EMPORIA (KSNT) – Aboard the USS Saint Paul cruiser, John Livingston specialized in gun control. He spent two tours supporting fellow troops from the sea, during the war in Vietnam.
Originally from Kansas, Livingston’s patriotic sense of duty runs in the family.
“My father was in World War II,” Livingston said. “I felt a responsibility to serve.”
That feeling would lead him to join the Navy Reserve. When he was called up for active duty, Livingston found out he was bound for the Pacific.
“When I first went in, I was loading projectiles into a one-inch gun,” Livingston said. “I learned every position in that five-inch mount — loading projectiles, loading power.”
Shortly into his time aboard the USS Saint Paul, Livingston was assigned to gun control.
“I was a phone talker,” he said, “Because guys from the Midwest, you could understand what they said. People from back east, we couldn’t understand a word they said.”
As part of the weapons office team, John acted as a coordinator between the bridge and the captain.
“A spotter on the beach would call in a grid for us to fire at,” Livingston said. “I would plot that out on that map so we would know where we were shooting. I knew how many rounds were going to the target. I knew always where we were. A lot of guys had no clue, they never saw the light of day.”
His position would prove to be integral while overseas.
“This ship fired more ammunition in it’s career than any other ship in the world,” he said. “We were constantly firing when we were on the gunline in Vietnam. We spent most of our time on the DMZ supporting Marines.”
Decades following the end of his service, Livingston still looks back on the skills he learned from his time abroad with gratitude.
“I didn’t realize I didn’t know how to brush my teeth until I went into the Navy,” Livingston said. “I learned how to put out fires. I learned a lot of things in the Navy in a short time. All that stuff, as far as I’m concerned, is valuable life experience that, a lot of people, it wouldn’t hurt them to go through it.”