Whatever Happened to the After Battery Rat?

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

We're getting to be fewer and fewer. You know you're part of a thinning organization when guys you used to pull liberty with start showing up on the Discovery Channel, explaining life on petroleum powered submersibles in the days before the gahdam moonbeam navy.

Went to see one of those recently released submarine films... You know the one... "The U.S.S. Gee Whiz SSN-So-In-So goes to 40,000 feet"... And the mind-reading skipper does perfectly timed wiggle-waggle moves to elude M.I.T. designed underwater ordinance made in China under a deal made with Bill Clinton.

The crew has clean, neatly tailored and pressed dungarees. The wardroom gentlemen all wear ties or ascots, the cook has a clean apron and the Chief of the Boat uses the term, "Yowee, that hurts!" when he inadvertantly drops an anvil on his big toe.

What's happened to the submarine force? What did they do with the old After Battery Rats? What happened to Monday morning quarters... Where it was like an Easter Parade of hangovers? And what ever happened to the Chief Petty Officer whose vocabulary contained descriptive adjectives and pronouns that could blister paint and embarrass house plants? Where did these guys go? If they're dead, Hell must be overcrowded. I've noticed that Ray Stone's still around, although plans are currently underway to embalm and stuff him for the Smithsonian... The plaque will read, "Ray 'Olgoat' Stone, TM Chief... Worthless Good for Nothing Sonuvabitch and Qualified Man." Not much of a testimonial to serve as prototypical illustration of today's modern Navyman, but a fine example of how it was possible to fold, bend, spindle and mutilate just about every rule in the book, make it through an enlistment without getting hung or shot, then somehow end up as a Chief in the process.

Ah, the Cold War... Where grown men went to sea in leaky boats with obsolete, no longer available parts... To smoke five cents a pack, ten year old 'instant ash' cigarettes, read socially unacceptable literature and all for a wage scorned by the Shanghai Coolie union.

Boat sailors. Hell, you could always spot a old SUBRON SIX man... He smoked Pall Malls, Camels, Raleighs, or some other nonfiltered thing carried in his sock next to his ankle... Wore foul weather gear often mistaken for used leper bandages found floating in the Ganges River... Cuffs on his blue jumper unbuttoned and rolled back one turn, so his 'liberty cuffs' stood out like port n' starboard running lights.

And cooks... Would never have admitted it at the time, but they were the best damn cooks in the Navy. Sonuvabitches could marinate a gahdam rubber boot and cook it so it tasted great. Rodney A. Johnson, aka 'Rat' Johnson... If you ever stood midwatch on the Requin when Rat was night baker, and he started cooking his famous "Git-yer-gahdam hands off'em" cinnamon buns... Hell, you'd be chewin' chunks out of the T.B.T. before he got the first batch clear of the oven.

You have to wonder, do nuclear boats have freckle-maker heads and sanitary tanks? Or do they have little 'Poop in the Bags' with self-sealing envelopes that they leave at the mail buoy?

Not to brag, but the author remains one of the few (limited number) individuals who while serving as an honored member of ships' company, found himself a grand prize winner in the "Who gets to Visit the Inside of Number Two Sanitary Tank" contest... I wish I could find words to describe the wonder and magic of that award winning tour.

What ever happened to sailors who could find something to bitch about with a mouthful of tit? Not whining mind you, but 'creative complaining'... The art of going out of your way to find insignificant molehills to jack into mountain ranges. It was all part of submarine duty.

What happened to officers named, "Big Mike" Mahoney, Slade Cutter, "Blackjack" Richardson, and "Dutch"? The new guys are called Peyton, William, Ruppert, and Reginald. Call some sonuvabitch "Ruppert" in the late 50s and you could count on some large piece of bar furniture being wrapped around your ears.

Oh, and one other thing... How come submarines in the movies never have dog shacks or visible topside watches? Where in th' hell do they go to light cigarettes... And what do they hide behind when they take a midnight whiz on the tanktops? Who signs for the Krispie Kreme donuts? If they've gone and replaced topside watches with some kind of Buck Rogers "Welcome Aboard" robot contraption, who gets the word to the guys below that some gal with some very serious sweater pups is standing on the pier?" Doesn't the moonbeam navy care anymore?

Well, for those of you who give a damn, Ray Stone, fully frozen in time... Varnished... And mounted on his own marble pedestal... Will be on display in the Smithsonian Museum of Old Barnicle-Encrusted Junk, in the 'Nasty Bastard' collection. And the next time the History Channel runs a special on "USN submersibles before they were named after locomotives, and the ol' farts and geezers that rode 'em", turn on your VCRs 'cause I'll be in it.