and presumed to be Lost!
by Win Brooks
story of the USS Bullhead, by Martine Sheridan, originally published
in 1947.......R. Nelson.
|We surfaced near dawn when the moon
To charge the batteries, low as sin.
The sea was feathered, the breeze which hung Easterly,
tickled along the tongue like dry champagne.
(Though I gravely fear Sub crews are better acquainted with Beer.)
The skipper stood with the O.O.D.
The deck watch add lookouts three,
And Sparks, who is numbered among the drones
Eagerly manned his telephones.
The diesels gave us steerage way
with light sea following, so we lay,
Bow for Formosa, stern for Wake,
Along the course, the Nips must take.
The night was going, the Nips were coming
There in the darkness faintly humming,
Varsity soundmen dialed his source,
First-team plotters traced his course.
When suddenly up to the tight bridge deck climbed the Exec.
“Sir,”, he said in a voice indignant,
“Here is a message most malignant.
Pearl just coded an ALNAV through
That one of our submarines is overdue
And is in the run of hard coined tossed
Heads or tails, presumed to be lost.”
He swore with admirably little fuss,
“The fools mean us.”
(We remember the depth charge blow,
but that was a long time ago)
The skipper snorted a laugh of scorn,
“What in the sea-green hell goes on?”
“We’re a year from port with our oil tanks brimmed
An enemy convoy all but limned.
Water condition A, loaded
Listed for obsequies outmoded.
He scanned the night with a hungry frown,
TAKE HER DOWN, TAKE HER DOWN.
The lights flashed green on the Christmas tree
We took her down to Periscope-see
Verbs and adjectives most inept,
We plotted a course that would intercept.
The sea on the scope made a hollow drumming,
Heading her in the dawn was coming.
The Jap was coming, the skippers gaze,
Fixed on the lead ship, through the haze,
“Two is the target, let one pass,
Heavy cruiser Kako class.
Range three thousand, scale one hundred,
Bearing zero zero three, I’ve one dread,
Firing at dawn-that fish we swim
Deflect on the sun’s rising rim,
And not on the rim of the Rising Sun -- FIRE ONE!”
We lurched as she left, remotely hissing.
(God guard our Submarines from missing)
We heeled and steadied; and at the eye
The skipper said, “Cargo, pass her by.
Troopship, Taigei Class Maru, FIRE TWO!”
We waited while the stopwatch ran,
We waited cold while the sweat began,
‘Till dull on the hull boomed distant thunder,
Crashing the new-born day asunder,
“What do you make of the one in view,
Scratch one Cruiser Maru.”
Once repeated we felt her shudder,
“What do you score for two in the smother”
Now TAKE HER DOWN, TAKE DOWN, TAKE HER EASILY,
Slide her down, glide her down silently, greasily,
Down where the bottom is,
Oh fair the bottom is,
Our lair the bottom is,
Safe from attack.
Down, take her down, take her down, take her down,
Now lay her gently and gently to sleep,
Way down, way down deep.
How can it ever be said we are lost
Who are always together?
Always on our tomb from the deep’s firefrost,
Always together in battle and weather
In death, lost, lost but breath.
We are gay, we are young, we are one and one only,
One with the deathless and one with the living,
One in close comradeship, now and never lonely,
But never forgiving
The silly assumption so carelessly tossed
The stupid presumption: “Presumed to be lost”.
With radio silence C imposed
How can we tell you we only dozed
There in the sand, the mud and the dark.
All hands secure, with an unquenched spark
Glowing to light the buoyant spirit
and blow the tanks, Do you still not hear it.
How can we tell you there on the land
What only the SUB crews understand
How can we say what the spirit means,
There is no death for SUBMARINES.
And nights when the boom hangs thin and low
From Truk to Guam to Hokkaido
Submarines lying secure and deep,
Presumed to be lost, but only asleep.
Shudder and tremble and upward glide
A mile and more in the surging tide:
Shadows moving with never a wake
Along a course that the Nips must take
Men of the vast unsounded waters
Standing tense and alert at General Quarters.