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.

  • New location, same inviting personalities

    September 1st, 2015
    by

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Sometimes, you have to pack-up and move to start over.


    Hidden gem slowly getting discovered

    August 18th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Hookers and handguns. What was once a common thought for what one would find along Independence Avenue is no more.


    American Jazz Museum gearing up for Charlie Parker

    August 4th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri – To celebrate Charlie “Yardbird” Parker, one of the most influential artists in Jazz music history, the Kansas City Jazz Museum and KC Jazz Alive


    Children’s Choice helping kids for nearly 40 years

    June 30th, 2015
    by

    By Michaela Bishop Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Children’s Choice Daycare has helped over thousands of children within the past 39 years.
    The daycare itself helps children from ages ranging to


    Diversity plaza coming to east end of Northeast

    June 24th, 2015
    by

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The Northeast is one step closer to getting a plaza to represent its diversity.
    Last week, the Finance, Governance and Ethics Committee, as well as


  • Chamber celebrates 21 years in style

    June 16th, 2015
    by

    Birthday celebration for the ages. Last week, the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 21st birthday in style.


    Northeast Chamber of Commerce celebrates 21 years of business

    June 2nd, 2015
    by

    By Joe Jarosz Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — There are only a few birthdays really worth celebrating.


    Storefront improvement help is on the way

    May 12th, 2015
    by

    By Joe Jarosz Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — A new program can help some Northeast storefronts improve their image.


    Hardesty Renaissance ready for its next step

    May 5th, 2015
    by

    By Joe Jarosz Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — The folks behind the Hardesty Renaissance rehabilitation are getting closer to achieving their dream.


    Back Door Pottery a staple along St. John Avenue

    March 31st, 2015
    by

    By Samantha Belcourt Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Back Door Pottery was originally built in the 1920’s.


  • Local Weather

  • What’s Happening

    Labor Day holiday weekend honors workers both past and present

    Northeast News With the Labor Day holiday on Monday, we pay homage to the greatest workforce on the face of the earth with this Real Photo Postcard published in 1910.

    retorts illustrated bryan stalder

    retorts illustrated bryan stalder [...]

    Books, computer classes and workout programs

    Northeast News KANSAS CITY, Missouri — With the advent of technology into today's culture, libraries are utilizing more unique programing to get people into the doors.