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The Young and the Mindless

(The names have been changed to protect the stupid.)


When I arrived at my first ship, and got my first assignment as Division Officer, I tried to be industrious and conscientious, and do the things that they tell you to do to get on top of things. So, one of my first actions was to read the service records of all my sailors. One record contained an apparent discrepancy, so I went to the person involved and I asked, "Are you a Fireman or a Fireman Apprentice?"

"I don't know."

I persisted. "Are you receiving the pay of a Fireman, or of a Fireman Apprentice?"

"I don't know."

So I gave up on the sailor in question, and I filled out a form and sent it in, "promoting" him to Fireman. It sailed through the bureaucracy without comment, and he got a raise. And his service record was now correct and consistent. His grasp of reality was still in question, however.


My second day aboard ship was a duty day, in which I was to stay aboard for 24 hours. Since I was not yet qualified to stand the duty, I was under the instruction of Fred, an officer of some years of seniority, though not of much rank. After the evening meal, I was prowling through the control room with a checklist in hand, trying to find all the valves, switches, gauges, and other secrets of the shrine. Fred was taking a nap. Carol walked up to me and said, "I'll give you a knobber if I can watch the movie with the crew."

I did not know that there were any civilians aboard ship. I did not know what a knobber was. I did not say anything. I went to officers' country and woke Fred, telling him, "There's someone in the control room who needs to talk with you." I then decided to go topside, then aft, then below decks in the after torpedo room, where they had some other checklists. I studiously ignored any activities from up forward for a couple of hours.

Later I found an opportunity to ask a crewman about Carol. He said that she was popular among a dozen or two of the sailors.

Bob & Carol

Soon enough Carol got pregnant. This was before Roe vs. Wade. She then seduced Bob, and told him that he was the father. He was not bright enough, or savvy enough, to know any better. They got married. Carol continued to be popular with a dozen or two of the crewmen. They would brag of contests, to see who could be the most outrageous in cuckolding Bob. One sailor got Carol to verify his story that he had stopped by Bob and Carol's apartment one evening for a visit. After a while, he convinced Bob to run down to the store to buy him some cigarettes. While Bob was gone, well, you know . . .

One time I was talking with one of the sailors whom I thought was a bit less crude than most. I told him that I doubted the truth of some of the stories about Carol. For one thing, she was not very pretty, and being several months pregnant, it just did not make sense to me. I expected a thoughtful and concerned response. What he said was, "If you think she's not pretty now, you should have seen her last night with no makeup and a crank in her mouth."

Bob began to be suspicious when his second child was black. Bob and Carol were definitely white.


One day a message arrived from the Submarine School in New London, Connecticut, advising us that a new sailor was scheduled to be transferred to our ship the following week. The sailor was getting married, and he was requesting a week's leave for a honeymoon before reporting to the ship at our new home port of Key West, Florida. This was quite unusual, but we sent a return message giving our permission. Sure enough, he reported to the ship right after his honeymoon. At the end of that first work day, his wife came down to the ship to pick him up and take him home. A number of the sailors saw his wife at that time.


Alice had been known around the area of New London, Connecticut for a number of months, or years. She was universally referred to as Diesel Alice, since she seemed to be taking care to sleep with as many sailors from diesel submarines as possible, while carefully avoiding any and all sailors from nuclear powered submarines. She was very pretty.

Ted & Alice

On that sunny afternoon at the end of Ted's first day aboard ship, we found out that Alice was also Ted's new wife. There was much discussion aboard ship and in various bars around town that evening. For the next few months, Ted and Alice were the topic of as much conversation as were Bob and Carol. When we went to sea, and at times had to stand those four-hour watches where absolutely nothing happened, we never lacked for conversation, or stories, or astonishment. Some of us who were quite naive had our doubts about many of the stories, but I accidentally learned of the truth of some of them.

While I was getting ready, one Saturday, for a party that I was giving for the other officers and their wives, I visited two sailors that I knew from my ship. They had a mobile home in town, off the base. I wanted to borrow some of their records to play at my party. This might have been considered illegal fraternization with enlisted men, but it seemed harmless enough to me.

While I was studying their collection, one of them suddenly whispered, "Alice is coming up the walk. Ignore her. Pretend she is not even here."

The three of us continued our discussion. Alice rang the doorbell. She knocked on the door. She let herself in. She started to talk to us. We pretended that she was not there, which was difficult, since she was very pretty. She walked over to the dining table, put her purse down on it, and began to undress.

I grabbed a handful of records, said my thank yous and goodbyes, and left. The next day I did not mention the incident when I returned the records. The sailors' only comment was, "Alice will do anything for a little attention."

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

One time the ship got underway from the home port of Key West, Florida, and was proceeding on the surface up through the Florida Straits. We got a mysterious radio message telling us to pull into Fort Lauderdale overnight. We tied up to the quay wall, and a plain sedan pulled up with two guys in business suits and sunglasses. Our skipper got in the car and left, returning without comment several hours later.

Carol and Alice pulled up in a car shortly after we arrived. They had driven the 180 miles up from Key West to meet the ship. We did not understand how they knew that we would be there, since we had not known, ourselves.

They had rented two adjoining rooms in a hotel down the street. We rearranged the duty schedule so that Bob and Ted could have some time with their wives. Apparently there was some confusion later that evening. The connecting door between the rooms was involved in some problems. Shots were fired. Blood was shed. Much paperwork ensued.

Looking Back

Those of us who grew up in sheltered, suburban communities, went to church and school regularly, studied, got ahead, became officers, and tried to do a good job, were usually unprepared for the culture of the waterfront. The story recounted here is based on the assumption that ten per cent of what I heard was true.

Some years later, after I was out of the Navy, I visited an old shipmate. We talked about old friends, and he brought me up to date about the successes and the failures since our early days. He said that Bob divorced Carol, that Ted attempted suicide, that Alice was admitted to a mental hospital for observation, and that other women took the place of Carol and Alice as favorites of a certain category of sailors on the waterfront.

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