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January 02, 2007

The good news that I mentioned on New Years Eve...

...but didn't follow-up on yesterday. I was waiting for the pictures.

The BAM Cuitlahuac/USS John Rodgers no longer belongs to the Mexican Navy. She's back under the US flag, as the property of the Beauchamp Tower Corporation.

Here she is getting ready to leave her berth at the naval base.

BAM Cuitlahuac/USS John Rodgers being moved from the Lazaro Cardenas Navy Base to her temporary berth at the commercial port.

This has been a long time coming - I know we thought we'd have her here in September or October but three things intervened.

1. Bureaucrats in two governments.

2. The loss of an investor (paying for the tow, not that it mattered short term because of item 1)

3. The Mexican elections.

When I say bureaucrats, I should be clear that does not include the Mexican Navy, who have been consummate professionals during this process.

DD574 has been made ready for her transit of the canal, and arrangements are being finalized for her trip back to the US Gulf Coast.

Here's something that's not been seen in a while - a Fletcher-class destroyer on the move. She may not be moving under her own power... but she's feeling the water move around her hull in ways it hasn't in 7 years.

BAM Cuitlahuac/USS John Rodgers in transit to her new temporary home.

Inbound to her new berth - it almost looks like shes moving on her own.

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That said - we've still got one big hurdle.

There's still one set of government bureaucrats to push the final paperwork through. The ones in the US.

And I apologize to those of you who I was sending emails to about updates - I've lost the addresses.

Reporting As Ordered, Sir! »

by John on Jan 02, 2007 | TrackBack (0)

August 13, 2006

Speaking of the Mexican Navy -

We weren't the first or only group to set their sights on the USS John Rodgers to bring her home to the US.

There are several reasons why Ward and Beauchamp Tower Corporation were successful. One of the things I owe you is the story of how that all came about.

But two of the key things that convinced the Mexicans that we were serious was our willingness to spend the money, in travel and in prep (The trip down there had to have cost $15K, at least, and that was the second trip Ward has made) *and* perhaps most importantly, our intent to highlight the Rodgers' service to Mexico as the Cuitlahuac.

And when we showed up - with the documentary film crew - they had confidence that we were not just blowing smoke to get the ship.

Here's a shot of the film crew, Rob Harshbarger on the far left and John Nowak on the far right. They're setting up for one of the interviews we did with the Mexican sailors.

Rob Harshbarger and John Nowak setting up filming

While they were doing that, I went up on the foredeck of the Quetzalcoatl/Voegelgesang and took what is one of my favorite shots of the Cuitlahuac/Rodgers.

I admit, there were times when it was damn hot and I was approaching muscle failure from schlepping heavy stuff around - but one had only to walk to the bow and look forward to see why we were there.

To keep the Rodgers from looking like this.

Ships being scrapped at Lazaro Cardenas

Or being a reef. Though I guess burial at sea is a good end for a warship...

by John on Aug 13, 2006

August 04, 2006

Large Mosaic of the Rodgers.

BAM Cuitlahuac/USS John Rodgers (DD574) 27 July, 2006 Lazaro Cardenas Navy Base, Mexico

For you destroyer fans out there, here's a mosaic I made of the Rodgers at dockside. It's not perfect, I know. Sue me. I'm not paid to be a photographer...

If you snatch it for a website, link and credit, please.

Just "right click and save as" the links below.

Low-res

Hi-res

by John on Aug 04, 2006

Bringing the Rodgers Home, con't.

When Ward dived to check her hull, I reported that he found her in very good shape. Her anodes were present, there was sufficient depth under her keel for them to function properly, and there was little to no corrosion - and what corrosion pitting there was along the hull was at her waterline from the 20-odd years she spent in mothballs with the US Navy before being given to the Mexican Navy in 1972. She had some barnacle growth on her rudders and screws, and the odd patch here and there - which the Mexican diver said resulted from worn paint for the rudder, and improperly mixed paint for the hull. I have no earthly idea. Sounds good to me.

That said, the Cuitlahuac has been berthed in storage-pending-disposition for nigh unto 5 years now. If you looked at the satellite picture, you'd have noted that in that pic she was outboard of the Gearing she sits next to, but when we arrived, she was inboard. Good for us, we didn't have to cross-deck the Quetzalcoatl every time we needed to move things around - but it means she's been moved. And, as we discovered, not always gently - whether as a result of weather or the tugs moving things around.

On the second day, wandering around taking pictures I saw this ding on her port side, forward, just under the bollards. The upper scrape in the picture is just below deck level. The hole is pretty high. But - it's still a hole, and we were concerned about the condition of the nearby hull frame.

Hull rupture on the USS John Rodgers

So, we changed our work schedule a bit and went destroyer-spelunking in her forward spaces. The hole is in a storage locker just ahead of the CPOs Mess. Nice long gash, about a foot and a half, but the frame was fine. Nothing a sledgehammer, welding rod, and a patch won't handle nicely.

USS John Rodgers hull rupture from the inside

Disappointing, sure - but we're going to repaint her and have to do far more work to fully get her back to her WWII configuration. This is a relatively quick and easy fix. The shape of the dent and rupture served to keep rainwater from entering, as well, so we didn't even have a standing water corrosion problem in the locker. Yellow card foul, not a Red!

by John on Aug 04, 2006

July 31, 2006

I'm back home.

Sigh.

That was fun. Exhausting, but fun.

Home is the sailor, home from sea:
Her far-borne canvas furled
The ship pours shining on the quay
The plunder of the world.

Home is the hunter from the hill:
Fast in the boundless snare
All flesh lies taken at his will
And every fowl of air.

'Tis evening on the moorland free,
The starlit wave is still:
Home is the sailor from the sea,
The hunter from the hill.

Truly, her last full crew. If things work out, next time we take a picture like this it will be in Mobile Bay, and include survivors of her WWII & Mexican crews, with the Rodgers all spiffed up in her new duds!

Flash Traffic (extended entry) Follows »

by John on Jul 31, 2006
» MilBlogs links with: BAM Cuitlahuac/USS John Rodgers

End of the road, Trip 1, Bringing the Rodgers Home

We're packing now to head to the airport and home. It will be a long day, as I'm routed via Charlotte...

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I've shown you the condition of the Cuitlahuac/Rodgers, which was really pretty good. Just to make that point clear... here are some shots, without the flash, that give you a better sense of what we were working through in the bowels of the other destroyer - the ex-USS Voegelgesang - when we were taking usable parts for the Rodgers or trading purposes.

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The heartbreaker, for me, is that this beautiful instrument is going to go to the bottom of the ocean. Sigh. I wish we'd had the tools to at least get one section of her for display.

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But it's not all bad - I got to get my twin 40's working... mechanically - no firing locks, no ammo. The Mexicans knew better. Who talked?

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I scrounged the missing seats, found most of the missing cranks, replaced all but two of the missing spiders - and made sure they could all train and elevate, breeches worked, etc. They are, of course, not shootable, but other than that... I'm happy.

by John on Jul 31, 2006
» Confederate Yankee links with: Ultimate Gun Blogger
» CDR Salamander links with: Post-retirement interservice transfer

July 30, 2006

Bringing the Rodgers Home

Yesterday was spent dismounting what we would out of the Gearing. We also negotiated with the guy scrapping the old minesweeper - if take off the watertights from the Gearing (doing the Mexican gov't a favor, since they have to be removed anyway before they sink her as a reef) he'll trade us for the WWII watertight doors we need for the Rodgers (she's missing a few) and however many extras we can load on her to bring back as trading materials.

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Ward dived her hull with the Chief Instructor of the Mexican Dive School here. A little knot of a man with 25,000 hours in the water. Ward has 1400 hours, and is a decent diver - but he was as a babe next to this man. Her hull is in excellent shape, from bow, to strakes, to sea chests, to screws, to the rudder. We're very pleased!

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We spent a lot of time in dark, close, unlit spaces, avoiding the ones with exposed asbestos, and swimming in PCB-laden rainwater...

Regretfully, there's a very nice lathe in the hangar on the Voegelgesang we're going to have to leave behind.

To make up for that - we're going to bring home one of the Voegelgesang's gyros. We'll not manage the whole housing - but we will get the gyro itself (enough of a load to carry up the ladder, believe me!).

We got tired enough that yesterday, trying to remove bolts so we could remove a large indicator gizmo from the CIC, I handed off a wrench to Ward to finish removing this bolt... and watched him promptly start to tighten it.

I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Um, dude - if you don't mind terribly, we'd like to re-move, not re-tighten this bolt we just spent 20 minutes on..."

Since I'm at the point of muscle failure from schlepping myself and my 100 pound bellypack up and down ladders, my major activity for the day will be taking off the broken sights on the 40's and swapping them with intact sights from the 40's that were removed recently from the Voegelgesang, so that all my 40mm's will have complete spider sights with the little optical portion that's missing from almost *all* the 40mm's you see in displays. After that - I will try to get a few of the gear racks from the Fire Control Computer.

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The other thing we have to do is go through the Rodgers and mark and secure all of her spaces, marking them as dry and secured (this is for the tow crew's benefit, and saves us a little money).

So, I get to play with computers and guns all day while the youngsters will be schlepping the doors around an crawling all through the Rodgers.

Then it's home - and fight the last minute battles in the War of the Bureaucrats and then Sweating the Tow.

by John on Jul 30, 2006

July 29, 2006

This being the day it is...

... here's something for the Denizennes.

I'll see if we can't talk the Mexicans into letting us have one of these (hey, they've got *several* of them...) I think it would make a good Choklit Cannon for the Inner Bailey.

Today will be spent with Ward and a Navy diver diving the ship to get a visual of her hull, rudder, and screws.

The rest of us will be crawling through tight spaces making sure nothing heavy is loose, or valuable and fragile (like light fixtures) are laying around loose and breakable.

Ward Brewer inspecting the aft boiler of the Rodgers

Most of my day will be taking apart (and photographing same) the Fire Control computer on the Gearing - identical to the one on the Rodgers. I don't think we'll get it out (much less reassemble it) in a usable fashion - but there's no reason to send the computer to the bottom with the Quetzalcoatl when she assumes her final duty as a reef in November.

by John on Jul 29, 2006

July 28, 2006

Bringing Home the Rodgers

USS John Rodgers and Crew, 1945.

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BAM Cúitlahuac and crew, 2006

BAM Cúitlahuac, the former USS John Rodgers, retired from Mexican service, with Mexican sailors and her American contingent from Beauchamp Tower Corporation, pose to recreate the WWII crew picture.  The BT Corporation is there to rig the Cuitlahuac for tow back to the United States where she will become a museum that will chronicle her WWII service with the United States Navy and her 30 years of subsequent service with the Mexican Navy.

by John on Jul 28, 2006
» Confederate Yankee links with: Turtle Eggs and Cannons

Walk on a romantic beach... while bringing home the Rodgers

Last night I got to walk a romantic Pacific beach looking for sea turtles coming in to lay eggs.

With a Mexican Admiral, Rear Admiral Uribe.

The Mexican Navy have been wonderful hosts. They host us for lunch, which is excellent, and has little in common, except in generalities, with what passes for Mexican food back home. Some nice *hot* stuff. And guacamole to die for. And, as Ward found out... some verra nice ladies. (No, SWWBO, I didn't win anything at the raffle, so I am still chaste)

Anyway, Captain Jimenez is eager to show us the good side of the Navy and the city of Lazaro Cardenas, the state of Michoacan, and, of course, Mexico. It's been fun to see something other than Ciudad Juarez, and someplace that isn't built to accommodate gringo touristas.

This includes the proper way to drink *good* tequila.

Captain Jimenez schools Rob Harshbarger

Last night, Captain Jimenez arranged a trip to the beach, to see the sea turtles coming in to lay eggs.

I've never done anything like that. Captain Jimenez, who is our host down here was there with his wife, Violeta, and son, Abraham. Admiral Uribe's wife also joined us.

Add in Brewer's Bandits.

And a detail of 8 Mexican Marines. In full battle rattle. Weapons, night vision, helmets, fully loaded vests, black uniforms, which was cool with former Marine John Nowakowski - who hung with his bros.

John Nowakowski with Mexican Marine Corps Patrol Leader

They were there to provide security. Mebbe we were also bait...?

Naw - when Captain Jimenez went to check out the beaches earlier that day, the local police told him that there had been poachers looking for both turtle eggs *and* tourists to rob. The good Captain didn't reach those lofty heights by not appreciating that getting the Admiral and his American guests involved with poachers would be a Bad Thing.

The Marines routinely patrol the beaches at night during spawing and tourist (there's a difference?) seasons, so we didn't have to feel too guilty about ruining these guy's Thursday night plans. All we did was change the location of their Thursday night plans. Which was to patrol the beaches. Well, they did get to nursemaid 8 Americans, two senior Naval officers and their families.

That Admiral and his wife completely kicked my butt. We went about a mile and a half, along the wet, sandy beaches, and Your Correspondent, while managing to *mostly* keep up with a killer pace, did lag behind as age, decrepitude and Good Living demanded their due.

If, when we reached the end of that walk, they had turned around and headed back (rather than having the vehicles meet us) I would simply have sat down and said, "So, this is where I die. Nice place. Smells funny though."

That didn't happen. My legs ached, my back ached, and I sweat gallons, but the heart didn't explode, so SWWBO isn't small-time comfortable from the insurance.

We didn't see any turtles, but we did see a clutch of eggs being gathered by Mexican officials who move them from the public beach to locations where they are more likely to survive.

We got done and back to the hotel at 2345. And today started at 0700. And today was a looooooooooooong day.

More on *that* later.

But rest assured - even though I'm grinning here in one of my 5" gun mounts (this being mount 5, all the way aft)...

The Armorer in his element

We're still working! Here I am with Ken Guiles disassembling a Mk4 20mm (made by GM, by the way - and the photo is by Rob Harshbarger).

Even a *cold* boiler room in Mexico in July is a *hot* place.

Ward Brewer in the aft boiler room of the Rodgers

Trust me. I didn't hit heat exhaustion - but I drank 5 liters of fluid and only, um, er, ah, "voided" about a coffee cup's worth of, well, y'know.

by John on Jul 28, 2006
» Confederate Yankee links with: Turtle Eggs and Cannons

Bringing the Rodgers Home

Today, we'll be documenting her condition in detail to start generating the shipyard work orders to restore her to her WWII configuration.

My piece of all this, the armament, is in great shape, so today we'll be dismounting and disassembling her 20mm guns. She has four, one mostly complete, and three in varying stages of cannibalization.

So, mostly today what I'll be doing is stripping stuff from the Gearing-class that sits next to her - the one destined to be a reef in November - for stuff we can use on the Rodgers (we need four watertight doors, for example) and stuff we can bring home for trading material.

And mebbe something that will fit in my luggage...

Say hello to our Pretty Woman from a different perspective than yesterday:
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And for you Destroyer aficionadoes out there - hi-res (right click and save as, please)

More to come. I'll have to tell you about my romantic walk along the beach with a Mexican Admiral...

by John on Jul 28, 2006
» Chapomatic links with: Link Dump 28 July

July 27, 2006

Um, sweetheart? Honeybunch? Sweetiekins?

Can I put this in the living room?

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A fine product from Ford.

The Fire Control Computer.

Pretty please?

by John on Jul 27, 2006
» The Bow Ramp links with: A Personal Anecdote about Fletchers and Mexico

Bringing the Rodgers Home

She's a Pretty Woman.

1st view.jpg


'Nuff said.

by John on Jul 27, 2006
» Confederate Yankee links with: Bringing the Rogers Home-Day 1
» MilBlogs links with: USS John Rodgers/BAM Cúitlahuac
» The Bow Ramp links with: Ohhh, Pictures !

Bringing home the Rodgers.

We're in Lázaro Cardenes. We were met by a Captain and Lieutenant from the Mexican Navy, and we're off to lay eyes on the Rodgers, and have a "Welcome to Lazaro Cardenes" lunch with the Mexican Navy.

And, importantly, I have access... which means tonight... PICS!

Meet our motley crew...

Brewer's Banditos.

Ward Brewer -Captain
Ken Guiles - Number 1
John Donovan - Gunnery Officer
John Nowakowski- Chief Engineer
Sean Quigley- Able Seaman
Jeremy Byers - Able Seaman
Jim Nowak - Chief Photographer's Mate
Rob Harshbarger - Intel Officer

We're a patchwork crew, come to take a look at the Cuithuiloc/John Rodgers for the first time. All *any* of us have seen of her are old photos and the relatively current satellite shots. Not a sailor among us, either. What's up with you swab-jockeys, anyway? We've got a retired Army guy, retired Air Force guy, OIF veteran, a former Marine, a firefighter, two camera guys...

We're hoping she's a Pretty Woman... a down-on-her-luck, long-in-the-tooth chick who will clean up nicely.

We're prepared for a pretty bad initial impression. Rust peeking out from faded, peeling paint. Water in some of her compartments, the depredations of rodents.

But she was very well cared for by the Mexicans for the 30 years she was in service with them, so we're confident that her basic structure is sound. Oh, she's had some cosmetic surgery here and there, trying to keep up with all the young chicks, what with their missiles, slick radar suites and stuff.

She's had her 20's removed, had her stern cleaned up by losing the depth charge racks and the splinter tubs the 20's used to sit in. Her balcony gun mounts on the funnels are gone, and she's had her torpedo tubes tied removed.

But she's got her 5 inch/38s, all five of 'em. And she has something all these new chicks don't.

A war record. Where she went close inshore for shore bombardments and stuck her neck out to defend the big girls from the Kamikazes.

Those new chicks? Of sure, some of them have launched missiles at targets they can't see... but how many of them have just steamed back and forth, pounding away, emptying their magazines against something that shoots back?

*That's* why we want to bring the Rodgers home.

We want to take better care of her in her dotage than the VA does with her flesh and blood crew.

We can't fix, nor fund, the VA.

But we can fund and fix a home for DD-574, the USS John Rodgers.

This is gonna be kewl.


by John on Jul 27, 2006
» Confederate Yankee links with: Bringing the Rogers Home-Day 1
» MilBlogs links with: USS John Rodgers/BAM Cúitlahuac
» The Bow Ramp links with: More Travelogue From The Armorer

July 26, 2006

Bringing the Rodgers Home, Day 1

No pics with this post, sadly. I'm having some technical issues with the wireless, and don't want to have my little hard drive touch this network, since who knows who else is touching it?

We all made it, though some of the baggage didn't (mine did). We move on tomorrow to Lázaro Cardenas and will get our first look at the Rodgers, after puddle-jumping our way there in the morning.

The Mexican Navy is picking us up and taking us straight to her. Pics tomorrow, one way or another, I promise!

This is a nice airport - though you can see why some locals the world over aren't fond of American commerce... McDonalds, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, Cinnabon, etc, all filled with people.

The most startling thing to this midwesterner is how few Mexicans at the airport look like the Mexicans we see at home. These guys look very European-US, with a sprinkling of the kinds of faces I'm used to seeing at home or I saw when I was stationed in San Antonio and California. Says something about the structure of the immigration problem.

I find I'm doing okay with spanish commerical signage as far as reading it. Get into details and I'm reaching for a Babelfish. But nothing is helping understand spoken Spanish. These deaf english-german trained ears haven't been up to it.

The documentary film crew we brought down are doing some initial interviews (I'll get roped in later).

I gotta go, there's a line for this computer (I already spent a half-hour wading through the day's mail).

I'll check in again tomorrow. Stay tuned.

by John on Jul 26, 2006
» Confederate Yankee links with: Bringing the Rogers Home-Day 1
» Confederate Yankee links with: Bringing the Rogers Home-Day 1
» The Bow Ramp links with: USS John Rodgers (DD-574) - The Journey Home

All my bags are packed...

...actually, they aren't. So I better do that.

You guys are in charge of keeping visitors entertained for the day. I'll check in when we hit Mexico City for the night.

We were going straight through to Lázaro Cardenas, but... change one, that flight got cancelled, and we're headed there on Thursday.

I suspect this will be a week of "No plan survives contact with reality" - in other words, improvise improvise improvise!

USS John Rodgers during sea trials

On a related nautical note, Carl Brashear, (subject of the movie Men of Honor) has passed.

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance: In Memoriam.

by John on Jul 26, 2006