Mike Hemming, The 'Boy Throttleman'

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

Let’s get this out of the way at the outset. I am an unapologetic Mike Hemming fan. We were shipmates and remain very good friends and the 'Metric-Built Blonde' and I are crazy about Flo Hemming, the lady who has to put up with the rascal.

For those of you who have never had the honor and pleasure of meeting the crazy sonuvabitch, let me fill you in on Mike Hemming. He was one of those 'engine house' snipes.

Most throttlemen on diesel submarines were old raggedy-ass lifers old enough to be your Dad… Old, unsalvageable, raw vocabulary rapscallions who wrestled those big ol’ opposed piston 38-D Fairbanks Morse 1600 horsepower rock crushers.

Mike was so damn young when he became an operating throttleman, he became known as the 'Boy Throttleman'. For those of you with no point of reference of which to make a comparison, think of how often you hear of a Little League pitcher with a 100 mph fastball, an Eagle Scout with a laser eye surgery merit badge or a kindergarten kid winning the U.S. Open.

That’s what being a teenage engine room boss compares to. In short, Mike Hemming, the 'Earl of Easton' was that good. You do not want to acknowledge that in his presence because every time someone does that, we have to Crisco the egotistical bastard's ears to get him through doorways… His head can go from normal to Mount Rushmore size in thirty seconds.

But, his mechanical expertise pales in comparison to his virtuosity in penning prose.

I once had the honor of standing on a grassy hillside in Arlington Cemetery on a bright Spring day, listening to the beauty of Mike's words float above the final resting place of row on row of fallen heroes.

As those words were read, they triggered the incendiary reaction found in the hearts of true patriots… And were powerful enough to have an old case-hardened World War II submarine skipper withdraw his pocket handkerchief to wipe the moisture from his weather-beaten face.

Mike is a very versatile fellow. At the first Requin reunion I asked,

“Hey Mike, what are you doin’ for 'feed yourself' bucks these days?”

Mike said,

“Operating a nursery.”

It was hard to visualize a bearded, barnacle-encrusted Mike riding herd on little crumb crushers in three-cornered pants… Little thumb-sucking pamper soakers. I never thought about the kind of nursery where folks raise plants.

Mike 'Boy Throttleman' Hemming is also a master of the telling of sea stories. I once sat on a USS Carp veteran’s backyard patio and damn near laughed myself sick listening to Hemming relate an account of visiting an Italian cathouse… It was like watching Michelangelo paint or Beethoven monkey around, slapping together little musical ditties.

I just knew that a lot of you hadn’t had an opportunity to meet Mike and get to know him… Just wanted you to know that he was worth buying a beer for.

If you want to meet a Squadron Six legend, he’s it.