McDonald veteran of US Navy has built on years of military service
MCDONALD — A McDonald man who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War also spent time with the Navy Seabees for 22 years, working on construction projects in several countries, including Guam and Japan.
David Green, 74, said the draft was in place when he was a student at Girard High School in the mid-1960s.
“Everyone was signing up for the draft or picking out the military service they wanted to go to. I enlisted in the Navy when I was 17 in September 1963 thinking I was going into regular Navy, and it turned out to be the Navy Reserves,” Green said.
Green completed his senior year in high school, graduated in 1964 and began active duty with the reserve in January 1965 when he was 18. He spent 18 months with the reserves before going on active duty with the Navy. He said a program called Two by Six had participants serving with two years of active duty and four years of reserve time for a total six years of military service.
“I didn’t want to do the Army, and I was more interested in the Navy. I thought about the Marines but had a fear of my legs being blown off. I felt I had a better chance of seeing the world in the Navy,” Green said.
He said the basic training at the reserve centers included two weeks of boot camp.
“When you go into active duty, they throw you in the labor pool, which they called the ship’s deck force. In high school, my mother told me to take a typing class, so here I was in Newport, Rhode Island, working outside in the winter on the deck force. I needed to get indoors so I went into the ship’s office and got hired there almost for two years as a personnel man,” Green said.
Green was on a repair ship in Rhode Island and served on the USS Cascade AD16 with fleet Marines.
“I was fortunate enough to hit it at the right time and went to Boston in 1965 and then we were leaving for the Mediterranean — which the ship never made it to because of a bomb recovery after the Air Force dropped H bombs on Spain,” he said.
A B-52 collided with a KC-135 tanker in a refueling attempt over Spain. Four unarmed nuclear bombs dropped. Two exploded — but without the devastating effects of armed bombs — outside of small villages. The search for the other bombs continued for days, with the final bomb accounted for 81 days after the accident.
Green said he remembers recovering one of the hydrogen bombs off the coast of Spain and bringing it back to the United States.
“I was just a kid then and they kept telling us the bomb would not go off. I thought if it did go off, I would not know anything about it anyway. I was an E3 then which was low on the food chain,” Green said.
He said the men brought the bomb back to Savannah, Georgia, where there is a nuclear disposal area.
“There was a 24-hour armed guard around the bomb as we crossed the ocean. We had our pictures taken with the bomb,” Green said.
In 1969, Green left the fleet Navy but 11 years later he went into the Navy Seabees, which is a construction battalion that travels around the world to do construction and building projects.
“I saw more of the world in the Seabee Navy than I did in the Fleet Navy,” Green said.
Green had 22 years of service with the Seabee Navy and often went on weekends to work on construction projects and was called during Operation Desert Storm.
He said the Seabees did projects in the United States at various bases.
“My first tour with the Seabees was in Spain and Guam. We built day care centers, roads, parking lots, air strips and docking areas and a library in Dalgren, Virginia,” he said.
Green said one of the biggest projects he was involved with was the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia.
He said Seabees get all their military training from the Marine Corps. “We wear the Navy uniform but we train with the Marines,” Green said.
During Desert Storm, Green said his battalion went to the Pacific Ocean at Midway, Guam and Japan. In Guam a lot of classified activity was taking place.
Green said the battalion was on a three-year rotation with one year dedicated to all military training, another year schooling and projects, and the third year a combination of military and projects.
His work as a service technician at Sears helped him earn training while a Seabee — which was like a part-time job.
“I am proud I was a Seabee. I remember we worked on a huge parking lot at Kings Bay. One time I was the project manager and my 16 workers disappeared on me. A lot of trucks were coming in to pour concrete and I went to check on the job and all the men were gone. At the time a congressman was coming through on a tour of submarine and one of his aides came over and asked the guys if they wanted to take a tour of the submarine. They all went on the tour but not me,” he said.
In Japan, Green said he helped build a skip building, where the Navy drops sonar in the sea all over the ocean to listen for Russian submarines. “We collected the data and took it to the skip building where they have electronic equipment and they downloaded the information to see what the Russians are up to,” he said.
Green said during the building of a skip, his oldest daughter died, and he had to leave.
“I don’t think our group was able to complete it. so the Navy sent a different Seabee group to finish it,” he said.
Green said Seabees also did local projects such as building a pavilion / shed at Camp Fitch near Erie, Pa., and projects at Camp Sugarbush in Vernon for the Girl Scouts. Green said his daughters were in Scouting.