Thursday, 20 October 2011

Friend or Foe

So there we were
Sailing out of San Diego Harbor
Minding our own business

"THEY HAVE LOCKED ON TO US!" is screamed up from the Operations Room.

Rewind the tape a couple of hours for the back story

One naval tradition that we do our best to follow is to salute other warships within the limits of the harbor. You really can't go wrong, a matter of polite respect. You sail by, you salute the senior shipand the salute is returned. How easy is that?

My first ship, the Qu'apple, 300' long (more or less), top speed of about 30 knots (with a tail wind), armed with the mighty 3"70 gun. The three ships in my squadron had just finished a great visit to San Diego and were heading home. After leaving the Naval base in Diego you pass right by the Marine Air Base, a sub base, and a refueling station (more or less in that order). At the refueling station was USS New Jersey - as in battle ship, think big, think fast (40+knots), think heavy armor (better than a foot in most places), think BIG GUNS (and lots of them), think missles and you get a pretty good idea that she is an impressive ship.

Here we come, the three ships of us destroyer escorts, in a friendly line, doing 15 kts. We pass the New Jersey and all three of us salute, nice and formal, nice and friendly. Someone on New Jersey was awake and all three salutes we returned with proper respect. "Hi, nice to see you, fair winds and following seas". We carry on to the open sea where we are due to point the ships north and head home.

Fast forward a couple of hours

Our three ships we on a course of 270, doing 15kts, in a happy column. For some reason there was a very heavy fog over the sea that day. No big deal, that is what we invented radar for.

Sailing Sailing over the ocean blue..

"THEY HAVE LOCKED ON TO US!" is screamed up from the Operations Room.

First reaction is one requiring clean knickers to be sought.
Who are they? And what is locked on to us? And, by the way, bring the ship to action stations if you would be so kind.

After a few intense 2 minutes, the ship is locked and loaded, ready for.... we still arn't sure yet. Eyes peering into the mist off our starboard beam we wait
and wait
and the fog begins to lift.
And there, in the parting fog is USS New Jersey - yes, the ship we saluted a couple of hours ago, remember when I said BIG GUNS? Well she has 9 of them, each one will spit out a chunk of steel the size a weight of a small car at you from 20 miles away. And all 9 of those BIG GUNS were pointed at us.
Time for more clean knickers.

The fog cleared some more and then, as if someone on the New Jersey woke up and saw what he had his BIG GUNS pointed at, all nine of those guns snapped forward and the Jersey cranked hard to starboard and cranked on some speed. I suspect someone didn't want us to recognize who she was.

I hope someone fell on his sword for that, or at least had to pay for our knickers to be washed

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