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VISITING USS Little Rock at Oct. 24th 2012

October 24th 2012 my son and I visited the USS Little Rock at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park at One Naval Park Cove. It was a remarkable visit for me. Being there, on a US NAVY war ship 47 years after the ship was visiting Amsterdam in October 1965.

My son, Walter and I had a very warm welcome by Mr. Art Tilley from Fayetteville, PA, web master of the USS Little Rock Association official Home Page, Mr. Kevin Kedzierski, President of the Radio Association of Western New York and Mrs. Lee Brandt, secretary of RAWNY.

What does it take to visit this ship in Buffalo? Therefore I have to get back to the sixties, back to Amsterdam and back to my youth.

Amsterdam, mid sixties: capital town of the Netherlands, not as large as it is nowadays. A town with a lot of shipping-yards, trading, ports and a lot of merchant-ships which were delivering wood, coal, food, iron and all kind of things from all over the world. In those days I was very often in the different ports at the eastern and western side of Amsterdam touring on my bike and watching the ships.

Sailing all over the world was a job only a boy of 11 years old could dream of.  I sometimes asked some mates of the ships and tugs whether I could sail with them to the locks of IJmuiden, the gateway to the North Sea, about 30 kilometers away from Amsterdam. After those trips, almost in the evening, I would arrive on my bike back home in the northern part of Amsterdam, opposite of the river IJ.

I was, as you can understand, a ship lover, as young as I was. Collecting photo’s of merchant ships, warships, tugs and so on. Visiting ships of the Royal Dutch Navy port at Den Helder and preparing small boats of wood in the little shed of my father.

Well, one Wednesday-afternoon, when we were off school, I rode my bike to the harbour, as I did so many times before. From the ferry across the river IJ, I could see a large ship’s masts at the Stony Head pier, close to the major tug-company ‘GOEDKOOP Inc.’ at the western part at the river IJ.  So I decided to go over there to Stony Head, because I knew this was the pier where the warships from abroad were usually moored.

To my surprise it was possible to visit the ship. On the bow the huge " 4 ".  A lot of people from Amsterdam were already on the gangway to visit the ship. As a little boy it was very easy for me to sneak between them and get on board.

As I was on my own, I could go everywhere on the ship. And, although I've forgotten after 47 years, I must have been in a lot of rooms and places, well known to you. Most of those places I can’t remember, but what I do remember is a large compartment with tables and chairs where cooks were very busy with small breads with meat in between and a red sauce on it. Nowadays we call them "hamburgers", but in Amsterdam in those days we were fully unaware of that kind of food. So, here it was that I have had my first burger. Delicious!! Great!! (By the way, it was almost 6 years later, the first McDonald's started in Holland).

In another part of the ship you could get a kind of cookie with a hole in the middle, very sweet! But, just as the hamburgers, how did I know that they were called donuts!! Nobody over here has ever heard of them, let alone had tasted one! My first meeting with the American Navy and their food. Marvellous!

Now what I can remember, but what I doubt now, the ship was moored with the stern towards the river IJ and the bow towards the city. The photo’s (on the website) nowadays, are telling me another story.
All of sudden, when I was on the deck, just above the missile house, a rumbling sound was heard from inside the ship, just underneath me. And within one or two seconds there they were, the blue and white TALOS missiles. In position and huge, very huge. From the PA-system on the ship, the details were told about these rockets. But as a boy of eleven, I couldn’t understand a word of it.

The ship really did make quite an impression on me: the huge mast with the square radar equipment, the strange antenna on the bow, the remarkable bridge with the square windows and all the antennas from bow to stern.

I stayed a couple of hours on the ship and when I left, maybe as one of the last visitors, around 5 PM, some sailor gave a flyer to me with the details of the USS Little Rock. I must have that flyer somewhere. I wanted to take it with me to Buffalo, but unfortunately, I couldn’t find it anywhere.

So that evening, at home, I told my mum and dad and brothers where I had been that afternoon. They knew I was very interested in ships and my parents always agreed when I told them that I went to the harbour.

In the evening I made up my mind and I should go there the next day. Now the problem was that I had to go to school! Never mind, I would take a day off.

So the next morning as I left home, I told my mum that I would go to school and afterwards would have lunch at my friend’s home, and would be home about 4 PM. "Okay" she said, do your best. (Of course I would, mum!) However, I rode my bike straight to Stony Head. Pity, I had to wait until 11 AM for the tours to be available. But when the gangway was open to the visitors I was one of the first visitors that day. And again I had the opportunity to see a lot of the ship.
That evening, after I returned home the headmaster of the school rang at the door and asked my mum and dad why I wasn’t at school that day. So, I had to come out of bed and had to explain what I did that day.

Now, I was lucky as I wasn’t punished for that, but it "would be the first and last time I did those things", they said to me.

Some weeks later we moved to a town about 15  kilometres west of Amsterdam and trips to the harbour were quite few from that time on.

All my life I had been wondering what had become of the USS Little Rock. Sometimes I saw a picture of the ship in magazines. I wrote to some major newspapers in Amsterdam, as to whether they had pictures of the ship at Stony Head. However, there was one problem for me: I read on the Little Rock website that she stayed in Amsterdam in June 1964. So I was a little confused because I thought it was in September or October 1965 that I had visited the ship. Up until Oct. 24th 2012 I had doubts about the date.

It was at the late 90’s that I looked on the internet for information about the ship. And there she was! Moored in Buffalo at the museum. Now I had another goal, didn’t I?  Yes, I did.

For a couple of years I wrote messages on the Message Board forum of the webpage and asked if anyone had pictures of the ship when she was in Amsterdam. I wrote a lot of mails to crew-members who were on the ship in 1965. Unfortunately there were no private pictures. So I thought: when I ever have the opportunity to go to the USA, I have to go to Buffalo, without any doubts.

So I got in contact with Mr. Art Tilley, the webmaster, and he told me a lot more about the ship.

I asked whether there was a ham-radio station and Art told me, that W2PE was on board the ship. So, arrangements were made right then.

To be in New York City was one of my goals as I planned my trip in advance. Had seen so much on TV about that city that I was convinced I should go there some day.

So, we made plans. Unfortunately my wife would not have the opportunity, due to a broken hip some months before. But my son Walter was quite willing to join me. After I had told him about my plans to visit New York City, I told him too that we would also make a flight to Buffalo.

Well, during our autumn holiday we flew from Amsterdam to Newark and stayed at a hotel at 7th Avenue on Manhattan. We had bought a New York Pass, so we could go everywhere. We went to Ground Zero, did a Hop-On-Hop-Off tour to downtown Manhattan, visited USS Intrepid with the Space Shuttle Pavilion, Empire State Building, Times Square, Boxing Gym at Church Street, New York Yankees Stadium and had a great time at the Starbuck’s and TGI Fridays.

Tuesday, Oct. 23rd we flew to Buffalo and took a shuttle bus to the Adam’s Mark Hotel. Excellent rooms and a very friendly staff. That evening Walter and I went to a restaurant with delicious spare-ribs.

The next morning I was up very, very early, slipped out of the hotel, long before breakfast. Nervous? Yes without any doubt. New York City was great, but really this was the date and the place which did more for me!  So, in the very early morning of that Wednesday I was on my way to find out where the ship was. It must be in the neighbourhood of the hotel, as I had noticed on Google "Street View".

Finding it was not a problem, I thought. But on Google Maps it is different than in real mode, so I walked far beyond the park. I decided to walk back to the hotel, and when I was at the rear of First Niagara Center, there it was, the huge mast with the remarkable antenna on top of it. That must be the ‘Little Rock’. So, at a quarter to seven in the morning, I saw the ship again after 47 years.

Then back to the hotel where, at about 9 AM, Mr. Art Tilley arrived and the three of us had breakfast. Art showed me some pictures of the ship when she was in Amsterdam. He also offered us each a USS Little Rock cap with ‘eggs’ on it. Wonderful!

After breakfast we went to the museum. And there I was back, just a few yards from the ship. Quite impressive!

We had a very warm welcome by Mr. Kevin Kedzierski and Miss Lee Brandt who met us on board the Naval Park destroyer U.S.S. The Sullivans. Right away we stopped for a photo of all of us together at the stern of the ship.

Joops Visit 1

Left to right: Lee Brandt, Kevin Kedzierski, Art Tilley and my son Walter.

They invited us for an extended tour of the Little Rock where we met Harold, the operator of W2PE in the radio shack. Harold told us a lot about W2PE, the field-days, the museum weekends, the many guests who visit during the year, and the ships antennas which are still in use. I was very glad to get the opportunity to be QRV as guest-operator of this station. On 20 meters I had a QSO with AF2C, "Jay" in Palm Coast, FL. My son handled the video-camera and the video of the QSO is now on You Tube (search for W2PE). The shack on the ship was very nice, with all the pictures, QSL’s, and radio’s. An excellent place for operating a ham radio.

Joop Visit 2

KD2V Harold Freund

Joops Visit 3

PA3JD Joop as guest-operator of W2PE on Oct. 24th 2012 - 4.40 UTC

About 47 years ago I must have been in that same room, but I couldn’t remember. As a son of PAoJJR (sk), I was interested in radio too, as well as in ships. But after so many years, really I could not remember of being here before. Harold told us a lot about the radio room and the equipment. What a marvellous place for amateur radio!

Joops Visit 5

Walter hands over some Dutch chocolate to Lee

After visiting the radio room, Art showed us the rest of the ship, almost from bow to stern, and from top to bottom. And it was after 1.30 PM that we stopped for lunch in the restaurant in the museum. Later in the afternoon we were back on board taking pictures and video’s. It was a great moment to be back at exactly the same spot on the deck above the TALOS missiles, where I had been standing in September 1965 in Amsterdam.

Joop standing on Missile House, facing towards Launcher

Joop standing on Missile Hose, facing towards Launcher

Late in the afternoon we left. It was a wonderful day for me. And with a lot of pictures and video’s!  Art then took us to a very famous restaurant in Buffalo, the first place in the world to make the ‘original Buffalo wings’, the Anchor Bar where we had delicious Buffalo Wings.

The next morning Art picked us up for a trip to Niagara Falls. First we had a delicious breakfast at Betty’s, 370 Virginia Street, where my son had Granola. I missed that opportunity, old fashioned as I am and sometimes afraid for food which is unknown to me, What a mistake to miss the opportunity for having Granola at breakfast.

Visiting Niagara Falls was overwhelming. For us, coming from the Low Countries with really a lot of water, rivers and canals, it is amazing to watch the millions of litres water falling down each second.

Joops Visit 6

Joop and Walter at Niagara Falls

In the afternoon we were brought back to the Naval Park for another lunch and after that we went to Buffalo Exchange Station to take an Amtrak train to Toronto. Lucky for Walter, because he doesn’t like flying. Here we stayed one night and in the afternoon, at 5.35 PM we took a KLM flight back to Amsterdam.

Saturday morning at 7.15 AM local time we had our last stop at Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam.

Tired, but very, very satisfied we asked a student from Miami to take a picture of us at Schiphol Airport. A picture for the 69 friends in Holland, Germany, the UK and the USA who were following us on Facebook.

Joops Visit 7

Back Home !!

Thanks to all of you: Art, Kevin, Lee and Harold for an outstanding and amazing trip to the USS Little Rock on October 24th. 2012. Maybe I will be back some day. Who knows? Anyway, Walter told me that he will be back without any doubt. Maybe some day, he said with his son!

In 2011 and 2012 I had some QSO’s with stations from Buffalo and around. I am QRV most of the time with CW on HF and always looking on the cluster for amateurs from Buffalo or RAWNY. I will be QRV also, during the museum weekend this year and in some contests, especially the PACC in phone, because contests with only a straight key is difficult and I do not want to use a computer. Hpe to 2 meet u on the band. To me, it is very special to work with stations from Buffalo and RAWNY.

From Dedemsvaart, the Netherlands, we wish you all the best to you and your families es hpe cuagn on the bands.

73 and all the best from Holland.

Joop van der Does
Dedemsvaart – Holland.
You Tube Channel : pa3jd