National Geographic : 1948 Jun
Midshipmen's Cruise sleeves of the two upper classmen (mine still being quite bare from plebe year). "Our talk, which lasted for 10 or 12 minutes, was finally interrupted by the fidgeting ushers, who realized we had more than tripled the usual allotment of time. With words of con gratulation and good luck, we moved off into the crowd." As if meeting Elizabeth and Philip wasn't enough, our guest continues: "Later in this eventful afternoon, a few of us were able to penetrate the cordon about the other royal group with Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose in the center. Upon being presented, two of us 'gallantly' proceeded to rescue Margaret from her seem ing boredom. I was tempted to ask for a date, but not having experienced royal reactions to such a bold request, my courage failed me. "Soon the Royal Family terminated their interviewing and sought refreshments under the awning of a spacious tent, similar to the many caterers' tents that bordered the lawn. Reports have it that the midshipmen carried out a like action with 'great boldness, fierce determination, and clever maneuvering.' "The number of midshipmen who 'forgot' or 'misplaced' their raincapes was astounding -anything for a last fleeting glimpse of the beautiful and ornate palace interior. On agreeing that 'Operation Buckingham' had been completed successfully, we 'shoved off,' armed with a story for our grandchildren." Down to the Balmy Tropics Within a week after leaving England we were south of the 30th parallel, basking in the tropical sun and watching hundreds of flying fish skimming along the Gulf Stream. In the afternoons you saw only two types of working youngsters: those carrying am munition and others firing the never-satiated guns. By nightfall all hands were ready to gather aft near the movie screen and enjoy an hour or so with Hollywood's stars of the present and past. Our theater was improvised and didn't have a ticket window. Our "inexpensive" seats were sections of the deck; the "reserved seats" were boxes and benches borrowed from the mess halls; and the balcony was atop the No. 3 turret or the roof of the steel projection booth, the only permanent fixture of our theater. Although we didn't have murals on all sides and "20° cooler inside" air-condition ing, we did have a glistening canopy of stars and the night-cooled trade winds. The warmth of the Tropics once more brought our Sunday services up to the fan tail from a confining chow hall below. Your imagination may fail you if we say shipboard services are sometimes beautiful. Picture, however, this scene: The spell cast by a humming organ, deep masculine voices, and the sound of the gentle swishing and lapping of waves falls upon you as you kneel to worship. Beneath the cloaked muzzles of 16-inch rifles stands your chap lain behind his lectern. Close by is his small portable altar. As he delivers a short, pithy sermon, a benign sun beams down from a clear blue sky. A faint breeze cools your face. Your eyes catch a rolling destroyer to starboard. Again the choir sings a familiar hymn and the service is over (Plate XVI). Before long New Jersey dropped her hook in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.* We were per mitted to go ashore in our "white works," a comfortable summer uniform distinguishable from an enlisted man's whites by the blue band around the top of the hat (Plate IV). Leaving the fleet landing, we had our choice of two roads, one running east to the Navy recreation center and its ships' service store, the other going west to the marine post and PX. At both facilities, ice cream, canned fruit, and 35-cent steak sandwiches were plentiful. Stores were well stocked, and smart lads who saved their cruise allowance could now take advantage of Guantanamo's bargains. Most of our gifts for the folks at home were bought here tax free. During our first liberty the youngster class was introduced to Chief Hatuey, a famed Indian rebel of early Spanish days, whose face (mostly nose) adorns bottles of Cuban beer sold on the station. There's a saying that "you can't beat the Chief-he always wins." After a few of his beers we understood why. We Bombard Culebra, a Target Island On our departure from Cuba we began gunnery practice in earnest. Now we were going to find out if all the hours spent on dummy shells had been worth while. For the first time the big 16's were to be fired. Our target was Culebra, a small island off Puerto Rico reserved by the Navy for fleet gunnery practice. We commenced bombard ment at 0900 one clear morning. We sailed up and down our firing track rifling our 5-inch and 16-inch shells into the beach. Control officers and range-finder oper ators kept a close watch on New Jersey's shooting as well as on the work of her sister and rival, Wisconsin. Shortly after noon, our mission completed, * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Cuba-American Sugar Bowl," by Melville Bell Grosvenor, January, 1947.