When I left home for our six-week trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, my wife was due to deliver our first child a week after my departure. There was very little private communication allowed between the U.S. and Gitmo. Our only voice link to home consisted of one (1) telephone line for the tens of thousands of us in Gitmo, and that line was available on a reservation basis. The waiting list was two or three weeks long. We fought over that line, and it turned out to be one of the few democratic things about the Navy. No one got priority.
One evening a few weeks after we arrived, one of our sailors was talking with his wife back in Key West. The two of them had concluded their urgent business, and she was bringing him up to date on the news of family members of other crewmen. Our families were fairly close-knit back in Key West. She said, "Oh, and Mrs. Charlton delivered . . ."
At that point the connection was broken, and his call was over. The phone line was turned over to the next sailor in the queue. I got the news, and I was excited, relieved, confused, and agitated. I wanted to know more! How were they doing? What other traditional information was available?
I got frantic, and I used a military line to place an unauthorized call to the Submarine Force headquarters in Norfolk. I asked the Duty Officer there to find out for me. He called the Duty Officer at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Key West for information, and then he called me back. He reported that it was a boy, nine pounds one ounce, mother and son doing fine. I began to celebrate.
The next morning at 4:30 when I got to the boat to begin the day’s exercises, there was a message from Commanding Officer, U.S. Naval Hospital, Key West, to Commanding Officer, USS Odax. Subject: Lt(jg). F. G. Charlton, III. Please advise subject that his wife delivered a nine pound, two ounce girl at 251712Z Aug 71, mother and daughter doing fine.
It was nice to be reassured about the mother and child doing fine, but there was now an element of confusion here, you see. Was it a boy or a girl? How was it that they were confused on this fact? Some kind of problem? Or the world's largest set of twins?
That was all the information that I was able to receive for more than a week. Did I mention that the mail service was extremely bad at Guantanamo Bay? Did I need to mention that?
We went on one of our weekends to Montego Bay, Jamaica after a couple of weeks. I was the duty officer on our first day there, and that left me the senior officer aboard. We were the only U.S. Navy ship in the harbor. I checked the regulations, and there seemed to be enough loopholes, if I got caught.
I let myself into the radio room. It took a while to disconnect all the cryptography gear. Then I powered up a high-frequency transmitter, and called the AT&T Miami Marine Operator. "Hello, I'd like to place a collect call to Key West, please."
It was a girl.