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  • When the Calhoun entered the shipyards in Alameda to be converted from a Polaris missile boat to a Poseidon missile boat, much of her crew was dispersed to other assignments. Unless you had enough time left on your enlistment to make it through eighteen months of refit and two patrol cycles afterwards you were transferred.

    A few of my ex-shipmates were sent back to the Atlantic coast as I was, but most were not. I’ve told about meeting “Dumb Jim” aboard the Trumpetfish and my friend Tommy was also in her crew. Other than those two, I hadn’t seen any Calhoun sailors since I left her – except the one time:

    We were singling up lines on the Trout and preparing to pull in the gangplank for sea, when an Admiral’s car pulled up to the brow. The officer of the deck called out “Attention on deck” so we were pitching our lit cigarettes overboard and straightening out white hats as we slowly came to attention.

    The driver’s door opened and a sailor got out to open the rear door. He was wearing one of those shoulder braids that “brown-nosing” aides wear. He had his back to us as he opened the Admirals door. The Admiral got out and hurried across our brow. As he saluted the ensign (flag) and the topside watch, I heard a loud “Dirty Jon, is that you?” from the pier. It was Rocky, the Admirals driver.

    A red headed, freckle faced kid that had come aboard the Calhoun the same time I did. We served our turns as planesmen on our first patrol together before going on to our different departments. Me to sonar; Rocky to the engine room.

    As the Admiral went below, I yelled back something obscene to Rocky and we both laughed and, as most guys did back then, lit up cigarettes and shot the breeze. Seems he was between boats when the Admiral requested a driver. He got the assignment and as he only had a couple of more months on his enlistment, would probably finish his career here. He said the Admiral was an ok guy.

    Pretty soon the Admiral came back topside and Rocky sauntered over to open his door. The Admiral stopped as he got there and said, “Someone you know, Rocky?” Rocky said, “Yeah, Dirty Jon and I were on the Calhoun together.” The Admiral made eye contact with me, nodded and got inside the car. Rocky closed the door, tossed his cigarette and with a wave was gone.

    I had expended a lot of effort flying below the radar of Officialdom. I mean any officer above the rank of Lieutenant Commander has to have political ambitions and connections to advance up the line. Too much subterfuge and behind the scenes back fighting for me. Aligning yourself with one of them was dangerous. After all it's always the goofy sidekick that gets it. Collateral damage it’s called.

    In one felled swoop, Rocky had erased years of careful avoidance. SubRon 4, the Admiral himself, not only knew my name, but also my face. Maybe not today, but sometime this would come back to haunt me.

    Less than three months later, when we were dry docked, he would ask for me by name for an assignment to the worst boat in the fleet – temporarily of course. But that story has already been told in “Shanghaied”.

    Rocky never could keep his mouth shut!
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