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A Glimpse into Ship's Life

Frank H. Stephen
March, 2006

When I was aboard ship we led a strange life. We worked taking diesel engines apart out on the boats, we carefully brought the parts to our shop where we further disassembled them. We then measured the parts, recorded the readings and then cleaned them and reassembled them to be in as new a condition as was possible, then returned them to the boat where we put the engine back together. We then operated the engine trying to make them as new as possible knowing that if the engines didn't work as expected seventy men might die. We were all specialists and we did our best to justify the faith the Navy had in us

I was also the movie operater. When we could we had movies outside on deck. At night after supper I would play recordings of popular jazz numbers on the phonographs in my collection. They were all hot numbers and the men would do the Lindy with each other. It was very entertaining to those who could watch them. At Eight o clock Movie Call would be sounded and I would start the movie.

After the movie was over I would secure my equipment and check in with the Officer of the deck to find out on which submarine I should go to work on. I maintained the cryptographic equipment on all of our submarines and because it was highly classified, I would work on the equipment without others knowing what I was doing and why. I would go into this small closet and lock the door, do what had to be done and then leave. The point of my tale, is that I was always busy and seldom was able to just hang out with the men. That is my excuse for knowing very few of the engineers I worked with. I had a small shop that opened on the main deck in which I kept all of my personal clothes and my bunk was over my work bench so I led a solitary life. I regret to say that I had very little contact with other members of the crew. All of the crew members that I knew from schools and working with in the shops have now deceased. The good die young.

Here is a another tidbit that might be more interesting.

On Saturday morning when possible we would have Captains Inspection! Everything was scrubbed and polished and those persons responsible for the equipment like boats jeeps or compartments, would take a position near the item and stand at attention until the inspecting officer would tell him to stand at ease but be ready to answer any and all questions concerning the apparatus.

I would open the door to my small shop which was close to the forty foot motor launch forward on the starboard side of the main deck by the ladder going up to the upper deck but I kept the inner door which was of steel screening closed and padlocked.

This Saturday Admiral Charles Lockwood was the inspecting officer and he proceeded the inspection party. As he came by me I saluted him and said "Good morning Admiral Lockwood", he said good morning Mr. Stephan. Then an Officer next in line spoke out,"Open this screen door sailor!" A metal sign was fastened above the door to my shop. "What does that sign say"?", Admiral Lockwood spoke up. "Only authorized persons may enter" said the Lieutenant. The Admiral spoke again, "I know I am not authorized and I am wondering when you were authorized." The inspection party proceeded quietly up the stairs to the next deck. Nobody ever asked me to open the door again.

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