USS ORLECK sailor injured during USS BARRY Strip Trip.
RECAP OF STRIP TRIP (pictures and list of items to follow)
February 13-16, 2015: Washington Navy Yard, Washington, DC
USS ORLECK DD 886 crew came to Washington DC Navy Yard, stripped and left!
The Navy is scrapping the USS BARRY DD 933, a beautiful display Destroyer in Washington, DC. You can read about the details of the decision by going to http://news.usni.org/2015/02/25/washington-navy-yard-to-dismantle-display-ship-barry-by-next-summer-no-plans-for-replacement. While this is a big loss to historic ships it did provide an opportunity for USS ORLECK to gain some critical material to assist the USS ORLECK NAVAL MUSEUM, INC in their efforts to restore her in her late 1960 Vietnam era mode. The BARRY was commissioned in 1960 and has many parts that are the same as a Gearing and thus compatible with a true restoration of USS ORLECK.
One area that would provide much needed items was the Radio Room. USS ORLECK’s original equipment is basically totally missing so this provided a rich opportunity. There were other areas that would provide other treasures such as the mess deck, officer’s staterooms as well as CIC and others.
So with information from our good friend Rich Angelini of the USS KENNEDY DD 885 Bob Orleck moved to involve the USS ORLECK NAVAL MUSEUM and USS ORLECK sailors and other sailors in the effort there in Washington. Bob contacted the USS ORLECK NAVAL MUSEUM as to their desire to participate in a strip trip to that ship and received a positive reply. In the meantime Bob sent out a message recruiting people who would have to come at their own expense for the four days to work their butts off to help their ship, the USS ORLECK. How could they pass up such an offer? The responses came in quickly and in fact we thought we might be overstaffed. When all was said and done USS ORLECK had 7 volunteers who came and worked and some even came away with their butts. The work was hard, the weather hot, the ship poorly lighted, the security at the Navy Yard was tight, the traffic getting to the base was horrible and no food or water was allowed on the ship by a rule set down by the Navy.
These were the good parts about the trip. The items that these men were asked and did remove from the BARRY and loaded into the rented truck that the museum supplied, weighed hundreds and hundreds of pounds. The work was so difficult that by the third day the men were pretty well worn out, but they kept going.
It was at this point that things really went bad. Larry Fletcher, USS ORLECK sailor (1956-57) became a casualty in the war to save USS ORLECK DD 886 as a historic museum ship. Larry had volunteered and drove from Ft. Worth, Texas in his truck accompanied by Bill Stevens, USS KEPLER DD 765 sailor and friend, to join with other USS ORLECK sailors, Dennis Cantwell, Mark Gallagher, Iryll Jones from the DC area and Jim Mangel, USS Sailor from St. Louis, MO in addition to Lee Joyner from Lake Charles, LA. These guys put their hearts and bodies into this heavy and potentially dangerous work and acquired much valuable and needed parts, especially radios for Radio Central from the to be scrapped USS BARRY DD 933. In the process of removing a radio form the ship, Larry’s tripped and fell down 4 stairs and injured his hip. He could not walk. He was taken to the hospital by emergency ambulance and had to undergo emergency surgery resulting in a partial hip replacement. This happened on July 15 and the surgery was last night and today he is getting instructions from the physical therapist. He is doing well. Larry, 78 years of age, worked like a bull and did so much until he fell. His attitude before and after was and is tremendous. He has such a good attitude and a good sense of humor. By the morning of July 16 he had the surgery behind him, was out of recovery, in his room, eating good food and working with the physical therapist. He may be 78 years old but I was told by the others that he worked like a teen and never stopped till he fell.
So much of the pre-strip trip work had been done by Rich Angelini. Rich, Ted Hayes and Rich’s father Mike had come to the ORLECK to participate in the Field Days in March. Rich knows Gearings like no one else and he got to know USS ORLECK well. He knew the USS BARRY and what she had and he put that knowledge of both together to work to basically give us a wish list that the men worked off to gain the artifacts we needed. In addition he stay engaged and advised and added to our knowledge base as to what we needed. Rich is such a good friend to us personally and to the USS ORLECK. I want to encourage our people to do what we can to work with the KENNEDY and to attend their work days as well. I have been to the past two Field Days on the KENNEDY and they are worth going to just to learn how to properly go about restoring a Gearing Class Destroyer. To help the KENNEDY is to help the ORLECK and we are all richer for having this relationship.
Jim Mangels, BT some 50 years ago on ORLECK loaded up his truck with tools, dollies to help move items and a good knowledge of radios as well as information born from studying his mission in advance. He knew what he was going to do when there and he followed through in a most professional way. He met Iryll Jones, USS ORLECK sailor (1980-82) who also was a BT but that was 34 years ago. Now both these men, both BTs were working together on the same ship all these years later. Pretty cool! I will have more to say about Iryll later but for now I can’t say more than he was a “God send” to me and to the crew.
Dennis Cantwell lives within an hour of DC and when he learned of the trip he could not resist. Hampered by poor internet as I am here in Vermont, he made regular trips to the library to upload the information on the trip and all the specifics that he had to know. He was tapped to lead our guys and did a fine job. Don’t ask Dennis how hard the work was for it might take him an hour or two to give you the description of all the pain. But I know Dennis believes that a fine job was there and Dennis was a fine leader of the men.
Also from the area was Mark Gallagher. I had worked with Mark stripping ship in Philly many years ago when USS ORLECK was in Orange, Texas. Mark is a whiz with a sawzall and other power equipment and when I got him as a volunteer it had “successful trip” written all over it for me. Not only that but Mark opened his home to any of the strippers who wanted to stay there and they did. Larry, Bill and Jim stayed with Mark and they had a really wonderful time. Mark spoke of the great pleasure he had and the fun times they enjoyed over food telling stories and enjoying each other’s company. He remarked that this trip really showed him how important it is from the human point of view, the USS ORLECK sailor, that the Destroyer USS ORLECK Association is. That meant a lot to me for I know the quality of men that ORLECK had serving on her over her thirty seven years. They ate well from what they rubbed into me as I had cereal during our conference calls that were used to continue to plan and to recap what had been done that particular day. Mark could only work the first two days and had to travel to SanDiego on Wednesday but his house and tools remained available to our guys and his wife I am told really enjoyed the good company when Mark was gone.
Bill Stevens is a good friend of Larry in Ft. Worth and at first it was Larry who contacted me and the later Bill wanted to come with him. Bill represents the group of sailors who will mean so much if USS ORLECK is to survive into the years ahead. Bill served on the USS KEPLER DD 765. The KEPLER is gone but Bill honors her memory with the work he is doing for USS ORLECK. USS ORLECK is gaining the advantage of being one of the last two museum ships representing her kind. As the most decorated Vietnam destroyer she is the right ship to do that and the sailors from the many other Gearings who have departed can and I am sure will play a big part in the future of USS ORLECK and her restoration.
It was so good to see the USS ORLECK NAVAL MUSEUM joining with us and to send Lee Joyner to help in the stripping. Lee will make the long haul back to Louisiana to unload the treasure at the business of Ed Martin, Lake Charles Freightliner and GMC franchise owner and lover of USS ORLECK. Ed has been instrumental in all the major things involving USS ORLECK from getting her to Lake Charles to this day. He offered his building to store the parts that hopefully USS ORLECK and other ship sailors and other volunteers from Lake Charles and elsewhere will come in November to install during the November Field Days that is in the planning stages. Keep Lee in your thoughts and prayers as he drives that heavily ladened 16 foot box truck to Louisiana. Thanks to Ron who provided needed pictures and offered up a prayer or two for us along the way from Lake Charles.
Iryll Jones! Hard to say enough! The planning of this trip was hard. We had gotten into the game late but we had the experience and the manpower. What was lacking was the assurance that we could get the truck in the base. We advised the POC that we were renting a truck and while security wanted all the details on the truck, we could not provide license, color, make and model until we knew what the rent-a-truck company would provide us and they said they could not until picked up. I believed reason would prevail but last Wednesday at 1425 hrs (2:25 PM) I received a call from Washington and was told that I had to have that information by 1500 hrs (3 PM) or we would not be permitted to get the truck in the base. I asked if when we got information could we then. I was told definitely not. I had 35 minutes to get the information. I called Ron to call Budget and we scurried to no avail. 300 M Street. Iryll is a contractor with Dell Services for the government and I can truly say he seems to be involved in everything and knows everybody. He knew Lt. Adams who was in charge of the BARRY and a simple contact brought the reply that the Lieutenant understood that we could not provide the information until we picked the truck up and sure we could bring the truck in. Iryll did that! Then it got better. He became my resource for Washington Navy Yard and my eyes and ears and did so many things to help me put the planning together. Iryll was going to be at the gate to insure our guys would get through and was but he had to work and could not get back to help strip until after the gates were closed. But that changed. Iryll comes to work by 6:30 AM dressed in suit cloths but each time he came to the ship to interact with our guys a critical thing was happening and he pitched in and did a lot of the heavy lifting and dirty work. He is a machine, no doubt! He also was an inspiration to our men and when things got really rough he was there to lift the spirits and lend a strong arm to get the items out. He worked each day and even at the last grabbed a few porcelain sinks because he knew we would need them. If you ever meet him I am sure you will agree with me that he is a most exceptional individual but USS ORLECK had many of those over the years. He was another example of the fine crew that USS ORLECK seemed to always have.
So the trip is over. The men have left for home except for Larry who is still in the hospital and Bill and Jim who are sticking behind to support him. Mark has continued to hold his home open to our guys and this again shows the fine examples of good people that our destroyer navy had. Hopefully in a few days they will be able to get back home and the parts will have arrived safely in Lake Charles. If you get a chance to thank these men, please do it. They deserve it. I don’t believe there can be harder work than they did and they are not spring chickens.
Please consider assisting with a gift to help Larry defray some of the costs of travel for both he and Bill back in the truck. It cost them $300 each way in his truck and that is only part of what he now faces. Here is the link to the mechanism to get some help to him. Any amount is good. None is too small.
There will be a further report later listing all the items that were obtained from the BARRY. There will be many pictures that will be posted when received.