The Nasty City Snake Ranch

The Nasty City Snake Ranch

By: Garland Davis


Most sailors understand the term “Snake Ranch.” Many of us were involved as either renter, co-renter, shareholder, or tolerated as a visitor at a “Snake Ranch” one or more times during our Naval career. They were usually located within a reasonable distance of the base with a NEX Beverage Store or a liquor store located on the direct route between the base and the Ranch. Most were located in areas that were prime cross-pollination areas. If you couldn’t hook up and get laid out there you were one ugly son of a bitch or had major halitosis or hygiene problems.

I am reminded of an especially memorable Snake Ranch in National City. Now “Nasty City” was the chosen hunting ground for Navy wives whose husbands had the duty, WestPac widows, ex-Navy wives, and every girl hoping to become a Navy wife, often known as National City Purty Girls. Many homely girls, and some downright ugly ones, not to mention the heavyweights, with a tube of lipstick, two pairs of clean cotton skivvies, and a bus ticket eventually found their way to the environs of National City. Mecca of the First Fleet. Right outside the main gate of 32nd Street Naval Station, a bastion of the largest per capita population of totally irresponsible sons of bitches with resources of disposable income, and a monumental appreciation of sexual commingling.

The National City Snake Ranch was, to put it mildly, a dump. Not an ordinary dump, but a spectacular dump, with a record-breaking backyard collection of empty beer bottles and cans, as well as, a co-ed bathtub used more often for hanky-panky than actual bathing.

The house was furnished in a hit and miss fashion. What passed for the dining room had a wire spool for a table surrounded by three or four three-legged stools. The table was usually cluttered with the Colonel’s buckets full of gnawed bones and sacks from the Jack in the Box on the corner. The kitchen had a stove and a frying pan. There were no plates of utensils. I don’t recall anyone ever trying to cook anything. The kitchen sink was used to give the dog a bath. The living room consisted of a couple of sofas and some stuffed chairs with sprung springs. There was a big God Damned anvil where a coffee table would normally be situated. No one had any idea where it came from, why it was there, or who thought it would enhance the ambiance of the room. I guess it stayed there because it was too damned heavy to move. Oh yeah, the beer reefer was along one wall of the living room.

The house mascot was a mutt dog who answered to the name Son of a Bitch. He drank beer, ate Fritos and farted. He tolerated cats. He was so lazy, he just let them wander in and out. All he did was lay around, lick his nuts and ass, and fart. He seemed to just fit in with the occupants of the Ranch.

The rules were pretty straight forward.

  1. You had to be single.
  2. You had to be a Petty Officer. No non-rated and No Chiefs.
  3. No parking your cars in the yard.
  4. When you contributed beer or booze, log it in. The log was checked to see who wasn’t contributing.
  5. When the rent was due, pony up your share or you are out.
  6. Don’t throw beer bottles into the backyard from the second-floor windows.
  7. No goddamn phone. (We knew if there was a phone, the number would get out.)

No Chief or Officer could ever know about the Ranch. If your mother was being tortured by the Commies and your sister was raped by Marines, you were dead if someone showed up to tell you. The Ranch was a serious Monastic Brotherhood dedicated to fermented beverages and porking ugly damsels.

The house had three bedrooms. Someone had rescued about fifteen mattresses from Navy Salvage and they were distributed between the bedrooms. There was always someplace to crash when, after drinking beer for twelve or sixteen hours Old Morpheus hit you over the head with his sack of sand.

Over the years a number of different sound systems had been installed in the Ranch. There was often a battle between Rock and Roll and Shitkicking music being waged between different rooms of the house. There was no problem from the neighbors as they were drunks and derelicts of whom the female members were often in attendance at the Ranch. After all ,it was a “Snake” ranch and we tried to be good neighbors.

You would think that a First Class Electrician and a Second Class ET would know the danger of running six or seven cheap extension cords in a daisy chain to power the stereo. Luckily with our Damage Control training, we were able to put the fire out with a couple cans of beer and one asshole pissing on it without having to call the Fire Department.

Somebody had drug home a glass fronted refrigerator that was emblazoned with the Coca-Cola logo. It didn’t work, but the AC&R MM from the ship brought his gear and Freon tank and got the bitch working. He tweaked it until the temp was between 33° and 36°. Cold beer! It would hold a hell of a lot of beer. Seven or eight cases.

We did have a TV for a while, but there were too many arguments about what to watch. Guys would get pissed off when they were watching something and everyone would vote to switch to “I Dream of Jeannie.” A Boatswain’s Mate got pissed one night and threw the TV through the back window into the backyard where it rested among the beer bottles. It was still there when I transferred and relinquished my share of the Ranch.

For all, I know the Nasty City Snake Ranch is still going strong. When I returned to San Diego with a wife, I never went to check. I knew I wouldn’t be welcome. I had violated the first rule.

The only other Snake Ranch I know of that was more depraved and debauched than the Nasty City one was located in the Barrio, but that is a story for another time.


USS Mispillion AO-105

USS Mispillion AO-105

By Brian Stuckey

January 30, 2012

The U.S. Navy fleet oiler USS Mispillion (AO-105) is taking its “sad, final voyage,” according to Jessica A. York in the Vallejo, California Times-Herald. While most people have unlikely heard of the Mispillion, commissioned in 1945 following World War II, the Long Beach-based ship served honorably in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and was active in the U.S. Seventh Fleet until 1974 when the ship was transferred to the Military Sealift Command. The Mispillion finally retired in 1994 when she joined the “mothball” fleet at Suisun Bay in California.

I came aboard in September 1959 when the ship was moored at the Naval Station at Long Beach. The ship would soon deploy for the Western Pacific, or WestPac, as it was known in those days. In the meantime, we were busy getting the ship ready for what was my first deployment to Pearl Harbor and Sasebo, Japan. Our mission was to replenish fuel to aircraft carriers and other U.S. Navy ships at sea while carrying out dangerous exercises in the Pacific. Such operations were often carried out in the middle of the night without any visible lighting.

The Mispillion is leaving her berth at Suisun Bay and steaming to Texas for dismantling, according to the Times-Herald. For many of her erstwhile shipmates, including myself, the departure of the ship evokes memories of a bygone era when the ship sailed into foreign ports for “liberty call” following what were often long and arduous sea exercises. Sadly, many of the shipmates we knew and loved have gone to their long home. Although the “Mighty Miss,” as she was called, is sailing to her final destiny, the officers and men who served on her decks were proud to have been a part of her crew. She will not be forgotten.


Conversations in the Mess Decks

Conversations in the Mess Decks

By: Garland Davis

“I hear that in preparation for expected heavy weather after we get underway, the fuckin’ cooks will be serving pork chops smothered in grease for supper.”

Easy Baked Pork Chops in Gravy - Love Bakes Good Cakes

“What are they having for dessert?”

“Probably going to get us to eat those overripe bananas I saw the cranks humping up from the reefer decks. Either that or warm fuckin’ canned apricots.”

“They don’t keep bananas in the reefer.”

“I know, they store em in the reefer decks. Where do you think I have been stealing them from?”

“What’s up with the baker?”

“He’s been working in the galley while a couple of the cooks were on leave. Maybe they will serve some of those stale cakes they bought while we were in port. I’ll be glad when Davy’s back in the bakeshop.”

“I hope they got some good flicks for this trip.” I wonder what they are showing tonight.”

“I saw they had the one where Charleton Heston is a hole snipe pulling an oar in a Roman Light Cruiser while his LBFM is screwing around with some JG named Julius. You know the one where the Chief Snipe walks around with a whip beating the BT’s and MM’s while the CHENG pounds on a drum.”

“I’ll bet the dudes on the flagship don’t have to put up with lousy chow and ancient fuckin’ flicks. I’ll bet they get movies with Natalie Wood and Jayne “Tits” Mansfield while we get this old trash. “

“Why don’t you try for a swap. I’m sure they have some worthless mess crank that you could qualify to trade with. We would probably get the better of that deal.”

“Blow it out your ass.”

“Hey, Joe.”

“Yo, what’s up?”

“You ever get that old Subaru running?”

“Yeah, Voltage regulator.”

“I’ll go in on gas if I can catch a ride to Yokohama next weekend.”

“Sure, halfers on gas and beer.”

“You got it.”

At sea, there was no change in the conversation.

“Who’s drivin’ this son-of-a-bitch? Do they have to find every fuckin’ trough in the Western Pacific? I can’t get my beauty sleep with all this rolling around.”

“Yeah, you fuckin’ Yeomen need your sleep. What do you do stand one watch a day up in the fresh air and sunshine? Come down in the pit and do port and starboard before you bitch about losing sleep.”

“Yeah, you fuckin’ Snipes got it bad. I slave over a hot typewriter all day and then have to stare at the ocean for four hours trying to see something that the Ruderman missed. Fuck a bunch of lookout watches. After a while, you start seeing shit that ain’t there.”

“Why did they build so many of these Fletcher Destroyers?” What, they get a good deal on them?”

“These cans won the war.”

“What, they do it when they weren’t puking?”

“Why do they say set Condition Zebra? Why not Condition Zulu? Zebra went out with WWII.”

“They built the worn-out bastards in the war, probably that’s why.”

“Man, you know what’s wrong with you? No gahdam curiosity!”

“Well if you are so concerned, why don’t you write the CNO and ask him? ‘Dear Admiral Moorer, I’m a worthless son of a bitch on an old rusty assed Fletcher can, and I am losing sleep over why we are setting Zebra instead of Zulu. It is adversely affecting my ability to operate wire brushes and chipping hammers. Please write and satisfy my intellectual curiosity, since I am sure you have nothing better to do. Love Daniels, your next mess crank.’”

“Would you assholes knock it off. I’m trying to study here. The test is next week. Chief told me if I don’t make Third, that I will have to go crankin’ again. How did I get stuck on a ship full of brain dead idiots?”

“You’re just fuckin’ lucky to have us.”

“Hey Dave, does that girl you’re rolling around with up in Yokohama still have that barky little dog?”

“Naw man. It’ dead.”

“What happened? Did somebody poison the yappy little son of a bitch?”

“It run into the street and got hit by a car. She had his nuts snipped about a week before it happened. I figure the poor bastard committed suicide.”

“Jack, somebody told me your old man was a cow farmer.”

“At’s right.”

“Man, that sounds like a racket. Cows stand around eating grass and pooping ‘til they are growed and then you turn ‘em into hamburger. Sweet.”

“It was a dairy farm. We start milking at zero dark thirty. Why I joined the Navy. I get to sleep in ‘til six.”


“Later Dude. Play hearts tonight?”



The Old Navy

The Old Navy

By Unknown

Come gather round me lads and I’ll tell you a thing or two,

About the way we ran the Navy in nineteen sixty two.

When wooden ships and iron men were barely out of sight;…

I am going to give you some facts just to set the record right.

We wore the ol’ bell bottoms, with a Dixie cup or flat hat on our head;

And we always hit the sack at night but we never “went to bed.”

Our uniforms were worn ashore, and we were mighty proud;

Never thought of wearing civvies, in fact, they were not allowed.

Now, when a ship puts out to sea, I’ll tell you son, it hurts;

When suddenly you notice that half the crew’s wearing skirts.

And it’s hard for me to imagine, a female boatswains mate;

Stopping on the Quarterdeck to make sure her stockings are straight.

What happened to the KiYi brush, and the old salt-water bath:

Holy stoning decks at night, ’cause you stirred old Bosn’s wrath!

We always had our gedunk stand and lots of pogey bait;

And it always took a hitch or two, just to make a rate.

In your seabag, all your skivvies were neatly stopped and rolled;

The blankets on your sack had better have a three-inch fold.

Your little ditty bag, it is hard to believe, just how much it held;

You wouldn’t go ashore with pants that hadn’t been spiked and belled.

We had scullery maids and succotash and good old S.O.S.;

And when you felt like topping off, you headed for the mess.

Oh, we had our belly robbers, but there weren’t too many gripes;

For the deck apes were never hungry and there were no starving snipes.

Now, you never hear of Davey Jones, Shellbacks or Polliwogs;

And you never splice the mainbrace to receive your daily grog.

Now you never have to dog a watch or stand the main event;

You even tie your lines today; back in my time they were bent.

We were all two-fisted drinkers and no one thought you sinned;

If you staggered back aboard your ship, three sheets to the wind.

And with just a couple hours of sleep you regained your usual luster;

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, you still made morning muster.

Rocks and shoals have long since gone, and now it’s U.C.M.J.;

Back then, the old man handled everything if you should go astray.

Now they steer the ships with dials, and I wouldn’t be surprised;

If some day they sailed the damned things from the beach computerized.

So, when my earthly hitch is over, and the good Lord picks the best,

I’ll walk right up to Him and say, “Sir, I have but one request.”

Let me sail the seas of Heaven in a coat of Navy blue.

Like I did so long ago on earth, way back in sixty two.”


Captain’s Mast Afloat

Captain’s Mast Afloat

By Garland Davis

RM1 Jernigan (I know, he wouldn’t mind me using his real name for this story) was my friend. I was a twenty-three old kid, way too young to be a First Class Petty Officer and Claude was a thirty-five old First Class Radioman looking forward to retirement in a couple of years. What the hell, the best way I can explain our friendship, I was a cook and he liked to eat. I’ll tell the story the way he told it to me.

“It was 1949 and I was on a Fletcher Class Tin Can rocking and rolling between Taiwan and China. We had been doing the Formosa Straits patrol for a month before we were relieved. After we took on chow from a stores ship and fuel from a tanker, we departed the area for five days in Hong Kong.

The day we pulled in to Hong Kong was a good day for me. I made RM3 for the first time that day, I had a forty-eight, duty the third day, another forty-eight, and almost three paydays in my pocket.

After the first two days, I stood a duty day and then had another forty-eight. I got my days mixed up and missed ship’s movement. As soon as I realized it, I turned my self into the Station ship which was getting underway that morning.

I rode them for a couple of days until we rendezvoused with my ship and I was high lined across. As soon as I stepped on deck and started taking off the life jacket so it could be sent back across, the word was passed over the 1MC, ‘RMSN Jernigan lay to the bridge.’

That was all the formality of my C.O.’s Mast and the first time I made and lost Third…

…but not the last time.”


John Arthur “Jack” Coates

John Arthur “Jack” Coates

By Garland Davis

I recently talked about a Subic Bay icon, Jack Coates. Jack was retired, I think he had been a Boatswain’s Mate and lived there somewhere. I ran into him from time to time in different bars. Every time I saw Jack he was drunk except for the last time.

There was the time I was at the Salakot Beach Resort(?) having a cold one when Jack, his daughter, her LTJG fiancé, and a couple others came in, pushed a couple of tables together and sat down to plan the wedding. The prospective bride announced that the wedding would be in the church at seven in the evening to be followed by a reception at the Marmont.

Jack, in classic Jack moment, said, “Now wait just a fucking minute. You know I’ll be drunk and probably passed out by seven. Why don’t we make it at seven in the morning? I am at my best then after a couple of beers.”

I left after everyone started talking and still don’t know the outcome or if they were able to keep Jack sober long enough to have him at an evening wedding.

I walked into a bar one afternoon and found Jack at the end of the bar talking with one of the hostesses. Jack’s shorts were around his ankles and like everyone in those days, he wasn’t wearing underwear. I said, “Jack, what the hell are you doing?”

Jack, standing there with his dick flopping in the wind, yelled, “Bartender, give the Stewburner a beer. Hey Stewburner, I’m just familiarizing this girl with the gear she is going to be working with later.”

A couple years later, I was in an FF. We were moored at the Shipyard piers in Subic Bay. The Shipyard had Security gates limiting access to the area. I was on the way out passing through the gate when the guard on duty said, “Hey, Stewburner, long time, no see.”

I was wondering who this was talking to me. Looking closer, I saw a sober, healthy-looking Jack. I asked, “Jack is that you? What happened to the Jack Coates that we all knew?”

Jack said, “Well this Joe broke into my house, so I went to the Exchange and bought me one of those hard plastic kid’s baseball bats to beat the fuck out of him if he tried again.”

“I’m having a hard time following Jack.”

“Wait, I got married to this nineteen-year-old girl and knocked her up. I went home drunk the day she found out she was pregnant. She told me about having the baby. Then she told me I was going to quit drinking and be a husband and father to the kid. I laughed at her. That is when she beat the fuck out of me with that Goddamned baseball bat. After that every time I started drinking, she would track me down and beat me with that fucking bat. So, I quit drinking and had so much time on my hands that I got this job.”

That was the last time I saw Jack Coates!


Baby Oil

Baby Oil

By Garland Davis

I was serving in USS Ponchatoula. We had been in Subic for a couple of weeks waiting for a generator part. I was staying at a shipmate’s place at Baloy Beach. It was about nine on a Saturday morning and I was sitting at the open-air canteen a couple houses down from my friend’s place nursing my second ice cold Pepsi in a feeble attempt to cure the raging hangover that was about to cause my imminent demise. I felt so bad that I was sure I would have to get better to die.

As I sat there in my misery a Tricycle cab came down the dirt track running along the beach. The passengers were a couple of alcohol sodden reprobates who peopled the Barrio. The tricycle came to a stop by the canteen and they climbed out and came to the bar where I was sitting. Jack Coates looked at me and said, “What tha fuck are you doing drinking that shit, Stewburner?” Then to the girl behind the counter, “Give us three San Miguel’s,”

The young lady delivered the beer, he pushed one to his companion and the other to me. I said, “Jack, I’m drinking Pepsi this morning.”

Jack grabbed my Pepsi bottle and threw it across the road and onto the beach. He said, in a loud voice, “Stewburner, when I’m drinking beer, ever body is drinking beer!”

You can’t argue with logic like that, so I faced the San Miguel, not knowing whether I could keep it down. I took a drink and surprisingly it went down really well. I turned the bottle up and drank half of it down. I could feel the healing starting almost immediately.

The retired Gunner’s Mate with Jack ordered another round as the girl came back to the canteen after rescuing the bottle from the beach. This second one went down much easier and I was feeling better by the minute. Jack waved for another round and told the girl, “He’s paying,” pointing to me.

I said, “Wait a minute.” Not that I was unwilling to pay for another round, I was just pulling Jack’s chain.

Jack said, “Now Damnit Stewburner, you know that when I’m payin’ ever body is fuckin’ payin’.

I knew the healing was happening. I could laugh again. So, I took a bite of the third San Miguel and it was better than the second one. A couple more and the healing process would be complete. As the canteen girl was opening the fourth, a very pretty girl wearing a bikini that was small enough to be folded up and carried in the watch pocket of my Levi’s came to the canteen,

got a beer and carrying it, a towel, and a bottle of baby oil walked across the street, spread the towel, and began applying the baby oil while she sipped from the bottle.

I asked, “Jack who is that?”

Jack replied, “She is staying with the guy that lives there.” (I knew him. He was in the submarine homeported in Subic.) His boat was at sea and had been gone a couple of weeks.”

I ordered four beers on the next round, picked up two of them and walked across the street, sat down beside the blanket, handed one of the icy bottles to the girl. About fifteen minutes later, I made a trip back to the canteen for two more beers as she shook out the towel and met me at the street as we walked to her house.

After about an hour I walked out to the canteen to get a couple more beers.

Jack yelled, “Come here boy and let me smell yo breath. I bet yo breath smells like baby oil!”

No doubt about it!


Prize Money

Prize Money

By Garland Davis

The awarding of prize money to the crews of capturing ships equal to the value of the ship and cargo of captured prizes. The last prize money paid to a U.S. Navy ship was paid to the crew of USS Omaha CL-4 in 1947 for capture and salvage of the German Raider Odenwald in 1941 prior to U.S. entrance into WWII.

Prize money has a distinct meaning in warfare, especially naval warfare, where it was a monetary reward paid out under prize law to the crew of a ship for capturing or sinking an enemy vessel. The claims for the bounty are usually heard in a Prize Court.

This article covers the arrangements of the British Royal Navy, but similar arrangements were used in the navies of other nations, and existed in the British Army and other armies, especially when a city had been taken by storm.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, captured ships were legally Crown property. In order to reward and encourage sailors’ zeal at no cost to the Crown, it became customary to pass on all or part of the value of a captured ship and its cargo to the capturing captain for distribution to his crew. (Similarly, all belligerents of the period issued Letters of Marque and Reprisal to civilian privateers, authorizing them to make war on enemy shipping; as payment, the privateer sold off the captured booty.)

This practice was formalized via the Cruisers and Convoys Act of 1708. An Admiralty Prize Court was established to evaluate claims and condemn prizes, and the scheme of division of the money was specified. This system, with minor changes, lasted throughout the colonial, Revolutionary, and Napoleonic Wars.

If the prize were an enemy merchantman, the prize money came from the sale of both ship and cargo. If it were a warship, and repairable, usually the Crown bought it at a fair price; additionally, the Crown added: “head money” of 5 pounds per enemy sailor aboard the captured warship. Prizes were keenly sought, for the value of a captured ship was often such that a crew could make a year’s pay for a few hours’ fighting. Hence boarding and hand-to-hand fighting remained common long after naval cannons developed the ability to sink the enemy from afar.

All ships in sight of a capture shared in the prize money, as their presence was thought to encourage the enemy to surrender without fighting until sunk.

The distribution of prize money to the crews of the ships involved persisted until 1918. Then the Naval Prize Act changed the system to one where the prize money was paid into a common fund from which a payment was made to all naval personnel whether or not they were involved in the action. In 1945 this was further modified to allow for the distribution to be made to Royal Air Force (RAF) personnel who had been involved in the capture of enemy ships; however, prize claims had been awarded to pilots and observers of the Royal Naval Air Service since c. 1917, and later the RAF.

The following scheme for distribution of prize money was used for much of the Napoleonic wars, the heyday of prize warfare. The allocation was by eighths. Two-eighths of the prize money went to the captain or commander, generally propelling him upwards in political and financial circles. One-eighth of the money went to the admiral or commander-in-chief who signed the ship’s written orders (unless the orders came directly from the Admiralty in London, in which case this eighth also went to the captain). One eighth was divided among the lieutenants, sailing master, and captain of marines if any. One eighth was divided among the wardroom warrant officers (surgeon, purser, and chaplain), standing warrant officers (carpenter, boatswain, and gunner), lieutenant of marines, and the master’s mates. One eighth was divided among the junior warrant and petty officers, their mates, sergeants of marines, captain’s clerk, surgeon’s mates, and midshipmen. The final two-eighths were divided among the crew, with able and specialist seamen receiving larger shares than ordinary seamen, landsmen, and boys. The pool for the seamen was divided into shares, with each able seaman getting two shares in the pool (referred to as a fifth-class share), an ordinary seaman received a share and a half (referred to as a sixth-class share), landsmen received a share each (a seventh-class share), and boys received a half share each (referred to as an eighth-class share).

Perhaps the greatest amount of prize money awarded was for the capture of the Spanish frigate Hermione on 31 May 1762 by the British frigate Active and sloop Favourite. The two captains, Herbert Sawyer, and Philemon Pownoll received about £65,000 apiece, while each seaman and Marine got £482–485.

The prize money from the capture of the Spanish frigates Thetis and Santa Brigada in October 1799, £652,000, was split up among the crews of four British frigates, with each captain being awarded £40,730 and the Seamen each receiving £182 4s 9¾d or the equivalent of 10 years’ pay.In January 1807, the frigate Caroline took the Spanish ship San Rafael as a prize, netting Captain Peter Rainier £52,000.

The crewmen of USS Omaha hold the distinction of being the last American sailors to receive prize money, for capturing the German freighter Odenwald on 6 November 1941, just before America’s entry into World War II, though the money would not be awarded until 1947.

Even though the hunt for the “raider” had been unsuccessful it ultimately proved to not be entirely fruitless. On 6 November, Omaha and Somers, were en route back to Recife, returning from a patrol in the equatorial waters of the Atlantic, smoke was spotted on the horizon. Captain Theodore E. Chandler, Omaha‘s commander, put her on an intercept course with the sighting. As Omaha approached the ship, which was flying US colors with the name Willmoto, out of Philadelphia, identifying her on her stern, she began taking evasive action. While multiple attempts were made to signal the merchant ship, they either went unanswered or they were given suspicious responses. Omaha‘s lookouts also reported that many of the crew visible on the deck of the ship were un-American in appearance.

The ship, which identified herself as Willmoto, did not satisfactorily identify herself to the American warships. After ordering “Willmoto” to heave to, Omaha‘s captain dispatched an armed boarding party. At 05:37 Lieutenant George K. Carmichael, along with the boarding party, began to make way for the vessel. Around this time, the merchant hoisted the signal flags “Fox Mike”, indicating that the ship was sinking and that they required assistance. Two distinct explosions could be heard within the ship when the boarding party began to climb the ship’s ladder. In an attempt to leave the sinking ship, several of the crew had lowered lifeboats, but Lt. Carmichael ordered them to return to the ship. At 05:58, Carmichael signaled to Omaha that the ship was indeed a German ship and that the crew had attempted to scuttle her. She was identified as Odenwald, a German blockade runner and that her holds were filled with 3,857 tons of rubber, along with 103 B. F. Goodrich truck tires and sundry other cargo that totaled 6,223 tons.

Omaha crew members posing on the deck of Odenwald

A diesel engine specialist was brought over from Somers‘s crew to assist with the repairs and prevent Odenwald‘s sinking. Omaha‘s SOC floatplanes and Somers guarded the area while the boarding party made Odenwald seaworthy. With repairs finished the three ships set course for Port of Spain, Trinidad, to avoid possible difficulties with the government of Brazil.

Omaha arrived at Port of Spain, on 17 November 1941, with Odenwald flying the German flag on the mast with the US flag flying over it. It was not until 30 April 1947, that a case was brought by Odenwald‘s owners in the District Court for Puerto Rico, against the US. Their claim stated that because a state of war between the United States and Germany did not exist at the time of capture the vessel could not be taken as a prize or bounty. The court, however, given the fact that Odenwald was rescued from sinking by the US crew, declared that the seizing of the ship was defined as a legal salvage operation. The US was awarded the profits that were made from Odenwald and her cargo. All the men of the original boarding party received $3,000 each, while the rest of the crewmen in Omaha and Somers, at the time, were entitled to two months’ pay and allowances. The laws have since been revised, making this the last time that US Navy members received such an award.



An Untrue Tale of CV-63 and CV-64

An Untrue Tale of CV-63 and CV-64

By Garland Davis

I heard many stories about ships that I served in that were hard to believe. This one was told to me when I was mess cooking ass an SA. I had no reason not to believe it.

I had heard the story for years that the names and hull numbers of USS Kitty Hawk CV63 and USS Constellation CV64 were swapped because of a fire on Constellation during the building of the ship at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Kitty Hawk was built at the same time in Camden New Jersey. The story has it that CV63 was the ship being built in Brooklyn and CV64 was being built in New Jersey. The story goes that the Names and Hull Numbers were switched to ensure that Kitty Hawk would be commissioned before Constellation. There is no truth to the legend. Kitty Hawk was commissioned on 29 April 1961 and Constellation was commissioned on 27 October 1961.


The supercarrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63), formerly CVA-63, was the second naval ship named after Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the site of the Wright brothers’ first powered airplane flight. Kitty Hawk was both the first and last active ship of her class, and the last oil-fired aircraft carrier in service with the United States Navy.

Kitty Hawk was laid down by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation, Camden, New Jersey, on 27 December 1956. The ship was launched on 21 May 1960, sponsored by Mrs. Camilla F. McElroy, wife of Defense Secretary Neil H. McElroy. Kitty Hawk was launched by flooding her drydock; the conventional slide down method was ruled out because of her mass and the risk that she might hit the Philadelphia shore on the far side of the Delaware River.

The ship was commissioned 29 April 1961, at Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, Captain William F. Bringle in command.

With the decommissioning of Independence on 30 September 1998, Kitty Hawk became the United States warship with the second-longest active status, after the sailing ship USS Constitution. (Enterprise passed her in 2012; these two aircraft carriers were two of the three carriers to fly the First Navy Jack.)

For 10 years, Kitty Hawk was the forward-deployed carrier at Yokosuka Naval Base in Yokosuka, Japan. In October 2008, she was replaced in this role by George Washington. Kitty Hawk then returned to the United States and had her decommissioning ceremony on 31 January 2009. She was officially decommissioned on 12 May 2009 after almost 49 years of service. Kitty Hawk was replaced by George H.W. Bush. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 20 October 2017 and will be dismantled.

Constellation after the fire in the building dock

USS Constellation (CV-64), a Kitty Hawk-class Super Carrier, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named in honor of the “new constellation of stars” on the flag of the United States. One of the fastest ships in the Navy, as proven by her victory during a battlegroup race held in 1985, she was nicknamed “Connie” by her crew and officially as “America’s Flagship”.

The contract to build Constellation was awarded to the New York Naval Shipyard Brooklyn, New York, on 1 July 1956, and her keel was laid down 14 September 1957 at the New York Navy Yard. She was launched 8 October 1960, sponsored by Mary Herter (wife of Secretary of State Christian Herter). Constellation was delivered to the Navy 1 October 1961, and commissioned on 27 October 1961, with Captain T. J. Walker in command. At that time, she had cost about US$264.5 million. Constellation was the last U.S. aircraft carrier (as of 2016) to be built at a yard other than Newport News Shipbuilding & Drydock Company. Constellation was scrapped at Brownsville, Texas, in 2015–2017.

USS Constellation was heavily damaged by fire while under construction on 19 December 1960. The carrier was in the final stages of construction at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York when the fire began.

The fire broke out when a forklift operating on the hangar deck accidentally pushed its cargo into a steel plate knocking it over. The plate then broke off the plug of a 500 US gallons (1,900 l; 420 imp gal) tank of diesel fuel which spilled from the container reaching the lower levels of the ship. The fuel was ignited perhaps by a cutting torch of a fitter and then moved to a wooden scaffolding. The flames spread quickly filling the passageways of the ship with smoke. A Navy commander commented on the nature of the ship’s design at an inquiry, “Ships of this class are the most complex structures ever designed by man.

It took 17 hours for firefighters to extinguish the fire, some of whom had been “driven to the raw edge of exhaustion” after being called into service in the Park Slope air accident. The firefighters saved hundreds of lives without losing any of their own, however, fifty shipyard workers perished. The extensive damage cost 75 million dollars to repair, and delayed the commissioning date by seven months, leading to a rumor that the ship that had burned in New York was Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and the fire caused the Navy to change the names and hull number designations between the two sister ships that were being built simultaneously in separate shipyards in separate states. An abstract of a New York Times article from the day after the fire, 20 December 1960, refers to the ship as USS Constellation.


Have You Seen

Have You Seen

By Garland Davis

Have you seen

The flying fish’s rush to escape the looming gray predator

The graceful dolphins playfully pacing the bow for hours

The wakes foam straight and true from the past

The sun setting with a great red gleaming westward

The pale moon rising astern with a silver glow

The millions of stars dazzling a darkening sky

And realize that it is everything.

I have…