World War II

At sea with the Naval Reserve

... training back in the forties

by Len Dalton

A very many years ago, gosh, it seems forever ago, I was a member of Uncle Samís illustrious Naval Reserve. As such I attended weekly training sessions and occasional week-end cruises aboard an LCI manned by regular Navy crew. That was a barrel of fun! We would take off from South Boston Navy yard and go up to Portland, Maine or down to Nantucket. We would spend time on watch at various stations aboard with headphones to report when needed. We learned how to load 20 millimeter cannon magazines and later actually shoot the cannon. Boy! Was that fun! Not only did I become an expert at it but I became an instructor and taught my own gun crew.

While far out to sea one day we were busy checking guys out on shooting the cannon when a round got stuck in the breach. I opened it with the supplied rod, cleaned out the offending shell and reloaded. On the headphone I requested permission to test fire and immediately got the OK. Without looking out to the water, I squeezed off eight nice rounds with tracers. Then, I looked! It seems a trawler was out there silently coasting over the waves! The eight rounds with tracers hit his wake about 100 feet to the rear and exploded! Instantly windows on the trawler opened, doors opened and crew rushed out waving surrender flags and towels! I thought I was dead meat! I looked up to the skipper on the con to see him laughing so hard he was in tears! Never was I so relieved! We allowed the trawler to continue without sinking him. Skipper never said a word!

Later, on a two week training cruise, I was aboard the attack transport, Bexar. That is pronounced, Bear. We were alongside the pier at the Norfolk Virginia Naval base. After several days there was quite a ruckus. My group was busy chipping paint on the forward 40mm quad mount when we heard a load of noise aft. It seems that a very popular petty officer named McGivney had sneaked a jug of íOh Be Joyful' aboard and several of his pals were feeling no pain! They got to chasing each other around the deck. Suddenly McGivney caught a kid named "Tampa" at the rail, picked him up like a set of barbells and tossed him 30 feet over the side to the water! Pretty fast, the man overboard alarm went off making an awful racket. The coxín of the captainís gig ran down the gangplank to the ladder leading to the gig with another fella and after starting the engine they put-putted around the bow and over to where "Tampa" was bathing, as it were. After a struggle "Tampa" was safely aboard the gig standing proudly on its bow dripping wet. The coxín, no slouch to fun and games, twiddled the throttle, the gig thrust forward and "Tampa" went over the side once again. By now íStupidí our illustrious captain was having forty fits hollering at the coxín to get "Tampa" back aboard in a  hurry "or else"! Meanwhile my guys were cheerleading at the rail which didnít really fit too well with íStupidí. Exuberance is difficult to contain! After "Tampa" was back aboard, Morrow, McGivney and "Tampa" got a severe dressing down by his majesty, íStupidí, and they had to sit out that night in the shipís brig to sober up. We loved it!

April 7, 2006

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