Vietnam and NTC

The 1960s

Korea was over and Vietnam was just beginning. At NTC, the 1960s opened with plans to construct a new communications school building for radiomen. This $4 million project intended to give a more modern look to the base, moving away from the Spanish-Colonial style that dominated the earlier architecture. By the summer of 1960, construction was underway and the building was complete by 1962.

Originally known as Preliminary Radio, in 1923 and Radioman "A" in 1934, this new school brought state-of-the-art equipment to San Diego. The building was located at the corner of Farragut and Truxton Roads. This site was formerly a galley used to augment feeding Service School Command personnel during World War II and the Korean Conflict. The galley was closed in 1955 and was used for advancement testing in the interim.

In 1961, the school graduated 1,252 students from 25 classes using 124 instructors, but now it was bigger and better. Costing $4 million to construct, the 82,000 square-foot building was formally dedicated on Feb. 23, 1962. The new school was designed to educate 480 class "A" school students and 288 class "B" students in 52 new classrooms. The course was 37 weeks of advanced study in the field of maintenance and operations and at the time was the only one of its kind on the west coast. Students also received training in calculus, teletypes, radio circuits, morse code electronics and equipment troubleshooting.

The facility had complete air conditioning and was equipped with fluorescent lighting. Service School Command had 21 different schools by 1961. Approximately 250 Sailors graduated weekly from the many schools which now included electricianís mate, fire control technician, interior communication electrician, machinery repairman, motion picture operator, personnelman, shipfitter, pipefitter, steward, storekeeper, teletype maintenance, yeoman, advanced metalwork, air conditioning and refrigeration, classification and interviewing, commissaryman and disbursing clerk. The schools ranged in length from two to 24 weeks.

"In accepting this assignment, I can only pledge to you and to all enlisted personnel that I will devote my time to representing you in the best possible manner."

-- GMCM Delbert D. Black, First MCPON,
at ceremonies on Jan. 13, 1967
(Boot Camp. recruit, 1941)

The first recruits from the new state of Hawaii reported for duty on June 24, 1960. For Fourth of July festivities, NTC held, what at that time was deemed the largest picnic in NTCís history. More than 18,000 people celebrated on base and the galley served 15,000 hot dogs 18,500 steaks, 900 pounds of baked beans, 5,000 gallons of milk and a 1,600-pound cake.

During evening colors, the 48-star flag lowered lowered for the last time and the center celebrated with fireworks.

A polio scare hit the San Diego when, on July 8, 1960 a NTC recruit was the first person to die in San Diego county of complications from polio vaccine. Seam, Recruit Albert Keener Jr. died two hours aftr entering NTCís dispensory. He received a Salk vaccine inoculation on June 24 and his death was attributed to bulbar polio.

Another medical scare that occurred in the early 1960s was a sporadic meningitis outbreak. The banner headline in the March 15, 1963 issue of Hoist stated "Mass Medication Halts Meningitis". To stop the spread, sulfadiazine tablets were administered to 12,000 recruits who were then placed in quarantine. This measure was taken after Seaman Recruit James S. Hale died at Balboa Naval Hospital. By the time the quarantine was lifted, 17 more cases were discovered in widely separated recruit companies around the base, and three more died as a result of the spread.

During the quarantine, recruit liberty was cancelled, visitors were barred from RTC and graduating companies were held over.

In early 1960, an 18-foot Terrier missile was placed on display in front of the Recruit Training Command headquarters. A few years later, on Dec. 11, 1964, a full-scale 38-foot model of the Polaris missile, similar in size to those fired from fleet ballistic missile submarines was added. The missile sat on an 18-inch concrete pad capable of supporting 19,000 pounds.

In October, 1960, the base received another model to accompany the HIMS Victory (see page 87). An eight-foot model of the World War I cruiser USS San Diego, was donated to NTC. The model was an exact replica of a 1907 ship USS California, later renamed USS San Diego in 1914. The USS San Diego sank in waters 10 miles from Portsmouth, New Hampshire in July, 1918, a victim of a German mine.

Television became a new training medium in 1961. A complete closed circuit television studio with facilities capable of teaching 2,000 recruits at one time, was consted, building 379. The studio included three cameras, a monitor console and film chain. Two of these cameras were mobile and the third was remote control operated. Twenty-four classrooms in building 292 and 293 were equipped with receivers. Teaching by television enableed command to train up to four companies at once utilizing one instructor. It also made it easier for students to see presentations and teaching aids via closeup photography. The studio was staffed by 12 operator-technicians and ten instructors.

The nationís top research leades gathered at NTC from August 12 to 14, 1964 for a space symposium on Balistic Missile and Space Technology. Force General Bernard A. Schreiver, commander of the Air Force Systems Command, served as keynote speaker. He and other dignitaries attended recruit pass-in-review. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was common to have recruit comp comprised of all recruits from one state or city. On June 8, 1962, 139 Texas recruits from recruit company 220 graduated. Because the companyís complement was huge, they had two company commanders and two sets of recruit petty officers. During their traiing, Secretary of the Navy and Texas resident Fred Korth visited the recruits.

An all-Kansas company graduated on Aug. 31, 1962. The Hoist report that Company 335 had the highest academic mark recorded since 1960 scoring a final average of 3.943 on academic exams. An all-Arizona company graduated on Jan. 19, 1968, the winners of the Baranov Trophy, also known as the "meatball" award. The award was given to the recruit Company for the highest scores in academic and military competition. Each all-state company that trained got to carry their state flag in pass-in-review an had their own state "queen" who represented them at graduation.

"The Vietnam War was escalating and the high demand for well-trained recruits to relieve forces sea and shore had RTC at full complement. Preble Field was full of companies and you marched with pride and excitement during graduation day."

-- EMCM Lyndon Knowlton Boot Camp, 1968
NTCís Last Command Master Chief

Two companies of 99 South Vietnamese recruits underwent training, graduating on Aug. 2, 1968. There were also several all-Philippine companies at NTC in the 1960s. NTC again received the Secretary of the Navy Safety Award on July 6, 1962. Center Commander Capt. D. I. Thomas presented the award to Cmdr. W. R. Jenkins, Chairman of NTCís Safety Advisory Committee. Four areas of competition determined the Outcome: accident frequency rate, motor vehicle accident rate, severity rate and safe program appraisal.

By 1965, the Hoist was reporting that NTC won the safety award for the twelfth consecutive year. The center also received the award for calendar year 1967. That year, the award was presented to Rear Adm. Allen A. Bergner, center commander.

Construction was rampant during the 1960s. Renovation began on building 30 in July, 1962. Building 30 was a former galley during the 1940s, but had been inactive for many years. The plans were to turn the building into a cafeteria big enough to accommodate 350 to 400 patrons. The project cost $108,000 and the 5,800 square-foot facility featured private rooms and catering services for private banquets. More than 4,000 people attended the grand opening on Feb. 4, 1963.

The Navy Exchange underwent a $100,000 expansion and construction project in mid-1964. The exchange was located in building 178 and this expansion doubled the storeís capacity.

Along with the construction, the entire interior was also improved. New paint, new tiled floors and all new display cases, shelves and fixtures were added.

Another new facility to NTC was the addition of "Sea Lanes", a modern $500,000 bowling alley. Located at the south end of Preble Field, the bowling alley was officially opened on July 3, 1965. The opening almost didnít occur on time. The 24-lane facility was awaiting the arrival of new pin-setting machines via train, when the train derailed, damaging the equipment. New machines were ordered and Sea Lanes opened as scheduled.

When the lanes first opened, patrons could rent shoes for 10 cents a pair and bowl a game for 35 cents. The first manager of Sea Lanes was Earl Petty, a bowler with 26 years in the bowling and recreation business.

By the end of 1965, the living conditions in the barracks improved and new furniture was added giving the barracks a more modern look. Sailors now had more luxury as 249 new and bigger bunk beds were added to buildings 170 and 249. These barracks were home to personnelmen, radiomen and basic electricity students. The bunks increased from 26 inches wide with two-inch thick mattresses to 36 inches wide with seven-inch thick mattresses. New desks, chairs lamps and lounge chairs for the TV/recreation rooms were added.

Construction began on a new master galley on July 12, 1965. Located between Decatur and Cushing Roads near Bainbridge Court, the galley had accommodations for 1,800 persons and could serve 24,000 meals each day. It had four dining halls, eight serving lines, more than 350 mess cooks, 100 commissarymen and 14 master-at-arms. The galley cost $2.5 million to construct and all new cooking appliances were installed, including pie making machines and donut machines.

New Service School Command barracks were finished by 1968. Buildings 90 and 91 were four-story dormitory-style structures capable of accommodating 1,120 students. The construction cost $590,000 and the Navy spent $259,362 for new furnishings for Sailors.

The ultimate in modernization of the base began in early 1968. Service School Commandís Technical Training Building began construction, designed to be three-story, 250,000 square-foot facility. Building 94, located between Truxton and Rosecrans Street, cost $4.6 million to construct, had 170 classrooms and -- hereís an unusual twist -- no windows. Having no windows eliminated the noise and distractions of outside activities. It was designed to enhance the teaching-learning process for Sailors and also made teaching classified or sensitive material more secure. The building had air conditioning and closed-circuit televisions in every classroom.

The Technical Training Building opened in March, 1969 and eventually became home to Basic Electricity and Electronics; Electricianís Mate "A" school; Interior Communications "A" school; code practice rooms for Radioman "A" school; Storekeeper and Disbursing "A" school; Commissary and Stewards "B"; Teletype Maintenance "C" and Maintenance and Material Management "C" schools.

On Nov. 24, 1967, NTC had a ceremony on Preble Field officially recognizing NTC as a major command throughout the Navy and in the United States. Rear Adm. Allen A. Bergner became the first admiral center commander since Rear Adm. John P. Womble Jr. held the position in 1948.

Another milestone in NTC history occurred in 1967. The USS Recruit was officially decommissioned after 18 years as an active ship. The ship was still used in recruit training, but was no longer manned 24-hours a day with a crew. Because of the Vietnam conflict, the Navyís population was close to 774,000 in 1968. More Sailors needed to be trained and sent overseas, and NTC played a major role in that training. Several NTC staff members spent tours of duty in Vietnam, prior to reporting to NTC for duty as SSC instructors or RTC company commanders.

One Sailor, Chief Signalman Ronald J. Dyke was wounded in rapid fire exchange on the Saigon River in 1966 and received the Purple Heart for his actions. He later became a company commander at RTC. For his tour of duty in Vietnam, Lt. Daniel E. Lambso was awarded a medal from the Vietnamese government and the Navy Commendation Medal. He later became battalion commander for RTC. A Bronze Star was awarded to Lt. John A. Bishop, a Service School Command instructor and officer-in-charqe of the Welding School in 1968. Bishop was presented his award by Capt. James H. Stevens Jr., commanding officer of SSC.

The May 10, 1968 issue of Hoist stated that:

"the experience of serving in Vietnam is proving to be invaluable to RTCís company commanders and battalion commandersÖpatience, an understanding of human behavior and an understanding of the political situation in Vietnam are some of the things gained by RTC staff members."

Early in 1967, Basic Electricity and Electronics School at SSC received the distinction as the home of the largest Naval school in the country. More than 1,500 students were enrolled in the school at any given time. Classes were split in two, with half the student population attending during the day and the other half at night. Three separate classes were divided into six, seven or eight week sessions, depending on an individualís skills.

Each week an average of 225 students began classes and 190 graduated, which kept the Administrative Command busy. At times, more than 200 Students were awaiting placement in the school. The first student to graduate from the School with a 100 percent average was Seaman Apprentice James B. Stolz, who had 11 straight perfect exams.

Another first at NTC occurred when NTC WAVE Mary Cronin became the first and, at the time, only female Master Chief Personnelman in the Navy.

Did you know..?

PNC Mary Cronin and RMC Lillian Fravell became the first female instructors for Service School Command in 1964. Cronin taught Personnelman ďCĒ school and Fravell taught Radioman "B". At the time, 99 percent of their students were males. C ronin later became the Navyís only female Master Chief Personnelman.

She was also the first female instructor at Personnel "C" school. The following year, the first female Master Chief Dental Technician was stationed at NTC. DTCM Johnnie L. Davis was also an instructor at the Dental Technician "A" school when she was promoted to Master Chief.

The NTC phone system expanded in 1968 to serve 1,181 different telephones and 1,737 different extensions on base 24-hours a day. Staffed by phone operators, the system, called Centrex, required personnel to dial "nine" to obtain a line off base. When the system first went on line, more than 820,000 phone calls were made at NTC in one week.

The year 1968 saw progress toward a planned two-camp concept at RTC. Under this concept, approximately 4,500 recruits were accommodated at Camp Nimitz at any one time from their forming-up period until the end of their first four weeks of training. The major advantage of this concept was the elimination of the need for primary companies to leave Camp Nimitz during the first four weeks. To achieve this, Galley 8 at Camp Nimitz was enlarged and modernized in May, 1968 and a recruit in-processing barracks was constructed on July, 1969.

Boot camp curriculum was restructured in 1969. The nine-week training was lengthened to 11 weeks. The extra weeks gave recruits a smoother transition to military service, more time at the Camp Elliott "A" Range, extra fire fighting training and more instruction in phone talking procedures.

Adm. U. S. Grant Sharp, USN, (Ret.), was the guest of honor at recruit graduation on Feb. 7, 1969. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1927 and later became commander-in-chief, U. S. Pacific Fleet in 1964. For several years, Sharp maintained his personal admiralís office in the headquarters building at NTC and was frequently seen visiting the base. By 1996, because of impending base closure, his personal belongings were transferred to the Naval Archives in Washington, D.C. and his office moved to the Naval Submarine Base, San Diego.

NTC was the site of the all-Navy Talent Contest in November, 1969. Luce Auditorium was packed with spectators and participants as Sailors came from all over the country compete. The winner was a Sailor from the Sixth Naval District Memphis stationed at Naval Air Station, Memphis.

In sports, NTC continued to provide top athletes for the Olympics. Jim Gass, a NTC Sailor, qualified for the 1960 Olympic Wrestling Team tryouts by beating two El Toro Marines in the 160 pound category. He didnít make the team, however, after he was eliminated in Iowa. Jack Kemp, a San Diego Charger Quarterback and later Republican Vice Presidential nominee, reported to NTC for an Army physical in September, 1961. Kemp, who was a member of 97th Army transportation Terminal Service, was sent for a reactivation physical exam prior to his outfitís activation in October, 1961.

NTC Sailors captured the Eleventh Naval District Swimming Championship on February 28 and February 29, 1964. Don Schuchmann won first place in the 1,500 meter freestyle, the 200 meter butterfly, the 400 meter individual medley and swam a leg on the winning 400 meter medley relay team. The NTC team won seven out of a possible nine first-place awards. Schuchmann later advanced to the all-Navy championships.

In 1968, the NTC rifle team broke a 59-year losing streak by winning the National Trophy Rifle Team Match, an all-military competition. It was the first time since 1909 that the Navy sharpshooters were able to outshoot the Army, the Marines and the Air Force. The six-man team from NTC fired a total score of 2,877 out of a possible 3,000 points and broke the previous score of 2,875 set by the Marines in 1967.

NTC Bluejackets won the Eleventh Naval District basketball tournament in February, 1969 by defeating a team from Naval Air Station Miramar 99-86 at the championships in Long Beach, Calif.

One of the biggest upsets in NTCís sports history occurred when NTCís football team literally trampled the competition with a 101-6 victory over their opponents, H & S Battalion. The 1969 Bluejackets had a football record of 6-1 and eventually reigned as local Navy champions. Their only loss was to the Marines, who went undefeated and took the district title.

In entertainment, the 1960s saw a number of celebrities perform at NTC including Ella Fitzgerald and Marty Robbins. Charles E. May, who wrote the song "Paul and Paula", underwent recruit training with Company 599 in early 1962. At the time he was in training, his song was number one throughout the country. In fact, he received his first royalty check as a recruit. In the recruit company following him was George Robinson, also known as Little Anthony of the Group Little Anthony and the Imperials. One of Little Anthonyís hits while at boot camp was "Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop."

Other celebrities visiting NTC during the 1960s included Tony Dow of the show "Leave it to Beaver", Janet Landgard of the "Donna Reed Show," and Jay North of "Dennis the Menace." Bob Hope returned to NTC again on Dec. 1, 1967, not necessarily to perform for the troops, but to see his son, William Kelly Hope, graduate from RTC Company 529. Hopeís son served as his companyís recruit leader. Hope also held another USO show at Luce Auditorium on May 25, 1968. The show featured Raquel Welch, Martha Raye and John Davidson.

By the end of the 1960s, NTC was truly a city by itself. More than 20,000 residents lived or worked there. RTC trained some 50,000 recruits annually and SSC had 28,000 students enrolled at any given time. The annual payroll by 1968 was $24,000,000 and NTC spent about $3,750,000 in San Diego for utilities, contracts services and goods. NTC had its own fire department, it own grocery store and shopping center.

Continue to 1970s