HARDHAT HEROISM

HARDHAT HEROISM

September of 1925 had been a bad month for our Navy. Early in the month, a Navy flying boat carrying CDR John Rodgers on the first trans-Pacific solo flight from California to Hawaii disappeared. With Rodgers still missing, the Navy’s impressively massive airship SHENANDOAH (ZR-1) crashed in a storm over Ohio killing her commander, LCDR Zachary Lansdowne, and 13 others. Thirty-two more sailors died on 25 September when S-51 (SS-162) accidentally collided with a commercial freighter off Block Island and sank. Public dismay in the face of these disasters demanded action, and though the technology of the day was inadequate to the task, an effort to recover S-51 and her entombed crewmen was begun.

CDR Edward Ellsberg headed the salvage team, but the mass of the sub and the 130-foot depth to which she had sunken was beyond the capacity of crane derricks to lift. So, Ellsberg hatched the idea of running steel cables under the sub to form a sling, then lifting it with six air-filled pontoons. To sling the cables, hardhat divers would have to tunnel under the sub as she lay on the hard blue-clay bottom. The tunneling operation was laboriously slow as the divers were encumbered by bulky suits, heavy gloves, murky water and a weak fire hose for digging. Divers worked in pairs, one headlong in the tunnel, the other assisting outside. By early May a twelve-foot tunnel only large enough to admit a prone diver coursed under the sub’s port side. The morning of May 10th found seaman Francis Smith twenty minutes into his hour-long digging shift, deep out of sight in the dark tunnel.

“I’m in a very bad position, Mr. Ellsberg,” came a message over Smith’s phone to the surface. “Should I turn off the [fire hose]?” queried his line tenders. “For God’s sake keep it going!” yelled Smith, “The tunnel has caved in behind me!” Diver Joseph Eiben, working aft, was directed to assist, but it had taken weeks of digging to advance the tunnel to Smith’s location. Now he lay buried beyond any conceivable rescue! A pang of dread gripped everyone. Minutes slipped by. All stood helpless. Smith’s labored breathing could be heard over his telephone.

A second hose was hastily rigged and dropped to Eiben. Then unexpectedly, Smith signaled from the mouth of the tunnel. Entrapped in a coffin-sized shaft, Smith had managed to manipulate his hose in between his legs. Inching his way feet-first and backward, Smith had excavated his own escape! “I’m all right now, Joe. You go on back to your own job,” Smith was heard to say to his partner. He sat a few minutes near the sub catching his breath, then picked up his hose and turned to the black hole from which moments before he had escaped only by the grace of God.

Sometimes heroism occurs in quiet solitude. No act of bravery in the heat of battle outshines Smith’s deliberate return to his task this day, in the face of death, deep in the cold Atlantic.

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Sea Fever

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

 

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

 

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

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Alcohol

Alcohol

I can vouch for the quality of this medicine………….and some of its side effects!

I do not understand why prescription medicine is allowed to advertise on TV or why anyone would think of trying one of the medicines after listening to the laundry list of possible side effects. But this is definitely an exception!

Do you have feelings of inadequacy?

Do you suffer from shyness?

Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?

Do you sometimes feel stressed?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist about Alcohol.

Alcohol is a safe, natural way to feel better and become more confident. It can help ease you out of your shyness and let you tell the world that you are ready and willing to do just about anything.

You will notice the benefits of Alcohol almost immediately, and, with a regimen of regular doses, you will overcome obstacles that prevent you from living the life you want.

Shyness and awkwardness will be a thing of the past.

You will discover talents you never knew you had..

Alcohol may not be right for everyone.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use it, but women who would not mind nursing, or becoming pregnant, are encouraged to try it.

Side effects may include:

dizziness, nausea, vomiting, incarceration, loss of motor control, loss of clothing, loss of money, delusions of grandeur, table dancing, headache, dehydration, dry mouth and a desire to sing Karaoke and play all-night Strip Poker, Truth Or Dare and Naked Twister. If you experience any of these, see your Primary Bartender.

Warnings:

The consumption of Alcohol may make you think you are whispering when you are not.

The consumption of Alcohol may cause you to tell your friends over and over again that you love them.

The consumption of Alcohol may cause you to think you can sing.

The consumption of Alcohol may cause you to think you can dance.

The consumption of Alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster and better looking than most people.

The consumption of Alcohol in the form of Gin will double the beneficial and detrimental effects.

Please feel free to share this important medical information!

…and remember…

It is always five o’clock somewhere!

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BEER

BEER

By Jim “Hambone” Hampton

I don’t drink anymore due to stupendous hangovers and the fact I am a Diabetic.

But back when I did.

I was Stationed in Kingsville Texas.

A Buddy and I went from Baseball practice to a Beer Joint close to my house.

An Airman had come with my Buddy. He was 21 but got carded anyway.

We ordered three beers and when they got there we ordered 3 more. It was 96 degrees.

We had drunk six beers pretty damn quick.

I noticed the Airman had drunk one and was holding a full one.

Now I was twenty=seven. I drank a bottle of beer in two swallows. So my buds grabbed one and so did I. We got the Airman caught up.

We were there for about an hour. We had about 12 bears each. The Airman had 4.

I peed and we left. I walked home. Only a couple hundred yards.

My buddy came up to my office the next Morning and told me the Airman puked out his window all the way back to the base. He told his Airman friends to never go drinking with those two crazy Sumbitches.

Now you WESPAC Vets know, drinking 12 beers ain’t nothing. We would buy a bottle of our favorite Booze and Drink that and Kirin Beer in Japan and San Magoos in the Philippines. Hong Kong and Taiwan it depends on where you went on beer.

But consuming lots of beer and half a Quart of your favorite booze was a normal night’s Liberty. And be able to function after. If you get my drift.

Oh, Shipmates, those were the good old days!

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A Sailor’s Remembrance

A Sailor’s Remembrance

By AFCM Robert “Okie Bob” Layton, USN Ret

I have seen the flying fish skip off the bow wake of pristine waters. Beheld the flat ocean from horizon to horizon filled with jumping pods of dolphins a thousand strong.

In cold grey waters, I have manned the rails as whales broadcast their haunting echo, penetrating in the dense fog, while the sea buoys proclaimed safe passage into port.

I can attest to the rafts of entangled sea snakes and have wondered at the glow of Fluorescent Plankton on a pitch dark night. I have stood and watched petrified, as sharks shadow the waterline… patrolling for a meal.

I have viewed chattering flocks of gulls and paid homage to the lost souls of sailors by saluting the gawky albatross.

I have traversed the oceans under the celestial heavens with the Little Dipper in one realm and the Southern Cross in the other.

After months at sea I have smelled the fragrance of land and once on Terra Firma walked with that tilted balance of a sailor whose sea legs were still a sway.

I have made wishes on a thousand shooting stars, marveled at streaking comets, been staggered by the vastness of the milky way.

I have witnessed eclipsing blood moons and been dazzled by brilliant meteor showers.

I have observed moonbows under a silvery Luna and witnessed double and triple rainbows.

I have seen the total eclipse of the midday sun and have been delightfully captivated by the Aurora borealis.

I have faced the east as the red skies emerged in the morning and gazed in awe at ten thousand spectacular sunsets.

I have stumbled upon dancing “St Elmo’s fires”, late day “Sun Dogs” and setting sun “Green Flashes”

I have Voyaged to countless islands and countries, explored the realm of Neptune, partaken in alien customs, consumed exotic foods and drink. Trekked into the landscape and explored the unfamiliar countryside.

I have stood on hostile and friendly shores, visited ancient and modern structures, marveled at the wonders of man and have been ashamed by the atrocities mankind has caused, yet still remained proud at the gracious kindness that can be given in a time of need.

I have observed towering thunderstorms, cooling rain squalls, waterspouts, and glassy blue peaceful oceans with white sandy beaches.

I have experienced twists of nature, rogue waves, snowstorms, dust storms, volcanic ash, high winds, and heavy seas, and cloudless blue skies with still blue waters so perfect you could not distinguish the horizon.

I have been humbled by angry eighty-foot swells and anxiously rode out one hundred knot typhoons, melted in humid tropical heat and shivered in the bone-chilling arctic air.

I have watched as the ocean claimed souls, men swept overboard never to return and men recovered when there was no hope. I have swum in warm unspoiled waters. Borne witness to unthinkable infected harbors. And saw the deep blue sea…

I have felt the excitement of discovering unknown locations with the anticipation of new adventures. The joys of returning home, the sadness of leaving, the pain of losing good friends and the jubilation of reuniting with old ones.

I have traveled the seven seas and circle navigated the earth. I have served with the finest company of shipmates, enduring the hardships and enjoying the good times together.

Now I watch as my waves disperse… I contemplate ….my wake left behind no permanent trails, just everlasting memories.

The memories I treasure, of the comradely of shipmates having experienced the same ordeals. The sacrifice, pain and joy, the willingness to serve one’s country.

The Pride and Traditions we kept on our watch are now passed on to the next collection of maritime neophytes. May they have fair winds and following seas!

That was our wake—- our legacy!

Would I do it again?

You bet your ass——- in a hot running minute!!

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Jack

Jack

By Michael Newman, USS Proteus, late 80’s

You *know* “Jack” – There was a “Jack” in some shop or other – on just about every Tender, at least most of the time…]

I served on the USS Proteus in Guam as a pipe fitter in the pipe shop in the late 80’s. We had some really challenging Ship alterations and re-piping that had to be done on all of the 688’s that came to Guam and this alteration was one for the memory books.

One of the cockiest, most full of himself HT’s that I ever had the privilege to serve with happened to be the leading petty officer on this re-fit. He was the type that never listened to anyone and always had to do the work himself. We were working 12-on-12-off and luckily we had the night shift so we did not have to deal with as many “obstructions” along the way. Well, this Petty Officer (I will call him Jack) checked out all of the certified pipe we required and after securing all of the proper systems and getting all of the permissions needed, we started to cut out the old hydraulic piping so that we could get started. We had to take the plans and create 2 new “T’s” in the same area. Well, Jack went about barking orders and myself and another HT made all of the proper cuts, had it dry fitted and after it cleared inspection, we were ready to get started. We all were very good at using mirrors to get the backside of pipes welded but Jack decided that he would have a better view if he climbed in behind the pipes. We re-fit everything cleaned the joints, and fluxed it all up and were ready to go. Jack decided that he would do ALL of the torch work by himself so we sat down and watched the “master” at work. We did end up brazing the front of the joints for him as we went.

Well, as we finished the job, my friend and I looked at each other and thought…”how in the heck is Jack going to get out with all of these hot pipes?” Well, after looking at his situation, Jack decided there was no getting out until the pipes cooled. We waited for hours (chuckling all the time) for them to cool down. By this time our Chief had come down to check on us and watched as Jack tried in vain to squeeze out of his situation. He turned upside down, sideways, took off his shirt and pants to try to get out. We even tried to use butter to “grease him up” but not a chance. He had welded himself in and was NOT getting out.

By now the night shift acting R-Division officer had been brought down and had gone to get the XO of the Sub. They had watched the last 30 minutes from a short distance and just stood there shaking their heads. When we told him that there was no chance of his getting out, The CO of the boat was called and the XO of the Proteus was awakened. Not looking good for us.

There we stood, with all of the brass in our little world, 3:00 in the morning, explaining what we had to do. We were starting to say that we had to cut out the top “T” to get Jack out and the CO of the Sub busted out laughing. He said that this was the funniest thing he had ever seen in his career in the Navy. With Jack standing there all buttered up sweating and looking like he had just tried to scrape off all of the skin on his back, it was just too much. We all let loose after that. All but Jack of course.

We ended up cutting the pipe and helping him out. The next shift had to finish the job. His little screw-up probably cost the Navy eight to ten thousand dollars in time and certified piping but MAN what a way to go down in flames. After that Jake never was quite the same cocky HT as he was before.

 

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