Nov 18, 2015

Walter W. "Chip" Squire... Not Forgotten

Courtesy of the Palm Valley American Legion Post 233
in Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida

In 1972, I accepted a job offer at the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Litton Industries in Pascagoula, MS.  The shipyard had grown very rapidly as a result of two huge contract wins – the design and construction of 9 amphibious assault ships, so-called LHAs, and thirty Spruance-class destroyers, the DD-963 program.  Each of these programs had an initial value of over $2 Billion!  Hiring for the shipyard was very aggressive.  I ended up having to commute from Biloxi, as that was the closest place I could find decent rental housing.  I lived in a small house on Pinewood Drive, off of Beauvoir Road, only a couple blocks from the beach.  The house belonged to an Air Force non-commissioned officer stationed at Keesler Air Force Base.

A few months after I began working at Ingalls, my organization, the Integrated Logistics Directorate, under the leadership of retired Navy Captain Ken Beyer, hired another gentleman named Walter Squire, who went by the name “Chip.”  Chip had been living and working in Jacksonville, FL, was about my age, was a navy veteran, and needed a temporary home.  I told him I had a couple spare bedrooms and that he was more than welcome to move in with me and share expenses.  We were soon roommates.  We lived together for several months while he looked for a more permanent housing arrangement.  Eventually, Chip commissioned a home to be built by the talented Carroll Ishee, but that’s a subject for another blog entry.

Chip made friends very quickly, and soon he was in a close social circle that included Clayton and Nettie Coffey as well as Ivan and Phyllis Foster.  Clay and Ivan worked very closely with Chip as Logistics liaison with the Navy customer.  The Navy customers seemed to warm up to Chip quite readily.  He was a very social creature, an active golfer, and made friends instantly.  I seem to recall that he focused primarily on the Destroyer program.  He was a terrific asset to Ingalls in maintaining favorable relations with the Navy.

Even though we were roommates and close friends, Chip was fairly close-mouthed with regard to part of his Navy experience.  Although he had not made the Navy his career, he had stayed on active duty longer than his initial obligated service.  His first tour of duty was as a riverine boat commander in Viet Nam, an assignment that was a very high risk endeavor.  After his tour ended (and he had some amazing stories!), he returned to the continental U.S., but he refused to tell me about the remaining couple of years, simply saying it was something he didn’t want to talk about.

Then one evening, after a few drinks, I guess Chip felt like sharing, and he wove the most amazing tale.  He described how after Viet Nam, he had advised the Bureau of Personnel that he wanted to continue in small craft, if possible.  He liked the intimacy of a small crew, the variety of duties required of all hands, and the informality of small craft duty.  He received orders to report to a certain hotel room in Miami on a certain day, wearing civilian attire.  When he knocked on the door, he was invited in, and was greeted by a gentleman at a desk.  An interview ensued during which Chip was asked if he had any problem working for “The Company.”  He realized that this was a reference to the CIA, and indicated that he had no issues working for them.

His assignment was to work as a tennis pro at a club in the Fort Lauderdale area.  He appeared to be a young, fairly wealthy individual who, in addition to being a very good tennis player, also had an affinity for ocean boat racing.  In fact, he had a Donzi cigarette boat moored at the club’s docks.  Not too many miles away, according to Chip, was a secret boat house with an identical Donzi, identical down to the last serial number, except equipped with machine guns, rockets, and grenade launchers.  That was his boat for special assignments.  He ferried members of the Cuban exile forces in and out of Cuba.  That was the “Navy” duty that he had been so reluctant to talk about.

I think that the years of working under pressure had taken a toll on Chip.  He was extremely high strung.  He was hyperactive and had noticeable tremors much of the time.  He was, like myself at the time, a heavy drinker.  He never dated anyone during the time I knew him.  He was a loner, but extremely loyal to those colleagues whom he befriended.

A few years after I left the coast, I had returned for a visit and heard that Chip had died.  He had come to work one day, said he wasn’t feeling well when he went home at lunch, and didn’t come back in the afternoon.  Clay Coffey, a close friend, had gone to check on him and found him dead of a heart attack.  He was 47 years old -- way too young to be gone so suddenly.

A recent search of the Internet for any trace of Chip yields very little.  Before moving to Pascagoula, he had been the President of the Palm Valley American Legion Post 233 in Ponta Vedra Beach, Florida, not too far south of Jacksonville.  I also found a record of his burial in the Crestlawn Memorial Park in East Ocean Springs, MS, where his marker simply reads, “Walter W. Squire  1936 to 3-3-1983.”

And there was a tantalizing bit of information -- incorporation information on a company called Logistic Management Service, Incorporated.  The company was formed on 12 January, 1983, less than two months before Chip’s death.  The other participants in the corporation were the agent, Harry B. Kelly, and a Thomas L. Stennis (the same name as an attorney currently practicing in Ocean Springs, MS).  I seem to recall a Harry Kelly who worked with Chip at the shipyard.  One can only wonder what this company might have become had Chip not passed away.

No comments: