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My First Night Aboard the DD-507

By Noel Anenberg



That didn't wake me. It was eleven thirty, I mean 23:30 hrs for God's sake. I had just flown to Norfolk, the duty station that I tried to avoid. I had just graduated from an "A" school that was not even close to being on my Boot Camp wish list. I wanted Photographer's Mate or Heavy Equipment Operator, not Fire Control Technician. I knew less about electronics even after "A". The chances of electrifying a friendly just by working on the fire control gear were far greater than ever getting at the enemy. Hey, I told them I had absolutely no aptitude for electronics. Oh well, where was I, sound asleep in the Fox Division compartment.

"Anenberg, hey Anenberg wake up."

"What the hell is it?" I finally answered.

"You got the watch."

"I don't have the watch you idiot, I haven't even been assigned a duty section." It was something like December 28th and there were two feet of ice around the Conway's hull. That morning, it was 73 degrees and clear in Malibu as I boarded the United Airlines jet out of LAX. As I laid there in the dark the thought "Why did I join the Navy" whirled around my head like a towel in a clothes drier.

"How, tell me how can I have the watch?" I asked again.

"Hey California, all I know is the OD just said "get Anenberg, he's got the watch". "I'm just following my orders."

"I just reported aboard" I mumbled in the dark as the sailor in the rack above me rolled over and let go a long low tremulous fart.

"You already told me that" the voice behind the flashlight said "but like I said, you got the watch. Ten minutes, 01 level, amidships."

I crawled out of my rack and searched my foot locker for the proper attire for standing on the deck in sub-zero temperatures as I remembered that just before graduation from Gun Fire Control School in Bainbridge Maryland, we were asked to submit our top three choices of duty stations. I remembered sitting with my "A" school buddy Nevins and debating who had made the best three choices. Mine, Pearl, Diego and Long Beach beat out Nevins' Newport News, Ville France and London, I thought. Well, I must have pissed somebody off, I was thinking, nobody but nobody wanted Norfolk. I got it.

So I put on everything I had in the sea bag, waddled out on the deck then struggled up a ladder to the 01 level. I then turned forward and found my post between the stacks which were adorned with red green and blue Christmas lights as were most of all the ships in the bay that early morning. A very, very pretty site actually, if you were looking at it from a Hampton Boulevard hotel room. Let me tell you something, it was fra-eeeeeeeez-ing.

I found the sailor I was supposed to relieve and the object I was supposed to guard. The sailor had his P-coat buttoned with the collar turned up. His arms were tucked in under the coat and the brim of his white hat was folded down and over his head giving him the appearance of a Hostess Twinkie. His teeth were chattering like the plastic wind up ones found in a Magic Emporium.

"Yo, you here to re, re, relieve me?" he sputtered.

"Yeah, but my name ain't yo" I answered looking at the object he was and until 0400 hours I would be guarding. It was a large, a very large white torpedo with a crack in its fuselage. A thin steady stream f smoke was streaming from the crack as if some guy was inside the case and blowing steadily on a Marlboro. My eyes widened to the size of silver dollars. This was a very large device with enough explosives to blow me and the 507 clear to the North Pole in time to meet Santa and his sleigh.

This gets better.

The sailor I was relieving was holding a wilted garden hose that hung from the front of his P-coat. "I give up, what's the hose for?" I asked.

"Oh, they t-t-t-t-t-told me that if the smoke gets th-th-th-th-thicker I'm supposed to spray the cr-cr-cr-cr-ack with cold water", he shivered.

Oh, that's smart I thought, if this thing blows I'll be sprinkling it with cold water from a wilted green garden hose. Boy was I ever glad I went to Fire Control "A" School, I would have been lost without the training.

"Don't ta-ta-ta-ta-take your eyes off the crack" the seaman warned as he walked forward of the Number 1 stack then disappeared.

So there I stood looking out over Chesapeake Bay staring at the Christmas tree lights and wondering whether Nelson, Rickover or Nimitz got their start this way. Well not actually, I was really thinking about how I could manufacture some kind of ailment that would get me out on a medical and quick.

But luckily that was only my first night aboard that proud 21 ton torpedo catcher that I now yearn to take just one more cruise on. A ship aboard which I sailed away a boy then returned a man.