Navy Service Memories (part three)

NEWS FROM THE HUT by John Hamilton

USS Furse

Here comes the next thrill-packed episode of how a sailor sailed to parts unknown and found his way home. When we last checked in where and what I was doing, I was aboard the USS Furse, DD 882 which is a Gering Class Destroyer, and was working as a chief mess cook taking care of the needs of the Chief Petty Officers on board the ship. I also told you that my next assignment was even more interesting since it dealt with the effects of the crew’s visits to the mess deck.

The most exciting part of this assignment was that I received a promotion to Captain. No, I didn’t get field, or sea commission to Captain, I received the celebrated title of “Captain of the Head!” The head is the Navy’s term for what the Army calls a latrine or otherwise referred to as a toilet, outhouse, lavatory, bathroom, facility, urinal, privy, water closet, public convenience, cloakroom, or powder room. Whatever you call it, it is called The Head in the Navy and I believe the Marines also refer to it as The Head. The Head that I was the captain of was the “After Head”. When I was assigned to this job, I was a little depressed due to thinking that this job was a put-down and thought that I was better than toilet cleaner. Then I remembered a movie I had seen years before called “No Time for Sergeants” starring Andy Griffith who was assigned to clean the latrine as a joke, but Pvt. Will Stockwell took it as a challenge and turned that latrine into the “Best darn latrine in the entire United States Army.” With this in mind, I set out to make the After Head the best darn Head on board my ship, if not in the entire U.S. Navy. And, just like Pvt. Will Stockwell, I had to stand by for inspection of my After Head. My Head passed with flying colors. The only thing that Pvt. Will Stockwell did that I did not do is make the toilet seats salute the inspection officer when he entered the Head. This was the last unusual or additional assignment that I received for a while.

After this, I just did the daily maintenance of the ship assigned as the responsibility of First Division or the Boatswains Mates and deckhands. Deckhands are all the rates below BM3 or Boatswains Mates third class (E-4). These responsibilities include, but were not limited to, everything on the exterior of the ship from the watch cap (the blacktop of the smokestack) down to the waterline. Some of this included maintenance and restoration of rust deposits, painting, and cleaning that also included keeping all the brass rid of tarnish and brightly shined. One such maintenance adventure was when we passed through the Gibraltar Straights into the Mediterranean Sea on our way to Naples, Italy. Unfortunately, our destroyer had been selected by Destroyer Squadron 22 Commander (DESRON22) as his flagship and he decided he wanted the entire ship painted from the watch cap to the waterline. I was selected to paint the forward hull, port side, from the main deck to the waterline. Of course, the Captain ordered the speed reduced, but when the ship rolled to the port side and the stage that I was sitting on over the side would swing out away from the side of the ship. I then had to put my paint roller in the five-gallon bucket to get paint on the roller. When the ship rolled back to starboard, the stage I was sitting on would slam me back into the outer hull. I was able to stop myself with my legs and roll some paint on the hull. Then the whole paint process started all over. We were able to paint the ship completely before we reached Naples. Upon entering Naples, we were required to Med-moored in Naples. This process is backing the ship into the dock that extends along the waterfront and does not protrude into the bay. In this way, they are trying to conserve space. The ship is moored to the pier from the stern but prior to backing down the anchor is dropped to hold the bow and a strain on the anchor chain is taken. After leaving Naples, we stopped in Athens, Greece, and then we got in line (take a number) at Port Said to enter the Suez Canal.

My next assignment was another job that most of the other guys thought was a crappy job. Again, I attacked this job with the same attitude I used for the Captain of the Head.

Please stay tuned for the next thrill-packed episode of how the sailor sailed to parts unknown and found the way home.

Our regular Legion business meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of each month. Our next meeting will be on Thursday, March 17th at 7:00 PM. The Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings have been resumed at 8:00 AM. If you are a veteran, come by for our monthly meeting, and/or the Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings. Several of the Post 142 members meet on Wednesday’s at Daylight Donuts on OK-99 around 8:00 AM in Hominy for coffee and breakfast treats. If you have a good story, it may end up in print. Also, keep up with us at the Post 142 website “americanlegion142.org” and Hominy Legion on Facebook.

About American Legion Post #142

Authors the weekly article "News from the Hut", about local American Legion Post #142 in Hominy, OK. Read his weekly articles in the "Hominy News Progress".
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