By: Garland Davis

From Wikipedia: A typhoon is a mature tropical cyclone that develops in the northwestern part of the Pacific Ocean between 180° and 100°E. This region is referred to as the northwest Pacific basin. For organizational purposes, the northern Pacific Ocean is divided into three regions: the eastern (North America to 140°W), central (140°W to 180°), and western (180° to 100°E). Identical phenomena in the eastern north Pacific are called hurricanes, with tropical cyclones moving into the western Pacific re-designated as typhoons.

The Hurricane Season for the Hawaiian Islands runs from June first through November.  There are, on average, four Central Pacific hurricanes each year and three named tropical storms.  So far this year, we have had fourteen hurricanes.  Only the first one did any damage and then only to the Big Island of Hawaii. Number fifteen,  another tropical storm is forming in the Eastern Pacific and is expected to be at hurricane strength by the time it crosses into the central area later this week.

Having served twenty-five years afloat in, mostly, the Western Pacific, I probably saw more hurricanes/typhoons than most people, but I have only experienced two hurricanes ashore, Hurricane Hazel, as a child, and hurricane Iniki in Hawaii after I retired.

Growing up in the Piedmont region of North Carolina the worst threat from the Atlantic Hurricanes was some increased rainfall.  There was little to no threat from the higher winds.  On October 15, 1954, Hurricane became the, once in a century, exception.  Hazel made landfall at Long beach, N.C., a community of Oak Island as a category four hurricane with winds exceeding 140 miles per hour.  After landfall it tracked inland, and battering winds cut a wide swath northward toward Raleigh.

I remember Hazel well. I was in the sixth grade.   It was raining as we ran for the school bus. And it kept raining.  By the time we arrived at school, the parking lot was flooded by a few inches and the side ditches of the roads were over flowing.  The principle was at the bus stop informing the drivers to take everyone home.  School had been canceled because of the weather.  As we went back through the low point below Baux Mountain, we could see the creek was already over flowing.

My brother and I arrived home soaking wet.  We lived on a dirt road and the bus driver refused to take us to the house.   He didn’t want to risk getting stuck. It was only a mile to our house. We had to walk and were completely soaked with my brother crying by the time we made it home.  There were other kids on our road, but we had the furthest to go.   It rained for the next two days.  When the weather cleared up, the Yadkin River looked like the Missississippi River and the creek behind the house was lapping at the lower level of the barn where the stalls were, a hundred yards from it’s normal banks.  We moved the cows, goats and the mule into the garage and the shed.  The aftermath of the flooding clearly showed the power of water.

I cannot begin to count the number of typhoons that I have experienced. The Navy, when possible, sends ships to sea, when a typhoon or hurricane is imminent. A ship needs sea room to maneuver. Every mariner’s worst nightmare is to be caught on a lee shore during a storm.

I was serving in USS Mahopac, an Ocean Going Tug. We left Vung Tau, Viet Nam in the fall of 1968 with a huge square-ended floating crane in tow. We were bound for Sasebo, Japan. Our best towing speed was about three knots (80 miles per day). The trip would take about thirty days. A few days into the trip, we learned that we were in the path of a typhoon. We couldn’t run because of the drag of the tow and we could not abandon it. We had to ride it out.

Once the storm hit we could barely make turns (revolutions of the screw) for two knots. The towing motor reel that contained the towing wire would pay out wire when the strain was too heavy and take it back noisily when there was slack.  If all the wire was taken off the spool it could result in damage to the motor and the ship and loss of the tow. Two knots were barely enough to maintain steerage way, keep the bow of the ship into the wind and seas and not severely overtax the towing equipment. We could not see the tow, it was lost in the rain. The only reason we knew it was there was the tension on the tow cable.

Water was washing over the signal bridge (the highest deck on the ship). We were taking up to forty-five degree rolls. The crew was extremely seasick.  There were about six of us, out of a crew of forty-four that weren’t sick.  The Captain, SM1, 2 EN1’s and an ICFN and I.  The CO, the SM1 and I manned the bridge throughout that night, while the engineers kept the diesels running.  I was helmsman for over twelve hours that night. Conditions started easing when morning came.  I went to the galley to prepare some food and we started kicking guys out of their racks and getting them moving around again.

After about seventy-two hours of these conditions, the weather cleared and we sorted ourselves out and took inventory. We lost that radar antenna and mast, the ships boat, and anything that wasn’t bolted down. The exhaust stack from the engine room was bent aft at a slight angle. All electrical navigation was knocked out.

During the storm, the Navigator could only guess as to our position. When the he was able to get a position, he discovered that we were almost one hundred eighty astern of our last known position before the storm. The tow had towed us from a position north of Da Nang, South Viet Nam to a position NNE of Cape St Jacques, the southern tip of Viet Nam. I rode out many other storms, but this one was the worst.

I have been asked if I was afraid when the Morton came under fire during the waning days of the Viet Nam war.  I tell them no.  I got over being afraid during a storm one night in the South China Sea.

Hurricane or Typhoon, it doesn’t matter what the hell you call them.


Training Ensigns

Training Ensigns

By:  Garland Davis

I was the LCPO in the Supply Department.

It was around midnight.  I had been working with the baker.  With a little more training, he would become a very competent dough head.  I grabbed a cup of coffee from the mess deck urn and went to my office to drink it before grabbing a shower and calling it a night.

Someone knocked and opened the door.  It was Ensign Boone (not the officer’s real name), the Assistant Supply Officer.  He was also the Disbursing (S-4) and Ship’s Store (S-3) Division Officer.  Most of my dealings with him were in regard to maintenance of Supply spaces and DC PMS.  The Supply Officer was the Food Service officer and pretty much left the running of S-2 Division to me.

I said, “You’re up late. Mr. Boone. What can I do for you?”

He was almost in tears. “I need someone to talk to Chief, you seem to have it all together. Maybe you can give me some advice. I am at my wit’s end.  I don’t seem to be able to accomplish anything and I seem to get further and further behind.  I am the DISBO and have to issue change funds to the ship’s store operator and to the Postal Clerk along with blank money orders, cash checks, and do special pays, then collect from the ship’s store and post office and reconcile my safe after every transaction.  As S-3, I have to supervise the laundry and ship’s store.  Now since Mr. McBride was promoted to JG, I am the Bull Ensign and the XO designated me as the Wardroom Mess Caterer.  I have too much to do already.  How can he expect me to supervise the Wardroom cooks and stateroom cleaners also?”

I told him to go get some sleep and I would talk with his SH1 and DK1 to determine what was going on.  As far as the wardroom cooks and staterooms.  I had that under control and he didn’t have to worry.

The next morning, I grabbed the SH1 and asked him why he wasn’t helping his division officer.  He said exactly what I expected to hear, “Chief, he won’t let me do anything.  He wants to do everything himself.”  I heard the same thing from the DK1.  The DK1 and I had been in another ship together.  They were just laying down and letting Mr. Boone bury himself trying to do their job.

The Supply Officer generally worked out of his stateroom.  He was an F-4 back seater for most of his career.  Due to vision problems, he lost medical clearance and augmented to the Supply Corps to finish his career.  He was a passed over LCDR with about three years to complete his twenty. He had come to the Supply Corps late and really wasn’t what people normally expected of a ships SUPPO.  I went up to his room and had a long discussion with him. I told him of my conversation with the Ensign. He told me that he was aware that Mr. Boone was having problems.  He said he told him what needed to be done, but the kid didn’t seem to want to put any trust in the enlisted people in his divisions.  He indicated that he was already thinking that Ensign Boone may have to be relieved.

I told him that I didn’t believe it had to come to that.  I told him that as Department LCPO, I would take over his divisions temporarily.  I would take him under my wing and teach him to be a division officer.  I also told him that l would have a “come to Jesus” meeting with the PO1’s to make sure they started pulling their weight running the divisions as LPOs should.  I asked the SUPPO to let Mr. Boone know of my new status and ask him to come see me after he talked with him.

The next morning, the Ensign came to me in the Mess Decks and said, “The Commander says we need to talk.”  I asked if he had issued his change funds and reconciled his safe. He indicated that he had.  I took him to my office, kicked the records keeper out and basically told him how he was going to operate.

I told him that you are permitted to designate the senior DK as an assistant and issue him a fund permitting him to issue change funds and postal funds, cash checks and perform special pay.  The reason I know this, we were stationed in another ship together and he was a cashier there. He will keep a separate Cash Book.  This will limit you to a single cash transaction per day when you reconcile with the DK1. He will also supervise and assist the other two DK’s with the posting of pay records and preparing of pay lists.  You will refer all crew members’ questions regarding their pay to DK1.  You will not drop what you are doing and research records to answer their questions.  Let the DK’s do that. It is part of their job.

I told him you will draft a letter handing accountability of Ship’s Store stocks and storerooms to the SH1. You don’t have to carry the keys and supervise every stores on load or breakout.  That is SH1’s job.  It is also his responsibility to oversee the operation of the barbershop and the laundry.  You don’t have to go running off to the laundry every time someone complains about laundry not done or missing.  Refer questions and complaints to SH1.

I told him I would see that he received cooperation and support from the petty officers.

He asked, “What do I do first?”

I told him, go to your manuals for the proper wording and draft letters appointing DK1 to cash duties and SH1 to the custodian of ships stores stocks. In the meantime, I talked to the PO1’s.  They say a supervisor should criticize subordinates individually.  Well, I chewed these two’s asses collectively.  I told them that their jobs were to help this Ensign become a good officer by helping him do his job and all they did was lay down on their lazy asses and watch him dig himself into a hole trying to do their jobs.  I had reviewed both their records. They had good evals which indicated they were competent in their ratings and were good Petty Officers.  I told them what their new duties were going to be and that I expected them to support that Ensign.  I left them with, “I’ll tell both of you, if Mr. Boone gets relieved, I’ll insure that it is indicated in your evaluations that it was because of your lack of support and your incompetence. They were so low when they left my office that could probably have crawled under the door.

I went to the Disbursing Office to find Mr. Boone.  He was at a typewriter typing.  I asked, “What are you doing, sir?”

He said, “Typing up those letters for DK1 and SH1.”

I tore the paper from the typewriter, tore it in half and said very quietly, “That is what I am talking about.  You have people to do the typing.  You have a DK1, DK2, and a DKSN.  Assign one of them to do the typing.  You are the Division Officer be the fucking Division Officer.”

He said, “But what am I supposed to do?”

I said, “After you Tell DK1 to have the letters written and have them on your desk in an hour, why don’t we go take a walk through Officers Country, the Wardroom, and the Pantry since you are now the Mess Caterer.  If we should happen to bump into the XO, he might be impressed, then since you are the ASST SUPPO, we will tour all supply department berthing spaces and cleaning areas.  Something you should do every day.  By then the letter should be ready.  You can set up a cash fund and Cash Book for DK1 and turn keys to the storeroom over to SH1.  Then you can go on liberty for the rest of the day, I’ll fix it with the boss.”

He said, “But, I’ve got to do an order list for ship’s store stock.”

I told him, “Before you go ashore tell SH1 to create the order list and have it on your desk for review tomorrow morning.  Come see me when you get aboard and we will get started. Not only do you have to be the division officer, you need to crawl into the SUPPO’s back pocket and learn his job.  In an emergency, you have to be able to step up and be the SUPPO.”

Over the next few months, I taught him to be a division officer and the Supply Officer taught him to be a Department Head. He went from scuttling about timidly to carrying out his duties and dealing with the other officers with confidence.

He decided to leave the Navy at the end of his obligation and work in his father’s real estate brokerage in Massachusetts. He has been successful and now owns the brokerage.

Shortly after I took Mr. Boone under my wing, the Captain stopped me in the Passageway and said, “Thanks for taking care of Ensign Boone, I thought I was going to have to do something that I don’t like to do.”