Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Monday, 15 August 1955

Dear Folks

Look!…Ink! Ah, what a noble work of art is Man; beaten, degraded & disgraced, yet he fights valiantly upward, if only flaunting the powers that be by the forbidden use of pen & ink. "Hah", they cry, in imitation of Marie Antoinette, "let them use pencil!"

Have I ever mentioned that fact that I loathe the United States Navy? Permit me---I loathe the United States Navy! Of course, those words contain more than enough treason to have me hung from the highest yardarm & investigated by numerous House Committees. But, unfortunately, I must speak the truth. The truth means many things to many people, & is elastic enough to be bent & twisted into whatever shape desired.

This morning I went to "Classification", where I sat for almost an hour, as inconspicuous as the yellow tile walls, & as unnoticed. The room had all the quiet charm and homey comfort of a prison visiting room. In one corner, huddled over a coffeepot (which is the Navy’s crucifix) were the staff, eagerly discussing the sworn fact of one of the chief petty officers that the sea was gradually rising. From the heat of the discussion, one might expect water to begin seeping in over the windowsills at any moment.

"Classification" consisted of me choosing from four places I’d like to be sent—on the Atlantic coast. I chose Boston, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, or Miami. They will undoubtedly put me on a ship. I don’t think I’d mind a ship at all—especially the new aircraft carrier Forrestall, which has not yet been commissioned & is going on a world cruise.

At dinner today, a Negro next to me summed up the Navy’s efficiency perfectly. He was talking to some of his buddies, & I was a casual but interested eavesdropper. It seems he wanted to get off duty one half hour early for liberty. He talked to a petty officer (P.O.) second class, who sent him to a P.O. first class, who sent him to a chief. By the time he got permission, everyone else had left on liberty a half hour ago.

The Naval base here is sprawling, & you can almost get snow-blind looking at all the white uniforms. An average meal takes a little less than an hour—twenty-five minutes in line to get in, ten minutes to eat, & twenty to get out again.

One of the utmost sins of the U.S. Navy is to be an individual. The very idea of someone possessing an independent thought is unspeakable. To the end of a perfect sailor, you are pushed, prodded, insulted, treated like a rabid dog; your brains are washed & hung out on a line to dry in the pure sunlight of naval ideology. Pompus sounding, but true. (Note the spelling—ugh!)

I’m very much afraid, as I may have mentioned before, that I may have to spend some time in the brig before my happy association with the Navy is over. I never could stand to take orders, even from you, & I will not be pushed around by some ignorant, sadistic tin god. The smaller the man (in character at least) the more godlike he becomes Civility is a word with three syllables more than his vocabulary includes—except, of course, for profanity, and which he can ramble for ten minutes, using extremely complex & hyphenated words. Confidentially, I don’t give a good tinker’s damn for what the Navy thinks; if the time should ever arrive (heaven forbid) when one of these blithering idiots (who, incidentally, are not officers, & many of whom haven’t even graduated from high school) tells me to do something to please his inflated little ego, I shall give in to a long-harbored impulse to tell him where he can go, how to get there, & what to do when he arrives. Once again, though, heaven forbid. The Navy can be exceptionally nasty if it wishes, & would no doubt end up before a firing squad. You don’t think it can be done?

Funny—I was just a few minutes ago standing outside with a batch of guys who can’t even stand in a straight line, for one of our innumerable daily musters (presided over by the aforementioned kindly gentlemen) when three Navy patrol planes flew over, very slowly & gracefully, & did carrier breakups prior to landing at nearby Chambers field. I got an odd empty feeling in my stomach…

Like many things, the further removed I am from NavCad life, the better it appears to have been, in retrospect. I do miss it very much, but it is too late now. Like Scarlet O’Hara, "I won’t worry about it today; I’ll worry about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day."

Love to all

P.S. While glancing through my billfold, I find that my drivers license expired Aug. 8. Suggestions, dad?


ken said...

The mention you made of the
Forrestal (aka. forest fire. aka,
USS Zippo.)left me awash in nostalgia. It brought back memories
of the many guys I dated from that
old ship. It's, of course, in the
ships ghost yard now...oh well....

Dorien/Roger said...

It boggles my mind to think of the Forrestal other than she was when I wrote that letter and that my own beloved U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA 14 (about which you will be hearing much in coming letters) has long ago been turned to scrap. No! It is impossible!

I know they and their ever-young crews are both out there, still sailing the seas, flags flying...


Dorien/Roger said...

My apologies to those of you who post comments which do not automatically show up here. I get a copy in my regular email, and try to post them myself.

Here's one today, from "Dave":

"Guess you were really proud of this entry, huh?? lol"

Hey, Dave, I'm proud of them all.