USS Great Sitkin (AE-17)
2nd Issue, 19th Year                                                                                                                                                            1 March 2011

Association Officers

Ron Zimmerman Sr.
474 SW Prater Ave.
Port St. Lucie, FL  34953
(772) 621-4016

Vice President
Jim Dunno
272 Stone Hedge Row
Johnstown,  OH  43031

Secretary (Interim)
Joe Savadge
84 May Dr
Dillsburg,  PA  17019
George Kaiser
311 W. Oak Lane
Glenolden, PA 19036


From Our President:  First, let me apologize for the delay in getting the pictures from our last reunion posted to the web site. I just haven’t had the time to devote to the web site like I have had in the past. I will try my best to keep the web site current.
    Quick update on the 2012 Reunion.  Doug and I did our best to get things lined up in Wilmington, NC as voted on. Hotels were very cooperative and provided acceptable rates. However, we could not come up with much to do there without spending a couple of hours each way on a bus. The Executive Board voted to look for another site. We looked at 3 different locations and Baltimore presented the best choices.  The Executive Board voted to hold the 2012 Reunion in Baltimore. George Kaiser and myself will be Co-hosts. More details will be provided at the General Business meeting and in the November newsletter.

New Finds:  John Bishop, ENS, ’62, John Glenn, SN, ’60 and Ric Ancrum, SN, ‘72. Welcome aboard shipmates!

Web Site:  Reunion pictures for 2010 Reunion are now posted along with updates to the “Found Crew” list and the Honor Roll pages.  I also have information, itinerary and registrations forms for the 2011 Reunion posted.

 See you all in Chattanooga!

     Ron Zimmerman

A word from the Vice-President:  Time rolls around quickly, it’s time for more words of wisdom? Actually just some update stuff on membership and a big update on the 2011 reunion. January is here— the snow is still flying as you guys on the coast know so well. It had to be somebody’s turn! I have to sympathize with you though because I got it last year!
    Membership forms have been coming in very nicely; we have 124 paid members to date. I am glad to see some of you are remembering to update your information like addresses, phone numbers and emails which makes it easier for our mailings.
    Ok here it is, Chattanooga 2011! I have everything set and ready for you all to have a Great time! Our hotel will be the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, an old Railroad terminal turned into a hotel. It has expanded to include 3 separate hotel buildings with all the modern updates. It has train cars that have been turned into hotel rooms, several dinning cars, a trolley which tours the ground, 3 restaurants, gift shops, and several pools.
    Rooms will be $99 a night. If you think it’s too far to walk, they have golf carts that will come and pick you up. They have a free shuttle from the airport and next door is the free electric shuttle that will take you all around downtown Chattanooga.
    Wednesday will be our usual welcome reception with fruit and cheese trays along with wine from the local area. Thursday will be a trip to the Chickamauga Battlefield for a tour of the field, movie about it and they have a very large display of guns used during the civil war and up through today. After the tour we will have a box lunch from Jimmy Johns. It will have a large selection to choose from. We will have this either at the battlefield picnic area or Millers park in downtown Chattanooga. In case of rain, we will be back at the hospitality suite. After lunch we will travel to the National cemetery for our memorial service.
    In keeping with the thought you would all like a little extra time to visit, Thursday evening and Friday until 6 is free time to do what you want. Hotel shuttle will take you to Hamilton Mall for shopping; free electric shuttle will take you downtown to the Aquarium, Moon Pie museum, WWII duck trip on the river and lots of other things.
    Friday evening will be a BBQ by the pool. Porkers, one of the best in town, will cater the meal to our hosp. suite. Pulled pork, chicken, beef brisket, cole slaw, baked beans and the usual will be served.
    Saturday will start with a trip to Rock City; from one point you can see 7 states. It is a maze through rock formations, gardens, swing bridges, fairy tale land, gift shops and several eateries. Now for those of you who think they do a lot of walking, the place is ADA approved and it has a “SHORT CUT” to the look out which is about ½ mile round trip. I believe there are a few wheelchairs available but don’t hold me to it.
    After this we will have our business meeting in the hospitality suite, the sooner we get business taken care of the sooner we all can take a nap! Starting at 6PM will be the pre-dinner reception. The Hotel bar is located just outside of our dinning room so we won’t need a bar set up in the room. Dinner will follow at 7 with a Buffet style meal; I think I covered the right types of food for everyone. If there are special needs or diets, please let me know and it will be arranged. I don’t want anybody to say they didn’t come because they couldn’t eat what was being served.  After dinner there will be dancing from 8 to 11 to the music of Sweet Georgia Sound. They are a 16 piece band that will play almost anything you would like to hear. I think you can listen to them at
    Sunday morning will bring about the “Farewell Breakfast” in the Roosevelt room (the same one we had dinner in). Breakfast will be served from 7-9 AM. Well, I have rambled on too long, hope to see “ya all” there.

     Jim Dunno
     Vice-President &  Membership Chairman

The Chaplain’s Corner:  “Good Day” to all of you. We have made it to 2011. I am sure glad I was not up in the Bayonne or New York City a few weeks ago. What a storm. I thought of you folks living in that area.
    I was thinking about my one and only trip from the ship at Bayonne to Times Square on New Year’s Eve December 31, 1970. One of the Storekeeper Seaman I had become friends with just after arriving on board invited me to go along with him that evening. Well not wanting to miss an opportunity like this I accepted. We put on our dress blues, pea coats and white hats and headed for the bus stop a few blocks away. Next stop Port Authority. And they call this a bus station? Not like anything I had ever seen in Springfield, Ohio. We walked a few blocks from the station and I began to see people, all kinds of people, more people, many people! They were in front of me, behind me, all round me. More people than I had ever seen in one place. There were thousands of people there. More people than in my home town! I was here, Times Square. The place that I had seen on TV! I had made it. As we stood around waiting for the ball to drop I was amazed at all the different kinds of people there. They were singing, drinking, dancing, climbing traffic cross walk poles, and they all appeared to very happy to me. Well, we made it back to the ship early in the morning, nearly froze to death. It has been a great story to tell folks down through the years that “I was there”.
     I am reminded of what John who wrote the book of Revelations saw on the isle of Patmos. Revelation 7:9 “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;”
   We won’t be alone in Heaven! We will never have to leave! 
   Let’s keep those families in our prayers that have lost a loved one who sailed aboard the Great Sitkin.

Honor Roll Update:  Samuel Perry, SA, ’63;  B.J. Reynolds, LCDR, ’71;  Jimmy Pratt, MM3, ’56;  Ernest Parish, MM3, ’49;  Howard Hurst, LCDR, ’60;  David Perkins,  SN, ’59 and Wade Pitman, CSSN, ‘52

Spouse Honor Roll: 
Gerry Theisen, spouse of shipmate Joe Theisen

       Mark Rucker

Secretary’s Report:  I would like to start my article by telling you about an exciting event that took place about two weeks ago. I don’t get onto Facebook very often, however when I came home from work late one night, I checked my email and here was this astounding request to become friends on Facebook. I could not believe who it was from! After 38 years, finally I was only one click away from being friends again to a long lost Great Sitkin Shipmate! What does make this such a special event is that Ric and I spent time in Brooklyn Navy Yard together awaiting what we didn’t know would be a long journey to pick up the Ship in Palma, Spain. We had been through a lot those first few months being new young Sailors and  didn’t know much about where we were going or what we were doing.    
   Now decades later, we got to talk on the phone for about two hours catching up on the last 38 years. My point is that our Ship was the beginning of friendships for a lot of us that have lasted a life time. I believe that’s why our reunions are so important to all of us who served onboard her. And we can gain new friendships of those who served at different times.
    I would like to report that from the last newsletter mailing, I only received four back with the post office unable to deliver or forward to new addresses.  Please, if you move, contact me via phone or email with your new address. Also, if you have shipmates out there that let you know they did not receive one, have them contact me. One side note is that only Paid Up members receive a newslettter due to cost.
    As I sit here in my home office, the sun is coming up and you can feel Spring is coming here in Pennsylvania.  Time to start thinking about plans for coming to the next reunion. Jim has done an awesome job setting up our next reunion in Chattohoga, TN in September.  I hope all can plan to attend!
    As I close this article for our March Newsletter, again I thank you all for your support as your secretary of the Great Sitkin Association and we will have another Newsletter in June with the information and registration form for the September 2011 reunion.

      Joe Savadge

Repair 3:    As this edition of the Great Sitkin newsletter gets ready to hit the streets, my thoughts are turned to the fact that it’s been 40 years ago that the ship was underway on yet another Mediterranean cruise with the US navy 6th Fleet. We  are only a link in the Navy’s supply chain of service force ships, yet to me, even after having been on her since November of 1969, she was not only home, but the mightiest ship in the fleet. Yeah, I know, I didn’t really think so then, but 40 years does have a way of blurring bad memories into good ones. At least for me, anyhow!   And speaking of memories, one that doesn’t dim is what part the Great Sitkin played in that Service Force supply chain. We carried explosives. Now, not being an intimate part of the division that took care of the cargo, I never really knew much about what we had packed into our 5 holds, but I did know it was enough explosives to make a big hole in the water, or in a large piece of real estate, or, in the case of the nuclear weapons in 2 hold, enough to clear out a large part of the world as we knew it. But, it was just something we did, we knew the danger, but we lived with it. It’s just what we did.
   2 years after I got off the Great Sitkin, my wife and I moved into a house in Collingdale, Pa, a suburb of Philadelphia. Right next to us was a welding supply company, they also were a major propane distributor in the tri state area. Now, the fact they had storage for over 60,000 gallons of propane was always a concern, but never a bother. I mean, what were the odds? Much like serving in the Great Sitkin. The last AE that blew up was the USS Mount Hood AE-11, that was in 1944. So, we raised a family, started a business, and made a life and a living in the shadow of what could be, but probably would “never be.”
    Well, on September 1st last year, the “never be” became reality. At 12:47 PM, the propane company had an accident that caused an explosion and fire, and that fire burned away a third of our business. Our home was spared fire damage, although flying shrapnel caused some structural damage. But the fire did burn a garage to the ground where we housed 11 antique cars and trucks, as well as a large display of fire service and military memorabilia. And, it’s also where I kept all of our Great Sitkin memorabilia, as well as all of the ships store merchandise. In the beginning of my report, I mentioned that it’s been 40 years since the 71 Med Cruise.  I kept a journal of the trip, I could go back and tell you just where we were on March 1st, 1971, and any other important dates of the cruise. That journal, along with all of my pictures, and the 8mm movies I took, were in the garage. Thankfully, a lot of the pictures are on the website, and the deck log and history sections have some of the events covered, but the tangibles are gone.
    So, in closing, what’s my point in dragging my troubles in front of the crew? Only this. 40 years from now, if I haven’t been released from this earthly cruise,  I’ll be 100 years old, and probably not caring much about what I did in the Med in 1971. Annual reunions will be a thing of the past, and the newsletter will have long ceased to exist. Maybe, in whatever form the Internet finds itself in in 2050, will still be available to grandchildren and great grandchildren who want to see where PopPop served in the Navy. But for now, let’s make the memories we still can. Your annual dues will keep the website going for many years. And our reunion each year will keep us in touch, for as long as we can. But someday, the word will reach you that a friend from your Great Sitkin days has passed to their Reward, and you will feel bad about not having one, last time together.

   See you in Chattanooga.

      George Kaiser

last updated on 03/01/11