Glennon Place resident shares stories of Navy life

In the Navy. Glennon Place Nursing Center resident Richard Warford, pictured above, shares his experiences from serving in the Navy for nearly 11 years. Leslie Collins

In the Navy. Glennon Place Nursing Center resident Richard Warford, pictured above, shares his experiences from serving in the Navy for nearly 11 years. Leslie Collins

 

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
December 4, 2013

Richard Warford has come a long way from being a self-proclaimed “beach bum.”

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Warford, now 76, grew up in California and hung out as a youngster with Ricky Nelson who starred in the television series “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” Warford’s favorite pastimes included fishing, surfing and camping with his family.

As a teenager, Warford knew he wanted to serve in the Navy.

“I wanted to join when I was 15, but my dad said, ‘No,’ and the Navy said, ‘No, not until you’re 17,'” Warford said. “So, on my 17th birthday, I made up my mind to go into the Navy.”

Warford dropped out of high school to enlist in the Navy and later earned his GED and completed two years of college.

“I wanted to make it a career. I liked the adventure – I saw three quarters of the world and just about every state in the Union. It wasn’t easy as a 17-year-old boy, but I learned a lot.”

His overseas travels included Japan, China, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Guantanamo Bay, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, among others.

“It opened my eyes,” he said of his travels. “I was really thankful that I was an American. When you go to different countries and see people starving to death, it changes you, completely changes you.”

On May 14, 1955, he was one of about 6,800 servicemen who participated in Operation Wigwam which aimed to study the effects of an underwater nuclear blast and determine its feasibility in warfare.

According to the Washington Nuclear Museum and Educational Center, the underwater detonation created a “fireball-bubble” that soared 12,000 feet high, and the eruption spanned 1.5 miles.

“The explosion was so powerful it blew out the fire in the boilers,” he said. “The sound wave was so powerful, it popped the lightbulbs in the ship, knocked down the ventilation and we lost part of the stern gate. I heard on the radio that people were picking up dead fish off the Gulf of Mexico and people were told not to eat them because they were radioactive.”

The column of water spewed onto his ship, and Warford was treated for an overdose of radiation at a makeshift decontamination station, he said.

On a separate occasion, he feared for his life during a practice run with two naval destroyers. One of the destroyers inadvertently veered off course and slammed into the destroyer he was on, punching a hole in the side of the ship below the water line in the boiler room. As a damage control officer, Warford walked down to investigate. To keep the water from gushing in, he pressed his rear against the hole and stayed in that position until someone lowered a mattress for him to use.

“If the water had hit the boilers, it would have been an instant explosion because you don’t put cold water on a boiler,” he said. “I stayed there for eight hours in the water up to my neck. I prayed to God. I thought I was going to die.”

Not all of his Navy career was so intense. During his almost 11-year service, he also worked in the sea and air rescue unit and helped rescue comedian Jerry Lewis. Unbeknownst to Lewis, when he placed his record player and speakers near his compass, it caused the compass to malfunction and Lewis became lost at sea. Soon, his boat, the “Pussy Cat,” ran out of gas.

“So, we rescued him and towed him back in. He was all jokes, funny. We charged him $10,000 to pull him back in. He didn’t mind paying the money; he learned a lesson, too.”

In 1972, Warford moved back to Kansas City and settled in the Historic Northeast area where he worked as a welder and punch press operator for 27 years at Butler Manufacturing.

In his Northeast neighborhood, neighbors looked out for each other, he said, and a number of his neighbors became a second family to him. They continue to visit him at Glennon Place Nursing Center, where he currently resides, and take him on outings.

Warford has terminal cancer and said he’s taking it a day at a time and setting goals. His next goal is to live until Christmas.

“I’ve lived a pretty good life,” he said. “I can’t complain. I’ve had my ups and downs in life, but I really can’t complain.”

 

Comments are closed.

  • Independence Avenue CID

    August 16th, 2017
    by

    Independence Avenue CID

    August 16th, 2017
    by

    Northeast Chamber has plan for local business

    August 2nd, 2017
    by

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News The Northeast Chamber of Commerce is already making good use of its new headquarters on […]


    KCMO law firm looks back on ties to the Northeast

    July 5th, 2017
    by

    Northeast News July 5, 2017 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – In nearly 20 years of business, a handful of cases stand […]


    Northeast funeral homes celebrates 87 years serving community

    June 7th, 2017
    by

    Northeast News June 7, 2017 KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Eighty seven years in business is an impressive feat. However, 87 […]


  • New cameras on Independence Ave. already yielding results

    June 2nd, 2017
    by

    By Abby Cambiano Northeast News June 2, 2017 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – New surveillance cameras and license plate readers along […]


    The North End invests in itself with recent renovation

    May 3rd, 2017
    by

    By Michael Bushnell Northeast News May 3, 2017 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – One of the first things Pete Mesh did […]


    Celebrating 50 years in the printing industry

    April 5th, 2017
    by

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News April 5, 2017 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Terry Cunningham was fresh out of high school […]


    Retirement party for Dr. Joslyn

    March 22nd, 2017
    by

    Photos by David Remley March 22, 2017 Retirement. After more than two decades serving the Northeast community, Dr. Elaine Joslyn […]


    Dr. Elaine Joslyn announces her retirement

    March 1st, 2017
    by

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News March 1, 2017 KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Dr. Elaine Joslyn’s decision to retire – like […]


  • What’s Happening

    Northeast Newscast Episode 22 – a history lesson through audits w/ KCMO City Auditor Doug Jones

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News This week on the Northeast Newscast, managing editor Paul Thompson runs through the history of […]

    City Council pushes divisive airport decision to August 24

    By Paul Thompson Northeast News Three separate airport ordinances were held for a week by the Kansas City, Missouri City […]

    Phantastics perform at Kansas City Museum; prelude to eclipse

    Northeast News Hundreds of local residents came out to the Kansas City Museum (3218 Gladstone) on Friday, August 11, for […]

  • Local Weather