The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

At Sea With The Navy

The other day, I happened upon "Mister Roberts" on TCM and, of course, watched it. It is, after all, a classic and one of my many favorite films. And one of the many films which likely influenced my decision to enlist in the Navy some years later. It painted a somewhat false picture of the Navy at war.

The cast of the film is filled with great actors, both headliners and character actors of great renown. In the film, Henry Fonda's character (the title role of Mister Roberts) wants desperately to get into the action, to fight, to be on a fighting ship (he is on a Navy cargo ship) and is being frustrated in his desire by the captain (played by Jimmy Cagney), a vain and foolish man the crew has come to despise.

Mister Roberts, toward the end of the movie, finally gets his wish and is transferred to a destroyer which ends up  headed to Okinawa just before the invasion of that island.

I know someone who was aboard a ship, an oiler I believe, in that battle. He says little about it except that it was incredibly frightening and loud and chaotic.

Mister Roberts, we learn at the end of the movie, is killed by a Kamikaze while having coffee with another officer in the wardroom. Not exactly the heroic death one might have expected. But, in war, you rarely get to choose the way you die.

I also watched a show that was about the Navy during WWII on the Military History Channel. It caused me to recall my time in the Navy and my war, one not so glorious or righteous. The nasty, seemingly endless, war called Vietnam.

I served on a destroyer, the Brinkley Bass DD-887, from July 1966 to October 1969. We made two WesPac tours during that time and we spent a total of 12 months in the Tonkin Gulf; 5 months on the first tour and 7 months on the second.

I realized something while watching the show about the Navy in WWII... I had it easy. We were never attacked, never shot at (though it was claimed at one point that we were), and faced no enemy action. I was as safe as I had ever been, safer than periods in my pre-Navy days, perhaps. To this day, I do not know how I would have behaved if I had had to face the kind of danger sailors faced during WWII. I can only hope that I would have done my job and not panicked and failed my shipmates.

I did not enlist so I could fight; I enlisted because I loved the sea, liked the uniform, feared the draft, and was bored and unhappy with my life at the time.

The vagaries of time and circumstance.


Alan G said...

Doing a little blog hopping today and happened to notice this particular post of yours, particularly one of your closing statements, which in many regards, was eerily similar to my own pre-military existence.

Although the draft did indeed hang low from the heavens over our heads as the Viet Nam conflict heated up I found my parents, particularly my mother believe it or not, putting pressure on me to join the military and learn a good trade. I hated school, always had and had just finished my first dismal year of college clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. And my grades had been quite reflective of that point to say the least. I spent most of my time trying to figure out how I might become the next Elvis and forgo all this working nonsense everyone was harping at me about.

My uncle was a Colonel in the Air Force and I think he was the one blowing the smoke up my parent’s butts but nevertheless he convinced my parents that if I enlisted he might could pull some strings and get me into “electronics”, the next up and coming thing. He claimed the military could straighten me out and I can’t deny them their dues I suppose.

I can relate to much of what you have said in your post regarding your stint in the military. In fact, it sounds like we might have been in the same area for a period of time. I was in Okinawa, sometimes Thailand, supporting the B-52 and KC-135 contingent and the sorties which they began flying over Viet Nam at the time. But even now from time to time when I watch some of those Viet Nam war (recently watched “We Were Soldiers” again which is what our other half were doing at the time) movies I have to seriously hope I would have had what it took to have done my duty had it turned out differently and I had found myself in the jungle with a rifle in my hand.

Sorry if I got a little too chatty here….

Douglas said...

Alan, don't worry about the "chatty", I welcome comments of any length.

I knew a couple of AF guys who were on the ground in Nam. One had a really tough job (demolitions) and a number of horror stories.

The Navy, if you didn't get dragged into river duty (swift boats, we called them), had it very easy; 3 cooked meals a day, a comfy (sort of) bed, nobody hunting you down with a gun, no snakes, bugs, or jungles, and no punji sticks and booby traps. Life was easy.

I went on two cruises to the Gulf; December `66 to June `67 and July `68 to February `69. It's funny how we look back and only remember the good times and not the boredom and the aggravation we endured.