by Stu Russell
Ensign Harris was our refreshing, newly-arrived supply officer, two years
younger than me. The Supply Department was glad to have him. Up to
this point we had been a bastard organization without our own leader.
Mr. Lacy, our Engineering Officer, had been doubling as supply officer.
He was a good man to work for, but had more than enough problems
already just trying to get the ship back in shape. Harry Lewis had asked
Reed to break out 60 pounds of chicken for lunch the following afternoon.
He placed it in the back of the galley where it was out of the way and the
heat of the dish washer would help thaw it out. After breakfast the next
morning, Mr. Harris told me that most of the crew would be going to fire fighting school, so there would only be about twenty five crew members on board for lunch. I told him that we should have known about it earlier because I had about 40 pounds of chicken that I would have to can. He instructed me to refreeze it, which was what we normally did, but I told him that it wasn't possible, as the food handling regulations forbid the refreezing of food. He apologized and left.
Now that I had burned my own bridge, I had to go ahead and cook up all the chicken. When lunch began I decided to make it an "all you can eat" chicken day. Since I had to get rid of all this stuff and only had twenty five guys to feed, I liberally dispensed breasts and thighs to all who came to dine. The mess decks sat 24, all the seats were taken, and there were still guys in line. I stuck my head out the door and saw sailors as far as the eye could see. I turned the serving over to one of the mess cooks and went looking for Mr. Harris to find out what was going on. Fire fighting school had been cancelled and the whole crew was on board. Great...I was down to necks, backs and legs and had the rest of the crew to feed, including the officers. Since it was an officer that had screwed this up, it was only fitting that they take the brunt of it. The rest of the crew got legs. The steward loaded up the platter with wings and backs and left for the ward room to serve the officers. The ward room was adjacent to the galley, making it easy to hear Bucher's reaction. His voice was still in the air when Mr. Harris entered the galley to chew me out. I apologized for letting him down and suggested that things like this could be avoided in the future if there was better communication between us. He accepted this and returned to the ward room for the balance of his ass chewing.
Before I went on leave, which was the one thing that was keeping me sane, I had plenty of work to do. If it wasn't done my leave would be cancelled, shortened, postponed, or rescheduled, depending on the threat of the day. One night I stayed up and worked until after midnight. The ship was quiet and I had to dump the trash from the supply office, so rather than lock everything up, I made a dash to the pier, dumped the waste basket, and shot down the ladder, only to find the Duty PO waiting for me. "Why didn't you secure this area? Do you know you can be put on report for this? Why are you always screwing up?" I had to take this crap and that's all it was...crap. It served no purpose other than make some jerk feel big. I promised never to do it again and he left. One of the tasks I had to complete that night was to type out the menu for the week -- Lewis would rough it out and I would add all the adjectives to make it sound like the Brown Derby. Since the dawn of time mothers had threatened their children that they had better learn to eat what was put before me, because when I got in the service they wouldn't have any choices. This did not apply to me; if Lewis put something on the menu that I didn't like, I would replace it with something else. I also liked to change things a little, like instead of Iced Cinnamon Buns, I would type in Iced Cinnamon Nuns. No one ever caught these gaffs, wasn't anyone reviewing my work? By the end of the week, I was desperate to separate myself from the service as much as possible. I took a shower, but put on the old uniform and went to the locker club where my civies were stored.
Dressed in my best Madras shirt, pressed slacks and penny loafers, I went to a movie all by myself. The movie was $1.25, which I slid through the window. I didn't want to ask for the service men's discount, I was not in the Navy for the next few hours. The girl slid my change back and said, "There is a discount for you guys in the service." I was insulted. It must have been the dull animal look in my eyes. Was there no end? The first week in July consisted of working ten to twelve hours a day. At the end of the week I left on leave, 21 days without the Navy. The time passed all too quickly, and my return to Bremerton was inevitable. Our first venture on the water was a continuation of the screwups that had dogged the PUEBLO from the first time we had seen her. Our first sea trial was fairly uneventful and Bucher was proud to point out what a stable platform the ship was. Since Puget Sound was glassed off at the time we wondered what other kind of platform it could have been.
As a member of the supply department, and newly-anointed cook, I spent most of the day moving supplies to the galley and watching the scenery go by as we cruised among the many islands that make the Sound one of the most picturesque spots on the west coast. After lunch I went below to write a letter when one of the yard workers, having binged on a free lunch, came below to sleep it off in a bunk forward of Don McClarren's. Don was at the table working on one of his many crossword puzzle books and returned to his locker to get a sharper pencil. Our lockers were unique in that they were also our beds. To get inside the top, which was hinged on the back, it had to be lifted. While Don was rummaging around his locker, the yard worker ahead of his bunk rolled over and placed the toes of his shoes on the lip of Don's locker. Any one who has lived out of a locker for an extended period of time knows that the space is never adequate for the amount of material inside, thus the locker was never completely closed. When the yard worker's toes kept his locker from closing, Don opened his locker again and slammed it shut, bringing screams from the now-awake worker. Don stared at him with detachment and continued to apply body English to his locker. At last both Don and the man with the enlarging toes realized what the problem was and Don released his hold on the locker. The yard worker exited the berthing compartment muttering about what a bunch of jerks we were. Don and I discussed the event and figured that Don should have jumped on his locker and crippled the guy.
Later in the afternoon as we were returning to Bremerton, one of the lookouts reported to the bridge that a small boat was in trouble off our port side. Bucher reacted in a manner that was to illustrate the type of man that was in charge of our lives. In a display of his seamanship he brought the PUEBLO alongside the vessel and brought its passengers on board. Bucher had a flare for demonstrating his seamanship and loved putting on a display of his abilities. With great fanfare, the people were brought on board and Bucher invited them to be his guest for dinner the following Sunday.
Our second sea trial was an overnight cruise. In anticipation of any hi-jinks, Bucher had been ordered not to put in port that night, but to remain at sea for the duration of our trial. Bucher waited until after dark to radio in a request to put into Port Angeles to dump garbage. Such a request would have been denied during regular hours, but late in the evening some poor, junior officer had the watch and being unfamiliar with Bucher's method of operation granted us permission to put into the Coast Guard station at Port Angeles. The need to dump garbage was a straw man whose sole purpose was to get us to a dock with a bar in close proximity to our berth.
As a member of the sea and anchor detail, I was on the port wing of the bridge as Bucher took the helm and guided the ship into position for docking. With the ship was secured, the garbage dumped, the liberty call sounded. Bucher's policy of work hard, play hard was in full force and effect for most of the crew. I, however, was stuck with the watch in the galley and was unable to join the crew. In less than two hours the crew returned in mass. They had been 86'd from the enlisted men's club. The officers went straight to the bridge and the word went out on the 1-MC to set the special sea and anchor detail. We pulled away from the pier and put out in the channel where the anchor was dropped and we spent the night.
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PUEBLO in Puget Sound