Here is an account of what I can remember of the Med. Cruise in 1958 while onboard the USS Muliphen AKA-61. (The Mule) by Marine PFC David D. Corwin.
1958 BEIRUT INCIDENT
USS Muliphen was the SU #1 H&S Co. 1st. Bn.(Rein) 8th. Marines and as a support unit we had engineers, shore party, equipment operators, water supply, truck drivers etc. Who helped in various duties including standing watch, and some officers served as officers of the deck.
The convoy consisted of the USS Muliphen AKA-61, ( The Mule) USS Spiegel Grove, LSD 32, USS Rushmore LSD 14, USS Mount McKinley LCC 7, USS Fremont APA 44, (Freddy the Freeloader)
My outfit India Battery, 3rd. Battalion, 10th. Marine Regiment,2nd. Marine Division, left for Morehead City January 9, 1958 India Battery was aboard the USS Spiegel Grove an LSD. There were 2 drivers and 2 assistant drivers assigned to sail aboard the Muliphen. I guess there were about 2000 Marines on the Spiegel Grove and about 100 on the Muliphen which was considered good or better duty as the 4 of us got to take our locker boxes with us and those on the Spiegel Grove had to live out of their sea bags. The ďMuleĒ was not fully loaded and embarked from the dock for reasons that elude me to this day. There were piles of gear and tents and tent poles (in loading nets) which we loaded on the mike boats and then chased after the ship which had all but disappeared.
I was on the 1st. boat to leave full of tent poles. The ocean became very rough, I got sick along with everyone else except the sailors. We were the 1st. to get to the ship but the last one aboard. The boats had to be unloaded before they could be retrieved but the tent poles kept falling out of the nets back into the boat and had to be reloaded several times. One second we were looking at the men at the railing on the main deck, next at the propellers turning in the water.
Like a roller coaster ride from hell. I never got sick again but I thought I might die, in fact at the time I all most welcomed it. I was so sick , there were sick Marines everywhere when we got aboard I guess the Navy got a real kick out of all those Marines that wanted to die hanging over the railings.
Duty on Board: was very light other than armed anchor watch in Turkey and watch on the entrance to hold #5. hatch. While under way to various ports. 2 weeks in Port and 2 weeks at sea. Playing solitaire, reading all of Mickey Spillane books of that time. I took up smoking a pipe as the c-ration cigarettes were packaged in the 40ís and the paper had started to turn brown and stale as you already know.. A real lazy good duty.
We hit all of the usual ports and went on liberty with the same group of guys, one Marine Leo Plante spoke French which was great, all he had to say was a couple of words in French and all the girls gathered around. We sailed past a volcano as it was erupting, I canít recall its name. I also recall a Sub surfaced along side of us and then went under just as quickly. Kind of eerie you might say
During a strong storm two sailors went crazy. One of them threw meat and potatoes all over the galley until subdued, the other jumped off the bridge, it took quite some time to catch him. It was a very bad storm with large swells. A peter boat was launched, he kept swimming away from it. Finally a sailor jumped over and smacked him a couple of times and they finally brought him aboard the boat. When they brought him by me on a stretcher he was bumbling he was going on liberty.
The Mediterranean when stormy can be scary. But when calm can be so very beautiful. The ships are stopped, not a cloud in the sky, the sea is deep blue the only ripple is the ships drifting. The decks so hot you canít walk bare foot without burning them. There is the familiar whistle of the bosonís pipe with an announcement swim call in 5 min. A boat goes over the side with a couple of sailors with carbines in case of sharks, and everyone runs for the side and jumps in. I remember hitting the water going down seeing the ship from underneath and the other ships in the fleet and the men hitting the water around them and realizing how small and insignificant I am.
I recall once they loaded all the Marines on mike boats with several cases of warm beer and landed us on an island. We proceeded to get smashed. A couple of hours later her comes the Navy with G.I. cans full of ice and beer. They promptly got grounded on a sand bar about 150 yards from shore. The water to the boat was tapered off about 10 to 12 ft. deep. Well do I need to tell you what happened.? You guessed it. We were out of Beer and the Navy had some. Cold too!! We all headed for the boat, one Naval officer knew what we were up to and yelled ď If any of you come on this boat Iíll write you up.! Needless to say that went unheeded. We stormed the boat and everyone went into the water including the officer and beer which we had a ball retrieving along with the Navy of course. Afterwards we all sat on the beach wondering what in the world our next adventure would be.
Turkey was the only port we were advised to use the buddy system and stay away from the women. We had to stand anchor watch with loaded M1ís. All the other ports were swell, and no armed watch.
We ended up at the Rock of Gibraltar anticipating going home the next day. Instead we headed back in the Mediterranean and headed for Beirut. Where we went in circles for a few days. Three (3) fleets were sent to relieve us. No one got relieved we all went in. The Lebanese government borrowed three mike boats from our ship just before the landing in Beirut.
My truck #198945 6x6 had a 50 cal. machine gun on a turret above the passenger seat. It was pulled from hold # 5 and set into a mike boat and I was sent a shore. As soon as I hit the beach the kayos was evident. My truck was requisitioned to move supplies from one forward depot to another then on to my outfit.
There were children everywhere begging for cigarettes, candy & food or trying to sell coca-colas to us. I was assigned Gun #1, I guess I was the top driver in the outfit, at the time. We were positioned up in the hills next to a small village or hamlet , to get there we had to go through this village, all the roads were very narrow, no street lights no stop signs, etc. There was one ďsĒ turn between 2 very old stone buildings that were so narrow the trucks could not get through with the fording gear. Which is muffler and breathing equipment for moving underwater. All the trucks promptly lost this equipment on the corner of this building as we passed through. India Battery is a battery of 105 howitzers. We were dug in and under camo nets so we couldnít be seen by air. Only my truck and the Co.ís jeep could leave the compound or area. Sgt. Hertling, our chow Sgt., and I were what you could classify as scroungers, bogarters or thieves, whatever we needed Hertling and I would scrounge up, beg, borrow or steal. Some of which I canít put into print. I donít know what the statute of limitations are. Whoops.
We were all over Beirut picking up chow, filling a water buffalo, mail, roving patrol in the hills looking for rebels, and each time we left the compound we took candy with us, that was donated by the Marines, sometimes we had over 200 candy bars which we handed out 2 the grateful children along the narrow roads. They got to know my truck because of the machine gun and would chase and even block the trucks way so we had to stop and give out the candy. I like to think that many of them remember that and think well of our American Armed Forces. A lot of our men were getting out or short timers and were being sent home as their time was up, so a lot of the guns were on skeleton crews. I believe we had 2 firing missions called in, but they were called off just before firing.
We had a phantom cartoonist. Whenever someone did something dumb or funny this cartoon would pop up some where. The gunny had a dose of dysentery. Promptly a cartoon came out of him walking a trench up to his knees from the portable head to his tent with his drawers down. In another one I recall someone fell out of the back of a truck. The cartoon showed him doing a swan dive , of course there were others, like when I took out 2 telephone poles with my truck on those narrow roads and ran off the road into a ditch and before I could pull out I took out 2 poles. The CO sent my rear view mirror back with his compliments of course the cartoonist showed me shooting the poles down with the machine gun.
While on roving patrol there was a Sergeant that was accident prone, he always had some part of himself in a sling. He was leading the patrol in a jeep , there were 3 trucks with troops locked and loaded, the convoy stopped. The Sergeant stepped out of the jeep, there was a gun shot and he crumpled to the ground. All safeties came off the weapons and a round went in the 50 on my truck. Well our accident prone Sgt. was wearing a shoulder holster with a 1911 A1 45. When he stepped out of the jeep it went off entered above his hip and exited above the knee. Now you know how many safeties are on a 45! Guess the way he moved or flexed his body caused this to happen. So our Sgt. had something else in a sling. ďChuckleĒ
Our outfit was the only one that left Beirut under its own power. I guess there were a lot of broken down vehicles that had to be towed out of there.
When returning to Camp Lejeune I learned my truck and I were featured in Leatherneck magazine. There was a jet diving overheard. I guess it was during on of those roving patrols.
Sadly, everyone on the Spiegel Grove made rate, and the 4 guys on the Muliphen were forgotten. I should have made Cpl. on the cruise. When we got back I was getting short and got called in for a shipping over talk I was offered Cpl. stripes. I told my CO. you should be offering me Sgt. stripes. He said your right but there is nothing I can do now except offer the latter. I said its been real and didnít ship over. February 59 I got out.
I will never forget our Marines or our Navy.
"Remembering of PFC David Crowin, U.S. Marines"