Sid's N T I N S Locker

USS COBBLER's Excellent Adventures
in Palermo, Sicily
During the 1967 Med. Cruise of USS COBBLER SS-344
A six part NTINS by Roger "RamJet" Burleigh
As related on Submarine Forums during 
the period of late 1990s and early 2000s
Part 6:
COBBLER Leaves Palermo Under Fire
Part 1 -- Arrival ... Bat-a-Rat etc
Part 2 -- The Capture of Her Majesties Frigate - Saturday
Part 3 -- Pirate Attack --- Sunday
Part 4 -- A White Hat on the Jack Staff --- Sunday
Part 5 -- The Final Salute! --- Monday
As the word was passed aboard Cobbler to "Station the Maneuvering Watch" a great hub-bub was taking place aboard the Frigate. The activity aboard the Frigate far surpassed that allowed by our narrow decks. Their sailors ran back and forth as officers gathered on the upper most deck of the bridge.

Someone had set that fake cannon up and it was aimed right out through their bulwarks and pointed in our direction. It was  the one they had been firing during the earlier Pirate story. Speakers were also set up and the deck manned, at least on our side of the ship.

A few of our enginemen and controllermen filtered below and a blossom of smoke poured first from the starboard side and then the port as engines were lit off in preparation of getting underway. The Jimmys finally settled down into a nearly harmonious rumble as the brow was hauled aboard and stored. Cobbler crewmembers not required for maneuvering watch hung around on deck.

Something serious was brewing and no one on board wanted to miss it. 

As number four line was cast off and the capstan began to wind in our anchor chain a speaker aboard the Frigate crackled loudly above the dim. A new song by the Beatles blared forth: "WE ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE. We all live in a yellow submarine….And we live a life of ease….Every one of us….". 

THEN great gouts of smoke bellowed from the 'cannon' followed by a resounding "BOOM"! 

Our anchor broke free of Palermo's primordial ooze in the anchorage as white smoke poured from the fake cannon protruding from the side of the frigate. THAT, commanded the attention of all who were in the immediate area.

If this wasn't enough and just as a swirl developed aft from our screws, an officer, who by all appearances, was the Captain of the Frigate was standing atop their bridge holding a large flare pistol and took aim at Captain Anderson on our bridge.

Now I must step back a bit and mention something that I hadn't planned where to it fit into the story, but now we're there and you need to know what was on the opposite side of the dock from Cobbler's anchorage. We were between the frigate on our starboard side and a sand barge on our port. 

The sand barge was tied against the far wall of the dock, just like the frigate, opposite. Why Palermo needs to import sand by the barge full, I have no idea. But barges came full and went empty.

The sand was shoveled off by HAND! Men stood and sweated in their underwear in the hold of the barge shoveling sand on to a conveyer belt that fed up over the wall of the dock and into waiting dump trucks. It looked to be hard work.

The Verry Pistol green flare soared right over our sail (and Captain Anderson's head) and fell in the water just short of the barge which was unloading sand as usual. 

He then reloaded as "YELLOW SUBMARINE" continued loudly playing. Then a second huge "BOOM" and another cloud of smoke puffed from their bridge. This time it was a red flare that arched a little higher than the first one and crossed over us. Obviously the person with the Verry Pistol thought his first effort was too low and too close to personnel on our sail. But now his increased elevation served to drop the still burning flare squarely into the center of the sand barge!

(I have no desire to denigrate any nationality here, but Italians do have a certain reputation:   deservedly or not - my apologies to Joe Loffredo.) That bright red flare caught the attention of the half naked (as usual) Sicilians who were shoveling sand onto the conveyor. The shovelers took immediate action when the flare, still burning brightly, hit the sand:  dropping their shovels they ran. Several ran straight up the conveyor belt -  aided to the top by it's motion - while others simply dove overboard.

Meanwhile we continued out toward the channel under a barrage of "cannon" fire, signal flares and English rock and roll.  That bizarre scene continued until we were well out of range and hearing and it was probably one of the most dramatic sailings a submarine ever experienced since WWII.

It was indeed a fitting send-off by the English to the American Submarine who not only captured their ship but flew a dirty USN rag-hat from their Limey jack-staff.

That my friends is the conclusion of our Palermo story   ---  a most fitting end to our stay in the dazzling Liberty port of Palermo, Sicily.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Roger RamJet

Part 1 -- Arrival ... Bat-a-Rat etc
Part 2 -- The Capture of Her Majesties Frigate - Saturday
Part 3 -- Pirate Attack --- Sunday
Part 4 -- A White Hat on the Jack Staff --- Sunday
Part 5 -- The Final Salute! --- Monday