"Little did I know that the day I graduated, an incident would happen half a world away which would help shape my Naval career for the next twenty plus years."
I penned an article this morning about this being the 50th anniversary of my graduation. Let me now tell you a bit more about that day, only with a twist of history. What in the world are you talking about, Bird? First off, back in that day, much history was happening. It was really hard not to get caught up in even the slimmest coattails of history.
As we were sitting on Mielke Field waiting to get our diplomas, the now famous Six Day War in the Middle East was about half over. The entire Middle East was in flames and not for the faint of heart. The war was tough, and it was bloody. The United States had a crypto ship monitoring the war. This ship was the USS Liberty. It was staffed primarily with crypto professionals, mostly from the Navy. The Liberty was sitting safely in international waters doing what it was good at. It remains mystery today why it was attacked by Israel forces.
The day after I graduated, I read about the Liberty incident in the paper. I also saw it on the news. For a change, the carnage perpetrated on our troops happened some place other than Viet Nam. But this incident was bad- really bad. Israel killed 34 and wounded over a hundred. And it was done not by an enemy - it was done by a close allie. I would love to tell you I know why this happened, but I can't. Why? I have no clue. Why it happened is still a mystery today.
Why is this a twist of history? Less than two years after I graduated, I went into the Navy. Primarily, I wanted to go to sea. To serve. To help out in Viet Nam. I really wanted to serve on an aircraft carrier. But the twist of history was against me.
I scored very high on crypto skills (please don't ask me why). I was asked to forget the aircraft carrier stuff and consider becoming a crypto guy. The school was going to be tough and there was no guarantee I would make it through. I agreed to do it. I went to school to school in Pensacola to become crypto qualified.
Because of the USS Liberty incident on June 8, 1967, followed by the USS Pueblo incident on January 23, 1968, all Navy crypto ships were instantly decommissioned. Thus, after I finished crypto school in 1969, very few sea billets were left for people like me. I spent 21 years in the Navy (and the Naval Reserve), and only had the opportunity to serve 2 1/2 days at sea. Sad.
Little did I know the day I graduated, an incident would happen half a world away which would shape my Naval career. A twist of fate? Providence? Or does everything happening for a reason? Regardless of which, June 8, 1967 was the day I graduated - and maybe it was something more. That "something" would twist fate, my fate, for a good portion of my life.