Military Spotlight: Saluting Our Service Members

By The Major Brent Taylor Foundation and Bill Bernard

Bill Bernard

Bill Bernard during his service in the U.S. Navy. He served during Vietnam.

Bill served on a ship of the U.S. Navy off the coast of North and South Vietnam in 1970. This was part of a larger operation of gunfire support of troops ashore in the War in Vietnam. His ship had officers of the South Vietnamese Navy aboard. While in South Vietnamese waters, his ship had to carefully avoid small craft, all flying the yellow-and-red flag of South Vietnam.

On March 19, 1970, Bill’s ship, the USS Neches, was off the coast of South Vietnam, near the city of Hue. Bill was on the Neches’s bridge while the destroyer USS Orleck came alongside in a refueling operation. Both ships were underway in heavy seas. The object was to transfer fuel from one ship to the other via large hoses. Bill’s job was to contact the bridge of the Orleck via a sound-powered phone line that had been sent across the water. Suddenly, the command “emergency breakaway” was heard as the Orleck lost steering control from her bridge. The Orleck switched to an emergency backup procedure in the aft steering compartment, which was located low in the rear of the ship near the rudder. This procedure was not immediately successful; Bill grabbed something solid, and he watched as the Orleck smashed into the Neches below and aft of where he was standing. Sparks flew amid a deafening noise as metal contacted metal. The Orleck went to general quarters and set condition Zebra to close all watertight doors and hatches. The anchor of the Orleck was ripped off their ship and landed on the deck of the Neches. Fortunately, there was no fire in the midst of this refueling operation. The Orleck dropped astern and started to take on water. The Neches was damaged amidships but did not take on water. The flooding on the Orleck was controlled, and both ships made it back to the Philippines for repairs. Bill heard his captain say something to the effect of, “This was not the approved Navy way to start the day.”

Some months later, the Neches stopped in Japan on her way back to San Francisco. Bill was able to get some time off to visit the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka Japan. The pavilion of the Soviet Union was massive. When Bill entered that pavilion, he spied a crowd of Japanese tourists crowded around an information desk. A very pretty young female Communist manned this desk. When she spied Bill in his Navy uniform, she reached under her desk and then handed some literature to him, while carefully avoiding the outreached hands of the Japanese tourists. This turned out to be literature – in English – extolling the virtues of Communism, especially for young adults like him. Bill was certainly not a fan of Communism, but that sure was a pretty young lady.

Later, in civilian life, Bill served for twelve years as North Ogden City Treasurer. Bill and his wife Sherry have been married for 46 years and have two sons, Mike and Brian, and two grandchildren, Maddie and William.

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