Memories of the Sixth Fleet Music Show
Munich Trip August 1972
August 30, 1972 ‚ Wednesday ‚ Gaeta, Italy / Naples, Italy / Munich, Germany
I never imagined that the Navy would send me to Munich for the 1972 Olympics. A more likely assignment would have been to the Navy‚ Antarctic winter-over team, or a billet at a super-secret communications facility somewhere near the yellow-brick road in Oz. After I received orders to accompany the Navy Band and Music Show to the Olympics, I felt like I had landed somewhere over the rainbow, and even a few romping Munchkins would not have surprised me!
If I had been given a drug test the night before my trip to the 1972 Olympics, I'm sure I would have tested positive for excessive adrenaline and been accused of unnatural blood enhancement. My Olympic induced high continued overnight and by morning I felt an intense and euphoric adrenaline rush that gave me the oomph to leap out of bed like a firefighter, responding to the first ding of my alarm clock precisely at 0500. I had to get an early jump on the day in order to muster at the Navy's Gaeta Community Center by 0615 to help load luggage, musical instruments and sound gear for the trip. My adrenal glands continued to put pep in my step as I jumped about my apartment and I was fortunate not to slice my skin, stub a toe, or break a bone as I shaved and put on my uniform getting ready to go. Always the hungry sailor, I gobbled down a nutritiously deficient breakfast of Sugar Pops, milk and white bread toast, then double-checked the front, back and sides of my "sailor suit" to make sure I was four-oh inspection perfect before heading out the door at 0530. My supercharged adrenaline high took a staggering blow the moment I opened my front door and discovered an itinerant typhoon-tornado had unleashed a torrential downpour of cats, dogs and a few elephants. I quickly resolved that no ephemeral monsoon-hurricane had the power to delay my parade, so I opened my umbrella, locked my front door and stepped out into the swirling storm. There was no bugler to sound retreat and I was determined to keep going, even as Mother Nature hammered my broken-down umbrella, washed away Gaeta's streets with her rising torrents of storm water, and completely demolished my poster-boy appearance from the bottom up as I walked from my apartment to the Community Center. When I finally arrived at 0600, I truly had "Gone With The Wind" and looked like a sailor reporting in after three days of hard liberty. My legs were saturated from my knees to my toes and I carried about a gallon of water in each shoe. Luckily, I had taken most of my personal gear to the Community Center the night before and did not have to tote my sea bag through the downpour. I arrived ahead of schedule, but the two buses and truck coming from the motor pool in Naples were late and did not show up until after 0700.
Even the best military planners make mistakes. This time the mistake was sending an open-bed truck with side rails to haul luggage and equipment from Gaeta to the Naples airport in the rain. With no time to spare, the only viable option was to load gear on one bus and people on the other. I opted to squeeze in with the equipment for the two-hour ride to Naples and even found a place to sit on top of one of the amplifiers. One could only hope that the 90 or so folks crammed inside the other bus had showered and used mouthwash that morning.
It took our empty truck and two-bus convoy about two hours to make the trip from Gaeta to the Capodichino (Capo) Airport in Naples. We arrived at the airport a few minutes behind schedule, but there was no need to charge the departure gate like a herd of stampeding cattle, as incoming and outgoing air traffic was delayed due to poor visibility. I quickly decided that a snack was in order and headed out to the Navy Exchange cafe just around the corner from Capo's military terminal building. Two minutes after I ordered my food, the "compressed" group of band and choir members rolled in. The last person in line sat down to eat about an hour later.
Anticipating the shortfalls of military air transportation, I rounded up a set of earplugs to survive the noise inside the cargo area of the four-engine, propeller driven, C-118 transport plane that would take us to Munich. Capo's departure board listed two Navy flights on "Go-Go Airlines" to fly all our people and gear from Naples to Munich. Usually, military air transports like the C-118 come equipped with jump seats fashioned from cargo nets. This time there were regular passenger seats that afforded limo-style comfort for the five-hour flight to Munich.
My shoes and socks were nearly dry when we landed in Munich about 1700. After processing through the customary cattle lines of government scrutiny, we climbed on board our buses and were headed down the German autobahn towards the Columbia House military hotel by 1800. There was no doubt that the Olympics were in town because Olympic flags had been hung from every lamppost, skyhook, and wagging dog's tail all along the route to our hotel. After checking in, we were free to spend the evening touring the city. I went to the Olympic Park with a few guys from the band, rode to the top of the Olympic Tower, got something to eat, hustled a few tickets and hung out until about 0200, for a total 21 straight hours of Olympic travel and fun.
Anzio, Italy - January 6, 1973
No byline was listed for the following write-up from USS Springfield‚ "Sea Dog" publication from Monday, January 8, 1973.
On Saturday, the Sixth Fleet Band traveled to Anzio to play for 200 crippled children at the Villa Albani Hospital.
The children rarely see visitors of any kind, and they almost never see entertainment. Fifteen years is usually the limit of life for the children. It was a thrill for them to see the band, and an equally pleasurable experience for the band.
Before the show, the band members toured the hospital. At 1500, the show began.
Attending the show were such dignitaries as the Anzio mayor, the Pomezio mayor, and other Anzio officials, including the Chief of Police, some council members, and the Director of Tourism.
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I was usually issued TAD travel orders when I worked with the Sixth Fleet Music Show, but I rarely had orders to work band only concerts. I was able to assist with the Anzio concert because I had liberty on Saturday, January 6, 1973. The 60 mile bus trip from Gaeta to Anzio took about two hours.
A key World War II allied forces landing took place at Anzio, January 1944.
The Villa Albani was originally commissioned by Cardinal Alessandro Albani in 1726 and completed in 1732. Pope Innocent XIII appointed Alessandro a cardinal in 1721. The Villa was later purchased and restored by the Papal States and became the summer residence of Pope Pius IX. The hospital was founded after the Villa became public property with the unification of the Italian peninsula. The picture of the Villa Albani is one that I was given by the hospital staff.
I will always remember the sheer joy and excitement of the children at that Sixth Fleet band concert in Anzio, Italy. During the concert I worked the amplifier mixing console that was setup about 40 feet in front of the band. The children were brought out from the hospital and were packed around me, some of them in wheel chairs and hospital beds. While the band played, kids were jumping around, dancing, clapping hands, stomping feet, yelling, smiling‚ completely living in the moment. The guys in the band missed out on much of what I saw and experienced because they were isolated in their performance area and had to concentrate on playing.
I never witnessed a band concert or show that came close to matching the enthusiasm, appreciation and smiles of the children at the Anzio concert.
The female contingent of the Sixth Fleet Music Show stayed at the Mirador hotel in Palma. They arrived at the military side of the Palma airport on March 1, 1974, a Friday. There was a show that evening at the Auditorium Paseo Maritimo in Palma. Husbands were allowed to stay at the hotel, but had to pay their share of the room bill.
March 1974 Music Shows‚ Palma, Spain
On Saturday afternoon, a bus provided by the City of Manacor picked up the band, a few male singers, and LITTLE ROCK's basketball team and took them to a gymnasium in Manacor. The city of Manacor is about 35 miles east of Palma and the trip took about an hour.
The music show equipment was setup on the gymnasium stage while the basketball game between LITTLE ROCK and Manacor was being played. A few select members of the band provided intermittent mood music during the basketball game. I don't remember the final score.
Show members and the basketball players were treated to dinner by the city of Manacor. After dinner, everyone returned to the gymnasium in Manacor for the show.
Does anyone remember the show and did LITTLE ROCK's basketball team win or lose? Was the Manacor basketball team from a professional league?
Sixth Fleet Music Show 1974 - 1975
MUC Earl Romig
I was with the band on the LITTLE ROCK during 1974-75. The leader of the unit was CWO Larry Gatewood. MUCS John Reinhardt was leader of "The Sixth Fleet Singers". I was running the show band known as "The Ambassadors". There was another smaller group of seven musicians known as "The Diplomats".
As you already know, we traveled throughout Europe and Northern Africa, often with the Singers.
One quick story is our trip to Amman, Jordan..... The band and chorus were scheduled to play a concert for the Jordan army. The performance was at a Roman forum ruins where the audience sat about six feet above the show group. We started to play "Reach Out and Touch", and as always, the singers would go out to shake hands during this. When they got to the first row of soldiers and started to shake hands they found themselves lifted off the ground as the soldiers tried to get them up with them. Kind of scary for the girls, but all ended safely as help was given by MP's.
I was later transferred to Navy Band Seattle, and finally to Navy Band Great Lakes where I retired.
Earl Romig, MUC(ret)