Friday, November 15, 2019

The USS Austin (LPD-4) & the Apollo Recovery Program

The NASA Apollo moon program is near & dear to my heart even though I had no family personally involved with this amazing project.

The last ship my father, Cdr. Stanley G. Cooper served on was the USS Austin LPD-4  (Landing Platform Dock) from 1 Nov 1965 - 31 Jan 1967 as the Executive Officer. 

In a letter dated 30 July 1966, Stan wrote to his family stating “FLASH - South Atlantic in OCT-NOV for space recovery ship - AUSTIN.” 

In a letter dated 9 Aug 1966, Stan stated, "I am sure we will get involved in training for the capsule recovery techniques. Will be involved in a capsule recovery in the vicinity of the Ascension Islands (South Atlantic-midway between South America & Africa). It appears we will be the primary recovery ship so we ought to draw a little publicity. Maybe a good liberty port in Africa or South America while we are there. The whole trip ought to involve about six weeks in total.” 

This is all my father mentioned in his letters. Of course, he was relating to the Apollo 1 spacecraft planned to take-off the following year, on 21 February 1967.

Apollo 1 crew: Ed White, 'Gus' Grissom & Roger Chaffee

Unfortunately, the Apollo 1 tragedy took place on Friday, January 27, 1967; this manned rocket was determined to be the first low Earth orbital test of the Apollo command & service module with a crew. A cabin fire happened during a launch rehearsal test killing all three astronauts - Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot  Roger B. Chaffee destroying the command module.

On Tuesday morning, 31 January; my mother after kissing her husband goodbye, fixed herself a cup of coffee, sat down to watch the funeral for two of the astronauts Grissom & Chaffe. 

Driving himself with another officer, en route to the USS Austin on the Naval Station Norfolk, they were struck by a military vehicle in the early morning. Commander Cooper was killed after receiving direct contact from the approaching truck. His partner, Lt. Frederick Weisenberger survived the accident. 

My father’s internment was the following week also at Arlington National Cemetery where he was buried only 3 plots away from Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee.

My father would have been very proud of working with the Apollo Recovery Program if he had lived to participate in acquiring the astronauts of the Apollo 12 (Nov 1969) & the Apollo 15 (Aug 1971) aboard the USS Austin along with other participating ships.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Memories of Tokyo Olympics 1964

I was raised in the military lifestyle of the United States Navy. My father’s career of service brought our family all around the world. I am so thankful for this experience.

Cooper Family 1965
My parents, brother & myself were excited to find out that we were to be sent to Japan. My father served on the USS Oklahoma City CLG-5 as the Operations Officer from 1963-1965 stationed in Yokosuka. Our family lived in Negishi Heights Naval Housing in Yokohama. 

Family Photo on the USS Oklahoma City CLG-5.
In a letter to Marty, dated 2 October, Stan types, “I am still working on the Olympic tickets & will try to get the gym finals on the 23rd finalized as soon as possible. Yokosuka reported they have plenty of tickets available on the first-come-first delivered basis. We are trying to communicate with them on my getting four seats for us as I only want to go on a family basis. I do not want any feelings hurt regardless of age.” The ship returned to port in Yokosuka on 14 October. He was not able to get the wanted tickets ahead of time. 

On Sunday, 18 October 1964, the four of us, drove to the Yokohama train station to board the train to Tokyo & purchase tickets for the gymnastics events for that day. Dad was disturbed as he could only purchase tickets for 3 seats together in the same area, which he obtained. 

After discussion with all four of us, my mother contacted by phone our new housekeeper, Teruko-san. It was arranged for her to meet me at the Yokohama train station to bring me to her home as she would watch me until the other three returned to pick me up to take home later in the evening. I remember, my parents, taking me back to the Tokyo train station, buying my train ticket for me to board & ride ALONE to Yokohama. I was eight years old! I am pretty impressed with myself to be able to get to Yokohama & that we found each other. I do remember falling in love with Teruko-san’s dog, a Japanese Spitz named ‘Shirei’ which means white in Japanese.

According to Japanese culture, parents train their children at a young age to be able to go out on their own to complete a task. I recently discovered several current Japanese videos that share about children out on their successful adventures. 

I found these photos, my brother took at the event. 

Three days later, on Wednesday, 21 October, the four of us left again for Tokyo to attend the track & field event. This time my father had 4 tickets in his hand.

I remember this event. I was enthralled by seeing all of the world flags flying in the wind around the stadium, along with the Olympic flame. As I have shared before, we were a family with cameras. My mother just received a new camera, the Kodak Instamatic 300. She took the color shot above. My brother took the black & white pictures at the same event. I am sure my father had his movie camera. I will have to hunt down movies from this time.

I have very special memories of our time in Japan. I plan in sharing more stories of this beautiful country.

The next Olympics are planned for Tokyo in 2020. It is 56 years later since I have been in the Land of the Golden Sun. Recently, I have been dreaming of returning to make more memories!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Stuck in Chesapeake Bay

Eileen, Stan with Martha sailing on a yawl in 1948 on the Chesapeake Bay.

My father, Stanley Gibson Cooper, was a student at the Annapolis Naval Academy from 1945-1949. This was after World War II where he served in the Pacific. During his Sophomore year, he had minor surgery on his nose. He was attracted to his nurse, Ensign Martha Gabuzda. They started dating a few weeks later in the fall of 1947.  

In the winter of 1948, Stan’s sister, Eileen Cooper, took the train from New York City to Annapolis for the weekend to spend time with Stan & meet his fiancĂ©. They attended the school dance with a blind date for Eileen on Saturday evening.

On Sunday, after church, Stan, Martha, Eileen,  her blind date, with another couple took out an Academy large yawl for the afternoon. As they entered the central point of Chesapeake Bay there was no wind. The three midshipmen, who were engineers could not figure out to start the yawl’s engine so they kept rowing about in circles. As the afternoon sailed by, Eileen was panicking as she had to catch the trains back to New York City to be home that evening as she had to report for work the next day! This was a 7-hour ride for her. Fortunately, the Academy missed them, sent out the Coast Guard to their rescue & got them back to land on time. 

Stan was the only one in the family who did not know how to handle the smaller boats like his, grandfather, father, brother, nephews who sailed with glee.  He did much better on the larger military ships as he worked under deck or flew jets with taking off & landing them which he loved with glee.