photo by Steve Lambert
Steel Beach tells the story of Jeff’s years as a naval aircrewman from 1972 to 1976. Homeported in San Diego, California, he deployed on two Western Pacific cruises, known as WestPacs. His deployments took him to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, South China Sea, Gulf of Tonkin, Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. Sailing halfway around the globe, with six crossings of the equator, an aircraft carrier was his home for months at a time. Ports of call included Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Mombasa, Kenya. A squadron detachment including Jeff’s crew flew into Bandar Abbas, Iran, on a diplomatic mission.

With over 300 SAR, ASW, medevac and logistics missions in the Sikorsky SH-3 helicopter, his experiences enriched his life and changed it forever.

The bulk of Steel Beach was written from memory. In addition Jeff had memorabilia such as quarterly marks, squadron and carrier newsletters, portions of his service records, and all of the certificates issued to him as reference material. But perhaps most valuable to the story were all of his letters home, saved by his mother and not discovered until after her death.The letters formed the soul of his story-writing process, serving as a window back in time to his state of mind and where he may have been at sea or in port. Between the letters and military records he was able to reconstruct an accurate time-line.

Our memories are our truths, unique in their vividness, their imperfections, and their beauty. Steel Beach is Jeff’s memory, his truth. This is what makes Steel Beach his story.