Read an Excerpt
Knock Off Ship's WorkUSS HOQUIAM PF-5
By Mark Douglas
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Mark Douglas
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAPRIL 1951
1545, April 8, 1951 USS Hoquiam PF-5 SRF, Yokosuka, Japan
The 1MC speaker clicked and scratched. A Bosun's pipe shrilled.
"Set the Special Sea and Anchor Detail. All hands not actually on watch, Quarters for getting underway. Uniform of the day for enlisted men is undress blue baker with peacoat and raincoat. The smoking lamp is out throughout the ship." The 1MC clicked off.
Stewart hid his face, sucked in his cheeks, and grinned as the other guys in the Radio Shack pissed and moaned about having to go to Fair Weather Quarters in this weather. Lee was on watch copying fox and wouldn't freeze his ass off as they got underway.
I'll keep my thoughts to myself, otherwise I just might find myself going to to Quarters for getting underway. (He he he he.)
1725, April 8, 1951 USS Hoquiam PF-5 Underway Yokosuka to Songjin, North Korea
A static hiss issued from the 1MC speaker over Stewart's head. The Boatswain's Mate of the watch drew a deep breath, piped Attention, and announced,
"Secure from Special Sea and Anchor Detail. On deck, Section Two, relieve the watch. Shift to the underway uniform of the day—dungarees for enlisted men; open necked khaki shirt and trousers for chiefs and officers. The smoking lamp is lit throughout the ship." The speaker clicked off.
Stewart was still on fox. Masters manned the CW circuit and Roney had the unclassified message board. They, the duty crew, watched and waited with baited breath as the rest of the gang slammed through the office door to tell them how cold they were.
Muttering, they left, quietly walking through Officers' Country, dropping down the ladder to the Mess Deck and walked forward and down another ladder to their compartment on the Second Deck to change into dungarees.
Stewart braced his legs and raised his knees up under the desk as the ship began rolling in Sugami Nada before the open sea. His typewriter keys continued to clack as he copied each character from the Guam fox broadcast.
Well, we're on our way again.
Stewart glanced under the chair to make sure all four feet were in their anchor sockets. He settled back in his chair to the humdrum detail of copying the CW (Morse code) George Fox broadcast. (CW means Continuous Wave.
Turning a transmitter on and off rapidly forms the dots and dashes that make letters, numbers, and punctuation marks as devised by Samuel Morse. Radiomen referred to Morse code dots and dashes as Morse code, code, or CW.)
For Stewart, code was automatic now: the CW code stream seemed to flow directly from his earphones to his fingers, which mechanically pressed the correct keys or moved the carriage back with the carriage return lever on the typewriter. He stared ahead without seeing what he typed as he worked. Sometimes, Stewart looked down at the page to see what he had just copied.
When he finally crashed in his bunk for a few hours, Stewart continued to copy code in his sleep—it was always with him.
The metal earphones were adjusted tightly to his head to better hear the code, numbing both ears after a while. Separating the one CW signal he was concentrating on from several other CW signals always present was like pulling a single musical instrument from a symphony orchestra—or maybe a jazz band. That built up pressure in his temples causing headaches. When that happened, he would pop two or three APC (strong aspirin humorously known as Radioman candy) into his mouth.
Even so, Lee could completely disengage his mind from the code, as he did now, remembering last night with Kiki. Her soft, warm body snuggled up next to him and wiggled around to see how sleepy he was. He wasn't.
Later, Kiki watched him put his uniform back on. When he leaned over to kiss her goodnight, she got up and hugged him.
"Oh Lee San, I am going to miss you," she cried. He looked at her puzzled. "Are you going back to see your Mother again?" Lee asked.
She shook her head. "Your ship is leaving tomorrow for Korea." Tucking her face into his neck, she said, "you will be up there for a month, maybe more."
Exasperated, Lee asked "What else do you know? Are we coming back here or going to Sasebo? Tell me, Kiki." She shook her head, gave him a final hug and kiss before dropping back down in her bed.
Kiki knew more, but she was still angry at the questioning she had undergone by the Japanese police and observed by the U.S. Naval Intelligence personnel, about how she knew the Hoquiam would be coming into Sasebo. No one was supposed to know secret military ship movements. No one had told that to the girls in Yokosuka, Sasebo and Kobe. They always seemed to know what was going on. Kiki wouldn't answer any more of his questions about that subject.
The next day began with a windless, steady, cold rain that turned to thick snowflakes before noon—and no word or sign of leaving for Korea. Stewart wondered if this was her idea of a joke, then realized that she would not do that. Not only that, she told him about it last night after they wildly, passionately made love, when he was ready to leave for the Hoquiam. Stewart had laughed it off on the way back to the ship.
"Ding ding—Hoquiam arriving."
The Captain is back earlier than I expected.
Stewart glanced at the clock and closed the filing drawer in the four-drawer cabinet. Picking up the unclassified message board, he opened the door and waited for the Captain to pass. He fell in behind the Captain in march step up the passageway to the Captain's state room.
"Make it fast, Stewart. I have Officer's Call in five minutes. We're getting underway at 1600."
Stewart stared in surprise. Recovering, he thrust the board at the Captain and stuttered.
"C-c-c-c-captain, Kiki told me last night we were leaving today but I didn't believe her."
Captain Brown's head snapped up from the message board and glared at Stewart. "She did what,?" he grated with his head thrust forward at Stewart.
Stewart flinched and moved back a step from the Captain's anger.
Don't kill the messenger, Captain!
"Yessir, she told me we were pulling out today. Sorry, Captain, just telling you what I heard, sir." Stewart said, apprehensively. Captain Brown was furious and threw his bridge coat on his bunk before snatching the message board from Stewart. The Captain scribbled his initials on all his messages and practically threw the message board back to Stewart. No doubt about it, the Captain was pissed.
Stewart came back to earth suddenly aware his chair was bouncing around more than usual. The ship was picking up speed, and as a consequence, sea motion was more pronounced. His receiver began to drift and he reached up to adjust his receiver.
Wonder what the fuck this is all about?
The 1MC clicked open—with the wind distorting the Bosun's Mate's pipe and voice. The ubiquitous Bos'un's Pipe soundedAttention. "Officers'Call—Officers'Call in the Wardroom in five minutes."
Again? Just had one right after the Captain came back.
1820, April 8, 1951 USS Hoquiam PF-5 Underway for Songjin, North Korea
Lieutenant Marston, the Executive Officer, sat in his chair holding his coffee cup against all the bouncing around, waiting. All but the Captain, the Officer of the Deck and the Engineering Watch Officer, arrived.
"Gentlemen, the Captain has asked me to bring you up to date on some intelligence that may affect our operations. First, the Peoples Republic of China has been building up troops and supplies along their coast opposite Taiwan. There are hundreds, literally hundreds of sampans and other small boats moored in every harbor.
"The Joint Chiefs of Staff believes those are meant to carry troops across the Formosa Straits to Taiwan. The Chinese Communist regime thinks we are so busy with Korea we won't protect Chiang Kai Shek and the Nationalist Chinese." He took a drag on his Chesterfield, blew it out slowly, and flicked the ash into his steel ashtray.
He leaned forward. "Second, the Navy has to show the Chinks they have made a miscalculation. With that in mind, JCS ordered Task Force 77 (TF 77) to move South. They are on a course that will lead them through the Korea Straits Western Channel right now, heading for the China Sea.
"Washington believes that showing the Flag will be enough to discourage Peking and their new leader, Mao Tse Dung." He sipped some coffee and looked at the faces around the table. The new, young officers looked a little nervous.
He continued. "On the other hand, Washington also pointsoutthiscouldbeafeinttodrawTaskForce77away from making air strikes on North Korea. That scenario gives the Chinks an opportunity to move desperately needed supplies and troops down to their lines.
Mr. Marston looked around the Wardroom table at his officers. "Admiral Smith, Commander, Task Force 95, agrees with United Nations Command, or UNC (he pronounced it "unc", as in uncle), in thinking this is the case. Therefore, Task Force 95 is going to concentrate efforts along the Northeast coast watching for troop and supply movements on their roads and rails."
He paused to take another sip and continued to look at the assembled officers. "New orders from CTF 95 just came in. Hoquiam is to make best possible speed to Songjin. So, instead of conserving fuel and steaming at our efficient 12.7 knots, the Captain has cranked it up to 18.2 knots. The Engineers will be watching the engines very closely and back off if any bearings heat up.
"We are to provide anti-submarine patrols for the destroyers and cruisers while they bombard Targets of Opportunity, harassment and interdiction fire, and respond to Fire Missions." Lt. Marston's emphasis on 'they' sounded like a petulant child complaining that those ships have all the fun.
"The Captain is going to ask to be treated like a destroyer and be assigned in regular rotation except for Task Force 77 Screen." Several chuckles and laughs erupted along both sides of the table, puzzling the two new officers who reported aboard for duty this morning.
THIS IS A F R S TOKYO WITH A BULLETIN DATELINED APRIL TENTH, UNITED NATIONS COMMAND TOKYO. MACARTHUR HAS BEEN RELIEVED. REPEATING, GENERAL DOUGLAS ARTHUR MACARTHUR HAS BEEN RELIEVED. FURTHER REPORTS AS THEY BECOME AVAILABLE. WE NOW RETURN TO THE PROGRAM IN PROGRESS.
There was stunned silence in the Wardroom.
"What the hell for?"
"It's about time someone saw that sonofabitch for what he is! He shuda' been hung by the balls for the Philippines, just like General Short and Admiral Kimmel for Pearl Harbor."
"Who's going to run the show now?"
Feelings were mixed about the general who said everyone would be home for Christmas—last Christmas. Officers and men alike remained unsettled, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
THIS IS A F R S TOKYO WITH THE SIX O'CLOCK NEWS APRIL TENTH NINETEEN FIFTY-ONE, AIRMAN MIKE DILL REPORTING. IN THE MOST RIVETING STORY TO COME OUT OF TOKYO SINCE THE JAPANESE SURRENDER, PRESIDENT HARRY S. TRUMAN HAS RELIEVED GENERAL OF THE ARMY DOUGLAS ARTHUR MACARTHUR. LIEUTENANT GENERAL MATTHEW B. RIDGEWAY, WHO REPLACED MAJOR GENERAL EDWIN H. WALKER A FEW MONTHS AGO, HAS BEEN NAMED AS MACARTHUR'S RELIEF. LIEUTENANT GENERAL WILLOUGHBY, MACARTHUR'S STAFF INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, SAID THERE WAS NO COMMENT AT THIS TIME. GENERAL RIDGEWAY'S STAFF REPORTED ONLY THAT THE GENERAL WAS STUNNED BY THE ANNOUNCEMENT AND HAD NO COMMENT AT THIS TIME.
Commander Brown lowered his binoculars and beckoned to Chief Swenson, who moved rapidly to his side.
"Yes, Captain?" he asked.
"You can send that message now, Chief."
"Aye aye, Captain," he said as he saluted, which was returned.
The Chief ducked into the Signalmen's Shelter and pulled his message clipboard out.
"Barney, front and center," he called, beckoning to Barney.
"Send this message to the St. Paul, Barney," he growled while shoving the board at him.
"Got it, Chief," he responded as he scanned the message.
Barney stepped to the Port light and in one motion, snapped the power on, swung the light out, and aimed in the direction of the Heavy Cruiser with her nine eight-inch guns. Barney began sending '3'—for CA-73—rapidly. The signal light lever springs squeaked quietly and rapidly. Before he had sent three 3's, the St. Paul Signal Bridge answered. Barney sent the message.
P APRIL 11, 1951 FM PF-5 TO CTF-95 CA-73 BT REPORTING FORDU X REQPER COME ALONGSIDE TO DELIVER PASSENGERS AND MAIL X REQPER VISIT CTF-95 BT
(Hoquiam reporting for duty. Request permission to come alongside to deliver passengers and mail. Request permission to visit Admiral Smith, CTF 95.)
After the St. Paul rogered for the message, Barney and the Chief waited for the reply.
"They callin', Chief."
"Get 'em, Barney."
R APRIL 11, 1951 FM CTF 95 TO PF-5 BT PERMISSION GRANTED X MY PORT QUARTER X DINNER IN FLAG OFFICERS MESS AT 1800 BT
1930, 11 April 1951 USS Hoquiam PF-5 Alongside U.S.S. St. Paul Off Yo Do, Wonsan, North Korea
The 1MC opened and the bell sounded.
The Captain stopped at the Quarterdeck and spoke with the Officer of the Deck, then proceeded to his stateroom.
The 1MC opened again—Officers 'Call—Officers' Call in the Wardroom.
The Boatswain's Mate of the Watch aligned the 1MC switches so that only the weather deck speakers were active. His Bos'un's pipe shrilled "Attention".
"All Hoquiam personnel on the Saint Paul—recall recall—return to the Hoquiam on the double."
On the Saint Paul, the Officer of the Deck heard the Recall and notified the Bugler of the Watch to play that message on their 1MC.
The Bugler played 'Attention' on their 1MC, and then the Boatswain's Mate of the Watch addressed the 1MC: "Now hear this. All Hoquiam personnel Recall Recall. Return to your ship on the double. All Hoquiam personnel Recall Recall. Return to your ship on the double."
The Captain strolled into the Wardroom with a satisfied smile on his face, removing his plastic-covered Scrambled Eggs hat as he did. He did not bother to remove his wet foul weather jacket. Nor did he sit down. He was moving to the Bridge in a moment. The other officers moved restlessly as they waited for the other shoe to drop. Something unusual was about to happen.
Commander Brown pulled his cigarettes and lighter from his jacket and lit up, taking a drag before he began to speak. "Gentlemen, this won't take long," he said with a grin. "We are now classified as", he held his fingers up crooking them to mimic quotation marks, "similar to a destroyer and will be given tasks similar to DD's and DE's, except Task Force 77 because of the speed differential.
"As soon as all stores, mail, and personnel are transferred between us, we depart on Northern Patrol. We go all the way to Sosura, just south of the Temon River mouth, to seek out and destroy enemy shipping—that is, any vessel carrying troops, munitions, or supplies." He unzipped his foul weather jacket and continued.
"The basic rule of engagement is attempt to board and search. If the vessel turns and runs, or shoots at us, shoot. For you new officers, the Temon River is the international border between North Korea and Manchuria. Questions?"
The Captain paused, looking at each of the officers.
"Okay, go count noses," he said and left for the Bridge.
Lt. Marston picked up the handset from its bulkhead clip and punched a buzzer.
"Quarterdeck, Boatswain's Mate of the Watch Barnes speaking, sir."
"Barnes, Quarters for Muster at Foul Weather Parade," he ordered. He did not wait for a response and fastened the handset in its holder.
The 1MC cracked open with its usual background hiss.
"Quarters Quarters for Muster at Foul Weather Parade Quarters for Muster."
C Division stood waiting in a single line backed up against the bulkhead outside the Radio Shack. They didn't wait long. Mr. Forsythe came out of the Wardroom and approached his division.
James saluted, returned by Lieutenant (jg) Forsythe. "All present or accounted for, Mr. Forsythe," and backed against the bulkhead facing Mr. Forsythe.
Mr. Forsythe cleared his throat. "Men, as soon as everybody is back aboard, we leave on patrol to seek out and destroy Chinks and Gooks in the sea lanes. It's very wet, foggy, and cold all the way up to the Manchurian international border." Stewart sucked in his breath with that. The rest of the Gang moved around a bit at that.
Manchuria? Them fucking Ruskies ain't gonna like that.
"Every time we see a ship we can't identify with IFF, we go to GQ. The U.N. has expanded the Naval Blockade to include the whole coast of Korea from the Bombline South of Wonsan, North to the Manchurian border. Any questions?" His eyes flicked left and right as he looked for a response with raised eyebrows.
Excerpted from Knock Off Ship's Work by Mark Douglas Copyright © 2012 by Mark Douglas. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.