My time with Rear Admiral Harold Cokely
One evening I picked-up the Admiral in San Francisco from a command party he was attending. I remember driving across the Oakland Bay Bridge, which has five or six lanes across with bumper to bumper traffic. Needless to say I was very stressed and confused. It so happened that I was in the wrong lane and ended up in east Oakland!
Let me say something here. The Oakland area was a hot bed with racial tensions, the Berkley crowd, Black Panthers, anti-Vietnam protesters and social unrest. This was a bad situation! This was one place where two white guys didn’t want to be; especially in a military car with two stars on the license plate and US Navy written on the side of the doors. I specifically remember the Admiral stating,
“Get me out of here!” I said I was trying but I was lost. Looking in the rear view mirror I could see he was getting very agitated and his face started turning red. All of a sudden he told me to pull the car over to the side of the road. I pulled over and he jumped out of the car since he wanted to drive. I got out and sat in the back seat while he drove.
Not a word was spoken for the longest time. He finally got back on I-580 heading toward the hospital, but he kept driving. Actually the traffic on the Interstate was too busy to take the chance for him to pull over and for me to take over driving. As he was driving, a funny thought occurred to me, “I bet I’m the only E-4 in the United States Navy that has a rear admiral as his driver”. HaHa.
As he drove into the main gate, the Marine sentry saluted the Admiral. Then he looked in the back seat and his jaw dropped; I just looked straight ahead. The Admiral then drove to the front of the hospital where the XO and another Captain were talking to each other. Rear Admiral Cokely got out of the car and two doctors saluted the Admiral and were in conversation. I then stepped out from the back seat of the car and the two doctors started laughing. I had a big grin on my face as I knew what they were thinking. The Admiral told me to get the grin off my face, to take the car to motor pool and to pick him up the next morning at 0700.
Well, word got around what had happened and everyone had a good laugh. Guys would ask me, ”Would you ask the Admiral if he would take us to town or wherever”. That got to be quite a joke. I figured that I would lose my job as his driver but for the first week things went well. However, eight days after that episode, I got orders for Vietnam! Coincidence?
Upon leaving for 8404 school at Camp Pendleton, the Admiral asked me to write him and let him know how I was doing in Vietnam. I told him I would.
After three months in Vietnam I remembered that I needed to send the Admiral a letter. It went something like this: “ Dear Vice Admiral Cokely, sorry I haven’t written before now, but have been very busy! I am attached to Second Battalion First Marine Div., Hotel Company. During the past three months I have treated at least forty-five Marines for wounds they received. A few of them might even be at your hospital. I have received the Bronze Star with a combat “V” and one Purple Heart! Having a great time. Wish you were here! Sincerely, you’re personal ex- driver, HM 3 Ronald Mosbaugh.” I never did hear back from him.
HMCM Ronald C. Mosbaugh
By Corpsman Ronald C. Mosbaugh
2/1 Hotel Company 1966-1967
HMCM USNR RET.
In 1966 I was stationed at Oakland Naval Hospital, Oakland, CA. After several months on active duty, my twin brother Don and I took our first leave and drove back to Joplin, MO, since we wanted to spend our birthday time with our family. We were both Hospital Corpsmen and served together at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital. While at home, I received a call from the hospital informing me that Fleet Admiral Nimitz had died. I was his personal Corpsman, and when I returned to the hospital I was told to report to the hospital detailer for a new job assignment. The hospital detailer stated that the Commanding Officer, Rear-Admiral Harold Cokely, needed a personal driver.
He said the job had some advantages, such as I didn’t have to do extra duty. However, I would always be on call. Another requirement would be to always keep the car detailed, full of gas and maintenance updated. I agreed but I informed them that I didn’t know my way around the bay area that well. The detailer stated that all routes would be plotted before I left the hospital and that I would do fine. This was long before GPS became available.
The story I am going to tell is a true story and is as accurate as I remember it.
HM3 Ron Mosbaugh
Vice Admiral Harold Cokely