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Kirk Newsletter (December 2010)

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Kirk Newsletter (December 2010)

Postby Boats » 05 May 2012 12:19

Originally posted by Hugh:

Dear KIRK Shipmates,

It has been a long time since our last newsletter. There is a lot to report on, so this may turn out to be longer than the others. We hope you find it interesting and informative.

First of all, who are the “we” mentioned in the first paragraph? “We” are the new KIRK “administration” – President, Peter Schermerhorn (OS-3, Operations Department, 1972-1975); Vice President, Hugh Doyle (LT, Chief Engineer, 1973-1975); and Treasurer, David Hyson (AN, Air Department, 1973-1975). The Secretary position is currently unfilled, and we are looking for a volunteer (more to follow on that subject!)

There is a lot to talk about in this newsletter, so here are the subjects, in order:

President’s report
Treasurer’s report
Historian’s report
Recruiter’s report
Secretary’s report
The 2010 bi-annual reunion report
KIRK Website status report
New Permanent Committee to Manage KIRK’s Frequent Wind Legacy
The growing KIRK artifact collection
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Vietnam Service Medal for KIRK
Planning for the 2012 bi-annual KIRK reunion

President’s Report

My name is Peter Schermerhorn and I was aboard USS KIRK from 1974 to 1976 as an Operations Specialist 3rd Class. I am proud to be named President of the KIRK Association and will work hard to achieve our objectives. Our three pronged approach is to search out new members who served aboard the Kirk from precomm to decomm; getting together with our former shipmates at our reunions, exchanging stories and enjoying each others company; and meeting with our Vietnamese-American honorary shipmates and hearing their stories. I welcome your ideas and comments that would enhance the KIRK Association.

Treasurer’s Report

I'm David Hyson, the KIRK Association's Treasurer of three months or so. I was on board KIRK from December, 1972 to January, 1976. As the Treasurer it is my responsibility to properly safeguard and administer the financial assets of the association. I also will be the one who comes knocking when you need to pay your dues. I am currently compiling a list of our membership and the status of their dues. Annual dues ($15) for the year 2011 are due January 1, 2011, but there is also the option of a one-time “Lifetime Membership” of $175. So please take this time to send a check for either $15 or $175 payable to the “USS Kirk (DE/FF-1087) Association,” mailed to:

David Hyson
13511 Bartlett St
Rockville, MD 20853

I am in the process of updating our records. If you have changed your address or your phone number recently, please drop us a note with the current information along with your dues check. And if you have already made your investment in a Lifetime Membership, I thank you.

Historian’s Report

I’m Hugh Doyle, and I’m still the Historian (I was “shanghaied” at my first reunion, years ago, and I was told I had to stay in the job until I got it right. So here I still am!) I have to admit this has been an easy year for me. Through no fault of mine, one very short period of our good ship’s history is now widely known. Vice Admiral Robinson (the Surgeon General of the Navy,) through his Historian, Jan Herman, and the talented staff of the NAVMED audio/visual staff have produced a first-rate documentary on KIRK’s key involvement in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of refugees after the fall of Saigon in the Spring of 1975. (We hope you all take the opportunity to view the serialized documentary “The Lucky Few.” You can access the documentary by our link to “Navy T. V.” on our KIRK website The documentary subsequently caught the attention of the producers of National Public Radio (NPR), and they produced a four-part series on the same subject (you can listen to the archived series on the NPR website, also through our link on our website.)

Because of our growing notoriety for Frequent Wind, KIRK has been in the public spotlight often during the past year. In addition to the national exposure from the National Public Radio (NPR) series, and the hour-long USN documentary “The Lucky Few,” there have been many articles featuring our good ship in local papers and magazines throughout the country, in Florida, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, DC, Maine, and California, to name just a few. And many KIRK-related articles have appeared in various Vietnamese language newspapers and magazines around the country. Our Frequent Wind episodes have appeared prominently in the final chapter of the definitive history U. S. Navy Medicine in Vietnam, as well as the recently released book, Ride the Thunder, by Richard Botkin, a detailed history of the United States Marine Corps combat experience during the final years of the Vietnam War. And finally, Dr. Jan Herman, the official Historian of the Surgeon General of the Navy (and the author of U. S. Navy Medicine in Vietnam, previously mentioned,) is presently writing a full-length book specifically on KIRK’s involvement in Frequent Wind, based on the extensive research he conducted for “The Lucky Few.” Can Hollywood be far behind?

At this point I want to pause and put this all in perspective. USS KIRK sailed for over twenty-one years as both a Destroyer Escort and as a Frigate in the United States Navy. She has continued to sail – now seventeen more years and counting – as the FENG YANG, a Frigate in the Navy of the Republic of China (Taiwan). KIRK/FENG YENG has been in commission for over 9,220 days. But the exciting events of Operation Frequent Wind spanned just nine (9!) days. American and Taiwanese sailors who can claim the proud status of KIRK/FENG YANG shipmates now number over 3,220 (and that’s a conservative number.) But only 250 of us served onboard during Operation Frequent Wind. So the inescapable conclusion for me, as our Historian, is that I have a lot more work still to do, since there is an incredible amount of KIRK history yet to discover and record.

The vast amount of my (and our) time and effort so far has been devoted to documenting Operation Frequent Wind, and I think we’ve done a pretty thorough job of that. But it is now time – past time, in fact – for us to move forward to document ALL of the history of our good ship. And here’s where I need some serious help from all of you, from mess cooks to Captains: Please dig deep in your own store of KIRK memories. Sit down some quiet evening and jot down your recollections of your time aboard KIRK (both good and not-so-good – we need to get the full picture.) And don’t worry about the style or form or grammar of your notes – just send them along, and I’ll make sense of it. We did this when we were trying to reconstruct our Frequent Wind experience, and it worked great. Much of the material that some of our shipmates considered inconsequential actually fit perfectly into the large puzzle that became the Frequent Wind article on our website.

Here’s the type of material we need to write our full history:

§ Written notes and “memoirs.” It doesn’t matter what form – from polished essays to scribblings on the back of brown paper bags – just send your thoughts along. Your memoirs can be confidential, if you wish, and I will certainly credit your input in the eventual history we write.

Documents. Look through that old box in the attic or garage where you keep your “Navy stuff.” Look through your old Navy Record – your “Personnel File.” Keep your originals, but send me copies of old Plans of the Day (PODs), Familygrams, personal award recommendations, training records, watch bills, change-of-command booklets, and any other stuff that churned out of the “paper mills” that were our offices onboard KIRK.

Photos. Seems like everyone had a camera back then, but digital was still a dream. If you have photographs or slides from your time aboard KIRK, please scan them into your computer and send the images along as attachments to an email. If you’d prefer, please send the originals to me and I will scan them, and then make absolutely sure you get the originals back in perfect shape. Many of the still photographs that appear on our KIRK website, and in the documentary film “The Lucky Few,” and on the NPR website came from the cameras of our shipmates. So please send them on, no matter what shape they may be in.

Film or videotapes. Solid gold, if any exist. We have not been able to find any so far, but if you happen to have taken onboard films (Super 8mm for us old folks, videotape for you not-so-old guys,) please consider getting the film or videotape copied onto DVD format, and send along a copy for our archives. Many photo stores and computer stores can do the transfer for a nominal charge. “Moovin’ pitchers” would be an incredible addition to our archives.

Miscellaneous items. KIRK logo Zippo lighters, KIRK belt buckles, KIRK hats and jackets, KIRK plaques, KIRK patches, and any other item that may be identified with our good ship. Even some of those strange KIRK-related things you had made in Yoko, or Olongopo, or Hong Kong! If you don’t want to donate the actual item, then please take a good photo of the item and send that photo to us.

Where to send things: My email address is hdoyle2439 at and my home address is:

Hugh Doyle
27 Indian Hill Circle
Middletown, RI 02842

And last, but not least, a call for volunteers: I was onboard KIRK for just two years (September 1973 through October 1975). I had the good fortune of making KIRK’s first two deployments to WESTPAC, and although I wasn’t a “Plank Owner,” I had the rare privilege of serving with many of those men who did such a great job getting KIRK launched on her stellar career. Many of those early-to-mid 1970s shipmates are directly responsible for the detailed history we have been able to compile of KIRK’s “formative years.” But to properly research the remaining years of KIRK’s life, I need the assistance of shipmates from later, more modern “eras” of our good ship’s life. I need to hear from shipmates who endured the very complex process of changing permanent home ports from San Diego to Yokosuka, and years later, changing home ports back again to Long Beach for decommissioning. I need to hear from shipmates who plied the waters of the “Sea of O,” playing cat and mouse with Ivan. I need to hear from shipmates who spent countless hours 1,000 yards astern of USS MIDWAY, plane-guarding and dodging her trash bags. I need to hear what it was like to chip tons of rime ice off the superstructure during those bitter winters (a job we never had to do in the SOCAL operating areas!) I need to hear what it was like to have permanent liberty in Japan, or your adventures in a Japanese shipyard, or what it was like to raise a family in that country and culture that is so strange to the rest of us. In short, I need some of you shipmates to send me an email and volunteer to be the KIRK Historian for your era. I need you to step up to be the single-point-of-contact for the fine men you served with on the operations that were the hallmark of KIRK’s later years. Please volunteer – I need your help. And I pledge in return to aid and assist all of the future KIRK “Era” Historians as we compile the full history of our good ship, TOGETHER.

Hugh Doyle
USS KIRK (DE/FF-1087) Association Historian
Chief Engineer (1973-1975)

Recruiter’s Report

It is an honor for me to be able to continue to support the efforts of the Kirk Association. The initial concept of the Kirk Association was simply to provide an avenue for all crewmembers to be able to reconnect with their buddies. So at our inception I started “headhunting” my immediate friends and crewmates. As you can see we have evolved way past that innocent concept.

Now I have been given the opportunity to get back to those roots and work at recruiting as many crewmembers as possible. Those of you already involved with the KIRK Association can now take advantage of my efforts to help you reconnect with your long lost buds. I plead with you to contact me and give me any and all information you might have to help me in that search.

Also, Tim Moon (Senior Chief Petty Officer, Decommissioning) has agreed to work with me in this effort.

We are looking forward to hooking up shipmates and families for mini and coordinated reunions.

Jim “Bon” Bongaard
jbongaard at
704 598 3590

Tim Moon
spinkmoon at

Secretary’s Report

There is no Secretary’s report this time, since there is no Secretary! We need a volunteer. The Historian was “shanghaied” once again, this time to do the Secretary’s job, so he is pleading for a volunteer to ease his agony and take up the duties of Secretary!

The 2010 Reunion Report

This year’s bi-annual reunion (our 6th) was once again held in the Washington, DC area at the Best Western, Springfield, VA, and was again hosted by Captain Paul Jacobs. It was an incredible affair that began with the annual 4th of July celebration and parade in Washington. Many of our shipmates marched in the parade, along with the local Washington DC area Vietnamese-American society, many of whom left Vietnam as refugees during Frequent Wind. These proud Vietnamese-Americans honored our good ship by handcrafting a large, remarkably accurate model of KIRK as their parade float. It was a moving and fitting beginning for our reunion later that week (well attended by our Vietnamese-American friends.)

The many historical attractions of the Washington, DC region kept our shipmates and their families very busy throughout the week, and the reunion culminated in a wonderful buffet banquet, followed by an advance showing of the documentary “The Lucky Few.” This was the first public showing of the documentary, and the Surgeon General of the U. S. Navy kicked it off in fine fashion. The event was attended by a number of active duty servicemen from the DC area, as guests of the KIRK Association. We all witnessed the emotional award of the Air Medal to Major Ba Van Nguyen, the brave Vietnamese Air Force pilot of the CH-47 Chinook that crashed alongside KIRK during Frequent Wind, after successfully dropping his many passengers (including his own young family) to KIRK’s fantail. It was an award ceremony that none of us will soon forget, and a fitting end to another wonderful reunion.

Kirk Website Status Report

As many of you already know, or discovered when you tried to access the USS KIRK Association website during the past year, our beautiful, award winning website was laid low by a miserable hacker some time ago. It was a terrible blow to our intrepid Webmaster Parker Mundy, who had laboriously and lovingly crafted the most professional, user-friendly site that we had ever seen. Unfortunately, it was totally destroyed by that anonymous hacker, and Parker has been methodically rebuilding it, stone-by-stone ever since. (Note: Parker has had some medical issues lately, so please keep this fine shipmate in your thoughts and prayers.) If you visit the web site now (and we hope you will) you will see the beginnings of this rebuild, which should prove eventually to be even better than the original (as hard to believe as that is, considering the quality of its predecessor.) Stay tuned, and stay patient.

New Permanent Committee to Manage KIRK’s Frequent Wind Legacy

KIRK’s Operation Frequent Wind story has grown exponentially during the past few years. It nearly has a life of its own, and has so many facets that it is now almost beyond our ability to control without a dedicated approach. So, we have asked Captain Paul Jacobs, KIRK’s CO during that eventful period, to take on the responsibilities of Chairman of the newly formed “USS KIRK Operation Frequent Wind Committee.” We are happy to report that he has enthusiastically accepted this new responsibility and is now the USS KIRK Association’s single-point-of-contact for all matters pertaining to our involvement in Operations Eagle Pull, Frequent Wind, and New Life. But as we all know, this is not really a new undertaking for our good Captain, since he has been the central driving force (!) in this vital area of KIRK’s life from the very beginning. The KIRK Frequent Wind story, and all that has grown out of it would never have happened without his inspirational – at times even relentless – championing of this brief, yet stunning event in KIRK’s long history. We know this element of KIRK’s legacy is now in the good hands of the man who was most instrumental in making it all happen back in the spring of 1975. Thanks, Captain.

The Growing Kirk Artifact Collection

We recently received an email out-of-the-blue from a gentleman who operates a large scrap metals yard in the L.A. area. He is a former U. S. Navy Hospital Corpsman, so he has a soft spot in his heart for the Navy, and a nose for the occasional Navy scrap items that show up in his yard from time to time. It’s hard to believe, but sitting quietly in a pile of assorted scrap metal that arrived in his yard was the intact bronze “Commissioning Plaque” for our good ship. You may remember it, bolted to the superstructure just outside the quarterdeck shack (some of you then-seamen may remember how many cans of Brasso it took to get it looking good after a few days exposed to salt spray!) How it got into his scrap yard is a real mystery, but he realized the significance of his find, went on to our website, got our then-president Jim Bongaard’s email address, and offered it to our KIRK Association. His company even plans to renovate the plaque for us (it appears in good structural condition, but is heavily caked with dirt and that bosun’s mate’s nemesis, verdigris!) We will invite the people from his company to our next reunion, where they will formally present the plaque to our KIRK Association. It will be a treasured (but VERY heavy) addition to our archives.

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal and Vietnam Service Medal for Kirk

As many of you know, a few years back one of our loyal shipmates, Kerry Boehle, discovered that KIRK was not only left off the eligibility list for the awards associated with Operations Eagle Pull, Frequent Wind, and New Life, but the Navy bureaucracy actually had no record of our good ship even being part of the vast 50-ship armada that took part in those evacuations! Through Shipmate Boehle’s dogged persistence, and some strategic “arm-twisting” by Captain Jacobs in the halls of the Pentagon, the Secretary of the Navy finally recognized KIRK’s role in those vital operations, and our good ship’s name was added to the eligibility list. Those shipmates who attended the past few reunions have received their long-delayed awards, but there are many KIRK men who have not yet been located, and whose awards are yet to be presented. If you are one of the Frequent Wind vets who have not yet received your award, please contact us for more details. And if there are any other non-Frequent Wind instances of earned awards that have never been received, please let us know and we’ll get right on it. We now know exactly whose arm to twist!

Planning For The 2012 Biannual Kirk Reunion

Our planning for the next KIRK reunion is in its infant stage, and we would greatly appreciate as much input as possible from our shipmates. About all we have settled on at this point is that it will be sometime in the summer of 2012. Our past reunions have been held in San Diego, Orlando, Seattle, Washington, DC (twice), and Laughlin, Nevada. Our shipmates live all over the country (we even have a contingent from Taiwan) so we are interested in, and open to any region of the United States – we don’t always have to be a stone’s throw from salt water! Our past reunions have spanned four to five days, and have been situated in regions of the country that offer interesting and fun activities for our shipmates and their families. But this wonderful country is just full of interesting places; so let your imaginations run wild when you send in your suggestions.

We are also looking for that all-important volunteer to host the next reunion. It is a satisfying, busy job, but we have a stable of former reunion hosts who are standing by with as much information and advice as you may need. If you are interested in learning more about the role of the reunion host, please contact us for a “no obligation” rundown on what the task entails.


Thanks for your time in reading this long report, and please feel free to forward this KIRK Newsletter to anyone who may be interested in learning more about our fine ship. And PLEASE, if you are in contact with, or have a lead on any of our KIRK Shipmates who are not yet onboard our KIRK Association, please send them this newsletter and ask them to contact our "Headhunter," Jim "Bon" Bongaard jbongaard at We need to welcome them back aboard.
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