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Re: ITASS Reunion?

Hello Greg,

I was recently browsing around on the ‘net and came across this older forum post by you regarding an ITASS reunion.

In your post you mentioned sad news regarding some ITASS team members including Lt. Devine. I assume he is
either in ill health or has passed away. Could you clarify this for me?

I was a very early member of the ITASS group. I was fresh out of boot camp (1968) and RMA school when I received orders to Teletype Repair C school. It was unusual for a non-rated person to attend the TTY school and it raised a lot of questions when I reported to Norfolk for the school. It turns out I was destined to be one of the ITASS crew members on the USS Van Voorhis and later on the USS Lester.

Following the TTY school, I received orders to NAVSOUTH in Naples, Italy where I reported to Lt. Devine. The three platforms (ships) for the ITASS gear had not been announced yet and I worked for Lt. Devine for about 3-4 months typing the ITASS Operations Manuals. I worked with him daily in his small office. He was the first “Mustang” that I had ever met or even heard of and he was very influential in helping adjust to Navy life. I was only 20 years old.

We talked about ITASS, but we also talked about the NAVY, Italy, girlfriends and all kinds of subjects over the course of preparing the OPS Manuals. He detected a bit of homesickness in me and helped by keeping me busy with things to do. He even bought an old Volkswagen “Beetle” that needed some repair work and hired me to work on it for him on weekends at the base auto club repair facility. I don’t think he ever drove it. It was just something he did to give me something to do.

At the time I was engaged to my future wife of 42 years. She lived 35 miles south of Boston, MA and worked in Boston as a legal secretary.

One day, as I was typing new information into the OPS manual, I read that the USS Van Voorhis was going to be the first ship converted to an ITASS platform and that the conversion would take place in East Boston, MA.

I asked Lt. Devine if I could volunteer to be part of the first ITASS crew. He knew all about my future bride, etc., and approved my request. I still have a letter of commendation from him for the work done during this pre-ITASS deployment period.

I transferred to the Van Voorhis shortly afterwards and reported aboard in Newport, RI about one week before making the transit to East Boston for the ITASS equipment installation. My wife and I were married during the conversion period.

After the initial testing of the ITASS gear off the east coast the VanVee made the homeport change to Naples, Italy. The day we arrived in Naples, I had liberty and found an apartment to rent just outside of the Naval Communications Center (near the Navy Hospital). I went downtown to a telephone center in Naples and called my wife, telling her to sell
our 1964 Dodge and use the money to buy an airplane ticket to Naples. We lived there from 1970 to 1972 and our daughter was born at the Naval Hospital up on the hill.

I ended up re-enlisting early under the SCORE program to convert from RM to ET. I remember standing in the
officer’s wardroom on the USS Lester in dress blues. We were underway at the time. The captain first announced I was officially discharged. He paused for 30 seconds or so and told me to “enjoy my brief time” out of the Navy. He then instructed me to raise my right hand, repeat the oath, and back in the Navy I went.

I stayed in the Navy until 1980. It was a tough decision to leave, but by then I had two children and we had to start thinking about their schools, etc.

I have often thought about Lt. Devine and the time I spent working for him in Italy. He was a class act and I am saddened to hear that he may have passed on.

Take care,

Richard Eriksson (ex- ET1 – US Navy)
Duxbury, MA.
rerik@comcast.net

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