The Princess
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The Princess

One of the best things about the military in those days before the polarization of our society that occurred during and following the war in southeast Asia, was the way that strangers from different cultures were thrown together. I had grown up in a very relaxed small town in rural Alabama. My best friend in the Navy, my "running mate" as the saying goes, was an intense Jewish guy from Baltimore. We were natural friends, and we both learned some tolerance from our time together. My friend, Jerry, had the experience that makes the best sea story of my submarine career.

When we arrived in Copenhagen one time, the officers from our boat were invited to have lunch at the home of the Danish Navy Lieutenant who had been assigned as our liaison officer for the visit. Jerry had the duty, and was stuck aboard the boat. The rest of us enjoyed a seven course luncheon, and some nice conversation. And some beer.

The Danes are apparently connoisseurs of beer. At least, they served us a different beer with each of our seven courses. Including dessert. Given the formality of the setting, it did not seem like a joke. But after seven glasses of beer, our sense of humor may not have been the keenest.

When we got back to the boat, we all tried to rub it in with Jerry. We bragged about the meal, the beer, how pretty the hostess was, and on and on, as drunks tend to do. Normally Jerry would have gotten angry, posturing loudly, acting out, in a way that we all liked, or at least liked to tease him about. This time, however, he just sat there listening and smiling. We were too rowdy to notice. After a while, the skipper turned to Jerry and said, "By the way, did anything happen aboard the boat while we were gone?"

We expected a brief answer of no consequence. Jerry said, "The princess came for a visit."

Jerry had been working below decks in his wash khaki uniform when he heard the announcement, over the main PA system, "Admiral, U. S. Navy, arriving." Our one watchstander topside, a seaman, had been on his toes. Jerry grabbed his hat, ran topside, and saw the admiral and his aide in dress blue uniforms, and two properly dressed civilians. The admiral looked down his nose at Jerry's lack of formal dress and said, "Would you please tell your commanding officer that we are ready for the tour."

Jerry said, "The captain's not here, Admiral."

The admiral said, with an amazed expression on his face, "Didn't you receive word about our visit?"

The admiral's aide slapped his forehead, and said, "I forgot to tell them."

The admiral said, smiling now, "Would you be so kind as to show us through your ship. This is Crown Princess Margrethe, and this is Mr. Dudley, the U. S. ambassador to Denmark.

Jerry said, "Certainly. You understand, things will be quite informal. Why don't we look around topside here for a moment, first." Then he turned to the sailor alongside and said, quietly, "Go below, and cover up all the guys who are sleeping in their skivvies."

The group descended through the forward torpedo room hatch, and proceeded aft. Our engine room crew was overhauling a main diesel engine at the time, and a crankshaft and ten pistons and rods were lying in the engine room passageway. This was explained to the princess, in an attempt to dissuade her from looking aft. She wanted to see it all. They tiptoed over the engine parts.

We received a nice note the next day. The skipper was fit to be tied. He was an ambitious politician, and this would have been his best opportunity for recognition during his command tour. I enjoyed the meal, the beer, and the story.

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