DesRon 21 Reunion
August 2 - 4, 2002
San Diego, California
a report by Earl Faubion
I flew toward San Diego on Friday, August 2nd, I had doubts as to how this
reunion would come off since it was the first of it’s kind designed to reunite
members of the World War II DesRon 21 with current members of DesRon 21. It
wouldn’t be long before those doubts were cast aside and I found myself caught
up in what would become an emotional journey to the past. As a Vietnam veteran
from the USS Fletcher DD-445 (1966-1969) my presence was more that of an
observer than a participant, or so I mistakenly thought. Joining me and
also representing the USS Fletcher was Greg Schueller who served on board from
1959-1963. As the event progressed I found myself caught up in the past
reliving events of WWII from my father’s generation and then talking with
current members of DesRon 21 who had so recently visited the Solomons on their
way home after a stint in the North Arabian Sea in the defense of our country
in Operation Enduring Freedom. It was my first time to set foot on an active
duty U.S.Navy ship since my separation from active duty in March 1970 and it
was my first time to speak at length with current officers and men of the Navy.
It left me believing our current Navy is in very capable hands.
Friday evening was registration and get acquainted time. Everyone met in the hospitality room set aside for the event by the Hilton Mission Valley. The weather was superb and the hotel staff helpful and everything started off on the right foot. I met several people who previously I knew only via email. Over snacks and soft drinks everyone began to get acquainted. At dinner in the hotel’s restaurant that evening I sat awe struck as I listened to several WWII veterans tell of battles in the South Pacific and other events that were before my time. Having no such tales to tell myself I took on the role of a listener and now I wish I’d have a tape recorder running because the stories were so many and varied that there’s no way to remember them all. While listening I couldn’t help but glance at the young girl who greeted everyone at the restaurant’s entrance and wonder if she and the rest of the world that was hustling and bustling outside our window knew that they owed their very existence to men like those with whom I had the honor of sharing the table. Reunion organizer Dave McComb was also present and like me, he found himself deeply immersed in the stories.
Saturday morning we met in the hospitality room for coffee, juice and pastries and awaited the arrival of a bus that would take us to the Bali Hai restaurant for dinner and our first meeting with the current DesRon 21 commander, Captain Phil Wisecup. The meal was wonderful and the view of San Diego Harbor was excellent. This was followed up by a trip to the naval base and a tour of the USS Elliot DD-967 where her commanding officer, Commander John Nolan and crew greeted us. The Elliot is 25 years old will soon be decommissioned along with most of the rest of the Spruance class of destroyers. The Elliot seemed like a cruiser to me she was so big. This comment was repeated by many other visitors who were accustomed to the 2100 ton Fletcher class.
That evening we enjoyed a banquet at the Hilton where we were joined by several members of the USS Elliot, USS Jarrett and DesRon 21. The guest speaker was Captain Russell Crenshaw, the author of South Pacific Destroyer and The Battle of Tassafaronga. Captain Crenshaw is one of the gentlemen with whom I had dinner on the first evening. His recounting of the events of WWII was outstanding because he was there and lived it. Captain Crenshaw also spoke very highly of Fletcher’s first captain, Commander Bill Cole. Seated at my dinner table was my fellow shipmate, Greg Schueller, his son, and Commander John Nolan, the CO of USS Elliot. Little did Greg and I realize how two years later this meeting with Commander Nolan would turn into an invitation to make a Tiger Cruise on USS Fletcher DD-992 when he became that ship’s final CO. Visit this link for a report on that experience.
The next day we were bused to the USS Jarrett FFG-33 for a DesRon 21 memorial service which I found to be very moving. It honored those past veterans of DesRon 21 who are no longer with us. The service was followed up by refreshments in the ship’s hangar and conversation with officers and crew. I was very proud of the fact I recognized all the various ratings on the crews’ uniforms until I spotted one I’d never seen before. So I asked the first class petty officer what it was and he said it was for gas turbines. No wonder I didn’t recognize it!
After the service we were treated to dinner at the naval station’s general mess, an experience for all because I think the cooks went out of their way that day to ensure we were reminded of how wonderful navy chow really can be. I’m still trying to figure out if those two patties were sausage or some brand of recycled cardboard. And the sloppy Joes?, well, they were typical navy and tasted suspiciously like S.O.S. Like good sailors we ate what we took, turned in our clean trays and silently admitted it really wasn’t as bad as we were making it out to be. After dinner the event concluded and a few of us were treated by the bus driver with a side trip to Soledad Peak and a view of the surrounding country side before being returned to the hotel where some enjoyed videos in the hospitality room.
Many thanks to Arnie Fluster of the USS Jenkins who took care of most of the local arrangements and to Dave McComb and Commodore Phil Wisecup who brought the old and new DesRon 21 together.