Veterans of Bucks County

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Milton S. Simonds

At age 21, Milton R. Simonds (above) completed
a U.S. Navy program at Tufts University. Simonds
(below) is a past commander of VFW Post 6393.

Bucks County resident was a U.S. Navy operations
— the third ranking officer on the ship.

By Petra Chesner Schlatter Staff Editor

U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Milton R. Simonds, USN Retired, dedicated much of his life to the Navy.

For Simonds, the Navy gave him purpose and he looks back at his strides as a humble retiree. He does not look for fanfare.

He graduated from Tufts University in Medford, Mass., with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering. Simonds also attended the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He later earned an MBA from the University of Delaware.

A Yardley resident, Simonds went to college under a Navy program. World War II had ended in 1945 and the Korean War had started in 1950 before he entered the active service. He was on the rolls from 1947 to 1990 in one capacity or another.

Simonds spent many a day aboard numerous vessels, starting as a midshipman in 1947. He was commissioned an ensign upon graduation from college and reached the rank of lieutenant commander. He eventually retired as a reservist in 1973.

The array of assignments started on the battleship USS Iowa in 1948. “We went to Pearl Harbor out of the west coast.” In 1950, the year before he graduated from college, he was a midshipman on the destroyer USS Basilone out of Norfolk, Va.

From 1951-54, he was an ensign on the destroyer USS Compton out of Newport, R.I.

“We kept coming back to Newport and going back out again and again to Europe, usually for four- to six-month cruises.”

Next it was the light cruiser USS Roanoke from 1954-55 out of Norfolk, Va., as a lieutenant junior grade (LTJG), as the Combat Information Center officer. As a lieutenant, Simonds was on the minesweeper USS Adroit in 1957. The minesweeper went to the Virgin Islands out of Charleston, S.C. In 1959, it was a training cruise on the attack cargo ship USS Capricornus out of Norfolk, Va. to Ft. Lauderdale.

Simonds remembers being on the USS Compton which took him to Suda Bay, Crete, an island south of Greece. “We were visiting various European ports in Italy, Greece, Algiers and Spain.”
At one time, he was in Spain, Triest and Turkey. “When I was over there in 1951, it was under the rules and regulations of a U.S. Navy organization. There was a lot of antagonism at one point.

At that time, most of the people liked the Navy to visit and spend their money, but that isn’t why we were there.

“We were there to bolster the support of the people who had lived through the WWII era,” Simonds said.

“Some of the places I wouldn’t have believed existed,” Simonds said. “Turkey, for instance, was in very poor shape when we were there. I’d call it the infrastructure and organization.

“Southern France was beautiful —Cannes, Nice, Villefranche. They had pretty much recovered their livelihood in those areas. Villefranche is where the headquarters of the Sixth Fleet were at that time and is near Monte Carlo.”

Simonds said one of his most important jobs was when he was on the destroyer. He was operations officer, which is the third ranking officer on the ship. “The operations officer supervises the radar people, the communications people, the anti-submarine warfare and warfare and electronics people.”

He supervised court-martials and disciplinary efforts. “I was also an air controller on the destroyer collaterally — you do a lot of things at the same time. The air controller is a specific person who controls air strikes and searches from aircraft.”

About being in the service, Simonds said, “It was the proper way to serve the country. I was brought up in a Naval Air environment in my hometown of Brunswick, Maine. I just learned to love it, that’s all.”

Talking about the world in the 1950s, he said, “We were really getting into the Cold War era from the end of WWII. We were always kept aware of the possibilities that we would go back to war. The Korean War started the year before I graduated in 1950. We were at war in one area of the world already.”

About the Iraq War, Simonds said, “My personal opinion is that with all of the terrorism that is going on in the world, that it becomes our necessity to combat it wherever it occurs and to keep it away from our shores.”

Now, at age 77, he is involved as a leader with the VFW Post 6393 in Yardley-Lower Makefield as well as at the District level. The Post, with its 176 members, is located on Yardley-Newtown Road. District 8 comprises the 21 posts in Bucks and Lehigh counties.

While Simonds was commander of VFW Post 6393, his organization was awarded the title of All-Department (State) Post for two years. The Post met and exceeded what is required by the District.

Belonging to the Post means brotherhood to Simonds. “We’re all supposed to be comrades of the organization and as such we try to support each other in terms of operations and what their situations are,” he said. “Comradeship is the main theme because all the members have gone through a specific war or conditions of war that binds them together.”

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