National Geographic : 1955 Nov
Kings Point: Maker of Mariners 693 The Young U. S. Merchant Marine Academy Combines Theory, Sea Experience, and Tradition in Preparing Ships' Officers BY NATHANIEL T. KENNEY National Geographic Magazine Staff With Illustrations by National Geographic Photographer Yolkmar Wentzel T HE young man ducked from under the radarscope hood, glanced hopelessly at the inky-black glass of the window, then turned to the group clustered in semidarkness behind the ship's wheel. "Surfaced submarine bearing three-four eight, sir," he reported. "Range three-zero two-zero yards. Course three-five-nine, speed eight knots." In the brief calm that followed I could hear dit-dahs of international code chirping in the radio shack behind the bulkhead. "What? A sub?" roared Lt. Alfred Fiore, dropping his dividers on the chart. Lt. Comdr. Arthur Fraser seized the lan yard that hung above the compass. There was a blinding flash of light. No torpedo exploded beneath us, however. We were merely attending an electronic-navi gation class of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N. Y. Commander Fraser, instructor, did indeed grab a lanyard: it raised a shade, and sun shine struck suddenly through an ordinary window in Bowditch Hall (page 700). Classroom Sails Safely on After "navigating" this classroom through a make-believe war zone, a dozen cadet-mid shipmen turned from shining rows of gyro scopic compasses, radar and loran receivers, fathometers, and direction finders to look out the window. Beyond the green tree-studded campus lay the western end of Long Island Sound. "All right, Mr. Baldwin, we'll check your solution," said instructor Al Fiore to the cadet at the radar. "That's your surfaced submarine," and he indicated a deep-laden oil barge chuffing past City Island's complex of yacht yards. "That's not bad. A sub would give almost the same radar return she does. But the course you figured would bring her on the Stepping Stone rocks!" "Wait," said Commander Fraser. "I looked under the blind. She really was heading this way, dodging those plebes out there learning to handle lifeboats." "In which case, I will overlook Mr. Bald win's grin of triumph," said Fiore, trying not to smile himself. "Class dismissed." Academy a War Baby Here, hard by busy Long Island Sound, within sight of the towers of New York City, Uncle Sam schools hundreds of youths who will sail the merchant ships of tomorrow. Kings Point, the 12-year-old U. S. Mer chant Marine Academy, is a youngster com pared to West Point and Annapolis, or even to the Coast Guard Academy.* Of the Na tion's service schools, only the Air Academy, born last year, is newer. Yet there is no lack of regimental spirit and dedication among Kings Pointers. As visiting Annapolis midshipmen and West Point cadets remarked to me: "They have a wonderful spirit. We don't under stand how they get it without the long-estab lished traditions we have." The answer is that Kings Point, until it can put more years in its wake, simply makes do with one of the most glorious of all Ameri can traditions-the United States Merchant Marine. Not the history of the school but that of the calling it serves binds Kings Pointers in the brotherhood of the sea. "Welcome Aboard!" I came to the 65-acre campus on Long Island's north shore early in September. A college year was beginning. Plebes (fresh men) still wandered uncertainly about in blue dungarees; Academy tailors would fit them out in trim khakis and snappy blues. *See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Under Canvas in the Atomic Age," by Alan Villiers, July, 1955; "The Making of a West Pointer," by Howell Walker, May, 1952; "West Point and the Gray-Clad Corps," by Lt. Col. Herman Beukema, June, 1936; and "Annapolis, Cradle of the Navy," by Lt. Arthur A. Ageton, June, 1936.