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The mighty battle of the ironclads

by ROGER GREGORY / Contributing Writer
| August 23, 2023 1:00 AM

This military article is for my two Sandpoint High School graduating classmates, Bernard and Laurie, Class of 1956. They were both in the Navy.

My articles have been tainted toward the Army as I was a five-year Army man, Vietnam veteran. For all you Navy people, I am not too familiar with the Navy lingo, there are such terms as Swabee, fore, aft, port starboard, ship, boat, and anchors away my boys. ("Whoops, that is a song.") So I apologize to all Navy vets, for not knowing the proper terms.

Anyway, modern Navy personnel are familiar with big battleships, cruisers, carriers, etc. But how about this one? In 1862, the USS Monitor battles CSS Virginia, was one of the most famous naval battles in American history. Both were ironclads that fought near the harbor of Hampton Roads, Va.

The Confederacy had built its first ironclads to disrupt the Union naval blockade of the South. The Union sent the Monitor. In the four-hour battle between the two ships, the battle ended up a stalemate, neither ship was seriously damaged. Both sides claimed victory for the battle.

In my own Navy experience as a captain in the 1st Infantry Division, in 1965, we went to Vietnam on troop ships — five ships, 3,000 men each — but were a week or so apart each. I was on the USNS Barrett. We stopped at Guam to take on fresh water. It took us 21 days to get there, and because of so many people, water was rationed, so we were only allowed one shower a week. When we went through the Philippine Islands, our ship went dead in the water. We thought "hooray," but they got it going again.

When we reached Vietnam, we saw attack helicopters flying all over the place and were wondering, "What the heck are we getting into?" When we went ashore, instead of being greeted by enemy fire, we were welcomed by a band! Wow. But it didn't take long for that nice stuff to change. Will do another later about that.

Roger Gregory is a Vietnam veteran and business owner in Priest River.

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