Editor's note: This is the second of two parts.
Upon arrival in Sasabo, Robert J. Barrett was assigned to a compartment where he would spend his remaining time in the Navy. Compartment assignments were used by the Navy during times of war, and the Korean War was in its second month when Bob boarded the ship. The Valley Forge contained 35 compartments, each housing firemen, engineers, boiler tenders and damage control servicemen.
When in battle stations, Bob's main duties were to report to the fog foam generator, making sure it was pumping foam and water to the flight deck to protect the ship from fires and crashes. When the fog foam generator was confirmed ready, Bob's next duties were to man the handi billetts, an auxiliary unit designed to pump water. Another piece of equipment that Bob had to maintain during battle stations was the p-500. The p-500 ran a three-inch line into the sea and was used to fight fires. This unit pumped 500 gallons per minute. Other duties, when not in battle stations, included taking soundings, which tested the amount of oil and water that were on the deck.
Robert J. Barrett, U.S. Navy
When sent to check for damage control, Bob had to report to the heart of the carrier, which was located at the very bottom above the keel. There sounding testing was critical to confirm the status of the vessel.
While stationed on an American aircraft, food was good. The only exception would be during battle stations, when meals meant sandwiches and coffee. Battle stations could last from minutes to three days.
The Valley Forge has seen its share of duty, with thousands of aircraft taking off her deck to support the ground troops. Being involved in a proxy war meant the pilots and crew had no idea what new weapon the enemy may have had in their arsenal. Remembering how the United States surprised Japan with the atomic bomb, the servicemen knew they had to be prepared for anything. The ship was active 24/7 with no weekends or holidays off.
Life on a carrier was like living in a small city. With over 3,400 men on her, the Valley Forge was actually larger than some cities.
Men aboard the ship were from every state and many countries, all bonded as one when it came to their ship.
Their ship was everything, all of them knew that in the right conditions just one cigarette left in the wrong place with extremely rough seas could put the ship on the bottom of the ocean, along with most of her crew. Knowing that all rules were followed to the "T" meant there was no room for mistakes. With all the fuel, all the planes, and all the ammunition aboard, the carrier was a floating bomb. Sending a carrier to anchor off the coast of a country sends a signal to those enemies that they shouldn't even think about doing any harm to our country or our people. American servicemen are dedicated people who are on call all hours of every day, who if needed will give their life in the line of duty.
Bob Barrett is proud to be an American; this 82-years-young sailor is always seen displaying his colors, either by wearing a Navy hat or flying a U.S. flag. In his spare time, Bob drives to the V.A. hospital and talks to the young sailors, Marines, and soldiers who are inpatients. It means so much to our younger vets who are in the hospital to sit down and just talk with someone about their service days. Sailors like Bob Barrett are getting harder and harder to find, sailors who continue to serve their country long after their wartime ships have come home. Robert Barrett is a genuine example of a truly dedicated U.S. Serviceman.
As one who loving to deer hunt, Bob found the best place he could to enjoy his retirement days. In 1970, Bob purchased some land and built his home in Arkwright. Now he enjoys life in the country, but is still only minutes away from the city.
I met Bob while I was in the VA a few weeks ago. I watched this sailor being accepted by soldiers, airmen, Marines, and other sailors. The young Veterans took him in as one of theirs. Telling his sea stories, I could tell Bob wasn't making any up - there was no fudging. He told his good times with his not-so-good. He is the real deal! I enjoyed my time with Bob because he took me to a life and time that my father lived and served in. He answered a lot of questions I had about the Navy my father served in.
Robert Barrett is a hero, a local hero who fought in a sometimes forgotten war. I know his feelings because of my experiences with Vietnam. To have served in a war like that takes its toll on a person's life; it's a thing one has to carry with himself to his grave, the many things that were seen and done, yet that some servicemen cannot or will not talk about. It is a feeling one carries all the time deep down and tucked away. It is 100 times worse then losing a Super Bowl or World Series, knowing that you easily could have won if you were given the order!
The USS Valley Forge was home for the thousands of sailors who boarded her and made her part of their lives forever. For sailors, their ship is part of them. Soldiers and Marines who fought and served on land can, if they so desire, return to it at a later time, but not so for Bob and the crew members of the Valley Forge.
In 1970, Congress approved that she be cut up and sold for scrap. This is the same Congress who, just 64 years earlier, ordered her to be a fighting lady and protect us. With a signature on a piece of paper, Congress took the home away from all those who served proudly aboard her. There will be no museum, no place for these dedicated sailors to go to and honor her role in our military history. The Valley Forge is gone, but her memories are not while we still have sailors like Robert Barrett. Thank you, Bob, for serving!