WWII (1943-46)

“Always Make a Good First Impression” — First Night Aboard Ship

Memory from: Lieutenant (j.g.) William T. Barnhouse

Setting the Scene

In the following recollection, Lieutenant (j.g.) William T. Barnhouse tells a humorous story of his first night aboard ship with his first roommate and his first call to General Quarters.

The Recollection

“Doc” Savage [Lieutenant Lowell C. Savage] was the Exec [Executive Officer] and he normally didn’t have anyone to sleep with him. But because the officer I was replacing hadn’t left yet, they were very short of bunks. So they put me in with Savage in the upper bunk. First night aboard and he was the Exec and I was kind of intimidated by him, although he was a wonderful guy. He’d been a football player at the Academy. A great big blond good-looking fellow. So we went to bed and I was trying to stay out of his way. I knew he didn’t normally have anybody in there with him. I climbed in that upper bunk. There’s a steam pipe or some kind of pipe [that] goes right across it about that far above it. So, I noticed it when Savage went to bed. He was like a fireman. He put his shoes out with his socks there and his pants by ’em. And he just turned around, stepped into his shoes and was gone. So I crawled into the upper bunk and we turned out the lights and went to sleep. All of a sudden, I heard this “CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!” and I’d never heard it before, but I knew it was the general alarm. And I sat up in bed, or started to sit up in bed, and caught that pipe right across my forehead. Just zonked me back. So I tried to shake the stars out of my eyes and I slide my feet over the side. It was pitch black; no light in the room. And I thought, “Well, I’ve got to get to a battle station.” So I put my hands on the edge of the bunk and jumped to the floor. Well, Doc Savage had swung around on the bunk like that and had leaned over to tie his shoes. And I jumped out of the upper bunk and straddle-legged him right across the back of his neck in total darkness and just knocked him. He told me later he thought the ship had been torpedoed. So, the next day, he found a place for me pretty quick.

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