7 November 1955
General Quarters at 1300 to liven up the day. They have the habit of announcing that they are going to have G.Q. five minutes before the gongs sound. This gives everyone a chance to get to their stations and have half the ship secured before G.Q. starts. Unfortunately, were there ever any real danger, there will be no five minute leeway.
Learned something quite interesting at G.Q. today, in line with my job—if the ship sinks, I’m the last one to leave, unless the Captain happens to be an extreme romanticist. The title of my particular job is O.B., which seem to be letters picked at random, since nobody knows what it means. It’s probably “observation” something or other, but I wouldn’t swear to it.
Supposing, just for the sake of something to do, we were hit by a torpedo amidships on the port (left hand while facing forward) side. This is our territory. G.Q. sounds. We rush around, closing valves & securing hatches. I don my rescue breathing apparatus. They want to know where the hole is. Guess who has to go & find it. That’s right. I am loaded down with gear. On my head is a battle helmet with a coal miner’s lantern on it. I’m carrying a large wrench, a “plumb tapper” or some such thing (explained later), & a plumb line. Also an “explosometer.” First I use the wrench; beside most hatches are air escape nozzles, bolted closed. If, when opened, air rushes out, there is something in the compartment to force it out; probably water. I open it; nothing happens. So far so good.
Open the hatch & enter the compartment with my little explosometer. After manipulating this, it tells whether or not there are explosive gasses in the compartment. No. I want to get to the next deck below (the 3rd). I open a scuttle in the deck hatch. The ladder has been knocked away. Back I go for a rope. The rest of the repair party comes in with me, if there is no poison gas or explosive fumes. They lower me down into the compartment with a rope. Beneath this deck are the fuel storage tanks. Now comes the “plumb tapper”—on the deck are small brass plates, in the center is a sunken X, like a large screw. That’s just what it is, I guess. And the “plumb tapper” is a sort of screwdriver, though it looks more like a small car tire wrench. Open the plate. The plumb line, which is like a large metal tape measure with a metal weight on the end, goes down. If it hits bottom without a splash, & the hold is supposed to be full, you can deduce something is wrong—or if sea water gushes in, you can also get a slight hint that all is not well.
Of course, if sea water roars in, you’ve had it. Of if there is explosive gas & someone sets off a spark, you get a close-up view of your own personal fireworks. More darn fun….