Posts Tagged ‘US Navy’

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December 7, 1941

December 7, 2013

 

Photo of the USS Arizona (BB-39) after the attack at National Archives/

Seventy-two years ago today, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the ships of the US Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Since that time, we have endured much as a nation and much as a world.

The plan was simple really, conduct a sneak attack, destroy our fleet, and sue for peace. The key being the destruction of our aircraft carries, none of which were in port at the time. This was the first blow in a long, full-scale war. We, all the world, owe so much to the brave souls that absorbed this mighty blow with their collective will of spirit and bodies of flesh and bone. Many were lost, many more were filled with the “terrible resolve” in the famous quote attributed to Japan’s Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the mastermind of the attack.

Here is my tribute to brave me that served and survived to ultimately win our war with Japan:

A Ship in Pearl

A battleship of steel that is no more,
silently sleeps on Pearl Harbor’s floor.
For sixty plus years she’s kept men so brave,
we all hold-on beloved, to this National grave.
In Sunday’s slow pace the Japanese took lives,
and tore open the souls of sons, daughters, and wives.
The opening blow to a hard fought war,
survivors knew best what the fighting was for.
They gather at Pearl with each lustrum’s fall,
fewer each time as nature does call.
To answer this ill, survivors did run,
avenging ones lost in that solemn morn’s sun.
Precious are those who stood the line,
when danger was East, across an endless brine.
From here to there, they took the fight,
and made them pay high for their wanton spite.
Here’s to the men, both living and gone,
who gave of themselves when weapons were drawn.
The good ship Arizona may be rusting away,
forever on patrol, protecting us she’ll stay.
Strong with steel, that made her whole,
it was the men aboard that gave her the soul.
Now in our hearts, she does sail fast,
leading our way, true to the last.
Honor the few who are here from that day,
for soon, they too will have gone away.
To join with brothers out on the sea,
guarding a future for those who will be.

 

Thank God for you all!

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Happy Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2013

Happy Veteran’s Day to all my bothers and sisters that served. We are more than some group or club, we are a family. It is a family I am very proud to be a part of. It is a happy day for us but also a day to reflect on all that it takes to become a veteran. Only 7% of citizens are part of our family. Like all families, we do have our share of dysfunction, but in the end all that fades away and leaves me thankful to call all veterans family.

If nothing else, take today and reflect on just one small point that never fails to make your service special to you, here is mine:

 

I woke up this morning thinking about my father. I miss him greatly. He always made it a point to wish me a happy Veteran’s Day. I remember well the only time he visited me while aboard ship. It was my first submarine, the USS Birmingham. That was one tour I was happy to give. He was fascinated and full of wonder, as if a kid. He asked a million questions. I had never seen him like that. For the first time, I was the teacher and he the student. I think that moment was very special for us both.

When we were walking down the pier to leave, he stopped me, put his hands on my shoulders and said, “I cannot tell you how proud I am, I could never do what you do.” That meant so much to me. You see, in my mind, my dad could do just about anything.

 

Again, Happy Veteran’s Day! May it be fair winds and following seas for all in my veteran family!

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Wednesday’s Humor: We Can All Use A Little Laugh

May 2, 2012

USS Birmingham (SSN-695)

I think we can all use a little laugh in the middle of our week, something to take our minds off work and all the things that drag us down.  Here is a reprint of my short story regarding my nickname in the Navy.

 

They Called Me Barbie

 

You really can’t tell someone what life is like on a submarine.  It’s one of those things you have to experience for yourself.  I mean, you can understand the words for sure; just it misses something in the telling.  Still, there are stories to share that, at the very least, should give a smile.  I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.

I joined the Navy way back when Jimmy Carter was still the President.  It was November 26th when I jumped on a plane heading for Great Lakes, Illinois.  We arrived there around 11:00PM so my first meals in the Navy where the next day, Thanksgiving Day.  It is enough to say, that meal was nothing like the one I was sure momma made back home, but they did try.  Later in my career in the Navy, I would have paid real money for a meal like that but those were lessons yet to learn, on that day, the only lesson was my life had taken a drastic change.

I would not dare compare the Navy’s boot camp to the downright toughness of the Marines, but as far as the Navy goes, Great Lakes was as tough as it got.  Not only the nature of it was harsh, but also I am a Southern boy and Great Lakes, Illinois is no place for the faint of heart in wintertime.  I am sure some smarty out there is just itching to point out that winter does not start until the end of December.  True as that is for the rest of the world, God starts it much earlier in Great Lakes!  I think the Navy put in a special request chit for that so our enjoyment of the nice, cool breeze off the lake would be all the more refreshing.

Back then, most guys that joined the Navy only had a general idea of what they would be doing, for me it was a given from the start.  I have always loved the field of navigation and refused to talk to them unless they let me do that, a job they called “Quartermaster.”  Now, no one gets a guarantee from the Navy unless they give something in return, for me, that give was to volunteer for the United States Submarine Service.  Only then would I be allowed to navigate, so volunteer I did.  As it turns out, that decision had a greater positive impact on my life than any other.

How we saw volunteering.

As others struggled in boot camp to figure out what they wanted to try for, I knew what was ahead for me.  After Great Lakes, I was off to New London, Connecticut for Basic Enlisted Submarine School or BESS as it was commonly called.  Then, it was Orlando, Florida to start Quartermaster “A” school.  I toed the line well through boot camp and BESS; nothing was going to stand in the way of my getting to “A” school.  That’s one of the funny things about the Navy; many a young man join because they are tired of school and want to do something else before going to college.  As soon as they do join, they end up in a year or two of school.  And let me promise you, they know how to give you and education!  On that score, the Navy does not play around.  A Navy school can best be described as long, hard, and demanding.  By the time I was finished, I was ready to go to sea, or so I thought.

I was assigned to the USS Birmingham (SSN-695) out of Norfolk, Virginia.  It was one of the few Los Angeles Class Submarines built at that time.  It was a type of sub called a Fast Attack and I was happy.  She was one of the newer boats in the fleet.  When I arrived in Norfolk, I discovered the Birmingham was out at sea and would not be back for several weeks.  In that time, I met the members of the crew whom did not make the run, along with the other new crewmembers waiting to report.

A new guy on his first submarine is looked on as a necessary waste of food and water by the more seasoned crew.  They cannot do anything and only get in the way.  I soon learned this fact meeting a crewmember topside whom came up to take us aboard.  “Where’s the nubs?” he demanded of the topside watch who just pointed at us.  He was Hap Clark, a Machinist Mate 2nd class or MM2(SS).  The “SS” after his rate meant he was qualified in submarines; new guys, like us at the time, had an “SU” after our rates.  A Master Chief told me “SU means stupid and useless,” who was I to argue the point.

As we followed Hap, he told us to call him Hap, he greeted all the men he passed and introduced us as “the new batch of air-breathing, food-eating nubs.”  We met Rat, Woody, Benny, Scooter, Cam, it seemed everyone had a nickname, most everyone that is.  We’d pass a few guys and Hap would say, “That’s Smith, he’s no good (I made Smith up, no point in putting the finger on them now).  It became obvious to us that when you got a nickname, you knew you had made it in with these guys.

I reported onboard with another new guy from West Virginia, Tim Pearce.  He was a Machinist Mate too, like Hap.  As it turns out, Tim and I often studies together that first year.  See, everyone has to “qualify” on his submarine.  When it is your first one, it takes about a year to learn all the systems and components.  I mean you have to learn everything, where it gets its power, how it operates, how to turn it off (they are big on knowing how to turn things off), and you have to know it from memory.  One day, Tim and I were walking aft to engineering and passed Hap along the way.  “How’s it going HD, you keeping Benton straight?” he asked.  Tim had a nickname!  Of course, Tim had red hair and freckles, so it was only natural for him to get HD.  That was short for Howdy Doody.

I had mixed emotions at this, I mean I was happy that Tim was fitting in but I began to wonder what it would take for me to get a nickname.  Some of the guys had really horrible ones.  You can imagine how rank a bunch of guys can get isolated at sea for a length of time.  Still, things were going well for me and I was well on my way to being qualified and earning my dolphins.  Dolphins are the uniform pin awarded when you qualify in submarines.  Regardless of my lack in the nickname department, I was fitting in.  I had learned to stand watch and at least earn my keep aboard.  I might not have been an expert on submarines at that point, but I was in navigation and being the guy that knows where you are and how to get you home goes a long way aboard ship.

After about six months, I learned that Hap gave out a majority of the nicknames aboard.  He had a knack for it.  I asked him one day if I had one in the offing, he simply told me they come when they come.  I would just have to wait.  We had been to sea a few times by this point and I was comfortable being there.  I did fit in and it felt good.  Still, a little part of me wanted that nickname.  When it did come, it took like wildfire!

In port one morning, about 3:00AM, Hap woke me up to go stand topside watch.  He was the “belowdecks” watch and part of his job was to make sure people were up.  “Barbie,” he said as he shook my shoulder.  “Barbie, it’s time to get up for watch.”  I was still half-asleep as I dressed.  I walked to the mess decks to grab a cup of coffee to take with me topside and saw Hap sitting there with a few others that were up.  Then is hit me – “What the Sam Hill did you call me?”  I demanded.

“Barbie,” he replied with a smile that reminded me of a jackass eating briers, and everyone burst out laughing.

Barbi Benton

“Why Barbie,” I further demanded to know while shaking my head in disbelief.  I knew regardless of his response, I had my nickname.  It was just too good not to stick.  He pointed out that one of Playboy Magazine owner, Hugh Heffner’s girlfriends had been Barbie Benton.  From that moment on, it did not matter, because we shared a last name, I was now stuck with her first name too, at least as a nickname.

Everyone called me “Barbie.”  Guys that reported after that never even knew it was not my name.  At first, it bothered me and when someone would call me that, all I could think about was that song by Jonny Cash, A Boy Named Sue.  A visiting Admiral even told the Captain “that Petty Officer Barbie does a wonderful job.”  Soon I began to accept it for what it was, a nickname given in fun.  It was the crew’s way of telling me I had indeed fit in at last.

 

Story previously appears in Military Writers Society of America and Writer’s Café.

 

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Samuel Dealey, American Naval Hero

December 11, 2011

World War II is full of heroes, as all wars seem to be.  Still, given the scope, scale and especially the sacrifice of our entire nation, the heroes of World War II stand apart as even the average soldier and sailor would be heroic, judged by the standards of other wars.  Samuel David Dealey is just such a standout when it comes to heroes.  His story speaks directly to the spirit of America and the ability of Americans to put country above self.

Born September 13, 1906 in Dallas Texas, Samuel‘s father died when he was six, causing his mother to move the family to California for a time.  He returned to Texas and finished high school and spent two years studying at Southern Methodist University before transferring to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.  Sam was not the most dedicated student to say the least.  His studies lapsed at Annapolis in 1925 for a time.  He buckled down in 1926 and graduated in the middle of the pack in the class of 1930.  By all accounts, Sam was a smart young man who simply did not apply himself.

Entering the fleet in 1930, Dealey served on several ships (including the USS Nevada (BB- 36) and the USS Wyoming (BB-32)).  In 1934, Samuel made a decision that changed his life; he joined the United States Submarine Service where both his talent and bravado served his needs as well as the Navy’s.  Rising quickly, in 1941 he took command of USS S-20 (SS-120), an experimental submarine, stationed in New London, Connecticut.  He was serving on S-20 when war broke out with Japan attacking Pearl Harbor.

Due to his success on S-20, Sam was assigned to USS Harder (SS-257) a new-construction submarine as its commanding officer.  Many of the improvements tested while he commanded S-20, including the diesel-electric drive, were used on Harder.  After commissioning and shake-down in New London, while in the Caribbean, Harder survived an attack by US aircraft that mistook her for an enemy submarine.  After that, she sailed to Pearl Harbor to join the fleet in mid-1943.

Movie lore often obscures the true acts of heroism as they usurp notable achievements to advance their plots.  Separating fact from fiction becomes very hard.  Such is the case when talking about Commander Dealey.  You see, Commander Dealey earned a nickname during his time on Harder.  He was known as “The Destroyer Killer.”  It seems a requirement for World War II submarine movies to include what is known as the “down the throat” shot.  This is when you fire at a contact that is heading right for you and dive under them as your torpedo slams into them.  Commander Dealey did not invent the maneuver, but it can be argued he perfected it.   During his fifth war patrol, Dealey and the crew of Harder sank five Japanese destroyers in four days.  His tactics we so successful the Japanese thought the island of Tawi-Tawi was surrounded by numerous submarines and abandoned it as a base of operations.  The fact is, the numerous submarines they feared turned out to be just one, USS Harder.  For his actions during this war patrol, Commander Dealey was awarded the Medal of Honor.  The citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as commanding officer of the USS Harder during her fifth war patrol in Japanese controlled waters. Floodlighted by a bright moon and disclosed to an enemy destroyer escort which bore down with intent to attack, Cmdr. Dealey quickly dived to periscope depth and waited for the pursuer to close range, then opened fire, sending the target and all aboard down in flames with his third torpedo. Plunging deep to avoid fierce depth charges, he again surface and, within nine minutes after sighting another destroyer, had sent the enemy down tail first with a hit directly amidship. Evading detection he penetrated the waters of  Tawi Tawi with the Japanese fleet six miles away and scored death blows on two patrolling destroyers in quick succession. With his ship heeled over by the concussion of the first exploding target and the second vessel nose diving in a blinding detonation, he cleared the area at high-speed. Sighted by a large hostile fleet force on the following day, he swung his bow towards the lead destroyer for another “down-the-throat” shot, fired three bow tubes and promptly crash dived to be terrifically rocked seconds later by the exploding ship as the Harder passed beneath. This remarkable record of five vital Japanese destroyers sunk in five short-range torpedo attacks attests the valiant fighting spirit of Cmdr. Dealey and his indomitable command.

In another act of daring, Commander Dealey placed his submarine nose-first against a reef off the Woleai Island to rescue a downed and injured pilot.  Using he engines to keep the submarine against the reef, Harder faced continued sniper and machine gun fire, as well and horrific rip-currents along the reef.  The crew used a rubber raft to cross the reef and retrieve the pilot.  Without his and his crew’s extraordinary efforts, the pilot would have fallen into enemy hands.

In the end, Commander Dealey simply took the fight to the enemy.  He was well aware of the danger he faced with the tactics he used.  Though successful as they were, sadly, USS Harder was lost to enemy action during her sixth war patrol with a loss of all hands aboard, including Commander Dealey.

While much controversy surrounds the reasons for this sixth patrol, nothing can diminish the bravery and sacrifice of men such as Commander Dealey and his crew.  They join the fifty-one other submarines, 374 officers, and 3131 men lost in World War II.  During the war, the US Submarine Service lost a higher percentage of men and any other service.  Remarkably, the entire service only made up 1.6% of the sailors in the US Navy but accounted for over 54% of Japanese ships sunk.  The submariners of World War II put themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis.  Commander Dealey exemplifies the spirit and love of country these special men had, to borrow from Winston Churchill “Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners.” 

During his time as Captain of Harder, Commander Dealey was awarded the Navy Cross with three gold stars, the army’s Distinguished Service Cross (presented to him by Gen. Douglas MacArthur), two presidential unit citations, and a Purple Heart, all in addition to the Medal of Honor.  He was responsible for sinking over 15,000 tons (16 ships) and damaging over 27,000 tons of enemy shipping.

Today, if you visit the submarine base in New London, you will see most buildings are named to honor a hero of the submarine fleet.  Dealey Center, the base cinema complex, is named in honor of Commander Dealey and dedicated to the memory of him, his crew and the USS Harder.

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