Sunday, March 8, 2020

Life Aboard the Skagit

My father served in the Navy during the Korean War. Much of his time was spent on board the attack cargo ship, the USS Skagit (AKA 105). The Skagit was originally built for World War II, then mothballed. Once the Korean conflict started, the ship was pulled out of retirement, brought to San Diego for training, then sailed to Pusan, Korea, also traveling to Yokosuka and Inchon. This mission was the one my father was on. He served as the ship's Yeoman Third Class.

Several years ago, I had heard about a book that was written by Don Vogan, a crew-mate of my father's, about this mission. I tried for a long time trying to find a copy of it but the most I could ever find was a couple of pages. I even contacted the daughter of the author and asked if she had any extra copies. She did not. Then, a couple of years ago, I finally found a copy on eBay and didn't hesitate purchasing it.

I read the book and it reminded me a lot of the television show MASH. In addition to the story of the missions the crew sailed the boat on, it tells stories of antics of the Skagit's crew members that may have been frowned upon by the Captain. From the making of what they called "Raisin Jack", which was a homemade distilled alcoholic beverage, a group of sailors, all of which had too much to drink before heading back to the ship, had a commander who spotted a hospital ship in the harbor and ran his returning liberty boat up and down the length of the hospital ship, waving to the nurses waving back from the deck, to a missing sea chest.

The ornate, handmade, hardwood chest belonged to a certain commander and it was in the passageway outside his stateroom. The captain found it, asked whose it was and asked that it be removed. It remained where it was until the next evening when the captain again stumbled upon it. He ordered to have the chest removed and later that evening, it disappeared. It literally disappeared. No one had any idea what happened to it. The owner didn't have it and it could be found nowhere on board the ship. There were rumors of a couple of men throwing it overboard. It remained a mystery for 35 years, until there was a Skagit reunion in Omaha in 1986, where one person commented that it was a mystery they'd never know the answer to. Another stared at another crew member over his glasses and said, "Oh yes we will." The crew member he stared at poured another drink with a flourish before responding, "I take the fifth amendment."

While the book doesn't mention my father directly, only listing him in the crew member list at the back of the book, at least it gives me an idea of what his mission was like. After my father died, I took possession of  his boxes of photographs, including many from his time in the Navy. It was gratifying being able to read the stories behind the photographs I remember seeing when I was a child but had no idea what they were about other than short captions he wrote along the borders.

I exchanged emails with the daughter of the author of the book, offering to make the book available on demand, offering her control of the project and any profits on Lulu. She has declined so far. Since the binding of the copy I purchased is falling apart, I wanted to have a good copy. I added several of my dad's photos, along with the captions, to the end of the book and purchased a single copy for myself. I won't make it available for anyone else until/unless the daughter of the author allows it.

You can browse through my father's pictures from this mission at the web page set up for the Skagit's crew members found here:


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