US Navy, 1959-1962
Enlisting during his senior year of high school, David left Oskaloosa, IA, before his graduation and headed off to boot camp at Camp Nimitz, San Diego. David’s mother Peggy actually walked for him to receive his high school diploma.
After training to become a Radio Man (RM) he received orders for Pearl Harbor and shipped out on a destroyer from the Black Cat Division. It seemed to take days but he remembers observing gunnery practice in route.
At Pearl Harbor he was assigned to the USS Ponchatoula AO 148 (Auxiliary Oiler). She was the second U.S. Naval vessel to bear the name and was commissioned in 1956. As part of the 7th Fleet, Ponchatoula was homeported at Pearl Harbor in early 1958 and received her introduction to support under hostile conditions while operating with 7th Fleet units during the Quemoy-Matsu Crisis in the fall of that year.
Carrying 40,000 tons of NSFO (Navy special fuel oil), as well as oil and fuel for airplanes on carriers, the Ponchatoula made several refueling trips while David was on board. Ports he experienced include Sasebo, Yokosuka, Hong Kong and Nagasaki in Japan and Subic Bay, Philippines.
Support for experimental operations occurred in April 1962 as the Ponchatoula provided POL (petroleum, oil, lubricants) services to Joint Task Force 8 engaged in “Operation Dominic I” (the Christmas Island nuclear test series). David witnessed the testing of two hydrogen bombs while aboard ship. On the way to the Christmas Island tests, David experienced the his Shellback Initiation on April 11, 1962.
As a Radio Man David had a 24-hour shift on the O-2 deck, usually with one other RM, followed by 48 hours off. Hours off included ship maintenance on the O-2 level where he worked. Card games followed a close second. During refueling of other ships, David would be on the O-3 deck manning the headphones.