Friday, December 11, 2020

Summer of '67: Training for the Fleet

Seaman Thomas Kirchman works aboard USS Lenawee (APA 195) on the way to South Vietnam. The Fifth Naval District E1-2 School would train additional Sailors for the fleet. (Naval History and Heritage Command)
By Captain Alexander G. Monroe, USN (Ret)
HRNM Docent & Contributing Writer

On June 5th, 1967, three days before the attack on USS Liberty (AGTR 5), I reported to Captain Robert B. Deadmond of the Headquarters of the Fifth Naval District at the U.S. Naval Station, Norfolk, Virginia.[1] I was a Lieutenant (JG),  assigned to the Selected Reserve Crew of USS Henley (DD 762). I was to be Administrative Officer and an instructor in an entity known as the Fifth Naval District E1-2 School. It was established to provide a steady flow of Seamen who could serve the fleet aboard ships and in squadrons or by attending fleet schools and thereafter serving in the fleet or the shore establishment. The war in Vietnam, which had begun as a modest advisory enterprise, had changed both in nature and scope after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of August 7th, 1964. The resolution authorized the President to take all steps necessary to protect American forces in the theater.[2] The school, two weeks in length, was a “Boot Camp” for Navy Reserve Personnel. It had been conducted in other summers but the exigencies of the war made it a key effort for the Navy. It is a cogent reminder that much of importance that happens in the Navy is in such places ashore rather than in major impressive ships at sea.[3] 

Officers at the "Boot Camp" for Naval Reserve in summer 1967. Left to right: Lieutenant Joseph T. Buxton, Commander James L. McBee, Lieutenant William J. Lauer and Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Alexander G. Monroe. 

The officers chosen for this duty were--in addition to myself--Commander James L. McBee (Officer in Charge), Lieutenant William J. Lauer, and Lieutenant Joseph T. Buxton, III. They were supplemented by various senior enlisted personnel, many of whom were teachers and administrators in school systems and colleges on summer holiday. 

Ranger Hall as seen today (M.C. Farrington)
The school was located in Barracks November, near the present parking lot for the staff of Commander Surface Forces, Atlantic Fleet, now known as Ranger Hall.[4] This building was constructed as Barracks N in 1939 through Navy Contract 3243 (8837) as part of the expansion of the Naval Training Station Norfolk, begun just prior to the beginning of World War Two. [5]  The school program in 1967 was two weeks long and was intense by design so that those enrolled might be advanced to Seaman or Fireman (E3) at its conclusion. It was preceded by additional training elsewhere, and it involved classroom instruction that enabled the trainees to complete practical factors for advancement as noted above. Those ordered to the school came from the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Naval Districts and the Naval District of Washington.[6] It also provided hands-on experience in ship maintenance.[7] On September 5, 1967, the school finished its work.

A sailor works in the engine room of USS Sacramento (AOE 1) in 1967. (Naval History and Heritage Command

Ranger Hall was constructed in the late 1930s to meet the requirements of a rapidly approaching war. In the summer of 1967, those in charge of the Fifth Naval District E1-E2 School in this building prepared young men for service in the fleet. Subsequently, it has been a women’s barracks and now, it houses the offices of the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the Navy. This is an integral part of an organization dedicated, among other things, to the morale of sailors and the enhancement of their families’ lives, clearly a worthy and necessary task. 

[1] Commandant Fifth Naval District orders 181008 dtd 2 May 1967 w/ends.

[2] This resolution is 78 Statutes at Large 384. Two Senators, Ernest Gruening of Alaska and Wayne Morse of Oregon voted against it.

[3] “Boot Camp Again at Naval Station,” The Seabag, August 3, 1967. Pages 1 and 15. Page 1 has a picture of trainees passing in review on the parade ground in from of Building N26.

[4] See Photo Collection of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, A1043/1044.

[5] Ltr, Chairman of the Station Development Board to COMNAVBASE NORVA, 15 January 1952, “History of the Development of the Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia to December 31, 1941,”

[6] See again footnote 3 above.

[7] The Naval Surface Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet was created on 1 July 1975 by consolidation of the Amphibious (PHIBLANT), Destroyer (DESLANT) Minesweeping (MINELANT) and Service (SERVLANT) Forces 

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