It was the greatest fleet that had ever sailed the seas, and it was fresh from its greatest triumph. But the hand of God was laid upon it and a great wind blew, and it was scattered and broken upon the ocean. The inexorable Law of Storms—the bible of all seamen since the days of astrolabe and sail—was neglected, and the U.S. Third Fleet, proud in its might, paid the penalty…—Hanson W. Baldwin, Crowsnest Magazine, 1953, in his description of Typhoon Cobra, the largest storm the U.S. Navy has ever encountered.
Compass Rose Cultural Crossroads is a small, not-for-profit publisher with specialties in history, mythology, culinary lore, and the preservation of folk traditions.
The term “Cradle Cruise” was US Navy slang designating the enlistment of a recruit who was less than eighteen years of age. It extended to his 21st birthday, rather than the specified four- to six-year hitch. In my case, it amounted to four years, five months, fourteen days, and four hours. It was the most memorable, happiest, and certainly the most formative period of my life.
This book is an account of how I came to join the United States Navy and my personal recollections of my experiences and observations as a Bluejacket. Admittedly, it is fictionalized to some extent for the sake of story-telling, and for reasons of confidentiality. Comments of individuals have been paraphrased, and some people are composites of the many men and women I came to know. There will, I suppose, be those who will read this book and think to recognize themselves. Others may not. It is their choice some fifty years after it all took place.
“As the Harris sailed into the harbor we stood dumbfounded at the sight that met our eyes. Everywhere we looked there was only destruction, and the ravages of the December 7th attack. The water in the bay was covered with thick, black, tarry oil that appeared to be several inches thick, mixed with floating debris resulting from the explosions and fires. Articles of clothing, life jackets, and a lone white sailor's hat that had somehow remained snowy clean gave mute evidence to the loss of life.”
“Around three in the morning the general quarters alarm sounded. With my life jacket and steel pot in hand, I rushed to my battle station with the after ammo party, taking my place by the hoist. In a few moments the word was passed, ‘All battle stations manned and ready.’ But were we really? Most of our crew had some prior combat experience, but this was different. This was the Big One and everybody knew it. It came to me suddenly that a lot of good men were going to die that morning, on both sides of the war…”
Lon P. Dawson was a resident at the Illinois Veterans’ Home in Quincy, Illinois. He was president of the Residents’ Action Group and a regular contributor to the home magazine, The Bugle, as a staff writer and member of the editorial board. Mr. Dawson’s credits include a community column entitled “Speakout!” and a theatrical column, “Playhouse Patter,” which were syndicated in several Southern Illinois newspapers. He is the author of A Promise Kept, the story of the Illinois Veterans’ Home, Also Known As Albert D.J. Cashier: The Jennie Hodgers Story, and editor of Culinary Campaign: A History of Military Cuisine. His military service dates back to World War II, when he served on the USS Trever, an ancient four-stack destroyer of World War I vintage, which was awarded five battle stars and a unit commendation. Lon Dawson died in 2004 at the age of 80.