Foul Weather Gear

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

One great thing about having a DD-214 that has turned yellow and is coming apart in the creases, is that you can whine and the commandant of the local naval district can't jerk your chain.

Consider the following:

Foul Weather Jackets and Life Saver Belts:

Foul weather jackets soaked up salt water faster than a Stay-Free mini-pad. The suckers only made sure you were soaked, cold and miserable and that you had to dry your soggy Pall Malls on the radar console before you could light the damn things.

Life belts contained this weird 'hippie orange' contraption that you had to unfold and stick your head through to go on deck. The theory being if you fell over the side then...

(A) You would pull a little toggle... A gray wooden ball on a short line... Inflate the thing and hope the lookout saw you go AWOL and...

(B) The obnoxious color would help them locate you... Or the Birds Eye frozen slab that used to be you.

The problem was that in heavy weather, trying to maintain your footing on a slimy deck pulling a ten ton dog chain... One thing you could do without was a big orange thing flopping around all over hell and half Georgia, attached to your chest... Like wild sex with a parrot.

I attempted to satisfy this problem by putting on the fool thing and then tossing on my water absorbent jacket... This way if I needed to float, I would unzip the jacket and jerk the lanyard. A good idea became a very bad idea when the Chief of the Boat jerked my lanyard in the control room late one night and a rhinoceros appeared and tried to crush my rib cage.

Dog Chains:

Requin had dog chains with links forged from anvils. One step up would have been anchor chain. Whoever designed those things must have figured we used elephants to dump two-way... If one ever came loose and you went over the side, the last thing to see your dog tags would be a member of the crab family.

Foul Weather Parkas:

We had a foul weather gear locker in the control room forward of the I.C. board. It contained some of the foulest gear ever donned by free citizens... It was ripped and torn... This was a period in history where bluejackets knew instinctively that mere contact with a needle and thread would turn you homosexual, so unless healed by God, stuff never got any better... You just kept poking your arms around until you found the intended hole.

The stuff never got washed or sent anywhere to be cleaned. It took a real man to intentionally crawl into some of that stuff. Looking back, if given the option to pull on Requin heavy weather gear or wrap myself in a month-old bedsheet from a cot in a leper colony cathouse, I would have gone for the bed linen, hands down.

And it leaked through the neck hole, insuring that when green water came over the bridge, you'd enjoy the rest of your watch in ice cold soggy skivvy shorts.


What genius thought those things up? It's damn certain the idiot never tried to adjust the focus knob on a set of slippery binoculars in a storm. I often wondered if the same guy required naval surgeons to do their work in boxing gloves. On the positive side, they made it impossible to pick one's nose and could be stuffed up inside of a parka hood to keep your ears warm.


Jeezus, I would give a fortune to see the prototypical giant the navy created those modern miracles for... The sonuvabitch must have come sliding down a beanstalk. They had to have been size 26, two sizes bigger than a tractor tire... You could take three steps before the sonuvabitches moved. Two rights... Two lefts... One of each... Didn't matter. You just had to grab two and put 'em on. They only issued them so your toes could have a good swim.

The boats provided a place where a kid who spent his childhood with his shirt tail hanging out and his shoes untied, could feel at home... It was great.

The last time I saw Requin's foul weather gear was on CNN... Some skinny guy in a Yugoslavian P.O.W. camp was tossing it back in a Salvation Army collection box.