Saturday, November 25, 2006

16 March 1956

Dear Folks

Gee Whilikers, look—yellow paper. We just got it in today. Can’t say as I’d care to have a suit this color. but it will do for variety as writing paper.

First—general news, mainly about me. Someone is strangling me-from the inside—I’m rather disappointed that it’s turned out to be just an ordinary cold instead of some wonderful new disease. Oh, well, give it time. Aside from my physical condition (which seems to be generally excellent) there isn’t too much to say about your loving son. He eats, moderately & continuously; works—12 to 24 hours a day—writes letters occasionally, & sleeps—a vocation I would like to devote more time to.

The Navy & I are still on speaking terms, but just barely. And speaking of the Navy—I shall wind my way into the main body of the letter by pointing up a glowing symbol of Naval efficiency….

It seems---well, I started to retell the tale, but you can read it in the enclosed Bulletin.

Now, let’s see—to go back to last Wed. morning (the last letter I sent dealt with Wed. night).

At about four o’clock on Wed. morning—though I was too sleepy to know what time it was—reveille was sounded, along with: "Now Flight Quarters—Flight Quarters; set all special sea & anchor details. This is an emergency. Now Flight Quarters…the ship has broken her moorings aft. This is an emergency."

Somehow, the six-to-ten-inch cables mooring us to two floating buoys had broken, & the tide was swinging us around, rear-end-first, directly toward the five destroyers, one tanker & British frigate tied up at the Beirut Dock—about a block away. The Ti is 888 feet long.

Our liberty boats were nosed against us, between us & the dock, trying to push us away. The Ti weighs 43,000 tons.

On & around the dock was pandemonium—the watch standers on the tanker & destroyers looked up to see 888 feet & 43,000 tons swinging slowly toward them. Some of the "cans" sounded G.Q.—battle stations. The tanker, laying inboard of one of the destroyers, broke out all her fire hoses—guys on the flight deck said they could see men pouring out of the hatches—some heading for the dock.

The planes on the flight deck were, fortunately, lined up correctly—engines facing in—for "pinwheel" (since we were so close in & had so little room to move about, we had pulled in bow first & the planes, acting as huge fans, turned us around). Now we hoped they could keep us away from the dock. Even though we were moving slowly, we are so big we would have crushed the destroyer like an eggshell & pushed the tanker into the dock—the result of that could be a terrific fireworks display that could blow all seven American & one British warships out of the water, as well as a good portion of Beirut.

It was the planes who saved the day—but not before our fantail had scraped the destroyer & wrinkled one of her gun mounts so badly she may have to return to the States.

So we pulled up anchor & moved way out, about a ten minute ride.

And where was your son while all this was going on? In his rack, sound asleep.

Speaking of sleep—it’s that time again. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get around to Wed. afternoon & evening.

By Now



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