The Brazen Boot
After completing boot camp in 1952, I received orders for the USS SAINT PAUL (CA-73). Only one problem, the SAINT PAUL was in Korea. I was transported by troop ship to Yokosuka, Japan. On arrival at the naval base in Yokosuka, the barracks were filled to capacity. I was assigned a tent that accommodated ten men. It was cold, and not the best billet. The first night it snowed and the weight of the snow folded the tent down around us while we were sleeping. Other than the sound of the tent folding to the ground around us, we were awakened by the laughter of men walking by on their way to chow. It might have been funny, but I failed to see the humor.
Finally, orders were received to board a tanker for transfer to the SAINT PAUL, and an upgrade in my billet arrived. I boarded the next day thinking I would be on board the SAINT PAUL in a few hours. The Navy doesn't work that way and I was soon to learn something about being transfered at sea. The only thing I knew about high line transfer was seeing a newsreel from WWII where General Eisenhower went through the experience. I thought if he can do it, I can too. The difference in rank never occured to me. He was handled with more care than I was to experience. In a short period of time, I became an experienced high line crosser. The tanker transfered me to another tanker, and then to a destroyer before my final crossing to the SAINT PAUL. After three ceremonial high line dunks, and several days at sea I was glad to be on board the SAINT PAUL.
Two or three days passed before I was assigned to a fireroom. I was free to move about the ship without an assignment. During that time period the ship was being refueled. I thought that it would be good if I went topside and observed the operation. While I was watching the refueling, through the eyes of a boot, my attention was distracted to a destroyer following in our wake. I meandered back to the fantail to get a closer look at the destroyer. I became big eyed as I noted that it was the ship one of my childhood friends had been on boad for about six months. I thought it would be nice if I could talk with him on the phone. The gentle roll of the ship was evident in my gait as I sauntered forward for a solution. I was on a missiion. The refueling was still in progress. I asked a boatswain, whose countenance projected an air of importance, if there was a way I could call my friend on board the ship behind us. with the confidence of an old salt he said, "Sure you can talk to him. climb that ladder (pointing to the ladder that went to the bridge) that goes straight up, and ask to use the phone." Being the boot that I was, I climbed the ladder to the bridge. When I stepped on the bridge, I was facing the captain, and an admiral. I don't recall which, but the look on his face was one of aghast, and dismay. Before he could speak, I asked "Can I use your phone?" Before he could answer a lieutenant came over and moved me to one side. He asked, "What are you doing on the bridge?" I told him that the guy down there, pointing to the boatswain, said I could come up here and use the phone to call my friend on the destroyer that's following us. The lieutenant realized he was dealing with a real green boot decided on the spur of the moment to grant my request, and thwart the cruel treatment from the prankster below. The bridge contacted the destroyer, and I talked with my friend for about ten minutes. He couldn't believe that we were being allowed to talk on the phone ship to ship at sea.
Only a boot would be brazen enough to go to the bridge, and ask to call a friend on another ship. I did back in the days before I got my sea legs, and didn't know the meaning of Navy protocol. I was never asked to fetch a bucket of steam, or locate a left-handed monkey wrench, If I had been asked, a nice lieutenant would probably have been there with a solution.
Ollie B. Smith
USS SAINT PAUL 1952-56