by Bill Owens SM3/c

Heading Home

In respect to the trip from Okinawa to S.F. Nothing of real interest occurred to tweak my memory other than an incident in Hawaii.

I had asked a shipmate to cover for me on my watch and spirited myself to the local beer hall for a little libation. Downing my first beer I turned and found the first class at my side and an immediate query as to why I was not on watch. I told him I had switched watches with another fellow but somehow I don’t think he bought this story. Feeling somewhat guilty I returned to the ship found my substitute playing cards in the radar shack no one on watch and noticed a flag hoist from the shore station addressed to the Chilton. Using the general Signal book I determined the hoist said “ Put a more competent signalman on watch”. WOW ! Now what do I do? Well the first thing was to confirm receipt of the message by hoisting a duplicate set of flags in answer and when my confirmation was acknowledged pull down the flags and put them back in the flag bag.

A year ago I would have dutifully carried the incoming message to the captain and probably been restricted to the ship or worse for the entire time we would be in the states.

Thank goodness with a year or so of training in improvising defenses and developing a new strain of deductive logic I reasoned that the originator of the message was the first class who prevailed on the shore station to send it. The basis for my decision was the fact that NO message to the ship followed the last message and I didn’t think the shore station would call all the ships in the area just to see who was doping off.

My conclusion ….forget the whole thing and see where it went.

It went nowhere!

The voyage back to the states was uneventful except for an amusing event related to our use of the “flag plot facilities” which were used by the Commodore and his staff to plot actions related to his command. Flag Plot was a comfortably furnished area containing overstuffed leather chairs and couch, piped in music and a special stateroom for the Commodore containing a bed set on gyros that would keep it level in all bur extreme seas.

Now that the “Flag” had departed the signal group more or less took over the area and spent many happy days flaked out on the couch, or in a chair listening to the piped in music or playing cards.

Somehow the “N” division officer ( An Ensign Sanders) caught wind of our little club house sojourns and ordered it locked and off limits to us. This action was the start of a war between he and the first class that bore an ill wind for the ensign as time marched forward.

One day not too long after the Flag Plot affair Ensign Sanders inspected our foul weather gear and ordered it washed and cleaned up. That night the First Class had us gather “all” foul weather gear and give it the deep six.

I’m not sure what the first class told the ensign but in a short time we were outfitted with all new gear.

The next faux-paw the ensign involved himself in ( in all fairness he may have been acting under the orders of the captain) was to order us to clean the stack. A monumental effort even in port but extremely difficult while at sea in less than calm waters. Additionally he ordered the rardiomen to repaint the “well deck” ( one of their cleaning stations) located at the base of the stack just outside the navigation bridge (where the Captain hung out).

The stack cleaning activity progressed until one or two of the men were almost overcome by toxic gas at the top of the stack and another suffered severe bumps and bruises when one of the crew untied the line (by mistake) fastened to his bos’n chair and dropped him about twenty feet to the well deck below.

The radiomen unused I guess to manual labor found the well deck to be under water by an inch or two and chose to carry out their orders by pouring paint into the water and smearing it around with brooms.

On this particular day the captain left the bridge and wandered into the area being worked by the radiomen rather than using his inside stairway to his quarters below.

Seeing what was going on the radiomen were asked what they were doing and under whose orders. “Ensign Sanders” came the reply and thus I was privileged to see something I had never seen before or since. Ensign Sanders and a group of radiomen on their knees chipping and scrapping the well deck and later when the deck was pronounced fit for further finishing applying several coats of red lead and paint.

Ensign Sanders ceased to be any sort of a problem after that and even gained to some degree the sympathy of the “N” division.

In detailing the “Sanders” incident I am reminded of how my big mouth worked for me and the crew (thought few knew about it). Maybe I was destined to be a lawyer ( it however never happened).

I began to notice a deterioration in quality and quantity of the food served in the crews mess. ( Of course I had more than a little experience in that area due to previous assignments) I was used to boll weevils in the cereal and how to deftly push them aside as they floated in the “blue” color reconstituted powered milk and consume the cereal rather than the bugs, but when they began to show-up in the bread through lack of sifting the flour and we never got desert anymore plus the quantities had shrunk I got pissed off one day when all I had on my tin tray were some meatless bones ( served as spareribs) and a few compromised tidbits of other foodstuff and decided to do something about it.

Marching to the officer of the deck’s station (in port at Pearl) next to the gangplank I showed him ( exhibiting my tray) what was being served to the crew, pointed out that many of the crew were finding it necessary to hold up their pants with a rope because of weight loss and asked if he had ( as his duty dictated) visited the ships mess and observed what was going on.

Confronting an officer in this manner is not suggested as a routine to follow and I was probably on my way to a court martial when once again the 1st LT. Arrived on the scene, dismissed me and took over.

I was not party to the sequence of events that followed but the effect was immediate. Larger bug free portions of food, deserts and a change in attitude in the chow line. I was an unsung hero.

Next...The last hurra. and Fini