For the last 2 years or so, since I retired, I have been going through the house and finding things. Things that I get to decide if they’re trash, keep, recycle, or give to the Salvation Army. And along the way finding objects that bring back memories. This is one of them.
We were living in San Diego, California. My husband was still active duty in the US Navy. I think he was stationed on the USS McKee, a “submarine tender.” When we learned that 3 USSR Naval ships would be coming to town, every one was excited. They arrived July 31st, and would be there for 5 full days. 2 “guided missile destroyers” and 1 “oiler”. I have no idea what an oiler ship is all about. I suspect it’s their word for a maintenance ship.
Tours of the ships would happen! The lines of people who wanted to see these ships up close and personal were long. Really long. I don’t remember how many hours we stood there, inching closer and closer to the stairs that took us to the top deck. The ship we walked through was one of the destroyers. We walked the entire length of the top deck, even through the pilots’ room, then down some super-steep ladder/stairs to a lower level. Walked through their mess/food/eating area, some of their bunk/sleeping areas, and open doors everywhere to peak into. Lots of sailors being friendly but careful to keep us on the right paths, so to speak.
We had heard a rumor while in line, and others who had already been on the ship confirmed it, that the Russian sailors were as eager as we were to have some sort of physical “thing” to commemorate this unusual event. What was happening is that they would exchange a military pin of theirs for one of ours. I found two pins of ours in the bottom of my purse. When we got to the sleeping/living area of the ship is where we met many of the sailors standing by their bunks. They knew about as much English as I did their Russian. “Placebo” for “thank you”, “nyet” for “no”, and “dah” for “yes”. It was enough. I don’t remember what pin the young man got from me, but the picture above is what I exchanged it for.
After much research on the internet I have discovered that that pin is a USSR Air Force Badge 1st Class Military Pilot. I don’t remember if the ship had a helicopter landing pad or not.
This pin was the second one. And it took me a devil of a time to find it online to identify it. We got robbed! Hoodwinked! It’s an American pin! From the 1920’s, the crest of the 6th Field Artillery Regiment. Obviously that Russian sailor didn’t want it so traded it back to us unsuspecting un-knowledgeable tourists.
But really, after all these years, I don’t even care. The memory of seeing what we saw, and meeting these young men who sailed the seas from another country, was well worth it.