IJNS Hiei

IJNS Hiei

A team of researchers from the organization started by billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen found the wreck of the first Japanese battleship sunk by the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The Imperial Japanese Navy ship Hiei was found lying upside down on the sea floor about 2,952 feet below the surface, more than 76 years after sinking in waters northwest of Savo Island in the Solomon Islands chain, according to an Instagram release from the team aboard research vessel (R/V) Petrel.

During the battle of Guadalcanal on Nov. 13 and 14, 1942, Hiei was part of a Japanese task force that engaged in close-range battles with U.S. Navy ships led by Rear Adm. Daniel J. Callaghan aboard the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco (CA-38), according to the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.

At one point during the battle, which was waged during the middle of the night, Hiei almost collided with U.S. destroyer USS Laffey (DD-459). The two ships fired on each other as they passed within 20 feet of each other, according to Naval History and Heritage Command.

Laffey would sink during the battle. Hiei is believed to have been severely damaged by salvos fired from San Francisco, which also received critical damage, including a hit to the bridge that killed Callaghan, his staff, and ship commanding officer Capt. Cassin Young.

By daybreak, Hiei was reported 30 miles northeast of Savo with “forward turrets smoking and aft turrets dangling,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. A light cruiser and four destroyers reportedly accompanied Hiei as it steamed away.

Multiple sorties of Grumman TBF Avenger torpedo-bombers, Douglass SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and Grumman F4F Wildcat fighters flew from USS Enterprise (CV-6). Even a B-17, flying from the island of Espiritu Santo, dropped a 500-pound bomb on Hiei, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Hiei was reportedly last seen by U.S. Navy forces at 6 p.m., about five miles northwest of Savo, on fire and offloading crew to three Japanese destroyers nearby. The battleship sank at some point during the night, with 188 crew members killed in action.

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Pucker Factor

Pucker Factor

By Glenn Hendricks

Those times when the shit hits the vent and everything puckers up.

So, 1974, steaming from Singapore to the IO, in the Malacca Straight 18 hours out of Singapore. One boiler online, cruising at 70 turns. BTs are on 4&12 since they’re only running one of the three boilers on the AFS. MMs with a 4&8 4 man watch bill. MMOW, Throttles, Messenger/upper level, and lower level. I recall the EEOW was the A gang MMC

I’m on throttles and sound powered phones. Around 2330 the Bridge talker says to me “OOD says standby to answer all bells”

No shit Sherlock. We’re steaming, underway and all that. But I say “Main Control Aye” and tell the EEOW that the OOD is nervous in the service. He rolls his eyes and lights up a Salem.

Then the EOT starts clanging as the bridge rings Back Emergency full.

I yell to the fire room and close the ahead throttle and start the astern at the same time to manage the steam pressure. One boiler means that we don’t have a lot of leeway to play with and the BTs get pissed if you make ’em pop safeties.

I call up to the bridge to remind them that we only have one boiler online and that reaction is going to be a bit sluggish. My language may have been a bit more colorful.

Bridge says “OOD acknowledges but you better push it because we’re about to hit someone”

I tell the EEOW, he tells the boiler room to push it and we pull the main down to about 580PSI and hold it there with the astern throttle, as pressure climbs a little I bleed in a little more steam to the astern.

Then the collision alarm goes off.

We’re scrambling as people in their skivvies and boondockers show up in Engineering.

Then we get an Ahead 2/3 bell. Some merchant crossed right across our bow, we apparently missed it by a very short distance. Very. Short.

It’s now around 2345 and since the oncoming watch was in the hole we went up for midrats.

Had a hard time going to sleep that night, took a while for the adrenaline to burn off.

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Mustang

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“Stick”

“Stick”

By Brion Boyles

I once had a new kid report aboard our ship (USS WHITE PLAINS AFS-4) homeported in Japan. Tall, gangly, awkward and kinda goofy-looking, the crew took to calling him “Stick”. He looked like a stick, but seemed to be about as smart as one, too. Appearances aside though, at first blush he was a sight for our tired, sore eyes.

The WHITE PLAINS was a “fast attack” supply ship, ALWAYS at sea, delivering everything from ammunition to fuel to toilet paper, movies and ice cream… to every ship in the 7th Fleet. Our area of operations extended from halfway to Hawaii thru the rest of the Western Pacific, up to Korea, down around the Straits of Malacca/Singapore, the entire Indian Ocean from Australia up to the Gulf of Arabia. She was the most underway ship in the regular Navy.

Our division was Navigation, composed of a handful of Quartermasters (the Navy rating title for enlisted navigators.). There were only 4 of us. There was Chief Petty Officer Nezworski, I was the 2nd Class Petty Officer and the “leading Petty Officer”, “Skipper” Chuck Fisher was a 3rd Class, and Seaman Apprentice “Stick”. Our manning and watch station bills called for 7 Quartermasters, but we were always short-handed, which meant double the watches and workload for all hands. Every hair on your head mattered towards spreading the load.

Stick had managed to graduate from basic Quartermaster school, as had all of us, but I couldn’t quite figure out how. He did not seem… “right”. He could perform some very basic navigation tasks but needed a great deal of supervision. Whereas most guys could get a task down after a few tries, Stick needed days. Even when he got a few things down pat, he was sloooow. Navigation is a fast-paced work, dangerous and heavy with responsibility. Having someone always check his work effectively cost us one half our workforce. While Stick was on watch, someone had to be looking over his shoulder, when they could be getting a few hours of desperately needed sleep.

Stick was easy-going, likable and honest…but incurably narrow-focused. You could point to the deck and tell him to sweep it, and he would sweep the spot you pointed to… and nothing else. He wasn’t lazy… he just didn’t SEE beyond where you pointed. Instructions had to be SO thorough as to make GIVING them take longer than FOLLOWING them.

He was also incredibly intimidated by rank…even of those immediately over him. He might know a task inside and out, but if an officer was present, or he was being graded/observed, he would freeze like a possum. And heaven forbid the Captain asked him a question…

This is not good for someone whose job is on the bridge of a warship, surrounded by senior officers. A job that required a lot of multi-tasking: writing a flurry of entries in the Deck Log, making and encoding weather observations, plotting visual and radar fixes and so forth, while being able to spot danger and quickly report it to the Officer Of The Deck… a course or speed change to avoid collision or a coral reef, a problem with radar, or requesting assistance when things got busy.

On the other hand, Stick could tell you the name of the replacement drummer in a studio session where The Grateful Dead recorded some long-lost Side B title. He had worked at Tower Records in San Franciso, where he was a local legend. People sought him out as the premier music historian for the most obscure and forgotten details on vinyl. When thus engaged, the light switch would come on, and Stick was irrepressibly animated… a charming, bottomless fount of knowledge.

However, as his supervisor and mentor, I had to write his evaluations and make a recommendation for advancement in the Navy, not Tower Records. A new 2nd Class Petty Officer myself, he was almost my first evaluation to write up.

It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

Recommendations for advancement are almost automatic when someone has put the time in. One has to have a pretty bad disciplinary record or bad attitude in order not to receive one.

The Navy had plenty of use for someone who could swab the deck or take out the trash, but not much that recognized the value of being able to recite the lines of Mott The Hoople. There was no career for 20-year deck swabbers anymore. Those days were gone. You advanced, or you were “shit-canned”.

I saw to it that he advanced to Seaman but could not bring myself to do it for 3rd Class Petty Officer… of ANY job the Navy had to offer. He would have been diligent, honest, trustworthy and loyal in all of them… and competent or work independently in none. A danger to himself, others and the ship.

I told him so.

…and he knew it.

I told him that the best thing I could do for him was to recommend an honorable discharge at the end of his enlistment. I could NOT recommend him for advancement beyond Seaman. I told my superiors so, too… who took it badly, knowing how undermanned we were. For Stick, further military service …while it could be made ACCOMMODATING to his peculiarities and personal needs…would serve only to fetter our mission, cost a valuable manpower billet, endanger the rest of us and enslave him with restrictions that he really needn’t suffer…were he a civilian.

He took my advice with his customary grace and crooked smile. I still hurt for him to this VERY DAY, and think of him often… but I can’t help but feel I may have even saved his life, in many ways.

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John Q. Boatsailor

John Q Boatsailor, Always a Class Act


by Bob ‘Dex’ Armstrong

Ray Stone… Retired chief… Ex-petroleum-powered submarine sailor and Master of Socially Unacceptable Behavior, turned up at my front doorstep the other day. He had behaved himself for a complete 24 hours – in a row – so Toots attached his 20-foot logging chain leash and took him for a walk. When he arrived, he had two incredible e-mails.

The first was a real keeper from an ex-raghat from East Tennessee, who had some very heartwarming things to say about Ray’s website. Hark, “…Elephants at a dime a herd?” Great stuff!! Ray and I damn near busted a gut. Thanks ‘Cracker Box’… A real keeper.

Next, an e-mail from ‘Tiger Flower’… Who’n the hell is Tiger Flower? Used to be a barmaid named ‘Tiger’. Used to haul suds at the George Washington Bar outside the main gate at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth. Good looking little sweetheart, married to some can sailor, riding an old Fletcher 700 class antique, operating with DESRON 22. He was a lucky guy… She was his girl and she let you know it. If you made a pass, she would say,

“Back off bubblehead, I’m a tin can sailor’s girl.”

Then she’d wink, flip up her skirt and show you the two, three-bladed propellers embroidered in a three inch spread right smack in the seat of her panties.

“Twin screws and built for speed… Destroyer girl…”

Thelma at Bells never did that. Maybe that’s something we can all be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Tiger Flower? I read on through the e-mail… Holy Jumpin’ Jeezus! This is not the ‘Tin Can Tiger’ from my diesel boat days, but an old teenage flame from years long ago. She was an absolute angel… One of God’s sweetest creatures… One of a very limited number of female type personnel who could read my trash with forgiveness and understanding.

A gal whose beauty has stood the test of time and who never looks like she needs a yard period. A smiling lady who can pack a bra tighter than an electrician’s bunk bag.

Tiger Flower’s married to a Cracker Jack fellow. Our spouses are tolerant enough to permit the world’s most passionate long distance platonic love affair to survive. Forty-five years… Gotta be some kind of record. Actually, I’ve always been in love with her mother… You can see where her beauty came from. Mary, her mother, got packaged with beauty at the Grace Kelly level. We’re talking prettiness upon which teenage fantasies are built.

Unfortunately, the keeper of the harem, the husband and father, was an active duty high-ranking Army officer, with combat decorations running over his shoulder and three quarters of the way down his back. One mistake… One misinterpretation of honorable intent… One misguided secret thought about unknown treasure beyond forbidden nylon borders… And you knew beyond a shadow of any doubt, Col Pit Bull would have you for lunch.

The Sultan of the Harem let you know in no uncertain terms that he fully understood the circuitry of the male teenage mind and that flirtation, no matter how minor, with improper behavior within a ten-mile radius of Tiger Flower would without question, lead to your immediate destruction and eternal damnation. In short, you’d be tap dancing in the firey furnace with no parole. All thoughts of sub-elastic lingerie exploration could be immediately erased by one fleeting vision of Col Mad Dog ripping out your jugular vein. This only left long range, no hands love… The 45 year kind.

A small story by way of illustration… When I rode Requin some years later, Tiger Flower was to be married and I got an invitation. Her dad was then flag rank… Heavy duty bone crusher. I was at the time, an east coast smoke boat qualified E-3… Possibly the number one lightweight in the naval establishment. The general’s favorite breakfast I am told, was two bowls of E-3s followed by a spit-roasted second lieutenant.

I was broke. We had just come in from punching invisible holes in the North Atlantic. Somewhere, between the Chesapeake lightship and making the turn around fort Wool,I showered, shaved and doused myself with the requisite two and a half gallons of Aqua Velva. In the early 60s, everyone in the navy knew that you had to cover up a diesel boat smell to be acceptable in anything resembling polite society. On the scale of social acceptability, submarine sailors registered four points below Mexican pimps, right above child molesting mass murderers. Aqua Velva was developed so those diesel boat sailors could disguise themselves to pass among those in polite society.

I threw a clean set of starched whites and a pre-pressed “greasy snake” neckerchief in a valpack and shoved off. There was magic in the old thumb and by morning I arrived at my destination, having hitchhiked through the night.

At the wedding, I was the token enlisted man and the singular representative of the naval establishment. John Q. Bluejacket… Dolphins… One lousy ribbon… You remember the red and yellow ribbon we called the ‘bellybutton ribbon’ because every sonuvabitch had one? I was up to my armpits in guys wearing every medal ever invented. If you could have highjacked all the coats in that church, you could have opened up a thriving mail order war surplus business.

The bride was absolutely four-oh, knockout, beautiful… Hell, she was always four-oh beautiful but, there is something about a good looking girl in all white that makes you want to rake your antlers on pine tree bark… How did that guy up there with my long-range fantasy get past General Buttbuster? How did he break the code?

Well, the wedding concluded and the pride of the United States Submarine Service… Naval rep assigned to witness (at range) the forever-lost possibility of fantasy fulfillment… Left for the reception.

At this point, I would like to present my side in explanation for my subsequent behavior. I would like to use the “Sonuvabitches Sandbagged Me” defense.

I arrived at this very exclusive country club… We’re talking the kind of place where guys who were dressed up like organ grinder monkeys, parked your car. Not the kind of place where you run into other boat sailors… You know, guys who rode boats in other squadrons… Guys you ran into everywhere you went… Places like, coincidentally peeing in the same alley in Panama. It wasn’t that kind of place.

These people never heard of paper plates and Styrofoam cups. Everything was served in silver plated cups or on little crystal plates. They had a guy who shined your shoes when you hit the head (Thought about kidnapping the poor rascal and chaining him up in the head in Bells Bar).

The bride was off somewhere… You know, that place women go to giggle a lot and exchange coded information only understood by other women. The bride’s mom looked like something Michelangelo whittled out on an exceptionally good day… One beautiful lady.

The father of the bride, displaying a ton and a half of hardware accumulated sending Germans and North Koreans off to Hell was circulating making it known that the bar was open and big time whiskey swilling was underway.

Not wanting to get a snoot full (Please re-read… Very important in my defense, considering what follows), I repeat… Not wanting to look like a typical torpedoman, I found this ginger ale fountain… This great big silver-plated contraption with three lion’s heads… Big ol’ silver lion heads with ginger ale squirting out of their mouths into this big silver bowl.

It had some kind of interior recirculating pump that kept recycling that cold ginger ale. All you had to do was hold a silver cup up to Mr. Lion and the rascal would spit you a cup full of ginger ale. I was really thirsty, so Mr. Lion and me did some heavy thirst quenching.

Problem… Mr. Lion was spitting out flat champagne… You pump French champagne over and over, and all the bubbles take off…Leaving what I was to discover was a consumable version of an anti-tank mine behind. It had a delayed fuse that went off between your ears that totally impared your ability to behave like non-boat service personnel.

Shortly after my dibilitating attack of armor piercing ginger ale, the bride appeared in all her radient lovliness… At least, I think so… She was very out of focus and appeared to be on some kind of rotating amusement ride… And my kneecaps detected siesmic disturbance taking place in the floor tile.

Someone announced that the bride was about to toss ‘the garter’. At exactly this point in time, five of the seven dwarfs began to ice skate across the backside of my eyeballs and I was siezed by an acute attack of spinal jello-itis and space aliens from the planet Mongo highjacked all of my gentleman genes.

I heard this voice say something to the effect of,

“Dex… Here comes my garter!”

Then,

“Dex, what happened? I threw it right to you!”

Just at that moment I was the victim of what had to be transmigrating ventriloquism… Out of my idiotic mouth came,

“I’m waiting on your panties!”

History was made at this point. A former SUBRON Six diesel boat messcook and deck ape was given a brigadier general escort to his car and given directions to the North Pole.

I have my bride’s permission to love this lovely lady… One of a very few people in my life who can take my nonsense for a very extended period of time.

Never got her panties… Should have… It was the least she could have done for a drunk boat sailor who traveled all night, stinking of over indulgence in Aqua Velva, to bring the Class of SUBRON Six to the festivities.

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The Nasty City Snake Ranch

The Nasty City Snake Ranch

By: Garland Davis

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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.

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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.

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