For you crusty old salts…..
Written by a Korean War Sailor
Come gather round me lads and I’ll tell you a thing or two, about the way we ran the Navy in nineteen fifty two.
When wooden ships and iron men were barely out of sight, I am going to give you some facts just to set the record right.
We wore the ole bell bottoms, with a flat hat on our head, and we always hit the sack at night. We never “went to bed.”
Our uniforms were worn ashore, and we were mighty proud.
Never thought of wearing civvies, in fact they weren’t allowed.
Now when a ship puts out to sea, I’ll tell you son – it hurts when you suddenly notice that half the crew is wearing skirts!
And it’s hard for me to imagine, a female boatswain’s mate, stopping on the Quarter deck, making sure her stockings are straight.
What happened to the KiYi brush, and the old salt-water bath?
Holy stoning decks at night – cause you stirred old Bosn’s wrath!
We always had our gedunk stand and lots of pogey bait.
And it always took a hitch or two, just to make a rate.
In your seabag all your skivvies, were neatly stopped and rolled.
And the blankets on your sack had better have a three-inch fold.
Your little ditty bag ..it’s hard to believe just how much it held, and you wouldn’t go ashore with pants that hadn’t been spiked and belled.
We had scullery maids and succotash and good old S.O.S.
And when you felt like topping off – you headed for the mess.
Oh we had our belly robbers – but there weren’t too many gripes.
For the deck apes were never hungry and there were no starving snipes.
Now you never hear of Davey Jones, Shellbacks Or Polliwogs, and you never splice the mainbrace to receive your daily grog.
Now you never have to dog a watch or stand the main event.
You even tie your lines today – - back in my time they were bent.
We were all two-fisted drinkers and no one thought you sinned, if you staggered back aboard your ship, three sheets to the wind.
And with just a couple hours of sleep you regained your usual luster.
bright eyed and bushy tailed – you still made morning muster.
Rocks and shoals have long since gone, and now it’s U.C.M.J.
THEN the old man handled everything if you should go astray.
Now they steer the ships with dials, and I wouldn’t be surprised, if some day they sailed the damned things – from the beach….computerized.
So when my earthly hitch is over, and the good Lord picks the best, I’ll walk right up to HIM and say, “Sir, I have but one request Let me sail the seas of Heaven in a coat of Navy blue.
Like I did so long ago on earth – way back in 1952.
Reflections of a Blackshoe
by Vadm Harold Koenig, USN (Ret)……
I like the Navy. I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe – the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive her through the sea.
I like the sounds of the Navy – the piercing trill of the boatswains pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship’s bell on the quarterdeck, the harsh squawk of the 1MC and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.
I like Navy vessels – nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers. I like the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea – memorials of great battles won. I like the lean angular names of Navy ‘tin-cans’: Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinix,Walton, mementos of heroes who went before us.
I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers as we pull away from the oiler after refueling at sea. I like liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I even like all hands working parties as my ship fills herself with the multitude of supplies both mundane and exotic which she needs to cut her ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there is water to float her.
I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as they trust and depend on me – for professional competence, for comradeship, for courage. In a word, they are “shipmates.”
I like the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed “Now station the special sea and anchor detail – all hands to quarters for leaving port”, and I like the infectious thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends
The work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the ‘all for one and one for all’ philosophy of the sea is ever present. I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship’s work, as flying fish flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to night.
I like the feel of the Navy in darkness – the masthead lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters – they cut through the dusk and join with the mirror of stars overhead. And I like drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that tell me that my ship is alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe. I like quiet midwatcheswith the aroma of strong coffee – the lifeblood of the Navy – permeating everywhere.
And I like hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of alertness. I like the sudden electricity of “General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations”, followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transforms herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war – ready for anything.
And I like the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize. I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made them. I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones. A sailor can find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman’s trade. An adolescent can find adulthood.
In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods – the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief’s quarters and messdecks. Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the horizon. Remembering this, they will stand taller and say, “I WAS A SAILOR ONCE. I WAS PART OF THE NAVY & THE NAVY WILL ALWAYS BE PART OF ME.”
TIN CAN SAILORMAN
Memories of those haze, gray ships come creeping from my past. And I, a tin can sailorman, I want to make them last. We manned the sleek destroyer types, those grayhounds of the sea, Which growled, and prowled, and roamed the world to try to keep men free.
We’ve steamed up the Saigon River, and off the Cuban shore. We’ve fought in the Gulf of Leyte, and sank the subs of war. We’ve often done the thankless jobs and we’ve always done them well, and if tomorrow you needed us, we’d fight the dogs of hell.
I can still hear the turbine’s whine, and smell the salt sea air. And feel the wind at twenty knots and know there’s power to spare. I remember the sound of a bos’en’s call, of “sweepers, man your brooms,” And foreign ladies in foreign lands, and liberty ending too soon.
I was younger then, and braver then, along on a joyous ride, But I notice after all these years, that I’m still filled with pride. For shipmates I’ve not seen in years, for a ship that’s long since gone. Cause I was a tin can sailorman, and mine is a heartfelt song.
- a poem by Ed Whitehead
Ode to Rope
As I cast off for that very first time, the “rope” in my hand has now become the “line.” And hauling the sails to the top of the mast, That “rope”, now a “halyard” holds strong, taught and fast. Then sailing in brisk winds full force on a beat. The sails are trimmed in by that “rope” that’s a “sheet.” And now at my anchorage with sails safely stowed, I trust in that “rope” that now serves as a “rode.” Through all my life I will never lose hope, Of a reason or time to play with a rope. – Anonymous
© 06/22/71 by David L. Henkel
It’s a brand new pot, freshly brewed,
But at the moment, you’re not in the mood,
To wake up to that lousy cup.
But yet again, in infamous style,
You take a swig and force a smile.
Its as black as coal and tastes like glue.
You won’t forget the dirty socks
Taken from the garbage box,
To filter the ton of grounds.
With JP-5, and its oily taste,
And so much salt it forms a paste.
It’s a witches brew designed to kill.
You hope for luck tomorrow morning,
And someone else to give a warning,
“Wait, its a hazard to your health!”
A Sailor’s Christmas
T’was the night before Christmas, the ship was out steaming,
Sailors stood watch while others were dreaming.
They lived in a crowd with racks tight and small,
In a 80-man berthing, cramped one and all.
I had come down the stack with presents to give,
And to see inside just who might perhaps live.
I looked all about, a strange sight did I see,
No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.
No stockings were hung, shined boots close at hand,
On the bulkhead hung pictures of a far distant land.
They had medals and badges and awards of all kind,
And a sober thought came into my mind.
For this place was different, so dark and so dreary,
I had found the house of a Sailor, once I saw clearly.
A Sailor lay sleeping, silent and alone,
Curled up in a rack and dreaming of home.
The face was so gentle, the room squared away,
This was the United States Sailor today.
This was the hero I saw on TV,
Defending our country so we could be free.
I realized the families that I would visit this night,
Owed their lives to these Sailors lay willing to fight.
Soon round the world, the children would play,
And grownups would celebrate on Christmas Day.
They all enjoyed freedom each day of the year,
Because of the Sailor, like the one lying here.
I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas Eve on a sea, far from home.
The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.
The Sailor awakened and I heard a calm voice,
“Santa, don’t cry, this life is my choice.”
“Defending the seas all days of the year,
So others may live and be free with no fear.”
I thought for a moment, what a difficult road,
To live a life guided by honor and code.
After all it’s Christmas Eve and the ship’s underway!
But freedom isn’t free and it’s sailors who pay.
The Sailor say’s to our country “be free and sleep tight,
No harm will come, not on my watch and not on this night.”
The Sailor rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.
I kept watch for hours, so silent, so still,
I watched as the Sailor shivered from the night’s cold chill.
I didn’t want to leave on that cold dark night,
This guardian of honor so willing to fight.
The Sailor rolled over and with a voice strong and sure,
Commanded, “Carry on Santa, It’s Christmas, and All is Secure!”
HONOR, COURAGE AND COMMITMENT
A Poem for Soldiers and Sailors
He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.
And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Bob has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Soldier died today.
He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Sailor died today.
When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young
But the passing of a Soldier
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.
While the ordinary Sailor,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.
It’s so easy to forget them,
For it is so many times
That our Bobs and Jims and Johnnys,
Went to battle, but we know,
It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand?
Or would you want a Soldier–
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Sailor,
Who would fight until the end.
He was just a common Soldier,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simply headline
In the paper that might say:
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,
A SOLDIER OR A SAILOR DIED TODAY.”
Old sailors sit and chew the fat
’bout how things used to be
of the things they’ve seen
and places they’ve been
When they ventured out to sea.
They remember friends from long ago
and the times they had back then
of the money they’ve spilled
and the beer they’ve swilled
In their days as sailing men.
Their lives are lived in days gone by
with thoughts that forever last
of cracker-jack hats
and bell-bottom blues
and the good times in their past.
They recall long nights with a moon so bright
far out on a lonely sea
and the thoughts they had
as youthful lads
When their lives were unbridled and free.
They know so well how their hearts would swell
when the flag fluttered proud and free
and the stars and the stripes
made such beautiful sights
as they plowed through an angry sea.
They talk of the bread ole’ cookie would bake
and the shrill of the boatsun’s pipe
and how the salt spray fell
like sparks out of hell
when a storm struck in the night.
They remember mates already gone
who forever hold a spot
In the stories of old
when sailors were bold
and lubbers were a pitiful lot.
They rode their ships through many a storm
when the sea was showing its might
And the mighty waves
might be digging their graves
as they sailed on through the night.
They speak of nights in a bawdy house
somewhere on a foreign shore
and the beer they’d down
as they gathered around
cracking jokes with a busty whore.
Their sailing days are gone away
never more will they cross the brow
But they have no regrets
for they know they’ve been blessed
’cause they honored their sacred vow.
Their numbers grow less with each passing day
as their chits in this life are called in
But they’ve nothing to lose
for they’ve all paid their dues
and they’ll sail with their shipmates again.
I’ve heard them say before getting underway
that there’s still some sailin’ to do
and they’ll exclaim with a grin
that their ship has come in
and the Lord is commanding the crew.
(Author Unknown. Submitted by Mary & Jerry Hudson)
Is Your Sea Bag Packed For Heaven?
As a shipmate and a buddy, I would like to talk to you,
about some real important duty, you and I will have to do.
It concerns the getting ready, for a trip we’ll have to make,
and the packing of our sea bag, which of course we’ll have to take.
Each of us must make the trip, makes no difference who we are.
For God has drafted each one to go, and the 4f’s are few thus far.
Tis the trip of death I speak of, not a pleasant thought I know,
but someday we’ll have to face it, then why not get packed to go?
The sea bag of which I am speaking, is your heart down deep inside,
it is made of sin stained canvas, with a lashing rope of pride.
What’s in it is your business, but the Skipper up above,
someday will hold inspection, will he find it packed with love?
Or will it be packed with gear that’s sinful, or that’s illegal or not G.I.
Will it pass the censorship of judgment at the port up in the sky?
You may have some souvenirs or habits that you hate to throw away.
But will it pass the heavenly censor when your orders come some day?
Our sea bags must all be censored before we can go aboard,
the ship of death that will take us, up home to see our Lord.
We may have a mother waiting, a sweetheart or loved one dear,
that we long to see and be with, when our time is done down here.
When we get our discharge from life, and our orders have come through,
won’t it be a happy feeling to know, to God, we have been true?
Our orders may come as a bullet, a disease or a heart attack.
So why not be on the lookout with our sea bags cleaned and packed?
Yes, Mate, the bureau up in heaven has our number that we know.
If today we get our orders, would you be packed to go?
Author Unknown: Submitted by Jerry & Mary Hudson
A Destroyer’s Crew
There’s a roll and a pitch and heave and a hitch
To the nautical gait they take;
For they’re used to the cant of decks aslant
As the white-toothed combers break.
On the plates that thrum like a beaten drum
To the thrill of the turbines might;
And the knife bow leaps through the mighty deep
With the speed of a shell in flight.
Oh! Their scorn is quick for the crews that stick
To the carrier’s steady floor,
For they love the lurch of their own frail perch
At thirty five knots or more.
They don’t get much of the drill and such
That the carrier jockeys do;
But they sail the seas in their dungarees
A salty destroyer’s crew.
They don’t climb at their sleeping time
To a rack that sways and bumps;
But leap “kerplunk” to a cozy bunk that
Quivers and bucks and jumps.
They hear the sound of the waves that pound
On the half-inch plates of steel,
And they close their eyes to the lullabies
Of the creaking sides and keel.
They’re a lusty crowd that’s vastly proud
Of the slim gray craft they drive;
Of the roaring screws and the humming flues
That make her a thing alive.
They love the lunge of her surging plunge.
And the mark of her smoke screen too;
As they sail the seas in their dungarees,
A salty destroyer’s crew!
Written by: W.O. Barnes (SK1) of the USS Black (DD 666)
Taken from The Reservist, circa: 1963
YOU CAN LEAVE THE MILITARY — BUT IT NEVER REALLY LEAVES YOU
This article was originally written by Ken Burger, The Charleston Post and Courier :Thurs, March 4, 2010, a retired Navy Senior Chief. I took the liberty of adding some of my own thoughts as others have. It does not make any difference what branch of service you were in — it still applies.
Occasionally, I venture back to some military base , where I’m greeted by an imposing security guard who looks carefully at my identification card, hands it back and says, “Have a *good day, Chief”.
Every time I go back to any base it feels good to be called by my previous rank, but odd to be in civilian clothes, walking among the servicemen and women going about their duties as I once did, many years ago. *But you know I have no trouble with a sign in the commissary or PX that says “Men and women in Uniform may go to the front of the line between 1100 and 1300 hours.
The military is a comfort zone for anyone who has ever worn the uniform. It’s a place where you know the rules and know they are enforced — a place where everybody is busy, but not too busy to take care of business.
Because there exists behind the gates of every military facility an institutional understanding of respect, order, uniformity, accountability and dedication that becomes part of your marrow and never, ever leaves you.
Personally, I miss the fact that you always knew where you stood in the military, and who you were dealing with. That’s because you could read somebody’s uniform from 20 feet away and know the score. Service personnel wear their careers on their sleeves, so to speak. When you approach each other, you can read their name tag, examine their rank and, if they are in dress uniform, read their ribbons and know where they’ve served.
I miss all those little things you take for granted when you’re in the ranks, like breaking starch on a set of whites fresh from the laundry and standing in a perfectly straight line military formation that looks like a mirror as it stretches to the endless horizon.
To romanticize military service is to be far removed from its reality, because it’s very serious business — especially in times of war.
I miss the salutes I’d throw at officers and the ones that were returned.
I miss the sound of the whistle blowing when Line #1 is cast off and you are underway.
I even miss the hurry-up-and-wait mentality tha was griped about constantly, a masterful invention that bonded people more than they’ll ever know or admit.
I miss people taking off their hats when they enter a building, speaking directly and clearly to others and never showing disrespect for rank, race, religion or gender.
I miss being a small cog in a machine so complex it constantly circumnavigates the Earth and so simple it feeds everyone on time, three times a day, on the ground, in the air or at sea.
Finally, I miss Taps and the Star spangled Banner Both bring tears to my eyes even now.
Mostly, I don’t know anyone who has served who regrets it, and doesn’t feel a sense of pride when they pass through those gates and re-enter the world they left behind with their youth.
I wish I could express my thoughts as well about something I loved — and hated sometimes.
Face it – we all miss it…………Whether you had one tour or a career, it shaped your life.