As we reconstructed the whole incident the next day, the pieces began to make a little sense. On the whole, it remains a mystery of willful lack of understanding between cultures. Bill remembers nothing of this entire incident.
One pleasant evening in 1971, Bill and Ed, which are names that we will use for our Navigator and our Executive Officer, went ashore in Montego Bay, Jamaica for a nice dinner in a fancy hotel. After dinner, they retired to the bar for cognac and cigars. Ed later remembered that the guys sitting next to them had been saying something about "landing a half a ton on the Keys in my sailboat." Ed was the kind of guy who did not believe that anyone in the Navy ever experimented with illegal substances, and he did not believe that many other people in the U.S. had ever tried demon marijuana. Of course, he never grasped the context of the conversation that he overheard. He did notice that his second brandy "smelled funny," and he did not drink it. He did not mention this to Bill,however.
Bill had played tackle for the varsity team at Annapolis, and he was not at all known for sensitivity in his senses of smell or taste. Bill drank his second shot of brandy without hesitation. Had Bill been of normal size, he probably would have collapsed on the spot. He was apparently slipped a mickey.
I was the duty officer that night, and I was doing some departmental paperwork in the wardroom. After a while, the below-decks watchstander came up to me and suggested that I come look into what was happening.
Bill had returned to the boat, and seemed to be roaring drunk. We had never seen him drink much, but many of the crew did drink to excess, so we thought that this was just an unusual binge on Bill's part. He went to the crew's mess and he made himself a sandwich. At least, that seemed to be the theory. He took a loaf of bread that had been baked the night before, and he tried to slice it. He wound up reducing it to crumbs. He then took some unsliced bologna and he repeated the process of shredding it while attempting to slice it. He then did the same with the cheese. And with the tomato. He was waving the knife around wildly, and people were scattering. A raving, rampaging giant of a man, with a knife, who also happened to be a Lieutenant Commander, was more than they could deal with in the crew's mess.
Bill ate the pile of crumbs of bread, bologna, cheese, and tomato on his plate. Only a dozen pieces of china had been broken in the process. He threatened life or limb of several crewmen with the bread knife, laughing all the while. He demonstrated with pride his ability to kick the light bulb to pieces in the overhead light. He demonstrated it again. He went forward, and as he passed the below-decks watchstander in the control room, Bill signed up for a wake-up call. This was a standard thing to do, since we did not want eighty alarm clocks going off throughout the boat. He wrote down his wake-up instructions on the watchstander's clipboard. The next day, the scribbling did not look like any earthly language, but Bill had said that it was a wake-up call. After writing these hieroglyphics, he then folded the clipboard shut. The clipboard was a solid piece of aluminum. It was not designed to be folded, but that did not stop Bill. The machinist mates were able to use some tools to get it unfolded again.
Bill then went to the officers' head. Apparently, as he was sitting there, the small fan that was installed there was getting his knee cold. It always did that. Bill was unable to find the switch to turn it off, so he reached through the guard and he grabbed the fan blades, holding them until the fuse blew. In the process, he lost an eighth of an inch off the tips of all his fingers. There was blood everywhere. (Where were you when the blood hit the fan?)
I was wondering what kind of restraints we would need for this guy. I was wondering if we would need some kind of weapon to put him down. I thought that perhaps I, a Lieutenant (Junior Grade), would need to authorize the use of force and physical restraints to discipline a Lieutenant Commander.
Just then Sam and Don got back to the boat. Sam was a reserve officer that Bill could not stand. Sam was too "artsy-craftsy" for Bill's taste. They tolerated each other when sober, but this time Bill picked up Sam and started trying to break his neck against the door frame. I quickly looked for something to hit Bill in the head with. I was trying to get the cast iron grill loose in the pantry. Don saved the day.
Don was an old (36?, 37?) warrant officer who had seen all the bar fights in the Navy. He turned to Bill and said, "Cuz, he's not the one who did it. The one who did it is hiding at the foot of your bunk."
Don called everyone Cuz. Short for Cousin. Don was the most likable person that I met in the Navy, but I don't think he ever knew anyone's name. To Don, everyone was either Cuz or Cap'n.
Bill put Sam down, and got down on his hands and knees to look at the foot of his bunk. The bottom bunk on a submarine is quite low to the deck. As soon as Bill's head hit the mattress, as he was looking for some hypothetical transgressor, Bill passed out. Actually, at some level, he had passed out a couple of hours earlier, but this time his body caught up with his consciousness. He slept for the rest of the night with his head on his mattress, and with his body stretched out across the stateroom, across the passageway, and into the wardroom. We just stepped over him for the rest of the night. He was blocking the only passageway on the submarine.
Our Chief Hospital Corpsman ran some primitive neurological tests on Sam, and checked via radio with the nearest U.S. Naval Hospital, and decided that Sam's neck was not broken, after all.
The next day, Bill denied responsibility for everything, griped about the bed sheets being clotted to all his fingertips, and plotted the course back to Cuba.