January 17, 2003


Just got back from watching Number Six and then later, Number Four.

Number Six's top was clear, but it had a lot of escorts, mostly Coast Guard and possibly police. Number Six is also known as the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault carrier, and this morning it quietly slipped out of San Diego Harbor and into the Pacific on the way to the Persian Gulf. Who knows how many Marines were on board.

I watched it pass by from the heights of the military cemetery at Cabrillo Point. Just me and countless tombstones, watching ships go off to war. Alas, my digital camera's battery was dead just when I wanted to take a picture, but thanks to the web, here's basically what it looked like.

But today, Number Six's deck was clear -- no equipment, no people. Its radars and microwave antennae, weird beyond-high-tech square things as big as houses, rotated furiously from the towers aboard the ship, no doubt bathing me, my car, and the thousands of tomb- stones around me with who knows how many kilohertz, megahertz, and gigahertz of invisible radio fury.

Then later, I drove down to Shelter Island as Number Four, also known as the amphibious assault carrier USS Boxer, passed by. The sides of the harbor were full of people waving flags, waving hands, and signalling thumbs-up as Number Four rolled by, so close you could almost reach out and touch its cold gray steel hull. Up close, these walls of steel may only be moving at Five Knots, but if you laid an 80-story skyscraper onto its side on a barge and towed it along past a crowd of onlookers at five knots, it's still damn impressive. Number Four was covered, and I mean COVERED like wasps all over their nest, with big nasty helicopters, their rotors folded back, their tails and tail rotors sticking way, way, WAY out over the deck (man those things have to be tied down pretty strongly, I thought, once they get out to the rolling open sea.)

And so another couple thousand soldiers go off to war. Posted by brian at January 17, 2003 03:29 AM


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