USS Noxubee AOG56

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Noxubee Crest

A Lesson in Ship Handling

By John Bushore

II remember when Capt. Mullen took the Noxubee out for the first time. Just out for the day, no big deal, right? Well, fresh from a destroyer, the captain, underestimated the effects of cross-currents on a fat, old, gasoline can. We drifted onto a buoy on the starboard side of the channel and its mooring cable fouled our propeller. They had to send one of the salvage ships out to free us. (The Grasp, maybe?)

On the way back into Little Creek, I was in a good position to observe our new captain, as I was assigned as Bos'n of the Watch for sea and anchor detail. We went through the channel much faster than usual. If there'd been a cop with radar, the captain would have been cited for reckless driving. He came into the harbor like he owned the place and kept right on truckin' (remember that phrase?) then ordered a starboard turn without slowing. He'd timed it perfectly. We were headed directly toward our berth. Only a few hundred yards ahead. At what seemed like mach 3 to me.

As we bore down on that solid-concrete ramp that they used to lower the doors of the LST on, Capt. Mullen calmly began ordering reductions in speed. As the shore loomed before us, I became convinced that we were doomed to an embarrassing crunch that would make the buoy incident seem tame. As the captain ordered "All back full", I surreptitiously put one hand on the 1mc button and the other on the General Alarm, sure that he was about to order me to pass the collision alarm. The captain turned around and gave me a flat, dead stare. I'm sure my eyes were as big as saucers. "Bushore," the captain said, "you make one sound and you're busted."

Then he turned to whoever was passing orders to the engineroom and calmly said, "All back emergency", with no more emotion than if he had been ordering a cup of coffee to be sent to the bridge.

The Noxubee churned back and we came to a rest at our berth, just yards from the concrete ramp. "All stop," Captain Mullen said.

I was never to doubt his shiphandling or his judgement again.

Noxubee Crest


By John Bushore

As our ship approached le Côte d' Azur, the southern coast of France, I looked around at several shapely women's breasts, arranged quite nicely in pairs, and quickly decided that this was going to be an interesting port of call. Our small, old, tub-like U.S. Navy oiler was sometimes sent to smaller seaside towns that had requested to host an American ship, but were not equipped to handle swarms of sailors from larger vessels. This time, to a young sailor like me, it looked like we'd hit the jackpot. None of us had been to France before and we were unprepared for the French custom of going nearly nude while on the beaches or enjoying water sports.

Sleek European racing boats and expensive-looking cabin cruisers had come close alongside, welcoming our ungainly ship as it wallowed along in the gentle waves. Many boats sported one or more young mademoiselles lying on the bow, where they could bask beneath the Mediterranean sun on such a warm, cloudless day. No tan lines here. The women wore only tiny bikini bottoms, leaving little to the imagination. The men behind the boats' wheels usually had on "Speedos" - barely enough cloth to form a bulge over their. . . ahem. . . French pride. At least that's what it looked like to the U.S.S. Noxubee's crew of mostly youthful, unsophisticated sailors accustomed to the voluminous swimming trunks worn by males in the good old U.S. of A. Before you could shout "Tits ahoy," American bluejackets were scampering over the ship, searching for good vantage points. Some, not satisfied with an already excellent view, search of the ship's few binoculars. Until the first pleasure craft appeared, it had been a routine day for the crew, but now the pheromone of male arousal wafted through the ship in hurricane force. "Twidgets" emerged from the bridge superstructure, blinking eyes weary from poring over radar screens and plots. "Snipes" popped up from deck hatches, their wrenches clutched in greasy hands. The mess cooks stepped from the galley hatch, wiping hands on stained aprons, and "deck apes" stood gaping, holding paintbrushes that dripped messily at their feet. Imaginary French horns played stirring marches in the sailors' ears while boats passed by like parade floats adorned with beauty queens.

Many of the girls waved and smiled at the American visitors. They shouted greetings, but few of us understood more than, "Bonjour, Américain." Some of the women posed brazenly, enjoying the attention they were attracting.

I had perched out on a bridge wing, but I suddenly thought of a better way to view this panorama of pulchritude. Taking to a nearby ladder, I quickly climbed two levels, to the highest point on the ship. There, raised on a circular platform, was my goal: the forward Gun Fire Control Director. A World War II contraption, this large, weighty gunsight was designed to optically track air targets, the operator walking around the platform to point the apparatus in the horizontal plane. A pair of handlebars raised and lowered it, while a small radar dish measured the target's range. The device, which sent electrical signals to aim the ship's forward guns, contained lenses many times more powerful than puny binoculars. Since I was the leading firecontrolman aboard, it was mine for the taking.

I pulled the eyepiece covers off, unlocked the mechanism, and swiveled around. Dropping the field of view, I brought a nearby boat into focus. I was rewarded with such a close-up view that I imagined being right there, snug alongside a pleasure craft containing two beautiful, tanned, half-naked women. The gunsight's optical magnification fooled my senses and made me think I could have boarded the defenseless vessel simply by leaping over to pillage its twin treasures. Ah, for the days of piracy! Then came a shout from below. I looked to see several members of the bridge watch looking at me. Their upturned faces expressed envy; they were getting but a morsel of the visual feast, while I gorged. Many shouted up at me, cursing like. . . well, like sailors. There was a mad dash up the ladders toward my lofty position.

I was presently forced to share my sinecure of visual delights, for although I was senior in the fire control gang, all chiefs and officers aboard outranked me. One by one, they took turns on the gunsight platform.

Soon there was a line of sailors waiting, unable to resist the lure of voyeurism. We had, after all, been floating around the Mediterranean Sea for weeks without sight of a woman, much less these bare-breasted sirens. If only we'd known what to expect, the crew might have shown a modicum of gentlemanly behavior, but these unexpected, upfront examples of French culture had been thrust before us and we reacted, instinctively, like young schoolboys on holiday.

More boats came out to greet us as we drew even nearer the coast. Jet-skis began to appear, often piloted by topless Frenchwomen, either riding solo or with another mademoiselle in the passenger seat. I noticed that certain parts of their anatomy jiggled when they crested the waves. For some reason, many U.S. sailors got the idea that each of these women must be in desperate need of a man, since they were unescorted by males. I certainly hope none of those young ladies spoke English, for some of the ribald comments shouted by the Americans were quite lewd. Oh, well, even if these French lasses had taken English classes, I doubt they had been taught most of the words shouted by the young sailors. But the appreciative whistles of the Yanks needed no translation.

Then, as we neared our assigned anchorage, the captain set the Sea-and-Anchor Detail and all hands went to their stations. Now that the crew was officially at their duties, the catcalls ceased. The gunsights were left sadly unmanned, since an assault by enemy aircraft was unlikely in such openly friendly waters.

But soon the ship was riding secure on a taut anchor chain. Liberty boats were lowered from the davits. Those sailors who were not on duty piled into the boats for a night on the town, intent on finding girls like those they had ogled earlier. Another American invasion of the French coast was underway. Vive la France!

If you would like to read more of John's writting please visit his Web Site home to his stories, poems and publishing updates at www.johnbushore.com.