Category Archives: Sea Stories

USS BROWNSON (DD 868)

i know i have recounted this story before, many times orally and once or twice on paper, or this poor excuse for paper that shows up on your computer screen. The other day on the  US Navy Gearing Destroyer group on Facebook, there was an entry from someone who had served on the USS Brownson (DD 868). The name generated my recall of the story.  i love it, and now that i’m hooked up with some destroyer men on Facebook, i wanted to share it again.

For those of you who weren’t around the Navy’s Destroyer School in 1973, you may not have heard this story about the USS Brownson (DD 868). Three of the Brownson’s junior officers, including one who was stashed there waiting for department head school in Newport, Rhode Island, related it to me at a late afternoon tea…okay, okay, a couple of pitchers of beer for happy hour at the small annex to the officer’s club up the hill from the destroyer-submarine piers.

CHENG (chief engineer for landlubbers) on the  Brownson had won the respect of the ship’s officers who were with me in the six-month course was just on the south side of daffy and apparently had done several wild and goofy things while aboard . But he was a superb engineer and somehow the captain tolerated all of the shenanigans.

The gang swapped sea stories about CHENG’s antics. The sea stories were surprising, sometime a bit shocking. Then they told me the best one:

The Brownson had been operating for about two weeks with exercises in the Atlantic op areas off of Newport but had been independent steaming for several days. There was not much going on, no shipping to speak of, and relatively calm seas. Those watches, especially at night, are boring where you struggle to stay awake. CHENG had the midwatch on the bridge, nine total bodies on the bridge in the dark. In watches like that when i was OOD, i would query the watch standers about the actual names of the 16 points in the compass, like “one point off the starboard bow” is “nor, nor by nor east.”

But Brownson’s CHENG had a bigger idea. About half-way through his mid-watch, he transferred steering control to after steering. Then he shifted the entire bridge team to the flying bridge on the 04 level directly above the bridge. Finally, he had the Boatswainmate of the watch go to the 1MC (the ship’s loudspeaker system) and pipe attention, followed by the announcement, “Captain to the Bridge!” On old destroyers or for that matter any Navy ship i served during my career, every captain when underway spent his nights in the “sea cabin” immediately aft of the bridge so he could quickly access the bridge in an emergency — apparently, the new age of commanding officers no longer feel required to sleep in the sea cabin but choose the much larger, more comfortable Captain’s Cabin below the bridge for the evening.

So the pipe has called attention and the Boatswainmate has called the captain to the bridge. The captain erupts from his rack, crashes out of the sea cabin in his pajamas with his housecoat dragging behind…and there in the middle of the night on the “darken ship” bridge no one is on the bridge.

The officers telling the story did not explain what happened after that except to say, the captain and CHENG had a meaningful conversation in the wardroom the next morning.

i keep trying to imagine what ran through the captain’s mind those first thirty seconds or so when he ran onto the bridge ready for an incredible emergency and the bridge was empty.

Musings on an Early Saturday Morning

i am tired. But awake.

i woke up a bit earlier than usual, and even though it is a Saturday, i did not roll over and try to go back to sleep, an “iffy” proposition all the time, but not an option today.

You see, Maureen has to return a favor. A friend of hers took us to the airport about ten days ago for our trip to San Francisco. She picked us up at 11:00 a.m. Her flight back east and beyond was around 8:30 a.m. and she, like most women i know, especially my wife, wanted to have a buffer in time. So Maureen is to pick her up at 6:55 a.m.

Come to think of it, Karen is a bit more daring than Maureen. For an 8:30 a.m. flight, Maureen would want to be at the airport just after midnight before the flight but will compromise. We would have left home at 5:00 a.m.

So i made sure i got up and didn’t roll back over to dreamland in order to make coffee for when Maureen arose (i was also the backup alarm). One should not ever have to deal with Maureen without an early coffee or when she’s hungry. i’ve learned that.

The coffee has just finished percolating (i like that word: percolating). i started this when it was not quite alarm protection time. The coffee is done and i have retrieved the paper from the driveway.

Getting up this morning was particularly tougher this morning. i watched the Aztecs squeeze out a win over Air Force, 21-17, in a game extended an hour by a lightning delay.

Lightning delay! In San Diego! With rain! Who’d a thunk! Rain. i had almost forgotten what is was like. So much so, i made an excuse to go outside when it started so i could feel it, taste it, smell it. It was all good.

By the way, the game was a defensive battle in the rain, the kind i really like including the Tennessee rain-soaked Alabama 10-9 victory in Neyland Stadium in 1966 when Stabler was the quarterback and Louis Thompson was the super duper defensive tackle and when Tennessee had driven down the field with seconds left on the clock and missed a short field goal by inches and some nut sportswriter asked Bear what he would have done if the field goal attempt had been good and the Bear said “we would’ve blocked it and the game was mostly punts the rain and mud, the kind i like — after all, i was a diminutive linebacker in the dark ages. The Aztec win was marred by lots of miscues, the kind announcers feast on because they can blame somebody for something rather than crediting the other side for making it happen. Still, i’m a long-distance San Diego State football fan. They are fun to watch.

Even in the rain. The joyous, glorious rain, something everyone back on the right coast is getting too much of. A blessing here. i think about that a lot. i love San Diego weather, a big reason we stay here. It is high desert on the ocean front and the best weather year round for anyplace i’ve been in the world (and i have been to quite a few places in this world). i miss the seasons even though we claim to have them, and there is a subtle difference between the “summer” six months, and the “winter” six months. We can even detect a minuscule bit of spring and autumn. But it ain’t like back home.

i love rain. i like to walk in it. i am even known as a “mudder” by my golfing friends because i golf better in the rain. Rain and i have a long love affair.

i remember smelling it on the wind in Lebanon’s Augusts, a respite from the summer heat, especially around early football practice.

i remember it as a welcomed interloper into grave digging at Cedar Grove, where we would have to stop (but knowing digging in the wet clay was going to be a bear when the rain stopped).

i remember Henry Harding and i in a golf cart (why weren’t we walking at that age?) sitting under a small structure when a lightning storm caught us on the fifth hole.

i remember running in it during a Hash House Harriers run with the Aussies in Columbo, Sri Lanka, and sliding down the side of a a virtual cliff in the mud, clinging to vines to slow the descent because the downpour made the normal route impossible to traverse and then running through the road for the last mile in water up to my shins to reach the huge open shelter where the Aussies had steaks on the barbie and yanking one steak off and a Fosters out of the ice cooler and gnawing and gulping with the rain still dripping from my pores.

i remember the driving rains in the storms at sea coming down at a slant and the roar of the frothing, turbulent waves crashing over the bow and rolling down the main deck, and just how incredibly beautiful, even haunting the rain was in those moments.

i remember running my lunch circuit in Coronado during my last assignment, the circuit being modified by one of those rare rains and having to climb a temporary fence near the Hotel Del Coronado because the staff didn’t want anyone to walk through the foot or so of water collecting on the sidewalk. So i ran through it and climbed the fence and felt proud of myself for some curious reason.

And with what is my most poignant memory of the rain, i remember running in my street clothes (what a strange term for just clothes) in the rain until i thought my lungs would burst, running down West Spring Street, stopping and looking up for what seemed like an eternity, screaming, screaming as loud as i could. It was my freshman spring at Vanderbilt. Henry and Beetle’s mother, my beloved Virginia Harding, had passed away way too young. i did not know why. i didn’t understand. i felt cheated. i looked up to the heavens and screamed with the rain pouring down, onto my upturned face. And the rain was soothing.

i’m sure my love for the rain is not grasped right now by the folks who just went through the wrath of Michael. There are family and friends who live in Michael’s path whom i’ve not heard from yet. i try to imagine the grief, the scary future, the emotion of dealing with such destruction and loss. i can’t quite manage absorbing the enormity. i grieve for all of them.

And at almost the same time, San Diegans (i’m half San Diegan, half Lebanonite) were joyful, even with the rain delay of the football game, at less than a half-inch last night, hoping for more today, hoping the wildfires would be less of a possibility.

Weather is awesome, unpredictable, different…and strange.

*     *     *

Maureen has left, taking her coffee with her. Good. Karen will be glad she is on time. i suggested i meet Maureen on her way back from the airport for breakfast at Donny’s. Donny, a former professional bike racer in Spain, has the coffee shop with the best coffee in the world and several years ago added sandwiches to the offerings. And breakfast, good, good breakfasts. Maureen said that was a good idea but she had thought about making pancakes. i immediately nixed any more discussion about Donny’s. Nothing, nothing beats Maureen’s apple and blueberry pancakes. Made me want to run down to the Navy commissary and get some Tennessee Country Pride sausage. We’re out. Mild or hot is fine with me. Tennessee sausage with pancakes. Best breakfast in the world. i’ll settle for Maureen’s pancakes without my Tennessee sausage this morning.

*     *     *

And i wander in and out of these musings. In between i read my email. One came from my brother-in-law, Daniel Boggs, lives in Crossville. Tennessee. This native San Diegan fell in love with East Tennessee and moved there. Loves it. Dan is a music lover. He shares his love of music with Bob Hurt, another San Diegan gone to Crossville, who has had some gigs as a deejay on an Anaheim jazz station. They both know their stuff.

Dan sent me a “You Tube” video of an Aussie playing “Deep River Blues.” Tommy Emmanuel is the Aussie. i watched, but more importantly listened. i could not imagine someone matching Doc Watson playing and singing “Deep River Blues.” i couldn’t even imagine anyone trying.

Tommy Emmanuel is one hell of a guitar player. His introductions praises Doc, his inspiration. Then he plays and sings the song. Rather incredible. He even did some stuff Doc didn’t do. Impressive. Enjoyable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q316r10jJT8.

i have a lot of friends and family who are music lovers. There are several: Andrew Nemethy (guitar and piano), Rob Dewitt (banjo), Alan Hicks (banjo), Cy Fraser (mandolin…well, a little bit), Evan Fraser (the things Evan does with native instruments from all across the world as a member of Dirtwire and several other bands is phenomenal), Tommy Duff (guitar), Martha Duff (piano), Tim Prichard (guitar) to name a few who are accomplished musicians. Sarah, my younger daughter, is pretty good on the guitar and piano as well.

i, on the other hand am about in dunceville. i played the piano for about four years up until high school. i was okay, but didn’t have a great ear and was only so-so reading music. i now sit down and stumble through Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust,” followed by my short composition inspired by Jody Williams’ “Endless Sleep,” a rockabilly tragedy tear jerker in 1958. Then i pull out the Cokesbury Hymnal, and pick out the gospel songs i really like such as “I Come to the Garden Alone,” “Amazing Grace,” and several others with my left hand in my lap. When i play those hymns, i wish i had paid more attention, practiced enough to ingrain the left hand, almost boogie-woogie accompaniment my grandmother, Granny Prichard and my aunt, Barbara Jewell, played and demonstrated for me.

As for the guitar, i’ve had one since the mid-1950’s. Fooled with it pretty much ever since. To no avail. So i pick at a single ditty i invented that sounds like the beginning of a couple of songs i’ve heard, play some other simple things i made up and maybe a terrible rendition of the Beatles “This Boy.”

Didn’t really learn either instrument. Didn’t practice. So now, i try to play both with everyone out of earshot. Just for me.

But i have worshipped Doc Watson since i first heard him. i believe Rob DeWitt introduced us. On the USS Hawkins in 1969. Maybe it was Andrew Nemethy. Or both. i listened. i began collecting Doc’s albums. Think i have four or five now, not counting Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s collection “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” where Doc is one of the star performers.

i saw Doc live about a half-dozen times, about two hundred thousand times too few. He played for Maureen and i on our second date when i took her to the Belly-Up Tavern again. She too fell in love with his music. And as good as Tommy Emmanuel is, perhaps even more technically advanced than Doc. He ain’t Doc. There’s only one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE2swkx9WXE

Thank you, Danny.

*     *     *

These musings have gone from the dark of early morning to the promising but stubborn clouds unwilling to bring more rain. This is way too long but i’m into it, winging it, not wanting to stop, i think of ships.

In a not-yet-post piece, delayed by my inability to quickly resize photos, i inserted some comments about our San Francisco trip. i won’t elaborate here except for my last Saturday experience: My gracious Vandy brother Alan Hicks got tickets for a San Francisco “Fleet Week” event. We boarded the Jeremiah O’Brien around 1000. The O’Brien is liberty ship. She carried cargo when she participated in D-Day. Remember D-Day? That may seem like a silly question to someone my age, but i don’t know how much younger folks actually know about that war long ago.

Regardless, the O’Brien was in the midst of that day of death on Omaha , Utah, Gold, Sword, and Juno beaches some three quarters of a century ago . Impressive. My nostalgia loomed large as we walked down the pier. A ship like her, modified to carry troops instead of cargo, carried my father and his fellow 75th Battalion of Seabees from Gulfport, Mississippi through the Panama Canal to San Francisco where the remainder of the battalion boarded — and i’m thinking that happened at Fort Mason down the Bay in the Marina District from the Fisherman’s Wharf pier where the O’Brien was moored last Saturday — and then on to the South Pacific.

Her three-cylinder reciprocating engines with two 250-pound boilers were an older vintage engineering plant than my last ship, the USS Yosemite’s  400-pound, four-boiler, geared turbine plant. O’Brien was a year older. Two of my destroyers, the Hawkins and the  Hollister were of the same vintage with four 600-pound boilers, steam turbine plants. Still as Alan i descended into the bowels of O’Brien’s engine room, the heat filling our lungs, i was taken back to those days on destroyers and the tender. The roar of the boilers and clanking of the reciprocating engines sung in my heart as if it were thirty, forty, even fifty years ago. At sea.

The O’Brien got underway right after we talked to the pilot. “Maritime, or Coast Guard?” Alan asked of his training and qualifications.

“Hawsepipe,” the pilot responded. He seemed a bit embarrassed. We were impressed. i let the term simmer in my mind. “Hawsepipe:” he had learned the ropes by coming up through the system. The term took me back again. That hole in the bow where the anchor chain rolls out in thunder and creaks back up, dropping and retrieving the anchor. “Hawsepipe:” where the anchor is housed while underway. Oh, sweet sea. Oh, sweet ocean. The lady of a fierceness and beauty just laid out an unimaginable swath of destruction but can be like glass in the doldrums, but always, always beautiful.

“Hawsepipe,” he said.

The O’Brien, with the help of two tugs, slid from her berth and traversed a large part of the Bay, under the Golden Gate and back, holding steerageway off of Alcatraz as the Blue Angels did their aero-acrobatics in F-18’s, aircraft just coming into the military when i retired. Impressive.

But not as impressive as the Jeremiah O’Brien. She was magic. She was magic. She took me back in time.

We docked and disembarked about 1600.

*     *     *

i hope this lengthy, rambling musing has not put you off. i was on a roll. That often happens when i hit upon music i like, recalling rain, or falling in love with the sea again, even if it is from long distance.

Maureen is back home. We had her wonderful pancakes and read the paper. The house is stirring. Vanderbilt’s game against Florida is about to begin. i plan to watch, then take a nap, a bit longer than usual.

i will sleep well.

Sailors, Midshipmen, and Hatteras

In a recent post on the Facebook group “US Navy Gearing Class Destroyers,” Manny Gentile wrote:

When the midshipmen came aboard for their summer cruise, we went to great lengths to torment them.

i spent time on four Gearing class destroyers, the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764), the USS Hawkins (DD 873), USS Waldron (DD 699), and the USS Hollister (DD 788). i also had a tour aboard the USS Stephen B. Luce (DLG 7).

The Thomas was my ship for the third class midshipman eight-week cruise in the summer of 1963.

It was on the Thomas, my first time on a Navy warship at sea where seafaring reached into my gut and captured me…forever. It was also where tormenting of midshipmen was taken to an art form, and i was one of the targets, perhaps another reason for me to forever be a pocket of resistance.

i have told part of this before, but must repeat as the beginning had something to do with my first experience of Cape Hatteras, or to be more correct at sea east of Cape Hatteras.

In the summer of 1963, i opted to ride a bus from Nashville to Newport rather than flying due to my usual lopsided logic that i could save some money and use it for other things. My family drove me to Nashville’s Union Station where i caught a Trailways Bus. It left at noon Saturday and, with one transfer in Providence RI arrived in the Newport “square,” actually a deep triangle around 6:30 Monday morning, forty-two hours on a bus with stops only for passengers and some meals in my Navy Service Dress Khaki midshipman uniform.

When we offloaded, i found my seabag with all of my clothing had not been transferred to the new bus in Providence. i was assured my seabag would be delivered to the ship before we got underway.

Driving down Thames street toward the Navy base and the destroyer piers, i recall Newport as more of a sailor’s town: rough looking bars, a working waterfront much more so than a tourist attraction. When the bus stopped at the foot of the piers, i remember the USS Yosemite (AD 19) as the first ship pier-side in its grandeur as the flagship of the Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Force, Atlantic Fleet (i was Yosemite’s XO on my last operational tour twenty years later). As i walked down the wood creosote pier, i was in awe of the gallant destroyers nested in threes on the pier. I thought it was smoggy, but the tin cans were “blowing tubes,” cleaning out the boiler tubes by blowing residue out the stack, a practice soon prohibited from environmental concerns. But that day, the acidic soot particles landed on my blouse and cover putting small black holes in the fabric.

By the time, i walked across the  brow and awkwardly saluted while reporting aboard, i smelled worse than a goat on a bad day. We had a short introduction by the XO in the wardroom before we were hustled the to the 01 torpedo deck forward of the bridge and put into formation, 18 third class midshipmen and three first class midshipmen.

As we let go all lines and got underway, i was informed my seabag did not arrive in time but would be on another ship and transferred by high line as soon as practicable.

As we stood in formation, standing out of the harbor and the Narragansett Bay in incredible weather, a gnarly, old chief emerged from the hatch underneath the port bridge wing where all the midshipmen could see him but not visible from the bridge. The chief had grabbed one of the seasick bags, small paper bags that were a poor sister to the airsick bags available in aircraft. He had gone to chiefs quarters, crumbled vanilla wafers into the bag and then filled it about half full of milk.

As he emerged onto the weather deck, he grumbled, “Every time we get underway, i have to get my sea legs.” With that, he leaned over the lifelines and gurgled and belched as if he were throwing up. When finished, he raised up and announced so we could hear him, “And there’s only one way to cure it.” He then put the seasick bag to his mouth and drink the contents with the milk and crumbs of vanilla wafers spilling down his cheek, onto his uniform and the deck.

Of the twenty-one midshipmen in formation, eighteen immediately became seasick and rushed to the life rails to copy the chief’s throwing up but for real. i was one of the three still standing. i don’t know why, but i suspect i stunk so much from almost three days in the uniform on a bus that i was numb.

After sea detail was secured, we went to our assigned berthing on the fantail. All the third class midshipmen changed into the midshipmen version of an enlisted sailor’s dungaree uniform. with Dixie Cups that had blue piping on the rim. i remained stinking in my ripe service dress khaki but discarded the blouse. We went through an orientation and were assigned watches. Afterwards, we gathered in our berthing and became acquainted.

The evening meal on the mess decks was all greasy: pork chops, pinto beans, and other things i don’t remember. As we sat down, a couple of sailors walked through the mess deck announcing they would have an appetizer before the meal. They had tied strings onto sardines and had put them back in the sardine can. They opened their cans, held the sardines by the string and appeared to swallow them. Then they pulled them out announcing they were so good they would eat them again. They repeated this several times and more midshipmen rushed to the supply of seasick bags.

i had drawn operations as my first section of duty and was assigned the mid-watch. i was still in my gabardine, by now wreaking khaki trousers and cotton dress shirt, sans the tie. The first class radarman was the CIC watch supervisor. He gave me the job of staring at a radar repeater in the forward part of the darken ship space. The only lights beside the radar repeater were red to retain our night vision, and of course the glow from the repeaters. My station at the radar repeater required me to sit facing forward, thereby making the side rolls of the ship much more difficult to handle for seasickness. My seabag arrived three weeks later by hi-line. The destroyer who received it from the bus line had transferred it to the oiler in company and eventually the oiler transferred it to the Thomas.

i was already getting queasy as the ship came into the vicinity of Cape Hatteras. By my calculations today, i’m guessing we were about one hundred miles east of Hatteras, legendary for rough seas. The seas and Hatteras mix did not disappoint. The Thomas was taking twenty-degree rolls. That was about when all of the radarmen on watch lit up cigars. They kept changing stations while i rocked monotonously at my repeater turning green. Me turning green, not the repeater scope. As the radarmen moved from one station to another, each would come by my station to check on me, of course blowing as much cigar smoke as they could into my face.

i could feel myself getting sick. A lump came into my mouth from down below. It was nasty. Green to the gills, rocking to and fro, staring at the sweep of the radar on the scope, it appeared the sailors had gotten to one of the last three midshipmen who had avoided sea sickness. But from somewhere deep inside, i decided i was not going to give in. i swallowed down that lump and whatever else had come up from below, and gutted it out. By the time, the morning watch arrived, my green had gone away. Before i hit the rack, i brushed my teeth and had a drink of water.

i was given underwear and socks from ship’s store. A third-class radarman about my size donated enough sailor gear for me to wear.  He also donated some boots he had bought in Turkey on the last deployment. They were of camel leather that had not been cured very well. In short, they stunk. But the stench was nothing compared to the khaki i had been wearing for four very long days.

i never got seasick, or even close to it again. The ordeal was a blessing in disguise.

i soon realized all of the pranks the sailors were playing on the midshipmen and naive sailors, which continued on every ship i rode during twenty-two years. About three weeks later, i rotated to engineering and was assigned watches in main control and the fire rooms. On a forenoon (0800-1200) watch in main control, the watch supervisor instructed me to go to “A” gang (auxiliary engineering) and bring back some “relative bearing grease.” i dutifully headed for the “A” gang shop where i was told they were out and i should check with the BT’s (Boiler Tenders) in the after fire room. As i left their shop, i finally realized they were pulling my leg — “relative bearing” is the term for degrees from the bow of the ship often used to describe the ship’s position relative to another ship or object ashore — and there was no such thing as “relative bearing grease.”

i decided i just go take a nap in my rack. About an hour later, one of main control watch standers woke me up demanding to know what the hell i was doing. i acted sheepish and told him i was sorry, but i kept looking for some “relative bearing grease” but no one seemed to have it. Consequently, i was too embarrassed to return to main control empty handed.

The sailors never tried to pull my leg the rest of the cruise.

The tales of sailors pulling such stunts on new sailors reporting aboard or midshipmen are legendary. My favorite was the CIC watch on the Hawkins. It was at the end of a morning watch (0400-0800). The Boatswainmate of the Watch on the bridge piped attention with his Bosun’s pipe over the 1MC speaker which went throughout the ship and then warned “Stand by for heavy rolls” as the ship approached some rough seas. The CIC watch told their new striker, an RDSA, to go down the to the galley and wait in line to get some “heavy rolls” from the cook. The poor yokel did as he was told and spent an hour in a line of one at the galley hatch before he was told he had been tricked.

Sailors were fun. More seasick stories to come.

The Gloekles

A couple of months ago, i queried several Hawkins sailors about the Gloekles. i told them i was thinking about writing a post about the Gloekles and would appreciate any input.

i may have entertained you (maybe) with some information on these Hawkins sailors before, but to make sure here’s the story:

My first ship was the USS Hawkins (DD 873). After getting my commission from OCS in early February 1968, i attended the Anti-Submarine Officer’s two-month course in Key West and then flew to Rota, Spain, on to Malaga where i joined the Hawk on her way out of the Mediterranean en route from a nine-month deployment. i immediately became the First Lieutenant in charge of First Division, the deck gang, as we crossed the Atlantic to our homeport of Newport, Rhode Island. i became the ASW Officer as we entered our ROH (regular overhaul) in Boston in September. After a six-month overhaul, we went to GITMO for refresher training (for non-Navy folks that was Guantanamo Bay where Atlantic based ships went through two-month period, getting underway every weekday for certification as operational after overhauls.

By the time we returned to Newport, i had qualified as one of four OOD’s (Officer of the Deck underway) and one of four CDO’s (Command Duty Officers, who stood twenty-four hour duties and acted as the captain’s representative, responsible for the ship when the captain and the executive officer were ashore.

The Gloekles were not some small islands in faraway sea. Nor were they some dangerous passage close to some foreign shore. i had some first hand knowledge of the Gloekle’s. They were nice, friendly, sincere young men. Twins. They were SA’s (Seaman Apprentices) when they reported aboard and were assigned to First Division, the deck division, the one headed up by the green officer, one Ensign Jewell. They were of the old Navy.

i had experienced that Navy on my Third Class Midshipmen cruise aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764).  There were sailors on the Thomas who thought of their ship as their home, their parents, their world. They lived on board for their entire careers. There was a fireman who had made it to second class BT (boiler tender) at least three times (and then would get busted at captain’s mast) with eighteen years in service on the Thomas. There was a second class cook with 17 years of service who also lived on board, and there were more. They  would not have been considered the brightest bulbs in the light fixture, but they served that Navy well and that Navy served them well.

The Gloekle’s were not in Mensa by any stretch. But they were sincere, well meaning, and as mentioned before nice young men. From somewhere in the Midwest as i recall.

They also had a penchant for getting themselves in predicaments and at least on one occasion, dragging me with them.

In the summer of 1968 after our return from the Med, we went out to the op areas for several aerial gun shoots where our two twin gun mounts (5″ 38) fired at a aircraft-towed target sleeve. i was assigned as check sight observer for Mount 51 on the forecastle. i sat in a seat up in the left front of the mount with a sight. My job was simply for safety. Before the mount captain could fire either gun, i looked through the sight to ensure we were shooting at the right thing, the target. i would tell everyone on the JS or JP sound powered phone circuit (as best as i can remember) if the guns were aimed “on target,” “clear,” or “cease fire” if they were aimed incorrectly, like at the aircraft rather than the tow . The mount had 12 personnel cramped inside including me. It was hot and it was loud (and this was long before anyone had come up with hearing protection). i loved it although i wanted to be more a part of the action rather than as a safety observer.

The hot case man in Mount 51 was one of the Gloekles. i don’t know which one. But i well remember looking back and watching him working at his task. The hot case man squatted at the rear of the mount underneath where the mount captain stood on his raised platform. He wore his regular dungarees, a battle helmet, and large asbestos gloves. His job was to deflect the powder casings as they were ejected from each mount after firing a round to ensure they went out of the mount through the hole in the bottom of the mount and onto the forecastle deck. It was an assignment coveted by noone. But this particular Gloekle twin obviously was enthralled.

His look of concentration was beautiful to watch as he swatted the brass casings. He knew his job was important, and he was completely focused on the task at hand — after a gun shoot, another job was to “police the brass.” Any of the casings, about a yard in length with diameter of five inches, that had not rolled overboard were collected and tossed into the sea. i often wish i could have saved them all, stored them, and then sold them for the brass; i would be a rich man today; we have a three-inch brass casing used to hold dried flowers by our living room fireplace; for a long time, i had the base of a five-inch casing and used it for an ashtray. i don’t know where it went. But Gloekle was not concerned with that. He was doing his job.

At that time, the First Division chief was BMC Jones, an incredible Navy chief and a superb boatswainmate. Just before the noon mess, he and i were walking the main deck, checking on how the painting of the ship was going.

Chief Jones turned to me and asked, “Have you ever seen a one-armed Gloekle?” At first, i thought he was talking about a unique piece of equipment used in deck evolutions. Then i began to consider he was pulling my leg. Finally it dawned on me, he was talking about one of the twins.

“Yeh,” the chief continued, “Gloekle was in the mess line on the port side of the main deck and he got frustrated with something. He turned and hit one of the grates on a air duct. His fist and arm went through the grating.

“He broke his arm and the doc put in several stitches. Won’t be good for much of anything for at least a month.

“Damn one-arm Gloekles,” he mused.

The Gloekles also were known by shipmates as good guys. One struck for the radioman rating while the other was a DK (disbursing) striker while we were in the yards for overhaul. The disbursing striker didn’t make it and returned to the deck division as a seaman.

In May of 1969, Hawkins went to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a month. There the fantail deck was strengthened and a special davit was installed. The ship had been designated as the Atlantic recovery ship for the Apollo 12 mission in July, a backup to the planned return in the Pacific where the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 12) had the primary recovery assignment.

Taking advantage of a month in the shipyard, the deck division cleaned and repainted the paint locker. To do so, they had moved all of the paint into a large conex box on the pier. One afternoon before liberty call, the new first lieutenant came to me and said, “You aren’t going to believe this, but Gloekle locked himself in the paint locker. He was in there for about two hours until someone discovered him there just before knock off. We have no idea how he did it.”

i had been qualified as OOD (officer of the deck on the bridge watch) in late February 1969 and as CDO (Command Duty Officer, responsible for the ship during an in port 24 hour period) shortly afterwards. i had  the CDO duty one night in August while the Hawk was in a maintenance period and Hurricane Blanche was building southeast of Norfolk (in June, Hawkins’  home port had been changed from Newport to Norfolk; i was not thrilled with the change). i read the message board after eight o’clock reports and there was no radio traffic that addressed  Blanche as a threat to the Naval Base.

After making my rounds before taps, i went back to the wardroom and caught the 10:00 o’clock news. The lead story was how the ships at Norfolk Naval Base were preparing to sortie because of the approaching hurricane. i had heard nothing from higher commands. i called radio, no answer. RMSN Gloekle, the other twin, was standing the evening watch in radio  Somehow, he had locked himself out of radio and had spent a couple of hours trying to get back inside the radio shack. Finally, he woke up the duty radioman who had another set of keys.

When the dust settled, Gloekle brought me the message board again. The radio message from SOPA (Senior Officer Present Afloat) had ordered the sortie preps about two hours before and each ship was required to report if it could get underway within twenty-four hours. i called the captain and the chief engineer at their homes. The engineer confirmed the main engines were open for maintenance, requiring more than a day to button them up and get underway. The captain confirmed the radio message response i had written and i sent it out immediately, later than other ships but apparently okay with the chain of command. A disaster had been averted.

One of the best things about the draft was Navy ships were melting pots of the United States. Sailors were from everywhere in the country and with all different kinds of backgrounds. Many i have known went on to successful careers in a variety in the civilian world. Many stayed in, like moi, and had good careers. Back then, some stayed in because it was a safe place to be, like i said earlier, it was their home, their world. i enjoyed knowing all of them except for the small number of miscreants i ran into through twenty-two years.

And then there were the Gloekle’s. Sadly, i don’t know what happened to them. But i remember them fondly in spite of some problems with them locking themselves in or out of things.

 

 

FMG

i’ve written about it many times here.

It is almost a ritual.

The two guys in the foreground are Marty Linville and Rod Stark. Rod is taking practice swings. The three of us began playing golf together in the mid-1980’s when we were all on our last military tours. Marty was the Army’s gift to the Navy’s Amphibious School, Coronado, taught gunfire control, and managed the big gun shooting range on San Clemente Island (about seventy miles west of San Diego). Rod was the director of amphibious training and later became the executive officer of the command. i was the director of leadership and management training for the West Coast and Pacific Rim in addition to facilitating the two-day seminar on Command Excellence for senior officers.

With a pretty rigorous schedule, the only time we could play was on weekends. It was difficult getting tee times on the four Navy courses (Sea ‘n Air on the North Island Naval Air Station, Admiral Baker North and South in the Naval Base recreation area in Mission Valley, and then Miramar, which was a Navy Air Station before the Marines took it under BRAC. One reason for our difficulties was retired folks were also getting tee times. We bitched about old farts taking up weekend tee times when they could play during the week.

So we vowed once we retired we wouldn’t play military courses on the weekend to give more tee times for active duty personnel. Except for tournaments and later Sunday rounds with Pete Toennies and our wives, we have stuck to that vow.

Then in 1991, Marty and i played a weekday round and discussed the situation. Marty had just gone to a 4/10 work week. i was mister mom. So we decided we could play Sea ‘n Air, Baker, and Miramar on Fridays. Rod, who after retiring was the golf pro for the North Course in Sun City, California, had quit that job when we ran into him at Miramar one morning in the mid-90’s. He joined our Friday bunch then. Since those first rounds in 1991, we have played golf at a local military golf course almost every Friday, teeing off early. i have actually made it understood when i worked at Scripps Consulting Group, military contractors, and Pacific Tugboat Services i would not be available to work on Friday mornings.

We call it “Friday Morning Golf.” i have shortened that to FMG. We have had as many as 16 golfers in our group and as few as two. Now, we come close to filling up two foursomes every Friday.

i have posted photographs before, nearly all on the fifteenth tee. The tee and the fairway borders the Navy beach (it used to be called “dungaree beach” for it was where sailors would escape from work when possible and loll about on the beach, but now is a big attraction for all Navy personnel, dependents, retirees, and others). The tee box gives one a great view of the majestic Point Loma, the Rosecrans Military Cemetery, and the wide expanse of the Pacific, not to mention if one turns around the iconic Hotel Del Coronado and the sprawling city of Tijuana are visible to the south. And routinely, we watch my ships, haze gray in their military splendor standing in or standing out of the channel.

But this photo is from the eleventh tee, the shorter one on the small hill rather than the longer flat one to the north. We are waiting for the group in front of us to clear the large par three green. The marine layer i often write about is hanging low over the Pacific, the brown and gray flat area from the middle to the right side of the photo is the beginning of the East to West runway for the air station. It is nearly always the flight path for landing aircraft unless a Santa Ana wind is blowing. So not only do we get to play golf in a rather idyllic setting, we also get to see FA 18’s, Ospreys, helicopters, training aircraft, others, and every once in a while even a C5 seemingly hung in the air trundling overhead like an airborne but very large snail headed for a landing. It is satisfying to know our successors are defending our country well.

Navy Chiefs, Part III

My personal introduction to chiefs came in 1963. It was on my third class midshipman cruise on the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764), a FRAM II destroyer out of Newport, Rhode Island. That is at least one, if not three or four stories in itself to be told later.

My next real recollection of a chief petty officer was the senior chief quartermaster who taught navigation at OCS. We learned quite a bit even though much of the course was movies the senior chief let us watch, nearly all as i recall being from the “Victory at Sea” series. But what i most recall was at the end of one class, the old senior chief tells the class, “Yeh, you guys are leaving here and going to the evening mess formation about the time i’ll be reaching over into the back seat of my car on the Jamestown bridge for the first of the six pack of Budweiser i have in the cooler.”

The Hawkins, nested outboard.

But then there was the Hawkins where my real lesson in chiefdom began. i have already written about Boatswainmate Chief Jones. He was my chief as First Lieutenant and first division officer from when i reported aboard until he retired in August 1968. His best buddy was also instrumental in teaching me how the Navy worked.

Unfortunately, i do not remember his name. i do remember his unique rating. Back in the late 1960’s for a short period of time, the Navy had created the rating of SP for chiefs at the E-8/E-9 level. Machinistmates and Boiler Tenders, when they reached the E-8 level became “Steam Propulsion Specialist.” Our man was an E-9 so his rating was “SPCM.” He was so good he was the Main Propulsion Assistant or in Navy lingo “MPA,” normally a junior officer’s billet, but Paul George, CHENG, didn’t want any JO between him and the SPCM when it came to running and maintaining the plant (until my good friend Rob Dewitt took over). He was still very much in charge before i moved from first lieutenant to ASW Officer.

He was a very a large, swarthy, black-headed chief who hung out in the engineering log room, the office and brains of the engineering plant off of the main deck passageway almost amidships. The first lieutenant and his first division were responsible for the maintenance and cleanliness of that passageway, which ran most of length of the main deck.

We began a major program of taking up the tile on that passageway, re-tiling, and repainting the passageway. It was a demanding work requirement, and i was constantly checking on how it was progressing. One workday, around mid-morning, i found my personnel not up to my standards in their work effort. i don’t remember what i did to address that, but i very clearly remember it was wrong.

The SPCM, hearing whatever it was i did or said, emerged from the log room, put his arm on shoulder, looked at me sternly, and said, “Son (not “Mister,” not “Ensign,” but “Son”), let’s have a talk.”

With that and his arm still around my shoulder, the SPCM led me out on the port side of the weather deck amidships. It was there, i got the best lecture on leadership i ever received. the SPCM talked to me about the world, about the Navy’s world, and how it all worked.  i think he gave me the best perspective i could ever had achieved on how to be a good leader.

Although i don’t remember his name, “SPCM” is a tribute to him, and i will never forget.

Navy Chiefs, part II

As noted earlier, BMC Jones was my entry into chiefs taking care of division officers. Ensigns and even Lieutenant Junior Grades (LTJG). BMC Jones was my chief when i was an ensign and first lieutenant on the good ship Hawkins.

We had a chiseled seaman apprentice in first division, who also thought he was a good sea lawyer.

The Navy was different back then. One difference was liberty cards. Normally the ship was in three duty sections, of which one  took the duty and remained on board every third day. When liberty call came, the two enlisted duty sections not on duty had been given their liberty cards, about the size of business cards, to show to the quarterdeck watch, a requirement before being allowed to leave the ship. These cards were usually passed out by the division’s leading petty officer at quarters each morning. If you didn’t get a liberty card, you didn’t go ashore.

Seaman Joe Shit the Ragman (a title we gave problem junior enlisted) had done something wrong and the LPO, BM2 Carrier, had not issued the sailor a liberty card even though he didn’t have the duty. To make it worse for Ragman — Back then, junior enlisted were addressed by their last name only. Petty Officers could be called “Petty Officer xxx,” but usually called by their last name only as well; Chiefs were called “chief,” “senior chief,” or “master chief.” Junior officers were called mister, like “Mister Jewell,” until they made commander, then they were called by their rank, as in “Commander Jewell” — it was Friday. That meant Ragman had to stay on board for the weekend. This was an unauthorized but common form of a sub-rosa justice system. Ragman, the sea lawyer, took offense.

Just before Friday liberty call, i had walked down to the first division berthing compartment in the after section of the ship. i was checking the material condition and the state of the berthing compartment. Ragman saw his chance to haul out his sea lawyer skills on a green ensign. He was ranting about the illegality of not allowing him to go on liberty. i was mulling over how to handle this situational ethics situation (even though i had no idea a term for this kind of thing even existed): i wanted to support my leading petty officer; i was sure Ragman had deserved having his liberty card “lost,” but i also was supposed to uphold justice, fairness, and adherence to regulations.

As i briefly pondered my quandary, Chief Jones, who had been looking for me, slid down the ladder to the compartment. This wiry, small man, with a cigarette hanging outside of his mouth, stopped Ragman’s rant by merely holding up his left hand toward him. Then he asked me what was going on. i responded.

BMC Jones turned, grabbed Ragman’s blue chambray shirt with his right hand, pushed the fabric he had grabbed up to Ragman’s throat, and pushed him up against the bulkhead. i swear Ragman, all 180 pounds and six feet of him was quivering.

“Listen, you little shit,” Chief Jones said evenly despite being red in the face with veins pulsing, “If you ever pull that kind of shit again, i’ll see to it you never leave this ship. Ever.”

“Got that,” the chief concluded.

Then he turned to me and said to me, “Sir, let’s go up to the main deck. i want to discuss when we are going to retile and paint the main passageway.”

He turned and quickly ascended the ladder out of the compartment.

This ensign meekly followed, shaking my head in amazement.

CPO’s, a Navy Thing

Of the three military branches, Army, Navy, Air Force (Sorry Marines, as good as you think you are and as good as you have been, you remain a subordinate part of the Navy and really have become an unnecessary part of the military force because you just duplicate the mission of the other services, even if you are good.), the Navy seems most unique to me.

One of my best friends, Marty Linville, an Army artillery wizard who received a well-deserved Silver Star for his heroic action in Vietnam as the commander of an artillery unit, and i have often discussed the difference between enlisted personnel and officers, Army and Navy.

The biggest difference, in which the Army’s side of this difference also includes the Navy’s Special Forces warriors, the SEALS is that the true, original Navy officers, now known as Surface Warfare officers (what a bunch of malarky) is their expertise in driving ships. Their other, equally important purpose is to lead or manage (or both) their subordinates, at least in rank. Officers in the Army and SEALS, especially the junior officers, are out in the field waging war while leading their subordinates.

Navy Chief Petty Officer insignia

Marty and i agree the differences in the historical structure comes from the differences in role. Obviously, there are some historical and tradition elements that foster the difference. The Navy, the surface warfare kind, seems to draw more distinction in the rank divisions of officer, chief petty officer, and other enlisted.

Their uniforms announce that difference. But in the Navy, it is significant, although the new Navy seems intent on wiping out any differentiation, both symbolically with uniforms and literally with less separation between the ranks. With the advances in technology and many other things, this merging may be necessary. i wouldn’t know. i’m old school. As in old.

i have formed a long distance bond with a number of sailors on my first ship, the USS Hawkins (DD-873). i reported aboard in April 1968, flying from Rota to Malaga, Spain and coming aboard as she was on her way back from a nine-month Mediterranean deployment to her homeport of Newport, Rhode Island. i had completed OCS in early February, spent two months in Key West attending the Anti-Submarine Officer’s School before flying out of Charleston with my entire belongings:   my uniforms,  a small civilian wardrobe, and a grunch of books, all in a plywood 2 x 2 x 4 foot cruise box that weighed in the neighborhood of a ton.

Underway: a sailor enjoying a quiet moment on the fantail of the USS Hawkins (Thanks, Gary McCaughey)

i was slated to be the ASW officer, but the resident ASWO was not leaving until early October, so i was assigned the first lieutenant’s billet for the return, the summer of minimal local operations until the September beginning of a  six-month overhaul when i took over as ASW officer.

Those first six months were a crash learning course in how Navy ships at the time really worked. The “Navy way” was continually emblazoned in my head for the next twenty-two years. A great deal of that learning curve concerned the differences between the enlisted, the chiefs, and the officers. Actually, there was another division: the “leading petty officers” or “LPO’s.”

The system worked well even though the different groups made fun of the others. A great example of that is the cartoon taking a shot across the bow at officers, Norm O’Neal, a radarman (RD) at the time and now a close friend through email and social media, sent me last week:

    My immediate reply was:

Norm, this one wouldn’t let me “reply to all,” the officers said this about a lot of chiefs.

   To which, Norm replied, “Ouch.”

To which i added:

Actually, Norm, as it is with nearly all situations, there are good people and bad people in every level of every organization.

My first chief petty officer was the Hawkins’ BMC Jones. He saved my ass on several occasions. He was a small, thin, wiry, gnarly, old chain-smoking chief from Arkansas. After teaching this ensign the ropes, he retired the Monday after the change of command on the Hawk in August 1968 (speaking of good and bad, there was the CO who made the deployment, the screamer whose name i can’t recall right now being relieved by Max Lasell, who remains one of the top three of the CO’s under whom i served, and that’s another story).

But Chief Jones was relieved by a short, portly, old BMC with thick white hair whose name i also can’t remember. He was the first of many chiefs who worked for or with me officers called “ROADS Scholar” for Retired On Active Duty. You could tell them by the permanent crook they had in their pointer finger from holding on to their coffee cup they used while they spent about 95% of their time in the chiefs’ mess.

But that was only part of  my crash education about Chief Petty Officers on the Hawk. i learned why Chief Petty Officers, a unique position in the military services, were so important. Through my remaining twenty-two years, this idea of chiefs being different was continually emphasized. For good reason.

My initial realization of the difference was from the get-go. i had wondered since i first became connected to the Navy when i began my NROTC scholarship tragedy at Vanderbilt, why senior enlisted had uniforms more like officers than the other enlisted. Although i was slowly learning why through OCS in Newport, Rhode Island, ASW school in Key West, and two weeks in Rota waiting to join my new ship, the difference slowly was becoming apparent to me.

But on the Hawkins, it became quite clear.

 

 

Another Lesson for an Ensign: The Paint Locker, circa 1968

Before chiefs taught me a thing or two or two thousand, i was a very, very green ensign.

Destroyer-Submarine Piers in Newport, Rhode Island where i learned about the paint locker, circa 1968. Photo provided by RD2 Norm O’Neal. Thanks, Norm.

As an ensign, i stood duty in three sections. The qualifications for standing the OOD, Officer Of the Deck, watch in port, was not too stringent. You had to be a junior officer, chief, or very good first class petty officer. And breathe. i would add “chew gum” but that was deemed inappropriate on the good ship Hawkins or any other Navy ship at the time. i may have stood an under-instruction watch, but i don’t remember it.

i don’t remember standing many of those earlier watches, not even the first dog one particular duty day in the summer of 1968. But i most definitely remember the next watch.

It was the mid-watch. About half-way through around 0200, a third-class petty officer came back from liberty. He was lit. After saluting, he began to rant and rave and chewing me out in particular. i was not quite sure what to do. My petty officer of the watch (POOW) recognized my dilemma and called the duty Master-at-Arms.

As i was trying to tell the boozy sailor he was on report, the master-at-arms showed up on the quarterdeck. He was a first class gunner’s mate. Unfortunately, as it is in many of my recollections, i don’t remember his name. i do remember he looked like an NFL tight end. He wore his chambray shirt sleeves folded up above his elbows to show up his rather impressive biceps, even with a couple of tattoos disguising the ripples. He had a tight crew cut under his dixie cup (“hat” for land lubbers), which of course, was pushed back from his forehead. A Pell Mell dangled from his lips.

“Don’t worry, sir,” he said to me, “I’ll take care of this guy.”

Then, he grabbed the sailor by the arm, leading him off the quarterdeck and forward, telling him, “Come on son, we’re gonna have a little talk down in the paint locker.”

The paint locker was part of the boatswain’s locker on a Gearing-class destroyer. It was all the way forward on the first platform (a partial deck below the main deck), small and dark. i did not know it at the time, but it was also the location of some non-NJP discipline.

When i asked the POOW why the master-at-arms was taking the drunken sailor to the paint locker, he just said, “To help sober him up,” and then he chuckled.

i learned the next morning at quarters what the POOW really meant. The sailor who had been “sobered up” passed me as we headed for our different division musters. He looked not quite like he had been put through a meat grinder, but it was close. His face was black and blue and one eye was swollen. i don’t think he ever gave an OOD any trouble after that.

The master-at-arms had applied some discipline. Back then, that wasn’t such a bad thing. Today, all hell would have broken loose and all of us would have been plastered all over the major networks for being slightly cross-threaded with political correctness. But this type of justice kept a lot of sailors from going to captain’s mast or worse, and it straightened many of them right up.

i learned a lot.

It probably wouldn’t work today: too many sea lawyers.

A Story of Chiefs

The Navy was an education for me. In many ways.

The Navy was different back then. i think they continue the traditions, but those traditions, like chiefs initiations and over-the-line rituals are watered down. Political correctness, you understand. The divisions between ranks have been muddled. This may or may not be a bad thing. i am not wise enough or knowledgable enough to determine, but it is different.

And i liked the way it was.

When i was in the Navy, the lower enlisted were the work force, and boy, did they work. In fact, they were incredible workers. There are very few people in this country today who could even fathom putting in the hours at work those sailors did.

The third and second class petty officers were a transition. They too did hard labor, but their expertise and knowledge in their fields (ratings) began to give them more say in the way ships operated.

First class petty officers were escaping most of the hard labor, but they still got involved. “Leading Petty Officer” speaks of their new role in leadership.

Then there were the chiefs. Lifers. Loving the Navy. Thinking they knew as much as the old man. Some did. But as with all things, there were some really good ones and there were some who were…oh, to be nice, they weren’t quite as effective.

USS Hawkins (DD 873), circa 1969

An Ensign learns this quickly. i did. My first ship was the USS Hawkins (DD-873). i had completed the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Officer course in Key West when i reported aboard in Malaga, Spain in April 1968. The sitting ASW officer would not leave until October. In the interim, i was the First Lieutenant, deck officer in charge of first division, boats, davits, exterior spaces, and anything else that wasn’t specifically related to any other division or department.

BMC Jones was my introduction to the way things worked. He taught me the ropes. It still amazes me how he ran first division, taught me many things about being a division officer and deck seamanship while never appearing to be in charge, always deferring to his division officer. Green upon green me. Crazy. But it worked.

Chief Jones was from the Arkansas Ozarks. He had another four months to reach twenty years. He planned to retire on the button. Chief Jones was a chain spoking, rail thin, ruddy complexion chief boatswainmate, probably around 5-8 and 130. He was not to mess with.

After we crossed the pond and completed our deployment, arriving at our homeport of Newport, Rhode Island in early May, being on a ship was different. Back then, the crew had liberty cards. They reflected which section the sailor was in. There were usually three sections rotating the duty. The duty section remained on board for 24 hours while the other two sections had liberty. Those liberty cards were handed out by the chief or leading petty officer shortly before liberty call. It had many implications not on top of the table. Liberty cards were incredible leverage for the LPO’s and CPO’s.

We had this seaman apprentice who required leverage. He was a strapping, very fit 6’2,” 180-pound young man, and pretty smart too. Problem was he wanted to use his smarts to get away with stuff until he had completed his obligation. We called sailors like this “sea lawyers.” Chiefs and LPO’s didn’t like sea lawyers. To put them in their place, the chiefs and LPO’s used leverage. Like liberty cards.

We will call this guy Seaman Farkle. Back then, you didn’t have to be so polite. Anyone below chief was called by their last name. Period. Chiefs were called chiefs. Officers were called by their rank, e.g. “Ensign Jewell.”

It was a Friday. We were cutting the hard working folks some slack. Liberty call was at noon, not the usual 1600. i had gone down to the first division berthing to check out the material condition. Farkle was there, upset. It seems he had tried some sea lawyering out on BM2 Carrier, our LPO and a very good one. Farkle was in section 2, section 3 had the duty. But when Carrier passed out liberty cards to the division, he couldn’t find Farkle’s. That meant Farkle had to remain aboard the ship, even though it wasn’t his duty day.

Farkle decided an ensign was ripe for using his sea lawyer tactics. He approached me and began an intense tirade about abuse of his rights, how he was demeaned, how the chief and LPO were acting outside of procedure, were in violation of regulations.

He was making headway on this green ensign. i wasn’t yet wise in the ways of that Navy. He had some good points, from a sea lawyer’s perspective about rights and all that, but i wanted to back Carrier and Chief Jones.

Farkle was in my face, livid with his sea lawyering when Chief Jones slid down the ladder (forward, not climbing down backwards; that’s how true sailors descended ladders). The slender, wiry chief slid in front of me and grabbed Farkle’s shirt at the top two buttons. Then he pushed Farkle against the bulkhead and with one hand lifting the young man about six inches off the ground. Then Chief Jones read Farkle the riot act like only Boatswainmate chiefs can do. It was classic and can not be repeated here because non-that-era tincan sailors are the only people who would understand, and others will read this.

All sea lawyering disappeared from Farkle. He was a quivering mass of fear, nodding affirmatively and declaring his fealty.

Farkle stayed on board that weekend.

i learned a valuable lesson about the old Navy…and i loved it.