Once I was a Navy Man...
"ONCE I WAS A NAVY MAN"!
Written for all my long ago Ship-Mates
by Jack R. Jones GM3/c, 2nd Division, USS St. Louis - CL491944-1946
I loved the sea...I liked standing on the deck during a long voyage, the taste and feel of salty ocean winds whipping in from everywhere – the feel of the giant ship beneath me, its powerful engine driving against the sea.
I remember the "Quivering" of the ship as she cuts through a heavy sea at high speed... the long rolls when a necessary course prevents heading directly into the swells. The gentle pitch when your ship is happy with the sea.
After a hard day of duty, there is a serenity of the sea at dusk, as white caps dance on the ocean waves ... I enjoyed the mysterious night sea. The glowing phosphorescence of your ship's wake in the moonlight ... the peacetime lights of the Navy in darkness... bright white masthead lights, clear green of starboard,.. and the soft red of port, followed by the dimmed stern lights... I savored the clear night sky at sea and the uncounted brightness of the stars from horizon to horizon.
The quiet nights with low talk sounds mixed in the soft noises of your ship, the "shushing" of exhaust air from the engine rooms. The sound of the waves touching your ship as she slips through the water....The whisper quiet of the mid-watch when the ghosts of all departed sailors stand with you.
I have relished the devil-may-care philosophy of a sea going sailor, the rising sense of adventure in my heart when the word is passed "Now station the special sea and anchor detail - all hands to quarters for leaving port".
Recalling at times the rough, hard work, BUT accompanying it always, the warm companionship of robust Navy talk and humor... I can still in the library of my mind smell the aroma of fresh coffee from dozens of pots in literally every division work "shack" , and who could forget the steaming galley urns practically always available to anyone who wanted a fresh cup of "Joe". I liked the clang of working steel, the ringing of a ships bell announcing the hour of the day, the strong laughter of sailors at work, and the sad foghorns.
I liked the ships of the Navy... nervous daring Destroyers, sleek Cruisers, majestic Battleships and steady solid Carriers. I like the naming of Navy ships; Hornet – Enterprise – Sea Wolf – Iwo Jima – Franklin – St. Louis – Indianapolis – Missouri – Arizona and many others named for heroes, cities and heroic events of our country.
I enjoyed the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy band, wearing "Liberty Whites" and "Dress Blues," the warm spice smell of a tropical foreign port. I shared a great many likes and even occasional dislikes with shipmates I’ve sailed with... men from the cornfields of Iowa, New York's east side, an Irishman from Boston, the pleasant drawl of the Texans, and men of the sun from California. They came from all parts of the country, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, big cities, mountains, the prairies, all to become men of the sea... usually sooner, rather than later.
I like the legends of our Navy and the men who made them... I like the proud names of Navy heroes: John Paul Jones, "Bull" Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, and Farragut... a man can find much in the Navy, comrades-in-arms, pride in his country and people. A MAN CAN OFTEN FIND HIMSELF.
In years to come when thinking of times passed, when the uniform is stowed away for good, a man’s thoughts will occasionally return to the sea..., he will remember with fondness, the ocean spray on his face blowing from an angry sea.
There will surely and faintly come to his hearing, laughter echo's of hearty seafaring men who once were close companions. Locked on land , he will grow wistful of his Navy days, when the seas was his life, and a new port of call was always just over the horizon.
Then SOFTLY he will exclaim: "ONCE I WAS A NAVY MAN"!