US Navy – Boat Tender Second Class
USS Shangri La & USS Hancock
Cold War (August 1956 – June 1960)
Glen Starkey’s motivation to learn more and achieve the highest standard of excellence goes beyond that of any typical soldier. He lives to learn, and this uncommon attribute qualifies him for almost any goal he may set out to attempt. By eagerly seeking out opportunities for education, Starkey made himself a person of value to many.
Starkey was born and raised in Charles City, Iowa. Growing up, his father was a truck driver and his mother raised five kids and still managed to work part time. Starkey jokingly boasted that there are more Starkeys in the service than any other family in Charles City, Iowa. According to him there has been at least one Starkey in every generation to serve in each and every war that America has fought in. As a kid he was a farm boy making $16 a month and he thought he would be a farmer as an adult. His family owned 1,000 acres and he had 1,000 piglets, 35 sows, 35 milking cows and a few steers. At the time of his departure to the Navy, Starkey decided he was done with farm life. Starkey remembers the United States was threatened by the way that Russia was challenging for aircraft carrier dominance.
Starkey joined the Navy after graduating High School in Charles City, Iowa. Since his family didn’t have enough money to send him to college, Starkey joined the Navy to get extra schooling. Starkey’s family wanted the best for him so they were in favor of him joining the Navy. Even so, Starkey’s father always wanted him to be a truck driver. Before joining the Navy in 1956, he was in the National Guard for three years.
Starkey attended basic training in Chicago and at the Great Lakes. He recalls not having the complete basic training experience due to the fact that he had previously been well trained in the National Guard. In the gym he would have to climb ropes and perform other training exercises; however, outside he didn’t have to do anything at all. Because of this, Starkey was used to help the chief. He wasn’t of any rank yet, but he was privileged. As a result of his complete training, Starkey feels that he wizened up to the real world. His basic training was not difficult and he obtained a high level of fitness with little trouble.
After basic training, Starkey went to a Navy electrical school. Despite the time and effort he put into it, his acquired abilities from the additional training were not utilized. He was put in the boiler room; not at all what he had been trained for.
Before being sent to his first assignment, Starkey got a few days off to see all his buddies from before his service. After a short leave, Starkey went back to Chicago and flew to Hawaii. He was then positioned in the boiler room of the Shangri-La aircraft carrier. For the two years Starkey was aboard, the ships main mission was to keep the Chinese from attacking the Quemoy Islands. Aboard the Shangri-La, Starkey was in charge of the boiler room. Down there, Starkey would fire the boilers to keep the ship running; however, he would also help the planes fly off, as the Shangri-La operated the first catapult run by steam. The catapult was how airplanes were shot off the flight deck with enough velocity to remain in the air.
When Starkey first arrived on the Shangri-La, he was immediately enticed with it. For him it was something new and something different. He was ranked at the bottom, but he worked his way up. Living on the aircraft carrier wasn’t easy, but it was manageable. It was cramped, and Starkey describes, “We were in the small space with quite a few guys.” On the ship he only had space for a bunk and a small organized locker to keep his stuff. He could eat almost anytime he wanted to during the day except for the two hour period during which the mess hall was cleaned. As for entertainment, Starkey read a lot for the courses that the Navy put out for members to complete if they desired to do so. Starkey always pushed for extra education.
The boiler room on the Shangri-La was top notch. Everyone thought they were effective in their service. In fact, Starkey enjoyed the company of his fellow personnel so much that he keeps in touch with three of them. Additionally, he had good officers. Starkey mentioned, they would “help you, educate you, instead of chew you out.”
After the Shangri-La headed to the East Coast, Starkey found himself on the USS Hancock where he did the very same thing down in the boiler room. He describes having a good crew that enjoyed what they were doing. This time however, Starkey made the rank first class. He had a good opinion of his commanding officers and the living conditions were all the same as on the Shangri-La. It was hot in the Philippine Islands where the ship was stationed and there was no air conditioning in those days. The living situation was difficult because of the heat but Starkey coped with it because he knew that everyone was dependent on everyone, so he was always motivated to work hard. He could always communicate by mail if at sea and by phone if on land. There were always sufficient supplies on board the Hancock. During his leave, Starkey would jump on a bus and tour the area to see what it was like since he didn’t have much exposure to the outside world after growing up on a farm.
During the entire course of his service, Starkey never suffered any injuries. He recalls one moment when the boiler was about to blow up and regards that as the scariest moment of his service; however, the situation turned out alright. His ship got the “E” award for excellence. This means according to Starkey that “everybody had to be what they called “ship-shape.” He also got a good conduct medal.
Starkey was released from service at Treasure Island, CA in the summer of 1960. He decided to live in California because he loved it there. He immediately looked for a job in San Francisco, but couldn’t find one because in order to get a job, he had to know somebody, which he didn’t. As a result, Starkey went to LA where he knew people and got a job right away. After he found a job, he continued his education at the L.A. Trade Tech and Herald’s College. He also met his wife while she was a nurse. He then got married, started a family, and was well into his trade of boilers, electricity, air conditioning and other such mechanisms. Eventually, Starkey was able to move back to San Francisco.
Despite his ships having reunions, Starkey never participates in them. He joined the Hancock Group, but also doesn’t attend reunions. Starkey is highly involved in the VFW. In this organization, he tries to help the veterans coming back to America the best he can.
Starkey sees many younger veterans returning from foreign wars these days and notes that what he went through was significantly different than what veterans go through now. His advice is to learn as much about whatever you can and to not get frustrated along the way. He stated, “At all the countries I went to, the uneducated, and even in the United States, the ones that are closed-minded.” Starkey believes in order to achieve this higher level of education, every young person should serve to get a greater sense for the world.
Interview by Jacob Bruner on March 5th, 2016