Commentaries, Reminiscences and Sea Stories
Phil Brooks

Posted on 7/02/2008

I swear on Davy Jone's locker that most of the information that follows is absolutely true!!

On one of Dutton's many visits to Southampton our first priority was to go ashore and consume some alcohol. We were typically very successful at that endeavor. Southampton always closed up pretty early for us, the pubs closed around 11pm as I recall, and some of the private clubs would stay open until 1am. But, when you are in the mood for DRINKING, being told you had to stop at 1am was rather depressing.

One evening 3 or 4 of us were taking a rather circuitous route back to the ship, hoping to find something to do. We found a huge flagpole with the flag of Great Britain flying and underneath the flag of the City of Southampton. Now, this is where my memory gets a little fuzzy. I can't remember if I was an active participant in the nefarious deeds that followed, or if my knowledge of the event was reported to me later. Something tells me I decided that my friends were completely nuts and I headed back to the ship. At any rate what followed was very daring, and unusual to say the least. That British flag flying high and proud over the city of Southampton was to fly no more. It is now probably somewhere in someone's attic or garage, a long forgotten "war trophy". Well, these guys weren't happy with simply taking a souvenir, the British flag was replaced with a huge American Flag. The Stars and Stripes was flying high and proud over the city of Southampton. I have no idea where they got the U.S. flag.

A couple of days later some British subject noticed that his beloved city had been conquered by the Yanks and reported it to the authorities. Someone from the mayor's office came to the ship, and asked if they could have their flag back (we were the only American ship in port) and was very good natured about it. Later the CO informally asked most of us if we knew anything about it and said if the British flag simply showed up somewhere, all would be forgotten. Well, the flag never did show up and we went to sea. I didn't think about it again.

As fate would have it, we pulled into our favorite city again the following month. The first day in port I had duty so couldn't participate in any of the happy going's on ashore. Apparently, alcohol and boredom caused the same strange behavior as before. Yep, they took the British flag one more time. And again replaced it with the American flag. This time the shit really hit the fan. They Mayor of Southampton accompanied by two constables (that's police officers for you unedumicated swabies) came to the ship. Got the CO and the Captain involved. They threatened to ban the Dutton from Southampton forever!!

I had never seen the CO so angry! I thought the entire crew was going to go before Captain's mast!! I was really really nervous about this one!! They even did a search of our staterooms. But no one talked and eventually it all blew over. I avoided contact with the guys I thought were involved the second time, but I didn't have any actual knowledge as to the culprits this time. We didn't return to Southampton for 3 months! Ah, what the hell! Barcelona, Spain was a lot more fun anyway!!

If anyone knows more detail let us know!!

The Bad EMO
Posted on 6/27/2009

USNS Michelson, sometime in 1971 or 72.

I was an ET2 at the time, trained to be a SINS technician. Luckily, the SINS almost never broke down! We had a variety of crew come and go, including officers. Some officers were personable and friendly, knowing there was no reason to be strict and “military formal” since we were a non-combatant vessel and the vast majority of us were highly competent. I can not recall a single time the crew did not perform their jobs as required.

At one point we received a new EMO (Electronics Material Officer) who had worked his way up through the ranks and had become a Warrant Officer. Most of assumed he'd be OK because he was once enlisted as well. We couldn't have been more wrong.

As I mentioned above, we were mostly very relaxed on board ship, things were very informal. The crew, including enlisted men, the civilian tech reps, the scientists from the Naval Oceanographic Office, and the officers as well were known to enjoy a variety of beverages, but as I said before, we always got the job done.

Our EMO, who was very strict, and very military, also apparently enjoyed various libations. He would never indulge during the week, but come Saturday and Sunday, he would disappear into his stateroom and not be seen again until Monday morning. And we dreaded those Monday mornings. He would show up in the early AM and begin harassing the troops while they were standing watch for no apparent reason. I guess he had to blame his hangover on someone! And he would be in the foulest of moods. There was nothing you could say to appease him. I remember one cruise when the Loran C Navigation system broke down, and there was no one on board that knew anything about them. Myself and one other ET were ordered to fix them. We tried our best, but only made things worse. As the days progressed the EMO became enraged and would come by hourly to interrogate us on our progress. This went on for over a week

At one point we had pretty much given up and decided to take a break. The two of us went out on deck, towards the fantail. (That's the “roundy” end of the ship, for you landlubbers). Several MSTS crewman were having a barbeque and a few beers and invited us to join them. I and the other ET were sipping our beers when the EMO approached us and started yelling and berating us, and threatening us with court marshal, the brig and other things I cannot remember! He grabbed the other sailor by the front of his shirt and starting draggin him away! At that point one of the BIG MSTS crewman interceded, and grabbed the EMO by the front of his shirt! (The EMO's reputation was well known, and no one liked him). The MSTS crewman marched the EMO over to the rail, held him with one hand leaning out over the railing with his back to the ocean, pulled a big knife out of his scabbard and held it to the EMOs throat. At this point I decided it was in my best interest to disappear, and that I did. Later I heard the MSTS crewman carefully explained the dangers of falling overboard with a knife wound. Such as the fact he'd never be found, and he'd be shark bait in minutes. It was also explained to him the crew was fed up with his BS. Anyway, the crewman released the EMO, and he wasn't seen again. He disappeared into his stateroom. Two months later, we saw him leaving the ship during an inport. He had apparently requested transfer to a rehab facility.

And that, my friends, is a no-shitter!!

My First Ship, USNS Michelson
Posted on 4/23/2011

My journey to the Micky Maru was long and circuitous. I had completed SINS school in Norfolk, VA and was expecting my orders. Everyone else in the class got their orders but me. My other classmates were all going to subs. They weren't really sure why I had been sent to SINS school in the first place. I stayed there for an extra two weeks. They didn't know what to do with me and I was bored to death. Finally they said go home on leave, we'll be in touch!!

Two weeks later I got orders to report to Transit Station, San Francisco, CA. They didn't know what to do with me either, and of course I had no idea what my orders might be. I was there for another two weeks, but I had fun wandering into the city to see the sights. It was 1969 and lots of hippies were running around! Finally, I got my orders! A plane ticket to Tokyo and I was ordered to report to an army base (I can't remember the name) in the middle of nowhere. So why did they send a sailor to an army base? I have no idea, and neither did they. They didn't know what to do with me either. I stayed there for a month, doing nonsense work, reading magazines and talking with the civilian secretaries all day long. At night I went out drinking with the army guys. So far, my Navy career was turning out to be a lot of fun, albeit rather strange!

Finally, I got a set of orders. They included very complicated instructions to take a train to Yokosuka, plus some tickets. It was complicated to me anyway, because I had to change trains twice, and all of the signs were in Japanese. Go figure!

I arrived at Yokosuka Naval Base and checked in with some CPO that was busy smoking cigars and playing cards with a bunch of friends. They said they would locate my ship and give me directions.

Two hours later I went to bug him, and he said sorry, forgot to tell you, the Michelson isn't here. Never heard of it. Crap, now what do I do? It was early, so I said is it OK if I walk around the base? He really didn't care, he said sure, just don't go near the subs.

So, I grabbed my sea bag and out the door I went! I found the subs, couldn't go near them if I wanted! Signs were up warning that armed guards had orders to shoot if you were to approach too closely.

I walked past 3 huge aircraft carriers, and finally I got to the end of all the ships and piers and saw nothing called the Michelson. The road continued around a corner, and something told me I’d better continue. A beat up looking old ship came into view. I thought to myself.. what a rust bucket.. just some old freighter, can't be the Michelson!! Much to my surprise it was indeed the Michelson. No one was in sight anywhere.

I walked up the gang plank expecting to salute the Ensign and request permission to come aboard. It was a like a ghost ship! Just then someone emerged from a hatch walking towards the gang plank. He said, “Hey, you must be one of those Navy guys, you can check in two decks down.” I thought to myself, wow, he looks like a convict. Later, I would learn just how accurate my first impression was.

I made my way below and found the guard shack. Three guys were there skylarking. The one on duty was standing up, pretending to be Wyatt Earp or something, pulling his .45 out of it's holster, aiming at an imaginary target, pretending to shoot, then in western movie fashion twirling it around on his index finger and sliding it back into it's holster. I was seriously beginning to wonder just who's Navy I had joined!

Then I was spotted and we both stared at each other for a moment. I'm sure he was thinking he just might be in trouble, but then he called out: "Is your name Brooks?"

I said “Yes.”

He said “Great, put on some civvies, we are going drinking!!” I knew I'd found my new home!!

And that my friends, is a no-shitter!

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