1.    Liberty Launches We All Knew

2.    Sailorisms

3.    Typical Navy Chief

4.    A DDG-42 Sea Story

5.    What is a Veteran?

6.    WWII Stories: ''I wasn’t going to let those little devils bury me''

7.    The Old Outfit

8.    "Coffee and the Navy"

9.    Navy Coffee Mess

10.    The Sea Bag........ 

11.    Old Sailors

12.   Once I Was a Navyman

13.    I am the American Sailor

14.    Petty Officer Rating "Crow"

15.   The Hole

16.   Dead Horse

17.   Navy Bean Soup



Liberty Launches We All Knew

    by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Remember anchoring out. 'Swinging the hook'? I have no idea how they decided who laid alongside the pier and who anchored out. I know that when ships came into port, the order of entering had something to do with your skippers rank, date of promotion or shoe size. Something like that. Hell, the old man never explained it to the After Battery Rats.

Well, however it was determined, we ended up dropping our hook off our
liberty ports a lot. Personally, I preferred it. When you nested alongside the pier you had pier responsibilities. Passing drunks. Curious visiting surface craft and shore duty clowns. Swinging the hook gave you a unique location all your own. You got visited by bumboats. Girls. Skimpy-clad girls and regular visits by touring liberty launches.

There were two ways you could get to and from the beach... Water taxi and
liberty launch. Water taxi transport was damned expensive... I only rode them twice. Both times, the only choices I had was one helluva swim, missing movement or forking over an obscene amount of wampum to the Jesse
James Raghat-hauling Water Taxi. Crooks.

Missing movement in the old days was a damn serious thing. When you finally
caught up with your boat, I think they just soaked you with gasoline and lit you off. I don't know because we always made it back to turn up for the morning quarters drunk parade.

If you don't remember good times in liberty launches you're brain dead. The
rides in motor launches with great shipmates were some of the most wonderful times in my life.  Jumping into a motor launch heading into an exotic port was catnip to a red-blooded American 19-year old lad. At 19, any place beyond 25 miles of your hometown is foreign and exotic.

Returning in a load of happy, rollicking 'three sheets to the wind' bluejackets. Singing songs your mother would have shot you for singing, telling about female companionship you rustled up. And laughing like deranged lunatics. Damn, it was fun.

For anyone reading this who may have no idea what in the hell a 'Liberty Launch' was or still is. I will attempt to describe it as we knew it. You must remember that today's Navy has for reasons known only to itself, taken a helluva lot that meant a great deal to her sailors and done away with it in the interest of proper decorum. I have difficulty understanding what laughing, singing and acting like a fool while plowing saltwater back and forth between ships and the shore has to do with anything but forming men into crews. Teams of hardworking, fun-loving sailors.

Liberty launches were large motor driven launches (boats) that were carried on the upper 'boat deck' of large surface ships or utilized by Naval shore installations to haul supplies and personnel. They came with a crew of two. A coxswain (pronounced 'cox'un') and a clown called a 'boathook'. When the Navy found that an idiot with the brain of Dorothy's scarecrow had made it through Great Lakes,
they made the bastard a 'boathook'.

The cox'un operated the boat, while the 'boathook' acted like a safety patrol on a rowdy school bus.  The Navy provided the knuckleheads with an eight foot pole with a brass skull buster on one end.  One tap with that little fairy wand and it was lights our for the rest of the ride. I never saw that happen, but there were many nights I deserved it. Giving the boathook a hard time about the professional knowledge required by his naval career choice was great late night entertainment.

Officers had their own peanut gallery aft in what was known as the 'stern sheets'. It kept them separated from the livestock load of unruly blue jackets in the midships well. It was like having a fifty-yard line seat at the world lunatic championships.

Saw some great shows in liberty launches.

One night the boathook yelled at some jaybird, "Hey kid. Yeah, YOU with the inside-out raghat. Deep-six the bottle. Don't give me any crap. Just toss it over the side."  The kid stood up. Took off his neckerchief and did a neat magic trick where
he made the jug disappear. Everyone aft of the kid saw him shove it up the back of the jumper of some lad sitting next to him. I was impressed.

When we dropped the kid off at his boat, we saw him pass it to a couple of
guys topside who drained the remaining contents and spiral-passed it into the darkness.

Saw a kid stand up and say, "I forgot to buy something for my mother!" 
And promptly hop over the side. And then he started dog paddling in the direction of the lights of Hamilton Bermuda. It took thirty minutes to fish Catfish Man out of the bay and haul his dripping, sopping wet ass back aboard.

The Navy in it's infinite wisdom, created a little blue crescent-shaped patch with your ship's name embroidered on it. It served as the zip code for inert drunks. The shore patrol would haul the terminal revelers down to the fleet landing and sort them by ship and stack them for the last 'boat round'. No officers ever took the last launch. The 'zoo barge'. Boy, was that one helluva ride!

Somewhere in the vicinity of midnight, the sober guys loaded the 'stove wood
drunks' and the officer at the landing yelled, "Cox'un, shove off and make your rounds."  .And the cox'un yelled, "Aye sir!"  Fired up his engine and headed out to the boats.

And we sang. The Navy sang long ago. We sang old bluejacket songs into the
darkness of empty night watching a phosphorescent wake trail off into vacant blackness. In the glow of a stern light.

      "In Guantanamo Bay, Call her Gitmo for short

      Not much of a base, Much less of a port

      One look at this hole And you know that you're seein'

       The gahdamdest place In the whole Carribean."

      "So hoorah for old Gitmo On Cuba's fair shore

       The land of the cockroach, The flea and the whore

      We'll sing of her praises And pray for the day

      We get the hell out of Guantanamo Bay."

It went on and on. Some of you will remember it. We called it, The Gitmo Song.

And there was:

     "Charlotte the Harlot The girl I adore

     The pride of the prairie, The cowpunchers whore."


     "I can help you pretty wavey If you'd like to leave the Navy,

     Have a baby on me!"


     "My first trip up the Chippewa River

     My first trip to Canadian shore

     There I met a Mrs. O'Flannagan

     Commonly known as the Winnipeg whore."

And there were many others; 'She wore red feathers and a hooley-hooley
skirt' was a Brit favorite.

There must be millions of the damn things.

Liberty launches were where we came together. Tossed alcohol-saturated,
regurgitated foreign food cookies over gunnels... Hooted. Hollered, pounded each other on the back. Sang stupid songs. Yelled, "Sit down, you dumb bastard!"

.And formed the lifetime bonds that connect old smokeboat crews.

It all started in those small boats.


Me and Willy were lollygagging by the scuttlebutt after being aloft to
boy-butter up the antennas and were just perched on a bollard eyeballing
a couple of bilge rats and flangeheads using crescent hammers to pack
monkey shit around a fitting on a handybilly. All of a sudden the dicksmith started hard-assing one of the deck apes
for lifting his pogey bait. The pecker-checker was a sewer pipe sailor
and the deckape was a gator. Maybe being blackshoes on a bird farm
surrounded by a gaggle of cans didn't set right with either of those
gobs. The deck ape ran through the nearest hatch and dogged it tight because
he knew the penis machinist was going to lay below, catch him between
decks and punch him in the snot locker. He'd probably wind up on the
binnacle list but Doc would find a way to gundeck the paper or give it
the deep six to keep himself above board. We heard the skivvywaver announce over the bitch box that the
breadburners had creamed foreskins on toast and SOS ready on the mess
decks so we cut and run to avoid the clusterfuck when the twidgets and
cannon cockers knew chow was on. We were balls to the wall for the barn and everyone was preparing to hit
the beach as soon as we doubled-up and threw the brow over. I had a
ditty bag full of fufu juice that I was gonna spread on thick for the
bar hogs with those sweet Bosnias. Sure beats the hell out of brown
bagging. Might even hit the acey-duecy club and try to hook up with a
Westpac widow. They were always leaving snail trails on the dance floor
on amateur night. If

you understand this, you're true blue and gold!




Typical Navy Chief

Harold was an old Retired Navy Chief Engineman.  He was sick and

was in the VA hospital.  Anyway, there was this one young nurse
that just drove him crazy. Every time she came in, she would talk
to him like he was a little child. She would say in a patronizing
tone of voice, "And how are we doing this morning, or are we ready
for our bath, or are we hungry?"

Old Harold had had enough of this particular nurse. One day, Old
Harold had received breakfast, and pulled the juice off the tray,
and put it on his bed side stand. He had just been given a urine
bottle to fill for testing.  The juice was apple juice.
know where the juice went.

Well, the nurse came in a little later and picked up the urine
bottle. She looks at it. "My, but it seems we are a little cloudy

At this, Old Harold snatched the bottle out of her hand, pops off
the top, and drinks it down, saying, "Well, I'll run it through
again, and maybe I can filter it better this time."

The nurse fainted...... Old Harold just smiled......Typical Chief!




A DDG-42 Sea Story


Back in the bad old days, the DDG 42 had an all male crew.  There was a urinal located on the signal bridge for bridge watchstanders who were called by Mother Nature for necessity's sake.  It was an open air affair, with a small metal shield to prevent accidents due to wind gusts, and also for the sake of modesty.  One bright sunny day, the drain became clogged.  Because of the location, it was necessary to correct this problem quickly, so the Hull Maintenance Technicians were dispatched to take care of it.  The quickest and most direct method was to remove the short rubber hose which ran from the bottom of the urinal to the drain pipe and connect a fire hose to the drain.  When the 125 PSI from the firemain was applied it would make quick work of the clog.

Meanwhile, down in the NTDS room almost immediately below, DS1 Edge having just obtained the newest copy of Playboy retired to the small head located in this area to read the articles.  Now, this head shared the drain system with the bridge urinal.  As DS1 Edge was perusing the Playboy's philosophical advice the HT's working overhead opened the fire main valve. 
As the clog in the drain slowly succumbed to the 125 PSI from the fire main it slowly began to move downward, not gaining much speed as it moved.  When it passed the drain opening for the NTDS head, the pressure from the fire main followed the path of least resistance, and diverted directly to the most conveniently located opening.
Legend has it that the eruption was spectacular, rivaling Vesuvius or possibly Mount St. Helen's. While the disaster was not quite on that scale, it totally disrupted a quiet, introspective time for DS1 Edge.  I saw the aftermath, and I must say it also totally ruined a perfectly good Playboy.
Ted Painter





What is a Veteran?

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service:
a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding
a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg -
or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's
ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who
have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can't tell a vet just by looking. What is a vet?

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi
Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored
personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks,
whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a
hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of
exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She - or he - is the nurse who fought against futility
and went to sleep sobbing every night for
two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another -
or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat -
but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account
rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to
watch each other's backs.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons
and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the
ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns,
whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever
preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor
dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield
or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket -
palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a
Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were
still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being -
a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in
the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions
so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness,
and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on
behalf of the finest, the greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country,
just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need,
and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could
have been awarded or were awarded. Two little words that mean a lot,




WWII Stories: ''I wasn’t going to let those little devils bury me''

Hugh Merritt paid to have a monument erected at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in memory of those who served on Bataan and Corregidor in the Philippine Islands.

By ED MILLER, The Virginian-Pilot
© May 26, 2004

VIRGINIA BEACH — The white Mercedes pulled off the road and under an oak tree. Hugh Merritt, 85, popped the trunk, pulled out a plastic shopping bag and walked across a clearing toward a granite monument, 3½ feet high.   He set the bag on the grass and took out several miniature American flags, wrapped in brown paper. Then he removed seven full-sized flags and a blue garrison cap with a pin near its crown that read “Ex-POW.”

  Traffic rolled by on Nider Boulevard on the Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base.

The azaleas behind the monument were in full bloom. It was a Thursday morning, May 6 – 62 years, to the day, that the island of Corregidor fell to the Japanese. “They took the American flag down,” Merritt recalled. “They lined us all up and sent word down to get rid of guns, destroy ’em.”

They were a ragged bunch. They had been living on half-rations for months, first on Bataan and then during the 28-day siege of Corregidor .

The Japanese stripped them to their skivvies. American officers told anyone with Japanese money to get rid of it; the Japanese would know it had come from their soldiers.   Some men tried to hide the money in their shoes.   “The Japs would find it, and shoot them right there. You’d hear a shot, down the line a ways, and you’d know there was another guy gone.”

The men were loaded on barges and taken to Bilibid Prison in Manila. >From there, they were jammed into boxcars for the ride to Cabanatuan No.1, a POW camp.

“I don’t know how many guys died. You really didn’t know they were dead, because they couldn’t fall. When they couldn’t get out the door, you knew the ones left behind were dead.”

On the third day three officers escaped. They were quickly captured, made to dig their own graves, and shot.

Prisoners were placed in squads of 10. If one escaped, the Japanese killed the other nine.

“If you heard shots, you knew they had shot them. If you didn’t hear shots, you knew they had beheaded them.”

In April of 1944, about 350 prisoners were loaded in the hold of a cargo ship headed to Japan. There was no room to sit, and no water. A five-gallon can served as the bathroom.

“At night time, for those that died during the day, they’d throw ropes down and you’d tie them on it, and they’d haul them up and throw them over the side.

“Then after a while, you could sit down.”

They were taken to a copper mine near Hitachi, where they worked 2,500 feet down, 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Many men simply gave up.

“They said, 'Uncle Sam’s not coming to get us. They just forgot us.’ We knew there was no one coming.

“When your buddy died, you stripped him. You took his clothes, because that was the only way you had any clothes. There was never a man that I knew, when I was on death detail, who was buried with his clothes on.

“I was determined. I wasn’t going to let those little devils bury me over there.”

The Japanese gave the men two cigarettes a day. Merritt traded them for rice. Dying men often craved a last smoke.

One day they came out of the mine and found no shift waiting to relieve them.

“They told us, 'No more work. No more work. The U.S. and Japan have signed a peace treaty.’ ”

After a few days, fighter planes appeared in the distance. They swooped in low, then turned around and left.

“Three or four hours later, they came back. They had these sea bags full of candy, cigarettes and girly magazines. They dropped them daggone things down. Some of them went right through the barracks. Man, I’ll tell you, we had a ball.”

Eventually they boarded a train to Yokohama, where hospital ships awaited.

Merritt limped up the ramp to the ship using a rifle as a cane. He had taken the rifle from a Japanese guard, and wrapped it in a blanket.

He weighed 86 pounds. At the start of the war, he had weighed 150.

“This corpsman said to me, 'What have you got there?’

“I said, 'None of your damn business.’ “He said: 'You’ve got to tell me what you’ve got.’

“ 'A rifle.’ “ 'You can’t take a rifle on board.’

“I looked at him and I said, 'Are you going to take this rifle away from me?’

“He said: 'No, I don’t think I’m going to.’ “

The rifle leans in a corner of the guest room in Merritt’s Virginia Beach home, along with other mementos of a 30-year Navy career.

Merritt enlisted in 1935, a month after his 17th birthday. He pedaled his bike from his home in Lambert’s Point to the recruiting station in downtown Norfolk.

He became a torpedoman’s mate second class. It was only by a series of coincidences and bad timing that he wound up shouldering a rifle in the Philippine jungle, wearing Navy whites dyed yellow with coffee grounds.

Early in 1942, pinned down on Bataan, outnumbered and with little modern weaponry, they waited for the help they’d been promised. It never came.

Merritt was awarded a Purple Heart in 1950 and the Bronze Star in 1992.

He reached into his own pocket to create the monument at Little Creek.

It is dedicated to the “Battling Bastards” of Bataan/Corregidor, Philippine Islands, and was dedicated on April 10, 2000.

Merritt dug the post holes for the six flag poles that encircle the monument, and planted the grass that surrounds it. He keeps the grounds tidy, spraying weeds, trimming trees.

Each May 6, he visits, carrying his flags.

Merritt placed a miniature flag in the stones at the base of each flag pole. Then he carefully unfolded each of seven different flags.

He raised the American flag first, directly in front of the monument. Then, working clockwise around the monument, he raised a Navy flag, an Army and an Army Air Corps flag together, a USS Bataan flag, a POW-MIA flag, and a Marine Corps flag.

Merritt then put the garrison cap on his head and placed a single flag at the foot of the monument.

Merritt is not sure who will maintain the monument when he’s gone.

While he’s still here, his mission is clear.

“I want people to remember,” he said.

Reach Ed Miller at 446-2372 or




THE OLD OUTFIT......"Written By a World War Two Sailor." 
Come gather round me lads and I'll tell you a thing or two, about the way we ran the Navy in nineteen forty 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 were not allowed.

Now when a ship puts out to sea. I'll tell you son  it hurts! When suddenly you notice that half the crews wearing skirts.

And it's hard for me to imagine, a female boatswains mate, stopping on the Quarterdeck to make 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 is 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 nineteen-forty two."



 Lt. J.G Don Ballard joined the U.S. Navy in 1935 when he received $21.00 per Month. What the author says in his words is true. In 1935 only 13 men joined the Navy (from Tennessee) and Don was one of them.

Proudly copied from Lt .Ballard USN Retired, April 13, 2002 , who loved the Navy and all the men he served with in all of World War Two.





"Coffee and the Navy"

By Rear Admiral Frank J. Allston, SC, USNR (Ret.), and
Captain Kathleen Jensen, SC, USNR


Coffee, in its many forms, has been a mainstay of the Navy through the years.

       Grande, skinny, light foam,latte, cappuccino, frappaccino, mocha. These are names of beverages that have crept into the English language recently as various coffee-based drinks have brought a high degree of choice to consumers in all walks of life. As these choices have expanded, Navy officers and enlisted personnel have become more sophisticated in their beverage choices. This still-growing range of coffee choices in the U.S. Navy has evolved slowly over more than two centuries, as commercial coffee makers and purveyors developed imaginative techniques that today whet the thirst of men and women throughout the world.

       When men first went to sea thousands of years ago, their solid food and beverage needs were major concerns. In earliest recorded time, ships rarely sailed beyond sight of land, where they could easily put in to shore to obtain food and water.

       Later, as ships became larger and voyages longer and more hazardous, crews were sustained with substantial stores of food containers and jugs of water, requiring development of procedures for stowing, issuing and consuming them. Sanitary conditions at sea affected liquids and other foods aboard ship, leading to boiling water or adding alcohol to make it palatable. Before coffee came into use, water was supplemented by mead, a drink of fermented honey and water, flavored with fruit or spices. The meager rations were carefully doled out during each voyage.

       Inevitable onboard shortages on long cruises frequently became major issues among the crews, leading to occasional refusals to participate in manning their stations and even mutinies. Exhausted supplies of liquids far at sea could be replenished solely by capturing rainwater in sails, buckets or whatever else was at hand.

       The Old Testament indicates that wine was a popular beverage in biblical times. Archaeologists have uncovered ancient hieroglyphics describing how to brew beer and have located jugs that were used for containing beer more than 5,000 years ago. Although there is strong evidence that a strong alcoholic beverage was originally distilled from sugarcane in ancient Asia, it was not until the 15th century that Europeans learned to convert sugarcane readily into a thick, sweet liquor that became known as rum.

       Rum was quickly adopted by Great Britain's Royal Navy. The fledgling American Continental Navy was modeled along the lines of the RN and, early in 1794, the Continental Congress enacted into law that a daily ration for American sailors would be "one half pint of distilled spirits," or in lieu thereof, "one quart of beer."

       Royal Navy officials soon noticed that allowing enlisted ratings to drink straight rum hampered their performance at sea and endangered the safety of their ships. The Admiralty solved this problem by specifying that rum be diluted with water, creating a beverage called grog, which satisfied Sailors' need for a more thirst-quenching drink than water alone.

       Influenced by their English heritage, some American Sailors preferred drinking tea. Both coffee and tea could easily be brewed aboard ships. As a result of King George III's instituting a tax on tea and retaliation by colonists in the famous Boston Tea Party in 1773, the Continental Congress declared coffee the national drink of the colonies and aboard U.S. Navy ships. American Sailors promptly switched from tea to coffee.

       Preserving coffee beans proved to be a daunting task aboard Navy ships and in warehouses ashore. Wormholes in the beans roused considerable concern because of the unknown effect upon the final brewed product from the holes and the insects that caused them. Paymaster F.T. Arms addressed this concern in the Navy Cook Book, published in 1902, which he authored and distributed. Arms wrote, "The presence of wormholes in coffee should not occasion its rejection unless it is of inferior quality and strength, since they (the wormholes) generally indicate age, weigh nothing, and disappear when the coffee is ground."

       Coffee was served primarily for its satisfying taste and warming characteristics, but necessity sometimes fostered other innovative uses. In the spring of 1914, the Navy flotilla of destroyers was sen to Tampico on the Caribbean coast of Mexico where Marines were landed to secure release of arrested American seaman. The skipper of one destroyer, realizing that some of his Sailors, who would accompany the Marines, had only blues and whites in their sea bags to wear ashore in the semitropical climate, turned to his officers for suggestions.

       One unknown destroyer paymaster resolved the problem of providing more comfortable tropical uniforms by dipping white uniforms into pots of coffee, which effectively transformed them into khakis. A future flag officer and chief of Supply Corps, then a yeoman, third class (later VADM), Charles W. Fox, reported that there was "absolutely no comfort in wearing a uniform soaked from having been dipped in a pot of coffee dregs."

       Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, scandalized by reports of drunkenness aboard ship, issued an order 1919 banned the serving of wine in the wardroom and any consumption of alcoholic aboardship. Daniels, a teetotaler, decreed that only coffee or tea should be served. This was not a popular order and Sailors promptly dubbed a cup of coffee as a "cup of joe."

       Popularity of coffee continued to increase during the period between two world wars as supply officers strove to assure that coffee of suitable quality was available in sufficient quantity to sate the thirst of officers and Sailors afloat and ashore.

       The importance of coffee to officers and Sailors was driven home on 7 December 1941, when supply officers of undamaged or lightly damaged combatant ships following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor prepared to board supplies for immediate deployment no later than early the next morning. CAPT (later RADM) John J. Gaffney, senior Supply Corps officer assigned to the Navy Yard Pearl Harbor, issued a series of emergency orders to his staff. Among officers he dispatched into action was LTJG J. B. Andrade, SC, USNR, one of five Naval Reservists already serving on two weeks active duty in CAPT Gaffney's Supply Department. He instructed Andrade to drive into Honolulu to make emergency purchase of five tons of the popular Kona coffee for issue to fleet units preparing to put to sea.

       The young officer was unable to obtain the entire five tons as hastily opened wholesale firms turned over their entire Kona coffee inventory to him. Anticipating that it might not be possible for LTJG Andrade to purchase the full five tons, Gaffney had authorized substitution of commercial brands. Andrade purchased and delivered five tons of Kona and other acceptable coffee by late evening that day.

       As America went on a full wartime footing, soldiers were issued instant coffee in their ration kits. Back at home, shortages of coffee eventually led to rationing.

       One frequent World War II saying boasted that Navy ships operated on fuel oil and their crews operated on coffee. Many Sailors were convinced that U.S. Navy combatant ships in World War II had more unofficial "coffee messes" (or coffee pots) in place than crewmen aboard - about 2,000 in battleships. Most of these unauthorized "messes" consisted of a single electric coffeemaker plugged into the nearest electrical outlet in crew quarters, offices, workshops and sometimes even at battle stations. The number of individual messes and the frequent need to substitute lesser-known brands of coffee were among several factors that raised questions about the quality of Navy coffee, particularly in the fleet.

       U.S. Navy officials, motivated by the belief that coffee is as important to personnel in the fleet as ammunition is to its weapons systems, were concerned early during wartime expansion in 1942 over the widely varying quality of the roasted coffee being supplied to ships and shore stations. The solution was to open Navy fresh coffee roasting plants on both the East and West coasts and later in Hawaii.

       The coffee roasting plant at the Naval Supply Corps Depot Oakland, capable of roasting 13 million pounds an hour, went on line on Oct. 27, 1942. The plant annually produced 13.5 million pounds of freshly ground coffee from approximately 16 million pounds of green coffee beans obtained from Central and South America, usually from Brazil and Colombia.

       During the period from opening in October 1942 to June 1948, the Oakland Coffee Roasting Plant blended, roasted and ground 115,830,896 pounds of green coffee into a total of 98,456,264 pounds of freshly ground and roasted coffee and packed them in 50-pound sacks of high-quality freshly roasted coffee for the Pacific Fleet. Coffee was also shipped to other Navy, Marine Corps and Army units throughout the Pacific, including bases in Western states.

       A second coffee roasting plant, located at the Naval Clothing Depot at Brooklyn, N.Y., provided a similar service to the Atlantic Fleet and to other American military services in the North African and European theaters of operations. Both plants were operated until disestablished in 1956. An older Navy coffee roasting plant at Mare Island Shipyard in California was dismantled, shipped to Pearl Harbor, and began operation in July 1943 to meet expanding coffee needs of growing and rapidly advancing forces in the Central Pacific.

       Anecdotes about coffee in the Navy abound. Attorney Harris Meyer, son of the late CAPT Sam Meyer, USNR, shares one story that his father-in-law, Bernie Eisenbach, told fondly with pride. Eisenbach, a trained and experienced tool and die maker, enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and was designated a torpedoman, second class. He was ordered to the destroyer escort, USS Richard W. Suesens (DE 342), deployed to the South Pacific that already had a full complement of torpedomen. Eisenbach could type, so he was assigned as assistant to the ship's cook.

       The cook promptly gave Eisenbach the task of assuring that there was ample coffee for all watches. Bernie soon noticed that large quantities of coffee were left in the 20-quart containers in which it was brewed. The crewman who had this task before him, simply filled large pots with water, threw in large cheesecloth wrapped bags of coffee, turned on the heat and left them to boil. Sailors strongly criticized the bitter taste and drank little of it.

       Not being a coffee drinker, Eisenbach wrote to his father, a professional baker, and asked for the exact formula and procedure for brewing great coffee, which he subsequently received. His father stressed how much coffee he should put in for each gallon of water, exactly how long to brew the coffee and he emphasized that when the coffee was brewed, the grounds should be removed immediately.

       When the crew tasted the strong, well-brewed and improved coffee, prepared according to instructions of Bernie's father, they enjoyed the change. Thereafter, coffee usually disappeared by the middle of the watch, requiring Bernie to prepare additional quantities. Bernie's successful improvement in coffee definitely raised crew morale, but it had an unintended side effect that doubled his workload. The seemingly miraculous improvement in the ship's coffee formula soon spread throughout the squadron.

       CAPT Len Sapera, SC, USN (Ret.), recalls a shipboard coffee incident that had a less pleasant outcome. As a lieutenant, junior grade, in 1962, he was assigned as food services officer in USS Cavalier (APA 37) and caught a seaman apprentice one day making the morning coffee for the mess decks, using dirty dishwater. "I nailed him and took him to captain's mast where the CO busted him down to seaman recruit and processed him out of the Navy. That was the first time I put someone on report and nailed him at mast."

       At special times, military families traditionally have taken their holiday meals at base dining halls and dining facilities. CDR (later CAPT) Thomas J. Ingram, SC, USN, believed that the food service staff should be rewarded with a big holiday turnout, so he took his family to Thanksgiving dinner at the Cheatham Annex, Va., General Mess in the late 1960s. As a teenager, Alison Ingram (later CDR, CEC, USN, Ret.) accompanied her family for a special turkey dinner. When a mess attendant took her dessert order, she asked for pumpkin pie, but was served coffee, a beverage she never consumed. As the attendant stood by to determine her satisfaction, Alison reluctantly drank the coffee and found that it was delicious. CDR Ingram now says that she has been drinking coffee ever since.

       In 1974, as the U.S. Navy's communications station in Asmara, Ethiopia, was closing, a warehouse filled with remaining excess stores, was opened to the Ethiopian public for one visit per person to take whatever could be carried. Although beer was the popular choice, many 20-pound square cans of roasted and ground coffee departed on tops of heads or under arms. These square 20-lb. cans are still used today, primarily aboard American submarines, and DLA sold $556,000 worth in fiscal year 2003.

       Coffee has always been employed as a medium of exchange for enterprising Navy Supply Corps officers afloat. Two former chiefs of Supply Corps recall just how valuable coffee is around the world.

       RADM Jim Miller, 37th Chief, reports, "When I was a young junior supply officer, skippers of my ships would always warn me to have 5-pound tins of coffee aboard when we visited Hong Kong. There, a sampan captained by 'Mary Sue' with a crew of young girls, would pull alongside arriving U.S. Navy ships and offer to paint our hulls in return for tins of coffee. We'd supply the paint and rollers and the women would use them to paint our ships." RADM Ted Walker, 35th Chief, adds, "A 5?pound tin of coffee would get almost anything done at a Navy shipyard."

       Worldwide consumption of coffee expanded throughout the 20th century and continues into the 21st century. One reporter's article, published in a Chicago suburban newspaper in 2002, provided his perspective on coffee in American society. Jake Herrle wrote:

       "It (coffee) jump starts our mornings and fortifies us for winter's freeze. It can summon the courage to face a particularly dreadful day at the office.

       "Coffee is a warm and inviting friend that greets us again after dinner to smooth over a rough day or to help digest an ample meal. The day's last cup of joe signals the mind to shift gears into the inky night and begin to slow down.

       "Not to slight our furry four-legged friends, but coffee is a constant and reliable companion to most of our lives."

       Much has been written in the popular press about the phenomenon of coffee shops as popular gathering places for refreshment, fellowship and conversation in other parts of the world. Coffee shops are becoming equally popular as social institutions in the United States. Serving a wide variety of coffee, tea and chocolate beverages, these occasions have tempted Americans from middle school students to retirees, including the American military personnel. As reporter Herrle put it, "Ever stopped in the floral shop of a strange town to get the scoop on the local gossip?"

       Historically, individual military services were responsible for procuring, storing and distributing all commodities, including food. Beginning in October 1961 with formation of the Defense Supply Agency, now the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), within the Defense Department, methods of supplying subsistence items changed drastically. The mission of the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP) includes providing subsistence for United States military personnel worldwide.

       CAPT Jeffrey Bradley, SC, USN, Director of Subsistence, DSCP, reports that from World War II until the early 1990s, roast and ground coffee was centrally purchased under a military specification, placed in military depots and issued. In 1993, the Department of Defense replaced the military depot system for garrison feeding with the Subsistence Prime Vendor Program, utilizing commercial distributors.

       "Today's warfighters don't select coffee with the same regularity as their predecessors and tend to choose sports drinks, sodas or other popular fountain lines. The familiar coffee urn in the dining halls that are full 24 hours a day, have in many instances, been replaced by fountain dispensers using reconstituted liquid coffee at a cost of $800,000 a year," Bradley explains.

       Despite the changing trends in beverage consumption by members of U.S. military services, use of roasted and ground coffee is still substantial with reported purchases of approximately $3 million a year. Bradley reports, "Initiatives are underway by DLA Defense Supply Center Philadelphia, in cooperation with the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped, the government of Puerto Rico and the State of Hawaii to develop a domestic source of roast and ground coffee that could be made available to the U.S. military."

       Navy Exchange Service Command operated direct-run retail fast-food outlets on Navy facilities in the early 1970s, but sales were lackluster. Recognizing the success of name-brand fast-food stores near Navy installations, NEXCOM executed a local contract that Burger King won through competitive bidding and, in 1974, was awarded the right to operate at four Navy waterfront sites - Norfolk, Pearl Harbor, Long Beach and New London - where Sailors could purchase coffee. NEXCOM Commander RADM William Maguire, SC, USN, explains, "Revenues were terrific and so we decided at the term of the existing contract, we would resolicit."

       In 1984, McDonald's Corporation was awarded a contract to operate at multiple sites, now totaling 52 systemwide. Under separate contracts, Wendy's operates a store in Iceland and Burger King operates two in Europe. These contract locations do a lively business in coffee sales. Eurest, operating as 5 Star Cafe, was awarded a contract in 2002 to provide food service at The Pentagon, including brewing and selling Starbuck's coffee under license.

       Even with constantly changing public tastes, coffee remains one of the most popular beverages sold and consumed in the United States, trailing only soft drinks, milk and bottled water in annual volume of consumption. Suppliers can be anticipated to continue their quest for innovative new techniques for packaging and presenting coffee worldwide to the public, including military personnel.

       Much has been written in the past about the alleged negative effect that caffeine in coffee causes to individual health, but reports of recent studies have resulted in a reassessment of the health effects of coffee drinking. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that "Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that men who drink four to five cups of coffee a day cut their risk of developing Parkinson's disease nearly in half." The Journal article further reported that "German researchers have also identified a compound in coffee that may offer protection against colon cancer."

       Obviously, additional research will continue as the pros and cons of drinking coffee remain under constant scrutiny by health authorities and the providers of coffee products, as well as consumers. In the meantime, it is safe to conclude that coffee will continue to be a significant part of Navy life aboard ship and ashore and that consumers will welcome the newer choices as they come on the market.

RADM Frank Allston had 34 years of active and Reserve duty when he retired in 1985. He was commissioned an ensign in the Naval Reserve Supply Corps in 1952 and served on active duty during the Korean War. He was presented the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award in 1998 for his 10-year effort in researching and writing Ready for Sea, an extensive history of the first 200 years of the U.S. Navy Supply Corps. RADM Allston has been selected as the 2004 Navy Supply Corps School Distinguished Alumnus. He now serves on the Newsletter Editorial Board.

CAPT Kathleen Jensen is currently Project Manager/Virtual SYSCOM Support at Naval Supply Systems Command Headquarters. Her recent Reserve assignments include Commanding Officer, AIRPAC Supply 0189 and Executive Officer, NR Defense Distribution Center Detachment B120.
YNCS Don Harribine, USN(Ret)




I would recommend that those of you who are sensitive about foul language that you stop here without reading it. This is the way it was in an all male Navy when I was in. and this is the way it happened, so this is the way I tell the story. This is no joke. A coffee mess is a very serious thing aboard ship. Read at your own risk! BTW the word 'mess' does not mean what one would assume. It comes from an archaic word similar to the Spanish word 'Mesa' meaning table.
Navy Coffee Mess
        Aboard many ships in the Navy, unauthorized coffee messes are frowned upon officially, but seldom enforced. When I was a young lad just aboard ship for the first time I discovered one of my duties was to keep coffee in the pot. At the time I didn't even drink coffee. I didn't like it at all. But being the "New man" in the IC* Gang the duty fell upon my shoulders.
        Behind the IC switchboard in the IC Room where the Master Gyro and the Fire Control computer for the Main Battery we had a tall stool and a piece of plywood for a very small work bench. One could repair sound powered phones, a compass repeater, and maybe even a movie projector. Two men back behind the switchboard was a very large crowd. Carefully secured there in one corner of that workbench was a small ten cup percolator. Next to that were about six cups. Four with handles that were hung on the cables on the bulkhead by bent welding rods, and two others without handles just sat on the bench.
        When first assigned that duty was the first time I even noticed the coffee mess. The cups looked as though they had been marinated in Bunker "C" fuel oil* for about two or three years. Remembering the way my Mother handled coffee and coffee cups at home I 'turned to' on the coffee mess. (In the Navy no one just goes to work. "Turn to" are the words used.  I took the pot to the forward head and with the help of steel wool I scoured the pot. I filled it with water and took it back to the IC Room. My leading Petty Officer was working on the front of the IC switchboard not paying much attention to my activities.  After securing the pot I yelled out,
"How much coffee do I use?" I had a square five gallon aluminum can of coffee and a cup with a handle in it.
"Just fill the basket" was the reply. I did so and plugged it in. Then I took the cups to the head and with the help of boiler compound I scoured them until they sparkled. They shone like pewter buttons. I was proud of my accomplishments. I found later that "Filling the basket" caused the grounds to swell and overflow into the bottom of the pot. The resulting swill would scour accumulated mineral sediment from boiler plates. What kept the acid from eating through the aluminum pot became a mystery to me that I have yet to figure out. One of nature's phenomena I suppose.
        Now this was at the end of the 1200 to 1600 watch. Then there was mess call and supper was served. Because of the weather I sat the movie up in the messdecks following supper. I started the movie on time at 2000, and I finished the movie just before 2200 and taps. I relieved the other IC Striker that had been on as I returned with the projector and movie to the IC Room and stowed it under the workbench. I looked at the sight glass on the coffee pot, and saw that it was still full. Usually the sight glass was so stained one could not tell what the level in the pot was, but I had carefully cleaned it with a small bottle brush that is used for cleaning sight glasses in the Engineering spaces.
        I had the night Gyro watch, and because of all of the alarms it was a sleeping watch. I grabbed my pillow and curled on the deck plates around the gyro and fell asleep. I was roused from a very deep sleep about two hours later by the sound of very loud swearing.
"Jesus H. Aloysius Fucking P. Christ!" I jumped up to see the Chief Electrician holding a handless cup in his hand. It was the only time in my life I ever saw a Chief get emotional, and the closest I ever saw a Chief come to crying. It was a pitiful sight. Then words become difficult for his lips to form, and he almost blubbered. 
"Arnold - - - who in the fuck washed my cup?" 
"Why I did Chief. Didn't I get it clean enough?"
"Listen you fucking Fenderhead, the first rule in the coffee mess is, don't mess with my fucking coffee cup! I liked it just the way it was." He then lifted the lid of the coffee pot, lifted the basket and sunk his cup to the bottom of the pot. As he did so he noticed that the pot was also shiny.
"Don't - - I repeat don't - - do not remove that fucking cup until I tell you to. Is that understood? Furthermore you never do anything to that fucking pot except to empty it and refill it."
"Aye aye Chief. I will not remove it until you tell me to." His eyes began to get misty and to protect his status as a Navy Chief he turned and stormed out the door headed, I assume, for the Electric Shop back aft for another coffee mess. (He, being a Chief, had cups in many locations throughout the ship. Woe betide the coffee mess that ran out of coffee.) The profanity left behind before the door was slammed and dogged was something about "Fucking Fenderheads, This man's Navy is going straight to Davy Joneses' locker. Gawd-Damned Kiddy Cruisers. Fucking Boots!"
        The next day I had some very personal instruction on the care and feeing of a Navy coffee mess from my leading Petty Officer. I am positive he did so at the direction of the Chief Electrician. When he finished he ended with the threat of Captain's Mast, Summary Courts Martial, and walking the plank when the fathometer registered 3800 fathoms. At morning quarters the Chief didn't even call out my name or look at me. This remained this way for a full three weeks.
        The cup remained in the pot for about that full three weeks and many pots of coffee later before the Chief told me to remove it. It looked as it had before stained as though it had set in Bunker "C" fuel oil for all of that time. I learned that coffee was the life's blood of those that made a career of the Navy. "Lifer's" were a breed apart from the rest of mankind. This and another trait known as being a "Little Asiatic" seemed to go hand in hand. This was my first real experience in what is known as "On the job training."
        It seems coffee in the Navy has to have a permanent oil slick floating on the surface, and is not to be drunk until it is at least four hours old. It has to have a viscosity that will float a horseshoe nail in it, and a spoon will stand upright in the cup. Coffee is always drunk black, and sometimes with about a half cup of sugar. I always provided a can of 'Pet' milk, but it would sour before it was ever used and I had to just throw it away.
        From time to time I would try a cup, and I discovered it just didn't stain my teeth, it literally loosened them. It became my opinion that Navy dentists were the busiest men in the entire Medical Department.
1. IC stands for Interior Communications. All communications 'within' the ship.
2. For those who do not know, Bunker"C" is simply pure crude oil straight from the ground. Bunker "C" means 'crude oil' for the ship's 'bunkers' (tanks). When one cleans fuel oil filters he can see petrified bones of small birds, rodents, snakes, lizards and the like.




THE SEA BAG........ 

There was a time when everything you owned had to fit in your sea bag. Remember those nasty rascals? Fully packed, one of the suckers weighed more than the poor devil hauling it.

The damn things weighed a ton and some idiot with an off-center sense of humor sewed a carry handle on it to help you haul it.  Hell, you could bolt a handle on a Greyhound bus but it wouldn't make the damn thing portable.

The Army, Marines and Air Force got footlockers and we got a big ole' canvas bag.

After you warped your spine jackassing the goofy thing through a bus or train station, sat on it waiting for connecting
transportation and made folks mad because it was too damn big to fit in any overhead rack on any bus, train and airplane ever made, the contents looked like hell. All your gear appeared to have come from bums who slept on park benches.

Traveling with a sea bag was something left over from the "Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum" sailing ship days. Sailors used to sleep in hammocks. So you stowed your issue in a big canvas bag and lashed your hammock to it, hoisted it on your shoulder and in effect moved your entire home and complete inventory of earthly possessions from ship
to ship. I wouldn't say you traveled light because with one strap it was a one-shoulder load that could torque your skeletal frame and bust your ankles. It was like hauling a dead linebacker.

They wasted a lot of time in boot camp telling you how to pack one of the suckers. There was an officially sanctioned method of organization that you forgot after ten minutes on the other side of the gate at Great Lakes or San Diego. You got rid of a lot of issue gear when you went to the SHIP.

Did you ever know a tin-can sailor who had a raincoat? A flat hat? One of  those nut hugger knit swimsuits? How bout those roll your own  neckerchiefs... The ones the girls in a good Naval tailor shop would cut down and sew into a 'greasy snake' for two bucks?

Within six months, every fleet sailor was down to one set of dress blues, port and starboard undress blues and whites, a couple of white hats, boots,  shoes, assorted skivvies a pea coat and three sets of bleached out dungarees. The rest of your original issue was either in the pea coat  locker, lucky bag or had been reduced to wipe down
rags in the engine room. Underway ships were not ships that allowed vast accumulation of private gear.

Hobos who lived in discarded refrigerator crates could amass greater loads of pack rat crap than fleet sailors. The confines of a canvas back rack, side locker and a couple of bunk bags did not allow one to live a Donald Trump existence. Space and the going pay scale combined to make us envy the lifestyle of a mud hut Ethiopian. We
were the global equivalents of nomadic Monguls without ponies to haul our stuff.

And after the rigid routine of boot camp we learned the skill of random compression packing... Known by mother's world-wide as 'cramming'. It is amazing what you can jam into a space no bigger than a breadbox if you pull a watch cap over a boot and push it in with your foot.  Of course it looks kinda weird when you pull it out but they never hold
fashion shows at sea and wrinkles added character to a salty appearance.  There was a four-hundred mile gap between the images on recruiting posters and the actual appearance of sailors at sea. It was not without justifiable reason that we were called the tin-can Navy.

We operated on the premise that if 'Cleanliness was next to Godliness', we must be next to the other end of that
spectrum... We looked like our clothing had been pressed with a waffle iron and packed by a bulldozer.

But what in the hell did they expect from a bunch of jerks that lived in the crews hole of a 2250 Gearing/Fletcher
can. After a while you got used to it... You got used to everything you owned picking up and retaining that
distinctive aroma... You got used to old ladies on busses taking a couple of wrinkled nose sniffs of your pea coat then getting up and finding another seat...

Do they still issue seabags? Can you still make five bucks sitting up half the night drawing a ships picture on the side
of one of the damn things with black and white marking pens that drive old master-at-arms into a 'rig for heart attack' frenzy? Make their faces red... The veins on their neck bulge out... And yell, "Jeezus H. Christ! What in god's name is that all over your seabag?" "Artwork, Chief... It's like the work of Michelangelo... My ship... Great huh?" "Looks like some damn comic book..."

Here was a man with cobras tattooed on his arms... A skull with a dagger through one eye and a ribbon reading 'DEATH BEFORE SHORE DUTY' on his shoulder... Crossed anchors with 'Subic Bay 1945' on the other shoulder... An eagle on his chest and a full blown Chinese dragon peeking out between the cheeks of his butt. If anyone was an
authority on stuff that looked like a comic book, it had to be this E-7 sucker.

Sometimes I look at all the crap stacked in my garage, close my eyes and smile, remembering a time when everything I owned could be crammed into a canvas bag. Maturity is hell.   

















Once I Was A Navyman


I like the Navy. I like standing on deck during a long voyage with sea spray in my face and ocean winds whipping in from everywhere - The feel of the giant steel ship beneath me, it's engines driving against the sea is almost beyond understanding - It’s immense power makes the Navyman feel so insignificant but yet proud to be a small part of this ship - A small part of Her mission.


I like the Navy. I like the sound of taps over the ships announcing system, the ringing of the ships bell, the foghorns and strong laughter of Navy men at work. I like the ships of the Navy - nervous darting destroyers, sleek proud cruisers, majestic battle ships, steady solid carriers and silent hidden submarines. I like the workhorse tugboats with their proud Indian names: Iroquois, Apache, Kiawah and Sioux - each stealthy powerful tug safely guiding the warships to safe deep waters from all harbors.

I like the historic names of other proud Navy Ships: Midway, Hornet, Princeton, Sea Wolf and Saratoga. The Ozark, Hunley, William R. Rush and Turner, the Missouri, Wichita, Iowa, Arizona and Manchester, as well as The Sullivan’s, Enterprise, Tecumseh, Cole and Nautilus too- all majestic ships of the line - Each ship commanding the respect of all Navymen that have known Her - or were privileged to be a part of Her crew


I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty Whites", “13 Button Blues”, the rare 72 hour liberty and the spice scent of a foreign port - I like shipmates I've sailed with, worked with, served with or have known: The Gunners Mate from the Iowa cornfields; a Sonarman from the Colorado mountain country; a pal from Cairo, Alabama; an Italian from near Boston; some boogie boarders of California; and of course, a drawling friendly Oklahoma lad that hailed from Muskogee; and a very congenial Engineman from the Tennessee hills.


From all parts of the land they came - farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England - the red clay area and small towns of the South - the mountain and high prairie towns of the West - the beachfront towns of the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Gulf - All are American; all are comrades in arms - All are men of the sea and all are men of honor.


I like the adventure in my heart when the ship puts out to sea, and I like the electric thrill of sailing home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends, waiting on shore - The extended time at sea drags; the going is rough on occasion. But there's the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the devil-may-care philosophy of the sea. This helps the Navyman - The remembrances of past shipmates fill the mind and restore the memory with images of other ships, other ports, and other cruises long past. Some memories are good, some are not so good, but all are etched in the mind of the Navyman - and most will be there forever.


I like the sea, and after a day of work, there is the serenity of the sea at dusk. As white caps dance on the ocean waves, the sunset creates flaming clouds that float in folds over the horizon - as if painted there by a master. The darkness follows soon and is mysterious. The ship’s wake in darkness has a hypnotic effect, with foamy white froth and luminescence that forms never ending patterns in the turbulent waters - I like the lights of the ship in darkness - the masthead lights, the red and green sidelights and stern lights. They cut through the night and appear as a mirror of stars in darkness - There are rough stormy nights, and calm, quiet, still nights where the quiet of the mid-watch allows the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world to stand with you. They are abundant and unreachable, but ever apparent - And there is always the aroma of fresh coffee from the galley.


I like the legends of the Navy and the Navymen that created those legends. I like the proud names of Navy Heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Beach, Farragut, John McCain, Rickover and John Paul Jones. A man can find much in the Navy - comrades in arms, pride in his country - A man can find himself and can revel in this experience.


In years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still recall with fondness the ocean spray on his face when the sea is angry - There will come a faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils, the echo of hearty laughter of the seafaring men who once were close companions - Now landlocked, he will grow wistful of his Navy days, when the seas were the largest part of him and a new port of call was always just over the horizon.


Recalling those days and times, he will stand taller and say: "ONCE I WAS A NAVYMAN !”


                                                             E. A. Hughes, FTCM (SS), USN (Retired)

                                                                                            Copyright, 1958, 1978





I am the American Sailor

Hear my voice, America! Though I speak through the mist of 200 years, my shout for freedom will echo through liberty's halls for many centuries to come. Hear me speak, for my words are of truth and justice, and the rights of man. For those ideals I have spilled my blood upon the world's troubled waters. Listen well, for my time is eternal - yours is but a moment. I am the spirit of heroes past and future. I am the American Sailor. I was born upon the icy shores at Plymouth, rocked upon the waves of the Atlantic, and nursed in the wilderness of Virginia. I cut my teeth on New England codfish, and I was clothed in southern cotton. I built muscle at the halyards of New Bedford whalers, and I gained my sea legs high atop mizzen of Yankee clipper ships. Yes, I am the American Sailor, one of the greatest seamen the world has ever known. The sea is my home and my words are tempered by the sound of paddle wheels on the Mississippi and the song of whales off Greenland's barren shore. My eyes have grown dim from the glare of sunshine on blue water, and my heart is full of star-strewn nights under the Southern Cross. My hands are raw from winter storms while sailing down round the Horn, and they are blistered from the heat of cannon broadside while defending our nation. I am the American Sailor, and I have seen the sunset of a thousand distant, lonely lands. I am the American Sailor. It was I who stood tall beside John Paul Jones as he shouted, "I have not yet begun to fight!" I fought upon the Lake Erie with Perry, and I rode with Stephen Decatur into Tripoli harbor to burn Philadelphia. I met Guerriere aboard Constitution, and I was lashed to the mast with Admiral Farragut at Mobile Bay. I have heard the clang of Confederate shot against the sides of Monitor. I have suffered the cold with Peary at the North Pole, and I responded when Dewey said, "You may fire when ready Gridley," at Manila Bay. It was I who transported supplies through submarine infested waters when our soldier's were called "over there." I was there as Admiral Byrd crossed the South Pole. It was I who went down with the Arizona at Pearl Harbor, who supported our troops at Inchon, and patrolled dark deadly waters of the Mekong Delta. I am the American Sailor and I wear many faces. I am a pilot soaring across God's blue canopy and I am a Seabee atop a dusty bulldozer in the South Pacific. I am a corpsman nursing the wounded in the jungle, and I am a torpedoman in the Nautilus deep beneath the North Pole. I am hard and I am strong. But it was my eyes that filled with tears when my brother went down with the Thresher, and it was my heart that rejoiced when Commander Shepherd rocketed into orbit above the earth. It was I who languished in a Viet Cong prison camp, and it was I who walked upon the moon. It was I who saved the Stark and the Samuel B. Roberts in the mine infested waters of the Persian Gulf. It was I who pulled my brothers from the smoke filled compartments of the Bonefish and wept when my shipmates died on the Iowa and White Plains. When called again, I was there, on the tip of the spear for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. I am the American Sailor. I am woman, I am man, I am white and black, yellow, red and brown. I am Jew, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist. I am Irish, Filipino, African, French, Chinese, and Indian. And my standard is the outstretched hand of Liberty. Today, I serve around the world, on land, in air, on and under the sea. I serve proudly, at peace once again, but with the fervent prayer that I need not be called again. Tell your children of me. Tell them of my sacrifice, and how my spirit soars above their country. I have spread the mantle of my nation over the ocean and I will guard her forever. I am her heritage and yours.


Author unknown.




Petty Officer Rating "Crow"

The uniform regulations of 19 February 1841 introduced a sleeve mark for the
uniforms of petty officers consisting of an eagle facing left (from the
wearer's perspective) with wings pointed down, while perched on a fouled
anchor. It was to be worn half way between the elbow and shoulder on the
front of the sleeve. Boatswain's Mates, Gunner's Mates, Carpenter's Mates,
Masters at Arms, Ship's Stewards and Ship's Cooks wore it on the right
sleeve while Quarter Masters, Quarter Gunners, Captains of the Forecastle,
Captains of Tops, Captains of the Afterguard, Armorers, Coopers, Ship's
Corporals and Captains of the Hold wore it on the left sleeve. It was
difficult to distinguish between different ratings using this system.

The uniform regulations of 1 December 1866 introduced a system of rating
badges, with eight specialty marks. Depending on design and where these
badges were worn, thirteen ratings could be identified.

A petty officer rating badge incorporating an eagle, specialty mark and
chevrons with points down was introduced in the uniform regulations of 1886.
The eagle faced left with its wings pointed horizontally to the sides. The
regulations specified that petty officers of the starboard watch were to
wear rating badges on their right sleeves. The left sleeve was to be used
for those on the port watch.

General Order 431, dated 24 September 1894, changed the eagle's wings to
point upward, though the eagle continued to face to the left.

The uniform regulations of 25 January 1913 changed the location of rating
badges so that ratings badges were no longer worn on the sleeves
corresponding to assigned watches. Right arm rates were to signify men of
the Seamen Branch; left arm rates were to be used by personnel of the
Artificer Branch, Engine Room Force, and all other petty officers. The eagle
continued to face left on all rating badges.

The uniform regulations of 31 May 1941 specified that the eagle was to face
to the left in the rates comprising the Seaman Branch: Boatswain Mate,
Turret Captain, Signalman, Gunner's Mate, Fire Controlman, Quartermaster,
Mineman and Torpedoman's Mate. All other rating badges were to have an eagle
facing to the right.

Right arm rates were disestablished 2 April 1949, after having been
eliminated by Change #1, dated 24 February 1948, to the 1947 uniform
regulations. All rating badges were to be worn on the left sleeve with the
eagle facing to the right.



Now each of us from time to time has gazed upon the sea
and watched the mighty warships pulling out to keep this country free.
And most of us have read a book or heard a lusty tale,
about these men who sail these ships through lightning, wind and hail.
But there's a place within each ship that legend's fail to teach.
It's down below the water-line and it takes a living toll
- - a hot metal living hell, that sailors call the "Hole."
It houses engines run with steam that makes the shafts go round.
A place of fire, noise, and heat that beats your spirits down.
Where boilers like a hellish heart, with blood of angry steam,
are molded gods without remorse, are nightmares in a dream.

Whose threat from the fires roar, is like a living doubt,
that at any moment with such scorn, might escape and crush you out.
Where turbines scream like tortured souls, alone and lost in Hell,
are ordered from above somewhere, they answer every bell.
The men who keep the fires lit and make the engines run,
are strangers to the light and rarely see the sun.
They have no time for man or God, no tolerance for fear,
their aspect pays no living thing a tribute of a tear.
For there's not much that men can do that these men haven't done,
beneath the decks, deep in the hole, to make the engines run.
And every hour of every day they keep the watch in Hell,
for if the fires ever fail their ship's a useless shell.

When ships converge to have a war upon an angry sea,
the men below just grimly smile at what their fate will be.
They're locked below like men fore-doomed, who hear no battle cry,
it's well assumed that if they're hit men below will die.
For every day's a war down there when gauges all read red,
twelve-hundred pounds of heated steam can kill you mighty dead.

So if you ever write their songs or try to tell their tale,
the very words would make you hear a fired furnace's wail.
And people as a general rule don't hear of these men of steel,
so little heard about this place that sailors call the "Hole."
But I can sing about this place and try to make you see,
the hardened life of the men down there, 'cause one of them is me.
I've seen these sweat-soaked heroes fight in superheated air,
to keep their ship alive and right, though no one knows they're there.

And thus they'll fight for ages on till warships sail no more,
amid the boiler's mighty heat and the turbine's hellish roar.
So when you see a ship pull out to meet a war-like foe,
remember faintly if you can, "The Men Who Sail Below."




Merchant sailors were sometimes unemployed for long periods of time between voyages, and often lived in boarding houses near the piers while waiting for ships to come in and take on fresh crews. In such circumstances, many of them ran out of money, and so the innkeepers carried them on credit until they were hired for another voyage. When a sailor was booked on a ship, he was customarily advanced a month's wages, if needed, to pay off his boarding house debt. Once aboard ship, he worked for nothing but "salt horse" the first several weeks or so. Salt horse was the staple diet of early sailors and not tasty fare. Consisting of heavily salted, low quality beef, it was stringy and tough to chew. When the debt had been repaid, then the salt horse was said to be 'dead', for now the sailor could buy better food from the ship's stores, or bribe the cook or purser. This was a time for celebration among the crew. Usually, an effigy of a horse was constructed of shipboard odds and ends, set afire, and then thrown overboard amidst cheers and laughter. Another definition that is related to the first, is the fact that the "Horse Latitudes" lay towards the southern climates (Tropic of Cancer) near the Equator, which was roughly about a month's sail from England and Europe. Because of the doldrums (Lack of wind) in the area, ships were often becalmed for many days or weeks at a time, causing a water shortage. Livestock, especially horses, died first, or were simply killed and thrown overboard to save water. Their carcasses were often sighted by other ships traveling in this area, and so the region acquired that name. A sailor who had a debt to work off rejoiced at the sight of one of these floating bodies, knowing that he would soon be getting wages. In today's Navy, a "dead horse" refers to a debt to the government for advance pay.




Navy Bean Soup



YIELD: 6 1/4 Gallons or 100 portions, each portion: 1 cup


Beans, white, dry

6 lbs.

3 1/2 qt.


1. Pick over and wash beans.

Ham stock
Ham bones


7 gal.
8 bones


2. Add ham stock and ham bones. Heat to boiling point; cover and simmer 2-3 hours or until beans are tender. If necessary, add hot water.
3. Remove ham bones.

Carrots, shredded
Onions, finely chopped

1 lb.
2 lbs.

2 3/4 cups
4 1/2 cups
2 tsp.


4. Add carrots, onions, and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Flour, hard wheat, sifted
Water, cold

1/2 lb.

2 cups
3/4 qt.


5. Blend flour and water to a smooth paste. Stir into soup, and cook 10 minutes longer.



1. If beans are old, soak 3 to 4 hours prior to cooking.
2. Add salt and additional pepper if desired.


Old Fashioned Navy Bean Soup: Add one No. 10 can of tomatoes in Step 4.