Home > 2011 Posts, About Dave > Danger! Specialty of the House

Danger! Specialty of the House

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away… I used to drive big gray boats and play with guided missiles.

This particular boat was an attack carrier named USS Ranger. At 90,000 tons, with a 4-1/2 acre flight deck, 70 combat aircraft and 5,000 navy men aboard, she was by herself the sixth largest air force in the world, just like every other American carrier at the time. Our skipper, Captain Hill, had been a young fighter ace over Korea and still had Boot as his personal call sign. The Ranger’s call sign was Gray Eagle. And of course, the Admiral in charge of Seventh Fleet had the best call sign of all: Jehovah. More about this in another post.

Boat, Gray, Big, 1 each

That afternoon was my first time as Officer of the Deck taking the massive ship into Pearl Harbor through its narrow passage. Even though an experienced Harbor Pilot gave the steering directions, it would be me and the skipper on our way to Fort Leavenworth if anything went wrong, not the civilian. So I was paying close attention, as all Officers of the Deck should do all the time anyway. Thankfully, the breeze was light and the channel wasn’t too silted up, so we safely moored alongside one of the carrier piers about 1400 (2:00 PM).

The Ranger had just passed its pre-deployment inspection with flying colors. Those inspections are demanding, and I’d been on bridge watch 14 of the previous 24 hours – through Gunnery exercises, Flight Operations, Underway Replenishment and now Sea Detail. Taking care of my duties as Guided Missile Officer took up most of the other ten hours. I was beat.

Young Ship Driver

But…  I was also young and I’d never been ashore in Hawaii. So my roommate, Brian, and I headed out as soon as we could, along with about 3,500 of our closest friends.

Brian had been stationed on Oahu before and knew it well. As he used to say, “Dave, they love me here. I’ve been thrown out of some of the finest bars in Hawaii!” I’m pretty sure he was joking. Well… sort of sure.

Our plan was to go to the end of Waikiki near Pearl Harbor and then amble eastward along the beach until we reached Diamond Head, stopping at each bar along the way for their Specialty of the House. Then we would head back to the ship and be ready to hit it hard in the morning.

Our progress was a bit slower than we’d imagined. Around 2300 (11:00 PM) we chanced to meet my great neighbors from back in the Bay Area, Rick and Sandy. They were an Air Force couple on vacation and out for a stroll. Over drinks, we revealed our Noble Plan, and they decided to join in, thus upholding the few remaining shreds of Air Force honor. A few hotel bars later, the four of us were once more back out on the beach, and in mighty need of clearer senses. So with a quick mutual look, the three guys in their sport coats and Sandy in her lovely dress gleefully raced each other into the surf.

WWII Submarine Museum Piece at Pearl Harbor

My memory of the rest of the night is a bit fuzzy, but I do recall a very late dinner and fantastic view at the old Cannon Club up on the shoulder of Diamond Head … and breakfast at the Pearl Harbor O Club … and an exhausted but jubilant arrival back on board just 40 minutes before our scheduled departure.

That’s when our idyllic Junior Officer play time came to a jarring halt. On the Quarterdeck, our brother officer, Dan, said, “Where the Hell have you been? They’ve been looking all over for you. You’ve got Sea Detail in nine minutes!”

Since Brian and I both had Sea Detail coming in, we’d been certain that we wouldn’t have it going out. That kind of watch rotation never happened. But the Gods of Naval Karma had worked their Evil Will. So, eight minutes later we were both on the bridge and had assumed the watch. No sweat. We had one whole minute between us an the end of our careers. Piece of cake.

Both of us sucked it up and rose to the occasion. Two hours later, we were safely out of the harbor and making a clean 28 knots toward seven months in the South China Sea. Regular watch officers, Bill and Karl, relieved us. Then Brian and I headed thankfully and wearily down eight decks of ladders and below the Flight Deck to take much needed showers.

But then, just as we reached the Hangar Deck, Boot Hill added a special cherry on top of our Karma Cake: the Quartermaster called General Quarters. At the klaxon’s deafening blare, all 5,000 of us surged to Battle Stations.

Mine of course was back up on the bridge… .

  1. May 24, 2011 at 2:05 am

    I find your writings very interesting Dave. You have a lot to tell, and I shall read many of your stories.
    In the meantime I am writing a bit myself – at the moment it is our Indonesia cruise I am talking about, but plan to get back to Sri Lanka and Bali soon. There are so many things I want to do in between, like shopping and day-trips out and about locally.
    I look forward to going to Norway and chat with the man who was in German prison camps with my dad. There will be more to tell when I get back the end of June.

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