A few weeks ago, I finally got off my duff and called an old friend, Charlie Ford. He is an Engineer who was one of the smartest people I ever met when it came to the MK 45 Gun Mount and one of the nicest, most humble gentlemen I ever met, bar none. Charlie has always been gracious to me, helped me through some of my most difficult problems with hthe MK 45 gun Mount and kept me laughing. We spent a long time on the phone, remembering other old friends and telling sea stories as only those of us who "Lived" Navy can. I remember early in my MK 45 days, on the USS Leftwich, I had an unusual problem come up. When we commissioned Leftwich, President Jimmy Carter was in office and was systematically disarming America. When we manned that ship up, we were so short on people it was dangerous. To make things worse, the people we had were without experience. There were only 12 Chiefs in the commissioning crew for the entire ship. That was about 8 Chief Petty Officers low. I had 4 Gunner's Mates and me to maintain two MK 45 Gun Mounts and all of the associated and not so associated equipment and spaces. I was billetted for 8! To say the least, I was totally overwhelmed. To top that off, only one of the four had been to MK 45 "C" school and only he had ever been in a firing gun mount before. Get the idea. I had to teach everything, be everywhere, and do most everything. One day, one of my young GMGSN's came to me with some bolt heads in his hand. He said, "Chief, I think we have a problem." It seemed that he was doing the preventative maintenance card on the hold down bolts in Mount 51. The PMS card listed numerous torque readings to test for, based on what alteration of hold down bolts were installed in your gun mount. Instead of trying to determine what our status was, he "ASSUMED" that the highest torque rating would be good, and he promptly twisted off the heads of 5 or so hold down bolts!!! Of course, that made the gun unsafe to fire. So, I called Cahrlie in Louisville and explained my dilemma. Unfazed, Charlie shipped me enough "New Style" hold down bolts for both gun mounts. His quick action is admirable in itself, but Charlie shipped the bolts to my home address so I could get them quicker and solve my embarassing problem quickly. He also, quietly set up for the NAVSEACENPAC reps, Bill Luder and Pappy, to come over with their magnetic drill base and drill out the broken bolts. No reports, nothing said, no snickering, just help.
That's not the only time Charlie came to my rescue. While still on Leftwich I had a severe hydraulic failure with the upper accumulator unloading valve, (UVX24). I still think it's amazing I can remember that but forget how to sign my name. In any case, that failure started a strange chain of events that mimicked air being trapped in the cradle raise hydraulic circuit. On the MK 45 Mod ) gun mount, air in the hydraulic system was your enemy! He and I chased that problem for months and Charlie made numerous visits to my ship to help. Buy we could not find the problem. I was working everyday, 7 days a week on this problem, and the west coast Louisville tech rep, Dean Reahart was due on my ship Saturday morning to help me, once again. Friday evening, Charlie called me on the ship and said that he had spoken to another old friend, Dave Flippo, who I went to MK 42 "C" school with, a long time before. Dave had left the Navy and went to work for FMC, the manufacturer of the MK 45 gun mount. As it turned out Dave had seen this problem before. Charlie had Dave call me the next morning and Dave did, at 7AM. He told me to check an orifice plate in the hydraulic interlock pipe that came from the cradle in the right trunnion. I believe it was pipe P8 or P16. I may be wrong. I told Dave the prints did not show an orifice there, he agreed and told me to check it anyway. Without draining down the header tank, I pulled the four cap screws out of the pipe flange and pulled the pipe off, sure enough, there was a small orifice plate in this little 3/8" hydraulic line, and low and behold, there was half of an O-Ring stuck through the hole in the orifice plate. I removed the half an O-Ring, replaced the pipe, and had the gun running, correctly before Dean got there. I was happy because I finally got mount 52 running after 4 months and I was going to get to go home to my wife and son. Dean was happy because he did not have to work on the weekend. But it was Charlie's tenacious "Never Say Die" attitude and dedication to the success of all Gunner's Mates, including me that made the success possible.
My Navy career was filled with great men like Charlie Ford. I appreciate their efforts and dedication. But Charlie was a mentor, a teacher, and a friend. Charlie, enjoy your retirement, you deserve it.
PS- I did give Charlie a copy of the picture of the USS Caron, Mount 51, taken the morning of February 5, 1984 after we had fired over 400 rounds out of that gun, including 2 one hundred round rapid fire runs to support the Marines that were trapped at the airport in Beirut, Lebanon. That photo shows a forecastle littered with empty 5" powder cases and a gun barrel with it's paint proudly burned off from the blistering firing the night before. That was a proud night for USS Caron, the MK 45 Gun Mounts, fleet wide, for my Gunner's Mate's and Fire Control Technicians, and of course, for me. Thanks again Charlie!!