Quoth the Lieutenant

Quoth The Lieutenant, Evermore
By Terry Miller, STG3 (Sonar Technician Third Class)


    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.

     Another 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 disagree.

    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. 

Word of this event was also passed around on the telephone circuit. For days and days. 


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