Friday, February 26, 2016

Lew Barton Reminiscences About War, Naval Ship, 1948

From the Feb. 23, 1949 issue of The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C.

Almost everybody knows that the big 60-inch carbon-arc searchlights aboard ship are used for signaling, for spotting hostile aircraft, for furnishing light for rescue work, for furnishing the E-Division men something to keep them busy polishing and for blinding the you-know-what out of some superior petty officer you don’t like; but few know that they are used principally as a cupboard (if you have a swebble like Lenihan aboard).

Lenihan always belly-ached about everything he ever had to do aboard ship except one thing, and that was load supplies. He was the most enthusiastic loader at bacon, ham, steaks, mayonnaise, corned beef, etc., you ever saw; but any item not in the food line Lenny always steered as clear of as it had been leprosy.

He had an unholy fear of starvation and every third armload went into our private storehouses where Mother Nature, with her North Atlantic iciness, very kindly kept the food preserved. We ate like kings until it was gone and then the ingenuous mind of Lenihan resorted to other measures.

I always found an excuse to make myself scarce around the piles of food supplies as I was always extremely unlucky in such matters and this always made Lenny swear to eat every morsel alone but he always gave in after snubbing me for a couple of days. My only price of admission was patience and tolerance when the inevitable burst of profanity and scorn was heaped up in good measure upon my head.

And though I always willing and uncomplainingly ate my share I was no more willing to assume any responsibility the day Warrant officer Clark found something wrong with searchlight No. 2 than I had been during the loading.

“Barton, L.R., Electrician’s Mate third class, lay up to searchlight number two on the double” boomed the P.A. system. With quaking knees I complied.

“Something wrong here,” said Mr. Clark. “Break out your tools and take it apart so we’ll find out the trouble.”

I was aghast. I glanced up to see if he intended to watch while I disclosed the whereabouts of our food cache. He was waiting with impatience for me to proceed. I saw he had no intention of leaving.

I fumbled at the screws, my hands shook. I told him there was no use to tire himself out watching; I’d have it fixed in a jiffy. He said thanks for my concern for him but he’d wait. I told him a fellow had seen a shark a few minutes ago from the fantail, didn’t he want to go see the monster? He said no. I was a d---liar, sharks could not live in this cold stretch of water and what the h--- had my hands shaking so? I said I didn’t know but Lenny had a screw driver that would just fit these screws, to let me go and call him. He said the screwdriver I had would work if I would turn it around.

At that moment chow call sounded and I almost fell on my face in thanksgiving as Mr. Clark left. I fairly tore the back off expecting to see a strip of bacon tangled in the intricate clocklike mechanism. But to my surprise it was empty.

And to this day no one knows what happened to the chow; however Lenny swears that Mr. Clark’s mouth was greasy when he went to his stateroom the following day even though it was hours from mealtime. Lenny said if there was ever anything on this earth he hated it was a low-down, shiveling, sneaking thief, and of course, I had to agree.

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