The Heavy Attack Aircraft Squadron out of Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Washington that I was in, was deployed on a United States Aircraft Carrier on the East Coast. We sailed on a 10 month cruise across the Atlantic Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea. At that time in History (The Cold War 1947-1991) the Russians were considered our “enemies” As we deployed on the Carrier USS Forrestal, along with four Destroyers, two Heavy Cruisers and two Submarines, about 10,000 strong, we met up with the Russian Navy and Air force out at Sea in a continuous confrontation. As an example, when we turned into the wind to launch our Navy Fighters and Attack Jets, a Russian Cruiser would often ‘cut across our bow’ causing us to turn again to avoid a collision, significantly delaying us and upsetting our plans. At other times our radar would pick up indications that a large jet aircraft was headed in our direction that refused to identify itself causing us to launch fighter jets to intercept and protect us. It was then recognized as a large Russian Airforce Bomber. This went on over and over. Several months into the Cruise we came into Istanbul Turkey. As was our protocol, we lined the edge of the flight deck and stood there at parade rest while sailing in to drop anchor. Shortly after, the Russian Cruiser came by us headed towards the Bosporus and into the Black Sea. As they came abreast we were called to attention over the loud speakers, again Navy Protocol, to pay respect to each others flag and presence. Standing there, as they came by, I was looking ‘the enemy in the face” if you will. Their ship was that close. When we were all ordered ’At Ease!’, we all became boisterous, laughed, cheered, smiled and waved to each other…it was a joyous event. In that instant, I had a profound realization. They weren’t our “enemies” as I was led to believe…they were just like us! Sailors, taking orders. Doing the same type jobs and routines, subject to the same disciplines. With families at home, children, loved ones, that they like us had to leave behind …..to be con't.
Note: The plane at the top is a Navy Fighter Jet breaking the sound barrier.