Tuesday, June 21, 2005

San Diego Snowstorm

Time for this week's installment of stories from my father's Navy days. This one involves "Comshaw", which, as my father explained to me, is the art of using *ahem* "Creative Requisitioning Techniques" to obtain supplies and material, often for the purpose of fulfilling a duty or carrying out a mission with which you have been tasked, but for which you have not been properly equipped. Mind you, it's also used for less pressing needs.

In this case, the fact that crewmembers on my father's ship were skilled in the art of Comshaw was a double edged sword. The ships cook managed to finagle an excellent deal on a large supply of food stuffs from outside official channels. Unfortunately, the supply consisted of cabbage. Copious amounts of cabbage. As my father liked to say, they were served cabbage 5 nights a week, and on the other two they had leftovers.

I don't suppose it takes much imagination on ther reader's part to realize that the crew soon developed strong urges to eat anything BUT cabbage. It is at this point that the other edge cut, and for the sonar crew, their comshaw abilities proved to be a silver lining. On a ship as small as the Bausell, provisions were taken on board in a bucket-brigade stile chain of sailors passing items hand-to hand. The sonar men saw to it that they always had at least two volunteers participating in the brigade, and that they were stationed next to each other. The first would make not of the items being passed down the line, and when he saw a particularly tasty item, which was invariably earmarked for the officer's mess (dining hall), he would give a non-verbal cue, and then pass the item on. One time it was peanut butter and jelly, a rare treat. The next sonar man in line, instead of passing it down the line, would toss it up over his head, where an accomplice would catch it, then hide it. Eventually it made its way to the sonar shack. There, there was a metal panel which was easily removed and concealed a small empty space between the sonar equipment and computers, and the bulkhead (wall). A thin wire was strung from the hatch into the walkway leading to the shack, down in the shack to a dustpan, and served as an alarm. While the smell drove them crazy, the officers NEVER caught my father or his buddies, who always waited until the dead of night to eat their ill-gotten booty.

There was one occasion, however, when despite eluding the officers, the sonar men failed to enjoy the fruits of their labor. It was the time they managed to "requisition" a 5-callon tub full of potato chips. The third man in the comshaw team found himself in a position where he had to hide them temproarily to avoid detection. He looked around, and found what seemed the perfect hiding place: Dark, obscure, and with a round opening of the right curcumference. He hid the tub, vowing to return as quickly as possible when the heat was off.

What he failed to take into account was the conscientious nature of his shipmates. A while later, the ship's torpedoman's mate came to go through his daily maintenance routine. He checked his gauges, swung the tubes perpendicular to the ship, filled the flasks with several thousand Punds of air pressure, and hit the launch button.

My mother still maintains that, in hindsight, they were lucky noone got their head taken off. Not knowing the height of the tubes, I can't say. What I do know is that the ractual results were less tragic but very spectacular. The tub shot out of the tub, hurtled across the dock, and slammed into the side of another ship alongside them with a resounding clang. The force of the impact flattended the can to a platter, and, as my father reported, there was a snowstorm of potato chips that covered the dock.

No comments:

Post a Comment