Friday, April 07, 2006

New York and New London

This is a photo of my Submarine School class July 1963. I’m in the front row, third from the right end. I was a Machinist Mate Apprentice fresh out of Machinist Mate school at the Great Lakes. I have a picture of that class also but I will spare you. And I promise I will not show you my graduation picture from Boot Camp.

When first I arrived in the Great North East, I had a few extra days of leave left and decided I should explore New York City. I got off the plane at LaGuardia airport and headed for the USO for help. They got me a room at the YMCA where I immediately went and ditched my sea bag. My first meal was a “Hero” at Hero’s and I found it and whole bunch of other things to do and see and eat, in a book entitled New York On$5 a day. The first night I found a nifty bar close to the Y and settled in for the evening watching Color TV. It was the 1st time I had ever watched Johnny Carson in color. It was a great three days and I never got into trouble once. Then I caught the train to New London and my first exposure to New England in the spring. What a trip.

This was a fun school because we learned all about the inner workings of a submarine and even went to sea on School Boats for a few days. The best thing about sub school was New York City. Dennis and I hung together in high school, joined the Navy together and we met up again at Sub School. Every chance we had we jumped on the train and headed for the big apple to party and chase women. New York had an 18 year old drinking law, Yahoo. He and I traveled together in NY and found lots of sights to see and lots of new adventures. Together we got tossed from “The Metropole Club”, “Birdland” and the “Copacabana “. A record of dubious distinction, I’m sure. We always purchased round trip tickets at the New London station, just in case we were to run out of funds in New York City. We ALWAYS ran out of funds but we always got back.

Another friend, Jerry, and I were headed into town, on the bus one Saturday when he managed to get us both in trouble. The bus stopped at the gate and two marine guards came on the bus and looked around, got off and motioned the bus to proceed. We almost got through the gate when I heard the shrill report from a whistle which caused the driver to stop suddenly. Back on the bus came the two guards and they marched down the aisle to where Jerry and I were sitting and stopped. One guard pointed to Jerry and said “he did it” and then turned and pointed to me and added “or he did”. We were immediately placed under arrest, cuffed and marched to the officer of the watch. Right away I noticed something different about the guy as he had one blue eye and another color for the other eye but the blue eye stood out. I felt sorry for the guy They made their accusations in the strictest of military protocol. The Lieutenant went over to his chair, sat down at his desk and pulled out a pad of forms and started filling them out from our military ID’s which had been confiscated at the start of this action on the bus. He would glance up from his paperwork every so often and scowl at us and shake his almost bald head, slowly from side to side. At this point I had absolutely no idea of what Jerry and I had done. I really didn’t understand military protocol for these situation except for what little I learned from boot camp and watching movies back home. Finally I mustered up the gumption to blurt out “Permission to speak, Sir”? The young lieutenant dropped his eyes and his pen like he was really irritated and then slowly looked up at me and after several poignant moments replied “permission denied, scum bag!” Well right then and there I decided I didn’t like this situation but I felt that my best plan would be to go along with this game, whatever it was. There was an alternate plan but I noticed that all of them were wearing guns. Finally Lt. Blue Eye was finished, stood up, rotated the papers he had been working on, 180 degrees, and told us to read them and sign them and the yellow copy was ours. We were placed on house arrest which would mean being confined to our barracks and being given a “Captains Mast”. We were accused of being disrespectful to the Marine Corps. To wit: one of these sailors gave an obscene jester to the marine guards as they were performing their jobs by stopping the bus and looking for unauthorized personnel trying to leave the base. We had a hearing date set for the next morning at 08:00 hours with the Marine Commandant.

At precisely 0800 hours the next morning Jerry and I were in our best starched whites, standing at quarters with the grunts as roll call was made. The orders of the day were passed out and everyone dismissed except us. We stood at attention for some time as our case was being discussed with the CO by Lt. Blue eye. As we waited patiently, every grunt in the barracks walked by us with some type of disparaging remark. The language those people used was downright filthy. Oh the shame of it. Jerry and I just nodded and smiled. Finally Lt. Blue eye came out and told us to report to the Commandant’s office for the hearing. Once again we were required to stand at attention for a rather long wait while the Captain in front of us shuffled papers on his desk. Finally the Captain looked up at us and stared for a few moments before speaking. He cleared his voice, stood up, then turned and walked over to the window and looked out. After several more pregnant moments he finally turned to us and started to speak “Gentlemen, I am deeply saddened by this incident before me as you have seriously insulted the United States Marine Corps and all of the men and women that have served its proud traditions.” He went on but I tuned him out as all of these dramatics were taking their toll on me. When he came to the words “and so gentlemen hear is your sentence”, I started paying attention again. “In exactly one week you will appear at quarters and each read your reports on “The Glory and Tradition of the Marine Corps”. He added, “It must be at least 500 words.” “Dismissed”. You will notice that nowhere in this entire incident did anyone ask Jerry or I if we did it or even our take on the charges.

I stewed about this all weekend and on Monday I reported the incident to our Chief. He was furious and told us to just forget about it as he would deal with it for us. He explained that our Commanding Officer was an Admiral and the only job the Marines had was to report to the same CO that we did, not hold kangaroo court at the expense of some sub sailors. A few days later the Chief informed me that we had not been written up, there were no charges against us, and the CO did not consider giving a marine the finger anything that should be reported but it was suggested we refrain from all future incidents such as these.

The next Saturday, instead of standing at quarters with the Grunts, Jerry and I headed for New York City and watched the Rocketts at Rockefeller Center.

Coming next The Dreaded Escape Tower

1 comment:

keewee said...

Great story, can't wait for the next one.