Much has changed on Navy ships over the centuries – sail converted to steam, steel replaced wood, and missiles supplemented guns, just to name a few. Yet with all these changes, fundamental truths remain. Navy ships carry the U.S. flag to the four corners of the globe, serving as ambassadors in the countries they visit and as strong reminders of U.S. military power and resolve. Navy ships also require a team of special people pulling together to accomplish the ship’s mission, enduring the perils of the sea, the long separations from family, and the risks associated with war. Captain Jack E. Helmann, U.S. Navy (Retired), knows these challenges all too well, having served on five Navy destroyers over the course of his twenty-four-year Navy career. He also knows the strains and responsibilities of command, having been the Commanding Officer of the guided-missile destroyer USS Berkeley (DDG-15) for over two years. This is his story.
Lieutenant Commander Alfred “Ski” Sokolowski, U.S. Navy (Retired), has experienced much over the last ninety-nine years. He had a front row seat in World War II as his ships plowed the North Atlantic, protecting convoys from German submarines. He fought on a destroyer in the Pacific, helping recapture islands lost to Japan at the start of the war, and then joined the fight again just five years later in the Korean War sailing off the coast of North Korea. As if that wasn’t enough, he took on the dangerous job of explosive ordnance disposal and managed weapons logistics in the western Pacific. He didn’t just watch U.S. history from a distance—he lived it over the course of thirty years. This is his story.