The year is 1967 and my ship,the USS Kearsarge CVS-33, is on it's way back to Long Beach, California after nine months in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of South Viet Nam.
I am a Radarman 3rd class and my job on this trip is "Lookout Supervisor". Even though the ship has radar, sonar and other navigation aids the Navy still uses sailors with binoculars to watch for other ships, planes, and any hazard to navigation. My post is on the seventh level above the hanger deck three floors above the bridge. There are also two other sailors on the "07 level". one is on the rear side of the island structure looking at where we've been and one up forward next to me. He and I are scanning the horizon ahead.
It is a clear summer evening about two or three hours before night fall. Dave, the sailor next to me, asks if he can go below to the "head", ( that's restroom for you non-sailors), and I take over for him. We are approximately halfway across the Pacific Ocean and it is pretty quiet out in the middle of the water hundreds of miles from anything.
I pick up Dave's binoculars and start to scan the horizon thinking maybe I'll spot another ship, either merchant or perhaps another Navy ship. The odds are slim but it's my job to look anyway so I can hope.
All of a sudden I spot a shape on the horizon dead ahead of the ship. It is pale gray and appears to be a rock or shoal. We are equipped with the sound-powered phones that sailors have used to communicate since before the second world war. There is a sailor on the bridge on my circuit so I call down to make sure the Officer of the Deck has noticed the object.The sailor informs me that they hadn't spotted it yet but were both now scanning the horizon for it.
After a couple of minutes the bridge calls back to let me know that they still haven't found "The Rock". The Combat Information Center,(C.I.C.), also reports there is nothing on radar. I can't believe no-one has spotted "The Rock". I explain that it is dead ahead and getting larger as we get closer. I also explain that if we don't alter course the ship will run into "The Rock".
Again I am told that no-one can see what I see. Finally the Officer of The Deck gets on the line to talk to me directly. Again I explain that "The Rock" is dead ahead and getting larger by the minute so we are obviously getting closer. He still can't see it so he asks "Where is "The Rock" in relation to the moon?. I reply "The moon????"
Yes, the big rock I saw dead ahead was the moon rising on the eastern horizon. I guess there wasn't any danger we would run into it.
I hope those of you that know me think this has to be a work of fiction. Sorry it is a true story and the crew of my ship have all heard about it and they will never let me forget it. I wonder if William Tecumseh Sherman meant this type of thing when he said; "War is hell".
Thanks for taking time to read this.