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South Jersey

November 13, 1999
Sea Victory earns medal for bravery

TINA MARKOE/Courier-Post
A crewman displays the flag on the Sea Victory before it pulls out of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard after delivering the USS New Jersey on Thursday.

Courier-Post staff

PHILADELPHIA - Jim Flood hasn't followed military orders since he was stationed aboard the USS New Jersey during the Vietnam War.

But the former Navy man agreed to carry out one last mission Friday for his one-time commanding officer.

A day after the nation's most decorated warship was docked at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Flood paid an unexpected, early morning visit to the Sea Victory, the mighty tugboat that towed the ship on its two-month, 5,800-mile journey.

Clutching a green-ribboned, silver medal in his palm, Flood's mission was to hand-deliver the award and words of gratitude to the tug's crew from Capt. J. Edward Snyder, the skipper of the battleship from 1968 to 1969.

Snyder, who lives in McLean, Va., couldn't make the trip to the Delaware Valley himself. But he wanted tugboat Capt. Kaare L. Ogaard Jr. to have one of the custom-made, unauthorized medals he once handed out to crew members for meritorious service.

Flood, who met Snyder at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on his way to Philadelphia for the battleship's arrival, had a last-minute message for the tug's crew.

"Just before I left, he (Snyder) turned to me and said, 'Tell them B-Z - Bravo Zulu,' which means 'good job' in the Navy," said Flood, a maritime artist who lives in Miami.

Snyder felt the Sea Victory's crew had earned the award for braving the seas and mechanical woes during the trip from Bremerton, Wash., through the Panama Canal to the shipyard. In a telephone interview, Snyder said he was most impressed with Ogaard's ability to navigate the battleship through the Panama Canal, a feat he wasn't able to pull off.

"I got stuck in the canal," Snyder said about his trip through the locks on the way to Vietnam.

The gesture was a surprise to the weary Sea Victory crew members, who were preparing Friday morning to take the tugboat to Jacksonville, Fla., then fly home.

Ogaard, who also towed the USS Missouri to its final berth in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, said he was struck by the "awesome" reception the battleship received on Thursday. He was noticeably touched by the presentation of the nickel-sized medal, which has a picture of the USS New Jersey on it and the ship's motto: Firepower for freedom.

"As we were coming up the river, flashbulbs were blinking, and every stretch of beach was packed," Ogaard said. "We could see traffic on the highway was stopped."

During the journey, the tugboat had its share of problems, including wind, rain and breakdowns. Just after making it through the Panama Canal, one of the tug's engines blew a turbo not far from Cuba. The mechanical headaches delayed the trip for a few days.

While the presentation of the medal was more sentimental than official, Bill Sheppard, a member of the New Jersey-based Vietnam Veterans Chapter 510 delegation, who traveled to Panama to witness part of the battleship's lengthy journey, said "it was meaningful because it's from captain to captain."

Happy to have fulfilled his mission, Flood had his own words of thanks for the tug's crew.

"You brought our baby home safe and sound," Flood said.

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