Sadly, until I learn how to link to different sections in a page, you will need to scroll down the page to view a Sea Tale.
Lee H. Boyd Ens (1947 - 1948)
1 - Eniwetok!
Guy E. Thompson, 1st Lt. (1945-1946
1 - Aboard the USS Spangler - August 1945
2 - Pearl Harbor, Japanese Surrender, A Sexy Movie & A Horney Bunch of Sailors!
3 - Officer's Nicknames!
4 - William Beach's story of "Lt. Markel & The Poor Ensign!" reminds me...
5 - Phil Engs' story of painting the I.C room reminds me . . . .
6 - Chow Down
7 - A Rat In Shanghai
8 - The Side Gear Locker
9 - Phil Eng’s "Mary Soo" reminds me ---
10 - Kowloon Master Divers
11 - I Qualify as OOD But Continue As JOOW
12 - Sample Ration
13 - An Old China Hand
14 - "My" Rickshaw
15 - A Souvenir Coin
16 - A Yarn Of The Navy In General
17 - Custody and Care of The Waterline
18 - Half Chinese, Half Fourth Marines
19 - Virgins in the wardroom
20 - Bend him on like a Russian Boot
21 - A Bum Steer in After Steering
22 - Shore Patrol in Tsingtao.
23 - Court Martial
24 - Kids in Sampans
25 - Hong Kong Divers
26 - Linguistic Efforts
27 - Censored Mail
28 - Ensign and The Quarterdeck Fiasco.
29 - USS Aaron Ward DD-483 & USS Ward APD-16
30 - Pendulous Brazen Appurtenances.
Boyd 1 - Eniwetok!
I served on the spangler - my first ship - from mid1947 to mid l948, as the ASW and CIC officer. We were based in Pearl but spent six months at the first atom tests at enawetok (spelling), with our ship anchored nearest the explosion. About six of us were allowed topside, of which I was one. After the blast, we were told to haul out of there and not get rained on - which we promptly did. Captain A. A. Richards, a good skipper, walked through a puddle on deck, shoes were radioactive and had to be thrown over the side. That was the only problem I can recall.
Guy 1 - Aboard the USS Spangler - August 1945
I was Mess Treasurer of the Wardroom Mess. A group of British ships had arrived and two destroyers were nesting together, I suggested to the captain that we invite a couple of officers for dinner. He agreed so four Limey officers came to dinner – three lieutenants and a sub-lieutenant.
Our mess table seated ten so the captain, the commodore, the XO, the next two senior officers of ships company and I made the ten. My place was assured because as Mess Treasurer I owned the seat at the foot of the table. The rest of the ships officers were served in their staterooms.
During the course of the meal one of the Brits asked the skipper what he thought of King George of Greece. The skipper replied, “He’s a harmless old duffer.” The Brit then pointed to one of his companions, “Lieutenant Mountbatten is Prince Philip of Greece, the king’s nephew.
After dinner we went to the fantail for the movie. During the movie the officer of the deck came back to tell the skipper that word had come in that the Emperor of Japan had sued for peace. We went back to the wardroom and toasted the end of the war – in Coca-Cola since there was nothing stronger aboard. The following morning we went to the wardroom of one of the British destroyers and repeated the sentiment in drinks provided by his majesty, King George VI of England.
SEQUEL: We could always say that we knew a lieutenant who married the boss’s daughter and became an admiral. LT Mountbatten is today Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
-- Guy Thompson (sometimes known as Cisco -- although many men thought I didn't know that that was my nickname)
Guy 2 -- Pearl Harbor, Japanese Surrender, A Sexy Movie & A Horney Bunch of Sailors!
I had previously mentioned the dinner guests on the night we learned the Emperor had sued for peace. A few days after that memorable evening I left for Pearl Harbor to attend Fleet Gunnery School. On the same flight was the commodore Captain R.R. "Railroad" Jackson who had just been relieved as Commander Escort Division 39. (Also on that flight was the commander who had armed the atom bomb dropped in Hiroshima -- by coincidence years later I was on his staff as communicator when he was a rear admiral.)
We flew first to Johnson Island where we stopped for lunch and fuel. While we were on Johnson all Hell broke loose. Every whistle and siren blew full blast; every fire truck roared about with screaming sailors aboard; every gooney bird --- and there were a lot of gooney birds --- took to the air. The Japs had surrendered.
I arrived in Pearl Harbor that night. I'll leave you to imagine the scene there.
Back to SPANGLER. She pulled in to Pearl just as I finished school. She went along an oiler for fuel and picked me up. No one went ashore. Then it was off to the states. We had picked up some new movies to enliven the evenings.
I want you to get a mental picture of the situation on the fantail that evening. Here is he crew most of whom have not spoken to nor seen a female for many, many, months. All are anticipating arrival in the states. Common decency requires that we avert our eyes and thoughts from what they were contemplating.
But, mind you, there I sit with my several weeks of Pearl Harbor gazing at the poor, misfortunates with good natured tolerance.
But, wait, the movie is about to start. What is it? Oooh it has Yvonne DeCarlo! Wipe your mouth! You're slobbering! Here's the title: "Salome, Where She Danced." Sound intriguing?
Oh, it was! It was! There were moans, groans, and shrieks from as horny a bunch of sailors as ever had all the lures of sex dangled enticingly just beyond reach. There was stomping on the deck, and rattling of buckets.
And that Bastard Cisco sat there with a smug and complacent look on hs face!
Guy 3 - Officer's Nicknames!
Twice I have mentioned that my nickname aboard was "Cisco". Of the roughly fourteen ships in which I was either assigned ship's company or embarked staff SPANGLER was far and away the most devoted to nicknames. After sixty years I don't remember them all -- I do recall Cisco; The Tall Texan; Sea Pig; Mouse; Sparrow; Whitey; The Finlander. There are lots of others that are just beyond the margin of memory.
Of course, it was axiomatic among the crew that no officer could possibly know his nickname. Of course among the offices we would chuckle a lot at that notion. For example, how long did it take an officer to learn what is nick name was? Well, now, it was like this. I came aboard during the forenoon watch. We got under way in the first dog. At dinner the First Lieutenant -- Lt. Reigal- "The Finlander" -- told me the crew had a nickname for me: "The Cisco Kid". Since I came aboard wearing half Wellington boots I was not surprised. I had been wearing such sea boots since my days skippering a party boat out of Gloucester before the war.
The nickname was soon shortened to just "Cisco". More than one sailor coming aboard thereafter addressed me as "Mr.Cisco, sir . . ." in the honest belief that such was my name.
Then there was the day about six months after I came aboard when I mentioned to one of the boatswain's mates that we would do something in a particular way because:
"Cisco wants it that way."
He replied with almost open-mouthed astonishment:
"You know that that's what we call you???"
Yes, I knew just as the Gunnery Officer knew who "The Tall Texan" was. And the First Lieutenant knew the identity of The Finlander." I have been called less pleasant things and it is great to remember when I was.
Guy 4 - William Beach's story: "Lt. Markel & The Poor Ensign!" reminds me!
When I went aboard SPANGLER and was assigned Second Division I noticed quickly that the motor whale boat had no cleat for a sea painter. I put in a chit to the Assistant First Lieutenant. He pretended to know what I was talking about and went about his business.
Shortly he came back to me and triumphantly informed me that I didn't need a cleat. A sea painter is properly led aft and a turn taken around the second thwart. When I expressed amazement, astonishment, and similar emotions of disbelief he tauntingly showed me the picture in the book he had gone to (obviously to find out what a "sea painter" was. He was bright enough -- barely --to realize it was not a sailor with a brush. Yes, indeed, he was right. The book he had was Knight's Seamanship with which I would NEVER argue nor cavil.
As gently as I could I explained to him that the boat in the picture with the sea painter around the second thwart was a pulling whale boat and indeed had thwarts for the oarsman to sit on. We in SPANGLER, however, had a motor whale boat hence no thwarts.
I guess he didn't like my attitude because he then said that he wasn't going to install a cleat for a sea painter anyway. Since he was a full LT. and I was a raw-ass ENS that was that.
Until I remarked that if we ever had to lower that boat in a sea way it would be manned by his First Division because my Second Division sure as Hell would not be in it.
An hour or so later the carpenter's mate was asking just where I wanted the cleat installed.
Guy 5 - Phil Engs' story of painting the I.C room reminds me . . . .!
When we got underway for China in 1946 we had on board so much spare paint that some was stored on the forecastle lashed to the life lines. A day or so out of port the Paint Locker Keeper noticed bad fumes in the locker so he left the hatch open. He didn't tell the chief boatswain's mate nor me. A sharp eyed sailor gong by saw a chance to get hold of some paint without putting in a chit that would have to pass through that bastard Cisco. So he hopped down into the locker. Another passing sailor saw the first one passed out and spread the word. When Chief Anthony and I arrived the first sailor had been removed and the second was obviously drunk as a coot. The chief and I want into the locker and in about half a moment the CPO was becoming incoherent so we left.
At that time -- shortly after the war -- most of the crew very, very green -- the only person I could safely put into an RBA (later called an OBA) was myself. I put on the apparatus and went down the ladder. About the time I hit bottom I realized that the RBA was acting up. I came out and accompanied by the chief hared it for the fantail. By the I dropped the canister into a bucket it was smoldering and smoking. The chief tossed it over the side. As it hit the water it was aflame -- the chief said it exploded. I wouldn't take my oath on that but I was bloody glad that I hadn't sent some one less experienced who might not have recognized the malfunction until the damned thing blew up on his chest. Think of the paperwork that would have caused!!!
I reloaded the RBA and went back. I found that some one had thought the paint locker was a good place to store the spare gasoline for the handy billies. It wasn't. We brought in a blower to clear the fumes and stationed a man to keep out visitors until the situation was cleared and we could lock up again.
Guy 6 - Chow Down
A man with a healthy appetite, Myhre (my apologies if I have spelled the name wrong) was very content with the Navy. After all there was plenty of food and movies that would have cost ten cents to see in his hometown were free. He was sure he would stay in the Navy after the war.
Since he was reputed to have eaten a whole turkey all by himself at Thanksgiving he was taken seriously when he announced , "I can eat one more egg than any man on this ship."
The XO set up a contest. Each division entered one man and the CPO mess entered one. All of the contestants were watched by heir backers to make sure they had no breakfast and no lunch.
All that is except Myhre – he ate his usual meals.
The port deck outside the galley was the scene of battle. Most of ship’s company off watch were spectators. Fried eggs started coming from the galley to the contestants. Cheering was loud, wagers were placed. After about a half dozen eggs the contending chief staggered to the rail and since he didn’t have a towel to throw in he did he next best thing and threw in (or up) the contents of his stomach.
Most of the other contestants one by one became glassy eyed and merely toyed with their last pair of eggs.
Except Myhre, he stoically and heroically plodded on.
Eggs coming from the galley were less and less cooked as the cooks rushed to keep up with the demand.
Finally the last of his opponents left and Myhre ate two more eggs and heaved a sigh of contentment.
None of the contestants showed up for dinner that evening.
Except Myhre, he ate his usual hearty meal.
Guy 7 -- A Rat In Shanghai
SPANGLER was moored to buoys in the Wangpoo River off Shanghai for several weeks. During that time the skipper, LCDR Easteling, never went ashore. In the wardroom we discussed the possibility of his going stir crazy.
His room was the first to starboard forward of the wardroom; mine was the second to port. One night about 0200 I was awakened by the sound of my curtain being pulled aside. I sat up in my berth. There stood the captain in his skivvy shorts and holding a samurai sword.
"There’s a rat in here!"
I grabbed the batten from the bookcase over the desk and stood up.
"I’ll help you find him!"
Visions of myself dueling the captain in the passage flashed through my mind. Scenes from every pirate movie replayed on my mental screen.
About that time the rat (a genuine four legged kind) ran out of the room and headed for the ladder to CPO quarters. We chivvied him on his way and went back to the CO’s room where he showed me the footprints across his pillow, except for the middle where his head had been. He had awakened with the rat walking across his face.
The chiefs, being the knowledgeable and efficient "Men O’ Warsmen" that they were, killed the rat.
Guy 8 - The Side Gear Locker
I don’t know how much piping boatswain’s mates do today, but the pipe was used for good purpose in SPANGLER in my day. The call known as "Call Mates" – a useful call in the days before PA systems. Not every one aboard knew the meaning of the call --- most could recognize necessary calls like "Attention"; "Word to be Passed"; "Draw Mess Gear"; "Spread Mess Gear"(Although most knew those last two as "Mess Gear" and "Chow Down")
All boatswain’s mates, leading deck force seamen, and a few officers of the saltier variety knew that "Call Mates" really meant "coffee is ready at the Side Gear Locker."
Since coffee was always ready in the wardroom I wasn’t dependant on the Side Gear Locker but I spent many an instructive hour there. I would go there and Norman Colby BM1 and I would exchange seamanship challenges, such things as "How would you rig a nine-fold purchase so it wouldn’t bind nor tumble?" We never did come up with an answer to that one. Obviously in SPANGLER we would never have occasion to mess with such a purchase. We just liked the challenge to our seamanship. Colby was the best BM1 I ever served with.
Guy 9 - Phil Eng’s "Mary Soo" reminds me ---
In 1946 Mary Soo was known simply as "Garbage Mary" and was one of several labor contractors in the harbor. Someone else beat her to SPANGLER. As First Lieutenant I arranged the labor force that would work the ship. We got huge numbers of coolies in exchange merely for our garbage. Almost every man in the deck divisions had one or two coolies to do his work. Some of the coolies were only kids. We didn’t allow any below decks except a couple to sweep, swab, and soogie the mess deck. Since these people were working for the garbage and since the sight of people actually and literally starving is disturbing to American sailors, the quality of garbage increased. There were many days (most days)– when a vast quantity of rice that never appeared on the menu was cooked and went straight from galley to sampans.
Guy 10 - Kowloon Master Divers
Lots of kids in Hong Kong harbor came out to the ship on bamboo rafts. They were not allowed on board. One day I was on the fantail and noticed that a line – probably twenty-one thread or slightly larger – had fetched up around the starboard screw.
I called alongside a raft of four boys – oldest maybe twelve – and asked them to clear the line from the screw. They did so I sent to the galley for four trays of food. I am sure those kids had never eaten so well. If you remember how American sailors feed kids at every opportunity you will picture it.
The oldest of the boys introduced himself and his three brothers.
"Mama Papa Kowloon side got four baby: Ah Lee, Ah Sam, Ah Chau, and Ah ___" I forget.
I designated those kids the Kowloon Master Divers Association and the stern sentry was instructed that they had permission to dive off the depth charge racks. No other kids were accorded such a privilege.
Guy 11 - I Qualify as OOD But Continue As JOOW
Previously I mentioned the Assistant First Lieutenant. I shall tell a little more about him.
Aboard SPANGLER I stood JOOW with most of the qualified OODs, although mostly with Mr. McDougal. In a short time I was called to the skipper’s cabin and he informed me that I was now going to stand my watches with LT ___ (the Assistant First Lieutenant). According to the captain I was a qualified OOD and was authorized and directed to take the deck away from the LT. at any time I thought the safety of he ship depended on it. Because the officer was a full lieutenant the captain felt compelled to give him the appearance of being qualified.
The captain’s faith in the officer had been shaken some months prior to this by a frightening incident.
There was no sea cabin in on the Spangler so the skipper slept in a canvas igloo on the flying bridge. At sunset the JOOW went down to CIC until dawn. One night on the ping line (anti submarine patrol off harbor entrance) the captain overheard the OOD give the order to the wheel:
"Come right to course 000."
Immediately thereafter he heard the OOD call CIC:
"Will that head me for the beach?"
Shocks like that are not good for a skipper’s composure.
Guy 12Guy (Cisco) Thompson -- Sample Ration
Experienced officers regard the sampling of the crew's ration before it is piped down as a very important duty. Inexperienced and junior officers see it as a free meal. I was taught early in life that there are three things an officer never messes with:
A sailor's pay
A sailor's liberty
A sailor's chow.
One of the reasons that the crew's mess is at 5 PM and the officers' at 6 is following the custom that an officer must not eat until he sees that his men have been fed.
On the bridge it is usually the JOOW who samples the meal as the OOD may be occupied with conning in a formation. There was an occasion when I was JOOW under Mr. McDougal where I did not approve the ration. Mr. McDougal agreed with me. You should have seen the consternation.
Shortly there appeared on the bridge the chief commissary steward and the supply officer -- both furious and defending the mess (on that occasion aptly named). Then the XO came up, took a bite and remarked:
"That could make a man sick -- matter of fact, I think it has."
Dinner was a little late that evening but was enjoyed by all except the galley crew who did a certain amount of grumbling.
Guy 13G - An Old China Hand
One thing to keep in mind about life aboard SPANGLER in 1946. Of the crew up till then all the officers, almost all the CPOs, and the vast majority of the white hats were reserves, hostilities only service men. Of the officers I was the only one who intended to go regular. So there was a tremendous exodus. The crew got an overwhelming number of fresh caught youngsters from boot camp. Among the officers there were not a few who had been commissioned hastily and without completing their training.
The innocence of the lads in the deck force was beyond belief. The number of men who asserted up and down that they wouldn’t go contrary to the teachings of their homes and church was huge. (You have to remember this was in the forties when there was a different level of morality than seems to prevail today.) I’ll assure you that a couple of liberties in Hong Kong changed the mind of most. What few didn’t succumb to the lures of HK found that Shanghai was their undoing. The VD rate in SPANGLER was unbelievably high.
Of course, there were other attractions and opportunities to be had on the China station. There was ivory to buy. There were clothes to buy. There was beer to be drunk. There were sights to be seen. And everything was bedecked with the strange characters that passeds or writing in the orient.
I wanted to buy a dressing gown for my father. I went to a leading merchant and told him what I wanted. I pictured a dressing gown adorned with symbols from Chinese lore -- those emblems that meant great wisdom, happy age. "Financial acuity" all those things that were special from me to my father. The merchant sadly told me that it was impossible. All the old ladies who had done such fine embroidery were dead, gone. All the younger ones could do and would do was dragons. Wouldn’t I like a nice robe with dragons? My father never got the robe.
I did, however, have and wear a ring carved with Chinese characters. It was supposed to be ivory but after sixty years I have faced the fact that in my ignorance I had been had – it was bone.
However it was not entirely useless. We "several wardroom officers and I" went ashore in Shanghai and the rickshaw coolies gathered around with much "Wulla wulla" I chose the first one who said:
"Whe we go Mista Ta Mu Son?"
My shipmates wanted to know how the coolie knew my name. I had the easy answer:
"I’m an old China hand"
I went with a recreation group, one other officer, three CPO’s and a dozen white hats to a Chinese resort city where here were no other Americans. The ensign, the chiefs and I were sitting at a table in a nightclub enjoying the show. I had my left arm stretched out over the chair back alongside. One of the Chinese at the next table asked:
"Mr. Thomson, can we practice our English with you?"
Later my group asked me how these strangers had known my name. Again that ready answer:
Our trip had been arranged by the YMCA who sent with us two Y officials. One looked after food and lodging; the other saw to our entertainment and education. The latter went around to the rooms one evening to see that all was well. That was the evening the five of us were watching that floorshow. In one of the rooms the Y agent found a sailor alone and he asked what had happened to the young lady he had sent up. The sailor replied:
"I tried her twice and she showed no signs of improving so I sent her home."
The hotel tried in the dining room to accommodate American tastes. For dinner they served roast beef. Hah. Beef cattle aren’t abundant in China so what we had was roast yak. Unbelievably tough. The next day’s lunch featured hamburger from that same sacrificial beast. Unbelievably tough.
We pulled into Tsingtao. Ah, the stories I could tell about that place. The XO, the gunnery officer and I went ashore. We went into a store. The proprietor approached:
"What you like to see, Mr. Thomson?"
I merely looked aside at my shipmates. They knew my answer to their question would be:
. "Old China hand."
I don’t know if they ever figured out that what they thought was a normal good luck symbol carved on my ring was the last three characters
you will see on the accompanying picture: Ta Mou Son. That is the "chop" for Thompson.
I said there were stories about Tsingtao -- I am not sure if the tender ears of a younger generation are ripe for all of them. My favorite spot in Tsingtao was the great Tsingtao Café. They served good Tsingtao beer there (NOT what has been imported into the U.S, as Tsingtao beer.). Next-door was an establishment that I never visited but of which I heard good reports. The sign on the front of that building read in large uncompromising letters:
"First Class Brothel."
Guy 14- "My" Rickshaw
I mentioned in a previous note the coolie who had become "my" coolie through his reading my name on my ring. All reason prompts me to disallow the possibility of his having psychic power. My innate good sense and a rather extensive experience with my fellow man causes me to scoff at his being a warlock. My membership in the International Brotherhood of Magicians, The Society of American Magicians, The Magicians’ Alliance of Eastern States, and sundry local clubs and gathering of magi assure me that his powers in such fields were limited. Yet, how to account for the fact that although he frequently met me as I stepped off the sixteen hundred liberty boat in Shanghai he never saw me come ashore at any other time. But one night after taps I found that sleeping was not on my mind. I got out of bunk, dressed and went ashore. I stopped at the Palace Hotel for a beer. That was all I wanted I sat there drinking my beer when I heard a clapping of a pair of hands. I looked up. There in the door was “my” coolie.
“We go now, Mista Ta mou son.”
What could I do? He had tracked me down. So I went for a rickshaw ride to nowhere in particular.
We left Shanghai and sailed to Tsingtao. After about a month their I got orders detaching me from SPANGLER to go to Guam and take command of PCE897. I flew from Tsingtao to Shanghai to change planes. There was no flight out that evening so they put us up at the YMCA in Shanghai. That was in a part of the city where I had never been – The Y was primarily a hangout for white hats and officers were not in great abundance there. There was one other LTJG in the flight and I suggested we go to dinner. We stepped out of the Y in that strange part of the city en route to a part, which we knew better – the Russian Quarter. I had taken no more than three steps from the Y when I heard a familiar voice:
"We go now, Mista Ta mou son."
I know he wasn’t magic. I am sure he wasn’t psychic. I am convinced it was just a coincidence. For the last sixty years I have been telling myself so and I have almost convinced my audience.
Guy 15 - A souvenir Coin
I mentioned the recreational visit to the resort city. One afternoon while visiting a temple in that ancient and revered city we stopped at a stand that sold souvenirs to the thousands of Chinese who visited the site On the table wee some old coins. Since the idea of getting a souvenir that I would have to tote about was not appealing I figured a coin would drop handily into the pocket. I showed the vendor a quarter and pointed to one o the coins. He nodded okay so I swapped with him without examining it.
On the train going back to Shanghai I showed the coin to Jaykins SM1 who was of our party. He looked at it and:
I was shocked and looked more closely at both sides of the coin:
In later weeks I heard various stories about the provenance of such coinage. The most believable was that in the days of the Emperor his soldiers were provided with food, lodging, and clothing. So there was only one kind of merchandise, which required money. Since the Emperor had a demand on the daughters of his lowborn subjects he set up brothels for the soldiers and these coins were the circulating medium. The amount of wear on this coin suggests a great deal of circulation by an energetic army.
Later enterprising merchants in Shanghai made copies of the coin -- larger and in cheap brass.
Since these did not circulate the design is easier to see.
I bought ten of them to distribute to my dirty minded friends and family members.
Guy 16Guy (Cisco) Thompson -- A Yarn of the Navy in general
Those who entered the Service in the mid forties or later will not remember the disdain in which white hats were held by civilians. For them I recommend the reading of Kipling’s Tommy Atkins. There were signs in some cities or parts of some "Norfolk being an example" which welcomed sailors:
Sailors and dogs not allowed.
My own experience is illustrative. I came ashore in Brooklyn and joined my father and a young relative. Both of them were properly dressed – suits and hats. My father was an investment banker and maintained charge accounts in the dining rooms of several better hotels such as the Commodore and the Waldorf. We went to lunch at the Commodore. At the hatcheck concession my father left his hat. He got no check as the attendant recognized him. The relative stepped up, laid down his hat, got his check and turned away. I stepped up, laid down my white hat, and had it pushed disdainfully back to me. My father’s back was turned so he didn’t see this. I stuck my hat in my waistband as I would in any joint.
In the dining room the maitre d’ greeted my father by name and seated us. The waiter filled our water glasses which we drained while reading the menu. The waiter refilled the glasses of the other two, not mine. We ordered. The food came by which time those two had again emptied their glasses. The waiter refilled them pointedly not filling mine. I finally asked my father to request that the waiter deign to fill mine.
Guy 17 - Custody and care of the waterline
A striker from the bridge approached me saying that he had been sent by the leading SM to request six feet of waterline.
“Six feet? You want six feet of waterline? Do you realize that we have a very, very limited amount and can’t replace it?
“Yes, sir. But Jaykins says get it and that’s what I am doing.”
“Well, all right. But you have to assure me that you signalmen will take damned good care of it. I can’t have it ruined because you are sloppy or negligent in your work.”
“Yes, sir. We’ll take real good care of it.”
“Okay then you can have the six feet right there.” And I pointed over side to the stretch of waterline just below the discharge from the crew’s head.
The striker went back to the bridge with my message that I expected the bridge strikers to join the next working party over side.
I chortled a bit – but my chortling stopped when I went to the bridge and confronted Jaykins SM1 with the news of the real estate he had acquired. He was perfectly willing to accept the care and nurturing of the given six feet.
“Just bring it up here by the flag bags – this is our cleaning station.”
Guy 18 - Half Chinese, Half Fourth Marines
Three of us from the wardroom went ashore in Tsingtao one evening. We sat at a table in the Great Tsingtao Cabaret when a girl of about fourteen asked if we wanted some singing. I asked her what her name was.
“Murphy” she said, “Murphy White.”
“Oh half Chinese, half Fourth Marines.”
“No all Chinese. No Fourth Marines at all.”
So I gave her a couple of bucks to start the singing.
About that time I felt a tug at my sleeve and looked down and there was the most beautiful four-year-old Chinese girl solemnly shaking her finger at me and looking at me accusingly from eyes that reflected all the pain in the world.
“I all pissed off at you. You give Murphy lotsa two bits. You don’t give me no two bits at all.”
What could I do? It was true. I hadn’t given her any two bitses at all. So I immediately remedied the situation and gave her some two bitses. Whereupon she promptly started pulling accusingly on the sleeve of my companion.
“I all pissed off at you. He give me two bits and you don’t give me no two bits at all.”
Meanwhile Murphy had been joined by her accompanist – an elderly hag of maybe thirty-five. This star played on that strange stringed instrument that seems only to accommodate the music of Stephen Foster among western composers.
So we had a concert of old favorites from Stephen Foster. I might say that any joy I might previously have taken from the nostalgic music of that composer was destroyed during my visit to the China coast.
But the most beautiful creature I saw on the China station was “all pissed off at” me.
Guy 19 - Virgins in the wardroom.
One afternoon the liberty section from the wardroom (we were on port and starboard liberty in those days) together with the captain and the commodore (the division commander) traipsed ashore together. Because the commodore was with us we were permitted into the senior officers portion of the officers club (he was a four striper and so entitled to that privilege).
In the course of conversation the captain commented to the commodore on the unfairness of expecting him to run a proper ship when he had so many virgins in the wardroom. The commodore expressed the proper amount of horror at this evidence of inadequacy of supplies and armament and asked for details.
“Just who are the virgins?”
The captain promptly rattled off a bunch of names which included three who were with us: LTJG Kreml, LTJG O’Neal, and ENS Foster.
Messers Kreml and O’Neal smiled and looked smug and well pleased with the recognition. However, Mr. Foster protested that he had graduated from Hollywood High School and should certainly not be so considered. Both captain and commodore conceded the point.
I protested that I had not been included.
The loud and raucous laughter of all hands present finished that as a topic of conversation.
I wonder where they got the idea that my virginity should be denied.
Guy 20 - Bend him on like a Russian Boot.
In the summer of 1945 we got a draft of men aboard which included a COX. (For those whose service is of more recent years: COX was the abbreviation for coxswain which was the equivalent of what became Boatswain’s Mate Third Class. When the Navy started keeping records on keypunch devices COX changed to BM3 just as CBM became BMC and CPO became POC. Those of us who stood fast against change railed and ranted but the shore establishment won – as they always do.)
This COX had an innocent and childlike look most unexpected in one with that salty rate. On his first day at sea in SPANGLER he was assigned as starboard surface lookout on my afternoon watch. My Chief of the Watch was one of he saltier CPO’s aboard – in fact one pf the saltiest I have ever met.
Once the watch had settled down the chief approached me.
“Mr. Thompson, who is that kid in the starboard lookout bucket?”
“That, Chief, is our newest coxswain.”
“Real cute. I’d like to take him down to the boatswain’s stores and bend him on like a Russian boot.”
Well, we had been a long time away from a liberty port.
Guy 21 - A Bum Steer in After Steering.
It was the First Watch about 2200 when I decided to give the watch in after steering a bit of practice. I called to the steersman.
“Shift steering aft.”
He complied and in about two minutes Colby BM1 was on the bridge pointing out that I had upset the trap that was set. The Master of Arms force had drilled a hole through the bulkhead between the ship fitter’s shack and after steering and had set a watch there. At the time I had picked for that drill the trap was about to be sprung. I quickly shifted steering back to the pilothouse.
I later heard the details. It seems that Chief Gaynor was upset that so many of his seamen were completely exhausted by certain activity that took place in after steering. Hence the trap. When the culprit had been sighted in flagrante delicto the two members of the MAA force called one of the officers who slept in junior officers’ quarters just forward of after steering on the starboard side (the Guinea Pullman). He was later able to add his testimony to that of the MAA’s. The perpetrator was discharged as undesirable and the other man was tried and sentenced to hard labor building the breakwater at Guam.
My, didn’t I word that quaintly.?
Guy 22 - Shore Patrol in Tsingtao..
I very rarely got stuck with duty as shore patrol officer. One of the occasions when I did was in Tsingtao. That evening I heard many tales of the House of A Thousand and One Grommets. (For those of you who do not know what a grommet is: Ask the big boys.)
This house was a favorite destination of the liberty parties. It had innumerable rooms and countless passageways. Once you were inside you were lost. There was no way that by yourself you could find your way out.
There was also no way the shore patrol was going to bother you. There were rumors of shore patrol parties who had gone in and been lost for days – a dark rumor that there was one party who was still wandering around in there after two months. Every once in a while some one would hear one of the party call out. While I didn’t entirely believe that, I was very glad that we had no occasion to go in.
Saltier sailors would start a yarn to tender kids,
“One time when I was in the House of 1001 Grommets in Tsingtao . . . ."
Guy 23 - Court Martial
First, we should all be clear on certain differences that existed in the system of Naval justice in the forties and before. We were governed by the Articles for the Government of the Navy – the AGN -- NOT the Uniform Code of Military Justice – the UCMJ. A big difference was the absence of lawyers. The courts were made up of naval officers all of whom knew that the accused was first and foremost a member of the Navy – just as much a part of that Navy as any officer on the court or acting as defense attorney or prosecutor.
A couple of sailors on an LST in Shanghai were charged with involuntary manslaughter. I was detailed by the admiral who was SOPA (Senior Officer Present Afloat) to act as defense attorney and a young Maine first lieutenant was prosecuting. The two of us caught a ride over to the LST to interview the CO, the shipmates, and the accused.
Good Lord. I couldn’t find a single man aboard that ship who had a good word for those two. The general opinion was that they were rotten. When I heard from all the witnesses I was absolutely positive that the worst thing that could happen to those two would be for the court to hear the witnesses.
I told the two to plead guilty and throw themselves on the mercy of the court. I thought that with a good statement that I would write the court might be lenient. I knew that if they heard he truth there would be no leniency but instead the absolute maximum punishment.
The facts were that the two were head cleaners and they had caught one of the Chinese workers on board defecating in a washbasin and had thrown him over side where he had promptly drowned. One did that if thrown into the Huangpo River – one had no chance in those currents.
My plan was to have them plead that they were so outraged that they had acted hastily and under the stress of emotion. I thought that presenting them to the court as a couple of nice clean American kids whose natural decency was outraged would lead to clemency.
However, the truth of the matter was that they had mercilessly beaten the coolie while their shipmates tried to stop them. Add to that that while they were prisoners at large awaiting trial they had gone AWOL. Every one of their shipmates to whom I spoke hoped fervently that the court would throw the book at them.
In the boat going back to the flagship after we had done our interviews the Marine said he was going to the Admiral when we got back and ask that the charge be changed from involuntary manslaughter to voluntary manslaughter. I knew two things: 1. That he could prove that charge without a bit of trouble; 2. That the punishment for voluntary manslaughter is one hell of a lot more than that for involuntary.
At that point I did the one thing I could do for my clients. I broke out in hysterical laughter. I taunted that Marine to go right ahead and get the charge changed. I assured him I could beat that rap standing on my head.
Cisco was just salty enough to convince that young officer and he didn’t have the guts to get the charge changed.
When the court convened I was pleased to see that one of the officers on the court was a chaplain. I watched him while I read the men’s statements (which I had written. I didn’t’ want them opening their mouths in front of that court -- it would have hung them for sure). The chaplain smiled at them as if to reassure them that a couple of nice clean American boys like themselves could not be expected to act other than they had.
I watched the chaplain as the judge advocate read the records of previous conviction. When it became apparent that they had gone AWOL while waiting trial the chaplain’s jaw set and all mercy and forgivingness left his face.
The rest of the court agreed and the lads got the maximum for involuntary manslaughter. If I hadn’t laughed at Marine they would have had the maximum for voluntary manslaughter.
So a good laugh paid off.
Guy 24 - Kids in Sampans.
Many people on the China coast – in both Shanghai and Hong Kong lived in sampans. They were born and grew up in them. I mentioned before that the current in the Huangpo were treacherous. As a precaution to make sure that they didn't drown if they fell overboard little boys wore a large gourd attached at all times. This was very effective flotation gear and gave the parents the assurance that the youngster was safe.
Little girls had to learn to keep their balance and use great care.
Guy 25 - Hong Kong Divers.
I have mentioned the dangers of swimming in the Huangpo. The waters off Hong Kong in contrast invited swimming and many kids swam from sampans there.
There was a group – not my Kowloon Master Divers – who were swimming nearby. The group included the boss – by my reckoning about eleven years old, the apprentice – about five, and the diver – about nine. The diver was naked and cold – very naked and very cold -- shivering most of the time. The apprentice had big eyes that watched everything. No doubt he could see his future.
The boss made sure the diver went in for the coins I would throw. I tossed in a coin. The boss spoke. His voice had no endearing quality – he had the makings of a chief boatswain’s mate. The diver dove. Usually he was successful in retrieving the coin I tossed before it had gone very deep. He came up and sat in the sampan shivering until I tossed another.
Obviously he could not have retrieved any that went to the bottom in the harbor. If one got away from him the boss spoke. I don’t speak Chinese so I do not know what he said but I can be sure from general tone and reaction that it was neither gentle nor loving. The diver sat and shivered.
For over an hour I tossed coins idly. For over an hour the diver shivered. When I ran out I went below and got some more. When I had finished I realized that I had thrown more than five dollars worth of nickels and dimes into the water. That was more than I spent on a good liberty sometime.
I faced the reality. I could have bought that kid for less than five dollar, s--- bought him and kept him on the quarterdeck. When I wanted to see him dive all I had to do was kick him over the side. He could have shivered on SPANGLER.
But no, I had to buy retail when I could have bought wholesale.
Guy 26 - Linguistic Efforts.
When we were due to leave the West Coast for China in late winter of 1946 I decided to apply myself to the study of Chinese. After all, I could read at a pretty tolerable level both French and Spanish. I had been able to pass myself off to the tourists as a Portaguee during the summer of 1941, (I have since become fairly competent at Greek and have studied Japanese. Language never was particularly difficult.)
In those days there were no learning tapes, no videos. It was straight from the book. So it was to the book I went.
I will assure you that by the time we fetched up in Hong Kong I could speak, read, and write the expression:
“The man is in the valley. The cow is on the mountain.”
I found, however, that I had absolutely no opportunity to introduce those fascinating topics into any conversation so I gave up the study.
I did, however, learn some useful expressions for directing rickshaws – such as “Custom Jetty”. “Russian Tearoom”. “Race Track.” “Stop” “Wait”
And those quintessential bits: “How much? “Too much”
I always during my many years at sea remembered what the old timer told me in my younger days:
“A sailor needs to learn three things in every language:
1.to order a meal,
2. to make love, and
However, dear to my heart is what the old chief told me when he heard the above sage advice:
“Nonsense, son, all you need to learn is to make love. The women will feed you. Their husbands will teach you to swear.”
It is to my assiduous attention to what the old chief taught than I today owe my skill at polylingual swearing.
Guy 27 - Censored Mail.
You may wonder how the officers could speculate about men with whom they had little contact. Well, I'll tell you. We censored mail. In that way we knew pretty much who could express themselves and who were absolute ignoramuses. It wasn't what was written so much as how it was written. There wasn't discussion about what men had written but the amount of promise for future development. We would speculate on a man's chances in college or in business. Since that was before the GI bill chances for college were far more limited than they became after passage of that act. Any way, Walsh and Kendzior were among what we considered sure things for successful careers. And this is, of course, NOT something to be posted although if you communicate directly with Walsh you could tell him that that is the kind of impression he made. (I'm pretty sure Guy was referring to the War years when secrecy was critical...His mentioning of Walsh and Kendzoir was part of an email he sent me concerning the Spangler's new Chat Zone...In it, he said, "I would like to see Colby and Walsh chime in. I am sure that Colby would remember me and am equally sure that Walsh wouldn't. He may have a vague memory that there was an officer called Cisco but I doubt if he ever heard my name. He had no occasion to speak with me and vice versa. He was an electrician's mate and I never had any dealings with the black gang. I knew him by sight as did all the officers. He and his pal Kendsior were a team that were always seen together and we had high hopes for them after the war. I have often wondered if they were as successful as we anticipated they would be." -- by Wayne Dorough)
Guy 28 - Ensign and The Quarterdeck Fiasco.
This ties back to the story Bill Erwin tells in his Memoir about the young ensign that accidently fired a 45-caliber pistol while standing OOD duties. I appreciate those stories. However, I would like to comment on, perhaps clarify one.
First, The ensign on the quarterdeck was not -- as ensigns go -- particularly "new" After all, I was the highest paid ensign in the ship. I had one fogey and a big leg on the next.
Second, I was not "with a new toy". I had worn a 45 on the landings in the Philipines the night my boat crew (from the USS Ward) and I spent in a foxhole on the first landing on the return to those Islands. We landed the troops that knocked out the radars making it safe for MacArthur's forces to come in three days later. Granted, I didn't get much use out of it that night as it was the only usable weapon that I and my nine sailors had. I let them take turns holding it all night long. Helped alleviate the anxiety. That particular sidewarm was my own private property -- not government issue. I lost it when we abandoned the USS WARD after she was struck and sunk by a kamikaze.
Third, it wasn't night but 1600. That I did something stupid there is no denying. That it arose from the vain cocksuredness endemic among ensigns is a given. That I was then and have been since covered with chagrin and embarassment I fully confess. My relief was there and I prepared to hand ovewr the duties and sidearm of the OOD.
I withdrew the weapon from its holster and, of course, inspected it before passing on. Yeah, that is what I should have done. I pulled back the slide as I had done so many times. I forgot just one leeetle detail -- I didn't eject the magazine first. I pulled the trigger as I had done so many times. And I forgot just one more leeetle detail -- I didn't glance in the chamber first.
And one other detail I forgot -- I didn't point the pistol up in the air before pulling that trigger.
Now, Irwin, not having been on the quarterdeck at the time, may not have known of the further embarrassing detail: the XO stepped on the quarter deck while we were still fanning the smoke from our nostrils and the reverberations were still in our ears.
Six months later in Beverly Hills My father and stepmother who had come West to see their war hero son were entertaining me and a couple other SPANGLER officers at dinner. At dinner one of those told the story of that quarterdeck fiasco. My embarrassment was perpetuated.
Guy 29 - USS Aaron Ward DD-483 & USS Ward APD-16
In response to an email from Wayne Dorough asking if Guy witnessed the sinking of the USS Aaron Ward, given that the ship was escorting USS Ward APD-16 at the time near Tulaghi in the Solomon Islands, Guy responded:
I didn't join WARD until after the action in which AARON WARD was lost. However, if you want a coincidence try this on for size.
Aboard SPANGLER there was a general feeling of being cheated. Every man in the service during a war is plagued by a feeling of wanting to know the ultimate truth about himself: how would he react in the face of extreme peril -- how would he feel under fire -- does he have what it takes? SPANGLER had a remarkable talent for, luck in, sailing into a port just as an attack ceased and sailing away just before the next one. When we went to Iwo Jima we could hear the action and attacks over the radio before we got there. While we were there quiet reigned.
There was much grumbling over this being cheated of our war. There were two crew members who did not voice such complaints. One was a seaman whose name I have forgotten --- he was a survivor of AARON WARD. I was the other -- a survivor of WARD. We chatted on several occasions about our satisfaction with the status quo. We both knew the answers to those questions to our own satisfaction.
Guy 30 - Pendulous Brazen Appurtenances.
When I first went aboard Spangler I took over the Second Division. Division Petty Officer was Colby, BM1 -- the best division petty officer I knew in all my years at sea. War ended, Colby was transferred, Gayner CBM of First Division was transferred, many of the officers were released to civilian life. I took over as First Lieutenant (head of the hull department until two years later when it was combined with gunnery). I also took over the First Division and left Second Division to a brand new ensign and a BM1. That BM1 was one of the best scholars of English poetry that I have known. That ensign lacked those pendulous brazen appurtenances that a good deck officer must have. From a sharp and snappy division that division deteriorated to an unkempt mob. Every morning I would pass them at quarters as I made my way to the fantail for officers' quarters. I would later growl at the ensign.
The climax came on a day when in preparation for some maneuver I had the word passed for both divisions to fall in on the forecastle so I could give them the word. First Division fell in in two ranks, sleeves rolled down, shirts tucked in, caps squared. Second Division sauntered up, most with shirts unbuttoned, all with sleeves rolled up, caps anyhow on their heads. The division officer was equally unkempt. They did not fall in but sort of gathered round.
After I put out the necessary word and dismissed them the Second Division BM came to me and said, "Mr., Thompson, I am ashamed of my division."
Now those are terrible words to hear -- terrible words for a man to have to say. I went straight to the XO and arranged to have Second Division combined with First Division. In order to let the blameless avoid disgrace I put out the word that I did it because there were some good softball players in the Second Division and I wanted them for the First Division so that we could beat C Division or the snipes. The XO and I -- and of course the CO -- knew it was because of the lackadaisical ensign.
Note from webmaster: In case you are wondering, "pendulous brazen appurtenances," simply put, are "brass balls." -- Yes, I had to ask! ,