Our Lady Of The Blues:
From Gaia To Maia
Captain Ratches equally enraged emerged from the wardroom long enough to say sternly: ‘You men are restricted to ship for the remainder of the stay. Ensign Shaffer write everyone of these men up. I’ll be seeing each of you at your Captain’s Mast tomorrow. No need to waste time. You’ll be lucky if you don’t get General Court Martials.’
Ratches was thinking ahead to his confrontation with the Commodore in which he would be dragged through the mud again. The Commodore was becoming less tolerant as time passed. The ship would rue this adventure. It was time that Ratches became less lenient if for no other reason than to protect himself. Good luck, Captain Ratches.
Kanary Eats Krow
Looking fairly hung over and rasty the twenty-five desperadoes plus Kanary gathered on the fantail after morning chow to await their Captain’s Masts. Ratches had truly wasted no time. The Wild Bunch smelled rather strongly as the evaporaters were down and their was no potable water available for showering. A heavy miasma of sweat and vomit hung over the area.
They were angry and remonstrated loudly:
‘Hell, I don’t see why we gotta get no Captain’s Mast. Hell, this is Subic.’
‘They had guns, man, they had guns. We had guns we woulda wiped the gooks out.’
‘Yeah. The sons of bitches they run us just like we was dogs man, they treated us just like we was animals.’
‘Hell, yes, man. They wan’t nothing but gooks. Couldn’t even speak English.’
‘Hell, yes. We’re warriors in the Navy of the most powerful nation on earth. They don’t like it they can eat shit.’
They were going on in this fashion when Paul Duber noticed Trueman and Frenchey who were swabbing the deck. A cold chill went down his spine. In the light of semi-sobriety it dawned on him that Trueman might have witnessed the spectacle. If so he had degraded himself below Trueman. His sense of superiority was shattered.
‘Where was you Trueman yesterday?’
‘The correct literate way to say that Duber is: Where were you yesterday, Trueman?’
‘Cut the bullshit. Where was…were you?’
‘Here in Subic Bay the same as you.’ Trueman replied coyly. ‘Of course, I wasn’t actually in the bay.’ He sniggered, glancing over at Kanary.
‘That’s not what I mean.’ Duber said, unwilling to mention the ignominy of being hustled aboard by El Jefe.
‘You’ll have to be more specific Duber. I can’t read your mind. That’s assuming you have one…left.’ With faux innocence.
‘Cut the crap, Trueman.’ Cornell Roberts snarled. You know what we’re talking about. You seen us, right?’
‘Crap it was Roberts, not to mention about an ocean of puke. Remember puking all over Blake’s shoe. He does. You guys sure were great comic relief; I nearly laughed my ass off.’ Trueman joked, Then holding his swab in front of him like a rifle in imitation of the Federales he strutted around the fantail shouting: Hep, dos, tres, quatro. Hep, dos, tres, quatro. Andale hombres, andale.’
Then he and Frenchey broke down in laughter.
‘That’s enough of that.’ Lt. Bifrons Morford snapped as he arrived to escort the Wild Bunch up to the fo’c’sle for their Captain’s Mast.
‘Oh, aye, aye, sor, Lt. Morford, sor.’ Trueman mouthed sourly pronouncing ‘aye sor’ as though it were eye sore. Morford ignored him directing his men forward single file.
Last was Kanary hoping to vanish en route from the fantail to the fo’c’sle. He was still genuinely ill from the spectacular crash and near drowning but he was sicker still at the prospect of a Captain’s Mast. His identity was at stake. All of them were sick at heart that they were to be tried while Trueman and some half dozen others they despised were not. Kanary especially felt the degradation of lowering himself before his negative alter ego, Trueman. His conscious ‘purity’ was being challenged while his projection of impurity in the person of Trueman stood laughing which would require tremendous self-deception to counteract. Any conscious effort would be superficial as his subconscious ruled. As he had no concept of morality he couldn’t help but do what he most sought to avoid: inhibit and repress himself.
Kanary hung back reluctant to face the music. He slipped between the K-guns and crouched down hoping Morford would overlook him but Morford didn’t.
‘Come on, Kanary. Let’s go.’ Morford said crisply.
With mouth drooping Kanary slunk out from betwen the K-guns not so much in shame, as he was all chutzpah, but in mortification.
As he started up the deck Trueman let out a low mocking: ‘Stop thief.’
Kanary’s shoulders sagged forward as he let out a low sob.
‘What did I say, Trueman?’ Morford cautioned. But by that time Trueman was down between two K-guns pretending to swab carefully.
‘We go watch thees.’ Frenchey said breathlessly as Kanary and Morford disappeared from view.
‘Might as well.’ Trueman replied leaning his swab against the three inch tub.
‘To the breege.’ Frenchey whispered.
They clambered up the aft Starboard ladder to the boad deck then up to the bridge. There were already half a dozen men there. Several more lined the divider between the forward three and the fo’c’sle while two concealed themselves behind the three inch. Others crouched in the concealment of the Hedgehogs.
As it was impolite to be seen all crouched low, hats off, barely peeping over or around their barriers. Trueman and Frenchey found a place starboard where they were concealed but could see around the curved windshield.
The Captain arraigned the sailors forward of the vacant 20MM gun tub while he took up a position inside the tub where the mount used to be. As Kanary, who would normally function as secretary was being arraigned his place was taken by the Operations officer, Bifrons Morford. Since this was the largest Captain’s Mast in the history of the Teufelsdreck and squadron the Executive officer, Sieggren was also in attendance.
Ratches was torn between disgust and the time honored Navy tradition that boys will be boys. He was angered at the Bunch because they could perpetrate such an egregious offence during his Captaincy. The story was already making the rounds not only of the squadron but the fleet. The inevitable consequence was that Ratches’ and the ship’s reputation was suffering further deterioration with the Commodore. He felt like sending them all to hell. Still Ratches had a ship to run, he must stay true to his principles and what’s more my son, he was a man.
Ratches had a good style about his Captain’s Masts. He appeared to be the most humble of men, embarrassed by his duty, rather than a stern or angry judge. It was as though he hated to do this but as it was a part of the Captain’s duty he was so bound. He gave the impression that if you had any kind of excuse at all he would heed it. Thus he stood before the malefactors as only a benign shipmate performing a task as any one of them might have done it.
The fact that he had a shipload of foulups, men and officers alike, was beyond his or any other Captain’s ability to correct. Sometimes, you know, it’s just the luck of the Irish.
Ratches called Duber out first as the ranking petty officer. Duber stuttered out something incoherent about being South of the Line and only doing what others before him had done and then shut up. The rest with the exception of Kanary, who was up on different charges, said nothing, merely standing with heads down.
Ratches broke Duber down to Seaman Apprentice, restitution of damages and restriction both in Subic and the upcoming visit to Yokosuka. The last part really smarted because everyone was looking foward to Japan. He did the same with the rest of them. Thus the Teufelsdreck, ironically, had a higher percentage of Seaman Apprentices than any ship in the fleet. Trueman and Frenchey giggled with glee as Ratches broke each man.
As Kanary’s offence was independent of the others he was saved for the last. When he was called forward the blow to his self-esteem was more than he could handle. He began first by blubbering the false remorse of the guilty caught in the act: ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I’m so so sorry.’
The worst of it for Kanary was that he couldn’t see where he had done anything wrong. Not only was the strongest injunction in his intellect that he was not to inhibit himself but no one had said anything to John Wayne for appropriating his bike. In the movie it was treated as a satisfying humorous adventure for the big lunk. Why should it be different for him? But it was. This was no movie, real people with real bicycles were affected.
Disregarding Kanary’s spurious remorse Ratches also busted Kanary down to SA, ordered restitution and restriction in Subic and Yokosuka and an apology.
By the time Ratches had gotten to apology Kanary had begun to wail: ‘No. NO! Not me. Not ME. Do it to him, not me.’
Mystified Ratches asked who ‘he’ was.
‘Dewey Trueman. Do it to him, not me. He’s that kind of guy, I’m not.’
‘But Trueman wasn’t involved in this Sailor. You were.’
‘That doesn’t matter.’ Kanary sobbed. ‘That doesn’t matter. You can’t do this to me.’
But the hammer had already fallen. Kanary did have to eat crow. Crow of his own baking but as he grappled with the sentence it was suppressed to his subconcious where it was attached to his fixation on Trueman.
After the Captain had tried one’s case and passed sentence it is demanded of you that you say: ‘Thank-you Captain.’ whether he’s just sent you to the brig for six months or dismissed your case.
And the muffled ‘Thank you, Captain.’ of Kanary was heard while his lowly uttered ‘Fuck you.’ went unnoticed.
The Wild Bunch was dismissed. As they came off the fo’c’sle Duber was saying to Roberts: ‘That son-of-a-bitch Trueman saw us all broken down. He said so.’
‘So? So that goddamned fuckup had no right to see us screwed over by those goddamned gooks and drunk on our ass to boot. Didn’t you see that hup hup he did? Who the hell do you think he was imitating?’
‘Well, we could always kick his ass.’
‘We might could do that, Roberts.’ Duber said in disgust. ‘But I got a better plan. We’re supposed to go over to the Reefer tomorrow for supplies. They have a meat locker, if you get my drift.’
‘What’s a meat locker got to do with marijuana?’ Roberts sniffed.
‘Reefer not reefer, you idiot. The Refrigerator ship. We’ll throw him in the meat locker and leave him.’
‘Oh yeah, just like Skinny What’s-his-name Dieter told us about.’
Duber didn’t know Dieter’s story but pretending always to be privy to everything he said: ‘Yeah, just like that.’
The USS Sheridan Le Fanu
When someone you despise sees you in the most degrading of situations there must be a response. You either accept the fact that you have been degraded below your eminence or you must do something to rectify the situation. Since it is no longer possible to elevate yourself above him he must be degraded below you. If that is impossible he must be injured or killed. Only by so doing can one reestablish one’s own self-respect.
It was resolved to kill Trueman.
A landing craft came alongside to transport the work detail to the refrigerator ship, the Sheridan Le Fanu. The Reefer loaded up in the States then anchored in an inlet adjacent to Subic where it sat for six to eight months while ships restocked their larders from it. The procedure may seem superflous as one might think stores could be bought locally. But this cannot be. No sailor will work unless he is fed the food he is used to. Had they tried to feed the crew Japanese foods bought in Tokyo Bay during that visit very likely the crew would have rioted. Besides, imagine Bocuse working with foodstuffs he’d never seen before. What would he do without string beans? Any ship must stock only the native foods of their crew. Being a rich nation the US solved this problem by stationing Reefers at appropriate locations.
The large work detail of twenty-four was comprised almost entirely of the desperadoes and homosexuals who now directed the internal affairs of the crew. Each was a sworn enemy of Trueman. Larger than necessary, the detail was treated as a sort of holiday or learning experience. Trueman was wishing he could go when Roberts motioned him in the manner of a handler saying: Come on Trueman. You’re going.
‘Hey, terrific.’ Trueman replied needing no further prodding. ‘Ordinarily Roberts I don’t take orders from Seaman Apprentices but I’ll make an exception in this case. I don’t want to be left out.’
‘Oh, you don’t have to worry about that; you’ll be left in alright.’ Seaman Apprentice Kanary cooed from the craft.
As the boat shoved off Chief Dieter wearing his liver colored comlexion waved bye bye while Roberts gave him a knowing wink.
‘All Seaman Apprentices to the back of the boat.’ Trueman jeered with a rollicking laugh.
Not surprisingly this joke drew no response from the two thirds or so who had been busted the previous day. The others remained prudently silent. Trueman was not disturbed. He stood relishing the beautiful scene. The waters were that gorgeous blue, smooth and glassy; the light beamed down ignoring the fluffy clouds as though they were transparent glass; the tremendous green of the jungle ran back in waves from the sea. Even the stark gray steel bulk of the Le Fanu seemed appropriate to the time and place.
Proud Costello, the Third Class Gunner’s Mate, standing a few feet from Trueman said loudly- he always tried to boom but it was beneath his lung capacity- ‘You’re going to have to climb a cargo net Trueman, so try not to lose it.’
‘Don’t worry, pal. I’ll be up the net way ahead of a pussy like you.’
‘Don’t bet on it, little man.’ Costello intoned down his nose.
As they spoke the craft rounded the starboard stern to reveal a cargo net fifty feet wide draped over the side of the Le Fanu.
Reefers are very large ships, in the 500-600 foot class. The bridge and all the working and living quarters are above the main deck on the stern. As they are designed to hold as much as possible they have a very broad beam and rise high above the water. There was a thirty foot climb from the craft to the top of the gun’le.
‘Oh hey, terrific, this is what I joined the Navy for.’ Trueman said under his breath. Those who heard him thought he was joking but he wasn’t. A thing like climbing a cargo net may seem like small potatoes but it really isn’t. For one thing the height frightens a lot of men; for another the climb is very difficult for a fat or out of condition man. It also requires some dexterity. The climb was really quite a high one. There were many who were afraid and one so terrified he refused.
Trueman had admiringly seen the Marines do this in a lot of movies; he was eager to go. In movies as in real life the best place is the end of the net where the notion is that one straddles the end then using either side for foot and hand holds climb up. Trueman had already visualized the whole process.
Oblivious to pseudo-compassionate cries of ‘You don’t have to do this if you want, Trueman.’ Dewey maneuvered himself into position to get the end, he got it and clambered out of the craft as it was still moving.
Seeing him ascending and realizing that they had been mistaken about his courage Roberts and a couple others grabbed where they could determined that he would not be the first to the top.
The less aggressive waited to see how the others fared while the terrified cringed back. There were six who had to be coaxed and prodded to move. The most recalcitrant was the hero of his own dreams, Proud Costello.
Trueman climbed steadily. Actually hauling yourself up thirty feet is not so easy as the movie Marines make it look. It was tiring. Just beneath him, ever shadowing him, Teal Kanary followed him up.
About two thirds of the way up Trueman felt a hand on his ass with a thumb probing his rectum. Looking down he discovered Kanary groping his ass with his hand.
‘Get your hand off my ass, Kanary.’
‘I’m just trying to help you. I don’t want you to fall.’
‘When I want your help I’ll ask for it. Get you hand off my ass.’
As it would have been stupid to quarrel on the netting Trueman had to suffer the indignity, cursing Kanary as he went. Spilling over the gun’le first, struggling pantingly to their feet Roberts and a couple broken Wild Bunchers hauled Dewey over the gun’l as though he really needed their help. Anyone viewing from a distance would have thought Trueman had been saved from falling. In their own minds the Bunch thought themselves to have redeemed some of their dignity.
Feeling much below him because of their busts they had hopefully projected a character of cowardice on him imagining that he could not climb the net. When he eagerly had been the first on, this aggravated their feeling of degradation so they they had to demean him further. Hence Kanary’s fondling his rectum and the hauling him aboard as though he couldn’t succeed without their help.
Trueman had been dumped roughly on his ass. Scrambling to his feet he gave Kanary a shove which was a very rare display of anger for him. Kanary stepped nimbly back feigning dismay while Trueman lunged for Roberts who also stepped back. As they were deprived of the sneak attack which gave them the advantage they now refused to fight on fair terms. Adepts at transferring responsibility they now gave the impression that they were not afraid but found Trueman’s rage incomprehensible.
Down below the terrified sailors were being coaxed onto the netting to begin the climb while the deck filled noisily with triumphant sailors who had made the climb. Proud Costello was loudly, even tearfully, refusing to climb. As a defense he bemoaned the indignity of a man of his stature, a man of officer material, having to climb the netting. He loudly demanded to use the Captain’s ladder. That ladder was a set of steel stairs suspended down the side of the Le Fanu a few yards forward of the craft. The craft was unsecured being moved alongside the ladder for Costello to ascend. Once again while everyone was in dungarees Costello was in undress blues to display his third class chevron. Proud Costello with stiff dignity but with shaking legs as though performing the Grand March from Aida mounted each step with sniffing austerity as though he were the great man himself on the way to snatch the crown from the Pope’s hands and place it on his own head.
There were at least thirty steps to the ladder so the Grand March took some time. Surprisingly Costello’s prestige was such that his cowardice at climbing the netting was disregarded. His demand to use the Captain’s ladder was met with awe rather than derision. No one seconded Dewey’s derisory taunts.
Still, the Navy has its rules and Costello had just committed a major faux pas. The story was relayed to Captain Ratches by some route and he did not view the act with admiration but with indignation.
Once on deck the sailors of the Teufelsdreck milled about looking for direction. The Le Fanu might as well have been a ghost ship like the Marie Celeste anchored mysteriously in the bay, for none of her sailors ever showed their faces. Perhaps the Officer In Charge knew his way around in some mysterious way but no general directives were ever given. The sailors broke into bands roving over the gigantic storerooms of the Reefer.
‘Hey, it’s over here.’ Roberts called having found the meat locker expecting to find sides of beef hanging from meathooks. Instead the locker was empty, fully depleted, completely raided by the Pirates of Subic Bay with the cooling units off and the doors standing wide open allowing the space to air.
The eight or so sailors entered the locker which was perhaps twenty by fifty feet in size, amazingly large but seemingly tiny in the middle of the deck of the huge Le Fanu. Duber and Roberts were disappointed to find it empty as in the killing of Skinny La Monte Dieter had said that Skinny had been lost amongst the beeves.
‘Maybe we’ll just leave you here to freeze and die, Trueman.’
‘Go ahead, Roberts, I won’t mind.’
‘You’d freeze to death.’ Roberts sneered expecting Trueman to beg for his life.
‘Not unless they turn the freezers on.’ Trueman laughed. ‘More likely I’ll roast to death when the heat builds up in this sun.’
‘Oh yeah?’ Roberts said belatedly realizing that the freezer unit was not operating. ‘Well, you’d starve to death.’
‘Who you kidding? This is a reefer ship. Someone would open the doors right away. I’d be out in no time.’
‘Huh! Well, even so, we’d be gone and you wouldn’t be with us anymore.’
‘Gee, that would break my heart. Without you drunken bums rolling around the Quarterdeck and puking on Blake’s shoes I wouldn’t have anyone to laugh at.’
‘Ha ha ha.’ Was Roberts clever retort as the men realizing the futility of the situation filed out leaving Trueman standing two thirds of the way down the locker. In frustration Duber and Roberts swung the doors close but didn’t latch them. With some apprehension Trueman stepped over tentatively pushing a door which swung open.
‘Aw hell, I’m going to have to look at you bums a while yet.’
‘What’re we going to do now?’ Roberts asked Duber.
‘Give me a couple minutes.’
Somebody yelled: ‘Hey, over here.’ as they found the hatch leading down into the aft storage decks. The ship was gigantic. It was about to be sent back to the States for restocking so not only was the meat locker empty but the shelves were nearly bare. The four decks above the waterline presented compartment after compartment of empty metal tiers. The supplies must have been fantastic when the Le Fanu was fully loaded.
Supply ships are built tubby so the midship beam extended from the blunt bow to the rounded stern. Sailors raced from stem to stern five hundred fifty feet over four decks looking for goodies but none were to be found. Other crews had raided the Le Fanu before the Teufelsdreck got there.
Duber had found some left over gallon cans of string beans, both regular and jullienne, the kind Trueman always complained about, on the second level of the stern. His idea came to him. He explained his plan to Roberts. Dawson, Duber’s innamorata in Operations was sent to draw Dewey back.
The shelves were about ten feet high spaced thirty inches between shelves. Duber and Roberts were far from clever men. While Dawson was supposed to be keeping Trueman occupied Roberts crawled down the top shelf to hopefully push the gallon cans on Trueman’s head.
The shelves were those latticework jobbers that can seen through so Trueman had no trouble seeing Roberts creeping along the top shelf. Waiting until Roberts was about to push the cans Trueman shouted: ‘It’s a blob of dogshit, it’s a sack of garbage, no, it’s the Man of Puke, it’s Roberts. What the hell you doing Roberts?’ and stepped back. A half dozen cans slammed into the deck exposing Roberts face in the vacated space.
‘How’d you knowit was me?’ Roberts asked lamely.
‘Aw, for Christ’s sake, Roberts, you’re even dumber than you look. I can see you. Now, I see why you drink. To try and blot out your stupidity. Well, let me tell you, nothing will ever disguise that.’
‘Fuck you, Trueman.’
‘Aw, go do what you do best, Roberts. Suck a weenie.’
A call to reassemble came over the intercom so the sailors drifted back to the main deck. As there were no supplies evident the detail seemed superfluous. Maybe it was just to keep the restricted men occupied and on their feet.
The sailors scrambled over the side back down the netting into the landing craft. Using gravity rather than fighting it was a heck of a lot easier. Proud Costello made his magisterial descent down the Captain’s ladder. By then he had devised a mythology for his actions.
A day later the lines were drawn in. The Teufelsdreck bearing the warriors of the most powerful nation on earth turned its poop to Subic and its prow to the Land Of The Rising Sun.
Waking Up Is Hard To Do.
Subic was the turning point in the voyage. After Subic the qualities of the men had been tried and weighed. Each knew who the other was. The presence of others became a burden. People tended to draw within somewhat more. The routine became deadening. Then too the long four thousand mile jaunt from the tropics through the Alaska low pressure system was a transition from warm idyllic seas to cold stormy tempestuous seas.
The events of Subic had deepened the hard feeling certain men had for others. While Kanary wasn’t exactly Morford’s protege, his homosexual capacity to revere Morford as an unobtainable ideal disposed Morford in his favor. Thus even though Kanary had brought his misfortunes on himself he both blamed Trueman on the grounds that if he hadn’t been there he, himself, wouldn’t have misbehaved. It is not impossible that Kanary hoped to impress Trueman with his bicycle escapade in Subic becoming embittered toward him because it failed.
At any rate from this point Morford’s detestation of Trueman increased tenfold. Then too, Navy life began to wear on Bifrons. He longed for the fleshpots of Las Vegas.
Trueman had stood the morning 12-4 at his preferred postion as port lookout. At three-thirty Ensign Princing sent him to the wardroom to wake Morford who was Princing’s relief, up.
Tim, affectionately known as Poopy to his fellows, was First Lieutenant. Which is to say he was in charge of First Division. He had come aboard just before the ship left the States.
Trueman’s repugnance of the Officers was such that he hated to enter the wardroom. As there was nothing for it he searched out Morford’s cubicle. The officers all had their own little cubicles really just enough for their bunks and a space to hang up their uniforms but private. The door stood open or, rather, the curtains were pushed aside.
‘Time for watch, Lt. Morford.’ Trueman said as loudly as he dared.
Morford gave no response but it appeared that he heard.
‘Time to go on watch, sir.’ Trueman repeated leaning closer and speaking more loudly.
Morford threw an elbow in his face as though by accident, Trueman ducked.
‘Alright, alright. Get the hell out of here.’
Fifteen minutes later Princing was still waiting for his relief.
‘Did you wake Morford up, Trueman?
‘Yes, sir. He told me to get the hell out of there.’
‘Well, go down and wake him again.’
‘He doesn’t respond well to being told to get up, sir.’
‘Well, then hit the edge of his bunk, just so, to jar him awake.’
‘Aye, aye, sir.’
Returning with even greater repugnance Trueman tried a vocal approach first which Morford ignored. Then Trueman hit the bunk frame as he had been instructed. This time Morford rolled over throwing a punch which Dewey evaded.
‘Goddamn you, sailor. Don’t you ever touch me or anything belonging to me again.’
Trueman’s hatred of the abnoxious officer flared: ‘Don’t you goddamn me you son-of-a-bitch. I did what Princing told me to do. I’m following orders. Now get of bed and relieve the watch.’
‘Goddamn you, I’ll write you up for talking to me like that.’
By now their voices were reaching angry shouting tones.
‘Go ahead son-of-a-bitch and I’ll have you on the carpet for throwing a punch at me for doing my duty.’
Half sitting Morford threw another punch. Trueman backed into the opposite cubicle which being Princing’s was empty.
‘You’re goddamn lucky you’re an officer Morford.’ Trueman shouted raising his fists. Morford yelled out further invective beginning to get out of his bunk to punch Trueman out.
‘Watch yourself, Morford.’ Trueman warned although desperate to avoid contact that could only go against him. The other officers had been awakened. Fortunately Ensign Shaffer defused the situation by calling out in alarm: ‘Hold on. What’s going on there?’
Both men desisted but Morford said with muffled hatred: ‘If you ever come into my cubicle again I’ll knock your fucking head off and ram it up your ass.’ Now, get the hell out of here.’
‘Such a wiener.’ Trueman muttered under his breath but loud enough for Morford to hear.
Morford appeared on the bridge just after the enlisted reliefs had shown. He gave Trueman a threatening glance that Trueman dismissed contemptuously with great ostentation.
Peter Erect Goes Down For The Last Time.
The following day Ratches received word that the parents of the two injured sailors were filing suit against the Navy. The Navy like any other organization and most individuals had no intention of taking responsibility for its actions. Those things were bound to happen as the brass saw it, the wear and tear of daily life that had to be put up with…until the shoe was on the other foot. Why should dishonor accrue to the Navy for the actions of men over whom it had no control. Thin logic for, put in this light, the men became free agents not indentured servants for which the Navy was responsible. Contradictory, but in the devolution of command from entity to officers to men it made, if not logical sense, legal sense. Ratches knew what he had to do.
The ship had just passed the northern end of Luzon. The seas were choppy over medium length swells. The weather had already turned from tropical to temperate although delightful. Trueman was basking in the gorgeous climate on the 12-4 afternoon watch when he noticed that Captain Ratches leaning against the bridge rim was staring absorbedly toward the fantail. Trueman turned to look from time to time puzzled by the intensity of Ratches’ gaze out over the empty sea.
Reflecting on Ratches’ apparent anxiety Trueman once again looked aft. There he saw Peter Erect being herded toward the area just forward of the K-guns.
There was a heated discussion going on as the six sailors appointed by Ratches upbraided Erect.
‘You s0n-of-a-bitch, you purposely crippled Baxter and Basehart. Those were two good men, better than you. You cannot get away with that you dirty dog.’
‘It was a accident. Maybe I made a mistake but it was OK because it was hazing, Paul said we could. I didn’t no nothin’ wrong.’
‘Accident? Mistake my ass. You loaded the end of that hose with lead, you swung at their balls; you couldn’t help but hurt them even without the lead. You would have crippled the whole ship if you hadn’t been jerked off the line. You cannot be allowed to get away with that.’
‘I don’t care. I don’t see how there’s anything you can do about it. That’ just the way it is now, it can’t be changed. Paul said so.’
‘Nothing we can do, hey?’ One said reaching out and slapping Erect alongside his head.
‘You goddamned faggot. Those men were crippled for life. You’ve got to die.’
Erect had raised his arm defensively at the slap. As he did so a sailor threw a full nelson on him while another sailor grabbed his ankles. Between the two of them with the others each at least laying a hand on Erect they hoisted him up and dumped him over the side like a sack of garbage.
‘Nothing any one can do about that either.’
Dewey watched the scene in wonder training his glasses on them. When he saw them pick Erect up and toss him over the side he couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘That’s murder.’ passed through his mind. He saw Erect’s head bobbing on the crests as though he were standing on Davy Jones’ shoulders rather than on the way to Davy’s locker. He made no outcry but quietly and calmly accepted his fate. It took only a couple hundred yards before the head could no longer be seen amongst the choppy waves.
Dewey stood mouth gaping while the realization of the situation dawned on him. ‘Hey, that’s man overboard.’ He said to himself still astonished at the sight. Then his lips formed the words: ‘Man Overboard.’ Then he looked at Ratches who was staring aft with a look of grim satisfaction.
‘God, he must have seen it.’ Dewey thought. Then he pointed aft and said tentatively in a normal tone to Ratches: ‘Man, overboard?’
Ratches shrugged: ‘Aw hell, we’d never find him now in this choppy sea. We could circle around for hours and never find him. Waste of time and fuel. He’d probably drown by then anyway.’ Ratches turned away and belched and farted.
Dewey looked back again. He thought he saw Erect’s floating head crest with that same impassive stare at the ship he could see but which couldn’t see him.
The reality of the situation clustered around Dewey’s mind but couldn’t sink in. That could have been me flicked on his consciousness. All of a sudden he realized that his own survival had elements of luck while the future loomed menacingly. Peter Erect was gone. No one ever mentioned his name again nor was his absence missed. That’s the way it is aboard ship; either you’re aboard or you’re not. Once gone it’s as though you had never existed.
Even though Erect ceased to exist even in the homos’ minds the memory of the injury to their kind by the others persisted. They had forgotten Erect’s crime to which, indeed, they were accessories, thinking only of their own injury. Two wrongs do not make a right but three do. Strange logic but true. Society forgets or paid no notice to the original offence. Its attention is called only to the response to the first offence which it holds as the crime. The reply to that is seen as proper vengeance that cleans the slate. It does make sense in a perverse way. After the third offence a feud would begin and feuds are to be avoided at all costs so the perpetrator walks. Anyway, that’s the way society works.
‘Someone has to pay for this.’ They all said to each other as they sported in after steering. ‘Someone has got to pay.’
The USS Charles Maturin
Slipping past the Philippines into the North Pacific the seas began to rise as the Teufelsdreck approached a huge stormfront that was to last until Tokyo Bay. At this juncture the Snipes were called on to exercise their talents. They were to refuel at sea.
The Navy masterminds who sat behind those desks in Washington DC must have been busier than anyone thought to arrange to put each ship through every imaginable maneuver so that the old hands had their memories refreshed and novices gained this valuable first experience. This was really phenomenal organization to mastermind the training of a million sailors on hundreds of ships spanning the seven seas of the world.
The Teufelsdreck rendezvoused with the Tanker: USS Charles Maturin.
Tankers are even larger than Reefers being in the 600-700 foot class. Built like Reefers they are stubby vessels broad at the beam, blunt bow and rounded stern. As the big Tanker appeared on the storm’s horizon it was clear that it was less than half full. The Maturin sat high in the water rolling eerily from side to side.
Out on the trailing edge of the typhoon which was heading Northwest toward Japan the seas were high with choppy waves and long rolls and cross currents. It would have been better for the Snipes if the Maturin had been fully laden lowering it in the water while reducing its crazy roll.
Gunnery and Deck gathered around to watch the Snipes go through their paces. They had a fairly hazardous task ahead of them. The Teufelsdreck being the more maneuverable came alongside the Maturin to within twenty feet as both ships labored through the heavy weather at ten knots.
Both bridges were required to give full concentration to the maneuver to maintain distance and speed. Ratches had Verlaine who as an expert helmsman at the wheel. Verlaine was more important for the success of the operation than either the Snipes or the Maturin helmsman. At the larger ship, the crewmen the of Maturin were very mischievous. Since they had nothing to lose everything was a joke to them.
The Maturin towered over the little Teufelsdreck. The little DE looked like a speck alongside the huge Tanker which was twice as long. Six inch diameter hoses were lowered down the span between the two ships to be connected to the intake pipe just aft of the rear starboard hatch. The Snipes went bravely to work on the rolling pitching decks while they were not used to the cold. Not often outside in the cool air they shivered at their task.
It took a full hour to maneuver the hose onto the intake. The sailors of the Maturin who did this everyday played Tanker games. Just as the Teufelsdreck Snipes had the hose nearly connected the Maturin would shorten the give pulling the hose away. It appeared that connection had been completed and fueling began when the Maturin shortened the give snapping the connection. Already pumping oil, the gooey mess spilled over the deck as the Oilers fought desperately to reconnect. The sailors of the Maturin high above, safe from any retribution broke down in laughter at their joke jeering mightily at the Teufelsdreck Oilers.
Successful in their maneuver the Maturin Oilers were beside themselves with glee. The Teufelsdreck had nothing f0r it but to bear them patiently. The connection was redone with minimal leakage.
Then sailing side by side through the heavy seas the Maturin inseminated the Teufelsdreck with its life sustaining liquid. Refueling finished the Oilers disconnected the hose while the Maturin sailors reeled it in. This was really a breathtaking exercise that did the Captain, Verlaine and the Oilers credit.
‘Your men better clean this mess up.’ Dieter said to Chief Oiler by way of congratulations. ‘My men aren’t going to do it.’
To Helm Or Not To Helm, That Is The Question
Troy Verlaine, the Quartermaster, held the wheel. He was a good helmsman who could keep the ship on course through all kinds of seas: headers, cross or following. The sea like the wind is capable of moving in any and all directions. the pressure on the hull can be sensed and answered. Steering a ship is different than steering a car which has a defined track ahead of it.
Helmsmen must develop a peculiar relationship to the officers. Once at the helm, responsible for the safety of the ship in a way that the Captain is not, hence of almost equal authority, he was still one of the enlisted subservient to the temporal authority of the officers.
Fully conscious that he was in control of the vessel yet subservient to the Captain he found it necessary from time to time to demand that the Captain take certain actions. Verlaine like all experienced helmsmen developed a manner of being laughingly humble while at the same time issuing demands that had to be attended to. The Captain accordingly was more familiar with his helmsman than any other enlisted man.
Verlaine had been doing four on and four off at sea since San Diego as there was only one other, Cygnette, who could serve as helmsman.
‘Yes, Captain.’ He volunteered. ‘We should really be training another couple men to take the helm.’
‘What’s wrong?’ Ratches replied. ‘Can’t you and Cynette handle it?’
‘Oh yes, sure, I don’t have any problem with four on and four off. I don’t have much time for my other duties but I don’t mind at all. The only thing is if one of us gets sick the other can’t stand watch twenty-four hours a day.’ He laughed humbly. ‘If you catch my drift, Captain.’
‘Yes, I do. I see what you mean.’ Ratches mused while watching Trueman on port watch.
Ratches, who, while abhorrent of personal contact with the enlisted, still conscientiously examined the personnel files, was well aware that Trueman had one of the half dozen or so highest general intelligence scores on board. From 60 to 70 represented the cream: Trueman had a 62. There was no question in Ratches’ mind that Trueman’s abilities were being wasted in deck but the man resolutely refused his cooperation.
Ratches saw it as not only his duty to his command to develop the men to their full potential but he also sought to reduce the friction aboard ship between Trueman, and very nearly, all the others. He was more aware than Trueman how narrowly the sailor had escaped Dieter’s death sentence. The insanity of Kanary never left his mind. The Captain reasoned that if Trueman were skilled in something the others respected perhaps he could be integrated into the crew.
Intergrated into the crew, indeed!
Ratches made a hand motion toward Trueman asking for Verlaine’s permission. Verlaine was not happy with the choice but he would have taken anyone to get away from four on, four off. so he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, if I have to.
‘You must get bored standing all those port watches, sailor. So little going on.’
Trueman hated the officers as much as anything for referring to the enlisted impersonally as ‘Sailor’. He responded coldly.
‘I don’t ever get bored, Captain. Being bored is for boring people. I bring it with me when I come. I am that I am.’ Then he put his glasses to his eyes as though peering out over the bounding main.
‘You are that you are. Yes, of course, you bring it with you…’ Ratches began grasping for a different approach. ‘…why don’t you come up here and take the helm for a while. Wouldn’t you like to steer the ship?’
Trueman looked over at Verlaine at the helm. The helmsman had never shown him any consideration, Trueman could see no chance of becoming friends with him. Still he would like to steer the ship. He’d always wanted to steer the ship. The Captain made a little coaxing move but many thoughts were rushing through Trueman’s mind.
Always present in his mind, the dominant reason for refusing to accept any responsibility was the manner in which he had been treated when placed as bridge talker without any instructions. Perhaps it was only the hazing a man must take when new, but if so they dumped too big a load of abuse on the man. Had they laughed and made light of it Trueman could have accepted the hazing but they reviled, scorned and belittled him.
‘You can kiss my ass from here to sundown before you get anything else from me.’ Trueman had silently promised them.
Even now the memory roared out of his brain like some ancient Thera sending a boiling spume of ash forty thousand feet into the atmosphere having blown its top. Still, he would like to steer the ship. But he had overheard the whole conversation, seen all the signs, watched the body language. He knew that Verlaine would soon pass his shifts onto him while the other ‘duties’ consumed his time. It was written all over his face. Trueman did not relish doing four on and four off while having to work another four on deck every day. He wouldn’t ever get any sleep. He didn’t think about the beating he was taking in the Treatment, which was the only thing that allowed him to endure it, but he didn’t want to place himself completely at their mercy.
‘Naw. I’m happy just standing watch.’
‘Come on. You can do it.’
‘I know I can do it, Captain, but I’m not going to. I don’t need the trouble.’
The last remark bothered Ratches; he couldn’t understand it.
‘Thank you for the offer, Captain, I appreciate it.’ Dewey said softening a little but knowing he would never change his mind.
His thoughts drifted to Balboa Park where he had found comfort beneath the Eucalyptus tree. It was a scene typical of mankind. A beautiful park is empty, no one had any use for it but then a solitary figure gives a spot beneath a tree unbelievable desirability merely by sitting there. Eyes watch the solitary figure find a comfort in the spot that seemingly surpasses any comfort that they have ever been able to find. They want that very spot that appears to possess ‘comfort’ else why would that solitary figure find ‘comfort’ there?
Suddenly meaningless lives, idle minds, are galvanized into action. They find their identity in that solitary figure. They go to rob the meaning and identity from him. It’s the only way they will ever find any. They bring nothing with them when they come; they come only to steal. They have nothing to offer so they seek quarrels hoping to displace him and drive him away or submit to his authority if he will have them sucking identity from him. They want to received substance from him.
A man seeking a place subdues them assuming their leadership and giving meaning to barren lives but someone seeking only the solitude to mind his own business being no longer able to do this just lets himself be driven off. Then the spot having no ‘comfort’ to offer anyone else is left abandoned as it was before.
So Dewey sensed that while no one wanted to be helmsman as soon as he took the task the clamor for it would be ceaseless until he was forced to be ‘democratic’ and give way. Then when he no longer wanted the job they would fall away going back to their lifeless selves and the situation would be the same as before. Verlaine and Cygnette were doing four on and four off.
Actually Dewey needn’t have worried. Unlike most Navy tasks it did take above average intelligence to keep the ship on course. Some four or five others tried and failed. At athat point if Trueman had been clever enough the job would have been his with no further contest. But, much to what should have been his regret he was intractable. Fortunately neither Verlaine nor Cygnette got sick.
How Much Is That Doggy Out In Space?
Trueman was coming down off watch when he noticed the Operations men milling around outside the Radar Shack on the boat deck.
‘Hey, how come you guys aren’t inside looking for enemy aircraft?’ He said jocularly.
‘Can’t.’ Drew Sessions smiled. ‘All communications systems are disrupted. Radio, radar and everything.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, all signals are voided. There’s nothing but crackle on the radio and static on the radarscope.’
‘Oh yeah? What’s the problem?’
‘Nobody knows. Everything’s blacked out.’
‘Oh yeah? Hey, I’ve got an idea.’
‘You remember how the Ruskies put up the Sputnik just before we left and then sent up the space shot last month with the dog on board?’
‘What do you thing of this? Somewhere out in the Test Range we sent up a rocket with an atom bomb warhead to try to blow that dog up. The bomb exploded and disrupted communications? Yeah?’
‘That’s an awful of money just to kill a dog.’ Sessions drawled.
‘Yeah. That’s what I call really kicking some guy’s dog around. I know it’s costly, makes him the most expensive dog on ea…uh, in space. On earth, if they ever get it back down. Sound like anything a rocket scientist would do?’
‘You got a great imagination Dewey, I like it but I think it’s the most far fetched story I’ve ever heard.’
‘Well, I don’t say they were trying to knock down the space poodle but I can’t think of anything else that could disrupt communications like that.’
‘I don’t know but why would they explode atom bombs in space? I don’t think they were trying to kill a dog either.’
‘Got me. Maybe they’re dumb enough to just want to see if we can survive it. Heck, anybody dumb enough to destroy an entire island with a Hydrogen bomb on Earth or detonate an atomic bomb underwater off San Diego is capable of any stupidity, don’t you think?’
Trial By Water
During the night the seas rose. The Navy had sophisticated systems to locate storms. Up to this point the squadron had been sent around them. But now it was determined to send the Teufelsdreck straight through the center of the mighty typhoon that lay athwart its course to Tokyo.
The Commordor and the rest of the squadron took a course that skirted the edge of the storm to the North. The Commodore had decided to put the Teufelsdreck in Harm’s Way. Perhaps if the maimed sailors hadn’t been followed by the debacles of Fiji and Subic the ship might have regained his favor. Now he saw them as useless, better off at the bottom of the sea so he sent them into the heart of the typhoon fully hoping they would sink. Except for Ratches superior seamanship they might have.
The reader might think it preposterous that a whole ship might be ordered to its death. I can assure the reader that stranger things have happened and even things he is more familiar with. David and Bathsheba for instance. The innumerable small plane crashes that claim the lives of celebrities. Even the spectacular crash in Chicago during the Nixon administration which was intended to take out one man at the expense of a jetliner and the lives of nearly as many as were aboard the Teufelsdreck.
The mind of man is capable of any crime when it is seeking satisfactions. The Commodore’s mind was that of a mean small petty man.
The order was received with some trepidation by the Old Salts. Orders were given to prepare the ship for heavy seas. That means that the ship had to be gone over foot by foot with everything loose tied securely down. Already the seas were washing over the deck amidships. The spray began to blast through the wing hatches so they were dogged down.
Lines were strung down the deck for safety for in a lttle while anyone not holding onto them would be washed over the side.
Then as the winds rose and water sloshed over the decks continually all hatches were dogged. If water entered the hold the added weight would be sure to send the ship to the bottom.
The roll and pitch became so bad it was impossible to sit at table in messhall. Bocuse took Trueman’s advice serving up tuna fish sandwiches. Rather than meeting with complaints he met with accolades as the sailors grabbed a couple sandwiches to eat in the relative comfort of their bunks.
The storm became so bad that water washed out of the toilets flooding the head.
The winds flew over the crests of the waves bitter cold.
Kanary always on the lookout to make Trueman’s life miserable had assigned him to the eight to twelve evening after watch. To get to the three inch gun tub one had to exit the after starboard hatch and haul oneself along the line in waist deep water. Once in the gun tub waves still washed through occasionally.
But then at six before the eight to twelve the Captain canceled the after watch as it was both dangerous to open the starboard hatch and useless to watch.
Thus Trueman would get a bye and a good night’s rest. This was intolerable to the queer Yeoman. Rather than that Trueman should benefit from the canceled watch Kanary immediately transferred him to the bridge giving Roberts the watch off on the excuse that he was sick.
Trueman grumbled but there was nothing he could do about it.
The word was that it was freezing so Trueman wore nearly every stitch of clothing that he had: double T-shirts, double shirts, the sweater that was seldom used and his pea coat as well as two pairs of pants.
Thus accoutered he passed through Engineering on his way to the bridge.
The shower line was a comical sight. Twenty nude men wearing shoes danced a comic dance as they struggled to keep their feet as the ship took huge rolls right and left and rising and falling several feet at a time, sometimes rising horizontally with the waves, sometimes sliding up the wave sometimes toppling steeply into the trough. All these moves were happening simultaneously and in rapid succession.
Toward the end of the line stood a forlorn Ragnar Ock. The big Swede had been unable to work out for nearly three months now. The huge artificially maintained muscles had sagged and collapsed. The form he had once been so proud of was now a flabby mess. Repairing the damage would be a difficult time consuming process.
Trueman suppressed a smile as he passed through the dancing men.
The passageway leading to the mess hall was long and narrow, not wide enough for two men to pass comfortably. Had Dewey any inclination to reenlist this storm would have ended it. The ship was rolling so much that in compensating for the roll he had already smacked his head against the steel I beams on different occasions. The force of a rolling ship cracking into your skull is not inconsiderable. Hence Trueman prepared himself to roll with the ship by bracing himself with his hands rather than compensate and crack his head.
Whenever possible Kanary and the fairies liked to add insult to injury. So, after first having told Trueman that Roberts was sick, Cornell now appeared at the other end of the passageway with a mocking smile on his face.
Ever since Subic the drunken Wild Bunch had begun to physically harass Trueman. Shamed by their behavior as they were escorted back to the ship their self-image had taken a major blow. Defeated in their attempt to compensate their degradation on the cargo net and foiled in their two murder attempts on the Le Fanu they had turned their sense of impotence on Trueman more openly.
Since Subic they had refused to give the half turn necessary to pass in the passageway. Thus Trueman was either degraded by turning to let them pass or forced to crash into them causing hard words and perhaps more. Roberts’ eyes issued the challenge to Trueman. The latter was ready.
Roberts looked straight ahead as though the passageway was vacant. He wasn’t going to turn. Trueman prepared to slug it out on contact.
As their shoulders slammed into each other luck was with Trueman. The ship made a tremendous roll to port on contact. Driven by Dewey’s shoulder Roberts was back flattened across an I beam. Trueman who had had a hand on the bulkhead thrust his shoulder into Roberts breast bone. His weight augmented by the roll of the ship, the full force crashed into Roberts sternum and spine. He gave out a loud howl followed by a curse.
It was several seconds before the ship righted and rolled to starboard so Dewey could regain his balance. They were excruciatingly painful seconds for Roberts.
‘Goddamn it Trueman; watch where you’re going.’
‘I will when you do, Roberts. Rough seas, tough break for you.’ He said with satisfaction.
Kanary and Duber who had stood at the passageway behind Trueman’s back melted away disappointed that they had witnessed their humiliation rather than Trueman’s.
‘We’ll have to get the son-of-a-bitch back.’ Kanary said. As they despised Trueman any show of spirit by him was considered illegitimate. A successful defense was considered a crime that had to be avenged.
After this incident however this particular type of ‘treatment’ was called off.
Proceeding onward Dewey emerged into the cold blast of the storm. The wind was slamming through the rigging like the hammer of Thor thrown after the baying hounds of hell. The first sight that greeted Dewey’s eyes was a shining wall of water rising above the bridge. The seas were truly mountainous. Although it wasn’t raining, foul weather gear was required for protection against the horizontal sheets of water blown off the waves.
While Dewey was slipping into the yellow foul weather gear he looked around the bridge to orient himself. The Captain who well knew how dangerous these storms were had been on the bridge for the last thirty hours most of which he had been on his feet not even leaving the bridge to eat but having food brought to him.
There was a little cabinet that ran athwart the breadth of the front of the bridge for his use during such situations. He had used his bunk sparingly nor would he be able to use it any less sparingly for the next thirty hours. It wouldn’t be fair to say that he was afraid but his face showed the strain of being aware of the ship’s peril.
The ship was already several degrees off course. Partly the raging winds kept blowing it south-westward and partly the immense waves and cross seas which turned the ship about made it impossible for Verlaine to maintain course.
Certainly Dewey had never seen the like nor would he ever want to see it again. As he looked aft the water coursed the entire length of the decks high enough to submerge the guard lines. It appeared that the whole ship was underwater except the boat deck and bridge. He marveled that the game little subkiller stayed afloat.
When the amazing seas roared over the all but submerged bow the massive mountains of water thudded against the three inch bulkhead slamming with a crash into the wing hatches. Spray shot over the bridge drenching everything.
The ship was tossed about like a cork in the torrent. Forty foot waves came together fore and aft making a half mile long quarter mile wide swale through which the Teufelsdreck entered by sliding bow first down a great crest into the deep trough. Not infrequently both bow and screws were simultaneously out of the water, then as the bow settled the ship was often twisted to the side by several degrees.
Sometimes it crossed the trough to climb the monster wave at the other end which was so awe inspiring that the salty spray left its flavor in the gaping mouths.
Sometimes the ship would be caught by the rising wave ratcheted up with knee buckling force forty feet up its shimmering expanse to be rolled over the crest into the next trough or to be caught in the twirling tangle of two or three crests coming together.
There was nothing to watch for, Dewey could only clutch the compass stand to keep from being thrown across the deck and possibly over the side. The rises were so sharp and so sudden that Dewey gave up buckling his knees to absorb the rise, he merely clutched the compass stand for dear life rising and falling with it.
Several times Verlaine reported he had no rudder as following seas raced faster than the ship leaving no purchase for the screws.
As Dewey looked at the glassy striations of the waves towering above him or down into the deep trough as crests passed beneath the ship he felt a sense of growing elation. It was as though the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse had been turned loose on the little ark of survival called the Teufelsdreck. Fury there was. Fury above, fury below, there was no escaping that elating fury. Ignorance of what it was saved Dewey from fear.
Already living with the prospect of death the ship came face to face with total destruction.
Dewey’s knees had been buckled to his chest as the Teufelsdreck made an anstonishing ascent up a sixty foot wave as the gigantic swell passed under the ship rolled heavily to Starboard then with a flick at the crest it righted itself rolling to port as it began to slide into the trough. The Captain lost his balance falling against the steel barrier.
Perhaps a submarine current caught it but the ship kept rolling and then it rolled some more. The Captain struggling to his feet was downed again. Dewey was standing upright with one foot on the barrier and one foot on the deck; his hand rested on the compass whose floating disk had bottomed out several degrees before.
It seemed as though the ship had hit an invisible barrier as it froze at this crazy angle. The rollometer swung past twenty degrees. Half crazed with elation Dewey looked Death in the face. ‘One more degree.’ He said to himself. ‘And the ship will roll over.’
With a shrieking laugh he screamed back at the wind: “Whoopee, we’re all going to die.’
But Death was only teasing the little subkiller. Sliding down the wave the ship slowly righted itself but at the bottom of the trough as the ship should have begun a roll to starboard a cross current slammed into the hull keeping the ship perpendicular. The ship’s beams gave a booming shudder as incredible forces were absorbed by the hull.
Dewey who had been preparing himself for the starboard roll was thrown off his feet rolling over to the starboard compass. The starboard watch was hanging over the divider trying desperately to get his balance inboard, he was about to lose the battle. At his back the waves towered over Dewey to port and starboard, fore and aft. Scrambling to his feet he looked over at the watch then he reached up under his rain gear and falling backward while pulling hard drew the man back aboard. He raced for the security of his compass as the ship remained absolutely motionless. Then the screws caught and the ship lost to any sense of direction mounted the next mountainous wave.
Half frozen, excited beyond his wits ends Dewey gave his compass to his relief eagerly descending the ladder to the warmth of the ship. He no longer believed in safety.
‘If you gotta die, you might as well die warm.’ He thought as he climbed into his bunk. There was no surcease from the raging typhoon there. The roll and pitch was so bad that Dewey had to hold onto the suspension chains on either side to keep from being thrown from his bunk.
While no one was willing to show fear there was much loud grumbling about the severity of the storm that concealed a mounting sense of terror.
About 4:00 AM the ship made another colossal roll this time to starboard. Dewey held on desperately to keep from being thrown out of his bunk as the contents of the lockers shifted to starboard with loud thunks. there wasn’t a hand in First who didn’t think the ship would roll over.
Loud were the sighs of relief as the ship reversed its roll toward port. Dewey with all the others thought they were going to die. There could be no chance of surviving this storm. ‘Jesus I hope it’s not too cold when that water rushes in.’ He thought because his overhead bunk would turn into the bottom bunk on the deck that had formerly been the overhead. ‘Let me be knocked unconscious.’ He prayed.
The sturdy little subkiller made it through the night. At about eight the next morning a hose restrainer near the after starboard hatch broke loose banging against the bulkhead.
Pardon and Ratman opened the hatch to go outside to restrain it.
Pardon grabbed Ratman around the waist to secure him while he worked as he held onto the line to keep them both from being washed over the side as the water swirled waist high around them.
The hatch had to be closed on them to prevent too much water entering the hull. Finally a thump on the hatch indicated they were ready to return. They were nearly washed in as the sea sloshed through the hatch. Several sailors grabbed swabs to mop up the sloshing water inside.
There was little more for First to do until the Teufelsdreck exited the storm more than a day later.
Rather then entering Tokyo Bay from the East the ship approached the Bay from the South passing through innumerable little islets. The seas still rough enough now apeared calm in comparison to the typhoon. The little subkiller had passed through hell hale and hearty. The fleet’s little Black Sheep was a tough nut.
Now Hear This…
As was customary with every port except Subic Ratches came on the loudspeaker to give instructions to the sailors as to what they could expect of the port and a course on the experience the Navy had acquired.
‘Now hear this. Now hear this.’ The Captain’s introducer announced. ‘A word from the Captain.’
‘Good afternoon, men. We are now going to visit a friendly nation. You are not to enter Yokosuka (pronounced Y’kuska) as conquering warriors. We are now at peace with Japan and have been for the past twelve years. It is true that we are an occupying force but you are to act as tourists. If you are overbearing and chastised for it the Navy will listen very carefully to the complaints of the Japanese so be forewarned. Do not call them Japs or Nips, they are to be referred to as Japanese.
Secondly, the Japanese prostitutes are so delightful that you may be tempted to think that they are sincere in giving you the favors you have paid for. Do not be fooled; you have only made a business transaction. The Navy has found over the years that men often mistake the attentions of the prostitutes as falling in love. Hundreds of sailors have married these women. In ever case the results were disastrous.
Do not ask my permission to marry a prostitute. It will not be given.
Now go ashore and enjoy yourselves. There is no place like Tokyo to do it. Good luck. This was your Captain speaking.’
‘Did you hear what he said, Trueman?’
‘Ya. Have a good time.’
‘No. He said don’t ask permission to marry the prostitutes. That’s just what you’d do.’
‘I wouldn’t count on it, Vincent.’
Dewey had expected the storm to be covering Japan ruining their stay. He thought Tokyo would be freezing. But they had left the storm behind; Japan was overcast but pleasant. Tokyo lies on almost the same parallel as LA or Santa Barbara so there was no chill.
The entrance to Tokyo Bay is fairly narrow. Yokahama with its great shipyards lies to port and Yokosuka lies to Starboard. Tokyo is at the head of the Bay.
In 1957 Japan was only beginning to develop its industrial muscle. It was already a major shipbuilder as well as a whiz at turning out trinkets. As they stood on deck studying the massive traveling cranes and other industrial machines Dewey was struck with awe. All the equipment was brand new and shiny making the comparable industrial gear of the US look shoddy. At that point Dewey knew that the war was not over but had only shifted arenas.
Had he known the historical background of the Pacific War he could have predicted the next forty years with assurance rather than a guess.
The history of the conflict between the two nations began in 1853 when Admiral Matthew Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay aboard the great black ships with their roaring cannon. The Japanese had never seen the like.
The ships and cannon might just as well have been the Atom Bomb. The Japanese caved in to American demands. In so doing they created a fixation on the Anima of the national psyche that had to be discharged.
At the time Perry arrived Japan had isolated itself from the world for over two hundred years. Prior to 1600 the Japanese had been very active in the orient, they had even been to Mexico. Their attitude had been a multiple of that of the Teufelsdreck’s desperadoes in Subic. The Japanese made repeated piratical raids on the China coast. They were so aggressive on liberty in Southeast Asia that they were not allowed ashore with weapons. Imagine if the Teufelsdreck’s desperadoes had had guns. As a precursor of later attitudes the Japanese declared war on China and lost.
When the Westerners in the character of Portuguese Catholic missionaries began making great inroads in Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese unable to culturally resist merely sealed the country off.
Japanese citizens were allowed to have no contact with the outside world. Ocean going vessels were forbidden. thus the great ships of Perry in 1853 were astonishing.
Now, the Japanese had been minding their own business. There was no cause to disturb them. The ostensible reason for ‘opening’ Japan was that American and European sailors who had been shipwrecked on Japanese shores were being mistreated. The real reason was that anyone minding their own business is anathema to other people. The Japanese refused to trade. Dammit, didn’t they know there was money to be made? The Japanese refused to let the West make it. What are you supposed to do with people like that?
The Japanese were compelled to surrender nearly everything but their sovreignty, which means that the national Animus was repressed and the Anima fixated.
Having been isolated for two hundred years and then confronted with what must have appeared to be space age technology the Japanese did a remarkable thing. They abandoned their old ways completely embracing the ways of the West. Within thirty years they completely overhauled their society. They adopted Western style aristocracy, military organization, education, science and technology. The intellect of Japan was changed to that of a Western state along Japanese national lines.
They also adopted an undying hatred for the West. Their humiliation at the hands of Perry had to be avenged, the fixation on the Anima had to be discharged. The seeds of the Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere were sown in 1853. Still directed internally it took the West once again to show the Japanese the external direction.
American’s had invested the Hawaiian Islands where they set up huge plantations. Now these were the descendants of the men who had plunged the Union into a civil war because they said they detested slavery. Not willing to work the land themselves they had originally brought in Chinese contract labor, that is to say slaves, to work the fields. The Chinese were supposed to go back to China when their contracts expired as the Whites didn’t want the island overrun by the Yellow Race but they didn’t. They liked Hawaii OK.
So the planters did an incredible thing. Remember they began a war against slavery in the South. They sent a ship to Yokohama, over there where the Yellow traveling cranes were at work, and shanghaied a hundred some Japanese off the streets to work the fields for them. These were the same men who had chastised the Whites of the South for the same thing.
The Japanese were quite naturally enraged. But then a light went on in someone’s head. The Japanese began to look outward. Alright, they said, if you want Japanese laborers let’s make a deal. The deal was that Japanese would contract for three years of indentured servitude returning home at the end. This they did. Unlike the Chinese the Japanese returned to Japan. However the number of Japanese going out always exceeded the number returning. The Japanese rather quickly became the largest nationality on the islands.
The planters weren’t entirely stupid. By 1920 they realized their error abandoning Japanese laborers for Filipinos. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious. White boys just don’t want to cut cane.
By the 1890s the Japanese were having delusions of grandeur. This little band of brothers saw the world as theirs. They acted on it too. In 1896 they renewed their interrupted war with China, winning it this time. Then they squabbled with Russia winning that one too which propelled them into the international big leagues.
They now turned their eyes to their arch enemy, the United States.
Americans have difficulty interpreting the world in any other than their own image. Their vanity is such that they cannot comprehend that other peoples have different ideas and perceptions. Imagine, if you can, a Japanese strategist looking at the history of the American West. The first thing he will see is that Cortez with only a handful of men conquered for all practical purposes the whole North American continent. First Mexico, then the Spaniards with no legitimate claim to anything, Texas and California not to mention Florida.
Then the Japanese strategist sees the Anglos infiltrating themselves first into Texas then California. Once there these, what amount to paramilitary troops, men seize the lands incorporating them into the United States with about the same amount of justification that the Spaniards had. So the Japanese diaspora began.
Easy enough. In fact studying western colonization patterns the strategist sees how Japan can do the same thing with the same amount of justification. I see, I want, I take. Colonists were sent not only to the US but up and down the entire West Coast of both Americas. A failed attempt in Brazil was seconded by one in which the coherence of the Japanese community was maintained.
The move on California began. Now, the Japanese considered their soil sacred. They didn’t even want foreigners to step on it so they considered the Americans who gave away their patrimony to any and all who cared to stake a claim incomprehensible.
The Californians who had thwarted Chinese Immigration with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were in no mood to be taken over by the Japanese. They fought like tigers to have the Japanese excluded also. The Japanese could not endure the stigma of inferiority of a Japanese Exclusion Act so they volunteered to restrict immigration on their own.
The Chinese Diaspora will be dealt with in its proper place. The attitude of the Californians toward the Asian peoples has been characterized as outrageous White bigotry. Nothing could be further from the truth. Seen from the point of view of Californians the threat to their existence was very real. At the time of the Chinese Diaspora there must have been close to a parity in California between the two populations with millions even tens of millions of Chinese waiting in the wings. The Whites would soon have been swamped and expelled from the West. Yes, expelled. Neither the Chinese nor Japanese tolerate Whites in their own countries. As of the turn of the twenty-first century Whites no longer have a presence in either country. There would not have been room for both in California. Imagine a world without Hollywood.
Proceed to Our Lady Part V-6