by Willie Lagarde
My regular job on USS Yorktown? Have you ever heard the expression “shit rolls downhill”. When the shit got to where I was it had stopped rolling. With all the glory attached to the "Fighting Lady" nothing I could say about my shipboard job could possibly impress a Navy historian.
If there is such a thing as a Navy “grunt” that’s what gunnery department seamen were during our time. We were the labor force of an aircraft carrier. But I can say there is nothing else I would have rather been doing.
We never got a pat on the back or any words of approval and our world was that group of nine or ten men we shared watch and battle stations with. We were close as brothers and even though we didn’t always like each other, estrangement wasn’t an option.
One of the duties of 2nd division men was manning the after fueling station for tankers and the fueling boom and hose for our escort destroyers. Fueling destroyers was a job I personally liked and I was always on one of the starboard side 40mm gun sponsons ready to heave a line over. Because I was often successful getting the line over to the destroyer I was usually given the first heave and my goal was to keep the other two men with heaving lines on the bench. Above all we wanted to deny the man with the line gun a shot. His line was little more than nylon twine and required an extra “messenger” line for the process of getting the hose over to the destroyer.
As I watched the destroyers inch their way into position I would look at the crews and think, somewhere back in the states were loved ones and families of these men who only knew they were “somewhere” at sea. Maybe they hadn’t seen them for a year or more and judging from the chromate splotches on some of these ships they had been out a long time. I would wish I could tell them, I see your sons and brothers and husbands and they’re OK.
One of my proudest moments at sea and one of the very few times I got a “well done” was the day I actually got the monkey fist clean over the torpedo tubes. Someone up above us on the bridge hollered down, “good heave” I hope it was the captain.
I don’t know how it got started but some of our men started throwing down candy and chewing gum to the destroyer crews. It was good to see the little wave of thanks when they caught something. It made you realize we were all brothers and in this fight together.