I heard the news of a Navy carrier battle group heading toward the Korean Peninsula and took special note of the aircraft carrier leading the group.
It’s the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear-powered beast with which I have some limited familiarity.
I don’t know, of course, what all this means overall. North Korean madman/dictator Kim Jong Un is rattling his sabre yet again. He’s launching missiles into the Sea of Japan and threatening war against South Korea, Japan and maybe even the United States.
So the Carl Vinson battle group is heading toward the peninsula in a show of strength.
I received a marvelous assignment in 1993 at the invitation of the late U.S. Rep. Charles Wilson, an East Texas Democrat who was a huge supporter of military affairs. I was editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise at the time and our paper circulated deeply into Wilson’s 2nd Congressional District.
He invited me to join him on a tour of the Carl Vinson, which at the time was home-ported at San Diego, Calif. The ship was at sea at the time of Wilson’s invitation. I asked my editor if I could go; he said “yes.” The paper purchased my plane ticket and I flew to San Diego to meet with Wilson and his congressional party.
We landed on the Carl Vinson and spent three days and nights aboard ship. Rep. Wilson spent time talking to pilots, deck crew members, machinists, cooks. He told all of them how much he appreciated the work they did and the service they performed in defense of the nation.
By the way, you have not lived until you’ve been through a tailhook landing and a catapult launch off the deck of an aircraft carrier. Believe me, there is nothing in this entire world quite like either experience.
During a tour of the flight deck, the skipper of the ship at the time, Capt. John Payne, told us of the immense firepower contained on the ships comprising the battle group.
He then said something quite astonishing. He said the group — which comprised several warships, including cruisers, destroyers and frigates as well as support craft along with this monstrous carrier — contained more explosive firepower than all the ordnance dropped during World War II.
Of course, that prompted the question from yours truly: “Skipper, does that mean this ship is carrying nukes?” Capt. Payne looked me in the eye and said, “Now you know I can’t answer that question.”
OK. Got it.
Twenty-four years later, the USS Carl Vinson is still on active duty. It’s now heading for a potentially very dangerous zone. I do believe the ship and its massive crew will be ready for whatever occurs.