of a lot of good people.

F.S. Peterson story . . . .
ne time, while working on the fathometer in the pilot house, I heard this ungodly loud screaming and hollering coming from outside the porthole. Not thinking, I stuck my head out (or as far as it would go anyway) the porthole to see what the yelling was about. I ended up with my head right between the skipper and an individual being chastised during a captain's mast proceeding, being held on the bridge wing. I looked to the right at the victim of the chewing out and then to my left, right into the face of the skipper! I never moved so fast in my life! I was gone! I stayed away from the bridge for a while.

CO's reefer . . . .
remember we had an individual in our division who would pick the lock on the old man's reefer when coming back late off liberty and sit up in the shop eating baloney sandwiches (which we also helped ourselves to). The old man never did figure out who was stealing all his food.

Practical jokes . . . .
e were always playing practical jokes on someone. I remember that we would take a Megger and charge up electrolytic Capacitors (or an old PFN) and set them in the middle of the work bench and watch someone get the daylights shocked out of them when picking one up. I also remember one individual who did not like a bunk light on in the berthing compartment after taps was announced. If they didn't heed his warning, you would hear this loud "Zap" as he put this big screwdriver (that he kept under his bunk) in his bunk light socket to short out the circuit - which didn't get reset until the next morning.

I remember one of the ET's playing a joke on a few Radiomen once. He was awakened one night about a HF transmitter going down. He begrudgingly stumbled up to the Radio Shack to examine this equipment casualty. Upon examining the transmitter, he noticed it was just not tuned properly, something the Radioman were trained and required to do. He states " this is a pretty bad problem, so I'll go down to the shop to get my toolbox and some spare parts." Upon his return, he opens an equipment drawer and pretends to be troubleshooting the problem. In the meantime he is replacing several vacuum tubes with some bad tubes, that were in a box in the shop that we hadn't completed the paperwork on yet. He closes up the Transmitter and says to the Radiomen "it's back up and working." He goes back down to the berthing compartment and hits his rack, but lays there knowing they'll be back down to wake him again. It wasn't long before the Radiomen are shaking him and reporting the transmitter is down again. He gets his tool box, and the good tubes, and heads back to the Radio Shack. He opens the transmitter drawer, pulls out a tube, lays it on the deck and smashes it with a hammer! He holds it up to the light and says "yep, that one's bad." He takes out another one and does the same thing. In all, he did this three or four times, all in front of several astonished radiomen! He then closed the equipment drawer, turned on the power, tuned it properly and said "it's up and running."


USS Bexar APA-237
USS Bexar APA-237 At Anchor

New ET Shop . . . .
he ET shop was a brand new compartment, added on just before I came aboard. The real nice thing about it was the huge new air conditioner - a real treasure on this tub. In the heat of the summer, we lived in the place. We even slept in it when it was unbearably hot down below in the berthing spaces. We spent one miserable 3 month shipyard period in San Pedro, CA, in the middle of a hot summer. The air conditioner was being worked on, so we couldn't even use the shop because of the heat. We had to sleep in our regular bunks, where the noise at night was unbearable. In addition, we would be sleeping each night in sand and grit, from all the sandblasting going on.

Other ET's . . . .
ne assignment we had on board was maintaining the ship's entertainment system. Every so often it would go dead because someone (usually in officer's country) inadvertently would stick a pin through the radio antenna cable running through the passageway overhead. Then they would run a wire into their stateroom so they would have an antenna for their radio. This one individual in our division, when discovering one of these set-ups, would disconnect it and then pull real hard on the wire going into the officer's stateroom. You could hear the radio ricochet off the wall and floor. He never did get into trouble for doing that. We also had a real ass.... for an operations boss. When he left the ship, we presented him a plaque with a big screw mounted on it. He said "I'm not sure how to take this?" And our leading ET said "you can take it anyway you want sir!"

Transferred to ETB School . . . .
Fortunately, after eighteen months, I was able to exercise the option in my re-enlistment contract to attend Advanced Electronics Class "B" School at Treasure Island. I left the ship for ETB School in September of 1968.

The USS Bexar APA-237 was decommissioned and transferred to The Mothball Fleet 12/69.


Ranks Attained:

Electronics Technician First Class

(I didn't find out that I had made ET1 until after arriving at Treasure Island)


USS Bexar APA-237 At Sea

History Of USS Bexar (APA-237)

Haskell Class Attack Transport:
Displacement: 14,800 tons (full load)
Length: 455'
Beam: 62'
Draft: 28'
Speed: 16.5 knots
Armament: 1 5"/38 DP, 4x2 40mm, 1x4 40mm, 100 20mm
Complement: 532
Troops: 1,562
Capacity: 2 LCM(3), 21-22 LCVP, 1-2 LCP(L), 1 LCP(R)
Geared turbine engines, single screw, 8,500 hp
Built at Oregon Shipbuilding, and commissioned 9 October 1945

USS Bexar APA-237 Commissioning Ceremony 9 Oct 1945

1945: USS Bexar (APA-237) was commissioned and joined the Magic Carpet Fleet. She participated in returning WWII troops home from the Pacific theatre of action.

Capt. R.H. Wilcox - Bexar's first skipper

USS Bexar in port Yokosuka, Japan 1945

A bad fire that started on board USS Bexar and spread to ships alongside.
This fire caused something like $3,000,000.00 in total damages.

1946: USS Bexar (APA-237) was ordered to Pearl Harbor to take part in Operation Crossroads, the atomic bomb tests. In June she proceeded to Bikini Atoll where she served as the flagship and equipment supply support center in conjunction with that testing. In August USS Bexar (APA-237) returned to the U.S. for radioactivity testing.

Atomic Testing Fleet

1947: USS Bexar (APA-237) was transferred to Commander Amphibious Forces Atlantic, where she was based in Norfolk, VA.

1948: USS Bexar (APA-237) embarked units of the 2nd Marines, at Morehead City, N.C., for their deployment to Malta and subsequent transfer to units of the 6th Fleet.

1949: USS Bexar (APA-237) participated in amphibious Operation Miki in the Hawaiian Islands. Then in December she participated in cold-weather exercises, as part of COMTRANSDIV-22, along with the USS Fremont (APA-44), USS Randall(APA-224) and the USS Colonial (LSD-20). In this era, between WWII and the Korean War the Bexar won the coveted Meatball, a battle efficiency pennant, on two separate occasions.

USS Bexar LCVP landing Marines during Operation Miki off Hawaii 1949

1950: With hostilities in Korea commencing in June, she was ordered to Crete in August 1950 and embarked Marines for the long trip to Japan via the Suez Canal and then the Red Sea, India Ocean and the South China Sea. Later in September and October Bexar participated in the Inchon and Wonson landings in Korea and the evacuation of Chinnampo and Inchon.

USS Bexar VP's and LCM's landing troops during Korean War.
USS Bexar VP's and LCM's landing troops during Korean War.


1951 - 1952: The USS Bexar (APA-237) operated in various ports between Japan and Korea rotating and landing troops, including those of the 5th Cavalry Division and the 45th Division.

1953: The USS Bexar (APA-237) arrived at Koji Do, Korea and assumed the role of flagship in support of Operation Big Switch, the prisoner movement from Koji Do to Inchon. By the time she left Korea in April of 1955 the Bexar had received (3) Battle Stars.

1955: The USS Bexar (APA-237) arrived at Ta’ Chen Islands and participated in the evacuation of Chinese Nationalists to Formosa, taking over 3,000 refugees on board. Destination: KeeLung, Formosa.

1956: The USS Bexar (APA-237) won the red ‘E’ for High Engineering Efficiency.

1957: The USS Bexar (APA-237) participated in Operation Strongback, a large post-war amphibious exercise held in the Philippine Islands.

1958: The USS Bexar (APA-237) won the Assault Boat Coxswain Award, the Battle Efficiency Award and added a hash mark to her red ‘E’. In October of that year she arrived in Seattle, WA. and took Army troops on board for Operation Rocky Shoals.

1959:  The Bexar crew endured oppressive heat (to 108 degrees), working rare ‘tropical hours’ participating in Operation Saddle-Up, landing Marines in Borneo.

1960: The USS Bexar (APA-237) was in Pearl Harbor and joined in celebrating the admission of Hawaii as the 50th State in the Union. Following deployment to WestPac she responded to a request for emergency assistance from the governor of Pangasinan Province, Luzon Is., Republic of the Philippines. This was the first emergency landing in the fabled Lingayen Gulf area since World War II and was a significant effort at aiding the people of that province. Then in September she sailed to Djakarta, Indonesia to receive President Sukarno and his wife and embarked 1,150 officers and men for transport to The Congo in support of a United Nations mission to quell hostilities between the government forces of President Mobutu and a contingency of rebels (many hired foreign mercenaries) under the command of Tshombe and his provisional Katanga government. By the time the Bexar returned back to her home port of San Diego on 4 December, she had become the first US amphibious vessel to circle the globe on one continuous voyage, logging in 27,828 miles during 84 days total underway.

1961: The USS Bexar (APA-237) earned her second consecutive Assault Boat Coxswain Award. Later from October to November she participated in Operation Silver Sword in the Hawaiian Islands.

1962: The USS Bexar (APA-237) was part of Operation Tulangan in the Philippines, off Mindoro Island. In November and December, she participated in a huge operation to establish a blockade of Cuba, in dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis. For this effort she received the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

1963: The USS Bexar (APA-237) participated in Operation Flagpole, a joint exercise with forces of the Republic of Korea. Then late 1963 she entered yards for extensive overhaul and modernization lasting for five (5) months, anticipating actions in Vietnam.

1964: The USS Bexar (APA-237) made her first mission to Vietnam. She provided flood relief in Da Nang harbor area and embarked UDT teams as their home-base for surveying of ‘Red Beach’ area for planned February 1965 amphibious invasion.

1965:  The USS Bexar (APA-237) was back in Da Nang landing supplies and men of the 7th fleet SLF (Special Landing Force) in conjunction with the USS Thomaston (LSD-280). She then steamed north to participate in the largest amphibious operation since the Korean War. She rendezvoused with the USS Princeton (LPH-5), which served as launch vessel for the SLF helicopter squadron.


USS Bexar, USS Princeton, USS Thomaston, and unknown ship.


1966: The USS Bexar (APA-237) departed San Diego enroute to Vietnam, via Pearl Harbor, to deploy Marines. Later in July and August she disembarked Company ‘H’, 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment in support of 3rd Marine Division operation at Da Nang, Vietnam. As the war accelerated she became engaged in amphibious operations off Okinawa with elements of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Division.

1967 - 1968: The USS Bexar (APA-237) took on all new LCVPs and LCMs as part of regularly scheduled yard overhaul. She transported troops and equipment from Pearl Harbor to Da Nang, Vietnam and then took under aged Marines to Okinawa. A Directive in effect at that time provided for a minimum age for Marines in actual combat zones. She then proceeded to Yang Po Rie, Korea for ‘wet net’ training of 5,000 Korean 5th Division Marine troops. During the February-March TET of 1968, Bexar embarked troops of the 1st Battalion, 29th Marine Division and convoyed with the USS Washburn (AKA-108) and the USS Vancouver (LPD-2) to Da Nang, Vietnam and then returned to Yang Po Rie to continue joint training exercises. Late Spring and early Summer found Bexar anchored at Vung Tau, Vietnam, 47 miles south of Saigon, as home-base support of River Assault Squadrons 13 and 15 who were conducting assault incursions up the tributaries of the Mekong River Delta area.

ATC River Assault Craft
ATC River Assault Craft

River Assault Boats - courtesy of Don Blankenships site at rivervet.com
River Assault Boats - courtesy of Don Blankenships site at rivervet.com

1969: The USS Bexar (APA-237) once again participated in joint-training exercise with elements of the South Korean Navy and Marines. In October she departed for San Diego and was part of a joint Navy/Marine operation named Keystone Cardinal. Upon arrival at San Diego she disembarked 1,400 marines and equipment.

December 15, 1969: The USS Bexar (APA-237) was transferred, now with Hull designate LPA-237, to Commander, Naval Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility (The Mothball Fleet).

Awards for Vietnam Service: Navy Unit Commendation, RVN Gallantry Cross with Palm, RVN Campaign Medal with 60's device and the Vietnam Service Medal with (5) Battle Stars.

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - Navy Unit Commendation - American Campaign Medal - Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Second Row - World War II Victory Medal - National Defense Service Medal - Korean Service Medal (3)
Third Row - Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Congo, Cuba & Vietnam) - Vietnam Service Medal - Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
Fourth Row - United Nations Service Medal - Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal - Republic of Korea War Service Medal


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