Primer on Tools for Snipes




Primer on Tools for Snipes


Compiled By Garland Davis



This is designed to familiarize members of the engineering ratings with the tools they’ll be working with.



Hammer: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate expensive items and parts not far from the object we are trying to hit. Can also be used to locate the fingers of your other hand.  Any handy wrench may also serve as a hammer.

Mechanic’s Knife: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered from Supply; works particularly well on boxes containing gasket material and textile-like materials.


Electric Hand Drill: Normally used for spinning steel Pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age. Can also be used for drilling holes in the wrong places.


Hacksaw: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

Vise-Grips: Used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

1/2 Inch Wrench:  This ever elusive wrench is seldom ever seen in the hole. It can usually be found in the most inaccessible part of the bilges!  Can also substitute for a hammer.

Oxyacetylene Torch: Used almost entirely for lighting those stale cigarettes you found while bilge diving because you can never remember to buy cigarettes and lighter fluid for the Zippo lighter you have neglected to lose

Zippo Lighter: See oxyacetylene torch.

Whitworth Sockets: Once used for working on older British cars and motorcycles, How they ended up in the A-Gang shop is anybody’s’ guess.

Table vise: A table mounted device used for cracking nuts stolen during stores on load. May also be used for crushing and ruining parts while you work on them. A very important use of the bench vise is to clamp a misbehaving strikers head in it while you kick his ass. Very effective remedial attitude adjustment tool.

Drill Press: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest or flings your coffee across the shop, splattering it all over the picture of the scantily clad LBFM someone posted over the Chief’s desk.


Wire Wheel: Cleans rust off old bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprint whorls and hard-earned guitar calluses in about the time it takes you to say, “Mother Fucker.”

Hydraulic Floor Jack: Used for lowering heavy items to the deck after you have unbolted them from their supports, trapping the jack handle firmly under the front edge.

Eight-Foot Long Douglas Fir 2X4 Shoring: Used for levering said item off the hydraulic jack.

Tweezers: A tool for removing wood splinters. Can also be used for snatching out bothersome nose hairs.

Phone: Tool for calling the Shipfitter’s shop to see if they have another hydraulic floor jack.


Gasket Scrapers: Theoretically useful as a sandwich tool for spreading mayonnaise on horsecock sandwiches; but, also used for getting dog shit and grease off your boon dockers.

E-Z Out Bolt and Stud Extractor: A tool that snaps off in bolt holes and is ten times harder than any known drill bit.

Two-Ton Hydraulic Hoist: A handy tool for testing the tensile strength of ground straps, bolts, and hydraulic lines you may have forgotten to disconnect.

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1/2 x 16-inch Screwdriver: A large prying tool that inexplicably has an accurately machined screwdriver tip on the end without the handle. Always in the way when you are searching for a Phillips screwdriver.

Battery Electrolyte Tester: A handy tool for transferring sulfuric acid from a battery to the inside of your toolbox after determining that your battery is dead as a doornail, just as you thought.

Aviation Metal Snips: See Hacksaw. Mostly used for miscutting sheet metal.

Trouble Light: The Snipes’ own tanning booth. Sometimes called a drop light, it is a good source of vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin”, which is not otherwise found in engineering spaces. Health benefits aside, its main purpose is to consume light bulbs at about the same rate that the five-inch gun mount might use projectiles during a ninety-day gun line tour. More often dark than light, its name is somewhat misleading.

Phillips Screwdriver: Normally used to stab the holes in the orange juice cans stolen during the last stores onload and splash juice all over your shirt; can also be used, as the name implies, to round off Phillips screw heads.  Always in the way when you are searching for a flathead screwdriver.

Air Compressor: A machine that takes energy produced by a steam generator in the after engine room and transforms it into compressed air that travels by hose to a Chicago Pneumatic impact wrench that grips rusty bolts last tightened 40 years ago by a yardbird at the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, and neatly round them off.


Grease Gun: A messy tool for checking to see if zerk fittings are still plugged with rust.


Church Key: An ancient tool once attached to the keychain of every male. Used to open steel cans when thirsty. Often used in conjunction with operating the next tool listed.


LBFM: Triple orifice stress reliever. Seldom found aboard ship, but are plentiful in the Southeast Asian port of Subic Bay. It is found they perform at an optimum level when dusted down frequently with copious amounts of Philippine currency. Can be costly! Careful, they are like puppies, cute and you can become attached to them. It is dangerous to operate multiple units unless the units are in agreement. The next tool applies in this situation.


Butterply Knipe: A tool your LBFM may try to use on you if you let her become too possessive by devoting your time and money exclusively to her and then operate another LBFM without her approval.





The Caine Mutiny

The Caine Mutiny

A Facebook post by Dave Petersen. Published with his permission

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER PHILIP FRANCIS QUEEG USN served as commanding officer of the USS Arthur Wingate Caine DMS-18 (or DMS-22 in the original source material). (Note: “DMS” stands for “Destroyer Minesweeper” and refers to a World War I era destroyer converted for high-speed sweeping. DMS’s of that era carry low registry numbers because they are among the first destroyers to launch.)


He succeeded to this command in September of 1943. On 18 December 1944, his executive officer, Lieutenant Steven W. Maryk USNR, relieved him of command under Artlcles 184, 185 and 186 of the Articles for the Government of the Navy, then the governing body of regulations for the Navy. (World War II, of course, predated the Uniform Code of Military Justice that now serves as the body of military law in all services.) That act occasioned a sensational court-martial of Maryk that, ironically, caused the Navy to shunt Commander Queeg into shore billets for the duration of the war.

Queeg graduated the US Naval Academy in 1936. As the court-martial of Lt. Maryk (see above) later disclosed, he did not bear up well under the hazing from upperclass midshipmen. He came out of the Academy determined to prove himself perfect and to give no one any cause for complaint.

In 1937 he served as an ensign aboard the destroyer USS Barzun, on assignment in the Atlantic, on patrol for German U-Boats. His service record includes one letter of commendation he earned on that cruise. The occasion: as crew’s mess treasurer (his collateral duty), he discovered a discrepancy in the ship’s cooks accounts, concerning a quantity of cheese for which the cook could not account. Queeg insisted on following the lead, though his executive officer told him to “forget it.” Queeg discovered that one sailor had made a wax impression of the key to the galley icebox and was helping himself to the cheese every chance he got. Queeg caught the sailor red-handed and saw him tried and convicted in a summary court-martial, and drummed out of the Navy in disgrace.

In September of 1943 he transferred to the Pacific and finally earned his first command: as commanding officer of the USS Caine. Queeg ran his ship “by the book.” And from the beginning, he had problems.


Among his first missions, he drew orders to tow practice targets for the battleships and destroyers in Pearl Harbor. After but a few such missions, he cut a towline by steaming over it in a circle. He did this because, of all things, he was reprimanding a sailor at length for having his shirttail out–and also reprimanding the ship’s morale officer (then-Ens. Willis Seward Keith USNR) and communications officer (Lt. Thomas Keefer USNR) for alleged lapses in supervising this sailor. (The source material identifies said sailor as Signalman Third Class Louis Urban USN, but the famous Humphrey Bogart movie identifies him as Water Tender Third Class “Horrible” Dlugatch USN.) Queeg sent word to Commander, Service Squadron Pacific that a “defective” towline had parted, leaving the target adrift. The service squadron’s commanding admiral, thoroughly irritated, cut orders to send the Caine and one other DMS to the San Francisco Navy Yard for overhaul and new radar installations. As soon as he brought the ship in, he had to report to Com Twelve to talk about losing the practice target. He managed to convince Com Twelve that he could still handle things aboard the Caine.

Shore leave at his home in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, his son, and his family dog was a bit of a strain. The Navy didn’t help his mood any when it cut the leave short. Hastily he summoned the officers and crew back to the Caine, and steamed southwest for Pearl Harbor–minus some twenty-five of his crew, who would rather stand trial by court-martial for missing ship than sail with him. He didn’t care–or at least, didn’t let on.

Shortly after making Pearl, he got orders to take part in the Flintlock Maneuver, otherwise known as the Battle of Kwajalein. His specific orders: to shepherd a wave of LVT attack boats from their transport to a line of departure 1000 yards off the beach of Jacob Island. He ran a mile ahead of the attack boats, insisted on turning tail way short of the line of departure, dropped a yellow dye marker, and retired at high speed, leaving the LVT crews and Marines to grope their way to their landfall as best they could. Thereafter his officers habitually referred to him as “Old Yellowstain.”

His interactions with his officers and crew went from bad to worse. Different projects mention different incidents, in different chronological order. But one incident stands out in the record: the Strawberry Incident. The details: Ensign Jorgensen, wardroom mess treasurer, managed to obtain a gallon of frozen strawberries from the crew of USS Bridge. That night, the officers helped themselves to a total of twenty-three helpings of ice cream and strawberries. And then Captain Queeg sent down for another helping of ice cream and strawberries. Whittaker, the leading steward, brought him the ice cream and said, “There [aren’t any more] strawberries.” At once Queeg jumped on this chance to investigate another theft. He refused to believe that Whittaker and his fellow steward’s mates had simply eaten the remaining quart of strawberries for themselves. He insisted on this narrative: that another sailor aboard the Caine had made himself a duplicate key to the wardroom icebox. He ordered all men aboard, officer and crew alike, to turn in every key they had. Then he ordered the officers to search the ship and crew for any stray keys. He little knew how bitterly he had heightened the resentment of himself on the part of the crew–or played straight into the hands of Lieutenant Keefer.

He found out soon enough on the morning of 18 December. The Caine encountered winds and seas the like of which he had never before experienced: Beaufort Force 10 to 12 winds and mountainous waves. He tried going down wind, to get out of the path of the storm, but the ship broached to three times in one hour. Then he froze to the engine-room telegraph. He barely felt it when Lt. Maryk actually shoved him aside. But when he realized the ship was now headed into the wind, he snapped out of his fog and insisted that Maryk turn the ship about. Not only did Maryk refuse, but he also put Queeg on the sick list as per Article 184. Thereafter Maryk steered the ship through the storm (and by one account, offered rescue to three survivors of a capsized ship, USS George Black).


Queeg did make one other attempt to resume command, on the morning of the nineteenth. He tried to stop Maryk from reporting his relief of command to the local Officer in Tactical Command (OTC). Queeg tried to get Maryk to erase the incident from the quartermaster’s log and Officer of the Deck’s rough log, this although every regulation in the book forbade such erasures. Maryk refused, on principle. So Queeg, furious, told Maryk to go hang himself if he wanted to, and get out of his cabin.

Directly the Caine next made port, the local commandant had Queeg examined. He then asked Queeg whether to let Maryk take the Caine to Lingayen Gulf, where the Fifth Fleet next needed her. Queeg agreed. Maryk got the Caine through, this although she came under attack from a kami-kaze suicide pilot.

Eventually the Caine and all her officers came back to San Francisco, where the local JAG set up a court-martial, assigned Lt. Cmdr. Jack Challee USN to prosecute, and recruited Lt. Barney Greenwald USNR to defend. The court-martial proved disastrous for Queeg. Having to tell his side of the Shirttail Business, the Yellow Stain Business, the Strawberry Business, and a few other “businesses” of that nature proved his undoing. He didn’t take it with any terrible surprise when the court acquitted Maryk of the charge (of either Making a Mutiny or Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline). But Queeg was right about one thing: Maryk would never get a major command ever again.


Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny may be the greatest American novel of World War II. This 1951 study of men at war with a foreign foe and with each other spent 122 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and received a Pulitzer Prize in 1952. Wouk adapted the novel, his third, into a hit play; The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial became a much-produced classic. The 1954 film based on the book starred Humphrey Bogart in his least typical and arguably greatest role as Lieutenant Commander Philip Francis Queeg, the paranoid bully who captains a beleaguered destroyer-minesweeper. The Caine Mutiny earned seven Academy Award nominations. Since then, Wouk’s story has been retold countless times on stage, in film, and on television.

Wouk’s fictional revolt rings true because he was writing from intimate firsthand experience during World War II with the conditions, ships, and character types he portrays.

Wouk was an established writer by the time of Pearl Harbor. He enlisted immediately after that attack, attending midshipman school at Columbia University and communications school at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. Wouk fought in the Pacific from early 1943 until the war ended, serving in eight invasions aboard the World War I–era destroyer-minesweepers Zane and Southard.