Ernesto Velez, TM3
"I enlisted in the Navy Reserve Nov. 1963. I was in the reserves and went up through the ranks from Seaman Recruit to Torpedoman's Mate 3rd before going on active duty. I went on active duty June of 1966 and served aboard a Destroyer Tender. While we were tied up in Yokosuka, Japan, the USS Savage came into port.
I believe the Savage was on its way back to the states but they advertised that they needed a torpedoman aboard. They asked for volunteers. I volunteered because I saw an opportunity to see action and serve on a small combatant. I reported aboard Thanksgiving 1966. The ship returned to Pearl Harbor and a short yard period.
While in Pearl Harbor, I told my fiance from back home that my sister was coming to Hawaii to meet her husband who was coming in from Viet Nam on R & R. My fiance could come down and we would get married in Hawaii. I didn't think she would come. Both her and my sister showed up in Hawaii along with my mother and my future mother in law. Mary and I were married on a Thursday evening at the US Naval Station Chapel just across from Bravo Piers in Pearl Harbor. Most of the Sonar Gang was in attendance. John Hart STG3 walked my wife down the aisle and Jim Murphy STGSN, Larry Stier STG2 and Tim Moss STGSN were there. A great bunch of guys who took me in since I was the one and only torpedoman on the whole ship.
One of the funny things that occurred while I was aboard involved the MK 44 Torpedo tubes. The air flasks (charged with high pressure air which forced the torpedoes out of the tubes) had to be test fired periodically. In order to shoot the air flasks, you had to remove the front protective weather cover. Of course on this particular day I forgot to remove the cover. On firing the flask, the cover sailed through the air like a Frisbee for quite some distance. Needless to say, the Captain was not pleased.
While on board the Savage, I stood the following underway watches below decks security watches underway, I stood bridge lookout watches sonar operator watches and aftersteering watches. General Quarters of course was at the air charging station in order to charge the torpedo flasks to launch torpedoes and I maintained the depth charge rack.
My tour on the Savage was one of the most memorable of my entire career. I retired August 1986. The highest rank I achieved was CWO4 but since I did not serve two continuous years in rank, when I retired, I retired as CWO3.
The ribbons I was awarded while on the Savage were the National Defense Service Medal and Viet Nam Service Medal.
I was proud to have served with all those guys on Savage and was proud to carry the standard for all those who came before us, both Coast Guard and Navy."
National Defense Service Ribbon
Ernie leaning against the depth charge rack that he was responsible for.
Ernie leaning up against the smoke stack
reading (at his work center).
Ernie performing preventive maintenance
on the port torpedo tube rack.
Ernie on watch in aftersteering.
[Photos and information on this page most graciously contributed by Ernie Velez.]
Ernie shines his shoes near his bunk.
All photographs are thumbnail images. Click on each picture to enlarge.
Official Navy portrait of Ernie.