BM1 Herman’s Class “A” School
By: David “Mac” McAllister
BM1 Herman retired from the Navy in 1964 from Recruit Training Command San Diego, CA. One month later SR McAllister reported there for boot camp. I couldn’t help myself since boatswain Herman’s class A School had been at work in my life for a long time already.
Herman and his buddies, A.D., and Knifer, had been influencing me for as long as I could recall. They were always in for the holidays and other brief times over the course of my life and kept me amazed with sea stories of Japan, Hong Kong, Ceylon and other exotic places that would drive me afterward to the world atlas in order to keep up. Their uniforms held me in a trance like state, mesmerized by the white piping on blue, bright red rating chevrons and those multicolored rows of ribbons. Dragons on their rolled up cuffs as they drank beer smoked cigarettes and blew smoke up my butt. I couldn’t get enough.
When I was probably 12 years old, Herman was stationed on the USS Bausell DD845 out of San Diego. He had duty weekend and smuggled me aboard. I spent the entire weekend sweeping and swabbing while he supervised men over the side painting and preserving. Being the outer destroyer breasted out from the pier meant that if need be we would have been the one to sortie. As Herman explained this to me and his plan for me in that instance, I counter planned my stowaway strategy. By Monday, I was immersed and enthralled in shipboard life and ready to sell my soul and run off to sea.
Well after a very emotional venting of the spleen, I eventually settled into the mundane world of school work and looking forward to the guys showing up on unexpected occasions and rekindle my ever longing for the life of a sailor. Our relationship continued on until I finally was young and dumb enough to enlist.
I was at recruit training on the second day all decked out in my new four sizes too big dungarees, tennis shoes, ball cap and shaved head when Herman burst in the Barracks. Pointing his finger at me, he said “You, fuckin worm outside”. Here he was retired, in uniform and pushing the envelope once again. Once outside he gave this sage advice: “Don’t volunteer for anything, keep your mouth shut, your eyes and ears open and stay out of 4013 because Choker Williams is a real mother fucker”. With that, he was gone and I never saw him again until graduation.
After graduation, while on leave, Herman showed up one day and held a sea bag inspection on me. He showed me what I should shit can and what I needed to get more of. Then we made it down to the Seven Seas Locker Club where he instructed me in the ordering of a new set of tailor made Gabs. From there we were off to Nasty City where he smuggled under age me into his favorite hangout and we drank beer.
Herman BM1 is gone now and serves in another Navy in another life; his ashes spread at sea in Naval Tradition by young sailors he never knew. Sailors that honored an old sailors request. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him for you see in addition to running a damn good A School Leo Herman was my uncle.
David “Mac” McAllister a native of California, now resides in the Ozark Mountains of Southwest Mo. Having served in Asia for the majority of his 24-year Navy career, he now divides his time as an over the road trucker, volunteer for local veteran repatriation events and as an Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association board member and reunion coordinator. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about his experiences in Westpac and sharing them online with his Shipmates.