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!!




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.



The Battle of the Coral Sea

The Battle of the Coral Sea

May 4, 1942 – The battle of the Coral Sea, a four-day naval battle between the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and the Allied naval and air forces of the United States and Australia, begins. This action is historically significant as the first action in which aircraft carriers engaged each other, as well as the first in which the opposing ships neither sighted nor fired directly upon one another and as the first blockage of the steady Japanese advance since Pearl Harbor six months earlier.

In an attempt to strengthen their defensive position in the South Pacific and control the Coral Sea, the Japanese decided to invade and occupy Port Moresby (in New Guinea) and Tulagi (in the southeastern Solomon Islands). The plan to accomplish this was called Operation MO and involved several major units of Japan’s Combined Fleet. These included two fleet carriers and a light carrier to provide air cover for the invasion forces. Japanese forces were under the overall command of Japanese Admiral Shigeyoshi Inoue.

The U.S. learned of the Japanese plan through signals intelligence and sent two United States Navy carrier task forces and a joint Australian-U.S. cruiser force to oppose the offensive. These were under the overall command of U.S. Admiral Frank J. Fletcher. On 3–4 May, Japanese forces successfully invaded and occupied Tulagi, although several of their supporting warships were sunk or damaged in surprise attacks by aircraft from the U.S. fleet carrier Yorktown. Now aware of the presence of U.S. carriers in the area, the Japanese fleet carriers advanced towards the Coral Sea intending to locate and destroy the Allied naval forces. On the evening of 6 May, the direction chosen for air searches by the opposing commanders brought the two carrier forces to within 70 nmi (81 mi; 130 km) of each other, unbeknownst to both sides. Beginning on 7 May, the carrier forces from the two sides engaged in airstrikes over two consecutive days. On the first day, both groups mistakenly believed they were attacking their opponent’s fleet carriers but were actually attacking other units, with the U.S. sinking the Japanese light carrier Shōhō while the Japanese sank a U.S. destroyer and heavily damaged a fleet oiler (which was later scuttled). The next day, the fleet carriers found and engaged each other, with the Japanese fleet carrier Shōkaku heavily damaged, the U.S. fleet carrier Lexington critically wounded (and later scuttled), and Yorktown damaged. With both sides having suffered heavy losses in aircraft and vital aircraft carriers damaged or sunk, the two forces disengaged and retired from the battle area. Because of the loss of carrier air cover, Inoue recalled the Port Moresby invasion fleet, intending to try again later, but never did.

Although a tactical victory for the Japanese in terms of ships sunk, the battle would prove to be a strategic victory for the Allies for several reasons. The battle marked the first time since the start of the war that a significant Japanese advance had been checked by the Allies. More importantly, the Japanese fleet carriers Shōkaku and Zuikaku—the former damaged and the latter with a depleted aircraft complement—were unable to participate in the Battle of Midway the following month, while Yorktown did participate, ensuring a rough parity in aircraft between the two adversaries and contributing significantly to the U.S. victory in that battle. The severe losses in carriers at Midway prevented the Japanese from reattempting to invade Port Moresby from the ocean and helped prompt their ill-fated land offensive over the Kokoda Track. Two months later, the Allies took advantage of Japan’s resulting strategic vulnerability in the South Pacific and launched the Guadalcanal Campaign; this, along with the New Guinea Campaign, eventually broke Japanese defenses in the South Pacific and was a significant contributing factor to Japan’s ultimate surrender in World War II.

The US/Australian forces had 1 fleet carrier damaged then scuttled, 1 destroyer sunk, 1 oiler sunk, 1 fleet carrier damaged, 69 aircraft destroyed, and 656 killed. The Japanese lost 1 light carrier sunk, 1 destroyer sunk, 3 small warships sunk, 1 fleet carrier damaged, 1 destroyer damaged, 1 smaller warship damaged, 1 transport damaged, 92 aircraft destroyed and 966 killed.



Jim Beam and Holy Water

Jim Beam and Holy Water

By Garland Davis

I’ve got a bottle of Jim Beam but no ice and no water to mix with it. It is late and the stores are all closed. I hate drinking it straight. So, here I am walking the street by the pale glow of antiquated street lights. Here is the Chapel Center.

I could go it\n any pray for water, but I have a better idea.

Do you think the Chaplain will get mad if I borrow some Holy Water?




After the capitulation of Imperial Germany in November 1918, the surviving warships of the German Navy were removed to England for internment. US naval engineers recognized the advances German technology had achieved and were keen to get their hands on some of the Kaiser’s submarines. And as part of the armistice negotiations, six interned U-boats were allotted to the United States as booty of war. Stipulations required that these boats be destroyed within one year, and, at least publicly, they were authorized to be used only in a government campaign to promote the sale of Victory Bonds.

On 23 March 1919 twelve US Navy officers and 120 men arrived in Harwich, England, to take possession of our U-boats. All six were commissioned into the United States Navy under their German designations and grouped into a special squadron, the Ex-German Submarine Expeditionary Force. American sailors began a crash course in U-boat handling and completed preparations to get underway. USS U-164 proved too badly damaged to be made seaworthy, and at the last minute a seventh boat, U-111, was substituted in her place. On April 3rd USS U-117, UB-88, UB-148 and UC-97 put to sea. In company with the tender BUSHNELL (AS-2), they steamed to Ponta Delgada in the Azores and thence to Bermuda and New York City. U-140 had preceded the others out of port by a few days but broke down at sea and had to be towed to New York. U-111’s crew worked feverishly to get her underway on April 7th.

Upon its arrival, this day the squadron was deluged by New York’s citizens, newsmen, tourists, photographers, civilian and Navy engineers. From there they immediately embarked on the Victory Bond campaign, being dispersed to various ports along the US coast (while our Navy quietly conducted extensive evaluations and testing). The public saw these prizes of war as the material embodiment of American military prowess and throngs of the curious lined up at each port. UC-97, a minelaying sub, proceeded into the Great Lakes under LCDR Charles A. Lockwood (future WWII SubPacFlt commander) where she weathered a minor scrape with Canada over protocol. USS UB-88, a small coastal sub, drew the longest itinerary. She started the Victory Bond tour from Savannah and visited ports from Florida to New Orleans. From here she cruised up the Mississippi to Memphis, then turned south to the Texas coast. Transiting the Panama Canal, she reached San Diego on August 29th. She promoted bonds as far as Bremerton then was laid up at San Pedro on 6 November. Dismantling commenced on all six in 1920, all were ultimately expended as targets. Even in this last role, they earned fame. U-111 and U-117 were sunk in BGEN Billy Mitchell’s first demonstrations of naval aerial bombing in 1921.

CAPT James Bloom, Ret.





By Ken Ritter

Akihito and Empress Michiko Shoda

Japan’s Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako

I am about to start on my third era in Japan marked by a historical event, the first abdication of an Emperor in over 200 years.

I arrived in Iwakuni in 1964, or “Showa” 39 by the Japanese calendar, (the 39th year of Emperor Hirohito’s reign), and I was driving to work at Atsugi in 1989 when the radio announced the death of Emperor Hirohito, ending the “Showa Era”, and the accession to the Throne of Emperor Akihito, starting the “Heisei Era”

For those of you who may not be aware of this, Japan is the only country in the world still using Chinese-style imperial calendars. It might be 2019 in much of the world, but officially, in Japan, it is Heisei 31, or the 31st year of Emperor Akihito’s reign.

Early this evening, Emperor Akihito will enter the imperial palace’s stateroom and, in the presence of the grand chamberlain, the prime minister, and other senior politicians, become the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in more than 200 years.

At the end of a ceremony lasting just 10 minutes and steeped in the rituals of Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion, the Heisei era, which began with Akihito’s succession in January 1989, will come to an abrupt end.

Late tomorrow morning, his eldest son, Naruhito, will enter the same room and inherit a sword, a jewel, and a mirror – three “sacred treasures” said to have been bequeathed to the imperial line by the mythical sun goddess Amaterasu, and which serve as proof of his accession to the throne. In keeping with their mythological status, the regalia will remain hidden in boxes even when they are handed to the new emperor.

Shortly after, dressed in multiple layers of silk robes and a black headdress, the 126th occupant of the chrysanthemum throne will read a short statement setting the tone for his reign. The prime minister, Shinzō Abe, will welcome his accession on behalf of the Japanese people.

Naruhito’s reign will be called Reiwa, a term with multiple meanings, including “order and peace,” “auspicious harmony” and “joyful harmony,” according to scholars quoted in the local news media.

Naruhito is slated to become the 126th emperor of the world’s oldest monarchy.

The current imperial era known as Heisei — roughly translated as “achieving peace” — was chosen the day that Akihito’s father, the wartime emperor Hirohito, died.