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Bill Thayer

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Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Admiral Halsey's Story

Fleet Admiral
William F. Halsey, USN

published by
McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc.
New York : London

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 4
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

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My ship wasn't shoving off until January 7, so I had a few days in New York with Fan. I was waiting for her outside a big store one morning when an imperious woman ordered me, "Call my car!"

Within the next few minutes, eight more persons accosted me and asked directions to various departments of the store. It made me mad for citizens of a country at war to know so little about their Navy that they could mistake an officer for a doorman. I told each of them, "Go to the top floor, walk to the opposite side of the store, then turn right and go as far as you can. There's your department."

I arrived in Queenstown on January 18, 1918, and reported to Capt. Joel R. P. Pringle, who had his pennant on the destroyer Melville, with additional duty as American Chief of Staff to Adm. Sir Louis Bayly, of the Royal Navy. Captain Pringle assigned me to the destroyer Duncan for a month as a "makee-learn" under Comdr. Roger Williams. Our principal duty was with convoys; we would pick up an outgoer off some Irish, English, or French port, escort it 500 miles westward, and exchange it for an incomer. Occasionally we did rescue work or had a submarine hunt. Our routine was five days at sea and three days in Queenstown, with five days for cleaning boilers after every fifth trip. The "break" ashore was always gay, thanks largely to the hospitality of the Royal Cork Yacht Club. We dubbed it the "Royal Uncork Yacht Club" and devised a special decoration, the F. I. R., for officers who had difficulty returning to their ships after an evening there. "F. I. R." stood for "Fell in River."

 p28  On February 7, I was promoted to the temporary rank of commander, and on the nineteenth, Captain Pringle gave me a destroyer of my own, the Benham.

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She was an excellent ship, with a fine crew which included one of the most famous chief boatswain's mates in the Navy — a superb sailorman but a periodic rummy, with the added disadvantage that you could never tell from his appearance whether he was drunk or sober. They were getting under way at Newport News once, with this chief supervising hoisting the anchor and reporting to the bridge, "Anchor at short stay, sir . . . anchor up and down . . . anchor's aweigh . . . anchor's in sight, sir!" This last should be followed by, "Clear anchor" or, "Foul anchor," but what the bridge heard was, "Jesus Christ, it's got an automobile on it!"

Naturally, they assumed that he was drunk again, so an officer went forth to investigate. An automobile was hanging from the anchor!

Which reminds me of a story about another fine sailorman with the same failing. His captain told him, "You're one of the best men on this ship when you're not drinking, and there's no limit to the rate you could hold. Why can't you behave yourself? Why don't you drink like an officer?"

The man said, "God Almighty, Captain, my constitution couldn't stand it!"

I kept a personal log during my tour of duty at Queenstown, and as I look through it now, nearly thirty years later, I find a few passages which may be of interest:

February 22nd. Hurrah for George! . . . At 9:40 A.M. picked up a convoy consisting of the Von Steuben, President Lincoln, Finland, and, appropriate to the date, the Martha Washington.

February 23rd. At sea escorting troop convoy. . . . Can see the Antigone, our nearest ship, is crowded with soldiers. Keep them on deck as much as possible while in submarine zone. Suppose other transports are equally crowded. You look at them and pity them having to go in the trenches. Suppose they look at us and wonder why anyone is damn fool enough to roll and jump around on a destroyer. Anyway we are all here for the same purpose, to get the Kaiser, and may that time be soon!

February 24th. Held target practice. Put over a raft made of barrels with a flag and staff. Men painted the Hun flag on target bunting and the  p29 motto "Kill the Kaiser." Fired four rounds from each 4‑inch and played with the machine guns.

March 7th. Was yanked up to the Admiralty today to have tea with Admiral Jellicoe. He is very charming and perfectly natural. Most easy for a naval officer to talk to. Had been prepared by Admiral Sims's talk as to his appearance. His nose is certainly prominent! Small of stature, but very active and young-appearing.

Adm. Sir John Jellicoe had been, of course, Commander in Chief of the British Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland.

March 9th. About 11:00 P.M. passed between two steamers on opposite courses about 500 yards apart. Inky black and drizzling and no lights. It sure is a hell of a sensation! You see nothing until they are right on top of you, and then only a black hump, with no possibility of telling which way they are heading. It is a case of pray you will go between. This is by far the greatest danger in these ship-infested waters, Hun subs and mines notwithstanding. It is what makes the wildcat wild. . . . Just before leaving, we took on board as a passenger a so‑called British Admiralty pilot of Liverpool. Think him altogether too wise for a mere pilot and suspect he also belongs to Intelligence.

My suspicion was never confirmed, but it was encouraged by the fact that although he told me he had been a pilot for a great many years and had never been seasick, for the next four days he was the most seasick man I ever saw in my life. He was aboard, incidentally, because we were going out to meet the Leviathan, which was so large and vulnerable that they did not wish her to stop and transfer a pilot off the Mersey River, as incoming ships usually did.

March 15th. At 4:30 A.M. two lookouts reported large wake crossing starboard bow. The water was phosphorescent, and this wake made for the bow, then apparently stopped and spread. Thought I studies had a Fritz! My first impression was that we had surprised him, and he had been forced to dive immediately under our bow. Was just about to drop a depth charge when I looked over the side again and saw the wake jumping in all directions. A large school of fish!

Fish, particularly porpoises, sent my heart into my boots time after time during these patrols. At night, in phosphorescent water, a porpoise has a strong resemblance to a torpedo. You'll see one heading for your ship; you have no time to maneuver; you hold your  p30 breath; and when the wake reaches the side, you brace yourself for the explosion. Then it appears on the opposite side, and your heart begins to beat again.

March 21st. The [destroyer] Manley came in. My youngsters went on board and say she is a horrible wreck.

The Manley, delivering dispatches to a British vessel, had collided with her in a heavy seaway. Some depth charges on the Britisher jarred overboard and detonated, in turn detonating the Manley's charges, which blew off her stern. The casualty list might have been longer but for the peculiar properties of TNT. The Manley's after torpedo tubes, loaded, overhung the stump of her stern and therefore caught the full heat of the blazing fuel tank abaft the engine room, but although the war heads became white hot, they did not explode.

March 22nd. Passed several barrels and other wreckage, including a spar sticking about 18 feet out of water. Maybe it was Fritzi's trick periscope with Amine below. Anyway, we did not tackle it.

The Germans were known to use dummy periscopes with mines attached, so we were on the lookout for them. The Nips used the same lure off Pearl Harbor in the early days of World War II. Their dummy periscopes that I saw were not mined, however.

March 30th. The Admiral was very chatty this morning, the first time I have seen him so.

Admiral Bayly was a splendid officer and gentleman. The Royal Navy in general considered him a martinet, but those who had the privilege of serving directly under him loved and respected him to a man. His extreme reserve is emphasized by the fact that when it relaxed, as on that day, I was surprised enough to note it in my log. He addressed us juniors not by our own names, but by our ships'. Thus his greeting to me, reporting in after a cruise, would be, "Good morning, Benham," and almost before I had time to respond, he would invariably follow with, "What is the condition of your ship?"

Whatever its condition, you answered — if you were wise — "Quite all right, sir," because Admiral Bayly held unpreparedness  p31 a crime more heinous than treason or mutiny. Similarly, to his next question, "When will you be ready to go to sea?" the wise skipper answered, "As soon as I can complete with fuel, sir."

One young skipper was not that wise; he rattled off a list of defects as long as his arm. The Admiral heard him out, then said courteously, "Quite right! Quite right! If you are not prepared to get under way at 3 o'clock, no doubt you can find a tug to take you in tow, and you can complete repairs on the way to Kinsale Head."

April 7th. "Fly-fly" Peyton took lunch with us. . . .

Fly-fly was one of our early naval aviators. I quote this entry only to prove that the nickname is not new for World War II pilots.

April 9th. Off Kinsale, [destroyer] O'Brien made submarine signal and steamed ahead. Went to general quarters and followed her. She dropped a depth charge. Did not see anything, but dropped one in same vicinity on general principles. First egg I have laid.

A destroyer skipper's first depth charge is like a girl's first kiss. My log notes that I "did not feel it much."

April 19th. Two months ago today I took over command of this hooker. To my way of thinking, she is a different ship. Anyway, I am happy.

Here is the typical, egotistic "new broom" for you! He's not happy until he has changed things around, but after that, everything is quite all right.

April 26th. The dockyard people put a line through our stern chock and made it fast under the depth-charge rack without telling anyone. Got underweigh with this line and had a hell of a time! Threw me into the [sloop] Colleen, and I just averted a bump by ringing emergency full speed ahead. Then I was thrown into the [destroyer] Shaw and again narrowly averted a bump. Finally discovered the trouble.

A lovely piece of work on my part and my officers'! It is inconceivable and inexcusable for a line to be secured on a ship, and the ship to prepare to get underweigh without its being discovered. "Everything is quite all right," eh?

May 17th. While standing down river, an aeroplane did some wonderful stunts. Would head right for us, and when it looked as if he could not  p32 miss our bridge, would gracefully skim just over the masts. Got about 200 feet above us and looped the loop, the first time I had seen it done.

How time and experience change one's point of view! Here I was fascinated by what I later recognized all too well as "flat-hatting." The most dangerous time a pilot's career is when he first begins to feel confidence in his flying ability: he has the world by the tail; no maneuver is too difficult for him to perform. The casualties caused by his exuberance of youth, or — to give it its proper name — criminal foolishness, runs into the thousands. "There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots." If I had ever caught one of my South Pacific or Third Fleet pilots "gracefully skimming just over the masts," I would have grounded him for life.

May 18th. Came into outer harbor and anchored at 3:15 A.M. This was my last trip as CO. Called the crew to quarters and read our orders. Was quite a wrench, as I have grown fond of the crowd on board.

I was being assigned to command the Shaw. She too was a good destroyer, but she had one structural defect that caused me special anguish; some bright designer had decided he would save weight by installing only one main condenser. His theory was excellent, because weight is vital on a destroyer, but he lacked practical experience. With two condensers, a leak can develop in one, yet the ship can be kept going on the other. With only one, you either proceed and salt up your boilers, or you stop and effect repairs, and there were not many places in those waters where you could stop in safety long.

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May 27th. The fun popped at 1:30 A.M. The O. O. D. [officer of the deck] reported a green star fired on starboard now — submarine signal. Jumped on bridge as the first ash can went off, then a fusillade of them. Next thing I knew, the [destroyer] Cushing came beating it around the rear of convoy, laying a barrage. In the meantime the [destroyer] Sterett, who had started all the row, was continuing her bombing astern. Both she and one of the transports had sighted this sub on the surface, and the Sterett proceeded to let him have seventeen ash cans. If she didn't get him, she gave him an awful headache.

About 8 A.M. passed through a regiment of empty champagne bottles, evidently from one of the transports. Guess the soldiers were pretty well shaken up last night and had a liquid breakfast.

 p33  The Sterett's CO was Comdr. Alan S. Farquhar. At dinner one night "Fuzzy" Farquhar and I began to brag about our prowess as Hun‑hunters, and the bragging ended in a bet of £5 for the first of us to bag a German sub. I still can't honestly say that I ever even saw one, though I often thought I did; but almost from the day that Fuzzy took command of the Sterett, he ran into them continually, and the foregoing entry represented one of many occasions when I was afraid I was watching my £5 go glimmering.

June 7th. At 3:45 A.M. got a radio from the P‑68 [a British patrol ship] that she had just bombed a sub that had sunk a ship 8 miles from Trevose Head. Headed over at 25 knots to join the party. Fritzi had done a good job. Busted the ship wide open. Nothing left but kindling wood and a huge amount of oil. Quite an inter-Allied event — one blimp, two aeroplanes, two P‑boats, two trawlers, and the Shaw. One trawler picked up a boat containing four men, one dead. Exchanged signals with the blimp and hustled oil wakes for 2½ hours but could see nothing definite. Finally had to return to station for escort duty. About 10:30 A.M. was taking a nap in the chart house when the O. O. D. reported, "Submarine on surface dead ahead!" Best thrill I have had since my arrival in the war zone! Made the bridge in two jumps and found the for'd gun manned and pointed at sub, with the pointer's finger itching on the trigger and not giving a damn what kind of a sub she was. About to give the order to fire when the quartermaster, who was watching her thru a long glass, reported he could see her letters and that she was a U. S. sub. Made the challenge to him, but he did not reply. By that time could see her letters with the naked eye: AL 10. Finally she fired the recognition signal. In the meantime we had been following her close, ready to open up and ram in case she made a false move. Needless to say, we were very much let down.

Salted up again on entering harbor. Another split tube. Damn that condenser!

The quartermaster who saved the sub was a full-blooded Indian, which may explain his wonderful eyesight. This was a time when I thought I saw the £5 heading toward me.

June 18th. Found by virtue of seniority that I was king of the Irish Sea today. Under me had USS Beale [a destroyer] and HMS Kestrala and Zephyr [sloops]. Had the time of my life bossing them around.

My first experience in multiple command in the war zone. I was as proud as a dog with two tails.

 p34  July 1st. At 10:30 P.M. received SOS from USS Covington, saying torpedoed and giving position about 150 miles south and west of Brest. Immediately headed for her at 20 knots and reported my action to C‑in‑C.

July 2nd. Found Covington about 8:30 A.M. in tow of three tugs, the [destroyers] Reid and Wadsworth standing by. She was towing easily, making about 5 knots, listed about 10° to port, and slightly down by the stern. . . . Everything went swimmingly until 2:30 P.M., when one of the tugs made signal to get all men off immediately. All hands were clear by 3:00 P.M. The Covington was listing further and further and rolling heavily, righting a little bit less each time. It was a pathetic sight. Reminded you of some huge animal, mortally wounded, yet struggling on. You hoped against hope that she would not go down, yet you knew she must. Finally the new, large American flag dipped in the water. Shortly after this there was an expulsion of air from aft, and the stern commenced to settle. She righted, and her bow rose majestically, almost perpendicular, with about 200 feet of the hull sticking clear. . . . As she started down, there was a black cloud given forth, probably due to the rush of air through furnaces and smokestacks. When her bow disappeared there was a bubbling on the water, as if from a depth charge. A surprisingly small amount of debris and wreckage came to the surface.

The Covington had already been towed about 50 miles, a third of the distance we needed to make port, and I'd had every hope of getting her there, with the help of the perfect weather and the smooth sea. This was a real heartbreak!

My message to Admiral Bayly, simply informing him that I was proceeding to assist her, may sound presumptuous, but it would have been silly to request instructions. The Admiral himself always pointed out that the man on the spot had so much better information than the man at headquarters, it was impossible for HQ to give proper instructions. This is a lesson that has stood by me all through my naval career.

July 4th. All American ships and personnel in the Queenstown area received the following signal today from Admiral Bayly: "The Commander in Chief congratulates the United States officers and men on the day and wishes them all success."

Such courtesy was typical of him.

July 8th. About 1:50 P.M., when 5 miles SSE of Coningbeg Lightship, the Shaw struck a submerged object. Saw a disturbance on the water,  p35 running at right angle to our wake and being circled by sea gulls. Dropped a can and brought up oil. Dropped two more cans on oil spot and brought up more oil, also keg marked "S. S. Reserve, c/o N. S. O., Aberdeen." This keg was slung in Manila line which extended under water for about 20 fathoms and was in turn spliced into ¼‑inch wire line which was made fast to something on bottom. Lowered whaleboat and examined keg but could not hoist line into boat. Reported facts by radio to C‑in‑C, and two drifters with hydrophones and two trawlers were ordered out. About 9:00 P.M. secured box 8 by 2 feet and filled with cork to buoy as additional marker. While picking up whaleboat, the buoy got directly in rays of setting sun. Altho we repeatedly passed over the spot where buoy was, we never saw it again.

I thought that a radical zigzag of mine had surprised a submarine at periscope depth, and that we had hit her before she could complete her dive. As for the disappearing buoy, we figured that our depth charge had torn it loose from the sub's outer hull structure, and that her crew had later been able to retract it into some kind of watertight opening. I still don't know what really happened, but I know I came in for a lot of ragging from all hands. They dubbed me "the Duke of Aberdeen" and "the Count of Coningbeg." Somebody even whipped up a song:

Last night over by Aberdeen,

I saw a German submarine.

The funniest sight I ever seen

Was old Bill Halsey's submarine.

July 16th. At 10:00 last night went on the bridge. Came off at 9:30 this morning, a dead dog. Crossed convoy twice, discovered I had passed through a northbound convoy, and had lights and whistles on all sides of us all night. Fog lifted a bit at 5:00 A.M. and saw I was close to five of the ships, including the biggest and best, the Carpathia. Shut in again and did not finally lift till 9:30. By this time I was absolutely dead‑ho. Laid down on the transom and died until 3:00 P.M.

July 17th. On my arrival, heard of the sinking of the Carpathia, bumped off three hours after we left her. A shame, as she was a big fine ship, and being 15 knots or better, should never have been in a 9½‑knot convoy.

This was the same Carpathia that had rescued so many people when the Titanic sank.

 p36  August 5th. At noon went over to meet the members of the Naval Affairs Committee from the House of Representatives. Walked down the hill with one inquisitive soul who was much interested to know whether our men drank much, even poking his head into a bar.

God, he made me mad! A friend of his who, he said, was a paid employee of the Red Cross in London (passing out doughnuts and occasionally a kind word to the troops), had told him that drunken American bluejackets caused more trouble than any other armed force. I asked his friend's age; he was young enough for combat service, so I suggested that he might do better work in the trenches than by vilifying fighting men. When this Congressman rejoined me after inspecting the barroom, he asked if it always had as many bluejacket customers as then. I said, "You've got the advantage on me. I've never been in there."

August 19th. Returned to Queenstown and found my detachment orders. When I left, the officers pulled me ashore.

August 21st. Sailed for Liverpool on HMS Aquitania. My old ship, the Shaw, escorted us out.

The administration and operation of the American destroyers working out of Queenstown was so superb that it became a pattern for our Navy at outlying Pacific bases in World War II. When we put to sea, we had excellent intelligence reports, including the general positions of the U‑boats. The two American repair ships in Queenstown, the Dixie and the Melville, shared our maintenance. No matter at what hour we returned to port, an officer would come on board and request a list of necessary repairs, which he would generally O. K. The combined repair gangs were divided into three shifts of 8 hours a day, and they worked 7 days a week. This system had two conspicuous results: first, our destroyer crews were able to rest and recuperate from their five strenuous days at sea; second, our ships were kept in such excellent shape that they were always able to respond to a call.

The relations between the British and the Americans, from Admiral Bayly and Captain Pringle on down, were most cordial; we were not only comrades in arms, but close friends. Many years later, when Admiral Bayly presented the Naval Academy with a  p37 tablet in memory of his late Chief of Staff, he paid him the most glowing and most heartfelt tribute I have ever heard.

Editor's Note:

For his services as destroyer commander during World War I, Admiral Halsey was awarded a Navy Cross with the following citation:

"For distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U. S. S. Benham and the U. S. S. Shaw, engaged in the important, exacting, and hazardous duty of patrolling the waters infested with enemy submarines and mines, in escorting and protecting vitally important convoys of troops and supplies through these waters, and in offensive and defensive action, vigorously and unremittingly prosecuted against all forms of enemy naval activity."

His comment is, "There was a very wide distribution of the Navy Cross to commanding officers of naval vessels during World War I. It did not have the prestige that attaches to the award in World War II."

On my arrival in the United States, I took my wife and two children to Atlantic City for three weeks, then reported to Cramp's shipyard, in Philadelphia, for duty as a prospective commanding officer of the destroyer Yarnall, a 1,200‑tonner, 200 tons larger than the Shaw, and the last thing in destroyer design. The armistice was signed while we were waiting to commission her, but President Wilson announced soon afterwards that he was sailing for France, and it occurred to me that escorting his flagship would give us a short, interesting shakedown cruise. I requested the duty, and my request was granted. The cruise was interesting, but far from short. I was kept in Europe for six weary months.

We delivered the President at Brest on December 13. When he stepped ashore, with him went the Yarnall's prestige. She was now assigned to ignominious messenger service, chiefly between Brest and Plymouth — a run so rough that it was known as "the Seasick Circuit."

Our passengers often included nucleus American crews for German merchantmen which their own crews had surrendered and brought down to Cowes. The first time I ferried a nucleus crew, the tide called for a full-speed landing alongside the German. We made our approach, but when we threw our heaving lines on board, the Huns refused to take them. I had no time to tell them  p38 what I thought; I had to make a full-speed getaway to avoid being carried down on their ship; but as we drew out, I told my officers to fetch their pistols and hold them at the ready, and I posted four men who spoke German in a position where they could make themselves heard. On our second approach, we brandished out our pistols and yelled a warning that unless the lines were handled, we would shoot. The lines were handled briskly.

Next I had to take an Allied commission on an inspection tour of German air stations and submarine bases. Also aboard were a German officer, representing his government, and a German merchant pilot. We were polite to them, but we had no intercourse beyond official business. We did not even let them eat in the wardroom until we had finished our own meals. Our one mess attendant, a Negro named Hasty, had a devilish sense of humor. Somewhere he obtained a recording of "The Marseillaise," and as soon as the Germans started to eat, Hasty started playing his record and played it throughout their meal.

— Which reminds me of another piece of malicious mischief it gave me pleasure to countenance. Whenever I went on an inspection trip ashore I was accompanied — at his own request — by one of my chief petty officers, who spoke German. He knew the stiffness of the German officer caste and was well aware that his leggings and belt marked him as an enlisted man, so he took special delight, which I shared, in forcing these officers into familiar conversation. Such presumption fairly frosted their monocles, but there was nothing they could do to stop it.

One inspection trip, to Warnemünde, on the Baltic, showed me a sight I shall never forget. We were being escorted through a building where a number of German sailors were painting overhead. They watched us, the conquerors, pass below. And nothing happened.

If conditions were reversed, I thought to myself, and if those paint-brushes were in the hands of American bluejackets, some German officers would have to buy new uniforms!

In January we made a run to Portugal. The night we shoved off from Lisbon was black, with a long, rolling swell. While we were dropping down the Tagus River, we had to keep one of our bow anchors ready for letting go, but as soon as we cleared the mouth, I  p39 ordered it secured. The working party consisted of four men: three bluejackets and Lt. Lewis G. Smith, a Reserve from Philadelphia, who was beloved by us all. Just as they reached the fo'c'sle, the Yarnall dipped her nose into an exceptionally heavy sea, and three of the men, including Smith, were swept overboard. The fourth was saved because the thick sole of his boot jammed between a fire-main riser and the hatch beside it. When we reached him, every rag of his clothing had been peeled off by the sea, and the sole of the jammed boot was hanging by a thread.

We circled the area but never found a trace of the other men. Such a mass of water had struck us that the steel door in the forward bulkhead was badly bent, so it is probable that they were either stunned or killed outright. These were the first and only accidental deaths that ever occurred on a ship under my command.

I had some leave coming when I got back to Brest, so I decided to make a trip to Paris with Halsey Powell, commanding the destroyer Tarbell. The trip would be strictly instructive, we agreed; we even drew up a rigid itinerary of historic spots. Our first port of call was the famous Panthéon de la Guerre. We went in and were minding our own business when we heard, "Stand by to repel boarders!" and there we saw a couple of Marine friends who shall be nameless. (Both are generals now.) That ended the instruction.

Somewhere in the case of the next few days, a lieutenant joined the party. I remember him chiefly because of a protest he filed with one of the Marines. "Look here," he said. "These two commanders we've got with us — I notice you call one of them 'Bill' and the other one 'Halsey,' and the next minute you call the first one 'Halsey' and the second one 'Powell.' Are you crazy, or am I drunk?"

At the end of a week, Halsey and I had to borrow the train fare back to Brest. An American chaplain in our compartment joined in the conversation. Somehow we fell to discussing a report that people at home were criticizing the armed forces for swearing too much. The chaplain had put in a good deal of time in the front lines. His comment was, "The trouble with those goddam fools, they don't know what swearing is!"

I thought of that statement twenty‑odd years later, when I was told about another fighting chaplain. A Marine was escorting him through the New Georgia jungle when they came on a wounded  p40 Japanese. The Marine drew a quick bead, then looked to the chaplain for permission. At the beginning of the Solomons campaign, we had scrupulously respected the enemy wounded, and we continued to do so until too many of our men, leaning over to give them succor, were killed by knives and grenades. Then our attitude changed. This chaplain knew his business. He ordered, "Shoot the bastard!" and even as the shot was fired, he added, "May his soul go to God!"

The spring of 1919 brought us some excitement. On May 16, three Navy seaplanes took off from Trepassey, Newfoundland, in an attempt to fly to England by way of the Azores and Lisbon.​b The pilots were all friends of mine — Comdr. John H. Towers; Lt. Comdr. Patrick N. L. Bellinger, whose second in command was Lt. Comdr. Marc A. Mitscher; and Lt. Comdr. Albert C. Read. Pat's plane and Jack's were forced down on the first leg; Pat was picked up by a merchantman, and Jack managed to taxi into the Azores. But "Putty" Read flew the whole way — the first plane to cross the Atlantic from west to east. When he left Lisbon, on the thirty-first, the Yarnall was stationed along his route to watch for him. I remember how proud we were to see his NC‑4 buzz overhead, and how his radioman kept calling us in a code we didn't have, and how peeved he was when we didn't answer.

The peace conference ended in June. President Wilson embarked on the George Washington again, and again we were part of his destroyer escort. I had a few days' leave with my family, then took the Yarnall to Hampton Roads to join the new Pacific Fleet which was being formed under Admiral Hugh Rodman. Just before we sailed for the Panama Canal, I was given additional duty as a divisional commander (there were then six destroyers in a division), and I continued as one until I was detached from destroyers two years later.

Thayer's Notes:

a Sic. Correctly, HMS Kestrel.

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b The story of the flight is told in detail by A. D. Turnbull & C. L. Lord, Chapter 15, "The Navy Flies the Atlantic".

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Page updated: 27 Jun 17