A STORM TO REMEMBER

T.D. BURNES RD1

USS CAVALIER APA 37

 

 

ABOARD A U.S. TRANSPORT SHIP LOADED WITH TWO THOUSAND MARINES ON A STORMY ROUGH OCEAN CAN, TO A SEASONED SAILOR, LEAD TO A COMICAL EVENT TO REMEMBER.

 

HAVING SERVED ABOARD SHIP FOR MORE THAN THREE OF MY FOUR YEARS IN THE NAVY IT WAS ALMOST INEVITABLE THAT I WOULD ONE DAY WEATHER A SEVERE STORM AT SEA.  THE EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE DURING THIS ONE PARTICULAR STORM WERE QUITE AMUSING TO ME AS WELL AS TO A FEW OF MY SHIP MATES WHO WITNESSED THESE HAPPENINGS.

 

I WAS ABOARD THE U.S.S. CAVALIER APA 37 ENROUTE FROM I BELIEVE,  LUZON IN THE PHILIPPINES TO BUCNER BAY, OKINAWA. ON BOARD WITH THE REGULAR CREW, WERE TWO THOUSAND MARINES FOR WET NET LANDING TRAINING AND PASSAGE TO OUR NEW OPERATIONAL LANDING AREA. IT WAS DURING THE TYPHOON SEASON FOR THAT PARTICULAR AREA AND WE HAD ALREADY RECEIVED WEATHER REPORTS BY RADIO THERE WAS ONE ON THE WAY. THE RADIO REPORTS GAVE THE LOCATION OF THE TYPHOON; ACCORDING TO THESE REPORTS IF WE MAINTAINED OUR PRESENT COURSE WE WOULD PASS DIRECTLY THROUGH THE “EYE” OF THE TYPHOON.  THE CAPTAIN STATED OVER THE “1PA” (PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM) THAT WE WOULD ALTER COURSE SLIGHTLY IN ORDER TO BETTER TRAVERSE APPROACHING HIGH SWELLS. WE WERE WARNED TO PREPARE FOR ROUGH SAILING.  I HAD BEEN IN ROUGH OCEAN BEFORE BUT THIS SEEMED MORE OMINOUS FROM THE CAPTAIN’S OBVIOUS CONCERN OVER THIS PARTICULAR TYPHOON.

 

THE TIME PASSED QUITE RAPIDLY WHILE ALL HANDS MADE PREPARATIONS.  “BATTON DOWN ALL HATCHES!  MAKE READY FOR EXTREME WEATHER!” ONCE MORE WAS ANNOUNCED OVER THE 1PA. THE TYPHOON WOULD PASS CLOSEST TO OUR POSITION SOME TIME AFTER “EVENING MESS” (DINNER TIME).  IT WAS ONLY 1300 HOURS AND ALREADY THE “SWELLS” HAD REACHED ENORMOUS SIZE. AND WERE BREAKING OVER THE BOW OF THE SHIP.  WE WERE ROLLING AND PITCHING QUITE A BIT BUT NOT TO SUCH AN EXTENT TO EXCITE MOST OF THE CREW.  ON THE OTHER HAND, THE MARINES, OR AT LEAST A FEW OF THEM, WERE ALREADY FEELING THE AFFECTS OF THE STORM.  EVERY “HEAD”  (TOILET) ON BOARD SHIP WAS BEING WELL USED.  OCCASIONALY ONE COULD FIND TRACES WHERE ONE OF THE MARINES DID NOT QUITE MAKE IT IN TIME. THE “DECK APES” (excuse the slang), AS THE CLEANING DETAIL WAS GRUDGINGLY CALLED, WAS KEPT BUSY “SWABBING” TO AVOID THE POSSIBILITY OF MISHAPS FROM SLIPPING AND SLIDING.

 

IT WAS NOW PAST 1600 HOURS; CHOW HAD BEEN “PIPED DOWN” FOR EARLY MESS. ALREADY A LONG LINE HAD FORMED AS HUNGRY SAILORS, AND THOUGH UNBELIEVABLE HUNGRY MARINES, WAITED TURN IN LINE TO BE SERVED.  I HAD ALREADY STARTED MY “WATCH IN C.I.C.” BUT HAD BEEN RELIEVED TO EAT.  I HAD OFTEN SEEN TIMES WHEN THE OCEAN WAS SO ROUGH THAT THE TRAYS WOULD SLIDE AROUND ON THE TABLES BUT NOW IT WAS MUCH WORSE, EVEN TABLES WERE MOVING AROUND AND THE MESS CREW WAS BEGINNING TO FORCE TROOPS TO SIT ON THE DECK TO EAT BUT BY NOW SINCE THE MESS DECK WAS FULL THE TABLES WERE BEING TAKEN DOWN ONE AT A TIME AS THE CREW AND TROOPS WOULD GET UP TO LEAVE THE “MESS DECK”.  THE STORM HAD UNMISTAKABLY GOTTEN WORSE.

 

I FINISHED EATING AND AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE HURRIED TO EMPTY THE CONTENTS OF MY TRAY INTO THE GARBAGE CAN AND SWAB DOWN THE TRAY.  THE “MESS HALL” DECK WAS EXTREMELY SLIPPERY FROM OVER-TURNED TRAYS AND VARIOUS OTHER SPILLAGES AS WELL AS WATER WASHED DOWN THE LATTER FROM CREW OPENING THE PORT OR STARBOARD EXTERIOR ENTRY WAYS JUST ABOVE THE ENTRY WAY OFF THE MAIN DECK, ONE DECK ABOVE THE MESS DECK.  SOON FOLLOWING THIS LEAKAGE ALL EXTERIOR “HATCHES” WERE SECURED PERMANENTLY, EXCEPT FOR THOSE AT THE “01 LEVEL” AND ABOVE.

 

I MADE MY WAY TOWARDS THE TRASH CANS, THE SHIP MADE A SUDDEN LURCH TO PORT AND I LOST MY BALANCE AND FELL, SLIDING THE REST OF THE WAY ON MY BACK.  A GROUP OF MARINES SITTING AT A TABLE NOT FAR FROM ME BEGAN LAUGHING.  ONE OF THEM, A PRIVATE, SAID “SOME SWAB JOCKY YOU ARE”.  NATURALLY I COULDN’T HAVE A MARINE PRIVATE TALK TO A PETTY OFFICER THAT WAY SO I CASUALLY REPLIED, WITH HOPES THAT HE WOULDN’T TAKE ACTION,  “GET OFF YOUR DEAD TAIL AND SEE IF YOU CAN DO ANY BETTER, YOU POOR EXCUSE FOR A JUNGLE BUNNY”.  I WAS WRONG OF COURSE, HE WAS TAKING ACTION, BUT SO DID THE SHIP.  JUST AS HE STOOD UP AND WAS ABOUT TO REACH FOR ME THE SHIP MADE AN EVEN MORE VIOLENT ROLE TO STARBOARD.  THIS TIME THE MARINE WENT DOWN FLAT ON HIS BACK AND BEGAN SLIDING JUST AS THE SLOPPY “GI CAN” TIPPED, ROLLED OVER AND SPEWED IT’S BROWN OBNOXIOUS SLOP NEATLY AROUND THE HEAD AND SHOULDERS OF THE PRIVATE.  EVERYONE ON THE MESS DECK THAT WAS WATCHING BEGAN TO ROAR WITH LAUGHTER.  THE PRIVATE WAS SUDDENLY QUITE ILL AND MADE A QUICK RETREAT TOWARDS THE HEAD JUST OFF THE MESS DECK AREA.  I MIGHT ADD I WAS VERY MUCH RELIEVED BY THE FACT THE MARINE NEVER GOT TO ME.  THE FEW MOMENTS THE MARINE WAS ON HIS FEET I COULD EASILY TELL HE WAS A GOOD SEVENTY POUNDS HEAVIER AND AT LEAST SIX INCHES TALLER THAN I.

 

THE STORM AND CONDITIONS CONTINUED TO WORSEN AND I MIGHT ADD, IF I REMEMBER CORRECT, IT WAS DURING THIS SAME STORM WE LOST A BOAT AND DAVIT FROM ONE OF THE EXTREME ROLLS DURING THE STORM.  THIS WAS FAR WORSE THAN THE HUGE TSUNAMI WE SAILED OVER DURING ANOTHER INCIDENT.  (Actually the Tsunami was so big it was like it did not exist when it rolled under us, though we had been tracking it by radar for more than 152 n. miles.)

 

THERE WERE MANY INCIDENTS THAT HAPPENED DURING MY TIME IN SERVICE.  THOUGH I WAS RELIEVED WHEN MY DISCHARGE DATE ARRIVED. OFTEN I HAVE MUSED HOW IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN TO REMAIN IN SERVICE. I KNOW I CHOSE A BETTER PATH AND CAN CONTINUE LOOKING BACK REMEMBERING THE “GOOD TIMES”. I FEEL EXTREMLY FORTUNATE TO HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SPEND MY LAST TWO YEARS AFTER 30 YEARS WITH IBM LIVING IN HONG KONG AND TRAVELING TO MANY OF THE FAR EAST LOCATIONS I HAD VISITED THIRTY SOME YEARS PRIOR.   HONG KONG WAS ONE OF THE FAR EAST LOCATIONS I ALWAYS ENJOYED VISITING.  YOKOSUKA, JAPAN WAS ANOTHER FAVORITE BUT CERTAINLY HAD CHANGED SO DRAMATICALLY IT WAS HARD TO RECOGNIZE ANY OF THE OLD “HAUNTS”.  THE OLD HOTEL WHERE MANY PROMOTION PARTYS WERE INTERTAINED HAD NOW BECOME A LARGE APARTMENT COMPLEX.  MOST ALL-OLD PORTS WERE BARELY RECOGNIZABLE.

 

I WILL END THIS NOW AS I MIGHT RAMBLE FOREVER.

 

TERRY