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Trutta’s New Kid

We were in the yard, as we called the Charleston Naval Shipyard. Our boat, the USS Odax, had just received a new 250-ton battery. This was a very disruptive operation, so the crew had been moved to the barracks, and the administrative processes of the ship had been moved to a dumpy building ashore. After several weeks we were moving back aboard the boat. It was backbreaking work.

One full day was set aside to bring all of our gear aboard. Mattresses, personal belongings, office files, reference books, everything that was of value had to be carried back aboard and lowered through the 25-inch hatches, then moved painstakingly through the submarine to be stowed in the proper location. And I mean *everything* of value was being moved. Thievery is rampant in shipyards. Security in a shipyard is very lax in reality, though security measures are more stringent, at least on the surface. We knew it would be a long day. For the sake of the crew's morale, we planned to serve the evening meal aboard the submarine, since our food was much, much better than what was available at the mess hall ashore.

A new sailor arrived, a seaman deuce in dress blues, straight from Submarine School. We welcomed him with open arms, because we were as short-handed as every other boat in our Atlantic submarine force. Promptly at 0800 hours he handed his large manila envelope full of orders and other records to our Chief of the Boat. The CoB tossed the orders on top of the stack of other papers being carried aboard and said, "Welcome, sailor. Change into your dungarees and get ready to work your ass off."

The kid did it, eagerly and enthusiastically, just like the rest of the crew. Officers were standing in line with deck apes, passing boxes of food, books, soap, and everything else we needed to turn the submarine back into our home. We were hard at it from morning colors until ten o'clock that night. As exhausting as it was, it was also stimulating, and exciting. We were getting ready to go to sea, which is what we were there to do. Shipyards are misery. The ocean is where we were wanted, and where we wanted to be.

As the evening meal was served, the new kid stood in line with the other most junior sailors. They were talking about things, just things, exhausted and hungry. The new kid was even more excited than the rest of them, since he had never been to sea, and his timing was perfect, arriving just as we were preparing to sail.

He made a comment about what a great ship the Trutta appeared to be. It caused some confusion among the sailors in line, but they were too tired and hungry to pay much attention. A little later he made another comment about the Trutta. More blank stares. Conversation flagged. Finally, after the third comment about the Trutta, one of the others asked, "Why are you so hung up on the Trutta?"

The new kid asked, "Isn't this the USS Trutta?"

The CoB opened the kid's orders and found out that, indeed, the exhausted sailor who was chowing down as only a nineteen-year-old can eat, had reported to the submarine on the wrong side of the pier. We gave him an extra slice of pie and thanked him for his help.

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