USS FLOYD B. PARKS
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
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
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
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
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
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
A SPECIAL DAY FOR
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
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........
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
AN OPEN LETTER TO
JACK O'NEILL November 17, 2003
FROM: A1 Crosby
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
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.
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 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".
SERVING ON THE USS
FLOYD B. PARKS UNDER
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
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.
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
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
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
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,
Robert J. Hanks USN (Ret.)
Mr. James P. Robbins
U.S.S. Floyd B. Parks Association
P.O. Box 61
Twain, CA 95984
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
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
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
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)