A World Ago: A Navy Man's Letters Home (1954-1956) by Dorien Grey

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It's not often one has the chance to become 20 again...

A World Ago chronicles, through one young man's journal and vivid letters to his parents, his life, adventures, and experiences at a magical time. It follows him from being a Naval Aviation Cadet to becoming a “regular” sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga on an eight-month tour of duty in the politically tense Mediterranean Sea.

Learn to fly a plane, to soar, alone, through a valley of clouds, experience a narrow escape from death on a night training flight, and receive the continent of Europe as a 21st birthday gift. Climb down into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius, visit Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul and places in-between; wander the streets of Pompeii, have your picture taken on a fallen column on the Acropolis, ride bicycles on the Island of Rhodes, experience daily life aboard an aircraft carrier during the height of the cold war—all in the company and through the eyes of a young will-be-writer coming of age with the help of the United States Navy.

A World Ago is a rare glimpse into the personal and private world of a young man on the verge of experiencing everything the world has to offer—and discovering a lot about himself in the process.


3 October 1955

Dear Folks

Well, here it is Monday night and we are somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean—not far from shore, but far enough so that I’d hate to have to walk home. We are being escorted by two heavy cruisers and a destroyer, which spent the afternoon intermittently running around and being hidden in heavy rain squalls. Rain squalls at sea are different from those on land, save perhaps on the great plains; there are no buildings or hills to break the wind, and the rain beats with such fury on the waves that clouds of mist or steam roll over the waters.

The other day I saw my first flying fish, and they seem to do just that, even though science claims they merely glide with extended fins. They are quite small, I’d judge from my vantage point on the foc’sle (bow or front end), and glide low over the waves for distances up to two city blocks.

The day before we entered Mayport, we sailed through a slight current from the River Styx. One chief died of a heart attack during flight operations at night, and was found on the wing of a plane. A Lt. Cdr. Died that same night in his sleep, and a pilot was killed flying from shore to the ship. The chief was carried below decks, down steep ladders and through narrow hatches, to the vegetable refrigeration room. The next morning one of our mess cooks, who had been asleep and heard nothing of the event, went down to get something for the noon meal. The poor guy practically had a fit. I imagine it would be a slight shock to open your refrigerator and see a body lying among the onions and potatoes.

Just got a letter from one of my NavCad buddies—Harry Harrison (I’ve mentioned him, I think—he was four classes ahead of me in Pre-Flight). He’s in Corpus Christi now and going to get his wings very soon.

Bought some postcards in Jacksonville, but don’t know when I’ll get around to mailing them. You know, I’ve just had a thought—I told you about the “I”’s in my letters; well, from now on I’ll do like the kings do. Refer to myself as “we.”

Right now it is near taps, so I’d better finish up for now. I’ll write more later.

Till then, I am Your waterlogged Son Roge P.P.S. When you coming dad? There isn’t much time! 308 Days Left

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