I was watching an old movie about the US Navy and life at sea. It is amazing how they depict life on a Navy ship. And for you landlubbers (except for a submarine) they are called SHIPS. A submarine is called a boat from tradition. Anyway, I watch the movie and noticed that everyone walked normal. No one swayed, staggered or held on to object as they move around the ship. Coffee cups were laid on the tables and desk without support. Curtains (on a Navy ship?!?) did not swing to and fro. The only time I ever saw conditions like that was when we were in dry docks.
There are two things that are constant on a ship; movement and noise. Even on a calm day, which is rare, the ship is still moving up and down and left to right. With three foot swells you are walking up hill leaning to the right then down hill leaning to the left. During a storm or typhoon (especially a typhoon) a wise seaman will go from uncomfortable to petrified in a matter of seconds. The ship I was on (USS Frank E. Evans DD754) could take a 45 degree roll and still recover, but if a wave hit her again while at this angle, she could role on over. Many have. So, as a cocky 18 year old, I see a man with many years of sea experience turn white and swallow hard, it is pretty obvious that I should be concerned. But those were the extremes.
On normal sea duty you eat, sleep, work and relax on constant noise and movement. You learn to eat with one hand while holding the food tray with the other hand trying to keep it level. You stand with you legs spread wide and knees slightly bent to absorb the jolts and swings. If for some reason you wake up and it is totally quiet, you don’t ask what’s going on. You get your butt topside and on the main deck as soon as you can. If everything is okay, you can go back for your clothes later. If not, then you have a better chance of survival than being trapped blow deck (like 74 sailors, one my friend, did when the Evans was cut in half in 69’ and the front half went down in under three minuets.)
Despite the danger and all, it was still a pretty good life. There’s danger in everything we do, so you don’t dwell on that aspect. So the next time you watch a movie about the Navy, remember it’s just a movie. If you want to know what it is really like, talk to a sailor (and thank him/her for serving while we slept safe and comfortable.)
As the saying goes, "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a vet."
A follow up to Sunday’s post… - My friend Neil Hansen, better known as Weird Neil, was an Air America pilot in SEA during Vietnam. This is the speech he gave at EAA Oshkosh two years ag...
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