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Remembering Dad


To: ETN-3 Joe Caruso, 1969

Capt. James E. Toms, USN, JAGC, Ret. Served as the 7th Fleet JAG aboard CG-5 USS Oklahoma City from 1975 through 1977. He passed away 14 April 2007 from cancer.

On the serious side, He was very proud of that tour of duty which was his only sea tour. He knew the crew to be fantastic and to have served with distinction. He spoke of all hands helping evacuees and refugees from the fall of Saigon in 1975, the US bicentennial diplomatic port cruises in 1976 with the side boys dressed in commemorative red, white, and blue American Revolution era Navy uniforms with tri-cornered hats, and of helping people inhabiting previously colonial holdings become independent democratic allied nations, for example Vanuatu (northwest of Australia - of Marine Pilot "Pappy" Boyington, Baa Baa Black sheep fame in WWII). [He helped write their constitution].

On the fun side, it seems many of his friends and memories came from that tour of duty. For example, he became a Shellback on the ship on a cruise crossing the equator to Australia [ He mentioned that, as a polliwog, while crawling on his hands and knees, his Yeoman, a Shellback, walked beside him, pointing out to anyone and everyone with a shillelagh that he was an officer : ) ]. His liberty buddy ( to keep him out of trouble as a married man in foreign ports) was Chaplain McNamara who became the US Navy Chief of Chaplains and then Bishop of Boston - They tried all the local foods, from balut to eels. He said one time after going to Hong Kong no one could enter the wardroom with out stepping on a robot, car, or other electric toy, zooming about, the officers said they had bought for their kids.

He also mentioned the time nearing the end of a particularly successful cruise with everyone in good spirits, the ship's meteorologist told the skipper, CAPT Paul D. Butcher, "You can't go home to Yokosuka on Friday, it always rains when we go there on a Friday". CAPT Butcher eyed him down and said "Friday, Yokosuka. Press on Regardless. [His motto]". So on a bright, sunny, Friday day, as the ship approached the pier in Yokosuka, with the band on the pier playing "Hello Dolly" and the crew standing ramrod straight in whites on deck, a flurry of motion caught everyone's eyes, as a sailor sent by the meteorologist, ran up levels to the Skipper and opened and held an umbrella over him - even the Skipper laughed at that.

He really felt it was a special time of good people doing good things and having fun along the way. As a side note, I was privileged to go on the USS Oklahoma City at age 15 for 3 weeks! We went to Hong Kong, to Subic Bay, and back to Yokosuka. There were 9 of us. We thought we had it made, because we were "Zero's and Chief's" kids - wrong. As soon as we pulled away from port we were informed our fathers' had classified jobs and materials in their spaces so we were assigned to deck force and it would be a working cruise.

I was assigned to 3rd division under BMC Dave Campbell, a great leader who had a lot of patience for having a kid in the way - he taught me a lot. (See response by Dave Campbell below) What a great time I had. In addition to some chipping, painting, and some holey stoning with 2nd Division, I was shown how to do rope work, stand watches, steer the ship, and plot closest point of approach.

It was very exciting. I was also a Boy Scout and had previously learned semaphore to the point where I could send a message, but it was still too fast for me to receive a message. During underway replenishment, the signalmen let me send a message, I think it was the USS Samuel Gompers replenishing us, I sent the message and their signalmen starting laughing, then they responded, "Aye ye pirates, we will give you all our ice cream and movies, you have guns".

It was also very memorable when we entered Hong Kong. Someone pointed out we were arriving on the 4th of July,1976 the 200th anniversary of our Independence Day from England, and we were the Flagship entering a British Commonwealth port. So, radio contact was made and the Brits were asked if they wanted us to wait until the 5th to enter the port. They responded, " We welcome the opportunity to stomp on snakes" [Our Revolutionary motto " Don't tread on me"] then they said, "honestly no problem at all you are most welcome" and when we entered port they had all their ships flying their ceremonial flags and gave us a 21 gun salute and invited the crew for dinner. It was very memorable! My big take away from the cruise was a great sense of purpose and teamwork expressed by the crew that I have tried to emulate where ever I have been.

Very respectfully,
Cam Toms
Cameron C. Toms, CIV, PMA213/6.7.2.2.
Joint Precision Approach and Landing System DAPML
Supply Support WGL



BMC Dave Campbell Remembers


Hello Joe,

I remember Cameron Toms & his father. His Dad was a helluva Sailor. I was honored to have a few personal conversations with Capt. Toms while Cameron was aboard.

I recall sitting with the young (Cameron) on the port (Fantail) bitts & teaching him some knots & hitches. If I recall correctly, he especially liked the French Bowline! I even made up a knot & we named it the "Cameron Knot" He was very respectful & always paid attention to what was being said. I was sure he would grow up to be a good American.

It was very sad to read his Dad (Capt. Toms) had passed away. I am honored to have Cameron remember me in such a nice way. What a pleasant surprise to see he is doing well!

God Bless!

Dave





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