I have always been skeptical of folks who begin the recounting of an event with, "Honest to God This really happened." Having dabbled in the verbal horse puckey trade myself, I am suspicious of such a lead in. I have served with some of the most accomplished liars in the free world. All sea stories, especially submarine sea yarns, begin with, "No shit This REALLY happened " In the following instance, that is an accurate observation... No shit!
It was '61 or '62. We were engaged in some kind of hunt 'em, bomb 'em horsecrap somewhere out in the 'It all looks the same' Atlantic, when we get word to surface next to some giagonzo bird farm. When we hit the surface, holy jumpin' jeezuz! It looked like Chicago had broken loose and was heading to Europe at 25 or 30 knots! Damn, it was big.
The Old Man passed the word that we were abeam to port of the USS Antietam And that shortly an Admiral's barge would be lowered (The only difference between a Captain's gig and an Admiral's barge is the horsepower of the sonuvabitch riding it). The Admiral to be arriving shortly was non other than the big sea daddy of the east coast fly boys COMAIRLANT Heavy cheese, industrial strength brass.
Again, the Old Man took to the 21 MC:
"I want all members of the topside gang to lay topside smartly Wearing covers."
Covers? We didn't have white hats aboard How are we gonna pull this gahdam rabbit out of the hat?
Then it hit us. What did they tell you all the time? Learn to improvise Think on your feet.
Well, when we got bread in Norfolk, it was packed for commercial distribution, meaning packed for the restaurant trade. It came in a big cardboard box from the Bond Bread Company. In the end of the box were 3 dozen paper hats White paper hats with a picture of a smiling kid and the words, "Bond Bread is Gooder!"
We issued the hats to all the lads laying topside, then me and Stuke put ours on and went hopping and popping up the after battery hatch.
Here was our logic First, we weren't great thinkers, but we figured from the Antietam being over a mile away, all the sonuvabitches could tell was that we had something white on our heads. Even Superman couldn't have figured out we were decked out in paper greasy-spoon hats. We were brilliant What geniuses What ingenuity How clever
Suddenly, the skipper appeared and 18 men in two ranks, standing there in goofy paper hats, learned that aircraft carriers had optical stuff that would allow them to count the pubic hairs on a pigmy at over five miles. After rendering the hand salute and running our flag up and down, we were cordially invited to the crew's mess for a cup of coffee and an ass chewing.
It didn't help matters that before COMAIRLANT arrived, a recently acquired messcook shot the GDU so that the barge was greeted with a carpet of bobbing orange rinds.
Forgive me Mr. Rogers, "It wasn't a beautiful day in the neighborhood."