The Great Dempsty Dumpster Fight

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Anyone remember "The Great Dempsty Dumpster Fight" on the Fleet Landing in Bermuda, spring of '60 or '61?

There were 10 to 15 boats in. By the time most of 'em pulled in, all sorts of surface craft were nested at the base pier. So, the boats 'dropped hardware to swing the hook' out in the bay. They set up a liberty launch circuit for the lads in the liberty sections… And everything looked cool.

Some mental giant called for the liberty boats to quit running at 2330, so by 2300 the fleet landing was jammed solid with red-blooded American bluejackets in varying states of intoxication. A jolly crowd of drunks milling about with nothing to do but wait for the Orion coxswains to lay their boats alongside.

There was a Dempsty Dumpster on the pier. Some simple sonuvabitch from SUBRON 6 climbed up on it and yelled, "I'm King of the Dumpstey Derby!!" It was like nuclear fission - the gahdam pier went nuts.

Members of the United States Undersea Service - known as the 'diesel boat navy', were not given the training in the social graces that today's lads are obviously given. But then, given the amenities of a nuke boat, it's hard to distinguish them from the Princess Cruise Lines - - kind of like Diving Love Boats.

Riding the old "Take her down to six-five feet and report your leaks" boats was like living in a septic tank that served great chow. We didn't have orchestras, saunas, a prominade deck, visiting magicians, and people who understood anything remotely resembling medicine (Rumor was that the corpsman on the Redfin was an ex-Guatamalan root doctor).

I have always been proud that I wore diesel dolphins. I was probably too damn stupid for the 'moonbeam navy', but I can always say I was 'dungaree navy' before they tamed it.

Went to see some movie about the moonbeam navy. The OOD said… very calmly… "Make your depth 2,000…" TWO THOUSAND??? On the boat I rode, the entire crew would have been wearing the boat like a peacoat before we hit a thousand!

Also, there was no haze in the boat… No cigar smoking COB in the control room. What kind of a boat sailor believes in air the sonuvabitch can't see? I'll bet the coffee on one of them moonbeam boats doesn't even come with a rainbow colored hydraulic oil slick floating in it… And some old coot with a hundred and fifty hashmarks and the I.Q. of Tweety Bird saying, "Don't worry kid, stuff's okay… Hydro oil will lubricate yer gizzard." Nuke sailors don't have gizzards… They get their gizzards circumsized.

Did you know those bastards tore down the diving tower at New London? No lie. How does a drunk know how to find the base now? Jeezus, is nothing sacred? I guess if you escape below 2000, when you reach the surface they stuff you in a shot glass, so the solution is tear down the tower. I asked some teenage Chief,

"What'd you guys do with the escape tower?"

"Tore it down… It was useless."

Well, damn. Would you demolish the statue of liberty because Victoria Secret didn't approve of her breast size? Doesn't the term "Historic Landmark" translate into moonbeam linguistics?

Where was I? Oh, yeah… Some idiot was up on the Fleet Landing dumpster doing his damndest to toss his fellow citizens off. If you got tossed off on one side, you were lucky… You had a twenty foot trip and landed in the water. On the three other sides, it was an eight foot drop to an abrupt landing on a concrete pier. Never had so much fun, even after the posse arrived. It made you want to re-enlist… Where else can grown men re-enact a third grade playground fight and get away with it? For weeks, men bragged "I was king of the dumpster for eight seconds…." For the rest of my time in SUBRON 6, all time was calculated from the Big Dumpster Fight in Bermuda.

After the posse got things under control and rounded everyone up, some four-striper decided we needed a midnight pep talk.

"You men… Look at yourselves, you're a disgrace… Grown men… Men the Navy has deemed worthy of entrusting the operation of some of the world's most sophisticated equipment…"

He couldn't have been talking to anyone on Requin. We had a busted toaster, a screwed up LORAN and damn near all the hatch gaskets leaked. Anyhow, this land-based captain told us we should be ashamed of ourselves…

"You men… Look at yourselves… Torn uniforms, missing white hats… Dirty and filthy…"

Of course, rarely does the Navy form-up a returning liberty party and hold a pass-in-review for the CNO… Crissakes, it was midnight… He should have been proud that more than half of us could still stand up!

Well Ray, when they scrapped the old fleet snorkels, something died. Don't know exactly what, but it was tied to being part of a band of brothers… A buccaneer fraternity that prided itself on not being bolted too securely to the planet. But we knew when it came to driving and fighting iron ships beneath the sea…

We were the best.