Quoth The Lieutenant, Evermore
By Terry Miller, STG3 (Sonar Technician Third Class)
USS GEORGE K. MAC KENZIE (DD 836)
Like servicemen everywhere, I suppose, those aboard a
gunship in a combat
zone come up with
unexpected ways of dealing with the odd combination of stress of potential
fights and boredom of waiting between them.
One, at least, was one of my ship's officers, a lieutenant aboard the destroyer,
George K. MacKenzie.
For those who weren't in the Navy, let me explain
During the eight-to-midnight segment of these periods of unequal parts of tedium
and tension, especially when boredom had become so unbearable
that stress began to look good, was when the lieutenant would entertain the
other eight men on the bridge by reciting long poems from memory. Among
the poems he chose to recite was Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. He'd walk around
the bridge area, never stumbling over a word, orating as if he were on stage.
So entertaining were his renditions, that in Combat Information Center and
Sonar, coupled to the bridge by a special telephone circuit, word would be
passed around so that the off-duty watchstanders could go to
the bridge and catch the lieutenant's act.
officer, my own division's boss, Lt. Burt Francis, in fact, chose to use bad
weather and rough seas to further the stomach distress of the approximately
one-third of the bridge watchstanders who suffered from seasickness. He would
take out one of the big green cigars he smoked only on such occasions, light it
with great fanfare, and walk around the bridge, puffing a trail of that greasy
kind of cigar smoke that permanently clings even to metal and stains paper and
clothing. After the stench had had time to bring many in his audience to a shade
of green equal to his cigar, he would announce in a loud voice, "Man, I
could go for a big glass of warm mayonnaise with a raw egg!" This
declaration was usually followed by one or two swollen-cheeked men, fingers
pressed to their lips, diving for the doors to the outside so that they could
"man the rails". While it may seem cruel in retrospect, it did serve
to alleviate the stress and the boredom, and even the fear that inevitably
accompanies those in a ship in stormy seas. Those he affected might still
But one of my fellow Sonarman decided during a storm that he would plagiarize
our lieutenant with his own cigar. Puffing away on the foul smelling stogie as
he stood in a group of younger sailors, he only got out, "Man, I could go
for a, . . . big.... gla. . . ." before making his own mad
dash for the side of the ship.
of this event was also passed around on the telephone circuit. For days and