|This tale is what a Submariner might
call "a view of Navy life as seen from the roof". (NOTE: To
surface a submarine is sometimes called "putting 'er on the roof".
Get it?) Although the author was not a Submariner (pity)
nonetheless he is a Sailor with some BS to tell. So here is a mind
dump from a skimmer Radioman... from his time "on the roof" ....
(and he even has chapters).
Sid Note (2008)
Sid's N T I N S Locker
by John K. Ellett, RMC USN(Ret)
Chapters: 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6
|What a wonderful cruise...I had flown
for some 10,000 miles and finally caught my ship. I had been ’forced’
to perform 3 months of duties in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and then I had
done, under duress of course, what was then called a "Med" cruise; that
is to say we visited Malta, France, Italy, Greece, the island of Palma
de Majorca and the Cote d’Azur and now I was on my way home to see my wife
and mother. I had been informed that they would be waiting on the
pier in Norfolk.
Please note that I was a young Sailor, fairly newly fresh-caught married and with a mother that knew exactly as much about the Navy as my pet dog, or so I had thought. I will admit that this has exactly nothing to do with the story but I decided to put it in anyway.
The last night out of Norfolk...That period known to those that go down to the sea as "Channel Fever" night. A time when all the juices flow and those that have been up for 34 hours find it hard to sleep, the time of all night movies, all of which have been seen before probably many times, jokes and lots of coffee. This was also the time that our vessel received our berthing instructions. For those that do not, or have not gone to sea, these are the directions by which you "park" the ship.
Onward into Norfolk, which my beloved and saintly mother would soon advise me was pronounced “Nogh-Fck” with a somewhat heavy stress on the letter “U”. All of this explanation was accompanied with her lovely, albeit sneaky, Irish grin.
Such as this is how Baby Boys grow up and recognize that those that had proceeded them didn't miss a trick on the way!
We were one of a number of Destroyers of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and as such we arrived in accordance with Naval Protocol. One of the essences of said Protocol was the "Numerical Ranking" of your Captain. Needless to say, our Capt. was somewhat down the list. "Lower than whale excrement" was the term in use at the time, I believe. Can we say "take what is left"?
Suffice to say we were the last ship to approach our “Parking” spot. This mooring area, or berth, to use the Naval terminology, was just ahead of the Commodore's mooring, and just short of a submarine that was "parked" 90 degrees to our direction of advance. To ‘park’ here was akin to parking a 18-wheeler in a standard one car garage.
Duty called me to be on the Signal Bridge, which by some vagary of chance gave the best view of the crowd of wives, mothers, children and others. Why this should have happened, I will leave to your imagination.
Probably happenstance or something.
It would seem that our Captain considered himself a real "Ship Driver". That is a person who could "drive" into and out of port with no assistance. This qualification was soon to be put the utmost testing.
At any given point in time as we approached our “spot”, the Captain was on the Starboard bridge wing, then he magically appeared on the Port wing, then he disappeared, with only his voice remaining shouting engine and rudder orders. Again, and again.
Up forward, the Chief Boatswains Mate and his crew were all prepared to heave over the lines to the pier, so that the ship might be safely tied to the shore.
I suddenly noticed that the Chief had moved way forward into the "eyes" of the ship. That is to say, as far forward as he could move without getting his shoes wet. He looked at the submarine, then at the water, then at the Bridge where the Captain was, and then repeated this strange activity.
Having already given the engine order to "All Stop" sometime earlier which meant that we were simply coasting to a stop, the Captain suddenly, and very loudly, gave the order to "All Back Full!". This is the naval equivalent of saying "Put on the brakes, hard!"
Rapidly, then, came the order "All Back Flank!" (Brake harder), and then, “All back, Emergency“. The translation to this is “Put both feet on the brake pedal, push real hard and pray!”. At the same time, the Chief up forward was still looking down, but at this time he was looking backward. This comes about since the bow of a ship is normally angled back somewhat from the top of the prow.
About the same time, I noticed that the after hatch on the submarine had opened and a head had appeared. This head's eyes grew to the size of a medium apple and then disappeared, rapidly...very rapidly. The next thing I saw was the locking mechanism revolving, as he locked the hatch.
Later on, I could just imagine hearing his voice crying "Geezus H. Keerist, we are going to be rammed by a destroyer and we have a War Shot aft!" Translation: "If he hits us, the torpedo will explode and we will all be shaking hands with Saint Peter very shortly".
About the time the Chief put his fingers in his ears, we stopped. Fortunately without the cloud of smoke that normally accompanies a torpedo venting it's disapproval of the whole world.
Also, about this time, also, I heard the Captain exclaim, “Well, there goes my (deleted) career!” accompanied, I was told later by his hat flying across the enclosed bridge area.
There is a Naval maxim that states that “A collision at sea can ruin your whole day”.
The upshot of the whole episode was that everybody was safe, the sub did not sink, although the Navy sent divers down to inspect to see if we had hit her, which we had not, and Shore Leave went down on time, and without lamentations from the survivors of the potential explosion.
Thus shortly afterwards, I was 'entertained' by my mother's gushing forth with "That was exciting", and then her explanation of the correct pronunciation of the name of my new Homeport.
She just did not know how ‘exciting’ everything had almost become.
Chapters: 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6