Two Poems

Two Poems

I received the following from a shipmate who was once a Diesel Submarine sailor.  It was written by an unknown Bubblehead.  I present it here as well as my rewrite of the piece for those of us who sailed in the surface Navy.

When You Understand…

Author Unknown
When the hatch closes over your head, the
OOD says last man down and the COW says
green board, you understand the meaning of adventure.

When the only thing between you and millions
of gallons of seawater is a steel hull and some
closed valves, you understand the meaning of courage.

When sonar calls out to the conn “high speed
screws in the water” in hostile waters,
you understand the meaning of fear.

When the messenger passes out the only family
grams the satellite could catch and yours isn’t
one, you understand the meaning of loneliness.

When hissing water in the overhead turns from
a slight annoyance to a terrifying rushing
cascade bouncing off the hull and equipment,
you understand the meaning of survival.

When you hear the quick sound that a curtain
makes on your rack that indicates your watch is
about to begin, you understand the meaning of irritation.

When you see a brother stand at attention while
the Captain pins on the fish he worked so hard
to earn, you understand the meaning of pride.

When you retire and they pipe you over the side
for the very last time, you understand the meaning of great sadness.

When your eyes grow dim and your strength
ebbs with age, and you see a submarine getting
underway, you understand the meaning of envy.

When a shipmate from a time so long ago
passes on and people say so many things they
wish they had said before they departed,
you understand the meaning of regret.

My version follows:

When You Understand

By:  Garland Davis


When the Engineering and Deck crews gather,

When the Messenger passes to the OOD,

“All stations manned for getting underway,”

You understand the meaning of adventure.


When all that is between you and the Pacific Ocean

is a steel hull, some closed valves and the expertise

of your fellow sailors, you understand the meaning of courage.


When CIC passes to the bridge, “multiple airborne bogies

Inbound, ETA eleven minutes, weapons free.”

You understand the meaning of fear.


When the Postal Clerk passes out the mail,

And there is nothing with your name.

You understand loneliness.


When the ship rolls and pitches to the typhoon’s rage,

And the hull creaks and groans as the expansion joints flex,

You understand the meaning of survival.


When you hear the sliding sounds of your bunk curtain

As the messenger tells you it is time for your watch.

You understand the meaning of irritation.


When you see a shipmate stand at attention

While the Captain pins on the CPO Anchors

He worked so hard and long to earn.

You understand the meaning of pride


When the time comes for you to retire

And you are piped ashore for the final time

You understand the meaning of great sadness.


When you grow old, feeble and your vision grows dim,

and you see a sleek, gray destroyer putting to sea,

bound for WestPac and new adventures.

You understand the meaning of envy.


When a shipmate from a time long past

slips the bonds of this mortal plane and

you wish you had told him how much he meant to you.

You understand the meaning of sorrow and regret.





Civilian Life Kind of Sucks

Civilian Life Kind of Sucks

By:  Tony Och


I had the biggest smile on my face with discharge papers in hand as I passed thru the main gate of Treasure Island and wore that smile for at least two months thereafter.  When I think about it today,  I become sullen.

It’s been over seventeen years now, every day since, dozens of Naval thoughts run thru my mind.  It torments me, it’s unstoppable, some sort of demon.  It will be with me until I die.

The other day while drinking and thinking, that demon in the back of my mind told me to break out my “FIREMAN” training manual.  NAVEDTRA 10520-E 1976, the second paragraph read as follows…

As a member of the Engineering Department aboard ship, you know that you are assigned to the heart of the ship.  It is through your efforts and the efforts of every other member of the Department that your ship becomes alive and is able to meet its commitments anywhere on the oceans of the world!

My dick was getting hard; hundreds of thoughts ran thru my mind at the same time.  I closed my eyes, shaking my head, envisioning…my rack, Navy chow, shipmates on liberty, standing a steaming watch…then the fucking eye leakage sets in.

I’ll always be a “Steamin’ Demon!”


John and the Super Mongoose

John and the Super Mongoose
USS Oriskany
Mar 3 1976
By Robert ‘Okie Bob” Layton


John Franklin Massey, probably the most well-known aviation maintenance Chief who ever went to sea. Leader of men, respected, and admired by all.

We were pulling into Alameda the last USS Oriskany cruise.

A few days earlier John was up in my shop, [VF-194 Power Plants] doing what John did best— scrounging up F8 parts!

You see we were going to decommission the old F8 fighter,

but John was in VFP-63 and he was looking for parts for the RF8 photo bird that was still going to be in service. Well I gave him all I had and as he was gathering up the goods he says

“Okie you got any springs?”

“What kind” I replied

“Well I need one to make me a mongoose box”

“What happened to your old one?”

“I got drunk and left it on the beach in the PI, I think
one of them hookers got it”

Well, we looked around and found a really strong spring used for the hold-back panel. John left and said he would be back. He comes back with some wood and starts to build a 1 X 2 foot 10-inch high box. Puts a divider in the middle with a little opening in it. Then makes a lid, now this is the whole operating part of the trick. The lid on top has a wire mesh screen on one end and the other end is just a spring loaded hinged lid that will pop up when released from its latch.

After John got it built we spent quite a while adjusting the hook under the lid used to hold the stuffed sock that would jump out of the box on the person standing in front of it.
When everything was adjusted just right the lid would whack open with a loud bang and the stuffed sock would be catapulted onto the unknowing victim.

Now John had probably built a dozen of these in his naval career and this was to be his finest.

He had gotten some white paint and painted the entire box white. Bordered the wire mesh with a red stripe like a Jet intake warning with DANGER written on it. On the sides, he put “WARNING MONGOOSE” “KEEP HANDS AND FINGERS AWAY”. Hell, he even perfected the Mongoose. Made a little head, cut up some hair off a fox tail broom and added a little tail. Topped it off with little strips of Velcro to make it stick to cloth. As it flew in the air that stuffed sock looked like a bad ass angry mongoose.

After adding some shredded up paper on the floor and a little water and feeding tray [with oat meal] it appeared looking into the wire mesh that something did, in fact, live inside that box.

We even positioned the fox tail next to the center divider opening just enough so that a person would bend down to try and look into the opening for a better look at the mongoose.

It was time to spring the trap.

After the fly off all the squadrons were staging their gear down on the hanger bay a perfect place for Mister Mongoose.

We had our gear next to elevator 3 right by the hatch going down to the galley. John and his crew were downstream somewhat off the beaten path, so pretty soon John comes over and sits up the box where we were at.

It wasn’t long before he was in business. Along came what looked like a deckhand, had that marlin spike holster with an embroidery tasseled buck knife on his belt with some clean pressed dungarees. Just ready to throw over the lines! He was strutting along with a black silver top walking cane [the kind that had the sword hidden in the handle] and a pair of John Lennon wire sunglasses you could almost hear the song “Soulful strut” playing in the background—– this cat was cool.

A few feet behind the box, John was sitting on his haunches perched on a cruise box like he always sat one knee up the other down, arms resting on the up knee John always had something in his hand, this time, a rolled up piece of paper.

As the young sailor was walking by he spies the box, stops in mid-stride, backs up a step, body still pointing forward, turns his head, drops his Lennon glasses on his nose, takes a closer look, shoves them back up, and starts to proceed on.

John yells out, “Hey buddy you ever see a Mongoose”

Sailor, “No man”

“Well, I got one here.”

“Want to see it?”

“Yeah man.”
The sailor gets up close still standing up straight he was leaning side to side trying to get a look see while still maintaining his cool swagger.

John comes down off the cruise box walks over to the mongoose box.

“He’s in the berthing compartment.”

“Here I’ll tap the side and see if I can get him to come out.”

“You see him?”

Sailor, “No.”

“There he is see his tail?”

Sailor, “Where”

“Right through that little passage.”

Sailor, “Oh yeah I see now.”

And just as he bends over WHAP goes the door—- Swoosh out springs the mongoose onto his chest.

The young lad jumps straight up like a frightened cat, glasses go flying his sword comes unsheathed from its cane holder and a loud 9 year girl eeeeeeeeeeeK comes out of him all the while he was swatting at his chest with his free hand and swinging his sword-cane with the other, in fierce battle, trying to get Mr. Mongoose off of himself

Of course, everyone is laughing their asses off.

He got a hold of himself pretty quickly and regained his composure. Without cracking a smile or uttering a word, he just picked up his glasses, put his sword back into its scabbard, and with a quick pull using both hands straightens his shirt facing the way he was headed not looking our direction with his classic swagger, strutted off on down the hangar bay.

John, beaming widely, said to me. “That was a good one, Shipmate!”

“I don’t know, John. He might be pissed.” I replied, a little worried that John might have pushed his luck with that kid.

“Hell, he’ll get over it.” John assured me, confident that the deckhand had a sense of humor somewhere underneath all that coolness.

John reloaded the trap. In just a few minutes the same sailor came back…Flanked left and right with a couple of big buddies.

At this time, John wasn’t wearing anything to denote his rank as Chief. All he had on was a pair of green pants and a green jersey with “VFP-63” on it. As they approached, John turned to me says “Hey Okie, you going to back me up? I don’t know if I can take all three of them.”

“I guess,” I answered, unenthusiastically.

“Well, I need to know.” John persisted. “All I got is this here rolled up piece of paper!”

“Okay.” I answered, “I got your back.”

The strutting sailor and his entourage stopped directly in front of John. The situation was getting tenser by the second, attributed mostly to the fact that the young, embarrassed Sailor still hadn’t uttered a single word since his encounter with the mongoose.

Finally, he speaks. “Hey!” He hollered out at John.

Then he asked, “Can you show that mongoose to my buddies?”

You could almost hear an audible sigh of relief come out of John.

“Sure!” John happily replied, as he jumped down off his cruise-box perch and gladly demonstrated, as requested, with that showmanship he was known for.

After John sprang the trap on his friends the “Sailor with Swagger” laughed so hard his sides hurt to the point he wrapped his arms around himself, bent over, and he was crying actual tears.

They all three departed, and brought back more victims. That led to even more and more…
As the flow of victims grew exponentially, we had to set up shifts just to give each other breaks. We kept that gag going clear on up to off-load, and after the tie-up, we even pulled it on some of the dependents that came aboard

I was on the same plane back to Miramar with John. Red Jordan picked us up and out to the Jet Center Bar we went. John, Red, Me, and—– Mister Mongoose!




Why I joined the Navy

Why I joined the Navy

By:  Garland Davis

Fifty-five years ago today, at the Armed Forces Induction Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, I raised my right hand and was sworn into the United States Navy.  Why did I do this, you ask?

When I began the third grade, the class made a weekly trip to the school library.  The first couple of weeks were spent learning about the library and how books were cataloged.  By the third week, students were expected to check out a book and read it.  Most of my classmates were searching for books with lots of pictures, large words and a low number of pages.  I was looking through the shelves for a book that interested me.  I found a book with an engraved picture of a sailing ship on the front.  I decided to check it out.  It missed all of my contemporaries’ criteria.  There were no pictures, the words were small and there were over a hundred pages.

The teacher was examining each student’s selection.  She took the book I had selected and told me that it was too advanced for a beginning reader.  I told her I wanted to try to read it.  She relented and permitted me to check it out.  She told me that she wanted a book report.

The name of the book was “John Paul Jones.”  It was a biography written for, I suspect, teenagers.  Almost from the beginning, I was transfixed by the story of Jones and the beginnings of the Navy.

I knew from the moment I finished that book the Navy was going to be my life.  During the ensuing years of waiting for age seventeen, I read, literally, hundreds of books about the Navy and about the sea.  I sailed with Horatio Hornblower, and Captain Aubrey.  I was at Jutland with Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. I was with our Navy at the Coral Sea; I was on the flag bridge with Admiral Spruance at Midway; I was with the Australians and Americans during the defeat at Savo Sound; I watched all the Victory at Sea and Silent Service television documentaries; I begged to stay up late when there was a Navy movie on the Late Movie. I engrossed myself in the many books I read of Naval operations in various wars.  I learned knots, semaphore and Morse code in the Boy Scouts.  I made it known to my family and friends that the Navy was for me.

A month before my seventeenth birthday, I went to see the recruiter.  I was tested and taken for a physical. The paperwork was prepared and my mother signed permission.  I was offered the choice of Great Lakes or San Diego for recruit training.  I chose San Diego.  Since reading of the Navy’s war in the Pacific, I wanted to go as far west as possible.

I left Winston-Salem for Raleigh the morning of my seventeenth birthday and was sworn in the next morning at the Armed Forces Induction Center. That evening I took my first airplane ride to Chicago and then on to Albuquerque and then San Diego.  The next morning, 20 July 1961, I arrived at the Recruit Training Center, San Diego and began a thirty-year adventure that ended much too soon.



Goals and Milestones

Goals and Milestones
July 18, 2016
By: Garland Davis

“How swift are the feet of the days of the years of youth”— Mark Twain

We each strive to achieve many goals as we move along life’s highway.  The Navy and Chief Petty Officer come to mind.  When the girl you have fallen in love with accepts your proposal. Earning a Bachelor’s Degree as a member of the Dean’s List.  Being chosen as class Valedictorian although I would be at sea off the coast of Viet Nam when graduation was held. Being instrumental in winning the Edward F. Ney Award, not once but twice.  Retiring from the Navy.  There are many more that make up the entire list.

I achieved a new milestone this morning. A new personal best. I have lived longer than ever before. I completed another year of life. Tomorrow, July 19, is also another important anniversary. I enlisted in the Navy fifty-five years ago in 1961.

Today is my seventy-second birthday. Many people have lived longer and many others died much younger. I always thought I would be among the latter. I have ancestors that lived well into their nineties and, as it turned out, I may have lived that long under different circumstances. Hell, I may still make it but, the Parkinson’s disease will probably take me before I reach my nineties. I leave no progeny to carry on this line of the Davis clan. I am one of those branches of the tree that ceases to grow and drops off.

I cannot say that it has been an exceptional seventy-two years when compared with the lives and accomplishments of others. Some may think that I squandered opportunities or misused the potential to do much more. But as Sinatra said it in his song, “I Did It My Way.” I consider one of my great achievements something that is given to a very few when measured against the entirety of the population. I served for thirty years and became a Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy. Life in the Navy and as a Chief Petty Officer showed me that two of the paramount achievements of humanity are the twin concepts of “loyalty” and “duty.”

The psychologists say that humans tend to remember successes, happiness, and pleasure. They conveniently forget or repress failures, sadness, and discomfort. Probably a good thing. It would, no doubt, drive me crazy if I only dwelt on the negatives of my life. Am I proud of all that I did during the past seventy-two years? No, I am not! Am I ashamed of some things that I did? Probably should be, but I just can’t find it. I’ve learned to not worry myself when I make a mistake. Just correct it as best I can and learn from it. Don’t lose any sleep over it.  Never blame Garland Davis on anyone but Garland Davis!

I have spent my life reading. Fictions, biographies, histories, religious texts, comics, and comments on head bulkheads, the writings of storytellers, scientists, philosophers, clerics, funny page cartoonists, and disgruntled shit house humorists, I have found as much truth in “Calvin and Hobbes” as I did in Plato and Nietzsche. I believe that sin lies only in hurting another person unnecessarily. Other “sins” are invented bovine excrement. Hurting yourself isn’t sinful. It is stupid. In all my reading and discussions with others, I haven’t found any conclusive evidence of life after death, nor have I found evidence of any sort against it. I figure I will know soon enough. I can wait!

Having devoted a large part of the past seventy-two years to an avid interest in history, I have reached the conclusion that any generation which ignores history has no past. Nor does it have a future. College graduates today know less of history than I did as a third-grade student in a 1950’s rural North Carolina country school. It doesn’t bode well for this generation or the country. For some reason, the educational beauracracy equates government directed public schooling and large amounts of tax money lining their pockets as the be all and end all of learning. How’s that working out for the students?

When one reaches my age, that person is considered a wise senior whose advice and insights are valuable. Isn’t it amazing how closely “mature wisdom” resembles tired and lazy? I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the “Old Farts” when I was younger and I doubt today’s younger generation will listen to what I have to say. But, what follows is some advice, some insights, and a few things I have learned.

I tell you, it is a great world because there are girls in it! Sex should be loving, warm and friendly. Otherwise, do it yourself. Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing–and you don’t have to go home in the cold and dark. But it is lonely as hell. I have found that it is better to copulate than not. Flowers sometimes work well as an aphrodisiac, but experience shows that money always works better. “I came, I saw, she conquered.” (The original Latin was garbled and misinterpreted). I have also learned that all men are not created equal.

Marry above yourself! It will motivate you to become a better man. Marry for love and strive to become the best friend of the girl/woman you take as a bride. For without friendship, love can easily become hate and you may reach my point in life as a bitter old man. The other great accomplishment of my life was marrying the woman I did fifty years ago (fifty-one next month). She is a good woman, my best friend—And I love her very much.

Get a dog or two! They will love you and in times of loss they can heal your heart and you will never be lonely. You can learn a lot from how dogs interact with people and other dogs. If you have children, remember the quote from Mr. Peabody, “Every dog should have a boy.” And I add “or a girl.” The time will come when the dog’s life must end. Be a man, hold it in your arms and tell it how great a dog it was when the time comes to send it onward. I have had seven dogs in my life and I am a better person for knowing them.

Watch as little TV as possible! It will rot your brain. The television networks spent a large part of the 1950’s developing the TV industry; pioneering programming ideas and techniques. The effluviant they offer today shows that they learned nothing and have actually regressed. “The Howdy Doody Show” was a better program than much of the crap they pass off as inspired television programming today. Television has replaced books and the art of reading and has contributed to the dumbing down of humanity. I treasure the years spent in the South China Sea and Asia away from the inane, brain numbing offerings of the American television industry.

Never say no to beer! Cold beer is always appropriate! The fastest method of chilling a case of beer is four gallons of water, fourteen pounds of ice and about five pounds of salt. Cover the beer with water and ice, stir in the salt and within six minutes you have some perfectly chilled beer. I spent many years as a cook and baker and, believe it or not, this is one of my favorite recipes!

Laugh whenever possible! Look for humor and embrace it. You feel better after a good laugh. The doctors say that laughter is healthy and Reader’s Digest claims that it is the best medicine. Who knows? You too may live to see seventy-two!

Do everything in excess! Take big bites. Drink from the large mug. Enjoy life. Moderation is for clerics, monks, nuns, and the faint of heart. Yield to temptations, you may not get the chance again. Avoid important decisions while tired or hungry. You may regret it.

And you know, in retrospect, my life is, and was, fun. If I had it to live over, I don’t think I would change one thing. Changing it would change me, making me a different person. A person I might not like as well as I do this one.

The Bible says in Psalm 90:10 “The days of our years are threescore years and ten.” Seventy years are all that is promised. I guess that puts the next seventy on me!

I’ll end this diatribe with a quote from another “wise senior” who is no longer with us. “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” —George Carlin





by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong


Remember those old raggedy-ass Chiefs? One of those fellows who bunked in the goat locker, forward of the alley… One of those guys who ‘butt polished’ the mess deck benches and drank coffee during an ‘All hands, turn to…’ And from time to time, moved about to check on the after battery slaves to make sure:

(A) They were not parked on an after battery head, reading a dog-eared Playboy.

(B) They had not found a dark upper bunk in the forward room and sacked out.

(C) Had not hidden in the pump room, sonar shack or dry stores room.

They were one of the old ‘Dick Tracys’, who knew that the great unwashed animal pack was prone to hide bottles of illegal consumables in the maneuvering room cubicle, outboard engines one and two, behind the Navol monitor, and in the pit log well.

Being a Chief is a form of cannibalism… You return to make meals out of your own kind. After battery rats hear stories like,

“Hell, you should ‘a known ol’ Dutch back in ’52… We rode the USS Charley Tuna out of San Diego… Back then, the sonuvabitch was half nuts. One night, we were tossing off shots of Tequila and some fellow called ol’ Dutch a sewer pipe sailor and Dutch bounced him off a cinderblock wall and put him through a plate glass window…”

Dutch? The Dutch we knew drank a lot of coffee… Was the guy the exec sent to talk to you after you and two other members of the deck force had gone on liberty, ran out of money, climbed palm trees and peed on the Key West cop when invited to return to Earth.

The Dutch we knew could not have been related to the fellow who in 1955, rode down the main street of a village in Venezuela, buck naked on the back of a dairy cow, singing “I’m back in the saddle again…” They may have looked a lot alike but there was no way they could have been kin.

No sir, they remove all the hell raising genes from you before they make you a Master Chief.

But they are good folks to know when the local constabulary delivers you to the quarterdeck in a straw hat, your skivvies and flip flops, and you can’t remember which house of horizontal refreshment you left your whites hanging up in… And you need an advocate to translate your gibberish into some kind of believable bullshit the exec will buy.

Chief Petty Officers… Make that submarine qualified Chief Petty Officers, can turn bullshit into gold at a rate that would even amaze Bill Clinton. That’s basically what they do.

One of the questions on the Chief’s exam reads:

“You are in Guam… You are called to a local whorehouse where you find five non rated members of your crew holding off twenty members of the Air Force police with a high pressure fire hose. How do you convince the Air Force major that what these lads are engaged in, is in the best interest of the security of the United States?”

You have two minutes. You cannot use mind altering drugs or hand puppets.

When you’re out, you look back and remember the times you were dead ass broke and some raggedy-assed Chief slipped you enough for a couple of pitchers at Bells. Times when the cab driver dumped you next to a salvage air connection forward of the conning tower fairwater and the Chief paid him… Told you what an idiot you were… Walked you aft and dumped you down the after battery hatch.

If God had not created CPOs, the guys in Hogan’s Alley would have been forced to invent them. Many times, the only thing between you and ‘Walking the Plank’ was a Chief who had taken a buck naked ride on a bovine creature long ago in the South Atlantic.



Ice Machine

Ice Machine

By:  Garland Davis


Those of you who served in ships that plied the Western Pacific and the South China Sea off Viet Nam remember the heat and discomfort of the climate.  The best thing for momentary relief, other than an icy cold San Miguel was a cup of JP5 flavored red bug juice in a cup packed with ice cubes.  I sometimes believe we should have made the stuff in 55-gallon drums instead of 5-gallon milk cans.  When the ice machine broke down a miserable situation became much worse.  The cooks and the poor Machinist’s Mate trying to repair the machine caught the hell of the crew’s wrath.

I was the leading CS, often the only CS, in USS Mahopac, an Ocean Going Tug out of Yokosuka during the mid to late sixties.  The ship had a crew of four officers and about forty enlisted.  The entire three-year period I was aboard there was only one CPO aboard and that only for a short period.  Of the crew, sixteen of us were PO1’s.

We towed targets out of Yokosuka and Subic, as well as towing assets into and out of South Vietnamese ports.  We went everywhere at about eight knots or less.  Our top speed was about twelve knots if memory serves.  Those ATA’s were round bottomed and rolled even in calm weather.  When it got rough, she really rolled.  I once saw an electrician stand on the bulkhead in the messdecks when the ship took a large roll.

We had an ice maker that hated rough weather.  We could sit tied to the pier and that baby would crank out the ice.  As soon as the word was passed to “single up all lines,” it stopped making ice.  The two EN1’s spent hours with gauges hanging off the machine trying to coax it to make a few cubes.  Mostly to no avail.

Once shortly after returning to Yokosuka, EN1 Richard Ade (Rest in Peace Shipmate) had the duty and was working on the machine.  He told me, “Dave, I think I’ve got it,” and went next door to our sister ship, USS Tillamook and returned with a bucket of ice.  He dumped it into the ice hamper and told the machine, “See that is what you are supposed to do.”

Another time after returning to port, he was working on the machine when the Captain came into the mess decks and asked, “Ade, did you figure out what is wrong with this piece of crap machine?”

Ade pointed to the logo on the machine and said, “Captain all I can figure is it’s a God Damned Carrier ice machine and this is a fucking tug boat!”