Slow Dance to Pearl Harbor: A Tin Can Ensign in Prewar America

Slow Dance to Pearl Harbor: A Tin Can Ensign in Prewar America

by William J. Ruhe
Ruhe creates a unique social history of America while recounting his days as an ensign on a destroyer before WWII. Join him and his crew as they humorously battle their tyrannical skipper and travel to exotic lands, while preparing for the tough reality of war.


Ruhe creates a unique social history of America while recounting his days as an ensign on a destroyer before WWII. Join him and his crew as they humorously battle their tyrannical skipper and travel to exotic lands, while preparing for the tough reality of war.

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Potomac Books, Inc.
Publication date:
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6.35(w) x 9.52(h) x 0.89(d)

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Chapter One

Welcome Aboard

A year after graduation from the Naval Academy,was ordered to the destroyer Roe (DD-4 18). LieutenantCommander Speed Rogers, the first lieutenant of the cruiserTrenton from which I was being detached, remarked to me,"You're lucky to be assigned to a tin can, because you'vealready lost a year in the Navy through your playing around inEurope." Lucky? Well, perhaps, since a tin can was generallythought to be the best place to learn how to be a top-gradesurface ship operator. What Speed Rogers had considered tobe playing around I felt was creating good will among thepeople of Europe. At least that was the advertised purpose ofEuropean Squadron 40 T, of which the USS Trenton was theflagship.

After detachment from the Trenton in late August 1940, Itook seven days of "proceed time." Thus, I arrived late in theevening of 30 August at the destroyer Roe, which was tied upin the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It was the start of the Labor Dayweekend, so there was just a skeleton crew on the Roe andonly a duty officer to provide the traditional, "Welcomeaboard."

Lieutenant (junior grade) Burris D. ("B.D.") Wood, the dutyofficer, was called topside to meet me as I marched up thegangway carrying a single suitcase and my guitar. The cruisebox that I'd left in my fifty-dollar Chevrolet car was hauledaboard by two enlisted men whom B.D. ordered to "bring it tothe quarterdeck, for Ensign Ruhe." After studying my ordersto the Roe, B.D. had me "logged inn by the quartermaster ofthe watch. I was alarmed that B.D. kept shaking his headfrom side to side as he studied me closely. "You've come to atough ship, Mr. Ruhe," he gloomilyventured.

"It's `Bill,"' I corrected.

"Okay, Bill. You might as well know from the start that thisisn't the happiest of tin cans. Captain Scruggs likes to describeit as a `taut' ship." I'd been in the Navy long enough to learnthat those commanding officers who ran taut ships were consideredto be "sundowners"—strict disciplinarians with a meanstreak. In the very old navy, a "sundowner" was one who sadisticallyhad all of his crew return to their ship by sundown sothey would have to spend the night aboard. Was CaptainScruggs actually a sundowner? Or was B.D. exaggerating?

"The skipper is a rough taskmaster," B.D. continued, "He'sa stickler for details and a bit erratic. Part of the time he's thenicest, most congenial senior officer you'll ever know. Thenhe's stamping all over you for some piddling thing. He thinkshe's either trying to get your attention or he's trying to makeyou a better naval officer." B.D. paused to let this sink in. Thenhe continued, "Stay rigged in for awhile—that means saying,`Yes, sir' to everything. And don't let him see you wasting timewhile you're on this ship. He keeps quoting, `life is real andlife is earnest,' which means, `act serious and dedicated toyour job,'—at least while he's watching you."

"Job?" I asked.

"You're going to relieve Ozzie Wiseman out of `38 NavalAcademy as communications officer. So get together with himas soon as he comes back to the ship. Ozzie is leaving for flightschool at Pensacola soon, and is eager as hell to get off thisship as fast as possible. Ozzie is no fun to work with. But stickclose to him and learn all about how to stay out of theCaptain's hair, while carrying out your communication duties.Unfortunately, the Captain is more bugged by communicationsproblems than by anything else. So you've got a tough row tohoe ahead."

"How does Ozzie get along with the skipper?" I innocentlyasked.

B.D.'s frowning response was not optimistic: "CaptainScruggs thinks that Ozzie is the best officer aboard because hekeeps claiming that he's spending hundreds of hours keepinghis publications corrected, while working hard to train hismen. And he is. But he's as slow as molasses in whatever hedoes. So he's working at his job without letup and actingnever caught up. When the skipper is watching, Ozzie puts ona great act of being exhausted from overwork. He'll be a toughact for you to follow. And you don't look like the type who'll beoverwhelmed by a communications job."B.D. was right on. I wasn't going to lose my liberty time justto impress the Old Man. There'd be no act of keeping my noseto a grindstone when work was finished. I believed in enjoyingactivities ashore. Perhaps things might change, however, whileI was on the Roe.

"Am I now `George' on this ship?" I asked. As the lowest-rankedofficer on the ship I'd be handed a host of menial, no-accountjobs. And this would really complicate a swift reductionof my workload—which I was counting on, so I couldpursue my many interests on the beach.

"Well, perhaps your classmate, Blatz Helm, who's aboard, islower than you in class standing."

Remembering that Blatz claimed to be the anchorman (thegraduate with the lowest academic standing) in the NavalAcademy's class of `39, I strongly—and with great relief—stated,"He is. He's several hundred numbers below me, so hecontinues to be `George.' Right?"

B.D. chuckled and pleasantly nodded. His round, boyish,open face made me feel that he would be a good shipmate andally on this "taut" ship. Then I noted a look of concern onB.D.'s face when I glanced around the topside. "The Roe's inrefit right now," he explained, "and doesn't look shipshape. It'smy job as first lieutenant to get her cleaned up. In fact, we'llall be working hard as hell to avoid the Captain's wrath forhaving a dirty ship. His threats can't be taken lightly becausehe doesn't mind giving unsatisfactory fitness reports. Or evenrestricting us for almost anything he doesn't like."

At this point, B.D. remembered that there was mail for meon his desk. He sent a messenger, who returned with three letters,one of which was an airmail letter from Holland. Theaddress on it in Lucrece's stylish handwriting made my heartbeat faster and I felt a little light-headed. It was the first letterfrom my girl in Holland since the Lowlands were invaded bythe Germans on 10 May 1940. I wanted to tear it open thenand there. But with B.D. watching, I resisted the great urge tofind out what had happened to my Lucrece. So I crammed itinto my pocket until I was alone. Then, I could properly savorthe contents of this agonizingly delayed letter. It should showwhether our love affair was still strong or whether it had beenwiped out by the Nazi invasion of Lucrece's harmless country.

Thus, as soon as B.D. left me alone for a moment, I rippedopen the envelope and read the first few lines to be sure thatLucrece was still healthy and uninjured. She was. And I notedthat under the date of the letter, 28 July 1940, she'd penned,"your birthday." Since something good always seemed to happenon my birthday, I expected that her written words wouldbe favorable:

My darling Bill,

The German invasion was a nightmare. But the occupation

troops have strict orders not to harm Dutch women. So, I've

been able to carry out my Red Cross duties without fear of

being molested. Unfortunately, young, handsome German soldiers

are always by my side trying to help me in my work with

the injured. I hate them when they're so close to me. They are

trying to gain my favor and my affections. . . ."

I read no further and put the letter back in my pocket. It wasevident that my Lucrece was not a victim of the war. Nor didshe seem too unhappy about the German occupation of theNetherlands. Moreover, she was apparently resigned to herfate, as well she might be, since the Dutch had lost all hope ofbeing liberated quickly after the evacuation of Allied troopsfrom Dunkirk in late May.

Later, after I pleaded a need for sleep, B.D. assigned me toan officer's stateroom. Again alone, I continued to read theletter from Lucrece:

When the air raid sirens began howling about nine in the

morning, everyone rushed around wondering what was going

to happen. Was Rotterdam going to be bombed? And why

would the Germans want to bomb our poor old port city—an

"open city"? I quickly put on my Auxiliary Red Cross outfit and

rushed into the Oostplein to see where help might be needed.

But then the sky was filled with parachutes near the airfields

and many German soldiers came floating down. Most of our

people were in the air raid shelters expecting bombs to drop—not

heavily armed enemy soldiers. A few of our young men

were at the airfields and had old rifles, shotguns, and pistols to

kill the descending paratroopers. But the Germans shot the

men who were in the open. The enemy's fast-firing weapons

were too much for our brave Dutch boys. So not too many of

the Nazis were killed before they landed. Soon there were so

many Germans on the ground that our armed men had to flee

for safety. But they were killed under the bridges or pulled

from homes and shot. The Germans paid no attention to me

because I was wearing my Red Cross uniform and was a

woman. The fighting was all over so rapidly that I felt terribly

ashamed because we Dutch were so badly prepared for this

unexpected kind of invasion and could be conquered so easily.

Later I heard that the Germans had expected to have 65 percent

casualties on their first drop of paratroopers at

Rotterdam. But it was laughable at how few Germans were

either injured or killed. Soon after, the Germans bombed

Rotterdam, killing fifty thousand citizens. It appears that the

Germans enjoyed the same quick takeover of all the large cities

of Holland while suffering few casualties of their paratroops.

When I rushed to provide first aid to a wounded Dutch soldier

there was always a young German soldier beside me, acting

protective. Their attitude, that they were the very considerate

conquerors who you'll come to appreciate and soon

cooperate fully with, was unbearable to me. I've never liked

Germans and these Nazis are the worst. Their occupation of

Holland will be a dreadful thing. Already they've rounded up

all the Jews and have shipped them to Germany to work in the

munitions industries.

Perhaps I should leave the above out of this letter if there is

any hope for its reaching you. Still, an International Red Cross

worker here feels that she can smuggle this letter out of the

country without it being seen by any Germans.

My love, we might have to wait until this war is over to get

married. But I'll keep loving you devotedly every moment that

we are separated.

Your Lucrece

That night, after finishing Lucrece's letter, I lay awake for severalhours remembering and reliving the very few days we hadspent together in July 1939. That's all we had to build on, butit had produced a love that robbed me of my sleep on manynights. Lucrece had become a main part of my future.

I recalled spending the early afternoon of my previousbirthday with most of the Trenton's officers touring the docksof Rotterdam in the burgomaster's boat. It was very boringstuff, but considered necessary to emphasize our "good will"toward Holland. Then, at the Town Hall, the burgomastergave a tiresome, long-winded welcoming speech, which wasfollowed by an equally flowery, dull speech, by AdmiralCharley Courtney, who was the head of European Squadron40 T. His command consisted of a single cruiser and twodestroyers and was a simple force to carry out a modest task.His speech, both wordy and almost meaningless, had to besuffered through.

I was falling asleep at the back of the crowd of forced attendeeswhen there was a slight stir at the rear of the hall. Aglance over my shoulder showed the most beautiful girl in allof Holland. She was cautiously entering so as not to disturbthe distinguished admiral's speech. How did I recognize heras the most beautiful girl in her country? It was easy.

The Trenton had arrived in Rotterdam on 22 July 1939, andfor the next four days Maxie Berns and I had ridden our bicyclesaround the city of Rotterdam looking for attractive girls.Finding none, we had put our bikes on a train to Amsterdamthe next day. Once there, we joined the thousands of pedalerswho thronged the city's wide streets. The bicycle traffic movedso fast that our inexperienced, weak-legged low speeds causedmany of the cyclers to yell, "Hurry up!" or "Get out of theway!"

The rapid flow of women and men on their simple, one-speedbikes—additional gears were unnecessary on the flatsurfaces of the Lowlands—caused me to focus only on thebare legs of the girls gliding by. Most appeared muscular anda bit heavy. However, when I spotted a slim leg pumping away,I'd speed up to examine her body and to get a good look at herface. But failing to concentrate on the traffic flow brought memore curses and bicycle bell-ringing, which I ignored as Istudied one after another pretty Amsterdam girl.

It was while I was zeroing in on a blonde with a shapelyleg, nice body, and pink cheeks, that I observed that otherDutch fellows were ogling the same girl. One particular malewho wanted to show his especial interest in the girl rang hisbicycle bell twice and the girl answered with two rings andtook off as though in a drag race. Evidently the two ringsmeant, "I like what I see and I'm going to catch you." Heranswering two rings meant, "Come ahead, but I'm not easy tocatch." It was a game of courtship being played out. The furiouslypedaling girl was acting coy and hard to get, while thefellow had to prove that he really wanted to make a conquest.After initially widening the gap between herself and the chasingboy, she eased up on her pedaling, as if she wanted to befriendly. This let her pursuer catch up and grab her bicycleseat. At this, the two would drop out of the traffic, move to thesidewalk, and mumble words of introduction. It was an easilyunderstood charade. I also noticed several other chases wherethe fellow never overtook the girl bicyclist by the time bothhad disappeared from view far out ahead of Maxie and me.

Understanding the game and recognizing that Amsterdamhad a considerable supply of good-looking girls, Maxie and Ipulled out of the moving traffic pattern and stopped on thesidewalk to discuss how two cyclists in poor shape could besuccessful in this girl-boy game. Maxie suggested: "Let's justpedal close to a likely prospect and let her look us over. Thenwe ring our bells twice. Since we're clean and decent-lookingAmerican guys, the girl might be persuaded to slow up aftershe's initially raced away at a great speed." This plan left outour first having to hear her two rings of assent—if she wantedto be chased.

Why not give this idea a try?

So, when back in the traffic, on spotting an exciting, clean-limbedgirl with flowing blond hair, I rang my bell twice. Atthis, the girl rang her bell twice and took off like a bat out ofhell. Shortly, she glanced back and a look of disgust spreadacross her face as she noted that I was not closing the gap. Infact, our separation was widening. Consequently, she sped offand got lost in a dense crowd of bicyclers. I made severalmore unsuccessful attempts to get acquainted with a beautifulcreature. But no luck. Maxie did no better. So we decided thatthe Amsterdam girls felt that the two of us were not worthslowing down for. Dejected, we put our bicycles back on atrain for Rotterdam and returned to the Trenton.

Thus, when this truly stunning young woman appeared inthe doorway at the back of the hall, I moved swiftly towardher to preempt her attention. Her loveliness was like a rareand beautiful landscape. The looks of awe and the gaping jawsof other officers who had turned at the interrupting noisemade me realize that she was worth risking the fury of theadmiral by furtively shuffling across the parquet hardwoodfloor of the hall. Even so, the immediate pause in the admiral'sspeech, when he heard my footsteps, struck my back likea well-directed arrow.

But when the swarthy-tanned girl, who had sparkling dark-browneyes and wavy bronze sun-bleached hair, smiled warmlyat me, my impulsiveness seemed justified. It was love at firstsight! Compared to the blond, blue-eyed, plain beauties bicyclingaround Amsterdam, this new arrival resembled a moviestarlet who could charm males everywhere.

Soon, I was to learn that she actually was starring in Dutchfilms. She revealed this as we walked back to the Trenton fordinner. Also, that her name was Lucrece Dolee. She pronouncedit "Lew-cress Dolay" in such a melodious way that Ifelt she must be very good in musicals. Her last name, "Dolee,"didn't seem to fit her volatile, yet fluid gestures. She resembleda hula dancer interpreting a Hawaiian song. Evidently,she was of Italian heritage. I also noted that she walked besideme discreetly and shyly, keeping a considerable separationbetween the two of us. There was no touching of shoulders orgrasping of hands. Lucrece was undoubtedly feeling out ourrelationship. And that was good, because overly aggressivegirls usually turned me off

In the Trenton's wardroom I smugly introduced Lucrece toogling junior officers, who seemed enchanted by her presence.Maxie Berns had also brought a girl with him for the eveningmeal—Lucrece's friend, Lillian. Thus, after the meal, Maxiesuggested that the four of us go dancing somewhere. Lillianfelt that we'd do best at Scheveningen—the Atlantic City ofHolland, located on the North Sea. I was all for dancing withLucrece since it would bring us closer together. So, we borrowedthe wardroom's automobile and Maxie drove us fifteenmiles to the Casino at Scheveningen.

On the way there I held hands with Lucrece, discoveringwith a rude shock that her palms were heavily callused. "I rowalmost every day for exercise," she admitted. "In the earlymorning I do a few miles around the canals in my scull—whenI'm not on location for a movie." Her rough, muscularhands had me worried. But her nice, dimpled knees andsmooth, soft thighs, displayed when she accidentally repositionedherself on the backseat, allayed my concerns.

The movie business intrigued me. So I asked about her rolesand their importance in the films she was in. She dodgedthese questions but was emphatic about the work. "I hate it. Ihave to get up at five-thirty in the morning and work until themid-afternoon. The shooting goes on for only a few weeks andI get no more than a hundred dollars a day when I'm working.I'm not getting rich like your Hollywood movie stars." A hundreddollars a day? That was really big money to an ensignwho was being paid only $125 a month!

When asked about her travels, she said that she and Lillianhad just returned from Germany, where they'd been winedand dined by some of Hitler's aides—Goering, Hess, Himmler.Apparently, the Nazi party leaders doted on having beautifulwomen at their social gatherings. What that meant aboutLucrece I could only guess, but it suggested that she mightadmire top-dog Nazis.

The following afternoon, Lucrece and I rode bicycles to herswimming club. When I rang my bell twice, she laughinglyanswered with two rings and took off like a sprinter comingout of the starting blocks. Then she slowed down and let meovertake her and grab her bicycle seat. At this, she giggled insuch a silly fashion that I knew she was embarrassed at hertoo-easy acceptance of my courtship.

At the pool she devastated me with her breathtaking, shapelybody. She was truly a thoroughbred. Her swimming was strongand graceful. So I had to show off on the diving board, doingdifficult trick dives. My double-twist corkscrew dive was newto her and she clapped for it enthusiastically. Lillian, who'dcome with Maxie on bicycles to join us, added to the applause.

Again we returned to the ship for dinner. But this time Iinsisted upon first meeting her parents and her sister, Manon.Her mother proved to be an effervescent, plump, black-hairedwoman who was always short of breath as she enthused about"her Lucrece." The father, on the other hand, was a low-key,taciturn, wiry Dutchman who ran a jewelry store. Only thehint of a smile showed on his face when he shook my handwhen I was introduced.

Then there was Manon, the younger sister, who was muchlike her mother, bright-eyed and dark, but slim. She told ofbeing a dress designer who created dresses for Lucrece towear in her movies. When we took her back to the Trenton fordinner, she was well impressed by the watercolors I'd paintedand said that they were "very good for a naval officer who didsuch things." Manon was definitely the kid sister, not tooattractive, but likeable and clever. And evidently not jealous ofher exceptional sister.

Only three more days of swimming, dancing and walkingtogether beside the windy North Sea remained before theTrenton departed for Saint-Nazaire, France, for another goodwill visit.

On our last night together, Lucrece and I went to Scheveningento hear a symphony, played by the National SymphonicOrchestra and directed by Ernest Ansermet. He wasone of Europe's best conductors, according to Lucrece. Theguest piano soloist, Mary Barrett Dew, was "world renowned,"and the music was powerful and enchanting, Lucrece wasecstatic during the Debussy Chanson du Mer suite and transmittedher deep feelings through her hand, which I heldthroughout the concert. Her shivers of delight at a beautifulpassage of music produced in me a strong emotional reaction,which generated a heightened interest in classical music—andLucrece.

Coming back late at night in a taxi, we kissed passionately.But Lucrece said, "You shouldn't kiss me as though you loveme when you're actually only fooling with my affections." Shesaid this so sadly that I felt a little guilty. "And I am deeplyhurt since I have begun to love you and you aren't seriousabout our relationship," she added. What Lucrece was sayingwas that my lovemaking was mere flirting. She protested, "Forme, this is a great tragedy in my life. I feel that it would bemuch better if we never see each other again." Give up thisperfect liaison with this wonderful woman? Didn't she realizehow smitten I'd become?

Then she told me of some of her unhappy, short-lived loveaffairs with overly aggressive movie people—handsome butshallow macho men who were anything but considerate of herdeep feelings in their relationships. She told me these thingsso woefully that it made me love her more tenderly. Herreproach for my sexual desire, however, was disturbing, andthis tragic side of her personality was most puzzling. Howcould a person who was so beautiful and outgoing not holdthe world by its tail and be fully able to enjoy her destiny?Finally she said, "At least let's continue through the years to begood friends." She sounded like a member of the gloom-and-doomcrowd who were groaning that war was coming soon tospoil their easy lives.

Walking hand in hand on the beach at Scheveningen in astrong gale on our last night together, I felt a supreme sort ofhappiness. Lucrece, on the other hand, acted very depressed.She said that I was withholding from her my involvement withsome other girl who obviously had intentions of marrying me.So I told her about my hometown girl, Polly, who for the precedingthree years had been my main love. But that had allended when I had reported to the Trenton as an ensign just outof the Naval Academy. Polly had flatly stated that she wouldn'taccept the two-year waiting period required before ensignscould get married. She said she couldn't picture herself followinga naval officer from port to port as a service wife. Soshe'd given me a good-riddance talk before I sailed to Europe.I had remained firm on not leaving the Navy. Marrying herand then settling down somewhere to raise a family weren'tmy cup of tea. That's the way it was for me. At this, Polly hadflippantly given me an "it's-best-that-we-part" talk and gonehome to Allentown, Pennsylvania. Our parting was cool andfinal. Lucrece accepted this explanation, but it didn't dissipatethe dark cloud that she was brooding under.

Thus, Lucrece's letter, which I reread a fifth time, onlyheightened my desire to get her out of Holland before thingsgot much worse. If she stayed, the opportunity to have a longlife together would evaporate. So I had to start calculatinghow she might be extricated from Holland and delivered tothe United States, there to wait for me. Work through the RedCross? Use political pull with a Pennsylvania senator? Get herto escape in a fishing boat and go over to England, as they haddone at Dunkirk? It could be done, and I had to find a way todo it.

Instead of clearing my mind of the past, I tossed around inmy bunk most of the night, cluttering my thoughts with thingsunrelated to the tough business of becoming a good destroyer-man.Hence, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I went to theeight in the morning quarters for the few hands who had toman the R oe during the holiday weekend. Ozzie Wiseman, asharp-faced, dour person with pale white skin, was there. Hewas the man I was relieving and the tutor for my first few dayson board the R oe. Charley King, another '38er, signified,"Here" when his name was called. Charley was a tall, handsome,well-browned man with a slow, amused smile for everythingexcept when the skipper was berating the officers. BlatzHelm, my classmate, had also answered, "Here." Round-faced,semibald, and with a broad toothy smile, he looked likehe should be in a beer ad. In fact, he was called "Blatz"because of the large amounts of Blatz beer he consumed whileat the Naval Academy. Then, of course, there was B.D., whowas relieved as duty officer and who later departed for the St.George Hotel to join his wife for the remainder of the weekend.The early morning quarters were a required, meaninglessroutine since there were no special instructions to be promulgated,but the duty watch would rapidly report any of theirrelievers who didn't show up. And the grimy, soot-stainedNavy Yard buildings beyond the dock where the R oe was tiedup made the dockside environment depressing.

When dismissed from quarters by B.D., Blatz, who smelledstrongly of stale liquor, dragged himself to his bunk to sleepoff "a hard night." Ozzie had to drone on about his mix-upwith his wife. Looking haggard, Ozzie explained that he hadgone to Wilmington, Delaware, the day before so he and hiswife could be together for the weekend. But she had come toBrooklyn to be with him. "Fouled-up communications,"Charley loudly whispered "You can expect that from a communicationsofficer." Ozzie winced at that and his jawtightened. But nothing more. Evidently this was only mildcriticism compared to what he normally got on board the R oe.

Then Ozzie took me around the ship, introducing me to afew men who were standing around doing nothing. It wasobvious that with the Captain off the ship everything hadslacked off. However, on his return Tuesday morning everybodywould then be buzzing around—at least looking busy.When in the communication spaces, Ozzie tediously describedhow each piece of equipment was used. This included searchlights,signal flags, tactical radios, sonars, etc. I kept mutteringto myself, "Why don't you just shut up and join your lonelywife at the St. George Hotel . . . and get out of my hair?" ButOzzie took no hint from my evident lack of interest and keptgiving me even the most insignificant of facts about anythinghe thought I should know in order to do my new job effectively."You'll be responsible for the cleanliness of all communicationsspaces, including the flag bags. And no dirt or dust inequipment. You'll have to make sure your communication personnelare clean, have short haircuts, and their uniforms looklike new. And they will have to have full bags of the properclothing—stenciled. You'll have to draw and correct all classifiedpublications and ensure their security at all times. You'llhave to . . ." Ozzie droned on and on, making me blank out onwhat he was saying. Later I would ask him what additionalduties I had to worry about.

So the morning dragged on endlessly. I guessed that Ozziewas showing me what a well-trained Scruggs man was like.

Saturday night, the Roe was too dismal for me to remain onboard reading publications—ones that Ozzie insisted neededreading before I could relieve him. So I went to LieutenantDeMetropolis's quarters in the Navy Yard where Blatz hungout, doing his drinking. Demo, a bachelor, had a refrigeratorfull of beer and an open liquor cabinet. But of primary importancewas a massive five-cent slot machine in the living room.Demo's unfettered hospitality depended on all visitors literallystanding in line to pull the one-armed bandit's lever, trying forthe jackpot. The profits from this gambling device, accordingto Demo, more than made up for all the free alcohol drunk byhis guests.

The rest of the weekend was a wash. It included a churchservice at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and a browsearound the Central Park Zoo that was highlighted by a badgerdoing hilarious stunts and a black panther that looked like agood pet for the Roe. Finally, I ambled slowly through theMuseum of Modern Art on Fifty-third Street. In between stops,I bought a copy of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's The Yearling—astory about an orphaned fawn that was found by a very compassionatewoman who lovingly raised it to adulthood. It wasthe sort of thing Lucrece would enjoy reading. I'd have to getit to her somehow.

At breakfast after Labor Day all the officers were backaboard and seated at the wardroom table. They silently staredinto their plates as the Captain mapped out how all wouldhave to get down to business, to get ready to sail to Newporton the 4th.

Captain Scruggs was a broad, fine-looking, graying manwith a keen eye. He was, as he stated, "a rules and regulationsman who goes by the book." And he insisted that all of his officersscrupulously carry out existing rules, no matter how foolishsome of them might seem in practice. The rule put out bythe district commandant to wear a coat and necktie whengoing on liberty—even to go bowling—was one such irrationalrule.

Then, after the Captain had studied a slip of paper alongsidehis plate, similar to slips beside everyone's plate, he roaredwith a note of anguish, `A thirty-dollar mess bill for August!My God, B.D., don't you supervise the buying of food by yourmess stewards? This is a scandal."

B.D., who was serving as mess treasurer since July, whenOzzie had relinquished the job, cringed at the Captain'swords. Ozzie had fed the officers for only $23.90 in July. Butthat was a month, according to Charley King, when the officersspent very few hours on board because it was the start ofthe Roes refit. In August, however, the officers had to overseethe completion of work in their spaces and were on the Roefor most meals.

B.D., I noticed, was in a jittery state. He had the nervousshakes, perhaps sensing that the ax was about to fall on hisneck. When the Captain snarled, "This is margarine you've goton my butter plate!" B.D. sprang from his seat and rushed tothe pantry window to see who had dished out margarineinstead of butter for the Captain's hot rolls. At least the hotrolls were tastefully served in a basket and wrapped inside asnow-white, clean napkin. Margarine instead of butter? Thatwas a big deal? It sure was to the Captain!

A few months of this stuff and I'd be putting in for flightschool and follow Ozzie to Pensacola.

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