Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Nicknames were a fact of life. They were never chosen by the person to whom they applied. One guy, who had a deep Texas drawl, was nicknamed "Droop-a-Long". A boiler technician who picked up a dose of gonorrhea at the very first port visit was referred to as "Drippy Dick" by everyone other than the Captain and the XO. One sailor, who tended to be somewhat pear-shaped, was referring to himself as a "real stud" when another sailor interjected "`Stud"? You look more like a `spud' to me!" His nickname was "Spud" from then on.

One nickname backfired on an entire department. The sailors on one ship thought that the Operations Officer had a resemblance to Jerry Lewis. They would refer to him amongst themselves as "Jerry". So one fine day, the Ops Boss was in CIC when he heard someone ask over the 21MC intercom (also known as the "Bitch Box") if "Jerry" was in Combat. The sailor nearest the Bitch Box answered in the affirmative. The Ops Boss knew that there wasn't a sailor in his department named "Jerry", nor was there such an officer.

"Who's Jerry," he wanted to know. Receiving only evasive replies, he asked again in a more demanding tone. More evasion. "Who the fuck is Jerry," he roared, and he was one of those guys that nobody wanted to piss off, for he was not adverse to exacting retribution.

"That's you, sir," one of the radar men said.

"What the fuck are you talking about? My name's not Jerry." The tone of the Ops Boss was between confusion and anger.

"Some of the guys think you look like Jerry Lewis, sir."

"Well, if I'm Jerry Lewis, that makes all y'all `Jerry's kids'," shot back the Ops Boss.

That stuck. From then on, the sailors in the Operations Department were known as "Jerry's kids." And nobody, but nobody, in the Operations Department referred to the Ops Boss anymore as "Jerry".

Monday, June 22, 2009

Google Search Results

This Google search result popped up today:

"i got a 3.2 on my fitrep in the navy am i in trouble?"

Probably not, because if you had to go to the Google to ask that question, then you probably are too junior for that grade to hurt you too badly. You're probably an ensign who has received his or her first fitness report. You have time to improve your performance. The critical selection boards are likely several years away and since it is not unheard of for butter-bars to trip over their feet a time or two, don't sweat it. (But don't make a habit of it.) I once knew an ensign who screwed up so badly that he almost wound up in front of a general court martial, but he survived his fuckup and did command tours both afloat and ashore.

But if you are a lieutenant and you've been an officer for at least four years and you're asking that question, then you need to have a good long talk with someone, and by that, I don't mean talking to the chaplain and getting a key to the Weep Locker. For while I don't know the current climate, back in my day, when the Navy had a lot more ships than it does now, for an O-3 to get a 3.2 on a fitrep was a subtle message that one should consider investigating another line of work.

(And if you are an O-3 and you don't already know the answer to the question that you Googled, that smelly stuff that you are neck-deep in is not kimchee.)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The End of the Beginning

(N.B.: I posted this at my home blog. On further reflection, I should have posted it here, so I am cross-posting it.)
Today is the 67th anniversary of the Battle of Midway. The battle marked the turning point of the war against Japan. The Japanese sent a large force to invade Midway Island, spearheaded by four carriers. The US Navy had three carriers and, thanks to the Navy's code breakers, some knowledge of what the Japanese plan was.

The Japanese carriers launched strikes against the island, only to be found and attacked.

USN divebombers badly damaged three of the carriers on the morning of June 4th. All three were out of the fight, they were all abandoned and scuttled.

The fourth Japanese carrier struck back. Her planes badly damaged the USS Yorktown, which was later sunk by a Japanese submarine while under tow. This photo shows the Yorktown under attack.

The fourth Japanese carrier was sunk that afternoon.

Turning points to a war are only apparent long after they happen. At this point, the US and her allies in the Pacific had been at war with Japan for six months, the war would continue on for three more years.

The person who saw this most clearly, though, was Admiral Yamamoto, who, in 1940, was quoted as saying this about the prospect of a general war in the Pacific: "In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success."

He was right and he was proven to be so 67 years ago today.