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Thread: Sea Stories

  1. #1

    Sea Stories

    For those who like a good story, and the sea, the Navy, etc.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  2. #2
    In the days of sailing ships, the bow was called the head -- probably because of the figurehead on the bow. The bathroom was located in the bow so the waste would go directly into the water, and hence became the head. Your heading likely was the direction the figurehead was pointed, and head and heading used alternatively. When a ship is said to be down by the head, it is sinking by the bow.

    British corvettes during World War II were not noted for smooth rides on the ocean, even on a glassy sea. The propensity for seasickness among the crews went up with the large number of raw recruits sent out to fight the U-boats.
    Commander Robert Evan Sherwood took command of Bluebell in 1940. It quickly became apparent to him that "only three or four of the crew of 52 were capable of any real action of any kind at all." Of his three officers, two were Canadians. "They were fine chaps, but they had had very little training. One was a lawyer and the other was in the leather business. One of them was very pale but went green when he was seasick, which sometimes lasted for two days. Once I was in my cabin and the ship was not quite doing what she should be doing, so I asked: 'How is your head?' I wanted to know where we were going, for on a ship 'head' means 'course.' He answered, "Much better, thank you, sir.'"


    During World War II, as the British fought the Battle of the Atlantic, the Royal Navy established a training center at Tobermory on the Hebredian Island of Mull and christened it HMS Western Isles. Commodore (Vice-Admiral retired) Gilbert "Puggy" Stephenson was the hard task master who ran the place. Puggy believed in keeping his new ships' companies on their toes and would pay them surprise visits to test their readiness.

    On one occasion he crept up to the side of a frigate and when he stepped on deck he was immediately attacked by a rather fierce Alsatian dog. Impressed by this display of vigilance, the Commodore retired from the scene with dignity -- but not with the seat of his pants. Much laughter attended Stephenson after this incident and the Captain of the frigate reportedly said that his dog didn't like pugs!

    But Puggy was not deterred from pulling more surprises. "Another time," reports Rear-Admiral W.S. Chalmers, who served in the Admiralty, "while inspecting a Dominion corvette, the Admiral threw his cap on the deck and said: 'That's an unexploded bomb. Take action quick!' Whereupon a young rating broke from the gaping crew and kicked the hat over the side. Showing no surprise, the Admiral commended the lad on his presence of mind; then, pointing to the semi-submerged cap, he said 'That's a survivor -- jump in and save him!'" And the sailor did so.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by USS Utah View Post
    For those who like a good story, and the sea, the Navy, etc.
    Navy? Is it gay?

  4. #4

    Look Out For the Exec!

    by Captain James P. Jamison, USN (ret.)

    On board a four-pipe destroyer proceeding through the quiet waters of the Caribbean, the executive officer was not convinced that the engine room was giving him the precise speed he ordered, and so set about measuring the ship's actual speed. He would throw a chip of wood into the water from the bow, start his stopwatch, run the length of the ship, and stop his watch when the ship's stern passed the chip in the water. Knowing how long it had taken the 341-foot ship to pass the stationary chip, he could calculate her speed.

    The only problem was that every time the exec started his dash aft, he ran into various crew members, and never made it to the stern in time to see the chip pass. A particular bottleneck was the galley passageway, where all traffic had to funnel through a narrow aisle on one side of the ship.

    The skipper watched this operation with growing irritation, until finally he told the exec that he would run interference for him. So off they went, the skipper in the lead, with the exec holding his stopwatch aloft as they headed for the stern at full speed.

    As this strange procession reached the galley passageway, the skipper began to shout, "Look out for the Exec! Look out for the Exec!" in order to clear out any approaching traffic. The ship's baker, busily baking pies in the galley and unaware of the circumstances, looked up from his work, took the situation at face value, and did his duty as he saw it. He waited for the skipper to pass, who obviously was being threatened by the berserk exec pursuing him, and laid out the exec with a single blow of his rolling pin.

    [Proceedings September 1998, page 34.]
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  5. #5
    One night as we steamed across the Pacific en route to Hawaii with a new LT. as our officer of the deck we decided to see just how sharp this kid really was.

    We checked the surface search radar to make sure we were the only ship anywhere near us and slowly began turning to starboard (right) a few degrees at a time. The Lt. never seemed to notice that we were slowly turning right, not even to the point where we crossed our own wake. It was all we could do to keep from busting out laughing when we returned to our original course.

    Just then the Captain came out of his sea cabin and asked the officer of the deck to go get him something and he took over the con. We of course were all very businesslike with the captain on the bridge but he just stood by his chair and looked out into the night. All of a sudden he burst out laughing then turned around and looked at us and said,"Never do that again". Then he continued to look out at the night until the Lt. arrived and resumed the watch.

    -- From a member of my history group who goes by the handle Tin Can
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  6. #6

    Captain Thad

    It is evident that TinCan's captain was better at seamanship than Thaddeus Austin Thomson, the first captain of the heavy cruiser USS Wichita -- the ship to which Paul R. Schratz was assigned to as a new ensign fresh out of the academy in the summer of 1939.

    "Captain Thad was famed throughout the Navy as a 'sundowner,' a stern disciplinarian. Affectionately known as 'TBT' or 'That B_____d Thomson,' he had served at the Naval Academy in the Executive Department, involved with discipline, just before my class arrived as plebes. . . .

    "To the captain's great credit, he gave us all the responsibility we could handle. After a few "makee-learn' junior officer of the deck (JOOD) watches in port, he qualified us for 'top watch' long before our contemporaries in other commands. These were tough duties. . . .

    "When we finally got to sea, new responsibilities challenged us, and Captain Thad's tolerance limits rarely included compassion. In seamanship, piloting, navigation, and watch standing, if one fell short, the captain's first thought was to write a letter to the secretary of the navy asking that the culprit's commission be revoked. (Ensigns then served two years on revocable commissions.) We all had our bad moments. I escaped the worst of it thanks to a timely tour out of harms way in the Engineering Department. Several revocation letters went to the secretary, who wisely transferred the officer to another ship. The letter remained in the officer's record, naturally, to haunt him throughout his career. . . .

    "If the captain taught us much about leadership, his seamanship often taught us what not to do. . . .

    "The Witch was under way almost continuously, and we loved it. We wintered in the Caribbean, basing out of Guantanamo, Cuba, and summered in Norfolk, Newport, or Bar Harbor. . . . Newport made us experts as small boat officers. The anchorage was several miles from the landing, and there were several sharp turns in the channel. In fog and low visibility -- the normal conditions for much of the year in Newport -- a junior officer rode launches for liberty parties or for public visiting aboard. Picking a safe course through blind fog was a nightmare, particularly when one was responsible for a gaggle of civilians or beered up sailors.

    "Captain Thad complicated matters further by using a hotel landing several miles up the bay. When I first checked with the hotel authorities about the landing, they claimed it was unnavigable for the gig at low tide. Their normal landing was in a sheltered cove around a nearby point of land. But they didn't tell Thad. The first time I was boat officer was for a special luncheon the captain was hosting on board. I had the gig alongside one landing waiting to take the captain's lady out to the ship. She was at the other landing with the guests. Lillian Thomson was attractive, a charming hostess -- and no less dominating than her husband. Commandeering a small tug, she headed for my landing, laid the tug alongside the gig, and began transferring guests. With a scathing look, she shoved a floral piece in my hands, elbowed the coxswain aside, and personally drove the gig out to the ship. She was a fine ship handler; she also had a short fuse.

    "That afternoon Thad sent for me, pointing out with a snarl the proper landing where I was to pick him up in the morning. This gave me three problems. A heavy fog was due to roll in after midnight; the pickup time was at low tide, without enough water to float the gig; and in his present humor I wasn't about to try and change his mind. Next morning, groping my way in to the landing, I cut the engine fifty yards off, and the gig crew poled the boat alongside with boat hooks, the keel thumping lightly on the rocks. When the captain appeared out of the fog I ordered smartly, 'Man your poles.' His added weight in the stern cause a few hard bumps, but we pushed off the submerged rocks and were soon in deep water. He glared but made no comment. We didn't use that landing again. . . .

    "Maneuvering with other ships in formation, often at high speeds and in darkness, was nerve-racking. Doctrine called for six hundred yards distance between ships, but without radar, cruising blacked out at night or in low visibility, maneuvering required a high order of skill. Captain Thad had a poor seaman's eye, unfortunately , which led him to make unreasonable demands on the watch. In that primitive era before radar, distance between ships was checked with a stadimeter, a small coincidence range finder into which one set the guide ship's masthead height and then turned a knurled knob to determine the range.

    "If the ships in column were supposed to be at 600 yards, de didn't want 580 or 615, which was extremely difficult when different ships' propulsion plants responded differently. On one especially hectic day, I was the junior watch officer under Ensign George R. Reinhart III, a fine officer and a good friend. I decided to ease George's problem. On the stadimeter, instead of turning the range knob, I moved the knob controlling the masthead height, which left the range unchanged, then reported after each measurement, 'Steady on 600.'

    "Everybody on the bridge except Thad could see considerable variation. Finally, even he got suspicious. Leaping from his chair on the port side of the bridge, he stomped over to me, tore the stadimeter from my hand, and put it to his eye. Not a soul breathed. But Thad grabbed the same knob I had been twisting, looked at the same range, still steady on 600, naturally, and pushed it back into my hands. There was absolute silence on the bridge for several seconds. Would I, too, be the subject of one of those letters asking the secretary of the navy to revoke my commission? He said nothing, but I never tried that trick again. Even friendship has limits."

    [Source: Submarine Commander: A Story of World War II and Korea by Paul R. Schratz (The University Press of Kentucky: Lexington, KY, 1988) pgs 5-10.]
    Last edited by USS Utah; 06-09-2017 at 07:36 PM.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Devildog View Post
    Navy? Is it gay?
    This is clearly not for you.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  8. #8

    Union Trouble

    Jim Lanier was the officer in charge of a U.S. Navy armed guard placed aboard a merchant ship on the Murmansk run. On the way to Russia the armed guard had a little union trouble. The armed guard had a 3-inch antiaircraft gun, a Navy gun crew, and a ready box of ammunition. A magazine below had plenty of ammo, but the Merchant Marine crew refused to form an ammunition train unless they got extra pay. The captain of the ship had no authority, in spite of knowing that the ready box would be used up in one minute of combat. The union leader on board said "Nix." When the German Stukas attacked, the armed guard sat on the ready box. The ship ahead was sunk and the ship abeam afire. According to Jim, the crew was not a problem after that.

    After that trip, Lanier transferred to submarines. A few years later he would be the executive officer on the submarine USS Barb.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  9. #9

    The Race Horse and the Ox

    USS Tennessee (BB-43) was one of the battleships caught at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Along with the other battleships in port that day, Tennessee was said to be "old enough to vote." Because she was old, she was also slow, which gave rise to a story fabricated by her crew, and passed along by war correspondent Robert Sherrod.

    "Just astern of us on the Tennessee pranced a majestic new battleship. It was as though a haughty race horse were forced to follow a plodding ox. From the Tennessee Admiral Kingman sent a blinker-light message to the captain of the new battleship, ordering him to stop that smoke from pouring out of his incinerator -- the smoke might give away the task force to enemy patrol planes. The captain answered, so the story went, 'Smoke unavoidable. Have been forced to cut out the boilers and burn garbage to slow down to your speed.'"

    Source: Sherrod, R. (1944). Tarawa: The Story of a Battle. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  10. #10

    31-Knot Burke at Empress Augusta Bay

    On the night of November 1-2, 1943, the Japanese sent a force of cruisers to attack an allied landing force in Empress Augusta Bay off the island of Bougainville. An American force of cruisers and destroyers intercepted the Japanese force, and at some point in the confusion of battle, one group of U.S. destroyers fired on another group of U.S. destroyers. Moments before, USS Spence, in the destroyer group commanded by Commander Bernard "Count" Austin, was hit and started smoking -- Austin had been forced to shift his flag to Spence after USS Foote "the unfortunate" was hit. The other group, under Captain Arleigh "31-Knot" Burke, mistook Spence for an enemy ship and opened fire. Within moments more than a dozen five-inch shells splashed close aboard Spence.

    "We've just had a bad close miss," Austin imperturbably said to Burke over the TBS (talk between ships). "I hope you're not shooting at us!"

    "Are you hit," Burke asked anxiously.

    "Negative" replied Austin.

    Burke's response would become a U.S. Navy classic. "Well," he said, "You'll have to excuse the next four salvos. They're already on their way!"

    Source: Jones, K. & Kelley, H. (1962). Admiral Arleigh (31-Knot) Burke. Radnor, PA: Chilton Book Company.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  11. #11

    "Cat" Brown

    In the late 1950s, the U.S. Sixth Fleet was commanded by Vice Admiral C. R. "Cat" Brown, who had become famous in the Navy for an incident a few years before. Brown was to relieve another senior officer in command, an officer who was a bit of a martinet. As Brown was approaching the port where the relief ceremony was to take place, he received a message outlining the uniform of the day in meticulous detail.

    When Brown and his chief of staff arrived for the ceremony they were spic and span in spruce uniforms. There was just one problem, they were wearing neither shoes nor socks. When pressed for an explanation the Cat said the uniform of the day instructions had said nothing about shoes and socks, so he and his chief of staff naturally assumed that they were to be omitted.

    Source: Jones, K. & Kelley, H. (1962). Admiral Arleigh (31-Knot) Burke. Radnor, PA: Chilton Book Company.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  12. #12

    Must Pump

    William Morris Siegal arrived at NAS Lemoore in October 1966, less than a year and a half after graduating from the Naval Academy. Due to the war in Vietnam, there was an increasing demand for attack pilots to fly off the carriers assigned to Yankee Station. Siegal's training at Lemoore was abbreviated in order to meet the demand. Attack pilots like Siegal became known as "must pumps." In mid-May, 1967, Siegal was assigned to VA-55 just days before the squadron's departure aboard the carrier USS Constellation. Half of the squadron's pilots had completed one combat cruise; the other half had spent at least six months in the squadron.

    Assigned to a six man bunkroom, Siegal walked in and introduced himself as the new guy. The reply was something like, "New Guy! We don't need a new guy! We're not getting enough flight time as it is." This was Siegal's first welcome to the fleet.

    Two weeks out of San Diego, when VA-55 started flight operations, Siegal was assigned his first non-training flight -- a tanker hop. Siegal was determined to prove himself and set out to make the best tanker flight ever. He read everything he could find about the tanker and the maintenance of the refueling drogue until he knew every wire and switch. But then he made a critical mistake; he went to the back of the ready room and pulled an outdated frequency card.

    Siegal launched into an overcast, with the ship steaming under a cloud. "I knew I was going around and around," Siegal said later, "and I knew I was on top of the ship because the TACAN was on, which picks up a beacon put out by the ship. I kept calling and calling, and nobody would talk to me. I tried all the frequencies and finally figured we were on some type of EmCom [emission control conditions], although they wouldn't have the TACAN either."

    Siegal decided to play the game, taking off his oxygen mask in order to avoid inadvertently speaking over the radio. "There I was, steaming around, making a perfect circle around this boat in case someone wanted gas." After two and a half hours, Siegal, a must pump unfamiliar with the concept of cyclic operations, was still flying around in circles. A half hour later, an A-4 from the sister squadron aboard Constellation finds Siegal and directs him to make his first landing aboard the Connie.

    After making the trap, taxiing and shutting down his engine, Siegal was summoned to the bridge, where he found the captain, the CAG and the VA-55 CO and ops officer waiting for him. Not realizing the trouble he was in, Siegal said something like, "Hey Skipper, how you guys doing?"

    At this point the CAG got in Siegal's face and started ripping him. "Siegal," said the CAG, "you know how much it costs to keep this ship in the wind for one jg for two hours?"

    Siegal answered by asking, "No sir, how much?"

    The CAG then yelled, "I don't know either, but it's a lot of money. Now get out of here and don't you ever come back!"

    Siegal headed for the fantail, thinking seriously about jumping off and swimming back to San Diego. Fortunately, two of his squadron mates intercepted him and took him below to a bottle of scotch. "They poured me a couple of drinks," said Siegal, "and that was my second welcome to the fleet."


    Levinson, J. L. (1989). Alpha Strike Vietnam: The Navy's Air War, 1964 to 1973. Novato, CA: Presidio Press.

    Siegal tells his story in chapter 21, titled "Must Pump".
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Mormon Mecca (North)
    Quote Originally Posted by USS Utah View Post
    This is clearly not for you.
    Enjoy yourself alone... as always salior.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Devildog View Post
    Enjoy yourself alone... as always salior.
    Oh, the irony. . . .
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  15. #15

    How to Dispose of Inflatable 'Mines'


    by Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, USN (ret.)

    When I had arrived in Reykjavik (Iceland) late in December, 1941, I had found the situation grim. For six months our Navy fliers had eked out a miserable existence, knee-deep in mud, waiting for their ship to come in. All that came in was me!

    My first job obviously was to keep the planes flying and help get the convoys through; next, to get decent living conditions established. I thought that my biggest problem was going to be how to keep the boys from blowing their tops after a few months in that godforsaken hole.

    The arrival of our first shipment of recreational equipment from the United States brought about an incident which helped us to bypass protocol, break the ice, and get acquainted with the British.

    Opening up the boxes in this consignment like a bunch of kids on Christmas morning, we found, among other things, a pushball, which we promptly blew up to its full five-foot diameter. Exploring the boxes for more loot, we left the pushball sitting outside the gymnasium unattended.

    You should never leave anything as big and light as a pushball unattended in Iceland, because the wind comes along and blows it away. This happened to our pushball. I came out of the gym just in time to watch it bounce down the hill, over the bluff, and into the water. It sailed rapidly across the inlet and grounded on the opposite shore where a British antiaircraft battery had its camp.

    I wanted that pushball back, so I picked up my field telephone to call the Commanding Officer of the antiaircraft battery and ask his help. Strange things often happened on our field telephone system, which consisted of a labyrinth of wires laid out on the ground. Very often connections got crossed, as they did this time.

    I heard my friend across the way calling British Admiralty Headquarters and reporting: "The biggest bloody mine you've ever seen in your life has just washed ashore at our camp, and will you please send a bomb disposal party over to deal with it."

    I hung up without saying a word. A few minutes later I called Admiralty Headquarters and reported that we too had seen this mine wash ashore, that we had a qualified bomb disposal squad, and that if the Admiralty wished us to do so, we would be glad to deal with this situation.

    Of course, there was nothing in the world that the Admiralty wished more at that time than to have somebody else take this nasty job off their hands. They promptly replied that this would be "quite satisfactory."

    So, I rushed around to the adjoining huts, rounded up about a dozen helpers, explaining the pitch to them, and we organized a bomb disposal squad on the spot. We had all read enough about bomb disposal to have a pretty good idea as to what equipment we needed and how to go through the proper motions. We commandeered a half a dozen rifles, scrambled around the camp and grabbed a portable field telephone set, a couple of voltmeters, a stethoscope, and some small tool boxes. Dumping this equipment into jeeps, we roared over to the British camp, where we found a crowd of our allies all standing back at a respectful distance, casting nervous glances at the "mine."

    The arrival of our business-like group of American experts obviously relieved the tension. We immediately stationed our sentries and pushed the crowd back to a safer distance. Leading out our field telephones we placed one of them at the "mine" and the other about a hundred yards back, so that the mine disposal boys could phone back every move they made to be recorded in a notebook for the guidance of future mine disposal squads, in case they made the wrong move and blew themselves up.

    After a few minutes of hocus-pocus with the stethoscope and voltmeters and much telephoning back and forth, we finally gave the signal that the big moment was at hand. As the crowd watched in awed silence we unscrewed the valve, let the air out, and got the hell out of that camp as fast as we could.

    [Excerpted from Clear the Decks by Rear Admiral Daniel V. Gallery, USN (ret.) (William Morrow & Company: New York, 1945).]

    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  16. #16

    Sank Sub, Open Club

    Dan Gallery was one of the many officers and men of the U.S. Navy that fought in the Atlantic against German U-boats. Gallery had a squadron of PBYs which was escorting convoys past Iceland. "We'd go out for thirteen-hour hops and pick the convoys up 500 miles south of Iceland and escort them for three or four hours. If you'd pick them up at 500 miles, it took you about five hours to get out there and five hours back, and that left only three or four hours." The RAF was then supposed to take over the escort, but there was a thousand mile area between the furthest reach of air cover from North America and Iceland on one side of the Atlantic and the British Isles on the other. In this area the convoys were protected only by escorting warships.

    Gallery was working with the RAF Coastal Command, which he said extremely effective. His pilots, on the other hand, were frustrated by their inability to hurt the enemy. "After we had been there several months we had several chances for attacking sub and we muffed them for various reasons: one, maybe buck fever on the part of the pilot, or maybe the bomb rack hung up and didn't work, or various things of that kind. We missed our first three or four chances. So I laid down the law to the boys and said: 'From now on we're closing the bar in the officers' club until we get a sure kill,' which was cruel and unusual punishment. Anyway, we closed the bar.

    "Then a couple of weeks later this lad Hopgood went out and caught a German sub and attacked it with depth charges and damaged it so that it could not submerge. Hopgood was on the way to a convoy which was a hundred miles from the spot where he attack the sub. After he had expended all his depth charges he then saw the sub was surfacing and couldn't submerge. He then flew from the spot to the convoy and told them about the sub. He circled back and forth between the disabled sub and the oncoming destroyers, coaching them on. The submarine came across an Icelandic fishing vessel. They went alongside and boarded it, abandoning the sub, opening the scudding valves on it, sank the sub and headed for Germany with the fishing vessel. Hopgood saw all of this; he kept circling around reporting it to these destroyers and they kept coming. Eventually they came alongside the Icelandic fishing vessel and went aboard and got the whole German crew and took them prisoners."

    Back in Iceland they listened to the play-by-play of the encounter. All of the messages were in code and officialese, but when the British destroyers removed the submarine sailors from the fishing boat, Hopgood radioed in plain English: "Sank sub, open club."

    At the height of the celebration that followed, it was proposed that the fleet air base deserved a trophy. "The most suitable one," said Gallery, "would be the skipper's pants; . . . we'd caught him with his pants down. I wrote a letter to the first lord of the Admiralty and explained the American expression, 'caught with your pants down' and said we would like to have the skipper's pants to have in the bar room of our officers' club. 'In order to avoid leaving the skipper in an embarrassing position, I am sending herewith a pair of my own khaki pants which you can exchange with him for his.'"

    The first lord sent a polite response back in which he said that the matter would be submitted to the proper authorities. "About two weeks later," said Gallery, "I got a very stiff letter from the head of Naval Intelligence quoting the Geneva Convention on the business of humiliating prisoners and so forth. . . . 'In view of this it is impossible to send you the skipper's pants.' I didn't mind the malarkey about the Geneva Convention so much as I did the outrageous fact that he didn't even send my own pants back."
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

  17. #17

    How NOT to Destroy a Midget Submarine

    Paul R. Schratz was a prospective commanding officer, waiting for his own submarine to command, when the war ended in the Pacific. As a PCO he soon found himself in Japan in charge of a team that was assigned the task of demilitarizing the Imperial Navy's midget submarine fleet. One particular day found the team in Kure. Schratz picks up the story:
    "The destruction of an island full of midget submarines presented problems. The method suggested to me was to burn through the hulls with a cutting torch. This seemed naive. Anybody could weld them up as fast we we could cut them. Commander John L. Deter, the exec of the tender [upon which Schratz's team was based], urged privately that we use controlled explosives. With his assistance, our four young demolition experts in the squadron soon commandeered from the army all the necessary gear and loaded it into launches. Off we went, complete with explosives, incendiaries, sledges, motor generator sets, and a wild gleam in the eyes of more than one of the wrecking team. . . .

    "To destroy the submarines, I decided to experiment with the use of controlled explosives, setting one up with a charge in the control room. The explosives caused little more than a 'poof,' but the destruction was total. The pressure hull puffed up like a balloon; inside was a spaghetti of piping and pumps. Perfect! Much encouraged, we set up a series of about a dozen more timed to go off at one-minute intervals. What I didn't know soon brought me to grief. These young demolition experts, trained and sent far from home to do their job, were very disappointed at the lack of fire and brimstone in the controlled explosion. Without consulting me, they decided that instead of one charge they would double it and in addition put doubled charges forward and aft as well.

    The first went off with a sharp flash of fire and a horrendous explosion. The hull split; burning fuel and rubber hose in a new mushroom cloud over the city of Kure. Flames shooting up the conning tower hatch focused a massive torch on the roof of the huge warehouse, setting heavy timbers on fire. Then the second one went off -- and so on through a dozen more, each spreading the previous destruction. Choking clouds of smoke forced the afternoon PBY mail plane to use landing lights to set down on the water five miles away. The warehouse, burning merrily, set the barracks on fire, another building, then the firehouse. Japanese officers suddenly appeared from nowhere, asking in great indignation, 'Who's going to pay for this disaster?'

    "The thought had occurred to me, too. Then somebody reported the commodore's barge approaching at high speed. I had to get the Japanese clear before he arrived or I would be double-dipped in kimchi. On a stray piece of cardboard, I wrote out a receipt for the Japanese commander for fifteen submarines, a warehouse, barracks building, and fire station and signed it Charles A. Lockwood, Vice Admiral USN, Commander Submarine Force, Pacific. The Japanese exited right as the commodore entered left. Seeing his career also going up in smoke in a direct violation of Admiral Halsey's order, he shook a bony finger under my nose and shouted, 'Who's going to pay for this disaster?'

    "I had already faced the question but couldn't use the same answer. He added, 'You stay here until every ember is out.'

    "By then the hulls had turned cherry red. The hard rubber battery jars burned fiercely; fuel and lube oil tanks created dense clouds of oily black smoke mixed with poisonous yellow fumes from the sulfuric acid, burning furiously throughout the night until only a pile of slag remained. It was quite colorful, I thought. I shot some excellent color movies of it.

    "Under cover of darkness I got back to the ship at 2300 that night, having had no food since breakfast. . . .

    "[On Thanksgiving] night the commodore hosted a special party at the club and came back singing a new song titled 'When Do We Leave Here?' Two lines caught my attention: 'We destroyed all the midgets, / And gave the Commodore fidgets.' He contributed the lines himself. Obviously I was forgiven. I also heard . . . that every sightseer passing through Kure was toured by the midget submarine holocaust. Now that the Japanese weren't going to make an incident about it, the time had come to claim it as a great day's work. I could visualize the commodore back in New London telling what a big time we had blowing up the Jap fleet. I was out of the doghouse, but at odd moments I wondered whatever happened to that receipt signed by 'Admiral Lockwood.' To this day it has never surfaced."

    Source: Submarine Commander: A Story of World War II and Korea by Paul R. Schratz (The University of Kentucky Press: Lexington KY, 1988) pgs 234-236, 248.
    "It'd be nice to please everyone but I thought it would be more interesting to have a point of view." -- Oscar Levant

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