Reflections of a Blackshoe by Vadm Harold Koenig, USN (Ret)......




I like the Navy.

    I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in
my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the
globe - the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive
her through the sea.

      I like the sounds of the Navy - the piercing trill of the
boatswains pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship's bell on the quarterdeck, the
harsh squawk of the 1MC and the strong language and laughter of sailors
at work.

       I like Navy vessels - nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet
auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers. I like
the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea -
memorials of great battles won. I like the lean angular names of Navy 'tin-cans':
Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinix, McCloy, -mementos of heroes who went
before us.

      I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside
speakers as we pull away from the oiler after refueling at sea. I like liberty
call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I even like all hands working
parties as my ship fills herself with the multitude of supplies both mundane
and exotic which she needs to cut her ties to the land and carry out her
mission anywhere on the globe where there is water to float her.

      I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the
Midwest, small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains and the
prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as they trust and
depend on me - for professional competence, for comradeship, for courage. In
a word, they are "shipmates." I like the surge of adventure in my heart
when the word is passed "Now station the special sea and anchor detail - all
hands to quarters for leaving port", and I like the infectious thrill of
sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends
waiting pierside.

      The work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the
parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter,
the 'all for one and one for all' philosophy of the sea is ever present. I
like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as flying fish
flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to night.

     I like the feel of the Navy in darkness - the masthead lights, the
red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating
phosphorescence of  radar repeaters - they cut through the dusk and join with the
mirror of stars overhead. And I like drifting off to sleep lulled by the
myriad noises large and small that tell me that my ship is alive and well,
and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe. I like quiet midwatches
with the aroma of strong coffee - the lifeblood of the Navy - permeating
everywhere.

      And I like hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray
shapes racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of
alertness. I like the sudden electricity of "General quarters, general quarters, all
hands man your battle stations", followed by the hurried clamor of running
feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship
transforms herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a
weapon of war - ready for anything.

      And I like the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters
clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would
still recognize. I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women
who made them. I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry,
Farragut, John Paul Jones. A sailor can find much in the Navy:
comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the
seaman's trade.
An adolescent can find adulthood.

        In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will
still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods - the
impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water
surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of
stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright
bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter
in the wardroom and chief's quarters and messdecks. Gone ashore for good
they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when the seas belonged to them
and a new port of call was ever over the horizon. Remembering this, they
will stand taller and say, "I WAS A SAILOR ONCE. I WAS PART OF THE NAVY
& THE NAVY  WILL ALWAYS BE PART OF ME."


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