The USS Irex SS-482: Family-Gram No. 3

Care of Fleet Post Office
New York, N.Y.

1 September 1961


Dear Wives, Mothers, Sweethearts, Children and Fathers:

We are now again at sea after a brief but refreshing stop in Spain. On Monday, 14 August we stayed south of Cadiz during the day and waited for the opportunity to enter our Naval Base at Rota. Early Tuesday, our small group moved north and slowly entered Rota. This base is operated by our Navy but unlike many of our overseas bases flies the Spanish flag. It is Spanish territory. We tied up and moments later the long black hoses from the pier were dragged aboard and began to pump fuel to our tanks. The two inch fire hose was run to our water tanks and thousands of gallons of fresh water poured aboard. Many of our men loaded stores and parts we had ordered came aboard. Best of all the mail was ready and most of us received letters from home.

We left Rota late Tuesday. Unfortunately several men did not get ashore. They did not miss anything. Ship's service was very small and gifts were very expensive. At least we broke free to sea and again east to the Mediterranean.

Wednesday, 16 August 1961

This day started with a bang. The messenger banged on my door at 2:00 A.M. to come to the bridge. The wind had picked up and was now 35 knots gusting to 50 knots. We were driving right into it and when you talked the words couldn't come out because the wind knocked your breath out. The wind was hot and dry and we all realized that the desert winds from Africa were driving into us. At 0300 we truly entered the Mediterranean with the rock of Gibraltar to the north. Shipping here is very heavy with as many as 20 ships in sight at one time. Shortly after 4:00 A.M. we felt the wind drop appreciably and by noon we were sailing east on smooth, warm seas. The passage through the straits had been slow therefore, all day we drove east at top speed.

Thursday, 17 August 1961

We have made good progress today and now are half-way to Italy. The sea is flat and warm. During the afternoon we ran ahead of the task force and had a very pleasant swim. The water was warm but very salty. About half-way through the swim we sighted a large sea turtle and once again tried for turtle soup—no luck. Torpedoman Mack and LT Cyr both tried to shoot him but the old reptile dove and was last seen going down. Tonight the men are busy cleaning up and studying. Tomorrow we will join the Sixth Fleet and they are all eager.

Friday, 18 August 1961

A long night of weaving and dodging. Signalman Ramsey, Quartermasters Hofstetter and Ruth and LT Pugliese are exhausted. We are now with the fleet and at dawn we anchored in a sheltered little bay before we steamed in. The men all stood at quarters as in over the horizon came the fleet. It was quite a sight as the big carriers steamed in and anchored and row on row of destroyers scurried into place.

By 0830, the big boys were all in place and the bay was alive with small ships, boats ferrying everyone to carriers for conferences. It was quite an experience to go over to those huge behemoths and see the hundreds of people there All day we met and by 4:00 P.M. we were ready to start operating together. At 5:00 P.M. DIABLO and IREX left harbor and we are now submerged waiting for the carriers to come out. It has been a long day and again most of the men are sleeping. I know they are all tired for it has been a long two days. We should be done by mid-night and hopefully on our way east again even deeper into the Med. But not alone but rather with other fleet units.

Saturday, 19 August 1961

A change of course and now we move not east but north into the Tyrrhenian Sea. This is the body of water which lies just west of Italy and on the western edge is enclosed by the Island of Sardinia. The sea has again flattened and now we are able to move very smoothly into position. The destroyers arrive and are on schedule. All day long we will train with them. These days are long.

Sunday, 20 August 1961

Sunday and a holiday. It is now early and we are not working. The crew is still almost all asleep and will probably take it easy all day. We are quite alone as the surface ships are off elsewhere. This is the first time in twenty days we have been alone. There will be a day of rest. Tomorrow we go back at it again.

Monday, 21 August 1961

Rejoined the fleet with a bang at 0400 A.M. and again IREX is busy. The sea has stayed very calm and the weather is enjoyable. At 5:00 P.M. we surfaced and started south of Sardinia to the west. Three destroyers are with us and it will be an eventful night.

Tuesday, 22 August 1961

West of Sardinia driving north. All engines have been on the line for nine hours and the ship is very hot. Engineman Mitchell and Richards are soaking wet. Dawn comes early at 0400, and down we go to work with the fleet. Now we all can rest for a few hours until sonar picks them up. At 0700 we are all awake and at it again. Fortunately, the weather has stayed good. At 5:00 P.M. we surface and start north. Another long night in the making.

Wednesday, 23 August 1961

Everyone awoke at 0500 for coffee. The ship submerged at 0510 A.M. and we stayed down until 0900. At this time someone lost control of the weather and when our periscope breaks the surface we see a very confused sea with giant waves tossing every which way. IREX surfaces and we roll heavily. Decide to ride out the storm on course 060° and we slowly move northeast taking a beating. At 1300 P.M. the destroyers appear to the north wallowing heavily and we are allowed to submerge for a few hours. Ruth the quartermaster, is very thankful for the respite as his stomach did not like the rolling. At 1900 (7:00 P.M.) we surface and slowly head for Leghorn, Italy (Italians call it Livorno). The sea has calmed and we are able to make god speed.

Thursday, 24 August 1961

The beacon at Leghorn came in sight at 0600 and we head into our first foreign port. The harbor is very old and extremely dirty. There are surprisingly few ships in. Moor to the Medici mole in the inner harbor. As usual the routine port calls and visitors steal the first few hours. The weather is fine but the town is dirty. Fresh fruits and water cannot be eaten. Fortunately the U.S. Army has a large base north of Leghorn and the ship can get some fresh foods. This town was heavily bombed during World War II and has slowly recovered. The people are friendly and the men enjoy stretching their legs.

Friday, 25 August 1961

Today some of the men left for Florence which is about two hours northeast of Leghorn. All reports state that the shopping should be good in Florence. Leghorn has little to offer. Prices are very high on most items. The food is almost unpalatable in town although the Army does have a few decent restaurants.

Saturday, 26 August 1961

Another trip to Pisa and Florence, with good reports from everyone. Florence is a very beautiful city with a lot of tourist shops. Prices are high. Several of the officers have made the trip and the reports are that it is a fine city.

Sunday, 27 August 1961

A very lazy Sunday in port. The city is closed and most of the men are ready to go to sea. We will depart early tomorrow to sea.

Monday, 28 August through Friday, 1 September 1961

Underway near Leghorn, Italy. The seas are fine and we have had several good days of swimming. The exercises have been easy and have given us a chance to catch our breath. Chief Williams has now joined his boss in growing a very fine mustache. We have again had a chance to shower each day and everyone is enjoying the warm weather. At 1630 (4:30 P.M.) Friday we again enter Leghorn and will spend our Labor Day weekend in port. Mail service during our last stay in Leghorn was excellent with letters arriving every day from the states. Most mail was only two days old when it arrived, so the men are looking forward to receiving some more mail as soon as we get in again. We have now been away from home one month and are over one-quarter completed. I am very happy to report that no one has been sick or seriously hurt nor have we had any difficulties.


Grant B. Apthorp
LCDR, U. S. Navy
Commanding Officer

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