From E-mail

Bruce S. Gebbeke


Sam Villa



        RE: Signed Guestbook
        Mon, 17 May 1999 09:22:03 -0500
        "Bruce S. Gebbeken" <>
        "'Sam Villa'" <>

Can share some. I was divorced in 1992 and "lost" all of my pictures and
stuff from the Providence, with the exception of a booklet of all the ships
spaces and my ship liberty card.

The Providence went through it's decomm starting around March 1973 (date no
longer remembered.
I remember just about everything at that time because it was my first ship.
I arrived on the ship Dec 18, 1972. At Pier 6 in San Diego's, Naval Station.
We set to sea only once during the time I was aboard, and that was to go to
Seal Beach to offload ammo (both 6 inch and 5 inch). A incident I remember
well while at Seal Beach was the dropping of a Willy Peter round from one of
the crew onto his foot. Since this scared the crap out of everybody and the
guy broke all the bones in his foot, it is hard to forget. I was offloading
5 inch rounds at the time and I remember everyone just about jumping out of
their skin. Being a new recruit at the time, all I remember doing is looking
The Prov upon return to San Diego moved to Inactive Ship's Maintenance
Facility (ISMF) in San Diego about pier 11. I was assigned to E Div and work
upon the ship until finishing decomm (around Nov?). The Captain and most of
the crew left in groups during the inactive period. The Providence, USS
Bowers (DD) and the Ticonderoga all were placed inactive at the same time.
The ISMF headquarters was aboard USS Klondike across from us. I remember
looking out and seeing that rust bucket everytime we would get up in the
ISMF had quite a few ships in San Diego at the time and it was interesting
to look out while working on the Providence at those other ships sitting
there. I remember seeing the USS Blue, the USS Galveston and one heavy
Cruiser there. ISMF mission was to preserve the ships in pristine order so
that the ship could be used again in time of war. To that end everything had
to be rustless and well conditioned prior to decomm date. We to clean rust
and spread preservation on everything. Those ISMF inspectors would roughshod
us with inspection mirrors and flashlights daring us to paint over the rust
(which sometimes happened). If rust was found, the components or item was
removed, sandblasted and repainted till we dropped. I remember the M gang in
fuel spaces for months and B Div living in boilers. Once we even had a fire
from a welding dropping into the bilge's. I spent time in just about every
space on the ship because our equipment was everywhere. I remember going
down to a space on the second platform call the Atomic Warhead handling room
and was astonished that the Prov could have carried Nuclear weapons, but do
not know if it ever did.
Another time close to the end, I remember going down to the second platform
again in some space, and hearing nothing but the water splashing on the
hull. At that time only four people were on the ship for security and what
was left of the crew was either gone or aboard the Klondike. I was securing
a controller and have never heard quiet like that before or since on a Navy
ship. I think it was then that I realized that the life of the ship was its
crew, and this ship was dead.

My shipmates I remember well in my division; EM3 Royce Brown, EM2 McCune, FA
Liddell, FA Goodo, FA J.R. Williams, IC2 Knappe, etc. Many fine people that
taught me well. I later left the Navy as an EM1.

The last of the crew went though decomm ceremony and were sent off to
various stations and that was it. The Providence underwent vacuum pumping.
In example, the machinery spaces doors were welded and the space pumped out
of all air. I seen this happen to only a couple of spaces while onboard,
most of this was done after we left. The superstructure like the missile
room, etc was covered with sheet metal and then vacuumed out. All external
ships hatches but a few were welded shut and air was pumped out of the
interior. I also recall E Div having to install hundreds of these floating
mercury switch alarms in all spaces so that if water came into the hull for
some reason it would trip an alarm. We strung LOTS of wire to the monitoring
station outside the quarter deck.
Upon sealing the ship was towed I think to National Steel And Shipbuilding
in San Diego for a sealant to seal the hull. That is the last I saw of the

Shortly after, in 1973 or early 1974, ISMF was decomm'ed and all the ships
left at once to parts unknown. The Klondike was scrapped and the piers
opened to expand the Naval Station. I do not know what happen to all those

Hope this helps. I still remember one hell of alot about the people, spaces
and stuff about the ship. I certainly got around because of the decomm, that
normally would never happen.


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