A Cuban Excursion

Contributed by: Duane Mallast - RD3

The night was warm and we had been on station for a couple of days.  Our station was on the Southern coast of Cuba approximately 25 miles off the coast.  When radar picked up a contact coming at us from the coast of Cuba.  The contact was extremely small and at first was thought to be a glitch in the radar.  The contact continued to close on the Johnston though.

General Quarters was called to have all stations manned and ready at approximately 22:30.  A dispatch was sent to the Quantanamo Bay Base, stating our situation.  With the contact continuing to close, with a speed of 15 knots, the Captain turned the Johnston towards the contact.  As the contact came within 200 yards of the ship, radar lost contact.  The lookouts were trying very hard to pick up movement in the water.  Flashes of light were thought to have been seen, but nothing confirmed.  Being it was night and having an overcast sky, it was very hard to see any movement on the water.

General Quarters was not secured but relaxed for the moment.  Our previous heading was resumed.  Then radar reacquired the contact at our stern; the contact was turning and setting a course to follow us.  Tension was very high through out the ship.  The Captain turned away from the coast and tried to acquire the contact visually with the lookouts and other personnel on the bridge.  But this time the contact was doing a much better job of staying out of our way.  Turning before we could get close enough to try for identification.

This continued on for approximately three hours as we played cat and mouse with this contact.  Never really getting real close to the contact.  When we were approximately 50 miles off of the coast of Cuba and again closing on the contact from its stern.  All of the ship spotlights were put at the ready, when we again closed to within 200 yards and lost contact on the radar.  All of the spot lights were turned on to get an identification of the unknown contact.

To the amazement of the Captain, and all of the crew, the Johnston had been at GQ for the past three hours chasing a very large flock of birds.  Which appeared to be seagulls.  A dispatch was sent to Quantanamo telling them what had been identified and that we had secured GQ and were returning to our station.