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Real Ghost Stories

My Friend Bill


Is this a horror story? I rather not use that word because it involves one of my very best friends in the distant past and there was no horror in the event I will describe. Let's just say extremely unsettling (to me at least) and you might term it as a paranormal event, whatever that is, and let it go at that. It is a true story, believe what you will of it or what you won't. It happened. I just want to get it on paper. Yes, I have dreams but the event that causes them WAS NOT a dream.

As I sit here at my computer writing this story I don't see any blazing sunrises or golden sunsets or dark clouds looming or sense some aura about me and I didn't wake up trembling when the alarm went off (I don't even have an alarm clock) or any of that nonsense. I am up early, as usual, after one of "those" dreams of which I've had so many over the years. The same dream. Me talking to my best friend, Bill, close to the bow of our ship, The USS Henry County (nicknamed "The Hawk"). The same conversation over and over, word for word. But that will be told in this story. I have been reluctant to tell my story for obvious reasons. Back then I didn't dare tell it for fear of being medically discharged from the Navy for being a "nut- job" and for years afterwards because of my work in security which sometimes brought me into contact with the government. But now retired and a disabled veteran, what difference does it make? Maybe some therapy for me by getting it out and talking about it? Maybe and maybe not. It's worth a try.

The Hawk

I joined the Navy in Hammond, Indiana in 1960. After Boot Camp in San Diego I was assigned to The USS HENRY COUNTY, a Landing Ship Tank assigned to Amphibious Forces. Our job was to carry troops and their tanks. Hit the beach, open up the huge bow doors and they would roll off ashore and we would pull off and head back to sea. We only had a crew of 192 men including officers. We also had a flat bottom which meant we bounced and wallowed a lot to wherever we were going. After going on board and getting settled in I was assigned to the engineering department. I would be working as a boiler technician. I started out as a Fireman Apprentice and then Fireman and was fairly soon promoted to Boiler Technician 3rd class and was then put in charge of the Boiler Room. That was as high as I rose in the 4 years I served.

The day after I boarded the Hawk many of the crew members were coming to me and introducing themselves and telling me where they were from. One of the guys was Bill B., a tall and lanky, dark haired sailor from Hershey, Pennsylvania. We hit it off immediately and soon became best buddies. Bill had come aboard only 3 weeks before I had. Bill was an Engine man and rose in rank right along with me.

We had many adventures in California. One of our favorite places to meet girls was Knotts Berry Farm, an old western style ghost town set up for visitors. One day, while there, we met Cindy and Carol, who were sisters. Carol was one year older than Cindy. We hit it off big time. I gravitated toward Cindy immediately and Bill did the same with Carol. It's always been amazing to me how things like that work out.

Cindy wanted to be in the movies. She wanted to take acting lessons and get a real screen test. She showed me her card where she had already joined the Screen Actors Guild. Cindy had actually been in a movie called "Flower Drum Song" earlier that year.

"It was just a bit part," she said. She didn't have any lines. She was just a young woman walking down a street in San Francisco. She smiled remembering it all. "It lasted about five seconds, but you can plainly see me. And best of all, it didn't get cut. And, they paid me a hundred bucks."

I was duly impressed and said so. A hundred bucks was a lot of money at that time.

We would often meet them in Long Beach (we, of course, didn't have a car) and go to the movies at a theater in Long Beach. We four saw the first James Bond movie, "Dr. No" and I became a big Bond fan. We would walk through The Pike Amusement Park and smooch a little behind the buildings. I really liked Cindy but felt a little guilty at times because I had a girl back home. Her name was Linda and she had the most beautiful long black hair in the world. She was also beautiful. We had "gone steady" for a couple of years before I joined the Navy and had discussed our possible future together. I received a letter from Linda at least twice a month and I always wrote back. I had talked with Bill about her several times. But Bill was hung up on us going to Australia after the Navy. He constantly talked about it. According to Bill we could become rich in Australia mining for opals which, he said, were everywhere down under. His plan was that we would go to San Francisco after the Navy and catch a steamer headed for Australia. We would work below decks in the boiler room for free passage. Bill had it all figured out. He said, "we'll only be gone a couple of years and you can go back and marry Linda with plenty of money in your pockets". He had talked me into it.

All the fun would soon be over. At the end of 1961 Russia resumed nuclear weapons testing ordered by Khrushchev. In early 1962 President John Kennedy announced we would do the same to answer the threat. The Henry County was selected to be one of the ships participating in the tests. We steamed out of Long Beach on July 12, 1962 headed for Pearl harbor, Hawaii where we would re-supply food, fuel and fresh water. From there we would steam to what was termed the "Johnston/Christmas Island Danger Zone" designated "Operation Dominic". The Hawk was part of "Joint Task Force 8". The base we would operate from would be Johnston Island which was 823 nautical miles SSW of Hawaii. We would be steaming between Johnston and Christmas Island participating in the tests.

After 9 days at sea we sighted Diamond Head lying off our starboard side. We continued on down to enter the channel that would lead us to the Pearl Harbor Naval Base where we would tie up.

The next night after berthing at a pier a sailor they called Suds, who was a shipfitter (welder), Bill and I hit the beach. We stopped at a little bar out on Waikiki that advertised "Live Entertainment". We went in. The live entertainment was a long-haired girl sitting on a stool, picking a guitar and singing folk songs. She wasn't very good but she was giving it her all. We found us a table over in a corner and ordered draft beer. We discussed the upcoming deployment to the Johnston/Christmas Island Danger Zone for these nuclear tests. Suds had known a couple of guys who were on Bikini back in 1958 for tests. One was now dead and one was dying.

"It's not a good thing guys. Not good at all. We will, more or less, be guinea pigs. I just don't want to be one of the poor guys who has to go topside to take radiation readings after they drop one of those bastards. I want my rear to be deep, deep below decks."

I went to the bar and got us three more drafts. While waiting for them to be pulled, I chatted with the folk singer. Her name was LuAnn and she was from Columbus, Ohio. She played these gigs (as she called them) while attending the University of Hawaii. When I asked her why she didn't stay in Columbus and go to Ohio State she stared at me as if I had gone daft. I grabbed our beers and headed back to the table. When I arrived the conversation had changed. Bill and Suds were in a discussion about poetry. Bill was talking about a man named Shelley, a name I vaguely remembered from high school literature class. Suds said Shelley had a fascination with death. "Just read his 'Queen Mab' and you'll see what I mean." Bill said he had read it and it was one of his favorites. Bill said "death has a beauty of its own and, in fact, may be the most beautiful part of life." I was a little surprised when Suds said, "I've heard you write a little poetry" and Bill said,"I dabble at it. It's not very good but I enjoy it."

They were thinking out of my league so I just sat there sipping my beer. Bill sensed this and said, "Do you have a favorite poet, Den?"

I said, "Well, I sorta' like that Poe guy, I guess, and the poem where he looks for El Dorado. I guess that's about it."

Suds sorta' smiled as if I had said I preferred comic books to John Steinbeck. Bill picked up on that and quickly said, "Poe has always been under-appreciated. He was actually an extremely profound writer."I didn't know where Bill was getting words like "profound" from, but I was glad to see it wipe the smirk off Suds' face.

There wasn't much action going on in the little bar and we didn't care. We were all three worn out and ready to go hit our racks early. Lu Ann was demolishing "Red River Valley" as we went out the door.

At muster the next morning it was announced that three men had been chosen to attend radiology school for five days. These men were:

Second Class Electrician's Mate, Howard S

Third Class Boiler Technician, Dennis S

Third Class Engineman, William B

There were over 80 men in the radiology class. Larger ships had as many as a dozen men on their radiology teams. The Hawk was small so she rated just three. The class was taught by a chief warrant officer who claimed to have a degree in physics. We were each issued a numbered Mueller-Geiger counter that we had to sign for. Each man would be responsible for the care and maintenance of his counter until the end of the tests when they would be turned in.

We were instructed in calibrating the instruments to take radiation readings. These readings would be read as roentgens. We also learned about ionizing radiation and its "half-life". We learned about alpha and beta particles and gamma rays. We were trained in "wash down" procedures and the "base surge" that would emanate from the detonation of an Atomic Bomb much like the circle that radiated from a stone being thrown into a pond only tremendously bigger in scale. This was a huge wave that would slap the side of a ship causing it to list severely on the opposite side.

Three days after the classes ended we pulled away from our pier and headed down the channel and to the sea on our way to Johnston Island which was really just an atoll.

There seemed to be an unnatural stillness about the base as the Hawk steamed slowly up the channel headed for the open sea. It was still dark with a faint light to the east. No other vessels were moving in either direction. I was alone on the fantail with my thoughts. I thought about Linda and I thought about Bill and I going to Australia. Maybe it would all work out. I threw my cigarette overboard and headed below decks.

The farther we steamed southwest the more reality seemed to become suspended. Even the sea looked different.Darker. No phosphorus streaks brightened the wake behind the Hawk. Stars were becoming rare. It was impossible to tell where the sky ended and the sea started. There was no horizon. A black dome seemed to have been placed over the sea where the Hawk was steaming. Even breathing was difficult. On our third night of steaming, it seemed that every man not on watch was topside. The old salts who had been at sea for years had bewildered looks on their faces. Old Doc Bailey, a Chief Corpsman, who had sailed on all seven seas, shook his head. "These latitudes are not meant for men. This is Satan's playground. Satan and his demons."

Just as Doc finished his sentence the southern sky flashed a bright white light. Brighter than any sun. Then it turned a greenish hue and then it was gone. Somebody said, "What in God's Name?"

Doc said, "That was a nuclear air burst. And we haven't even reached our destination yet, where we're going to see the bastards up close for real." A light rain started to fall. We all headed below decks.

At 0500 hours on the third day we began approaching Johnston Island.

We anchored 1000 yards out from the break-wall that had been built around the atoll. Standing on the main deck you could see the sea on the other side. There was a short runway running the length of the atoll. Men and equipment were moving about.

We watched a 4 - engine cargo plane coming in on final. You could hear him cut back on the engines while he was still skimming the water's surface. The nose- wheel touched down just where the runway met the water. The pilot knew it was a short runway and he was good. We could hear his brakes squeal as he brought the plane to a stop 30 yards before the pavement ran out.

Somebody said, "Jesus Christ!"

Mr. Lingan, the Engineering Officer, called the engineers together. We were all issued a dosimeter--a small, black round object that would hang from a cord around our necks. We were told these would be "read" from time to time to detect how many roentgens we were being exposed to. They never were. The "uniform of the day" would be t-shirts and dungaree pants because of the heat.

Bill, Howard S. And I were seated on the deck just inside the port hatch. We were all three wearing asbestos fire-fighting suits. Sweat was pouring from our bodies inside the suits. The only part not made of asbestos was the Plexiglas in front of our eyes to see through. Howard muttered something about us looking like creatures from a B-grade science fiction movie. My body was itching. My face was itching. There was no way to scratch. Howard said he was having trouble breathing. We each were holding our Mueller-Geiger counters. Johnston Island was radioing messages that were being piped throughout the ship. One phrase was repeated over and over.


We had no idea what it meant.

We knew a B-52 had left Hickam headed our way with a payload. It would be a surface drop of a multi-megaton nuclear bomb. It would be detonated at a certain altitude for the "rainbow effect". These drops were designated "air-bursts". We had no idea where the Hawk's position would be in relation to this drop. The damage control teams were seated in the mess hall below us. The rest of the crew were at their General Quarters Stations. This drop was designated "Shot Chama". We had no idea what that meant either. The countdown was blared throughout the ship.


We three looked at each other. Howard shrugged - that was all he knew to do.

"D -MINUS TWENTY SECONDS...19...18...17...16...15...14...13... 12...11...10...9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1"

The overhead lights blinked off and on. I could hear the engines changing speeds trying to maintain some sort of station. The engines shut down. There was silence. The speakers blared. "Brace for base surge." We had been warned about the "base surge" in radiology school. "Ten seconds to base surge - 9...8...7...6...5...4...3...2...1..."

It was like a giant's hand had slapped the side of the Hawk. I was thrown against the bulkhead behind me. Bill's head slammed into the bulkhead behind him. Howard hung on to a rung to keep from being thrown down the ladder to the next deck. The Hawk took a 20 degree list to starboard and then bobbed back up on an even keel.

On the deck under us we could hear the damage control parties.

"What the hell!"

"Mary, Mother of God."

The ship's speakers crackled, "damage control teams to port and starboard shaft alleys for damage inspection. Report to CIC. Radiology team lay topside."

That was us. We got the hatch undogged and stepped outside. The heat was worse than inside. Daylight was just breaking. The sky on the southern horizon was unnaturally white with a greenish hue. It was like being on another planet, looking at an alien sky.

We headed out in different directions. I went midships on the starboard side, working my way forward. I slowly ran the counter's probe wand over the railing. The meter fluctuated between 30 and 40 roentgens. I ran it over a hose rack and it hit 50 roentgens as the clicks per minute increased. These were pretty much the average readings I received over my area. I dutifully logged in locations and the readings. The radiology team met back at the port hatch thirty minutes later. Howard's reading had been about the same as mine. So were Bill's, with the exception of the forward gun mount where his needle had pegged. We noticed the greenish hue in the sky had become larger. Then the rain came. We headed below decks, stripped down and hit the showers. Doc stationed himself outside the shower stalls with his own Geiger Counter. I had my shower running with only cold water. It felt good. I let it hit me full in the face for a long time, trying to get rid of the stink of the damned asbestos suit, before I started soaping down. Howard came out first. He stood with his arms out and legs spread while Doc ran the wand over him. There was no clicking from the Geiger counter. I came out next and assumed the position. Doc pronounced me "clean". Bill came out. There was some clicking under his right armpit. He went back into the shower. When he came back out, the clicking continued. He headed back into the shower. When he came back out the third time the clicking had stopped. Bill was clean.

Mr. Lingan came in and talked with us while we were getting dressed. He looked at our logs and whistled when he saw the high readings Bill had picked up in the forward gun mount. He said, "I need to get these up to the captain right away" and took off with the log sheets.

That night Bill and I sauntered into the mess hall at a little before 2000 hours to get a good seat for the movie. I asked the electrician's mate setting up the projector the name of the movie. He said, "It's called, 'Flower Drum Song', it's a good movie." I thought of Cindy. He started to add something else but I cut him off.

"That's ok", I said

I headed back to my rack. I climbed in and read a western by Max Brand until I fell asleep.

The next test was two days later. This time the weapon would be carried aloft by a Thor missile and detonated in the ionosphere above us. All hands were required to observe this one. It was designated "Blue Bird." We were each issued a pair of dark goggles with one-inch thick lens. At 0100 hours we were all seated topside with our knees pulled up. Even with the goggles you had to bury your head into your arms because the initial flash would blind you. The control room on the island was coming through the ship's speakers.

"The blue bird has left the island - stand by"--We didn't need to be told that. We were close enough to see the Thor missile lift from its pad and hear the roar and see the flame. It quickly disappeared into the blackness of the night. We waited. Then the countdown.

"D - minus 30 seconds."

We buried our heads and closed our eyes.

"10 - 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1"

With the goggles on, my face buried in my arms, and my eyes shut, I still saw a flash of light. We waited. The speakers came alive. "All Hands May Now Observe Detonation "

We removed our goggles and looked up. The sky was on fire. A deep, dark, boiling red, covering the entire sky. There seemed to be lightning bolts flashing through it. There were audible gasps all around me. I heard an unknown voice somewhere behind me "Now we know what hell looks like". Somebody else said, "the hell we do, this shiat would scare the piss out of Satan." Then a band of light appeared, arcing from horizon to horizon. The ship's speaker came alive telling us we were looking at the Van Allen Radiation Belt. We were told that the lights that looked like tracers headed for it was actually ionizing radiation from the detonation being pulled into the belt. Some of the guys had already left. The rest of us went below. Everybody was quiet getting ready to get back into their racks. The usual horseplay and laughter was muted. Somebody propped open an overhead scuttle to let in some air. It was raining again.

We had steamed southeast to Palmyra Island and anchored just outside the lagoon. We were here for what the Navy called R and R (Rest and Relaxation). Hot dogs, hamburgers - we were even allowed beer brought from Johnston Island. Some of the guys were in the lagoon splashing around. A baseball game was underway. Bill, Suds, Howard, several guys from deck force and operations and me had a game of tag football going. The longer our game went the more competitive it became. Pretty soon the "tagging" was replaced by full contact tackling. Bill and Suds and their crew were on the opposite team from me and Howard and our guys. When it finally ended, there were bloody noses and torn t-shirts. I don't even remember which side won but it was great fun. Everybody seemed to be in a good mood as we piled aboard the LCVPs and the sun was setting. Bill set down in a corner of the boat. "Man, I must really be out of shape. Damn, I'm tired and ache in every bone."

I said, "hell, we all do."

Suds said, "what about an old guy like me? I'm 32 years old. How do you guys think I feel? You young whippersnappers shouldn't be tired. Hell, I'm the one who's tired." We all grinned.

Bill didn't feel like eating chow that night. I said, "they've got ice cream. Do you want me to bring you a bowl?" He thought a second. "Nah, I don't think so."

After chow I went back to the berthing area to get Bill for the movie but he was sound asleep.

I went back to the mess hall and watched a goofy moving called "Duel of the Titans". They were speaking English but it was definitely dubbed in because the actor's lips weren't in sync with the words. Halfway through just about everyone walked out, including me. Reveille came at 0530. When I jumped out of my rack I noticed Bill was already up. I tied a towel around my waist, grabbed my shaving kit and stumbled to the head. An engineman named Mosley was shaving at the sink next to mine. I never cared much for Mosley. He resembled a chipmunk to me. Buck-teeth and all. He said, "Where's your buddy, B?"

I said, "Probably looking for you to whip your ass."

Mosley was patting cheap after shave on his jaws. "No man, I'm serious. He was supposed to stand the mid-watch on the auxiliary engines. I went to wake him up but he wasn't in his rack. Hell, I couldn't find him anywhere. Mac had to take the watch."

I went back to my rack and climbed into my dungarees and boondockers. I headed to the mess hall to grab a cup of coffee and climbed the ladder to the main deck which I did alone most mornings to gather my thoughts and try to catch a breeze of some sort. As I moved forward I saw Bill up by the forward gun tub. When I got to him I said, "where in hell have you been, buddy"? A lot of guys looking for you. You didn't relieve the watch last night". Bill said, "I know I didn't".

That concerned me a little. I said, "are you okay,Bill"?

He smiled,"actually,I feel better than I have ever felt in my life".

That also disconcerted me for some reason. Bill had a strange aura about him, as though he was glowing just a little. It had to be the rising sun to his back causing the effect. But he also had a very slight scent of cinnamon about him which made no sense. For some reason we started talking about our adventures. Carol and Cindy. The fun we had at the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena on New Years Eve, 1960. And watching The Washington Huskies defeat the Minnesota Golden Eagles in the Rose Bowl the next day because two men who were Rose Bowl Officials and Navy veterans had given us tickets the night before and all the fun we had on the Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach chasing the girls and the western sing-a-longs at Knotts Berry Farm. We laughed and talked for an hour. Finally I said, "lets go get some chow,buddy,before it's all gone. Bill said,"not now,I'll be down in a little while,maybe". I said, "make it quick or it will all be gone". As I turned to leave Bill stopped me. Putting his arm around my shoulder he said, "about that Australia thing, that was just a pipe dream, Den. I want you to promise me you'll take care of yourself and go home and marry that raven-haired girl you talk about. She's waiting for you". I said, "how would you know that"? He smiled again, "I just know, believe me I do. Hell, I might even be at the wedding if you'll have me". I said, "we'll talk about it later" and headed down below for some chow. After leaving the mess hall I headed down the passage way that led by sick bay where old Doc Bailey ruled the roost. As I passed the hatch door was open. I noticed someone was on the hospital bed with a sheet over his head. I stuck my head in and said, "who you got there, Doc?"-He shook his head. "It's your friend Bill, Smitty. I'm afraid we've lost him. He woke me up around 2300 saying he was in pain everywhere. I got him in here and he started throwing up. I gave him something to put him out but he was gone before he even swallowed it. I stumbled back against the bulkhead. I said, "you're crazy Doc, I just talked with Bill a short time ago up topside"! Doc reached over and pulled the hatch shut and dogged it down. Doc said,"listen to me, Smitty! I've been in this man's navy nigh on 30 years. World War 2 and the Korean Conflict and I've seen it all. I've seen too many dead men and I've heard what you're saying many times. The bottom line is I believe you talked to Bill on the main deck earlier because I've seen this before. But the fact is, your good friend has been dead close to 8 hours and lying right here". He pulled a little of the sheet back. It was Bill. A cold shiver ran down my back and my hands were shaking. Doc grabbed my arm and said," get a hold of yourself. As I've told you, what happened to you is not all that uncommon but if you have any sense at all you'll keep it between us. You want an honorable discharge when you get out and not a Section 8. You wouldn't be able to get a job at a dump. Just let it go, Smitty." I nodded okay but the chill was still with me. Doc said,"I've notified the Captain. A hospital boat is on it's way to take Bill back to the Island where he'll be flown to Hawaii and back to Pennsylvania". Doc handed me a key. "In the meantime I want you to go to his locker and get all his things out and bring them back here so they can go with him. I know you would be the one he would want to do it. The chill was still running up and down my spine as I went to get Bill's seabag and then to his locker to put all his things in it. While going through his locker I found a piece of paper with Bill's handwriting. It looked as though he had started a poem of some kind but hadn't finished it.

Steaming On A Sea of Red

By William B

Steaming, Steaming, Upon A Sea Of Red.

Steaming, Steaming, Upon A Sea Of Red.

Dare We Pray Tonight For Sleep Or Rest?

Or Would A Moment's Lack Of Vigilance Bring

Us That Eternal Sleep That Knows No Sound?

Being Young And Foolish, We Do Not Know.

I slipped the piece of paper into my own pocket and I still have it.

I carried it all back up to sickbay still totally bewildered. When I got back Mr. Lingan was in sick bay. He told me he was sorry about Bill and we shook hands. The loud speaker announced that the hospital boat had pulled along side. Two of Doc's Corpsmen put Bill on a stretcher and carried him topside. As the stretcher was being lowered to the hospital boat I yelled out, "be careful with him"! One of the Corpsmen on the boat said, "we will, we will! Don't worry!" Old Doc, Mr. Lingan and Suds and me stood there and watched the boat until it went behind the breakwall at Johnston Island. As we turned to go below decks Doc said he wanted to see me in sick bay. I followed him down. Doc have me some kind of pill and a glass of water and told me to swallow it. He said, "I'm giving you an "off duty" slip for today. I want you to get in your rack and stay there. Again, I believe you told the truth but also again, I'm telling you that if you value your future, you'll keep your mouth shut." I nodded in agreement and headed for my rack. I was already growing drowsy. I slept a dreamless sleep for 9 hours.

We endured 3 more surface drops with only Howard and me on the radiology team.

2320: Crew observes high altitude detonation over Johnston Island designated Kingfish. SOPA is CTG 8.3 in USS Princeton. Condition of Readiness V LT. S. Salter USN

We also witnessed 3 more detonations in the ionosphere, including Shot Kingfish which was in the ships log recorded as above. These were also sent aloft on Thor Missiles. For these we also wore heavy goggles with our heads buried in our laps until the initial flash had passed. Even then you could hear men yell out that they could see their own bones like an Xray. I saw mine once in my left leg but didn't say anything.

On November 16th the Hawk was the last ship to depart Johnston Island. We never knew why we were required to stay another 3 days after everyone else had left. We steamed out of Johnston Harbor at 0500, headed back to Pearl. We were all tired to the bone. We were also hungry for something real to eat. We had run out of groceries a week earlier and we were subsisting on powdered eggs, spam, powdered potatoes and powdered milk. The refrigerated reefer ship that was on it's way to Johnston Island to re-supply us never showed up. We had no idea what the situation was on the larger ships. They sure as hell didn't offer us anything.

At 0200 on November 19th we tied up to a pier in Pearl. We hooked up to shore steam, electricity and fresh water. After that the engineering crew was so tired we weren't up to getting undressed and climbing into our racks. We just threw our pillows on deck and flaked out in our dungarees. Early the next morning, the supply trucks were on the pier. The whole crew went down to help bring it aboard - officers, non-coms, E-2's and E-3's - everybody. It seemed we were all after the same thing - ice cream! Everyone was tearing into the 5-gallon cardboard tubs of ice cream and eating it with their bare hands. I was right in there with the rest of them.

Friday,December 8, 1962

Officer of the Deck Log entry.

16-24 steaming as before. 1612 c/s to 9.3 knots

1624 sighted Point Loma Bearing 075 Distance 25M cls to 2.1 knots. 1630 set special mooring detail - maneuvering at various courses at various speeds conforming to enter San Diego Harbor channel. Buoy #5 a beam to port - 1640 entered inland water - draft fwd 6'3", aft 12'9" - 1720 commenced maneuvering to approach berth - 1740 moored starboard side to Navy Pier - Ships present include various units of the US Pacific Fleet and various foreign and domestic merchant vessels. Condition of readiness V.

We were home. In August of 1964 I received an Honorable Discharge and headed back to Indiana. The dreams started a month or so after I returned home. Bill and I talking that morning up by the forward gun tub. All of it. Word for word. The scent of cinnamon, the aura of light. Right up to me heading below decks. But it wasn't that often. Maybe once every 2 months or so. Everyone aboard the Hawk signed paperwork that nothing we saw or heard at Operation Dominic would not be revealed to anyone for 30 years which would be 1992. And I have honored that.

I went to work for Rand McNally in Hammond and then sold insurance for awhile but that was just not for me. I then was trained as a de-coder and went to work for a security firm that had contacts with the government. Linda and I married a year later. As the years wore on, strangely, the dreams increased. It's now to the point, after all these years, that the same dream comes to me at least once a week and sometimes even more often. It is very stressful on me as I always wake up with a depressed feeling after one of the dreams. I recently finally told my wife about it. My wife was originally from Alabama and after I retired we moved here and have a place on a lake which does have a somewhat of a calming effect. She has tried to help me in every way she can and I don't know what I would do without her.

I do have a VA Psychiatrist at the Veterans Hospital in Birmingham who I only see about once a year because of being diagnosed with PTSD from the tests. But I have never discussed the dreams with him. I've told him I have dreams about the tests but don't go into any details as I have here. I also have severe pain in my back and both legs which 2 VA doctors have told me may very well be caused by the ionizing radiation. I also have asbestos in my lungs from wearing the asbestos fire-fighting suit during the tests and working with asbestos on a daily basis down in the boiler room of the Hawk. The VA has me at 90% disabled. Linda is the one who told me I should write about it because it might be therapeutic for me. I can only hope it is. Hoping and praying. I certainly don't mind having dreams about my friend. I would like to have dreams about some of our adventures. But it's the same dream, word for word, over and over.

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Comments about this paranormal experience

The following comments are submitted by users of this site and are not official positions by Please read our guidelines and the previous posts before posting. The author, groundzero7, has the following expectation about your feedback: I will read the comments but I won't participate in the discussion.

Rex-T (5 stories) (288 posts)
6 years ago (2018-01-31)
Thank you 'Chanced' for your comments that put me on the road to reading this most amazing account by 'groundzero7'. It was informative, foreboding, grievous yet uplifting.

Yeh, I also put 'groundzero7' and this account straight into my favorites. This may be the best submission that I have read so far.

I really appreciate you sharing this experience with us.

Bee_Beans (6 stories) (41 posts)
6 years ago (2018-01-31)
Instant favourite. Thank you, Groundzero7. What a beautiful account.
Chanced (5 posts)
6 years ago (2018-01-17)
GroundZero, this was an absolutely amazing account. As a military Veteran myself, I want to thank you for sharing this truly moving and incredibly well written story. I really felt like I was there with you, Bill and everyone else!
Reading this taught me a lot and helped me put many things into perspective about my own experiences. I found it easy to relate to your and Bills dreams of going to Australia... Plans like that where at times the strongest beacons of light during my service. I personally spent almost a year travelling South America when I finished my service.
I am sorry that you had to experience such a loss... I hope that Bill ultimately found peace.
groundzero7 (1 stories) (4 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-16)
This was a bad one:Bluegill Prime, July 24, 1962 blew up on the pad, the 1.4 megaton warhead was destroyed by the safety officer to prevent a nuclear holocaust, but it spit plutonium over most of the western part of the Island including the first 300 feet of the runway, the launch area, the parking area, cafeteria, and the latrine... For chrissake!
"Three Shark aircrews were trapped on the ground along with their 30 or so ground support. Within 25 years most of them would be dead including Captain Leonard, squadron leader, who passed away in 1990 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma - direct result of radiation exposure from Bluegill Prime."
MaybeADreamer (4 stories) (58 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-16)
Hi GZ7

What a fabulous well written story. Its nice to think that Bill got to say his goodbyes even if you missed him.

Thanks for submitting for us all to read - I hope you get some closure on this now 😁

Kind Regards
hawkseye12002 (3 stories) (36 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-15)
I was glued to the screen while reading this! It's beautifully written and made me feel like I was nearby, witnessing this as it happened.

I'm sorry for the loss of your best friend. Hopefully by sharing this account you'll find some peace.
sherm784 (19 stories) (27 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-14)
THANK YOU for sharing. This is a wonderfully written, poignant story and I'd love to hear more about your adventures as a serviceman.

Keep writing! Scot
valkricry (49 stories) (3273 posts) mod
7 years ago (2017-08-13)
Biblio, you ask " I wondered if any other Battlefield Medics, Medical Corpsmen, even Chaplains, have run into this phenomenon," from my conversations with many who've served in combat, I feel safe to say they have.
Bibliothecarius (9 stories) (1091 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-13)
Groundzero, like Columbo, "there just this one thing that's bothering me..."

With the nuclear detonations occurring regularly, were any steps were taken to "harden" the electronic equipment on the ship? I think it's possible the systems were protected by the ship's metal construction: the unplanned, fortuitous creation Faraday cage. I know that USS Henry County had twin diesel engines (& twin rudders) which were employed rapidly to deal with the starboard list after the first proximal detonation. (The spark plugs in the engines cycle, so there wouldn't have been a continuous electricity flow to interrupt.)

If you're interested, I've looked up one or two details about Operation Dominic:

"April Weather" was the codename for the classified Military Status Report transmissions from the Johnstone Atoll, Hawai'i, and Hobart (Australia) though this latter observation seems to have been included because of the interruption of the frequencies used on the relevant bandwidths. (See

"Chama" was the third device tested at Johnstone.

Starfish Prime, the primary nuclear test, was probably the detonation you saw before getting close to Johnstone. It basically fried all of the measuring equipment present and knocked out 300 streetlights on Hawai'i.

Kingfish, Tightrope, and Tightrope were tests that were added on to the original Fishbowl plan (9th July, 1962) for corroboration of other test results. Also, they apparently tested unorthodox ideas to improve Nuclear Warhead yields, with the attitude "Hell, we're out here dropping bombs anyway..."

Bibliothecarius (9 stories) (1091 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-13)
Greetings, GroundZero; welcome to the YGS conversation.

(A lengthy response follows, but it contains compliments, commentary, questions, speculations, and a suggestion --hopefully a helpful one.)

First: I must compliment you on your writing style; this was a lengthy post to read, but it was worth every second! Your lucid prose and your attention to detail convey the monumental weight of the nuclear proving-ground experience and add fascinating details to a part of American history that is often given short-shrift in history books. As an immigrant who loves teaching American Literature, I would like your permission to include some of the details of your work measuring radiation and watching the aftermath of the detonations to include as historical context in lessons about The Cold War and about the nuclear deterrent, M.A.D.

Second: While the amiable conversation on deck with Bill reiterated many of the moments he shared with you, I'd like to suggest a significant expression with you: "my life flashed before my eyes." Bill's did not. Bill had an hour-long memorial in which he relished and re-lived many of the best moments in his life with you. I have no idea about his time before the Navy, but it seems to me that you were a comrade-in-arms, a pal, and his trusted friend; even if he had a best friend in his civilian life before he enlisted, you were the man who meant the most to him. The Doc knew this, too, hence his trusting you to clear out Bill's locker. I think you showed discretion while performing this painful task (some of a man's possessions should not go home to his parents, siblings, and former sweethearts). Your keeping Bill's poem (and publishing it here!) was a mark of your respect for him and of the significance your friendship.

Third: I was struck by the Doctor's reaction to your insistence that you'd been conversing moments earlier. I wondered if any other Battlefield Medics, Medical Corpsmen, even Chaplains, have run into this phenomenon. The clarity of your description, especially about Bill's "Putting his arm around my shoulder" and cautioning against pursuing his pipe-dream of Australian riches, you interacted with Bill as though he was still a living person with a physical body. It's good that he did not want you to pursue his plan as a memorial to him; he was ensuring that you followed your own future, not the hollow pursuit of a rose-tinted adventure that he had used to comfort himself while serving (I suspect he knew it was a pipe-dream, but did not wish to admit it to himself while he was alive).

--By the way, Argette has also experienced a spectral cinnamon scent in her kitchen, "Sweet Aromas At Night" (, so that specific scent is a rare phenomenon, but not without precedent. Perhaps Bill really loved cinnamon rolls with his coffee? I suppose that they would not have been in abundance on a Naval vessel during active duty.

Fourth: I am saddened that the Navy used you, your friend, and your shipmates as guinea pigs for observing nuclear fallout and for taking readings. My guess is that some "Expert" persuaded a high-ranking committee in the Pentagon that having accurate readings on every single detail of the detonations was vital to understanding what America needed in the event of a Soviet attack; in their heightened paranoia, the crews of the observation fleet were proactively saving millions of American lives threatened by nuclear annihilation. (That heightened paranoia, by the way, *has* saved American lives on multiple occasions; however, the looming threat of World War III did not come to pass.) If anything, I think that the nuclear tests and observations convinced a number of people who had agreed to conduct the experiments that nuclear warheads were an appalling weapon of last resort.

Fifth: While I have been writing this response, my brain has been turning around the idea of the stress you are feeling during/after each dream. We endure pivotal moments in our lives that shape and change us more abruptly than the gradual adjustments we experience through learning and adapting. Talking with Bill did not change you, but talking with the doctor and the shock of discovering Bill's death DID. You revisit the conversation with Bill because it was a pleasant way to pass the time before eating; I suspect that your dream does not contain the conversation with the doctor. *IF* you are feeling stressed or panicked while dreaming these events, it's because a part of your conscious brain is well-aware of the discrepancy of the feelings you had in that moment and it is dreading the conversations you will have with the Doctor after the conversation ends. Being aware of these irreconcilable states of knowledge (your memory of the original conversation includes one or two hints that there is something different or "off" about Bill's behavior, but as this is now a memory, the confirmation of the uncharacteristic elements of Bill's actions is also a memory that is trying to warn you of the pain that you will experience after the dream conversation ends). Have you ever TRIED to interrupt Bill in the dream? Have you told him he was a great friend and you've missed him? Have you told him about your life AFTER the Navy? Have you told him that it's ok for him to let go, now, and that you will expect to see him in whatever afterlife experience you believe in? I suspect that taking this step --moving the conversation beyond the fixed historical context into the present-- will help *you* to take control, thereby decreasing the repetitions of the dream. It may not happen all at once (as it has been ongoing for a half-century), but introducing one of these elements into the dream may help to shift the pattern from its apparently-inexorable path by breaking the rhythm of the experience. I think it's possible that holding on to that conversation with Bill is your memory not wanting to let him go; the aftermath upon waking is your brain being forced to relive the shock of his death all over again. He was a good friend to you and he sounds like he was a great guy, however, I do not believe that reliving the shock when you wake up is in any way good for your mental and physical wellbeing.

Thank you for sharing this with us, groundzero. I applaud your courage in relating it to us and Linda's efforts to help you release some of the stress that exacerbates the medial conditions you mentioned.

groundzero7 (1 stories) (4 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-11)
Unexplained-Yes,I believe he knew it. Thank you so much for your comments.
Unexplained (2 stories) (122 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-11)
An excellent account 'Groundzero', I couldn't stop reading until I'd finished it and am sorry to hear what you guys went through with the atomic weapons testing. And reading what you're going through at present, with all the current sabre-rattling going on, just makes me all the more furious.

During the conversation with your friend, who you hadn't realised had passed away, I got a feeling in your account that he already knew that he had passed on. Did you get a sense that he knew that?
Anno_Domini (3 stories) (167 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-10)
Thanks for posting this very detailed account. From the way you endeavoured to include as much detail as possible, it shows how much you treasure your friend. Did the MO ever state the COD? Was it the head injury or radiation exposure?

Also just my opinion, is that your dream of Bill is your soul's way of looking for closure for something that has been troubling you for decades.
Jodie_S (1 stories) (15 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-08)
This was beyond a doubt the most moving account I have read on this website. It is beautifully written and my only disappointment is that ended. I hope writing it was therapeutic for you and inspires you to continue writing - paranormal accounts or otherwise. It is a treat for the reader.
Martin (602 posts) mod
7 years ago (2017-08-08)
Note: some new photos provided by the author have been published 📷
T_girl78 (1 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-07)
Thank you so much for writing that story. I was profoundly moved not just from the story of your friend but from the recount of a slice of history seen through the eyes of a young naval officer. History is often recorded only through events itself and often the individual stories are forgotten. I wish you would write more of your history down.

Your account of the radiation and effects was so vivid and real. It truly has been the most destructive thing to have been discovered on this planet.

I do hope you find some peace with your thoughts and dreams xx
tace (37 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-07)
Thank you for sharing your experience. I was riveted to the screen to find out what happened. I am sorry for the loss of your friend Bill and the things you had to experience in your service to our country. Thank you!
RCRuskin (9 stories) (819 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-07)
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your service.

I'm an air force brat. Did not serve myself when I came of age. Almost joined the navy, but decided at the last moment not to sign the paper.

The cinnamon smell makes sense to me in a way, having been an altar boy at church. Do you know if Bill was religious in anyway?

Also, if you don't mind one more person saying this, I think you should speak to your psychiatrist about your dream.
groundzero7 (1 stories) (4 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-06)
Thank all of you for your comments. You're all very understanding and obviously have way above average intelligence. I appreciate your words very much.
matrix899 (1 stories) (67 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-06)

A very strange and interesting account of your unusual experience. The scent of cinnamon is new to me; I have not come across this before.

This is one of the most surprising paranormal experiences I have read, and it underscores the fact that, in spite of some of the comments you may get, we know almost nothing about the subject. All that we have are lots of recorded experiences like this one, and some theories.

I think you have contributed to the paranormal record with your account, and I thank you for sharing your story here.

I myself have had a recurring dream connected with the death of someone close to me. Like your dreams, the dream was exactly the same each time, but these dreams occurred periodically for only a few years and stopped a long time ago.

I do not take seriously the attempts to explain these experiences by pseudo-psychological theories. The real truth is: these experiences are not unique; the record shows that many have had similar experiences, and they can indeed be classified as paranormal, and as mentioned, the paranormal is still a vast unknown.

Thanks again for sharing.
Melda (10 stories) (1363 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-06)
groundzero - I'm happy to hear that amidst all the stress and trauma you and Bill shared some fun times, together with some of your buddies.

This was a wonderful read - you set it out so well. I was riveted to the page.

How heartbreaking that you lost a friend with whom you formed such a close bond in such a tragic manner. Bill knew how badly his passing would affect you and I'm sure that's why he met you up on deck, for a few words of reassurance. What he was actually doing was telling you to get on with your life and to go home and marry Linda, that the plans the two of you had hatched were pipe dreams. He probably felt that it would somehow lessen the blow a little.

I would love to think that Bill was in fact at your wedding. The chances are that he was.

The dreams could obviously be due to PTSD, considering everything that you endured but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Bill has "popped in" over the years to check up on you 😊

Regards, Melda
Argette (guest)
7 years ago (2017-08-06)
Yes, I agree. Good writing style, Ground Zero. You have done what journalism teachers tell their students to do: "Show don't tell."

Going into my favorites.

Thank you for sharing. Best of luck to you.
AugustaM (7 stories) (996 posts)
7 years ago (2017-08-06)
You write beautifully, Groundzero7. Maybe Bill is trying to get in touch with you. Did he leave any family behind? If so maybe try to contact them - perhaps something's up. Or maybe he is trying to tell you something about yourself. Since it seems as though it was radiation poisoning that ended his life maybe you should consider getting a second opinion health screening. It just seems to me that he wants your attention. Maybe give meditation a try - clear your mind and try to talk to him.
valkricry (49 stories) (3273 posts) mod
7 years ago (2017-08-06)
I hope that you found writing this to be therapeutic. It is extremely well written, and I can tell you worked at it.
30 years is a long time to keep a secret, especially one you don't fully understand, and one you believe will get you labeled a 'nut job'. Quite a few of us have known that sting. However, I don't think the dream (s) are visitations but rather you still trying to sort it out on some level.
There's just one thing I don't understand. When Bill didn't show up to take his watch, wasn't it relayed to them that he was in sick bay?

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