BOB'S SEA TALES
USS Wrangell - AE12After being ordered to a job I really wasn't looking forward to, I took up residence on the ammo ship. It was berthed in Brooklyn, NY for extensive renovation. Working in the scullery (dishwashing machine), I succumbed to the Asian flu and ended up isolated in the sick bay. I was left alone with a case of orange juice. Emerging a few days later and returning to my compartment to recover, I discovered that a cargo boom had been tested by lifting a 5 ton block of steel. It had failed the test and the 5 tons came crashing through the steel deck, knocking my rack (bunk) apart. The deck had to be cut out for repairs and sparks from the welder started the bedding on fire. I found a large burnt hole in the canvas of my rack, and the missing mattress hanging over the rail on the main deck where it had been pulled from the harbor where it had been thrown to put out the fire.
There was another seaman on mess cook duty by the name of Slim. (That was his real name!) He was one huge guy. One day as he was sweeping after a meal, he came upon Captain Bright. (That was his real name!) The Captain was showing some VIP around the ship and had paused to discuss the ship's battle ribbons that were displayed on the bulkhead. Well, they were in Slim's way, and he asked the Captain if he would mind moving. The Captain swung around and replied, "Slim, how would you like a punch to the jaw?" Slim's ambition in the Navy was to be in charge of the ship's laundry. Several years later, when I visited the ship in Naples, I found him - in charge of the laundry.
The Captain was known for his capers. While replenishing ships at sea he would dress all his officers as Captains or in top hats and tails. He had his dog with him on cruises. He also had a band that performed. While we were in Brooklyn, (the ship was home ported in Naples), we had liberal liberty. I ended up having six days off at a time, which allowed for some trips back to Freeport. Also found time to get to Manhattan with free tickets available for Broadway and TV shows. I won an audience participation prize, (two enameled Sheffield butter knives), on the 'Beat The Clock' quiz show. The Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty were two other attractions.
The end of this saga came with orders to begin my career as a Navy Musician in Washington, DC. I had passed my incoming audition while awaiting orders in Norfolk in June. The papers were to be sent to Washington, but ended up in my records on the Wrangell. While the ship was undergoing retrofitting for nuclear weapon handling, the personnel office was relocated to a barge at the same pier. I stood watch there one night and came across the papers when looking through my records. (Oops; wasn't supposed to do that!) Anyway I got things going again the next day. Captain Bright approved my request and signed me up for a two year extension of my enlistment (thus setting up my career run). He was greatly distressed when he found out I would not be coming back to his ship to take over the band.
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