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Writing History

From Edmund Wilson, “To the Finland Station.”

Writing history is an imaginative act. Few people would deny this, but not everyone agrees on what it means. It doesn’t mean, obviously, that historians may alter or suppress the facts, because that is not being imaginative; it’s being dishonest. The role of imagination in writing history isn’t to make up things that aren’t there; it’s to make sensible the things that are there. When you undertake historical research, two truths that once sounded banal come to seem profound. The first is that your knowledge of the past apart, occasionally, from a limited visual record and the odd unreliable survivor comes entirely from written documents. You are almost completely cut off, by a wall of print, from the life you have set out to represent. You can’t observe historical events; you can’t question historical actors; you can’t even know most of what has not been written
about. Whatever has been written about therefore takes on an importance which may be spurious. A few lines in a memoir, a snatch of recorded conversation, a letter fortuitously preserved, an event noted in a diary: all become luminous with significance even though these are just the bits that have floated to the surface. The historian clings to them, while somewhere below, the huge submerged wreck of the past sinks silently out of sight.

The second realization that strikes you is, in a way, the opposite of the first: the more material you dredge up, the more bits and pieces you recover, the more elusive the subject becomes. In the case of a historical figure, there is usually a standard biographical interpretation, constructed around a small number of details: diary entries, letters, secondhand anecdotes, putatively autobiographical passages in the published work. Out of these details, a psychological profile is constructed, which, in the circular process that characterizes most biographical enterprise, is then used to interpret the details. It is almost always possible, though, by ranging a little more widely or digging a little deeper, to find details that are inconsistent with the standard interpretation, or that seem to point to a different interpretation, or that have been ignored because they are fragments that don’t support any coherent interpretation. And usually there’s a level of detail below that, and on and on. One instinct you need in doing historical research is knowing when to keep dredging stuff up; another is knowing when to stop.

You stop when you feel that you’ve got it, and this is where imagination matters. The test for a successful history is the same as the test for a successful novel: integrity in motion. It’s not the facts, snapshots of the past, that make a history; it’s the story, the facts run by the eye at the correct speed. Novelists sometimes explain their work by saying that they invent a character, put the character in a situation, and then wait to see what the character will do. History is not different. The historian’s character has to do what the real person has done, of course, but there is an uncanny way in which this can seem to happen almost spontaneously. The “Marx” that the historian has imagined keeps behaving, in every new set of conditions, like Marx. This gives the description of the conditions a plausibility, too: the person fits the time. The world turns beneath the character’s marching feet. The figures and the landscape come to life together, and the chart of their movements makes a continuous motion, a narrative. The past reveals itself to have a plot.

[Note: This chronology covers the period that I served aboard the USS Oklahoma City. Though I was only there for three years, it seemed longer. Thanks to Philip R. Hays for the research.]

27 July – 16 August 1971 Upkeep and Maintenance at Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, Japan. Replaced 6″ gun bucklers on #1 turret that were damaged by heavy seas.

17 – 19 August 1971 En route to Keelung, Taiwan. Conducted operations off Okinawa.

20 – 23 August 1971 In port Keelung. Rendered de-flooding assistance to a Chinese freighter moored astern. Visited Taipei.

24 August 1971 En route Hong Kong.

25 August 1971 In port Hong Kong to retrieve items left behind due to typhoon Lucy in July.

26 August 1971 En route to Gulf of Tonkin.

27 – 31 August 1971 On Station in Gulf of Tonkin conducting Naval Gunfire Support at Point Allison.

1 – 6 September 1971 On PIRAZ Station in Gulf of Tonkin.

7 – 8 September 1971 En route to Okinawa Operations Area.

9 September 1971 Gunnery exercise and Talos firing exercise at Okinawa Operations Area.

10 September 1971 En route to Yokosuka.

11 September – 20 October 1971 Moored to berth 8 SRF Yokosuka. Restricted Availability for extensive repair and overhaul.

21 – 22 October 1971 En route to Okinawa Operations Area.

23 October 1971 Vicinity Okinawa Operations Area for helo ops and gunnery exercises.

24 – 25 October 1971 En route Gulf of Tonkin.

26 – 31 October 1971 On assigned Naval Gunfire Support Station Point Allison, Vietnam.

1 – 7 November 1971 On Station in Gulf of Tonkin for Naval Gunfire Support and AAW cover.

8 – 9 November 1971 En route Sattahip, Thailand.

10 – 14 November 1971 In port Sattahip. Visited Bangkok and Pattaya Beach.

17 November 1971 Crossed Equator and held “Crossing the Line” ceremonies. [Woot! I’m a shellback!]

15 – 18 November 1971 En route Singapore.

19 – 23 November 1971 In port Singapore.

24 – 26 November 1971 En route Subic Bay.

27 – 29 November 1971 In port Subic Bay.

30 November 1971 En route Yankee Station. The ship responded to a distress call from Taiwanese fishing boats foundered on Scarborough Shoals. COMSEVENTHFLT helo rescued seven fisherman. Ship provided directions for US Air Force SAR helos that rescued the remainder of boats’ crews.

1 – 2 December 1971 On Station in Gulf of Tonkin.

3 – 5 December 1971 En route to Yokosuka.

6 – 31 December 1971 Holiday period in port Yokosuka.

25 December 1971 Christmas in Yokosuka.

1 – 2 January 1972 Holiday period in port Yokosuka.

3 – 7 January 1972 En route from Yokosuka, Japan to Subic Bay, Philippines.

8 January 1972 Conduct type training in Subic Bay operating area.

9 – 17 January 1972 In port Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

18 – 19 January 1972 En route from Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines to Hong Kong, British Crown Colony.

20 – 26 January 1972 In port Hong Kong, British Crown Colony.

27 January 1972 En route from Hong Kong, British Crown Colony. to Vietnam combat zone.

28 – 31 January 1972 On Talos station off North Vietnam. Radar hunting.

1 – 4 February 1972 On Talos station off North Vietnam. During this period Oklahoma City fired a Talos RIM-8H anti radiation missile and destroyed a NVN mobile radar installation. It was the first successful surface-to-surface combat missile shot in US Navy history.

5 – 6 February 1972 En route to Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

7 – 12 February 1972 In port Subic Bay.

13 – 14 February 1972 En route from Subic Bay to Vietnam combat zone.

15 February – 1 March 1972 On Talos station off North Vietnam.

2 – 5 March 1972 En route from the combat zone to Yokosuka, Japan via the Okinawa Operations Area to conduct gunnery exercises.

6 March – 2 April 1972 Upkeep and maintenance at Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, Japan.

2 – 6 April 1972 En route from Yokosuka, Japan to the Vietnam combat zone.

7 – 30 April 1972 Conducting Naval Gunfire Support in the DMZ and gunfire strikes in North Vietnam. The ship received hostile fire from shore batteries on many occasions during this period. The ship attacked AAW sites, bridges, a communications station, a fuel storage depot and barracks.

7 April 1972 Received hostile fire from shore batteries north of the Cua Viet River. This action earned the Oklahoma City the Combat Action Ribbon.

14 April 1972 Conducted gunfire strikes on Tan Hoa North Vietnam. Received hostile fire.

15 April 1972 Conducted gunfire strikes north of 20°N in North Vietnam.

16 April 1972 Conducted gunfire strikes on Haiphong, North Vietnam. Received hostile fire.

17 April 1972 Conducted gunfire strikes on Vinh, North Vietnam.

19 April 1972 Participated in the battle of Dong Hoi Gulf, North Vietnam. The task force was attacked by NVN MiGs. A 250 pound bomb from a MiG 17 hit the USS Higbee (DD-806), injuring four sailors. The MiG 17 was shot down by missile fire from the USS Sterett (DDG-31). USS Lloyd Thomas (DD-764) and the USS Sterett are thought to have sunk two NVN torpedo boats. Oklahoma City received slight damage to antennas from shore battery fire during the engagement.

1 May 1972 Conducting Naval Gunfire Support and gunfire strikes in the Vietnam combat zone.

2 – 3 May 1972 En route to Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines

4 – 6 May 1972 In port Subic Bay. Regunned the 6″/47 battery.

7 – 9 May 1972 En route to the Vietnam combat zone for Naval Gunfire Support and strike operations.

10 – 31 May 1972 Conducting Naval Gunfire Support and strike operations in North Vietnam and at the DMZ. Received hostile fire from shore batteries on several occasions. In company with the USS Newport News (CG-148), USS Providence (CLG-6) and destroyers USS Hanson (DD-832), USS Myles C. Fox (DD-829) and USS Buchannan (DDG-14), Oklahoma City shelled the Cat Bai military airfield on the Do Son peninsula at the mouth of Haiphong Harbor, North Vietnam. This was the first multi-cruiser strike since World War II.

23 May 1972 VADM J. L. Holloway III, relieved VADM W. P. Mack as Commander Seventh Fleet while the ship was on the gun line.

1 – 5 June 1972 Conducted naval gunfire support missions near the DMZ and Quang Tri City.

6 – ? June 1972 En route from the gun line to Okinawa.

? June 1972 Fired three Talos missiles in operations off Okinawa.

? to 10 June 1972 En route to Yokosuka, Japan.

11 – 22 June 1972 In port Yokosuka, Japan.

22 June 1972 Captain W. A. Kanakanui relieved Captain J. J. Tice III as Commanding Officer USS Oklahoma City.

23 – 27 June 1972 En route from Yokosuka, Japan to the Vietnam combat zone.

28 – 30 June 1972 Conducting Naval Gunfire Support operations near Quang Tri City and the DMZ.

1 – 21 July 1972 Conducting Naval Gunfire Support in the Vietnam combat zone.

22 – 27 July 1972 En route to Yokosuka, Japan.

28 July – 10 August 1972 Maintenance and upkeep at Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, Japan.

11 August – 21 September 1972 Incremental overhaul at Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, Japan.

22 – 24 September 1972 En route from Yokosuka, Japan to Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

25 – 27 September 1972 Missile exchange at Subic Bay.

28 September 1972 En route to Vietnam combat zone.

29 – 30 September 1972 Naval Gunfire Support near the DMZ.

1 – 13 October 1972 Conducting Naval Gunfire Support in the Vietnam combat zone. Received hostile fire from shore batteries.

14 – 15 October 1972 En route to Singapore.

16 – 20 October 1972 In port Singapore for a protocol port visit.

21 – 22 October 1972 En route from Singapore to the Vietnam combat zone via the Equator where “Crossing the Line” ceremony was conducted.

23 – 28 October 1972 Conducting Naval Gunfire Support near the DMZ and gunfire strikes in North Vietnam. Received hostile fire from shore batteries.

29 – 31 October 1972 En route from the combat zone to the Okinawa operating area.

1 November 1972 Conducting SAMEX in the Okinawa operating area. Three Talos missiles were fired at drones and surface targets.

2 November 1972 En route to Yokosuka, Japan

3 – 17 November 1972 Maintenance and upkeep at Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, Japan.

18 – 21 November 1972 En route to Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

22 – 23 November 1972 In port Subic Bay for missile exchange.

24 November 1972 En route to the Vietnam combat zone.

25 November – 4 December 1972 Conducting naval gunfire support near the DMZ.

5 – 7 December 1972 En route to Keelung, Taiwan.

8 – 10 December 1972 In port Keelung for a protocol port visit. Visited Taipei.

11 – 12 December 1972 En route to Yokosuka, Japan.

13 – 31 December 1972 Upkeep and maintenance at Ship Repair Facility, Yokosuka, Japan. Holiday period for the crew.

25 December 1972 Christmas in Yokosuka.

1 – 7 January 1973 Holiday leave and upkeep at Yokosuka, Japan.

8 – 12 January 1973 En route from Yokosuka, Japan to Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, via Okinawa Operations Area.

13 – 19 January 1973 In port Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

20 – 21 January 1973 En route from Subic Bay to Hong Kong, British
Crown Colony.
22 – 28 January 1973 Visit Hong Kong, British Crown Colony. Formal cease fire announced for Vietnam War.

29 – 30 January 1973 En route from Hong Kong, British Crown Colony to Subic Bay, Republic Philippines.

31 January 1973 – 5 February 1973 In port Subic Bay, Republic Philippines.

6 February 1973 Transit to and arrive at Manila, Republic Philippines.

7 – 8 February 1973 Visit Manila, Republic Philippines. Conducted general visiting with attendance of 16,000.

9 February 1973 En route to and arrive at Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

10 – 14 February 1973 In port Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

14 – 15 February 1973 En route to Kaohsuing, Taiwan.

16 – 18 February 1973 Visit Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

19 – 20 February 1973 En route to Gulf of Tonkin.

21 – 28 February 1973 Special operations in Gulf of Tonkin.

1 – 2 March 1973 Special operations in Gulf of Tonkin.

2 – 5 March 1973 En route to Yokosuka, Japan.

6 March 1973 – 12 April 1973 In port Yokosuka, Japan. Restricted availability and drydock. Two day sea trial in Sagami Wan.

13 April 1973 En route Nagoya, Japan. Dependents’ cruise.

14 – 16 April 1973 Visit Nagoya, Japan. Conducted general visiting.

16 – 17 April 1973 En route Kobe, Japan.

18 – 19 April 1973 Visit Kobe, Japan. Conducted general visiting. Visit Osaka and Kyoto.

20 – 21 April 1973 En route Yokosuka, Japan.

21 April – 6 May 1973 In port Yokosuka, Japan.

7 – 11 May 1973 En route Yankee Station via Okinawa Operations Area. Conducted several Talos missile and gunnery exercises.

12 – 13 May 1973 Special operations in Gulf of Tonkin.

14 – 15 May 1973 En route Subic Bay, Republic Philippines.

16 May 1973 Visit Subic Bay, Republic Philippines.

17 – 18 May 1973 Type training in Subic Bay Operations Area.

19 – 20 May 1973 En route Sattahip, Thailand.

21 – 25 May 1973 In port Sattahip, Thailand. Visit Bangkok.

26 – 29 May 1973 En route Hong Kong, British Crown Colony.

30 May – 4 June 1973 Visit Hong Kong, British Crown Colony.

5 – 7 June 1973 En route Inchon, Korea.

8 – 10 June 1973 In port Inchon, Korea. Visit Seoul.

11 – 13 June 1973 En route Yokosuka, Japan via Shimonoseki Straits.

14 June – 10 July 1973 In port Yokosuka, Japan.

11 – 12 July 1973 En route Sasebo, Japan.

13 – 15 July 1973 In port Sasebo, Japan. Visit Nagasaki.

16 – 17 July 1973 En route Yokosuka, Japan, avoiding typhoon.

18 July 1973 – 27 August 1973 In port Yokosuka, Japan Dry dock in drydock #5 SRF Yokosuka. Navy Distillate fuel conversion.

28 July 1973 VADM George P. Steele relieved VADM James L. Holloway as Commander SEVENTH Fleet.

9 – 10 August 1973 Navy Technical Proficiency Inspection by Nuclear Weapons Training Group, Pacific.

28 August 1973 Sea trials in Sagami Wan.

29 August – 3 September 1973 In port Yokosuka, Japan.

4 – 10 September 1973 En route Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines with training exercises at Subic Bay Operations Area.

11 – 16 September 1973 Visit Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

17 – 19 September 1973 En route Singapore.

20 – 24 September 1973 Visit Singapore.

25 – 28 September 1973 En route Keelung, Taiwan, via the Equator where “Crossing the Line” ceremony was conducted.

29 September – 2 October 1973 Visit Keelung, Taiwan. Visit Taipei.

3 – 4 October 1973 En route Yokosuka, Japan.

5 October – 8 November 1973 In port Yokosuka, Japan.

9 – 12 November 1973 En route Hong Kong, British Crown Colony.

13 – 18 November 1973 Visit Hong Kong, British Crown Colony. Conducted general visiting for 14,000 guests.

19 – 20 November 1973 En route Manila, Republic of the Philippines.

21 – 26 November 1973 Visit Manila, Republic of the Philippines. Conducted general visiting for 9,000 guests.

27 – 30 November 1973 En route Yokosuka, Japan via Subic Bay Operations Area. Conducted gunnery exercises.

1 – 2 December 1973 En route Yokosuka, Japan via Okinawa Operations Area. Conducted Talos missile firing exercise.

3 – 31 December 1973 In port Yokosuka, Japan.

25 December 1973 Christmas in Yokosuka, Japan.

1 – 6 January 1974 Holiday Leave and Upkeep at Yokosuka, Japan.

7 – 11 January 1974 En route from Yokosuka, Japan, to Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, Via Okinawa Operations Areas.

12 – 20 January 1974 In port Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

21 – 25 January 1974 En route from Subic Bay to Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Via Subic Bay Operations Areas.

26 – 28 January 1974 In port Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Conducted general visiting for 8,500 guests.

29 – 31 January 1974 En Route from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, to Sasebo, Japan.

1 – 3 February 1974 In Port Sasebo, Japan. Conducted general visiting for 3,000 guests. Visit Nagasaki.

4 – 5 February 1974 En route from Sasebo, Japan, to Yokosuka, Japan.

6 February – 29 March 1974 In port Yokosuka, Japan, Restricted Availability and drydock period. Continuing Navy Distillate fuel conversion.

30 March – 3 April 1974 En route from Yokosuka, Japan, to Subic Bay, Republic Philippines.

4 April 1974 Anchored Subic Bay, RP, for Refueling.

4 – 9 April 1974 En route Sattahip, Thailand.

9 – 14 April 1974 In port Sattahip, Thailand. Visit Bangkok and Pattaya Beach.

15 – 16 April 1974 En route Penang, Malaysia. Refueled from Royal Navy oiler RFA Tidespring (A 75).

17 – 21 April 1974 Visit Penang, Malaysia.

22 – 26 April 1974 En route Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

27 April – 3 May 1974 In port Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.

4 – 6 May 1974 En route Pusan, Korea.

7 – 10 May 1974 Visit Pusan, Korea.

11 – 12 May 1974 En route Yokosuka, Japan.

13 May – 20 June 1974 In port Yokosuka, Japan. Restricted Availability and drydock period. Continuing Navy Distillate fuel conversion.

20 June 1974 Sea Trails Tokyo Bay.

20 June – 7 July 1974 In port Yokosuka, Japan, Restricted Availability and Drydock Period.

8 – 11 July 1974 En route from Yokosuka, Japan, to Otaru, Japan.

12 – 15 July 1974 In port Otaru, Japan. Visit Sapporo.

16 – 23 July 1974 Operations with Task Group 77.4 in Northern Japan Operations Area.

24 July – 4 August 1974 Upkeep Yokosuka, Japan.

5 – 15 August 1974 Operations with Task Group 77.4 in Japan Operations Area.

16 August – 15 October 1974 In port Yokosuka, Japan, Restricted Availability and drydock period. Continuing Navy Distillate fuel conversion.

God’s Answer to Job

From “Manhattan” by Woody Allen

Isaac tells his 17 year old girlfriend:

“You know what you are? You’re God’s answer to Job, y’know? You would have ended all argument between them. I mean, He would have pointed to you and said, y’know, I do a lot of terrible things, but I can still make one of these. You know? And then Job would have said, Eh. Yeah, well, you win.”

I envy. This secret
I have not revealed before.
I know there is somewhere a boy
whom I greatly envy.
I envy the way he fights;
I myself was never so guileless and bold.
I envy the way he laughs-
as a boy I could never laugh like that.
He always walks about with bumps and bruises;
I’ve always been better combed, intact.
He will not miss all those passages in books
I’ve missed. Here he is stronger too.
He will be more blunt and harshly honest,
forgiving no evil even if it does some good;
and where I’d dropped my pen: ‘It isn’t worth it…’
he’d assert: ‘It’s worth it! ‘ and pick up the pen.
If he can’t unravel a knot, he’ll cut it through,
where I can neither unravel a knot, nor cut it through.
Once he falls in love, he won’t fall out of it,
while I keep falling in and out of love.
I’ll hide my envy. Start to smile.
I’ll pretend to be a simple soul:
‘Someone has to smile;
someone has to live in a different way…’
But much as I tried to persuade myself of this,
repeating: ‘To each man his fate…’
I can’t forget there is somewhere a boy
who will achieve far more than I.

Translated by George Reavey

Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Hedgehog and Sloth were best friends...

They are so cute.

The Back Pages

The Back Pages

Sometimes the best stories are on the last page…

Your Emily Dickinson…

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.   

Emily Dickinson