My name is E. A. Hughes, I am a retired US Navy Master Chief Fire Control Technician (SS), but I did serve on a Cruiser, a Battleship and 2 Destroyers before I was selected to teach Submarine Sailors their own equipment. My last Destroyer was the William R. Rush and I left her right after the Cuban Missile Crisis never to go back on another Destroyer. I loved going to sea on surface ships, I had a great appreciation for the sea and the Sailors that I sailed with.
After my first navy hitch I attended Denver University on the GI bill. During that time I wrote a short essay, which was a requirement for English 102. I titled my work “Once I Was A Navyman”, this was in 1958. By the end of 1958 I was back in the Navy. Where I served another 20 years. After retiring from the Navy in 1978 I added a number of things to “Once I Was A Navyman”, these things included Navymen that I had known, where they were from and some of the ships they served on, as well as a number of ships that I served on during my career.
Many Navymen that I have known and ship sites that are on the internet have welcomed my work and if you would like to include “Once I Was A Navyman” on your site it would please me as a former William R. Rush crew member.
E. A Hughes
Once I Was A Navyman
I like the Navy. I like standing on deck during a long voyage with sea spray in my face and ocean winds whipping in from everywhere - The feel of the giant steel ship beneath me, it's engines driving against the sea is almost beyond understanding - It’s immense power makes the Navyman feel so insignificant but yet proud to be a small part of this ship - A small part of Her mission.
I like the Navy. I like the sound of taps over the ships announcing system, the ringing of the ships bell, the foghorns and strong laughter of Navy men at work. I like the ships of the Navy - nervous darting destroyers, sleek proud cruisers, majestic battle ships, steady solid carriers and silent hidden submarines. I like the workhorse tugboats with their proud Indian names: Iroquois, Apache, Kiawah and Sioux - each stealthy powerful tug safely guiding the warships to safe deep waters from all harbors.
I like the historic names of other proud Navy Ships: Midway, Hornet, Princeton, Sea Wolf and Saratoga. The Ozark, Hunley, William R. Rush and Turner, the, Missouri, Wichita, Iowa, Arizona and Manchester, as well as The Sullivan’s, Enterprise, Tecumseh, Cole and Nautilus too- all majestic ships of the line - Each ship commanding the respect of all Navymen that have known Her - or were privileged to be a part of Her crew.
I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty Whites", “13 Button Blues”, the rare 72 hour liberty and the spice scent of a foreign port - I like shipmates I've sailed with, worked with, served with or have known: The Gunners Mate from the Iowa cornfields; a Sonarman from the Colorado mountain country; a pal from Cairo, Alabama; an Italian from near Boston; some boogie boarders of California; and of course, a drawling friendly Oklahoma lad that hailed from Muskogee; and a very congenial Engineman from the Tennessee hills.
From all parts of the land they came - farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England - the red clay area and small towns of the South - the mountain and high prairie towns of the West - the beachfront towns of the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Gulf - All are American; all are comrades in arms - All are men of the sea and all are men of honor.
I like the adventure in my heart when the ship puts out to sea, and I like the electric thrill of sailing home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends, waiting on shore - The extended time at sea drags; the going is rough on occasion. But there's the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the devil-may-care philosophy of the sea. This helps the Navyman - The remembrances of past shipmates fill the mind and restore the memory with images of other ships, other ports, and other cruises long past. Some memories are good, some are not so good, but all are etched in the mind of the Navyman - and most will be there forever.
After a day of work, there is the serenity of the sea at dusk. As white caps dance on the ocean waves, the sunset creates flaming clouds that float in folds over the horizon - as if painted there by a master. The darkness follows soon and is mysterious. The ship’s wake in darkness has a hypnotic effect, with foamy white froth and luminescence that forms never ending patterns in the turbulent waters - I like the lights of the ship in darkness - the masthead lights, the red and green sidelights and stern lights. They cut through the night and appear as a mirror of stars in darkness - There are rough stormy nights, and calm, quiet, still nights where the quiet of the mid-watch allows the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world to stand with you. They are abundant and unreachable, but ever apparent - And there is always the aroma of fresh coffee from the galley.
I like the legends of the Navy and the Navymen that created those legends. I like the proud names of Navy Heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Beach, Farragut, John McCain, Rickover and John Paul Jones. A man can find much in the Navy - comrades in arms, pride in his country - A man can find himself and can revel in this experience.
In years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still recall with fondness the ocean spray on his face when the sea is angry - There will come a faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils, the echo of hearty laughter of the seafaring men who once were close companions - Now landlocked, he will grow wistful of his Navy days, when the seas were the largest part of him and a new port of call was always just over the horizon.
Recalling those days and times, he will stand taller and say: "ONCE I WAS A NAVYMAN!”
E.A. Hughes, FTCM (SS), USN (Retired)
Copyright, 1958, 1978