Dedicated to
Captain John W. O'Neill (USN Ret.)
Commanding Officer 1960-1962


2003 USS Floyd B. Parks Reunion Charleston, South Carolina
Dedicated to Captain John W. O'Neill (USN Ret.)
Commanding Officer 1960-1962

The officers of the USS Floyd B. Parks Association decided it would be appropriate to dedicate the 2003 ship's reunion to Captain John W. O'Neill, the outstanding commanding officer of the Floyd B. Parks from 1960 to 1962. Health considerations prevented Jack and his wife, Bertha, from attending the reunion, but the presentation speech and award of a plaque commemorating the occasion went forward at the banquet. Keith Knoblock's presentation was taped and Bill Birdsong accepted the plaque on behalf of Captain O'Neill.
To formalize and personalize the event for the O'Neills, a surprise mini-reunion was organized to take place November 8, 2003, at Bob Bahler's beautiful home in San Diego. Captain O'Neill, seven of his shipmates and spouses attended the gala.
On the pretense of taking Jack and Bertha to lunch, Bill and Sue Birdsong picked them up and drove to Bob's house where the O'Neills expected to be joined by Bob at lunch. Instead, when the O'Neills walked into the house there was total surprise at what greeted them.
Lunch, prepared by Bob for his 14 guests, was followed by some brief remarks by Keith, a viewing of the reunion tape presentation and a formal presentation of the plaque to Jack to make it "official." Bob Bahler followed up an afternoon of camaraderie with preparation of another excellent meal (several steps above what he did aboard ship according to some of -those-in attendance).
Captain O'Neill was one of the catalysts of what has made the ship's reunions possible. Because of his leadership and presence, shipmates from more than 40 years ago have remained in close touch during the ensuing years. Not only did these shipmates respect and feel a close attachment to the captain and the ship, they developed close bonds among themselves which endure to this day. If anything, these bonds have become stronger over the years. Moments, memories and shared experiences bring shipmates together. In this case, there are two things in common the captain and the ship. It is wonderful to be able to experience the sentimentality and fond attachment we have for one another largely because of the influence of Captain O'Neill.

USS Floyd B. Parks Mini Reunion San Diego, CA November 8, 2003

Dear Jack and Bertha,
We want this memory book to bring back a fond remembrance of the surprise USS Floyd B. Parks mini reunion in San Diego November 8, 2003, organized to honor you, Jack. Those of us who served with you while you were commanding officer of the Parks as well as the countless others whose lives you have touched think there is no one more deserving to receive the honor and accolades bestowed that day. You accepted this honor with your usual grace and humility.
All of us have a deep respect and admiration for you. You are a leader and we believed in you. You molded the Parks into the best destroyer in the Pacific Fleet if not the entire fleet. We all carry the lessons you taught us to this day.
The photos on the following pages should remind you and Bertha of the wonderful day we shared with you November 8, 2003. It was a pleasure and joy for all of us. We will always remember the surprise reflected on your faces as you entered Bob Bahler's beautiful home, the wonderful meals prepared by Bob and the presentation of the Charleston reunion videotape and plaque which express our respect and admiration for you.
But what we all will remember especially is the camaraderie all of us-shipmates and spouses-shared that day. The Parks was a fine ship of which all of us can be justly proud. This was due in large part to you, Jack. Thanks for everything. We all wish you and Bertha the very best and we send our love to both of you.

Biography of John W. (Jack) O'Neill

Jack was born in Newport, Rhode Island on October 24, 1918. He enlisted in the U. S. Navy June 27, 1936.
On December 7, 1941, Jack was serving as a Quartermaster 2nd Class on the U.S.S. West Virginia (BB48) at Pearl Harbor. The next day he was assigned to the U. S. S. San Francisco (CA' )8) and participated in some of the early actions against Japanese forces. In May 1942, Jack returned to the West Virginia as a member of the salvage crew which raised the ship and returned it to Bremerton, WA for repairs and modernization.
In September 1943, Jack was commissioned Ensign from Chief Quartermaster and shortly thereafter reported to Solomons, Maryland for amphibious training. On June 6, 1944, he was Executive Officer of the U. S. S. LST 60 and was with the assault force which struck Normandy and launched the invasion of France. From June 1945 to June 1946 he commanded the U.S.S. LST 510. Following two years with the Atlantic Reserve Fleet, he attended the General Line School in Newport, RI and was promoted to full Lieutenant. Jack then served as Gunnery Officer of the U.S.S. Agerholm (DD826) from June 1949 to Sept 1950.
In October 1950, Jack assumed command of the U.S.S. Murrelet (AM 372) and deployed to Korea. During one year of minesweeping and interdiction operations, Murrelet was under fire many times by enemy shore batteries and, although hit three times, suffered only minor damage. Murrelet was awarded the U. S. Navy Unit Commendation, and two Korean Presidential Unit Citations.
From October 1952 until March of 1955, Jack was an instructor at the Fleet AntiSubmarine Warfare School in San Diego and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander. He assumed command of the U.S.S. Formoe (DE 509) in March 1955. In 1957 he turned the Formoe over to Portugal and rode the ship for three months training the Portuguese crew. Then followed one year as a student in the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, VA. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the staff of Commander Amphibious Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet. He was promoted to Commander 1 April 1959.
Jack assumed command of the U.S.S. Floyd B. Parks (DD884) in August 1960 until June of 1962 when he reported to the Staff of Commander First Fleet for duty. In January of 1964, he was transferred to the U. S. Naval Oceanographic Office for duty as Director of Plans and Operations. He was promoted to Captain 1 September 1964.
Jack assumed command of the U.S.S. Thomaston (LSD 28) in October 1966. Thomaston was involved in a number of amphibious assaults in Vietnam and was awarded the U.S. Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation. In May of 1968, Jack reported to Commander Amphibious Group Three for duty as Chief of Staff, again involved in Vietnamese operations.
In March 1970, Jack assumed command of Amphibious Squadron One which was comprised of seven ships. This tour included six months as the Seventh Fleet Amphibious Ready Group with an embarked Marine Battalion and Helicopter Squadron.
Jack's last tour of duty was as Commander Fleet Training Center, San Diego. The Training Center handled 60,000 students per year in all Navy skills including Gunnery, Damage Control, Seamanship, Engineering, and Fire Fighting. He retired in June 1974 and could look back with pride on a career wherein he advanced from Seaman Recruit to Captain and earned twenty-seven service medals and ribbons including four Legions of Merit and two Bronze Stars.
......Kevin Reidy


I served aboard the Parks under Captain Jack O'Neill from 1960-1962. I was in Gunnery Division and so my contact was more with my gunnery boss, Dave Whitehead, than with Captain Jack.
I did stand many watches on the bridge and Captain O'Neill was never far away during that time. I was A.S.W. helmsman and some special sea details such as refueling. During my time on the bridge and observing Jack he was always calm and he seemed to have everything under control I never saw him show anger or be upset with anyone but I always knew who was in charge. I had much respect and admiration for Captain O'Neill.
In thinking back on it...... I was away from home and in many ways Jack was like a father figure to many of us. During this time I never dreamed that one day we would be great friends and spend quality time together.
That was then and this is now.....Jack remains an active member in the Parks assoc. showing us that he truly cared about his time on the Parks. Jack has a very special wall in his home dedicated to his Navy career with many medals and awards on it and I am sure he deserves each and every one of them and even more.
It was a great pleasure to both surprise and honor Jack on Sat. Nov. 8th at Bob Bahler's home. The plaque that was presented to him by Keith Knoblock was another well deserved award that will find its place on Jacks navy tribute wall. I was proud to be a part of that presentation and tribute and to spend the day with Jack and Bertha. This mini reunion tribute could have been attended by all who served under him and each one would have felt the same way about him
A good time was had by all.....good food, great friends, and a very special person to all of us. Jack...... you are respected by all of us and loved by everyone. Thank you........ Bill Birdsong

I served under Jack O'Neill during his entire tenure as commanding officer of the USS Floyd B. Parks. My memories are best expressed by excerpting from my formal remarks at the 2003 USS Floyd B. Parks reunion in Charleston, SC, at which time the reunion was dedicated to Captain O'Neill.
I have a deep respect and admiration for Captain O'Neill and regard him with warm affection. His leadership was inspirational. He is a born leader. He brought the ship to life. He was deeply concerned for the well-being of the people who served in his command. Captain O'Neill trusted his people and instilled in them, by example, the feeling of special trust and confidence.
Jack O'Neill greatly influenced my life during my civilian days. He instilled leadership values in me, he instilled confidence in me to be able to carry out the most difficult tasks which carried over to the way I approached my civilian job responsibilities and handled the various situations which arose in the workplace, he taught me self-discipline and he taught me to respect other people's feelings and their needs. In short, he was a very big man in my life and I carry his lessons with me to this day.
Thanks for everything, Jack. You are a gem.

Keith R Knoblock USS Floyd B. Parks 1959-1962

FROM: A1 Crosby

Dear Jack,
It is my pleasure to contribute my thoughts about your exemplary leadership qualities as part of Robby's great idea that those of us present with you last weekend do so.
Without doubt, you had an indelibly superb impact on me and on the rest of us. By your example, you were a role model to be emulated, and showed how to lead effectively. Not only did you set high standards for us to meet, but also you set the highest standards for yourself, meeting or exceeding every one. At the same time you exhibited trust in your people, counting on them to perform to the very best of their ability, without micro managing. When I made mistakes, you let me know in a most professional manner you expected better, but also you consistently showed patience and compassion, recognizing that mistakes will occur. In so doing, you motivated me with a powerful resolve to do much better, and then you trusted me to do so. When we did well, you recognized us. Underscoring all of this, your loyalty to the ship's company generated enormous loyalty in return. I could go on at length describing numerous fine qualities you exhibited---decisive, forthright, courageous, dedicated, impeccable judgment, and calm under pressure, just to name a few. But no words adequately describe the magnificent qualities you embodied as a whole.
Such qualities earned, of course, our deepest respect and admiration for you. As you so poignantly noted at the wonderful gathering at Bob Bahler's house, all of us were together again after over 40 years from the period we were on the USS Floyd B. Parks (DD 884). I submit that such lasting friendship does not occur without substantive reasons. We've had the pleasure of being together on many occasions following our service on the Parks, and we always pick up as if there had been no significant passage of time. That says volumes about the quality of the relationship all of us have. You, Jack, led the way by being such a superb role model. It is obvious we value the association and friendship.
In writing these thoughts, I have specific examples that are still vivid in my mind. It is not important to cite them in detail, but it is important to tell you that your leadership skills and role modeling made each of us better; because of you, I gained skills used throughout my life. Others did, too. Those skills have served us well, but much more importantly, such skills served our respective organizations and the people in them well, including those on the Parks. It is also appropriate to mention that I strongly valued your positive endorsement on my successful application to join the regular Navy, which steered me to a marvelous twenty years of service in a great organization; I'd do it all over again.
Finally, Jack, I'll reiterate what I said most sincerely to you last week at Bob's house. Without doubt, you are the finest leader I've had the pleasure of serving, and I've had some good ones. The lessons learned from a great teacher on how to be an effective leader have been invaluable.
Al Crosby

A Gunnery Department Tribute to Captain O'Neill

I think all who served under Captain Jack could immediately recognize his leadership skills. My memory is a little hazy on dates but I believe that I had either just become gunnery officer when Jack came on board or was made gunnery officer shortly thereafter. I would soon find out that I had much to learn. Jack suffered with me through several disastrous gunnery exercises, where, through a chain of dumb actions on my part, the exercises were either total or near total failures. Word travels fast when a ship is unable to perform and a target vessel or aircraft has to return to its base early because of a cancelled exercise.
Unfortunately, the gunnery officer's station during gunnery exercises is on the wing of the bridge (within easy reach of the Captain). I am amazed at how calmly Jack responded to my goofs, even the third one. I could sense he was close to throwing me overboard or at least thought of putting me ashore at the next port of call. I got his message loud and clear and began to put together the picture that my life and the reputation of the Parks gunnery department was only going to get better if I really took charge of the department.
The Gunners mates, fire control technicians, and other gunnery department officers got the equipment in good working order and intensified the training of the gun crews. I can still hear the sound of the loading machine as crews practiced loading the 5- inch guns. The loading machine was not a popular place on hot tropical days. All this, coupled with a new adherence to pre exercise reviews began to bring about improvements. Some of our improvement showed in an exercise where we shot down three propeller driven drones in succession with direct hits. The tug carrying the drones stopped the exercise and went home because our shooting was too accurate (that is a problem you can love).
Some time later we were selected to be gunnery school ship and I believe may have set a record for number of rounds fired during that all day all night affair. Of course, the high point for gunnery was our near perfect score in a Z-21-G exercise (shooting at a target towed behind a tug). I knew it was a good exercise when: all the guns worked, we only hit the target not the tug, and best of all, when the officer scoring the exercise congratulated Captain Jack on how well we had done (the best score of any ship that year).
The point of this piece is to show how real leadership works. Without shouting, swearing or demeaning anyone, Jack made us reach into ourselves and find the way to a higher level of performance. That new level of performance brought confidence to each of us and brought the ship compliments and awards, including the gunnery award and the battle efficiency "E". Thanks, Captain.
Dave Whitehead

CAPTAIN JOHN W. O'NEILL---- 1960 TO 1962

In July 1960, I was fortunate enough to be assigned to my vessel of choice. A Destroyer. Graduating out of NROTC from UC Berkeley, I knew I wanted a small combatant. The assignment to the USS Floyd B. Parks (DD884) was perfect. Little did I know how it would change my life. Captain O'Neill took command just a few weeks after my reporting on board. I am sure you have all heard the word "Command Presence". Captain O'Neill had that and much more. His shiphandling, his ability to relate to all levels within the crew .......... Officers and Enlisted Men was so evident. Speaking for myself, I was 23 years old. I was very taken up with the leadership that I saw in Captain O'Neill.
Some vignettes ............ At Captain's Mast, he was the most fair, thoughtful, understanding person. He would turn the Mast into a learning experience instead of just punishment. The individual receiving the outcome of Mast always felt a positive outcome under Captain O'Neill.
I started my tour on board as Electronics Material Officer (EMO) so my gang was the Electronic Technicians (ET's). After about 6 months, I was promoted to be the Communications Officer. These were great assignments for me. And while all working parts of the ship are critical, there had been some problems in communications. And never did Captain O'Neill take me or my division to task. He and his Executive Officer, Bob Hanks always encouraged improvement by their leadership and we ended up being successful. I credit Captain O'Neill.
Leadership on the water ............. during one of our WestPac cruises, we were called upon to perform a Search and Rescue (SAR) of a stranded, powerless Japanese fishing boat, the Nankai Maru, in the South China Sea during a typhoon. The sea conditions were horrible. The sea itself was boiling. I was on watch on the bridge that afternoon and I have very clear recall of rolling 45 degrees to port. I think that Bill Birdsong, the highest qualified helmsman had the helm and I don't know how he ever held on. I slid across the deck of the pilot house right into the port bulkhead. Through all this Captain O'Neill was just as steady as a rock. As members of the crew in a dangerous situation, we never lost confidence in Captain O'Neill.
Two last vignettes .......... As you may know, Captain O'Neill was a QM2 (so he knew how to "read light") on the USS West Virginia at Pearl on December 7. Well, being Communications Officer, I spent a lot of time on the bridge and the Signalmen were in my OC Division. As you know, a good Signalman likes to use his signal lights to send morse code messages to his Signalmen buddies on the other ships in the division. Their messages were not necessarily Navy business but just chatter. Well ........... The WORD on the bridge of the Parks was that our Signalmen told the other ships ......."Watch what you send to us, our Captain reads light". Captain O'Neill, aka QM2 is VERY qualified.
Finally, in closing my family has been gifted by my being assigned to the Floyd B. Parks. When I was on board, I enjoyed every part of my experience. The family gift was meeting our Supply Officer A1 Crosby and being able to introduce him to my sister Jerian. That introduction led to their marriage. Now they have three lovely daughters, their great husbands and now the Crosby Grandchildren. And........ now Nancy's and my daughter Kathy, and her husband, Dan are Godparents to the Crosby Grandchild Shane, son of Colleen and Mark who is a member of the Special Forces of our Army.
It's been a wonderful experience!!! I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had the chance.
Kevin Reidy

Selected "Tales"
From ex-CO of USS Floyd B. Parks DD884

I relieved CDR Bennett on 21 August 1960 in Sasebo, Japan.- We got underway a couple of days later to join other ships of the Squadron already at sea with a carrier task force. There were three typhoons
on the chart at the time and the task force commander was debating about which way to run. Fortunately all passed south and in a few days we pulled into Yokosuka. I received a message from the Squadron Commander, whom I had never met, to join him at -the 0'Club. I did so and after the introductions and one sip out of the first drink, the Commodore said, "0'Neill, your ship has the worst communications in the Pacific Fleet and if you don't do something about it I will have you relieved"! What a shock! I'd been CO for about a week and I get this "friendly welcome to Des RonOne: That's the way this Commodore operated however, and believe me it got my attention. Parks received the Green "C" for excellence 3.n communications for the next two years. I could tell a hundred stories about this Commodores leadership principles which surfaced during the ensuing months, but it would serve no useful purpose. Suffice it to say that he threatened to relieve the CO of Hull (his flagship) seventeen times, often in front of his officers and men. I think it safe to say that our Squadron Commander had not read Dale Carnegie
Returning from WestPac in late 1960, just as we passed the midpoint between Japan and Midway, a crewman came down with acute appendicitis. The situation called for an immediate operation. We had a doctor aboard, but he had never performed an appendectomy. Our Pharmacist's Mate had no operating room experience. Fortunately, one of the other ships had a Pharmacist's Mate with some experience. We took him aboard via high line after dark and naturally 3.n rough weather. The patient was laid out on the wardroom table and several ship's officers were instructed and assigned such duties as anesthetist, pulse taker, blood pressure; monitor, etc. Soon after the operation commenced, it was discovered that the patient's appendix had burst and this green operating crew had major problems on their hands. I was on the bridge trying to keep the ship headed downsea and as steady as possible. The operation continued hour after hour and I was growing more and more apprehensive. Finally, I got the word that the operation was over and that the patient had survived. We took off for Midway at 30 Knots and on arrival transferred the patient ashore for air evacuation to Pearl Harbor where he made a fine recovery.

I often wondered if that young man ever realized just how lucky he was. I'm sure the doctor has never forgotten his first appendectomy. Neither will the officers and men who assisted him and did such e great job - I was very proud of them all.
The day before we were to leave on our next WestPac deployment in late summer of 1961, the CO of the U.S.S. Boyd (also about to deploy) went to the hospital and my Executive Officer, LCDR Hob Hanks, was ordered to take command of Boyd. Since he was transferred without relief, my Operations Officer, LT Bruce Jarrett, assumed the additional duties of XO of Parks. This situation continued for about the first four months of our deployment until LGDR Sam Kubel reported aboard. To LT Jarrett's credit, he took the place of an outstanding officer and did a fine job under adverse conditions. Because of this, Parks was able to meet all WestPac commitments without a hitch.
When we arrived in WestPac, our first assignment was duty on the Formosa Patrol. We went into Kaohsiung, Taiwan to relieve another Destroyer Division. Since I was the only CO who had previous Patrol experience, Parks was directed to immediately refuel and head up to relieve the ship then on station. For reasons which will become apparent, we shall refer to her as "Ship X". When we reached the rendezvous point after dark, "Ship X" was not there. We challenged a radar contact ?.5 miles north of us which turned out to be the ship we were relieving. We exchanged identification and relieved them by flashing light. I reasoned that "Ship X" was not at the rendezvous point because they had been involved in chasing a reluctant contact. Wrong! Later that night they ran aground on Taiwan-after failing to make the turn south to pass between Taiwan and the Pescadores - their navigation was in error. I felt badly about not suspecting that earlier.
There are many typhoon stories associated with a WestPac deployment. In the tall of 1961 we were at the northern reaches of the Formosa Straits on patrol. We had been watching the approach of a typhoon to the east of Taiwan. It was forecast by the Typhoon Central at Guam to recurve to the northeast. Because of this, I thought my best course of action would be to run south and ensure getting south o! the storm into the "navigable semi-circle". We ran south at 30 knots and sent hourly weather reports to Guam. Throughout the day Guam continued to forecast a turn to the northeast which dictated that I continue to run south. I was getting a constant wind direction, a driving rain, a falling barometer and

would go to one of the engineering spaces and place a fake bomb (a red block of wood etc). One day while we were moored in a nest in Subic, I was taking a shower. When I pulled back the shower curtain to reach for a towel, I was confronted by a strange sailor pointing a .45 automatic at my midsection. Never dreaming this was a security drill, Z knew I was about to be shot. Without really thinking, I grabbed the gun barrel and turned it away from me. The sailor let go of the gun and shouted, "It's a drill, it's a drill". It took me a little while to calm down from that one. The "sailor" turned out to be a LTJG from an adjacent ship who had been directed to penetrate Parks and shoot the CO. I thought this was a bit much and told the Squadron Commander that he could easily have had C0 Parks die of a heart attack on the spot. Needless to say, he agreed and future "penetration" exercises were conducted under less traumatic scenarios.
On IO April 1962, we were engagred in a fleet exercise in EastPac and were refuelina at 12 knots from the starboard side bf the fleet oiler USS Manatee. Suddenly the Manatee veered to starboard right into us. Fortunately we were alert and able to keep turning with her while carrying out "emergency breakaway procedures". Manatee had suffered a gyro casualty. The ships barely kissed once right where fenders were rigged and we were able to break away without any damage to either ship. Just another ho-hum day in the life of a destroyerman:
Parks was a great ship with a crew of officers and men blessed with a true "can do" spirit. In addition to carrying out all assignments, she also excelled in all military aspects as evidenced by the Communications "C"; the ASW "A"; the Engineering "E"= and Gunnery "E's" on the S"/38 Director and gun mounts. The Gunnery "E's" were especially noteworthy due to a superb job by LT Dave Whitehead and his Gunnery Department who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. They improved to a fitting climax by scoring 100 on a Z-21-G surface shoot - the highest score recorded in CruDeaPac that ,year. Parks placed first in the Destroyer Squadron One Battle Efficiency Competition for the 1961-62 competitive year. It goes without saying that this resulted from a stellar performance by the officers and men of every Department.
In May of 1962, Parks was ordered. to the Naval Shipyard in Bremerton Washington for a 9 month FRAM conversion. After arrival there, we learned that since no funds were available in the current fiscal, year they would not be able to commence the overhaul until July. What to do with Parks in the meanwhile? For a long time the Commandant of the Naval District

had been deluged with requests for ships to visit various ports in the Puget Sound and British Columbia areas. Struck with a blinding flash of the obvious, he saw that Parks was the answer to his prayers. He received the concurrence of ComCruDesPac and Parks became the "show the flag" ship of the Pacific Northwest..
Our first stop on this "tough duty" assignment was on 20 May at Nanaimo, British Columbia. We were told that we were the first US Navy ship ever to visit that port and to say that we were welcomed with open arms would be an understatement. Nanaimo turned out to be an ambitious, progressive, and friendly city. We participated in their "Empire Day" celebrations with the usual parade and many civic events, to the complete enjoyment of all hands. After a visit of several days, we were scheduled to depart at 0900 in the morning. After evaluating the situation,
I decided to have liberty expire on the pier at midnight the night before. What a wise decision this turned out to be: At midnight the pier looked like a Roman orgy with our crew and their newfound Canadian friends having a great party. It took several hours to get everyone aboard and we sailed in the morning on schedule with a full complement,
Next we anchored off Port Townsend, Washington and participated in their annual Rhododendron Festival. We had a color guard and drill team in their parade and took part in many other Festival events. The officers and men were wined, dined, and entertained royally for several days. Again, very tough duty.
We all very much appreciated the opportunity to "show the flag" and everyone took great pride in showing off our fine ship to hundreds of civilian visitors.
Then back to Bremerton for a little "rest" until the next port visit assignment. At this point I was relieved by CDR T.R. Johnson on 1 June 1962.
I could look back with pride and thanks on almost two action packed years, good times and bad, memories of walking away unscathed from many night multi-ship ASW attacks and a number of midnight bent line screen reorientations. And ever so thankful for having the good fortune to have served with as fine a group of officers and men ever assembled, To put those two years in terms that most sailors understand, Parks never missed a commitment,

Rear Admiral Robert J. Hanks USN (Ret.)

4016 Moss Place
Alexandria, VA 22304 28
August 1995

Mr. James P. Robbins
U.S.S. Floyd B. Parks Association
P.O. Box 61
Twain, CA 95984

Dear Robby,
First of all, permit you to thank you for all the information you sent me about the 1995 Parks ` reunion in San Diego. Until a couple of months ago, my wife-Skip-and I were primed to travel to San Diego for the reunion and to see our children and grandchildren who live there. Unfortunately, a non-life-threatening medical problem intervened which dictates that we stay close to Bethesda Naval Hospital.
Forty years have somewhat dimmed my memories of first reporting aboard the Parks as Exec. Still, I recall many satisfying and rewarding months of service in that fine ship and those men-officer and enlisted-who served in her as my shipmates.
In particular, I look back on my association with her captain then Commander Jack 0'Neill. He proved to be one of the three most inspiring people I was privileged to work for during my 35 years of naval service; the other two being Air Force General Russ Dougherty who was my boss in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (ultimately Commander, Strategic Air Command) and Admiral Bud Zumwalt (my skipper on the U.S.S. Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869) and, subsequently, Chief of Naval Operations),
But ...it was Jack 0'Neill who took me under his wing and taught me all those things a destroyer skipper must know: leadership, ship handling, concern for people, the discipline which every sea-going man-o'war must have, and the view from the bridge which only a former white hat can articulate. Having been raised aboard a heavy cruiser by mustang officers, I already knew where the fount of practical, sea-going knowledge in the Fleet resided.
I remember him standing on the bridge of the Parks as we sailed with the Seventh Fleet in the Western Pacific. Unlike other skippers, Jack never complained about signalman strikers "shooting

the breeze" on the flashing light as we steamed, seemingly endlessly, in carrier task force formations. He knew (as a former Quartermaster First Class-in pre-WWII days every quartermaster had to be competent signalmen, too) that they were honing skills they would need should the ship run into trouble.
Best of all, however, while commanding officer of the Parks, he could read flashing light better than any signalman aboard, let alone the strikers. When some neophyte on an adjacent tin can would be sending a message group for the second or third time (extolling that which he planned to do ashore the next time the ship put into Subic Bay, Yokosuka, or wherever), Captain 0'Neill would shout the read out aft to the struggling young sailor on the signal bridge.
Jack was the epitome of the career quartermaster who could sit on the edge of a destroyer's flag bag--message board balanced on one knee, pencil in one hand, the other holding a cup of coffee, all the while holding a steady light on the sending ship with his foot. (I'm sure that's the way he did it on the battleship West Virginia.)
It didn't take long for the signal gang to realize that they were up against a real professional in their own business. I suspect that there will be some at this reunion who can verify this account from first hand experience.
Above all, I remember the many things he taught me about handling a destroyer under the most difficult of circumstances. I shall always be indebted to him for that. He could steel himself to wait until the last possible moment, for example, as I or one of his other conning officers was bringing the ship alongside a pier, aircraft carrier, or oiler before announcing that he had the conn and then issuing the proper engine and rudder orders to save the Parks from disaster.
While I don't recall the circumstances under which I joined the ship, as I said at the outset, my departure will be etched in my mind forever.
The ship rested alongside one of the piers at the San Diego Naval Station on the day before she was scheduled to sail for a six-month deployment to WestPac. I had hauled most of my uniforms and other gear ashore, because I had in my pocket a set of orders to command another destroyer. According to the scenario, I would serve as Exec of Parks until she reached Japan, be relieved, and then fly back to San Diego to take command of the Shields.
A funny thing happened to then-LCDR Hanks on the afternoon before departure for WestPac. A phone call from COMCRUDESPAC advised Jack 0'Neill that orders were then being cut transferring me to the U.S.S. Boyd, moored outboard in the same nest, by the way, as

temporary commanding officer because the incumbent had just been turned in to Balboa Naval Hospital and couldn't sail with the ship. Not to worry, COMCRUDESPAC said, the regular CO would rejoin the ship when we reached Pearl Harbor.
(I might be many things, but stupid, I'm not). I spent that last night in San Diego hauling my off-loaded gear aboard Boyd, signing all of the papers a new skipper (even a temporary one) must execute and telling my wife there would only be time for her to drop me off at the head of the pier the next morning followed by a quick change of command (no ceremony) ...I would call her from Pearl.
Before we arrived in Hawaii, another message came in: The regular skipper will not return/You're the Boyd's commanding officer from here on in. I had to call Skip from Pearl and tell her that I would not be home in three weeks but, rather, in six months. So goes the life of a sailor.
Of course, the bright spot was that I was able to conn my new command across the Pacific in company with Parks and other ships of my old Division. Ask Jack 0'Neill what it was like to sail with no regularly assigned Exec for months before the Bureau of Naval Personnel finally got around to replacing me.
Despite my abrupt departure from the U.S.S. Floyd B. Parks, I will always be grateful for the time I was privileged to spend aboard this fine ship. I am, of course, and always have been a destroyer man at heart. She was one of the best in which I served. Not because she was an exceptionally well built ship, but because of the people who manned and fought her.
Ships are inanimate things until they are brought to life by the dedicated crewmen who nurture and care for them. This could not have more true of any ship in the Fleet than the Parks. Certainly, this was the case during my time aboard.
To all of you at the 1995 reunion, I salute you. My primary regret is that I could not be with you, my shipmates-past and present-as Skip and I had planned. Have a wonderful time and know that every sailor who ever put to sea in the Parks is with you, in spirit if not in person.
Robby, please feel free to use all, any, or none of the above at the reunion as you deem appropriate.
Warmest regards to everyone,

R. J. Hanks
(Bob to all my Parks shipmates)