Story of Fred H. Leighton

 LOG by Harris Hauge S1/C

7-27-10 530-885-9072

Dear Vern and greetings to fellow shipmates and especially to any surviving “plank holders.” God Bless you all!

I am writing to express regrets regarding my failing to report for muster in Jacksonville, but happy to know the spirit of our ship lives. Thanks to those who keep her on course. I do remember Capt. Angrick as I served as helmsman on the bridge. Scary, but fond memories watching our bow completely covered with green water while trying to keep her within as close to on course as possible. I felt sorry for those guys locked below decks so they wouldn’t be washed overboard. I recall vividly the Kamikaze heading straight for us and how we plastered him. We all cheered not because we killed him but because we survived. As for surviving a particular bum boat liberty in the Philippines to mention a few I never told my wife. Pure scuttlebutt/yeah charges have been dropped. Speaking of whom, has been in a very comfortable nursing home for ten years. We will celebrate our 60 university October 1st. As a result of this event we have 3 children, two boys. The oldest son was in the Navy back in the 60’s, the youngest son lives near Telluride, CO. The grandson and daughter are both qualified Jr. Olympians. Our daughter lives here in northern California and she is a great help with Caroline. We are healthy at 84, I am up to traveling alone. I married a wonderful person and see her every day. Spent 37 years as a class room teacher and count my adventures on the Navarro with a great crew as a great treasure.

Have a great liberty and lift one or two for me. Loads of love from a proud plank holder. Do not own a computer. Thanks for the memories.

Larry and Caroline Gake S 1/C


Dear Sir`s,

RE; Your Ship USS NAVARRO and the rescue Operation directed towards the HABIB MARIKAR

I was a crewman for six months during the course 1955 on this ship. At that time is was called the KING JAMES.

I am putting together a feature on the ships subsequent history for our local military society which has proved to be very varied.

I would like to ask your fellow members if any of them has any photographs of the rescue which took place on the 3rd November 1967 in the South China Sea which I may have a loan of

my e-mail address is

my mailing address is John Nicholson, 46 Heather Drive, St Michaels, Tenterden, Kent. TN30 6PL United Kingdom.

Look foreword to hearing from you or any of your members direct.


John Nicholson

I was onboard when PHIBRON 7 minus PA-208, sailed on an emergency deployment to Okinawa in 1961 – we anchored in Buchner Bay ready to load additional Marines. This happened during the Laos Crisis. We got a commendation for our response.

Bob Pyle
(then SA, SN, PN3)
PN1, USN-ret


April 30, 2008

Ralph M. Vitale
3510 E. Joppa Rd.
Parkville, Md. 21234

Hello—Just found the “Navarro” web site. While on board I made many friends and have many unforgettable memories. After attending pipe fitters school in Norfolk, Virginia I was assigned to the U.S.S. Navarro in March of 1952 until late summer 1954. He are some that come to mind.

1. – I was on the Med cruise. We visited many countries and beautiful places. I have to locate the pictures around here somewhere. When we were preparing to leave Algiers, the crew on the M boat prematurely reversed the engines and the Captain’s Jeep went overboard. All Hell broke loose. After that it had to be disassembled and cleaned. Needless to say the Captain was not very happy that day. I still have the book from that trip.

2. – On one of our trips to the Caribbean, the Captain had his personal sail boat aboard and kept in number 4 hole. He went sailing for a couple of days while we were anchored. Upon his return, as the crew was lifting his vessel from the water, it crashed onto the gunnels. The crew was in hot water again and worked night and day to repair it.

3. – During rough water in the Caribbean, while transferring vehicles onto the LST we got too close and smacked together. No damage, but we had to check for leaks.

4. – Enjoyed swimming in the Caribbean with gunners on watch for sharks.

5. – Fished for Barracuda with gear made in our machine shop.

6. – While on shore patrol, I rescued a drunk buddy that came into a bar on horse back.

7. – Bought neat looking straw woven hats and baskets in Cuba that were devoured by termites before we got back to Norfolk.

Looking forward to joining this group and hopefully hearing from more of the crew.

Best Regards,



I was on board from mid 67 till Dec 68. I was on board for the rescue of the Habib Mirakia (sp?), a merchant ship that got hit by a typhoon.

I wonder if you can help me out. I am trying to fill in some blanks from an operation we were on with a Marine “ready group.” It is my memory that we had a landing outside a village that was just over a sandy bluff. I was assigned as aft hook on an LCVP. From my memory (such as it is) a NVA set off a smoke flare causing the first wave to get stuck on a sand bar. The heavy equipment was stuck on the bar. The Marines that went in were met with strong resistance and many were killed. I also recall that marines had been stuck just off of the beach inland and suffered more casualties that night from NVA troops that came through.

Am I crazy? Can you help me….


Ed Long, EM-3

PS: I now work as a substance abuse therapist at the VA in Asheville , NC .


I’m not sure that I’ll get this completely correct, however, I, too, was on board during those dates. The ship in questions was a Brittish Merchant with Red National Chinese and Brittish Officers. As I recall, we were enroute from Chinhae, Korea to on-load our Marine emergency supplies (L-Form) and then report to Ready Group Bravo for duty off the Coast of Viet Nam. On our way to Okinawa we received an SOS from this ship. It just happens that I was on the Bridge and had the CON when Captain Whitmire came up and ordered our couse to intercept the ship in distress. She had gone aground on Lincoln Island in the Paracell Islands and was listing badly to Starboard. The seas were teriffic. I was taking ocean spray all the way up onto the Flying Bridge. Every time the Navarro would crest, she would vibrate and then crash back bow down. We arrived at Lincoln Island to find a bad situation. There were 3 or 4 other ships that answered the SOS as well. They requested permission to proceed on duties assigned, but, Captain Whitmire required them to stand fast. We put our Mike Boats in the water and started the rescue of these people. It was reported to me that the Sailors on that ship just leapt off their ship and into the Mike Boats, a pretty far jump. That day, we rescued 43 of 44 persons. One drowned when he slipped out of his life vest. They were taken down the the Coast of Viet Nam and off loaded.
We then sailed to the Phillipines before returning to our previous destination. By-the-way, the Typhoon was Typhoon Emma! Navarro made the New york Times and the Navy Times with this rescue.
Now, as to the landing of which you speak, I believe the facts are as follows. We had already been assigned duty with Ready Group Bravo. One night the seas became extremely rough. We took the Navarro down into Tin Shea Landing (sp) at Da Nang to ride out the weather. During the night we were informed that the VC had over ran the city of Quaviet (sp). We hauled up the anchor and got under way to a point approximately 1 mile off the coast and 1/2 mile south of the DMZ. One Company of Marines were transferred to the Valley Forge, an LPH and our Flag Ship. They went in aboard helos and landed on the West side of the city. They suffered 50% casualties. Our 2nd Company of Marines went in by our LCVPs, going up the river channel (Quaviet, I believe) and landed on the south side of the city. We didn’t know it at the time, but, 2 or 3 other companies came from inland and attack the VC from the West. They accomplished their mission, but, at a very high cost. The city was retaken. I was, also, the Helo Safety Officer. Since we didn’t have a landing pad for the Helos, they had to hover over the fan tail in order to transfer the KIA’s Sea Bags to the Valley Forge. This was a particularly dangerous opperation as the ship’s fan tail was rising and settleing in the rough seas. Had any of the Rotor Blades hit the ship, many of our personel could have been injured or killed. I recall that our Dentist, Doctor, and several Corpmen were assisting with imbalming procedures aboard the Valley Forge. It was not one of our better days.

Pardon me for giving more details than you probably wanted. It is, however, etched in my memory.

In loving memory of those who gave their lives for our freedom.

Ltjg Steve K. Bivin (during this period)
Cdr. Steve K. Bivin, USNR-Ret


I left Navarro after three years in January 1965. I was Comm Officer. I returned to my home in South Carolina and shortly after that moved to North Carolina where I worked for four years before entering law school in Tennessee . I returned here (home) in 1971.
I heard that Navarro went to Vietnam in April 1965 but I really never heard anything further. Your story is fascinating. I lived through the horrible Vietnam years and like everyone else it changed my life. I was one of the fortunate ones. We “landed” troops in Bangkok in 1962 that were being sent into Laos . That’s the closest we got. Those were the Cold War years. Things got progressively worse and worse over there. Seems like history is repeating itself today.

Take care.
Jim Hudgens
Spartanburg SC

14 thoughts on “Guestbook

  • June 23, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    My brother Dennis served on the Navajo back in 66 – 70. Saw a lot of pictures of the ship and his shipmates. Made me join the Navy in 1979 when I was 18, been serving the U.S. Navy since and still steaming strong.

  • October 25, 2014 at 4:52 am

    I wanted to thank you again for putting on such a great reunion in Tucson. My dad (Charles Brawl) and I had a WONDERFUL time and we cannot wait until next year!!!

  • May 26, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I was on the Navarro from 1964 to 1969.I remember everything that Cdr. Bivin wrote about Quaviet City and Habib Makikar Rescue. I was in the 3rd division BM2 at the time. I was on the helo detail and remember the helo right over the top of me.

    We are lucky on the Habib Makikar Rescue there weren’t more people lost even Navarro crew members. Putting in the LCMs was a task during the high seas and when they came back along side the ship we had to pump the water out of the LCMs before we could bring them aboard. If I remember, I think it was SN Gardner who dove in and saved the crew member of the Habib Makikar but could not save the other one.

    After two Westpac extended deployments it was an eye opening experience and I’m glad that I served my country. I still have my 1967-68 Westpac cruise book.

    Gordon D Davis
    Victoria, Minnesota

  • November 11, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    Hello there –

    I just wanted to reach out and see if I can find anyone who remembers serving with my dad, Donald E. “Sully” Sullins on the USS Navarro.

    He was a radioman and did 2 tours in Vietnam and participated in the rescue of the Habib Marikar crew. I believe he was onboard from ’65 to ’68? As many Vietnam Vets, he never talked about it, so I’m piecing together his time in the service as best I can with his military records and any information I find on the internet.

    He passed away November 14, 1999 from complications related to Agent Orange exposure. As I was born after the war, I was one of the lucky ones not affected by his exposure to the “crud.” Any one with any information about serving with him would be so very gratefully appreciated.

    I also want to THANK you ALL for your service to our country during a very tumultuous time and a very unpopular war but your country called (no matter the politics) and you went and for that you have my sincerest respect and gratitude that mere words cannot express. My heart honestly bleeds for you all to this day and I just shake my head at the way some “so-called Americans” treated you when you guys came home. I wasn’t even born yet but I try to imagine and it utterly disgusts me to my core. I suppose its because of my dad and seeing how hard he struggled for 25 years of my life, it pained me so much that I took on that burdened it seems like. He was my world and the best dad a gal could ever have! I miss him terribly still. And I cry as I type this. So I will leave you with the words you should have heard as you returned home from a hell none of us could ever fathom to this day and that is “Welcome Home guys…Welcome home.” May God Bless you all! 🙂

    My Deepest Gratitude,

    Jenna Sullins
    -proud patriot and daughter of Donald E. “Sully” Sullins
    Washington State

    • July 9, 2018 at 12:08 am

      I know this post was a few years ago, but my uncle Jim remembers working with your dad on the Navarro. I’d be happy to put you in touch with him.
      -Colleen Eannarino

    • July 12, 2020 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Jenna, My name is Jim Atkins (RM3), and I worked with your dad on the Navarro. I would be happy to talk to you regarding your father. I was attached to the Navarro 1967-1968. My niece Colleen E had also contacted you regarding me.

  • April 7, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    My greetings, admiraation and gratitude to all who were on board USS Navarro on 3 Nov 1967!

    I was the Executive Secretary and person in charge of Officers and crew of SS Habib Marikar, when the tragedy struck the vessel in the form of super typhoon ‘Emma.’ But for your swift and heroic rescue operation many lives would have been lost that day. The loss of the only person, the first mate, Capt. Hansen and the ship not only was a sad loss in my life but also remains a disaster that changed my career irretrievably.

    Now, my nephews and grand-kids are urging me to write a memoire, so that they can get a glimpse of what we were then, this is to request you to kindly share with me your memories of that fateful day. I would greatly appreciate if you have some pictures of the rescue and wish to share them with me as well.

    – Hameed Jalal

  • July 20, 2016 at 1:41 am

    I just found your website. I was wondering if anyone remembers Eugene Halloran, onboard ’44 to ’46? Probably not many left. Best to all that served in the various engagements.

    Mike Halloran, son to Q 3rd Class

  • May 29, 2018 at 2:17 am

    I was on Navarro from 66-70 and wondered if anyone knows where I can contact Albert Harrison MM2. He was in A Division and from NY. If anyone has his address or email would appreciate an email back.

  • March 4, 2019 at 1:12 am

    The U.S.S. NAVARRO (APA-215) – 2019 REUNION
    will be held October 8 – 12, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio.
    You will receive a registration form and information packet in April. Save those dates for a good time. See you then. Smooth sailing.
    Eddie Susin

  • May 9, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    just bought an ashtray from the USS Navarro at the Goodwill! a piece of american history for only 99ct! What a bargain! Had to look up the ship and her history! Maybe my dad sailed on her as a young marine on his way to okinawa?

  • October 30, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    “To those who have fought for it, Life has a flavor that the protected will never know!” Vietnam- Courage on the Mountain-

  • April 13, 2020 at 4:24 pm

    Thousands US Sailors
    Used In Secret Germ
    Warfare Experiments
    By Vince Gonzales – CBS News,1597,194947-412,00.shtml

    (CBS) Even in peacetime, military life can be risky — it goes with the territory. But regulations say U.S. troops must agree to be used as test subjects. And, as CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports in an exclusive investigation, thousands of U.S. sailors may have been unaware that they were exposed during secret germ-warfare experiments.

    When Robert Bates and the other crewmen on the USS Navarro were ordered to Hawaii in 1963 it seemed like a vacation.

    “It was basically an R&R cruise,” says Bates.

    There was rest, relaxation and a mystery.

    “There were people with chemical suits on the ship with some kind of apparatus apparently monitoring what was going on,” explained Bates.

    “They wouldn’t talk to you,” he added. “You’d try to carry on a conversation, try to find out what was going on, they just flat ignored you. It always bothered me.”

    What Bates didn’t know and what has never been made public is that his ship was part of a series of secret biological warfare tests conducted in the 1960s.

    Target Ships

    Operation Autumn Gold USS Navarro APA 215 USS Carpenter DD 825 USS Hoel DDG 13 USS Tioga County LST

    158*Lab Ship: USS Granville S. Hall YAG 40

    Operation Copper Head USS Power DD 839

    The Hawaii mission was code-named Autumn Gold. A similar operation off Newfoundland was called Copper Head.

    According to a Pentagon briefing film obtained by CBS News, the goal was to test the vulnerability of Navy ships to germ warfare attack.

    Nine times within a month jets sprayed clouds of a biological weapons simulant in front of the ships.

    According to the film, “A biological tracer, BG, was disseminated by a 4-C jet aircraft.”

    BG, a bacteria considered harmless by the military, is used to simulate the deadly anthrax germ.

    The briefing film explains, “Immediately following the BG release another plane flying the identical flight path released fluorescent particles.”

    They were particles of zinc cadmium sulfide. This compound, sprayed in the Copper Head test, was thought to be safe, but the military later stopped outdoor spraying after an army researcher warned it was “highly toxic.”

    “I remember an airplane flying over and I could see it sprayed something and then a little later I felt this mist on my face,” says George Arnold who was on the deck of the Navarro during Autumn Gold.

    Arnold wonders why didn’t the military spray empty ships? Why were men on board? He thinks he has the answer.

    “They were doing that just to see how much they could get stuff absorbed into our body, probably in the amount it would take to kill us if they were to use something like anthrax,” says Arnold.

    Most of the test reports remain classified but in documents obtained by CBS News, sailors on the “target ships” are called “test subjects.” Only eight men wore gas masks. They were the “control group” in this experiment. Other crewmen including Arnold were ordered to give throat swabs or gargle samples.

    “They would call back from the bridge and tell us to take out a specific bottle and use it as a mouthwash or a gargle then spit it back into the jar and seal it up,” says Arnold.

    In a written statement the Pentagon tells CBS News the sailors “were not exposed to any harmful chemical and biological compound” and they all “were fully informed about the details of each test.” That’s news to the dozens of sailors we spoke with.

    “We weren’t given any information, we didn’t know anything,” says Bates.

    If, as these men tell CBS News, they were not informed and never gave their consent, then it doesn’t matter that the military thought the materials were harmless. The tests violated government policies in place for the last 50 years which state: “The voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential.”

    “I don’t think when a person joins the armed forces they’re giving their body up for science. I don’t think that’s suppose to be done. I’m very, very mad about them doing this. Its not right,” says Bates.

    “I think you’re in there to serve your country do what needs to be done to protect it, and I don’t think being used as a guinea pig…” says Arnold, “is one of those jobs.”

    Thirty-five years later much about the tests remains classified. More is known about the substances used.

    Watch Tuesday when the CBS Evening News takes a closer look at exactly what was sprayed on hundreds of U.S. sailors during operations Copper Head and Autumn Gold.


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