Back in the late 60’s early 70’s we were doing our usual war games off the coast of Subic Bay Philippines. What we called war games was taking the Marines somewhere and we practiced landing them on the beach. USS Monticello LSD 35 is what they call a Landing Ship Dock; we carry 350 marines, all their gear and equipment such as tanks, jeeps, and anything else they carried with them. The ship had a large gate on the stern, (which is the back or aft part of the ship) there or two large rams that lowers and raises the gate. We lowered the gate a little past level and thin the ship could flood or what they call take on ballast to lower the back part of the ship down in the water which would cause the water to come up into the well deck then a LCU would come part way in drop his gate from the front to take on a load thin take them to the beach. We did this exercise most of the day we would send the troops out thin bringing them back to the ship.
One of my stations when this operation taking place is called the after steering watch, This is located in the very back of the ship underneath where all the action in the well deck was taking place. The reason for this watch is just in case the steering goes out the one on watch could actually steer the ship if need be but think goodness I never had to. Well there was one time they had the ones who were standing these watches steer it. There are two big electric motors that would turn the rudders from the helm, there also are two little stirring wheels located at the back of each motor which will move the rudders but it is very hard to turn them and it will give you a work out.
When the operation was secured and all the troops was back on board they raised the ship and the gate then I got the call on the sound powered phones to secure the watch. I secured every thing that I need to do down in after steering and was heading back up to the boat shop. On the way up through all the compartments I heard a noise coming from an inspection hatch where the starboard side ram is. I oped the hatch and I could only see to little round what looked like eyes. I closed the hatch for I did not know if we had a swimmer on board or what, I went and told my division officer. Who got ahold of the master at arms. He got a few men together with some lights and headed down to that compartment drew his side arm and they opened the hatch, they could hear something but could not see any thing at first, finely they got a glance at it and it was a seal, yes a baby seal. They sent for a net and two men climbed inside and caught the seal then they took him top side and lowered him back over the side.