He Wanted A Ship!

Troy Jones was raised in Fort Worth, Texas and attended school in the Lake Worth School District. He suffered a broken leg in the eighth grade and decided to quit school in the ninth grade. He says, “We were poor folks. I wouldn’t go to school on crutches, especially the ones I had. Dad had modified them to fit. I wore them for fourteen weeks, but I wouldn’t go to school with them.”  Troy did earn his General Education Development (GED) later in the Navy, however.

Now, at the seasoned age of “almost fifteen,” Troy began working for the grocery store, Everybody’s. He sacked groceries, carried them to the customers cars and worked some in the produce department. His boss eventually placed him in the candy store and said, “You can eat all you want, just don’t give any to the other employees.” Troy remarks, “He knew that after about two weeks, you have had enough candy. And he was exactly right. I had my fill of it after two weeks, except the popcorn. When you smell popcorn popping, it makes you want to eat.”

Troy worked for the Piggly Wiggly grocery for a while sacking, checking and stocking inventory. When he left the grocery business he hired on as a painter with his cousin, then became a brick layer’s helper. He enjoyed this work, but when the job was completed they had no work and at nineteen, he went back to the grocery store and then on to a magazine delivery company.

Troy’s brother had been in the Navy and he had some close friends that had joined. When another friend said, “Let’s join the Navy,” he thought it was a good idea. So, in 1963 he joined and headed to boot camp in San Diego, California.

His first permanent assignment was on a Liberty Boat in Monterey Bay. These small crafts carry the ship’s crew from the anchored ship to the dock and back again. The crew consists of a Coxswain (pronounced ‘cox’un’ and he is the boss), an engineman and a bowman. Troy learned the duties of all the crew and enjoyed this duty assignment. But, he always wanted to be on a ship. (Of course, he did. He was in the Navy! That’s what they do!)

But sailors will be sailors and one day, in the barracks, one guy had music playing. Troy was at his open locker with a pair of chop sticks and he was using them as drum sticks, keeping time with the music. A fellow sailor, R. L. Volkman, weighed in and demanded, “Stop it!” Troy replied, “This is my cubicle, if you don’t like it, go to your own.” R. L. insisted and when he grabbed the sticks out of Troy’s hands, he received a quick left hook from Troy and a broken nose.Later, Troy was in the USO watching a movie and R. L. appeared again, challenging Troy to go outside and settle their business. (Some people just never learn very easily.) The brawl that ensued ended with Troy and R. L. being inseparable best of friends. Troy said, “Wherever you saw one of us, you would see the other.”

A new boat was delivered to their outfit that was converted to do research in oceanography. It had been damaged on delivery and these two friends were assigned to stay on this boat at night, seven days per week, in four hour shifts guarding it while it was being repaired.

One night, one of their friends boarded without authorization and he was totally drunk and demanded that R. L. give him some cash. R. L. refused and the boisterous argument got louder until Troy was awakened and joined in the ‘discussion.’


This kid was known to carry a knife and when he reached in his hip pocket, Troy didn’t wait for the knife to appear, but obligingly cold-cocked the guy with two quick, solid licks, breaking his finger with the last one. The Coast Guard guys in the boat close by said they heard it snap. This put him in an arm cast for the next few weeks.

A new Admiral took command and his wife enjoyed fishing. So, Troy had the duty to take the Admiral, his wife and two daughters out on fishing excursions. Troy was embarrassed on their first trip because he got sea sick and heaved over the side. “I’m a sailor,” Troy said, “and I got sick! They all laughed at me.” This was certainly not what an experienced sailor was to do, especially in the company of his Admiral and family. But he continued this duty and the Admiral’s wife would always bring some crackers or cookies along in case he had a problem.

When the Admiral fished, Troy would bait his hook and take his fish off when one was caught. Then, when the Admiral was tired of fishing, he insisted that Troy fish and he would provide the same service for Troy.

Troy’s desire continued to be for duty on a ship, but his superiors had other plans. He was not particularly liked by the Personnelman (officer in charge) and became one of three sailors chosen for the envious duty assignment to Adak, Alaska. He had tried everything he could, even volunteering for submarine duty, to get out of it and onto a ship. But it was not to be, and in June 1964 he was off to Alaska.

Adak is a very remote outpost that is only reachable, on the last leg of the journey there, by a small prop plane. It is in the farthest reaches of the Aleutian Island chain. Troy remembered, “It never got dark there. Even at 2:00 am it would be just like daytime.” (Lesson learned…don’t tick your boss off!)

Troy was in the Special Services unit and maintained all the bowling alleys, pool halls, gyms, theaters and swimming pools. In the theater, they were responsible for the two 16 MM RCA projectors. Troy received the top grade in his certification class to operate these projectors. He took his Quartermaster test while in Alaska and received his Quartermaster rank later, when he was aboard ship.

After thirteen months in Alaska, Troy went home on a thirty-day leave. “I went back out to San Diego and I finally got my ship, the USS Canberra.” This was a heavy guided missile cruiser with massive firepower. It sported two 8-inch gun turrets, three 5-inch turrets, two anti-aircraft guns and two dual missile launchers.

They were stationed in San Diego and maneuvers were up and down the coast line to San Francisco. They were out of sight of land and Troy never got sea sick until they shipped out to Viet Nam for the first time. He says, “We hadn’t left the harbor good and I got sick for three days!”

Troy was in Viet Nam two tours while aboard the Canberra during 1965 and 1966. Their duty was to steam from the Saigon River to the DMZ and fire on the coordinates given by the spotter. The 8-inch big guns had a twenty-three-mile range and they fired so much that it was necessary to retreat to the Philippines to have the barrels replaced.

It became known that a famous prognosticator had prophesied that the USS Canberra would be hit and sunk. This, of course, is unnerving to a ship’s crew that is in harm’s way each day. “I was scared,” Troy admitted. Very emotionally, he added, “I wasn’t in church, but I called my cousin’s aunt, told her about the prophecy and asked her to pray for us. She said, ‘Don’t worry about it. Our church will be praying for you.’” He knew where his answer and protection would come from.

In December of 1966, the Canberra was underway in Viet Nam and the Captain was in combat plot. This is the planning session of the officers and the Officer of the Day was on duty at the helm. It was suddenly realized that they were on a collision course with another ship – SBDR (Steady Bearing, Decreasing Range). This means that it is going to happen if one of the ships does not change course.

The officer on duty was confused and not sure what to do. He was not supposed to change course and he could not make a decision. Just in time, the Captain emerged, saw what was happening and announced, “This is the Captain, I have the “con” (control), go to your quarters.” The Captain changed course and the disaster was averted.

This miracle from God’s hand is still fresh on Troy’s heart as he remembers telling his crew mates, “You don’t have to worry about this ship as long as I am on board.” This was not an arrogant statement, but a bold and defining moment when Troy knew God’s hand was on him.

February 13, 1967 saw Troy Jones leave his ship and head for San Diego and release from the Navy. Tuesday, February 22 he was discharged. He arrived home on Thursday and his cousin invited him to the church service that night of the church which had prayed for him. He was baptized and has been serving the Lord ever since.

He and his wife raised five great sons and they have fourteen grand kids and three great grandchildren.

The rest of the story is that a letter came from one of his ship mates. He told how the Canberra had been hit five times with enemy rifle fire from the Viet Nam coast. The Secondary Con, where Troy would have been as the ship was under fire, was the point of attack. Troy proclaims, “All praise goes to the Lord!”