Once There Were Heroes

Once There Were Heroes

By:  Garland Davis

During my first four or five years in the Navy, career sailors from 1941 through 1946 were completing their twenty and retiring.  Most were combat veterans of WWII and Korea.  I remember a second class Commissaryman who, when we fell in for Personnel Inspection, was wearing a medal I hadn’t seen before.  When I asked what it was, he replied, “I don’t know, just some Geedunk they give us.”  Someone later told me it was the Silver Star.  He was serving in a destroyer that was hit by a Kamikaze and he rallied the Cooks and Stewards to fight the fire when the fire party was killed and was credited with being a factor in saving the ship.

The Galley Chief at NAS Lemoore was a submarine sailor.  He wore a combat patrol pin with three stars.  When I asked him which boats he was on, he said, “I was on so many different ones, that I don’t remember.

I saw many medals for heroic acts and numerous Purple Heart ribbons and medals in those days.  Unlike today, most career sailors had four or five ribbons at the most and only wore them for inspections or official ceremonies.

I was serving in an Ammunition Ship.  There was a BM2 aboard who as a BM3 had survived the attack on Pearl harbor. He wouldn’t talk about it.  He and many other survivors had been advanced one pay grade by Act of Congress.  Which meant that it would take an act of Congress to bust him.  A good man, happy with his place in the Navy.

One Captain of Vesuvius was an aviator who had been one of three survivors from Torpedo Squadron Three at the Battle of Midway.  An impressive officer.

I was serving in an Ocean Going Tug in the mid-sixties when a W-1 Bosun reported aboard.  He was wearing the Navy Cross and Purple Heart.  As a PO1 commander of a River Patrol Boat in the Mekong Delta of South Vietnam, he had taken his boat to the aid and rescue of other boats that were caught in an ambush and saved the boats and lives of his shipmates.  He retired as a Captain.

In the mid-seventies, I was on shore duty in Pearl Harbor.  There I met a First Class Gunner’s Mate.  During a personnel inspection and awards ceremony, he was presented the Navy Cross for an incident that had happened in early seventy-two while he was serving as an advisor with a Vietnamese PBR crew.  He had gone to Viet Nam as an eighteen-year-old GMGSN and, due to numerous extensions in country Viet Nam, four years later left there as a twenty-two-year-old GMG1.

He called me one evening and asked if he could stop by my house.  He said he had something important he wanted my advice on.  I said yes and he arrived a short time late with a twelve pack.  The Warrant Officer he worked for was encouraging him to apply for the Warrant program.  He asked me what I thought. I told him that with the Navy Cross, he was a shoo-in for selection.  I told him, “You can go for it, do the job the way it is supposed to be done, knowing you did your best or you can skate along on the Navy Cross for twenty years.  It is up to you.  You are a good sailor; you’ll do the right thing.  He retired at twenty-two years as a LCDR.

I once met a Special Forces Colonel who was wearing the ribbon for the Medal of Honor.  I was the Bachelor Quarters Officer at SubBase Pearl Harbor.  The BOQ had two suites that were reserved exclusively for Flag Officers.  The Captain insisted that submarine admirals be given preference.  I met with him each Friday to go over the message requests for the suites.  Only he could decide if a suite was to be assigned.

I stopped by the base one Saturday, as was my habit.  When I went into the BOQ lobby, the MS2 desk clerk was explaining to a Colonel and his wife and daughter that no quarters were available.

I identified myself to the Colonel and asked if I could help.  He told me they were overnighting in Honolulu to catch a flight the next morning and needed a place for the night.  He said he had tried the Army, Air Force, and numerous hotels.  Everything seemed to be filled up because of a convention and a RimPac Exercise.

I told the Petty Officer to assign them Suite Bravo.  She said, “But Chief, what will the Captain say?”

I told her, “I’ll talk with the Captain. Just get them into the suite.”

I called the C.O.’s home phone number.  I told him that I was assigning an Army Colonel to the flag suite.  Before I could explain why he broke in vehemently, “Negative, Negative, get them out of there!”

I said, “Captain, he is wearing the ribbon for the Medal of Honor.”

“By all means Chief.  By all means. You did the right thing.  Pay my respects to the Colonel and ask if there is anything the SubBase can do for him or his family.”

I went and passed the Captain’s respects to the Colonel.  All he required was the room.  He thanked me, shook my hand, and that was my meeting with a holder of the Medal of Honor.

These were some of the heroes I worked with and came to know during my Navy career.  Ordinary, everyday men, who when the situation called for it, rose above themselves. I served with heroes! Where are today’s heroes?  They must all be in the Seal Teams.  Those guys rock!

Now I look at the above photo of American sailors kneeling on the deck crying while being held captive, after surrendering their boats and weapons without any resistance. They gave in to a bunch of unintelligent sand apes. I grieve for the Navy that I knew.  The only reaction to the situation that I have read is a few people were relieved and the sailors were probably sent to a therapist to ensure they have no permanent mental trauma from the experience.

According to the reports their electronic navigation equipment and some of their communications gear was inoperable, as well as personnel lacking proper training.  I believe one of the boats experienced an engineering casualty and was being towed.   What has happened to take care of your gear and equipment?  Someone probably missed maintenance training for a diversity workshop. A total cluster fuck.

I almost daily read of Officers and Senior Enlisted leaders being relieved because someone “Lost confidence in their ability to lead.”  Just what does that mean.  Let’s break it down!

With today’s kinder gentler touchy-feely Navy, shipboard leaders are no longer permitted to enforce discipline to get the job done.  Deck plate discipline, fan room counseling, XO’s “I”, and CO’s Mast have been replaced by a Chief or Officer wasting time with one-on-one counseling and Discipline Review Boards. I guess instead of handing out Achievement Medals for wearing the proper uniform they hand out frowny face stickers.

Those CO’s, XO’s, officers and Chiefs that try to enforce discipline and carry out a mandated routine are at the mercy of the crew when higher authority conducts a Command Assessment which gives the malcontents and those with a perceived personal slight a chance to wreak revenge on the command or the Chief.

Another frequent topic is the number of ships that are “Broke Dick” because of a lack of maintenance training, rate training, and operational errors on the part of the crew.  This resulted in a ship aground on a reef in the Philippine Islands and another rusting away in Singapore waiting for a replacement part.

I could continue this, but I am getting more and more depressed as I write.  I’ll just leave it here and maybe someday I will write the rest of this story.  That is if I can keep from gagging.