I was 19 years old. I had been in the United States Marine Corps for a little over a year. I was a boot. Older Marines were telling me they had worn out more seabags than I had socks, they had more time in the air jumping off the back of six-by trucks than I had in the Corps. When they joined Christ was only a Corporal.
When I heard the order "Mount Out" I didn’t know I was going to be taking part in an historical event.
It was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. I was a part of the 1st Marine Division and we quickly assembled and boarded ships in San Diego. There were 1200 Marines that boarded the USS Henrico, APA 45.
We were prepared to invade Cuba to remove the Soviet missiles. The TV news said the missiles could reach all the way to Chicago.
We went south along Baja California headed for the Panama Canal. The weather got warmer the further south we traveled. As we sailed along more US Navy ships joined us and we all lined up to go through the Canal. As we were going through the locks and lakes of the Canal I learned it actually runs north and south. I saw jungle for the first time in my life.
Ted Charles, a Navajo friend, and I were two of the Marine infantry who were going to climb down the cargo nets into the little boats that would take us ashore. When the ramps dropped the Marines were going to come charging off the boats, shooting our rifles.
The US Navy was setting up a blockade to stop the Soviet ships that were bringing more missiles to Cuba. This looked real bad, we were going to make a landing, an amphibious assault against Cuban soldiers armed with machine guns in bunkers.
The Marines were prepared, there were maps, photographs and diagrams of where we would be landing. A US Navy Destroyer was going to provide fire support for just our platoon.
When the officer was briefing us about the situation I asked what we were going to do after taking the bunkers. It was deathly quiet and then he said, "You will no longer be effective as a fighting force." Oh oh, Mrs. Northrup, what did your oldest son get himself into, I thought.
Days and long nights went by before we got the word we wouldn’t be going into Cuba. Instead we were going to make a landing in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
We had liberty, which meant a six-by truck hauled us to town where the Marines got drunk and laughed about the close brush with death.
After our time was up in Puerto Rico we went to Kingston, Jamaica. We toured the Governor’ s Mansion. In the back yard they had a hedge maze. The plants were about ten feet tall. We couldn’t find our way out so we just looked for the sun and crashed through walls of hedges until we got out.
When we climbed the ladder to get back aboard the ship a drunk sailor, saluted the fantail where the US flag flew, he then turned to the Officer of The Day, and requested permission to "cross his patio, Daddy-O." The sailor then tipped over backwards and fell 30 feet to the harbor water. He was sober when they fished him out.
On the way to Panama we celebrated Thanksgiving. We ate turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie. For some reason we all had ingii shaabokaawizimin (diarrhea) after our Thanksgiving meal. The 1200 Marines were relieving themselves all over the ship. It took the angry sailors two days with high pressure hoses to clean the ship. Only one officer had diarrhea after the meal and it was the Officer of the Day whose duty was to eat with the troops.
We went back to the Panama Canal and then north to Long Beach, California where we unloaded the munitions we were going to use in Cuba.
We had earned the Armed Forces Expeditionary medal for going on a 60-70 day cruise on the USS Henrico, APA 45.
That was my historical event that could have led to nuclear war with the Cubans and Soviets.
**** There is an important election coming up and I have decided who I am going to vote for this time.
First, the candidate has to have the same last name as me, second the candidate must have the same birthday as me and finally the candidate must have the same maw and dad as me. In looking at the list of candidates for the position of District Two representative on the Reservation Business Committee, only my brother Russ Northrup fits my criteria. He has my vote.