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USS John Hancock

Once upon a time, doesn't it always start that way? O maybe I am mistaken, and since it is a sea stroy , it should start out "this is no shit" I am not really sure that it maters, but here it is. About midyear 1965, it was one of those beautiful Pacific mornings, I was just coming down to sick bay, I had an unrep watch on station 9. The first class that was lord to us all, He said "get your ass up to station 9, there has been an accident!" I had tried to tell him that I had just been relieved from there, but he was very adamant. So, off I went unit one in hand. I was speedy, but not running, then I saw other crew members running flat out, not for the platform where we stood our watches, but for the deck winch below it. That must be the place, and as I passed though the doorway out to the winch I saw a young man laid out on the deck in a pool of red lead, or so I thought. I was a very young, and very naive corpsman, I had never seen that much blood in one place before.
I remember what I did, I was the first corpsman on the scene, I had to. I examined the guy, asked about what had happened. He had about an inch of skin and muscle keeping his arm together at the shoulder, and all of those vessels at the shoulder were torn and leaking!
I brought out my unit one, and used battle dressing after battle dressing
packing them tight against what was left of his underarm, and shoulder. By now there is another corpsman, an HM3 Sivigny, and he was backing me up. He handed me a tournaquet and I just looked at it for what seemed an hour, there was not a place to put it. He did hand me all of his battle dressings, and by now there was a stretcher there, and thinking that it my be some new inventive procedure I positioned his arm against his side, and took the tournaquet and strapped his arm in place. Then we put him in the stretcher and got him to sick bay.

If it ever enters your head to condem Navy medicine out of hand, think about this. Our doctors got out all the books, and repaired that arm. It was a long, long surgery, and fourteen pints of blood were put through that young mans veins and arteries, but by the next morning the fingers in that arm were pink, alive. These guys were the best, the very best.

Oh, by the way the young gentleman had the task, that day, of holding the line that made sure the cable paid onto the deck winch properly. It was dark, so he tied the line to his wrist so that he wouldn't lose it. Of course he had been told a number of times that this is not the proper procedure, but well it was dark, and he really wasn't thinking of the line anyway. The bitter end of the line caught in the cable drum. It was dark, and the winch operator could not make out what was going on until too late to keep the young mans arm out of the cable. He felt bad, but there was really nothing he could do in the noise and heat of station nine, underway replenishment is a massive evolution as everyone knows, maybe we are lucky that not more are bitten.

Thanks for listening.

—Posted by David A. Church

Sailor=Ralph Irish
Service Dates=June 1957 - March 1961

As a Radioman striker, I had some interesting jobs during my two years aboard the "Hannah". One of the jobs that strikers are always given is that of Messenger. I had the distinct pleasure of handing the promotion message to Captain Henry Miller, which promoted him to Rear Admiral.

I was surprised that the Comm. Officer on duty did not do it himself. He handed the message to me and I took off for the bridge. The Captain happened to be on the bridge at that time, so I went over to him, saluted, said, "Good Morning, Captain. Here is a message that may be of interest to you."

Normally, the Messenger carried an aluminum clipboard arrangement, with both delivered and undelivered messages, and a place for the various recipients to sign or initial, upon receipt. The Captain, after looking at the message, and breaking out in a big smile, said, "Where is the board?" I told him that there was no signature required for this message, saluted again and left the bridge.

On one other occasion, I had the mid-watch as Messenger, and another promotion message came through. This one was for Commander Tom Gallagher, the Exec. It was probably around 0300, and the Comm. officer gave me the dubious task of going to the Exec's cabin, waking him up and giving him the 'news'.

Now, Commander Gallagher had rightfully earned the nickname of "Terrible Tom', and anyone who had been aboard more than a few days was probably aware of this.
Likewise, anyone who stood an Exec's Mast before him. He was a 'no-nonsense' guy, and you did not make the same mistake twice, if he was to know about it, without getting a 'reaming', and that word should not require any explanation! He had, in his cabin, for a time, a large wooden barrel, with a knothole in the side. It was painted a nice gray color, and had the words, "Uncle Tom's Duty Barrel" hand-painted on it. I don't know if it ever got used, but that may have been one of the reasons that some Department heads went to the '8 O'Clock Report' meeting in his cabin, with some misgivings.

I knocked on his cabin door, and waited a few seconds. I knocked again, a little louder, and I heard something like, "I hope this is important," as the door opened.

The last thing he was planning on seeing was a Seaman with a piece of paper in his hand. I handed him the message, and said, "Congratulations, Captain." He replied something like, "Yeah, sure." The title went right over his head. He
stood there in the door, in his skivvies, reading the message, and finally the significance of it came to him, and he broke out in a big smile, and said, "Thanks," and closed the door on me.

30-some years later, I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Gallagher at a ship reunion. The Captain had passed away several years before, and when I introduced myself to her, and told her the story about the message, she told me that he had beem worried for a time, that he might not ever see that 4th stripe. Although he had no idea who I was, other than the 'Comm Messenger', he did relate the story to her about how the message came to him. (He eventually got the command of another carrier, the USS Princeton, LPH-5.)

Sometimes being the 'low man' on the totem pole has some perks!

 

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