Abandoned Convoy

Abandoned Convoy by "Ferocious" O'Flaherty

You will find a few errors in the OCR conversion but it is worth reading!


 Merchant ships are old to the sea,
 and old to the ports of the land;
 ours was a calling of commerce,
 long before navies were planned.

Then came the wars; the watch was long;
 constructive sailing's were halted.
 But still to us it was daily work--
 we didn't look to be exalted.

 Standing the watch, we were consoled,
 as the day was bound to be,
 when naval ships would be obsolete,
 and forever removed from the sea.

 Now the storm is over; the sea is calm;
and the final peace is made;
Godspeed to the ship as she makes her way
 on her voyage of peaceful trade.

 - S.I.F.


 The US. Merchant Marine in World War II

 "Ferocious" O'Flaherty Mariner



50 Jericho Turnpike Jericho, New York 11753


 1970 by S. J. O'Flaherty. Ail rights reserved, including the right
of reproduction in whole or in part in any form except for short
quotations in critical essays and reviews. Manufactured in the
United States of America.


 Dedicated to the good seamen of all nations
who lived and died with their ships.


 For those who might think that this account is unduly critical
of naval perspectives, the following excerpts from letters to the
United States Naval Proceedings Institute are the writer's defense
of the U.S. Navy against the detractions of two of their own

 On the claim of Admiral Nimitz that it was better to hope
 for salvage at Pearl Harbor rather than to lose the ships at sea
 against a superior Japanese fleet...

 We merchant men will always maintain a certain amount
 of pride in the U.S. Navy no matter how critical we may be,
 and would never judge it as hopeless--regardless of the odds;
 this is the gist of Nimitz's statement. Even a merchant man
 would choose to take his chances underway rather than along-
 side a dock...

 In answer to the quavering claim of Admiral Nimitz, I say
 this: Until the time comes that ships can be completely
 automated, the most important part of any navy is the re-
 liability and readiness of its men. It is not the loss or saving of
 ships that mattered so much as the ignominious manner of their
 loss with a goodly number of men. It is well for an Admiral to
 compute risks, but he is duty bound to follow a bolder course
 than that of an actuary--or we should so change his title...

 I don't believe that these ships would not have made a good
 account at sea. And if the Admiral remembers--that is the side
 of the ledger that he is expected to depend on...
 In this regard I must again defend the U.S. Navy along
 with the English Navy in rejecting S. E. Morrison's judgment
 of "near panic" for the scattering of smaller naval vessels.
 (The Battle of the Atlantic, page 186. ) ...

 There was absolutely no panic on the part of any of our
 escorts, simply because they were all undergoing a very severe
 shock of frustration which left no room for self-interest. The
 very fact of such a scatter could not have had any other re-
 action to seamen, as another seaman should know.

 The name "Ferocious" is from an inscription in stone that
once stood over the gate to Galway, Ireland, with this entreaty:
"Good Lord, Deliver Us from the Wrath of the Ferocious
O'Flahertys." The reason for this prayer is not known, but it is my
belief that the O'Flahertys were a band of scraggy ridgerunners
who periodically stormed the town of Galway for loot, as such
forays into the richer lowlands were a way of life with many hill

 This relationship was known to complete a cycle when Mon-
gols who had grown soft on the lands of dispossessed valley people
were in turn overrun by later generations of their former tribes.
And the ultimate of this was the horde that stopped short of
skewering the supine bladder that was Rome.

 Some authorities on the use of English agree that capital
letters are suitable where an indication of recognition or respect
is desired; therefore, in writing this story about the Merchant
Marine, reference to the title of any ship's officer, with or without
his name, is noted by a capital, as with a ship's Mate, to dis-
tinguish him from somebody's mate or one of a pair.S. J. F.
"Ferocious O'Flaherty"


 With grateful thanks to Walter Whitehill, of the Boston
Athenaeum, whose letters of marque inspired a pursuit of the
United States Naval Proceedings Institute's interest, and to the
officers of that institution who hauled up to speak this craft.

 Special thanks, too, go to Paul Lund of England, who ex-
changed information with me, and to James Baylor Blackford of
Richmond, Virginia, who first, on his own initiative, proposed the
prospectus to the U.S. Naval Proceedings people.

 This convoy, listed as "Convoy Slaughter in the Arctic Sea" by
the Germans and classified as P.Q.-17 by Allied routing officers,
was admittedly the greatest single convoy loss of World War II.

 Because of misinterpretation of orders, misjudgment of enemy
strength, and a good deal of confusion, 38 merchant ships were
abandoned to an enemy force of 13 naval craft by a much superior
force of at least 45 Allied naval vessels, which were deployed in
three groups: Group I consisted of 21--subs, destroyers, flak ships,
corvets, minesweepers, and armed trawlers composed our imme-
diate escort. Over the horizon, sailing between us and enemy-held
Norway, was group 2: a task force of 13 ships--heavy cruisers,
light cruisers, and destroyers. Far to the north in the vicinity of
South Cape, Spitsbergen, over 200 miles from the convoy, was
group 3: This group of a dozen or so capital ships and one air-
craft carrier was the most powerful of all. At the time of the
convoy's breakup, this last group had moved over 40o miles away
and might have been of some use if they had continued on to the
Pacific Ocean.

 The enemy fleet, headed by the invincible battleship Tirpitz
and with the cruisers Scheer and Hipper, 7 destroyers, and 3 tor-
pedo boats, had made a foray out of her lair in Norway, and
although greatly outnumbered, caused three times as many Allied
naval ships to scatter from her path, leaving 38 merchant ships as
targets for a followup "Wolf Pack" of subs.

 The American public had been led to believe that the Tirpitz
was under blockade in Norway, but the facts belie this tale:
Accounts fed to newspapers often stated that she would make a
"sortie" and scuttle back at sight of the enemy. When one makes
a sortie, he is "issuing from a besieged place to attack the be-
siegers"--and Allied ships were literally far from besieging her.

Rather, was she out on a foray to assist in successfully "ravaging"
our convoy by scattering our escort. The Tirpitz sailed out at will;


 it was we who made sorties in attempts to get by a besieged area.
 The differences in these words are very important because they
 give a tree picture of German superiority in those waters at that

 As the convoy disbanded in despair and the slow merchant
 ships tried to reach safety, only 13 out of the original 38* got
 away. The remaining 25 ships lie scattered on the bottom with
 many of their crewmen--all the way from the Arctic Ocean to
 the Barents Sea and down into the White Sea.

 Except for newspaper stories of the time, which are considered
 inaccurate by Naval historians whenever they quote a merchant
 man, no account exists in the annals of the sea of the merchant
 man's side of this mass sinking. Therefore, this story is written by
 a marine man for the Merchant Marine, with full credit to the
 courage of the naval seamen, who were disgusted at having to
 leave us to the enemy.

 The following explanation of the differences in operations and
 values between merchant ships and naval ships is offered as a
 motive of basic logistics for an otherwise inexplicable act.
 One of the great differences between a naval ship and a mer-
 chant ship is the much larger group of men required by the Navy
 to run the same vessel that the merchant man will operate with
 a small, efficient crew. We once sailed into Trinidad and saw a
 merchant ship which had been taken over by the Navy to be used
 in its same capacity as a cargo carrier. This was an ordinary mer-
 chant ship which had been operated efficiently with 36 men. The
 Navy had over 300 aboard who were not replacements for battle
 losses; many of the extra men included waiters, room stewards,
 messengers, and so forth (with variegated ratings).

 The operating ratio of the Merchant Marine is the opposite
 of the Navy's: while we have one man for three or four jobs, the
 Navy will have three or four men for one job. Our men are not
 expendable: the elimination of one man on a merchant ship can
 leave her shorthanded. The merchant man has no one else to do

* Naval historians need to go over the records. The S.S. Black Hawk
 was in that convoy: sunk by British corvet July 10, 1942, in the White


his job for him; if he's wrong, the fault cannot be dissolved among
a squad of men. His officers are in the same boat; if one of them
should fail, the whole ship can be in jeopardy.

 Another important difference between these two types of ship
is involved in their construction: The merchant ship, for practical
purposes of loading and unloading Cargo, is primarily a hull
divided into holds by longitudinal and transverse bulkheads which
mainly function as braces against stress. The buoyancy factor of
these holds will vary with the density of the cargo, which leaves
the outside hull as the only dependable shield against the sea.

In this regard, a ship open to the sea with her holds full of lumber
remained afloat, while the same ship loaded with ore would go
down fast. To avoid repetitious loading and unloading of cargo,
assignment of various densities in the holds makes for a constantly
changing center of gravity. (Steel on top of shoes gives you a
"tender ship," which will lay over too far for the security of
stowage; the other way around causes a "stiff ship," which will
snap back, with the same risk.)

 In a naval ship these factors remain comparatively stable,
because she does not have to contend with thousands of tons of
varying cargo and her hull is well filled with watertight compart-

 This variance in cargo and load conditions has a direct bearing
on the decision concerning a disabled merchant ship's safety as
opposed to the considerations of the damaged naval vessel with
her maze of watertight compartments.

 When a naval ship is in a damaged condition, her officers on
the bridge, with their direct connections to all sections of the ship,
are in the best position to weigh the damage of flooded compart-
ments against remaining buoyancy and decide when or whether
to abandon ship. Aboard a merchant ship, this decision is often
made by the engine room crew: If a merchant ship takes a torpedo
in her midship section (which is usually the operating area of the
Chief Engineer and his men), it becomes their prerogative to
decide against the safety of the ship (if they are still alive). This
is particularly true when the ship is overloaded, as these were, and
one torpedo will start her floundering. When the boys from the


 engine room come up on deck before the watch is over, then it's
 F.W.E., or "Finished With Engines," for good.
 Long before the Titanic went down on her maiden voyage
(having no watertight bulkheads to save her), a much safer ship,
called the Great Eastern, was built in ,858 by a man named
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who was far ahead of his contem-
poraries. She had a double hull and twelve separate watertight
holds. This ship went aground and ripped open her outside hull,
but the inner one kept her afloat. Had the inner hull also been
opened, she had enough watertight bulkheads to keep her afloat
for a long time. When the Titanic was built more than fifty years
later, her transverse bulkheads did not reach to the main deck,
leaving the ship with no reserve buoyancy. (I beg to disagree with
Captain Alan Villiers on this point regarding the Titanic.)

 Mr. Brunel could have given lessons to the firm of Gibbs and
Cox (naval architects), who were responsible for the "Ugly
Duckling" Liberty ships of World War II. These people skinned
by with designs for U.S. Navy vessels, but the "Liberty" was the
poorest plan for sea transportation that ever came down the ways.
(With a bow this time to Captain Villiers, who found May[lower
2nd to be an erratic sailor, I present the Liberty ship as being
equally unwieldy, and recommend a voyage thereon for those who
would venture to sea on a pilgrimage.) Even a passing motorboat
can start one rolling, and in any kind of sea you will know that
you are near the metacenter on the upper decks when you begin
to feel that you are riding the top of a pendulum. Further along
is another chapter on the faults of these ships which made them
less seaworthy than vessels of much earlier times.

 Mr. Brunel wore himself out in building and launching a ship
that was far ahead of its time except for horsepower. He was most
likely considered impractical then, as he would be today, but the
Great Eastern would have had no trouble remaining afloat with
such a comparatively small puncture as the one that sent the
Andrea Doria to the bottom.

 Merchant ships are often listed as "hulls" and must be so
considered in or out of convoy; and their expandability is decided,
I'm sure, on this fact.


 It was late in June, 1942, and a large group of ships lay at
 anchor in the harbor of Reykjavik, Iceland, waiting for orders to
 head north for Russia. We had been there for a full month, loaded
 with supplies that the Russians desperately needed; but the reluc-
 tance of the Allied Command to send all of these men and ships
 into a German target range was holding us back.

 This range would be all along our course in a wide sweep
 northerly and then east around the coast of Norway to Murmansk,
 Russia. Norway was under the control of Germany, and along
 with the prowling "Wolf Pack" of submarines under the sea, the
 air above was in command of their land-based bombers. Other
 convoys had preceded us to this harbor, where they had regrouped
 with escort vessels and left for Russia--only to be cut to insignifi-
 cant size while trying to make the run along the target range.

 This began as soon as the ships left Iceland and passed over the
 Arctic Circle, all the way through the Arctic Ocean into the
 Barents Sea and even down into the White Sea, which is a bay
 similar to the Chesapeake. Few ships were surviving the run; the
 cost was cruel, and so was the position of the Russians. They were
 desperate now--and threatened to make a separate peace with
 Germany unless sufficient supplies were delivered soon.

 A move had to be made, and this would be its larger convoy
 with a veritable fleet of escort vessels. We knew that attacks
 awaited us, but felt relatively safe with our huge escort. We could
 not imagine that it would be rendered useless.

 When the order finally came to get under way, it was a great
 relief to heave the anchors up out of the gray harbor mud and
 secure them for sea. Ships slowly turned from their month-long
 anchorage's and passed in single file out of the harbor to the sea.

 Outside we drifted at slow speed and watched for signals from the
 lead ship. These would indicate by flag hoist the position that
 each ship would take in lines abreast with the lead ship at the
 head. As the convoy formed, we also moved ahead until we
 reached the top speed of the slowest ships: approximately 9 knots.
 Heading north along the coast of Iceland, the convoy was an
 assortment of Liberty ships, Hog Islanders, West Coasters, tankers,
 and so forth. Group 1, of 21 escort ships, was close aboard, sur-


 rounding the vulnerable merchant ships in a phalanx of armor.
 The other two groups of escort vessels were to the north and east
 of us in positions designed to fend off the enemy. All of the naval
 ships had orders not to leave their stations for rescue work in the
 event of sinkings, so three of the merchantmen had been assigned
 to this duty. They paced the convoy on both sides and astern--
 the Rathlin, the Zamalek, and the Zaalaran--three ordinary mer-
 chant ships, carrying war supplies like the others. This last fact
 caused them to become legitimate targets (with the loss of one)
 when the wide dispersal of the convoy prevented them from acting
 as convoy rescue ships.

 Steadily we slipped past the bleak brown hills of Iceland and
 before long crossed the Arctic Circle into the Arctic Ocean. With
 Iceland behind us and as we were heading north, we were now
 approaching enemy waters. It was here that we had our first
 glimpse of group 2 of our escort; they appeared mast high to the
 east of us and then sank below the horizon again; the sight of
 them was cheering. Among this group was the light cruiser
 Tuscaloosa. She was later to rendezvous in Murmansk with two
 American destroyers bringing survivors from Archangel. As one of
 these survivors aboard the Tuscaloosa, I was shown the dispatch
 from the English Admiralty ordering our escort to leave us.
 (Wording of, and reaction to dispatch, to follow in sequence.)

 July 2. This date is especially notable because it is now that
 the first attack was made on the merchant ships, and the Navy is
 off two days in recording the major attack of July 4th as occurring
 on this day.

 The air is growing colder; the overcast grows thicker--almost
 foggy, closing around the convoy in a damp, muffling blanket.
 Ships on the outer edge become silhouettes in shades of gray with
 blurred outlines. We don't like this muffling overcast and reduced
 visibility: it hides the enemy, and we know that we can't hide
 from him. The flight from Norway isn't too long for planes to
 foray and fly back; everybody watches to starboard and ahead--
 he will come from that quadrant and be upon us before we know

We are on a defensive mission, attempting to get by enemy-
held territory in enemy-held waters. Our escort vessels are there to
assist us in this mission; therefore, we are making a sortie. When
the enemy comes out of Norway, he will be on a foraging mission
of attack to "ravage" our convoy.

 I am on the bow when they come, the first plane rocketing out
 of the mist from starboard, flying just above mast height directly
 across the center of the convoy. He is halfway across and just
 above our ship before the concentrated fire of all ships is on him.
 While he continues to rock the plane to deflect shells, the bomb
 bay opens and a huge torpedo drops down. He is so low that I
 can see the oil slick around his motors. The torpedo hits the
 water in front of our ship at an angle, goes well under ships on our
 port side, and comes up to hit a ship on the far side of us. The
 noise racks the brain, and you wonder how this plane can stand
 so many shells. It is two-thirds of the way across before it falters,
 bursting out a cloud of black smoke and going into a long glide
 to the water clear of the convoy. The ship that was hit is also
 smoking and falling back. The rest of the flight of 5 planes, not
 having the advantage of surprise, had veered off in the face of a
 wall of fire without scoring any hits. The convoy wallows ahead
 as the downed plane falls back with its victim. Two of the planes
 flew over their smoking comrade, his plane being still intact as it
 became enveloped in the mist behind us. A rescue ship falls back
 to pick up survivors, and we scuttle back into close position like a
 flock of ruffled ducks.

 (Some compiler reported this action as from a flight of eight
 planes with no damage to the convoy.)

 We saw no more of the enemy that day (July 2nd), which
 never really became night. As we moved toward the top of the
 world, where the summer sun stays in the sky and there is no night,
 nightfall became only a few hours of gray sky before the mist
 lightened again to expose us in a bowl of water. up

 July 3. When you are off watch in enemy waters, you just
 naturally continue to keep your eyes and ears open, for your own
 good as well as the rest of the ship's crew. There may have been
 some action against a southwest-bound convoy which was in that
 area; but on July 3rd, group 1 of the 38 ships of Convoy P.Q.-x7
 plowed along quietly in a medium overcast, all within view of one
 another. Leaning on a rail with a friend while we observed the
 quiet around us as compared to the bedlam of the previous day,
 it seemed obvious that the Germans were gathering their forces
 for a noisy July 4th. Others would not believe that any military
 maneuver could have a degree of whimsey in it. "We are liable to
 be attacked at any time," was the opinion of one. But I was quite
 sure that we would have the day off, and turned in to my bunk for
 a good rest unprepared to jump at the sound of an alarm bell.

 "Furthermore," I had reminded the skeptics, "we are on a Liberty
 ship, and as 'liberty' is synonymous with July 4th, we'll get hell
 tomorrow." To those who visualized the enemy as rapaciously
 eager to attack without other considerations, this was the reasoning
 of a nut, but I smugly dozed off, knowing that every revolution
 of the propeller was proving me right.

 Now we are bearing eastward to round the top of Norway; it
 is quiet--too quiet. (Allied observations of this period concluded
 in a later report that "the Germans were very much muddled in
 their estimation of the convoy's position.") Even the poorest
 navigator using dead reckoning couldn't miss us unless the im-
 plausible maneuvering of so many naval ships were to confound
 him. The facts show that it was the Allied Command who were
 muddled; the Germans proved it the next day.

 July 4th is a twenty-four-hour day of cold mist on a grey-green
 sea. Everybody goes about his job watching and waiting; there
 is not much to be said. This is tension--the same type that quiets
 a cornered animal before an attack.

 It is afternoon when they come again, roaring out of the mist
 and swarming over the ships. This time there are many more of
 them, with dive-bombers as well as the original torpedo bombers.
 This is not a foray, as on July 2nd, but a direct attack. While the
 low-flying torpedo bombers come in from the sides, the dive-
 bombers drop down to the apex of our tracers and bomb us at
 leisure. There is no lull in the skyful of wracking planes and the
sea of clattering ships. The dive-bombers make no hits, but a
torpedo plane blows a hole in the side of the William Hooper--
and then another, as the Christopher Newport is blasted open to
the sea. These are both Liberty ships, as expected for Indepen-
dence Day, and both are hit in the engine room.

 By now our parallel courses are broken, and all ships swing
about in confusion. On the wheel this time, it is the hardest trick
I have had since going through a powerful storm off Greenland in
a passenger ship that barely held way against the waves. Avoiding
nearby ships is the lesser part of it, as you stand in one spot
holding back a wild urge to either take shelter or fire back as
shells are flying all around and noise racks the brain. At these
times it is easier to become a hero by following an animal instinct
to grab a gun and fire back at your attackers, but this one act of
civilized steering must continue while all guns available are
manned by others who have temporarily reverted to savagery. The
Captain and the officer of the watch are pacing about the wheel-
house like trapped animals; they, too, have no way of venting their
tension. We must wait out this game of war the hard way without
the comfort of a chattering gun to override any sense of danger.
The whole convoy is crisscrossed with a canopy of glowing tracers
as gunners aim for the low-flying torpedo bombers just above
mast height. You hope that they keep their aim up, as there is a
good chance of having a new design stitched across our stack.
There is so much continuous noise that you cannot tell whether
the ship is being nicked or not. Even a bulkhead would appear to
buckle silently, as the sound of the impact would blend with the

 We plow ahead, avoiding ramming one another while the
listing ships fall back with their burning enemies. In the middle
of ali this hell a signal appeared on the bridge of the leading
merchant ship. This was a two-letter signal by flag hoist--one that
we had hoped would never fly from his halyards. It signified:
"Spread out fanwise at full speed and seatter." (The inclusion of
this particular hoist in the ship's code book could not be accounted
for by any of us at the start of the voyage. We could not imagine
such a maneuver at any time, knowing that it would nullify the
purpose of the convoy.) If we were to scatter, right here in enemy
waters, it meant that our escort was in trouble. And as their only
reason for being there was to get the materials that were aboard
the freighters to Russia, then the Allied Command had decided
that they were unable to escort us any further. This meant that
the invincible battleship Tirpitz was out of her base and headed
our way.* Only this dreadnought, which'alone had enough fire-
power and armor to sink our whole fleet of escort vessels, could
cause such a move.

 Newspapers were telling the American public that the Tirpitz
was akin to a jackal, that she would sneak out- of her lair to pull
down a few freight ships and skulk back before Allied naval craft
could engage her. The truth was,the opposite: Like the undersea
"Wolf Pack," she was a stlrface wolf. Her job was to scatter the
escorts of Russia-bound convoys, leaving the slow merchant ships
to be systematically torpedoed by the waiting "Wolf Pack."

 Having accomplished her purpose, she would then "turn tail"
back to Trondheim. With the object of both sides scattered, as
we soon were, beyond the concentrated protection of a possibly
regrouped escort, there was no: longer a point in their meeting.

Without our escorts engaging the Tirpitz, we had to disband, or
she could cruise along the horizon and blow all of the merchant
ships to pieces. The same situation applied in regard to the planes
and subs; divided, we made a ragged target with a chance that
some might get through. The men aboard the escort vessels were
eager to tackle the Tirpitz, but the English Admiralty, who com-
manded the convoy, knew better. They were well aware that this
heavily armored battleship could wipe out all of them. The Ger-
mans, on the other hand, knew that the psychological value of
their ship was greater than her firepower, as was evidenced in this

 * A natural assumption which was based on an erroneous intelligence
report. And although the Tirpitz did not leave Trondheim until July 5th,
the day after our premature scatter, this fact does not compound the error,
as we had scattered on ]uly 4th without sight of her. (This correct departure
date is through the courtesy of Paul Lund and Harry Ludlam's book,
P.Q.17 Convoy to Hell.)

 case. (After World War I, some British military experts informed
 their German former enemies that neglect of psychology may have
 cost them the war. The Germans remembered this with their
 screaming "buzz bombs" of World War II.)

 These very important decisions are better made by men ashore,
 who can plot over their charts objectively without the temptations
 of matching their ships in a game of strength.

 The Germans aboard the Tirpitz were just as willing to stand
 against any or all of the Allied ships, but their leaders had every
 reason to order them to withdraw, as the ship's purpose had been

 This order to scatter also meant that we could not have the
 security of sailing in company. We were a concentrated target
 which had to be spread out as niuch as possible. Some ships
 attempted to follow others, but the small advantage of extra guns
 was not worth the convenience to the Germans of clustered ships.
 (Later, off the coast of Novaya Zemlya, where groups of ships tried
 to hide among the ice flows, they were spotted and bombed again
 with losses.)

 While all of these ships 'were being routed at random, our
 escorts in turn had received their orders to abandon us. It follows
 that such an important order would be as simple and as short as
 possible to avoid any transmission error; therefore, after I was later
 handed a copy of the dispatch aboard the TuscaIoosa (for one fast
 reading), I never forgot the single sentence it contained:

 We regret to order you to leave this fine body of men and
 ships to the mercy of the enemy, but it is for the sake of the
 Allied cause. Godspeed.--English Admiralty.

 In contrast to this, after the initial orders to abandon us in the
 following messages:

 1. "Cruiser force withdraw to wesbvard at high speed."
 2. "Owing to threat from surface ships, convoy is to disperse
 and proceed to Russian ports."
 3. "Convoy is to scatter."

 The final confirmation from the "Admiral" sounds like an
afterthought*: "I know you will all be distressed as I am at having
to leave that fine collection of ships to find their own way to

 Few of us knew at this time that these orders had come from
one man in what he sincerely believed was the best decision to
make against the considerations of his advisors: Admiral of the
Fleet Sir Dudley Pound. A summation of opinions from concerned
naval Commanders is that Sir Dudley was wrong, not in the order
of scatter, but in its prematurity, which might have been pre-
vented by a double check on intelligence. And yet the same
extremity of caution was shown by the Germans in their with-
drawal of the Tirpitz while the enemy withdrew from them. This
reduced the efforts of both surface fleets to an impasse, which--
even from the point of view of a civilian such as I--was better
than a major loss on either side for the sake of 38 merchant ships.
And as to why these more important naval ships were allowed to
reach a point of confrontation before withdrawal, it must be
assumed that both sides were bluffing with capital vessels which
were not intended to be risked in that theater.

 I do agree with the naval people on the feasibility of such a
scatter order, but not with those who believe that area Com-
manders should make prime decisions. These are rightfully the
prerogative of people with broader perspectives, such as Sir
Dudley, who must consider more than localized confrontations.
And though I roundly vilified the seamanship of an unknown
"Admiral" in a prospectus of this story, I must admit that
militarily he was right.

 With the breakup of the convoy, we had a short period of quiet
while the Germans prepared to finish us off. The planes, having fired
all of their ammunition, flew back to Norway but did not return
with more; we would find out why. With our escort gone and the
convoy thoroughly scattered, we were sitting ducks for the waiting

* Such criticisms as these came to mind: that there was no mention of
men in his message; and that men responsible for ships in danger will
consider the Best way to maneuver out of the trouble zone, a "harbor"
being incidental.

subs. Now the weather had cleared, but again it was perfect for
the German's next plan of attack. Each ship alone on the sea
would soon find that it had two planes for company, flying far out
on the horizon, well away from our guns. These were the torpedo
bombers, which were now acting as observation planes. They flew
along the yellow midnight horizon with their long dragonfly
silhouettes showing black against the sky. With one on each side
of us, we were kept in a constant cross bearing as we moved
ahead. This meant that the "Wolf Pack" of submarines would be
moving in to pick us off before long. All that we could do was
to stock the lifeboats with extra provisions and watch and wait.

 Under this duress there is no bitterness shown by the crew. As
merchant men, we are accustomed to sailing alone and accepting
whatever course we have to follow. For ourselves we feel disap-
pointment; for our escorts, sympathy, realizing that it must be a
terrible frustration to have to follow such an order. (Later in
Archangel we heard that some of the Navy men had reacted
violently against leaving us. These reports were the best morale
boosters that we could have had.)

 We have turned north again, on a guess, hoping that we might
reach some refuge along the shore of Novaya Zemlya. This is a
Russian island north of our original destination; and even though
our presumed course was north instead of south, the island was
much closer, with some chance of another escort. While sailing
in convoy, our course had been set by the naval vessels, which
were equipped with nonmagnetic gyrocompasses. Most of the
merchant ships had only magnetic compasses, which were of no
use in those latitudes: the further north we ran, the more the
variation of the earth's magnetic force pulled our compass off until
it was hopeless to try to make a course. There were times at the
wheel when I observed our compass to fluctuate as much as 7
and 80 degrees. When following the compass, we have only to
glance astern to see that the ship's wake is meandering all over
the ocean.

 Even at times as this, one can always interject a little humor
to ease things along. I said to the Chief Mate who was on the
bridge with me: "Do you think it will do any good if I keep
looking aft to try and compensate for this? .... Ah, what's the use,"
he said. "We'll never reach Russia anyway." After a while the
Mate noticed that I was holding better than a staggered course on
something straight ahead. He said: "What are you staring at
ahead? .... A cloud." "A cloudl Who ever heard of steering by a
cloud? .... Well," I said, "take a look aft; the ship's wake is a lot
straighter than it has been." That was enough for him; he had
some papers to prepare, which I'm sure he felt were more
important than a course set on a cloud. Among other things, he
was stashing away a large bundle of cigarettes--enough to supply
fifty men for a week.

 He had drawn these cigarettes from the ship's slopchest before
the breakup of the convoy with high hopes of doing business in
Russia, and even though tile ship was due to go down, he had an
investment to save. "How do you expect to get those cigarettes
through customs?" I asked. "No matter where we go ashore, some-
body will want to know what you have in that sack." Others of
the crew who were short on butts remarked on how thoughtful
it was of the Ghief Mate to have a good supply ready, and hoped
that he would understand which choice they would make if he
happened to fall overboard with his heavy sack. Some of them had
stashed away an extra supply, but the Chief Mate had cornered the

 The lifeboats had been thoroughly supplied with water, food,
blankets, and medicine. Now there was nothing to do but make
this erratic course without a point of reference on a deep-green
sea surrounded by mountains of altocumulus clouds. Looking aft
from the bridge, you can see the ship's stern shaking like a duck
hurrying through a pond. Forward, the blunt bow is buried deep
and pushing hard against the sea. The whole ship vibrates, and
more so in the stern, where the revolutions of the shaft and pro-
peller are obvious through the thin hull plates. The German
planes are still with us, staying approximately abeam all the while.

We expect that a sub will get us, but it could be a plane; never
did I realize how much a seagull can look like a gliding plane. All
hands reacted the same way to the harmless birds; they were
cursed roundly.

 We were under this constant harassment from the breakup
of the convoy on July 4th until July 7th, when the Germans
got ready to sink our ship. Each day we would hear radio reports
of ships sinking all around us. One Captain became so irked at
the steadily droning planes, that he broke radio silence (by this
time of no consequence) and asked a German pilot if he would
please turn around and fly in an opposite circle for a change. The
German not only complied but told this Captain the approximate
time that his ship would be torpedoed.

 A friend of mine named Lantz was on another freighter, the
S.S. Washington, sailing alone in the target range like the rest of
us. (This was told to me when we met in Archangel.) When their
ship was hit and went down, Lantz had to make for a raft in a
hurry with no time to get into a boat. A report that the crew got
away in two lifeboats needs an addition: Lantz was on a raft with
some of the crew for part of the time and later shifted to a

 The next ship that happened to come along near by them was
the S.S. Olopana. Now here was a group of men in boats and on
a raft, floating around on an ice-cold sea. These men had been
under steady strain day by day and hour by hour waiting for the
inevitable torpedo. Now their trial was over, and, as bad as their
position was, it was much better than going aboard another
doomed ship. Therefore, when tile Olopana made to pick them
up, they waved her off. This took courage; there was no guarantee
that they would be picked up again. Some merchant men were
found frozen to death in lifeboats, and others lost legs and arms
to the cold.

 The Olopana went her way (the crew understanding, I'm
sure), to be sunk the next day. Both of these crews eventually
reached Novaya Zemblya after several days of almost freezing.

 The Germans' procedure of directing subs to scattered ships
was repeated again and again, systematically sinking them without
a single sub casualty in return.

 Our ship was called the John Witherspoon, after a signer of the
Declaration of Independence, and was a squat, slow Liberty ship
of the same mold as many other war-built "ugly ducklings." We
know that she, too, is due for a torpedo, but you can't fight an
enemy that you can neither see nor hear. The stalking subs around
us have all the advantage, and we are completely blind to their

 "Who was John Witherspoon?" one of the crew had asked.
"Was he the janitor in the place? sweeping the floor maybe? and
they grabbed him to get another name on the list?" But even
though John Witherspoon was unknown compared to the other
John, the fact that his name was on the Declaration meant that
he was iust as courageous and worthy of commemoration--more
so than by identifying a Liberty ship.

 The hours go by slowly; seagulls frighten us as we scan the
sky and freeze whenever one of them glides toward the ship.
Men off watch are still watching as they pace the decks, while
for the men below every second beats like a hammer of hell that
will make a final crash of exploding metal and scalding steam.

 For the man in the engine room, this time is a terrible strain.
He goes below to stand his watch well below the waterline. Above
his head the cold sea is swishing against the thin hull of the ship,
ready to flood in fast behind an exploding, ripping torpedo. This
is a merchant ship--built strictly to carry cargo; there is no room
for armor or watertight bulkheads. If it does come, he hopes that
he can make the ladder to the main deck before tons of water
smash him back or high-pressure steam scalds him to death. But
he has a job to do, so he stays there; and if he never comes up,
there will be no speeches ashore for him--only his family and
friends will know.

 Topside, the men who will soon go below are intensely
watching the clock; the torpedo can come any minute, and only
the sub Captain knows what watch wilI be the last. At one point
I opened a door to the engine room and looked down, thinking
of my own three brothers sailing in engine rooms like this. (We
were a family of seven seafarers.) The men below are too far
beneath ladders and bulkheads to be seen or heard--one hears only
the steady sounds of the engine as it pounds out its last revolu-
tions. When the change of watch comes, men from below come
up with strained faces, while the relief watch goes below the same
way. There is no glory whatever attached to this. Notwithstanding
salaries, properties, or any other aggrandizements, these men con-
tinue to go down into a possible death trap because each man feels
responsible to the whole ship as a unit which must make way, and
he will stand his watch until the crash of the doomed ship's'
hull plates lets in the sea.

 It is now July 7th. This is the last day for our ship; soon it will
join most of the convoy on the bottom of the sea. The observa-
tion planes have left us, which means that a sub has taken up the
watch and is somewhere ahead waiting for the ship to wobble
along. Everybody's nerves are so ragged that we look forward to the
tranquillity of bobbing around in a lifeboat without the constant
harassment of the past three days. (Here again is another im-
portant difference between the naval and the merchant man which
so many naval officers are unable to grasp: Tile purpose of a
naval ship is to destroy, if necessary; the mission of a merchant
ship is to provide. When you take men who are adapted to a
peaceful pursuit and expect that orders will transform them into
men of Mars, you should know better.) We recognize that the
enemy is only after our ship and its cargo, and that his success is
assured. If that be so, then the sooner the better, and we will revert
to the status of noncombatants.

 4 P.M.: The ship's wake is a wavering line as each man at the
wheel follows the compass instinctively. Were the sea smooth, we
might pick a mean course out of the wake, or, with time, plot the
arc of the sun--but we all know that time will not be given to us;
none of the officers have the heart for it.

 4:15: I had been down from the bridge for just a short while
having a cup of coffee in the crew's mess when it hit. The blow of
the torpedo into Number 3 hatch starboard side sent the waddling
Liberty far over on her port, scattering dishes, equipment, and
men. She flopped back to starboard with a heavy list and, lying
with her starboard main deck awash, started to turn to port in
short circles like a wounded bird. Because of our heavy load there
was not much buoyancy to the ship (from a side view she looked
like a raft with a stack on it). As it was, that first torpedo might
have blown her in two completely if it had not been for the cargo
(including truck tires) in Number 3 hatch, which had absorbed
a great deal of the shock. All hands had been so on edge with the
expectancy of this that we shot into action before the officer of
the watch got his hand on the alarm bell. Nobody needed to be
alarmed; ringing that bell was strictly for the record.

 A shock like this, which releases tensions, can throw reactions
out of sequence. Them is always a fat man who comes out of his
mom struggling into his underwear (the only man on the ship who
did not sleep with his clothes on). We collided in a narrow
passage, which appeared to shock him into turning back to start
all over again--with clothes first. I reorganized my 145 pounds and
made for the engine room door on the chance that somebody
might be calling for help. But luckily the German Captain's aim
was good* and the engine room crew had made it up before me.

 * It was well known by the men who sailed these Liberty ships that the
section of the hull in a vertical alignment with the face of the midship
house was an overly weak point. I'm sure that the German skipper knew
this as well as we did, and that the two torpedoes would do the job like
a can opener. In addition to their well-known fragility, these ships were
natural torpedo bait. They had been designed with speed and maneuver-
ability sacrificed for cargo capacity. Their blunt bows and fiat bottoms
allowed them to carry more cargo but, in such cases as ours, made a critical
difference in speed. This design also created a built-in weakness which
showed up in stormy weather. One of our shipmates was making an
Atlantic crossing in a Liberty when she broke into three pieces during a
storm without any help from a torpedo-forward and aft of the midship
section, leaving it floating around without a bow or a stem. (In partial
defense of the designers, the writer, having worked at shipbuilding,
noticed that in many cases production welding did not follow tack welding,
leaving critical weaknesses between plates.) These weaknesses were in-
tensified by the extreme strake between the midship and the bow, creating
a powerful shearing stress where the forward seCtion Joins the midship
house. This weak point was further agitated by the fiat bottom; when a
wave lifts up a ship and drops it down again on a following wave, the
strain on the hull plates is greatly increased by a fiat design. Proof of this
is that after the war some of these ships were strengthened by reducing
the forward strake; others had steel girdles (production-welded) around
their middles.

A hissing cloud of escaping steam was swirling below, muffling
the sounds of a laboring engine. All the rest of the ship is quiet,
except for the scuffling of feet overhead, where the crew had gone
to boat stations. But soon these sounds will stop, too, and all the
heat and light of this ship will be flooded by swirling, icy water
as it settles, dark, cold and still, on the bottom of the sea.

 On the stern there was another explosion as the after gun
crew fired to starboard. This was the only chance they had before
the steep list of the ship made theirs and the forward gun
useless. Out on deck two of them argued hotly as to whether they
had fired at a piece of flotsam or a periscope. I heard this debate
as I passed them at a good speed on my way to the boat deck.

There the two lifeboats on the starboard side were hanging askew
from their davits--one in pieces and the other doubtful. With the
ship so low in the water, the torpedo on entering that side had also
smashed these boats. We knew that the sub would send another
torpedo into her from the port side where our two remaining
boats hung, so it was expedient that we should launch them with
alacrity before the ship plunged like a stone to the bottom. I
believe that if the ship's telegraph had been fitted with F.W.S. as
well as the standard F.W.E., then the engine room crew would
have telegraphed "Finished With Ship" before they evaporated
from the engine room.

 At this point, with the ship listing far over and turning to
port in short circles, it was unanimously agreed, gun crew included,
that we should abandon ship without formality. Besides, we had
no bugle to blow, and everybody was looking so forward to trying
out the lifeboats. All hands converged on the two lifeboats except
the Captain, who remained on the port wing of the bridge. One
raft was also launched from its cradle in the shrouds to serve as
an extra float. When we hit the cold air on the boat deck, two of
us had no jackets. It would take a few minutes to swing out the
boats, and that was all I needed to run back to my room on the
deck below for a forgotten jacket.

 In this case, the law of salvage is in order, and one grabs the
nearest jacket. But somebody had already observed the law in
passing; the room's most valuable object was gone. I went back
up to the boat deck so fast that reasoning had not caught up with
me--that is, to gain a garment in the same way that I had lost it.
Back down again and in and out of rooms--nothing. By now I am
flying. I have to go up to the boat deck again to see how many
seconds I have left. The jarring experience of breaking'a routine
to abandon ship makes some people act without reason; the crew
looks askance at me; I have been running up and down the ladder
with no obvious purpose. For the third time I turn and bound
down the ladder again, to the port side this time, and grab a jacket
lying on a bunk. No seaman ever went up a ladder so fast after
that; only my toes touched metal as I flashed back to the boat deck
and tumbled into the last boat as the men on the falls prepared to
lower. (The jacket that I had salvaged was formerly the property
of one of the gun crew in the same boat. He was wearing another
and had no interest in things around him, being in a mood of
deep despair over our position. Later, when things looked better,
he took an interest in worldly goods again and demanded the
jacket back, but he was roundly reviled by the crew for not recog-
nizing salvage rights.)

 Although the sinking ship represented the end of a long period
of stress, we were leaving it with reluctance as well as relief because
of the sense of security it had provided as compared to an open
boat on a cold sea. These emotions do not always balance each
other. In some situations the security of the ship (and what it
may represent to him) can make a man so reluctant to leave that
he will go down with it.

 With the boats water-borne and ready to be released from
the ship's side, the Captain came down from the bridge but re-
mained on deck, motioning to us to shove off. Just then two men
wandered out of the midship house appearing to be stunned--an
engineer and an oiler. (In their case it was probably the concus-
sion of the torpedo directly next to the engine room.) In the con-
fusion, the boat was released from the ship's side and the two
men on the falls had to drop into the water. This seemed to have
an effect on the two engine men. They had been talking with the
Captain, but on seeing the boat drift off, the oiler ran to a raft
and released it. He then, with the Engineer, grabbed the Captain
and forced him over the side and onto the raft.

 In stories of sea disasters where Captains have gone down with
their ships without efforts to survive, the drama of such acts has
been so embellished that many people think this is the high.est
gesture of courage that a sea Captain can make--a valiant stand
of implacable stoicism against the sea. I think an analysis of this
from a practical point of view has long been overdue. I therefore
request the reader's indulgence in the middle of this sinking while
some points are made to the contrary:

 Though having acquired respect for the feelings of ship's
Masters from years of close association, I have formed an opinion
as to why some Captains have chosen to go down with their ships
which is not to their credit. These were not grand gestures of
determination to accept an equal fate with the ship but, on the
contrary, ones of despondency based on resignation to calamities
that they could not cope with. The variation in these calamities
gives some consideration to the Captain who may feel respon-
sibility for loss of life or property in peacetime, compared to a
lesser case of an excusable wartime sinking. In comparison to this
type of Captain who allows himself to be engulfed in the mis-
fortune of his sinking ship, there is the man at the other extreme
who will dominate his ship until it sinks from under him.

 The most outstanding case of this in later annals was the
singular determination of Captain Carlson of the freighter Flying
Enterprise to hold command of his ship while it sank beneath him.
This Captain knew his ship (and cargo) well, and stayed right
with it while it slowly lost buoyancy. A ship was standing by
waiting for him to signal that he was ready to leave, but he waited.
As the water crept up, so did he, one deck after another until he
reached the topmost. As the last deck became awash, he climbed
the ship's stack and perched on top--still he did not signal for
rescue. This was not a grandstand act, as we of the fraternity
knew, but a strictly practical purpose. The ship had taken a day or
so to get to this point. If by chance during that time the sea and
the ship had settled on a margin of buoyancy, then the Captain's
presence aboard would prevent salvage by others. But the sea had
engulfed too much of his ship and started to reach for the top of
the stack. Captain Carlson stayed with it until there was hardly
one foot of the stack showing as he stood up and stepped into a
waiting boat with one foot while the other released the ship to the
sea. This was an epic of a man's decision to courageously stay with
his ship until the last, not in a spirit of despair, but in one of

 And to complete this chapter, there remains a related issue of
passengers. It is my opinion that people who stood on decks of
foundering ships singing or playing in bands were damned fools
who had retreated from reality in a glaze of self-hypnotism.
Rather does it take courage to face the stark realism of such situa-
tions by making the most of it in at least helping fellow passengers
until there is no deck to stand on. From the days of sailing ships
to steamers, there were always spars, deekhouses, and the like, that
could be cut free for want of lifeboats. To stand immobilized while
there is yet such a chance, incongruously idle in a delusion of
dignity that is only a torpor of defeat, was utterly negative; while
the most frantic passenger who strove to the last was worth more
than all of them because he did not quit.

 At this point in the abandonment of our ship, we lost one
man. One of the two men who had dropped into the water was
an undischarged hospital patient with a weak heart and other
ailments who had "sneaked out to get into the war." He was
wearing a lifejacket, but the shock of plunging into the cold
water knocked him out and his head fell forward. He drifted
downwind fast as we grabbed our oars and went after him. In
doing so we bypassed his partner, who was nearer to us but also
upwind and in a closer line for interception by the other boat.
None of this is material to a man in the water, who cannot have
the same viewpoint, so he cursed us loudly, which helped to keep
him from turning numb until he was fished out down the line,
shaking w/th healthy anger as well as cold.

 The sea was moderate and of no consequence aboard the ship,
but the much smaller lifeboat had heavy waves to cleave. Flat on
the bottom and squat like the ship that it came from, it was as
hard to row as a raft. Our man showed no sign of life as the seas
pushed him further away until we lost sight of him in the
streaming gray waves. He was young and big, but, in his own
words: "I'm weak. I don't expect to live through this war. If any-
thing rough comes along, it will kill me." These were his exact
words a day or so before while we drank coffee in the crew's mess.

There could be no answer to this logic; he was so sure of his
diagnosis. And yet his act in lowering the lifeboat for his shipmates
was as much as any of us could do. He should not have been with
us, but at least he died doing something worthy, and for that we
missed him.

 We rested on our oars, exhausted, and looked back at the ship.
She was still turning in short circles, looking very much like a
smashed giant toy that had been built too big for little people to
handle right. It followed that the sub was still in the area turning
with the ship for the finishing shot. It would be better now for the
sub Captain to remove this ungainly mass from the rythmic sur-
face of the sea to which it could no longer adapt. And besides, it
represented to us days of travail that were now done; and even if
we should be commencing another phase of stress, there was a cer-
tain peace and quiet in the bobbing lifeboat that nobody had an
interest in sinking. Nobody spoke as we sat in the drifting boat
waiting for the floundering ship to be torpedoed again, which
would truly be a coup de grace. When the shot came, we could
hear the hiss of it through the bottom of the boat as it bore for
the side of the ship and hit with a thud into the Number 3 hatch
again, port side this time. She did not even have the dignity to go
down in one piece, but ripped herself completely open around
the hull like a tin can until the bow and stern almost met in a
pincer action; then she plunged like a stone, and the after gun
fired as the water closed over it--a last salute of her own.

 The ship had not been down very long when the sub came to
the surface, salt water running off the conning tower over the
painted face of a snarling red wolf. This was one of the "Wolf
Pack" that had methodically hunted and downed so many of the
scattered ships which were seeking escape. They opened the hatch
fast and trained a gun and a camera on our boat. The camera was
for a record of the kill, and the gun was for would-be heroes.
(There is a bond between men of the sea--of all races--which war
can strain but not eliminate. At sea you fight with your ships, both
naval and merchant. When your vessel is gone, you are no longer
an adversary to an enemy (if you have any sense). Ashore, a
soldier without his weapons is still to be considered, as he may
rearm. The simple comparison is this: The contention of soldiers
can advance and retreat over control of land as long as war shall
last; opposing seafarers settle their issues with the loss of their

 However, these simple facts have no effect on men of the hero
type, who are always looking for a chance to win a medal. One
of the gun crew had the delusion that he might attack the sub
by taking a machine gun into our boat and firing at the Germans
when they surfaced. When it was pointed out to him that at best
he might get one or two men, and that the rest could then sub-
merge and drown us, he changed his mind. It wasn't this reasoning
alone that dissuaded him, but an additional warning that he
would be shoved over the side with his gun to prevent him from
jeopardizing the lives of all the men in the boat.

 The sub Captain spoke in good English: "Is anybody hurt?"
"No," said our radio man. "Do you need any food or water?"
"No." "How many tons of cargo did you have aboard?" The radio
operator fidgeted and looked at the Second Mate, who remained
silent. Although the radio operator did know, he naively thought
he might be disclosing information, and answered: "I don't know."
The German then produced a sheet of paper and told us exactly
how many tons our ship carried!* "Where is your Gaptain?"
 *Few of us were surprised when the German Captain told us how
many tons of cargo our ship carried. For those who have been deluded
by the camouflage of newspaper stories of the time, he advised that German
Naval Intelligence was complete with all that eould he gathered of use to
them. The total knowledge of one million seamen, sounding off in as
many bars with "scraps of information," could never equal the sum of
German Naval Intelligence knowledge of Allied merchant ship movements
in Wolld War II. The average merchant seaman has only a casual interest
in his ship's cargo-least of all, in its tonnage. Dock workers always knew
more than we did of ship cargoes. And anybody else had only to observe
 a loading ship to make a good estimate as to where its cargo was bound.
 The big secrets of wartime cargo ship sailings were a big joke.

 One of the most puerile projects that was ever conjured out of the
smoke of a joss house pipe was the order to plaster around waterfront
places such signs (too ridiculous to be taken seriously) as: "The slip of a
lip might sink a shipI" All I can say for this one is that any German agent'
could tell us more than we could tell him; and his source would not be
other seamen in other bars; it would be from higher places. Right from the
start of the war, we found out the hard way that the Germans had too
much detailed knowledge of the American Merchant Marine to have
compiled it from "scraps of information that could be put together."

 At one of the meetings in Archangel which were called by a Captain
Frankel of the U.S. Navy to advise us on the war's progress, we were told
that the Germans knew not only the name of every ship in our convoy but
the name 9f every man on theml There were some two hundered men in the
hall at the time; nobody gasped, murmured, muttered, or otherwise showed
surprise. We had gone through too much punishment because of this
knowledge to be surprised by it, although I did feel some surprise at first
that the Navy would admit this, until I realized that "the eat was out of
the bag," in a manner of speaking, and at this point it behooved the Navy
to renew the merchant man's confidence with a clean breast of our many
exposes before it lost a goodly number of trained seamen through a vote
of no confidence.

 When an enemy shows what amounts to an intimate knowledge of your
ship, embarrassment leaves no room for aggravation. And furthermore, how
can you be proporly mad at somebody who has gone to the trouble of
knowing your name-whatever for is a question?

 Incidents were rife ali over the Barents Sea involving men in boats, on
rafts, and on ships about to be torpedoed who were given information
about the convoy by the Germans. Including our tonnage report, other
men were addressed by name while in their boats, and one American
Merchant Marine Captain had a chat with a German skipper who spoke
his name.

 The whole affair was a complete debacle for us and a thorough success
for Germany, with boats, rafts, men, and cargo spotted all over the Barents
Sea. The few ships that managed to reach port probably did so because
the Germans ran out of torpedoes. When you count the ships that were
sunk, plus allowance for misses, that's a lot of torpedoes.

 As precise and successful as the German forays were, it appears to me
that a much greater success could have been made by them without sinking
a ship. Ali of these men of both sides, who came together in warships,
merchant ships, and planes, were following respective patterns of attack
and evasion which had been extensively voided by the unexpected action
of the automatic Allied retreat. The Germans could have moved into this.
void with their warships, and instead of settling for the routine of conse-
quential sinkings, might have checkmated the whole game by surrounding
and herding the merchant ships into Norway with millions of dollars' worth
of crucial supplies. This could have been done by standing out of range of
the merchant ship guns with a greater range of retaliation. The only course
left open to us would have been straight down in a mass scuttling, which
would still have amounted to a good saving of German torpedoes, not to
mention seamen's lives. When the demoralizing effect of the Allied route
is considered, a correspondingly bolder force by the Germans could have
been a success. And yet this move, in turn, might have inspired London
into activating the barnacle-bound Allied task force that was cruising off
Spitsbergen at the time.

 Though the required order to disband the merchant ships was the only
answer to the departure of their escorts, I believe that it was done for the
previously mentioned reason of scattering a concentrated target; as in
prudently avoiding a confrontation with the Germans, "the Admiral" had
already shown a Teutonic caution that was equal to theirs, without a
thought of the whole convoy being coralled, which only a brash American
who didn't know better would consider feasible.

Again the radio operator fidgeted and almost stuttered: "We--
don't know." Our Captain had shifted from the raft and was
lying in the bottom of the other boat because of reported intern-
ment of all ship's Captains. None of our officers were wearing
uniform clothing at this time. The sub Captain studied us while
the sub drifted some 50 feet away, keeping a discreet distance
to discourage any brash heroics which could result in somebody
being killed. Then he said: "Land is over that way," with a point
of his hand and a wave as he looked toward the other boat.

 Some of us waved back, and as I had no fear of being machine-
gunned, this friendly exchange encouraged me to stand up and
holler back: "How about a towl" But the znd Mate became very
nervous at this and hissed, "Sit down! We'll be lucky if we don't
all get killed!" The German appeared not to understand; then he
waved again and turned away while the sub moved toward the
other boat. No one else in our boat said anything about this--nor
did the Mate. We sat there and watched while they maneuvered
over, and as they did, a German seaman hopped down to the deck
of the sub to haul in something with a boat hook--we later heard
that it was crated food from our ship. He was dressed for the wet
deck and moved fast to secure his boob/. They need not have been
in such a hurry, but perhaps didn't know that the Allies had left
the ocean to them. Yet a short stay alongside the other boat was
sumcient and could be considered a courtesy visit, as with ours. As
we watched, the Germans took leave of the other boat and dis-
appeared into the sub. She went down fast, leaving us staring at
the broken-surface water that soon blended with the rest of the
flowing sea all around.

 As a Norwegian with knowledge of the German occupation of
his country, whatever it may have been, the Mate's fear might be
excused; but as a seafarer whose ship had been accounted for by
enemy seafarers, his fear was out of place. Nevertheless, I still bow
to him as the best man in the boat, with a right to his opinions.
As for this possibility and related rumors, there is yet to be an
authentication by the Merchant Marine's own records. Pending
this, I submit that any instance could have been caused only by
either individual malice or impractical heroics, which benefit of
doubt applies to the lapanese on the Pacific as well.

 The direction given to us by the German was the nearest thing
to a true course since the breakup of the convoy three days back.
He must have been watching our ship meandering all over the
ocean and knew that we were lost. Perhaps we might have con-
fused him completely if we had followed our compass instead of
trying to estimate a course.

 Now we are alone, with the other boat downwind and bobbing
away from us in the distance. It is at this time, with the excite-
ment of the sinking over and our ship gone, that we begin to feel
the cold loneliness of the gray, heaving sea around us. Apart from
the fact that the Second Mate is in command of our boat, he is
also the best sailor among us to man the tiller. The rest of the
boat's complement are crewmen and gunners. When the torpedo
had blasted the starboard lifeboats, the powerboat left hanging
askew was considered damaged by the Second Mate and myself,
who were assigned to it. We therefore piled into one of the port
sailboats. He and I had discussed this possibility some days before,
preferring the illimitability of sails (such as they were) to any
limited comfort that might be provided by the powerboat's engine.
He had recommended that I should become a ship's officer, and as
I had great respect for his seamanship, any boat that he chose was
good enough for me. When the ship went down, this powerboat
had floated free. All the rest of the ship's officers and crew in the
other sailboat had then transferred to it, to which the Second
Mate and I felt they were welcome, as the fuel could not last very
long, and then the motor would only be in the way.

 It was time now to break open the boat's equipment for use.
A supply of blankets was stowed in the bow where I sat, and these
were hauled out to be passed around pronto. We ran short of one,
and as one man had no iacket, it was agreed that he would keep
his blanket while others alternated. But when it came to stepping
the toy mast with its miniature sails, it was obvious to even the
gunners that they were much to small for the bulk of the boat.

This fact, and that the sails were brightly colored, could be for
only one reason: Liberty ships were wartime substitutes for
standard shipbuilding with license for economy and simplicity
that was vastly exploited. Fabricated for convoy duty, it was
assumed by some benighted plumbing apprentice at Gibbs and
Cox that the lifeboats need only be floating receptacles with
colored sails for easier location by rescuers (who were bound to be
near by). Shaped like a bathtub and iust as maneuverable, the
bow and the stern were equally blunt, being indistinguishable
except for the immaterial choice of either end for the pintle and
rudder. (We once put one of these tubs over the side of another
ugly duckling in England for lifeboat drill. Without enough sail
and keel to tack, we were ignominiously pushed against a dock by
a light breeze with no steerageway. A son of Blighty stood on the
dock laughing at us; but there was a time when England admired
the ships of a real naval architect named Donald McKay.)

 The seas were running at an angle to the direction of land
given by the German, and as the boat was as fiat on the bottom
as the ship that it came from, we had no choice but to go with
them. Wind is soundless until it meets an obstruction. Aboard a
ship the various shrouds, stays, and halyards will first indicate a
wind increase by their moaning and whistling before the seas
start to increase. As we were running with the wind, with no thin
halyards or lines to create sound, we knew of the wind's increase
only when the seas began to cuff up higher around the rudder. The
2nd Mate feeds her a little rudder at a time to ease eastward
toward land. As each wave crests under the stern of the boat,.the
boat tends to slew around into the trough where it would upset.

This is our greatest danger. Even if we should manage to right the
boat after an upset, we are sure to lose some men. The sails remain
stowed because any increase in speed would be too apt to flip the
boat over; and besides, we know that there is nobody out on a
rescue mission to pick us up. The waves loom up higher, and now
the 2nd Mate is constantly working to keep the boat from
broaching each time that we ride up on the crest of a wave and
down into a trough again. He has a blanket over his shoulders. The
rest of us are huddled in blankets, too, facing aft, and warning
him whenever an extra large wave looms up under the boat. He is
a good man at the tiller, but the hours are going by and soon he
will have to be relieved.

 Hunched over in the boat as the waves push it along, we are
strictly on our own. Before leaving Iceland, we had been told that
in the event of sinkings, escort vessels had orders not to leave their
stations for rescue work--that was the assignment of the three
rescue ships. But now these three were running alone like the rest
of the merchant ships and, without escorts to fend off the enemy,
had all that they could do to save themselves. As the merchant
ships had spread out "fanwise," they were being torpedoed all
over the Barents Sea, and any "rescue ship" (which also carried
war material) would stand to be torpedoed if she attempted to
cruise around alone looking for survivors. This happened to the
Zaafaran. Her crew was picked up by a second rescue ship, the
Zamalek, which got through with the third--the Rathlin.

 Whereas the Germans had full knowledge of our convoy, they
were aware that these three vessels were acting as rescue ships. In
the various forays that they made over the intact convoy it was
obvious that these ships were being bypassed. It follows that as
the convoy dwindled, the importance of these ships grew--hence
the torpedoing.

 We were not only on our own with regard to all escort and
rescue ships, but with the owners of our vessel as well, who would
retroactively stop our pay when they received notice of the ship's
sinking. This means that when we went off the ship, we also went
off the company payroll, as we were without a means of employ-
ment; therefore our wages stopped on July 7th when we left the
S.S. John Witherspoon in the Barents Sea. Nobody has ever raised
the question, but it seems to me that since we were no longer em-
ployees of the company, we were using the lifeboat illegally as
unemployed seamen in an unclassified boat. This method of a
crew's dependency on their ship for status was common practice.

A Navy man might lose six ships in as many seas, but his status
would remain unchanged. A merchant man (unless his company
felt magnanimous, and except for transportation back to the
States) was immediately without a livelihood upon loss of his ship.
There was some variance in this custom, which might include a
time limit for returning to America, but there was none in ours.
The termination of a usual sea voyage would be indicated by a
"certificate of discharge" with pertinent data, including "place
of discharge" and "time of discharge." And in this regard there
was no deviation from the usual in our certificates, which read:
"Time of discharge--July 7, 194z' Place of discharge--Barents

 The end Mate has now been on the tiller well over a day. He
has not asked for a relief, but his head is drooping, and only the
slap of each wave as it crests against the rudder is keeping him
awake. None of us feels that he can handle the boat as safely, but
it has to be done. The seaman in the stem nearest to him eases
over and grips the tiller for the Mate to let go. We all watch
critically while he gets the feel of the boat. From my position in
the bow I watch as she commences to broach a little. He gets fast
words of caution from all of us. That helps to keep him alert. As
soon as the new helmsman had control of the boat, the Mate
curled up in the stern to doze, but even then I was sure that he
was judging the balance of the boat through his back. We have
rationed the food and water. The food is a concentrated mix of
beef, rice, raisins, et cetera, called "pemican." It is palatable and
nourishing, but nobody is hungry--all that we want is water. If it
were not so cold, the ride could be almost pleasant. We ride high
on each wave and then skim down into the trough, and by now
we are making about six knots. We know that we are heading.
southerly, and if the wind holds and we don't freeze, we'll reach
land eventually. You doze; then you snap awake to be sure that
the man at the tiller is alert. It seems that everybody in the boat is
watching him for the same reason, except for the Mate, who is too
exhausted to be alert. In all the time that he had been on the tiller,
the rest of us had been able to doze in snatches. Now it was his
turn to doze and up to us to follow his lead. As the waves break
along the sides of the boat, water ships over and down around our
feet. We bail to keep the water level down, but our feet are well
soaked by the second day, and now we are just holding our own.

 For myself, I can say that at this time I had no fear whatever
of my fate--not because of any religious belief, but because of a
complete acceptance of our situation, with the realization that we
could do nothing to change it. It is when there is a chance that
one's adverse fate may be changed by circumstances or entreaties
that one may be concerned. Out there, with nothing but water and
sky around us, it would do no good to cry in supplication. My
belief was that if God wanted me to live, then it would be so; if
not, who am I to change his mind?--it would be presumptuous of
me. Whatever the rest of the crew thought, there were no signs
of mental breakdowns, and so we swept along, cold, wet, and
thirsty, but prepared for whatever came.

 This attitude is formed by the interdependence of merchant
seamen, who as civilians and primary representatives of the sea,
become accustomed to literally fending for themselves while the
wars of military ships are tolerated as temporary interruptions in
the normal flow of commerce. But this interdependence does not
extend to the ship owners, who, as background figures in ship
operations, remain in a similarly tolerable association that is
strictly mercenary on both sides. Tubbing along with the waves,
we expect no more than the considerations of our salaries. The
Navy men in our boat may need a medal or a band serenade now
and then to inspire them with a cause, but we have a constant
loyalty to our calling that ranges far above the mercenary connec-
tions with our ship's owners. Some naval writers did not seem to
understand the merchant man's resistance to the restrictions of
convoy. Even "shellback" skippers with years of experience have
been indicated as inexplicably truculent toward maneuvers de-
signed for the safety of their ships. The following paragraphs are
therefore presented to them as a key to the merchant man's

 A merchant man will develop a good amount of loyalty to the
operation of his ship without the need of martial spirit and regard-
less of the owners. He feels a pride in his job which can extend to
giving his life in the course of it. When in port, he must put up
with whatever requirements are made upon him and the ship; but
once out to sea again, the ship becomes his charge, with owners
and eargoes in abeyance while he resumes the primary job of
sailing his ship. It is at this time that he enjoys his detachment
from the hustle ashore. Putting his ship into a convoy sub-
ordinates his command again, and he is back under restrictions
which take away the independence that he bargained for. This
same independence is seen in the desire of people on cruise ships,
who board them to be separated from their usual schedules and
are not in a hurry to go any place. And pertinent to this, we will
again refer to Captain Villiers with his kind indulgence: The
Pilgrims sailed their ship from England to get to Ameriea; Captain
Villiers left England for America to sail his ship, following the
same course with a different object.

 Many people think that going to sea on a merchant ship or a
 naval ship is basically the same. It is not so. Along with the pre-
 viously mentioned differences in ship construction, complements,
 and values, there are differences in the men who man them. Each
 type is inclined toward separate ways, which were originally
 fostered when the first merchant ship was manned by a crew of
 "marines"--experieneed seamen who were needed as regulated sea
 fighters. The inclination comes before the regulations, so that the
 naval career man is all primed and ready to conform before he
 even gets a look at the sea. It sometimes happens that a misplaced
 merchant man will find himself in a navy--and the reverse. In
 the first case, he would do well to change his position; in the
 second case, let his position change him.

 Some merchant men considered the Naval Armed Guard sca-
 men who were placed aboard merchant ships as "rejects"/rom the
 Navy. Perhaps they were--but they were a good bunch of lads ,;vho
 stood long hours of watch in cold gun turrets without complaining,
 We felt sympathetic toward them, with consoling reminders that
 they might even get to join the Merchant Marine some day.

 To sum it up, I think we can call on a stanza from the works
of our friend Omar Khayan, with my favorite passage from the
Rubaiyat: "Some for the glories of this world; and some sigh for
the prophet's Paradise to come; ah take the cash, and let the credit
go, nor heed the rumble of a distant drum." This Persian poet was
also a mathematician, philosopher, and tentmaker--three good
qualifications for a seaman.

 This is our second day, and the Mate is back on the tiller,
looking less red-eyed and more confident now that our bathtub
has weathered two days of this moderate lifeboat sea. There is
little conversation; dulled by loss of sleep, we are automated to the
continuous roll and pitch of the boat. Some of the crew are
beginning to sleep too deeply; they are not constantly twitching
and turning to huddle into their blankets from the cold; they lie
relaxed and pale. One is slapped by the others to awaken him and
is irritated, but we regard him indifferently; we are too tired to
be affected by his anger. One of the gun crew is very dejected. He
sits with his head in his hands, hardly bothering to look up in case
a friendly flotilla should come over the horizon. And so it goes,
hour after hour, dozing and waking. Again the Mate is relieved on
the tiller by another seaman near him, and the tub rolls on.

 We have been running before the seas for three days now, and
at last they are beginning to subside. Now and then some of us
munch a little on the pemican, but we have been under too much
tension to have any appetite, though it is good to relax from the
automated tedium of the wallowing boat.

 When you look at something but your eyes are bleary, you can-
not be sure of what you see: their re/ractional ability is most likely
to be impaired by a screen of red lines: For some time there had
been a thin white line on the horizon, noticeable to the men
facing aft. To us it was just a hazy glare until someone spoke of
it to the Mate. When he turned his head to see, he immediately
became interested.

 "That's ice" he said. "And there is probably land behind it--
that's why it's in a line like thatl" Now he gives the boat more
rudder, as the sea is down a lot and she can stand it. As we came
closer, we saw that it was a long line of jumbled "pack ice,"
broken pieces of ice floe that had drifted down from the North
Pole. If there was land behind this ice, then it was probably the
crescent-shaped island of Novaya Zemlya, and we had been pushed
obliquely along the coast to the outer edge of the crescent. As we
come in closer, the ice grows bigger, and now it is something to
contend with. But ice be damnedl There might be some place on
the terra firma behind it where we could rest and recuperate, and
for most of us the prospect outweighed the danger. We hear the
sound of it as waves grind and thump floating pieces against tight-
ly packed shore ice. Fortunately for us, the sea had abated; at our
former pace we might have been driven into this growling mass
of pack ice. We made our way into a small inlet of ice and relaxed
for the first time in three days of rolling, tossing waves.

 Now that we were as good as becalmed, we ran up our toy
sails in case there was a friendly penguin around. Ice covered
everything. Standing in the boat, there was nothing to see but ice
cakes sticking up in the air. Inland they were motionless, but along
what would be the shoreline they were ominously crunching and
grinding together. The Mate didn't like this ice. Some of the men
wanted to go closer and look for an opening to the still ice beyond.

I wanted to make for one of the large flat cakes that were bobbing
on the edge of the others, and then work our way ashore--but that
was voted down, too. The Mate believed that the boat would be
crushed if caught in the ice, and that the men were too weak to
climb over the ice.

 Having gamboled about waterfront places as an urchin, it
seemed the natural thing to do--to me. But no doubt he was right.
After three days of sitting in the cold, we had no spring in our
knees, which was necessary for hopping over the grinding ice.

 The sails flapping uselessly in the wind were causing the boat
to drift into the ice, so we dropped them and broke out the oars
to keep clear. Although some of us were game to tackle the ice,
the Mate's decision against the proposal was not questioned- even
as civilians, we respect our officers' opinions. But there is 'dis-
appointment. After our long boat trip it is galling to be circum-
vented by this dangerous ice. Now I am standing up in the boat
again. I want to increase my range of vision as much as possible.

If the broomstick that we had for a mast was strong enough, I'd
have climbed it. Inland there is a white haze that blots out what-
ever exists beyond our barrier of ice. I thought I saw the outline
of a roof at one time, and announced: "I see a habitationl" I
didn't know whether it was a house or a pointed igloo, so I settled
for a "habitation." But that did it--nobody, even my friend the
Mate, bothered to stand up for a look. That word "habitation"
was all out of context for an ejaculation, so I must have been
slightly deranged. But I kept it up: "Look! Over there! I see a
habitationl" Then I said: "It might be a house." My only response
was looks of pity. So I sat down and mumbled to myself. I think
that I was rational at the time, but I felt that I should indulge in
this whimsy to remain so. At this point, a good offshore wind
might have sufficed as a better nose bearing than any that our
bleary eyes could manage.

 Some scoff, but fellow seamen agree that one can make a nose
bearing on land from a long way at sea--as much as one hundred
miles or more. But to make the detection requires two conditions:
a lengthy voyage to adjust the olfactories to salt air, and a position
on the bow of a moving ship where the wind is steadily sweeping
all ship odors aft. Doubtful people misinterpret these reports as
claims of extrasensory perception, but it is simply the contrast of
long adjustment. On a 36-day trip from New York to Capetown,
South Africa, on the old Maine of the Robin Line (she broke
down eleven times; and this gave us about the same running time
as Columbus' trip from the Canaries to the West Indies), I
detected a land odor from well out to sea. Our course was tangent
to the coast of Africa, from which, like other tropical countries,
earthy aerials are carried long distances by wind. These aerials are
 rare but unmistakable. Theoretically we should be able to pick
 up an odor from completely around the world if standing in an
 uninterrupted current of clear air that is suddenly diluted. And
 if some Russian had a pot of borsch cooking near by in an offshore
 wind that day, we would not have needed any radar to get a.line
 on his position.

 While we debated the best course to take, we saw another boat
making its way south along the ice in our direction. There were
many merchant seamen out boating in the area at that time, and
at first we thought it was a boat from another ship. As it came
closer, we could see that it was the powerboat from our own ship.

They had been running before the wind as we had, and now were
using the boat's fuel in a survey along the ice for a landing place.

 As the boat was drawing up to us with the motor cut, we could
see that she was laden deep with extra men, some standing, as
we had, for a stretch of legs. Our Captain was in command of this
boat, his temporary aberration gone with the ship. Whatever had
been the cause of it was not dwelt on as a matter that was private
to him. With his ship a loss of war, and no dependent passengers
to account for, there remained only his crew, who, in being able
to manage without him, could allow for a break in a strain that
was greater in his case. He was our Captain, a man whom we
respected, and his years of dependability made his delayed debarka-
tion a minor thing that deserved to be forgotten. These were my
feelings as a crew member at that time, and the restrained com-
ments of the others were some evidence of their agreement.

 Though their boat carried more men than ours, only one man
requested a change that increased the variance. We would have
welcomed a balance into our boat, but there were no requests.
Apparently the men in the powerboat felt more secure with an
engine, though the boat was overloaded. This seemed unwise to
me: The agreement that i had made with the Second Mate on the
advantage of an unencumbered boat over the limited use of a
deadweight motor with resulting lower freeboard was more of an
instinctive acquiescence. Unlike the Second Mate, I had never
sailed a windjammer. All of my seafaring had been aboard steam-
ships, where, except for bow or crow!s nest lookout, one could
always retreat behind warm bulkheads in bad weather and let the
ship's engines do the maneuvering. And yet at this time the
powerboat's engine meant no more to me than it did to him. Per-
haps I am a throwback to the same breed of Norwegian fore-
runners, some of whom had sailed south to become Irish ridge
runners. In any case, bastardized or otherwise, my years of adiust-
ment to the convenience of steamships had been shifted at once to
acceptance of the sea and the boat without reliance on a limited

 While the two boats drifted in the chop, the Captain and thc
2nd Mate considered what course to take. These two were recog-
nized as our best men in this situation, with the Norwegian's
experience in northern waters giving him an important edge over
the Captain. The 1st and 3rd Mates preferred to remain in the
motorboat, as did the ship's engineers, who might be expected to.
She was now well-manned, with three navigators and four
engineers. But the most prominent member of her crew was the
stout seaman from whom I had rebounded after a running colli-
sion aboard the sinking ship. It was proper that he should be
doubly concerned about their boat's freeboard when he announced,
in a manner of a supercargo* "We can't take any more; there's
no more room."

 * As the aforementioned point was made, it is my endeavor to keep
within the bounds of nautical usage in this story; and, by the same token,
whereas reference to the word supercargo has gotten out of bounds in the
lists of some etymologists, it is my wish to make a correction here. Let
this be a lesson to them to stop copying one another's notes in case the first
one is wrong: A "supercargo" was not a "ship's officer," although anybody
could be. He would be appointed by the owners to sail with the ship in the
interest of the vessel and its cargo. This was probably done as an insurance
against barratry, when ship's officers or crews might take advantage of
their Positions to capitalize against the owner's investment. It is not likely
that another ship's officer would be given such a berth to avoid collusion-
aside from the unlikelihood of the average one of them accepting the
anomaly of the position.

* The most distinguished supercargo of the American Merchant Marine
was Nathaniel Bowditch, who, as an excellent mathematician, put his time
to good use in correcting early nautical tables. With still later issues of h/s
book, which we called "The Bowditch," having so much comprehensive
information for all branches of navigation, we would often respectfully
refer to it as "the seaman's bible." And whereas the first true course laid
by the U.S. Navy had to be based on these tables, compiled aboard mer-
chant ships, they are reminded to keep a respectful attitude whenever the
Bowditch is opened for reference. "

 The fat seaman need not have been concerned, because the
remainder of our men appeared to realize that a shift into the
laden boat would not be an improvement. Another conspicious
figure in the powerboat was the tobacco-merchant First Mate,
hanging onto his bag of weeds like a hopeful immigrant .with all
of his worldly possessions. I must say one thing for him, however:
though his inventory was unusually large, like a true seaman he
had secured the best means of providing manna wherever he may
have gone.

 Before the naive G.I.s of World War II had spoiled things
with money, merchant seamen could go almost any place and
barter for whatever was available with cigarettes and soap. It made
no difference to the Wahabis, Wahines, or Walloons whether you
had escudos, drachmas, or rupees, so long as you had a pack of
American weeds. But the downy-bearded G.I.s who came after us
inflated local values with folding money and ruined the foreign
exchange market. Cigarettes were highly negotiable items among
the hoi polloi, and if you happened to be out of stock, a bar of
soap would often do--not that the party would have need to use
it, but he or she might in turn exchange the soap for something
more important than a bath.

 G.I. Joe did not know it, but the money that he carried around
in his pockets was a more potent weapon than his rifle. It did
more to advance the ambitions of timid people than all of his
liberation efforts. After a taste by these people of the power that
it held, the returning soap merchants found their market gone.

This was an inevitable advancement--not to be taken as a market
crash. The merchant seaman was a better trader than G.I. ]'oe,
but he, too, could be sold such things as "solid gold"artifacts made
of brass hose nozzles liberated from some other ship. Though G.I.
Joe crashed economic barriers with his largess, it was we who laid
the groundwork for the geopolitics that encompassed his war.

American ships in colonial ports were constantly undermining
provincial standards with tempting displays of things that might
be had. We were well aware that our comparatively high standard
of living (as ordinary Americans--not tourists) made us the best
ambassadors (with plenty-potentiary) that our country could have.

    The Captain and the znd Mate had decided there was no way
to get through the ice in this area, and that we might do better to
make for the Russian mainland with a chance of being picked up
by some straggling ship. Several of us disagreed, preferring to ex-
plore the coastline of the island further before heading out; but it
was not made an issue. As a uniform lifeboat group without the
restrictions of ship stations, it was reasonable that all hands should
consider what coursc to take before deferring to the experience of
the boat commander.

    We requested a tow from the powerboat to catch the wind
offshore, with no interest in being towed further. About one-half
mile out, we let go the line and ran up our toy sails again. Super-
cargo had taken an officious stand in the stern of the powerboat,
ready to cut loose the other end of the linc in fear of being en-
cumbered. This was a position that should have been taken by
one of the officers in thc boat as a guarantee to us that we could
remain under tow until the boat's fuel ran out if necessary. There
was an exchange of waves as the deeply laden boat drew away
from us like a tug with its standing and sitting passengers domi-
nating the outline of the low freeboard. Heading south, it didn't
take them long to drop down over our small horizon of under four
miles while we floundered astern. Some time later they were
picked up by another freighter, which in turn was torpedoed; all
hands were then rescued by a second ship that was one of the few
to make port. (Leaving sinking ships was getting to be a routine
for some survivors.)

    Now that the sea had calmed down, we managed to com-
promise with it. Instead of going strictly the way of the wind, as
before, we did some dexterous maneuvering with the tiller and
found that we were at least staying away from the ice and even
making a little to sea (although I think it was the curvature of
the island away from the wind direction that did it).

    After a munch of pemican and a sip of water, I talked with the
Mate on our chances of being picked up as an alternative to
bypassing the island. We knew that not many ships were left
which might pass our way, and that the distance to the mainland
was long. "It may take us a week," the Mate said, "and most of
us won't make it. We might even sail down the White Sea and
not know it because the land would be too far away." (Some
survivors did manage to get ashore on ice-free sections of the
island. Among them were the crews of the Washington and the
Olopana, who had met briefly before when the Washington's men
had thankfully declined the Olopana crew's offer to leave the com-
parative security of their lifeboats for any comforts aboard a
doomed ship. A friend named Lantz was a crew member of the
Washington. When we met later, he told me that they had done
well on the island. The place had a plentiful supply of wild ducks.

These ducks had to make a running start before flying, which
made it easy for the men to have duck dinners. There were also
plenty of eggs about. The Russians had assigned certain young
people there for designated periods of gathering ducks and eggs
for shipment to the mainland. They lived in comfortable wooden
buildings and seemed to enjoy the life.

    The Americans were provided with delectable duck dinners
washed down with hot drinks and vodka--the bums never had it
so good. Later our compatriots found bags of flour which had
floated ashore from some blasted ship. These bags had not been
in the water long enough to become soaked and were still dry in
the center. The boys used the flour and duck eggs to whip up
batches of pancakes and stowed them away to the music of a
balalaika. There never was a better soiree than this at any conven-
tion of beachcombers. All this while the argonauts of the S.S.
John Witherspoon are bobbing offshore munching pasty pemican.

If we had known that the Russians were holding open house on
that island, I think we would have crawled over the ice on our
hands and knees if we could not have made it on our feet.

    These men had to shuttle around from ship to shore at least
twice before they finally reached Archangel. Their story deserves
a telling of its own,

    With the wind down and no following sea to push us, our
boat reverted to a drifting barge flying two red pennants. The
island of Novaya Zemlya is a slowing fading white line on the port
quarter--much too slow, compared to our approach. Making head-
way before the wind had been an encouragement that led to the
landfall of Novaya Zemlya; now there is no satisfaction of progress,
and after two days without rest, a natural apathy follows that con-
tributes to the debility of our inaction. From his position in the
stern facing us, this condition nmst have been noticeable to the
Mate, who broke it by saying: "I think we'd better row now to
keep warm."

    In tired silence we lowered the pennants to make room for
rowing; sailing was possible, but this was a delusion. Oars were
placed in oarlocks with cold, stiff hands while bleary eyes watched
for the stroke oar in the stern to set a pace. It wasn't much of a
show. Two or three men might keep pace, others could not. But
it made little difference--our only purpose was to keep moving by
rowing and resting in turns. At this time all functions and sensa-
tions have become sluggish or dormant, except for the dangerous
desire to sleep, which grows correspondingly greater. A few men
have succumbed to sleep and are sprawled about, pale and
still. (Other merchant seamen of this convoy had frozen to death
in their lifeboats.) It has been said that the final stage of freezing
to death is one of going to sleep without a sense of cold. If so,
then these men were sinking into that stage, as they had passed
the long periods of shakes and shivers that precedes it. This general
stupefaction of the senses prevents any emotional reaction by the
rest of us as we stare at them in stolid indifference, being reduced
to a state of apathy which was hardly more active than theirs.

    Our water was getting low, but the food was still in good
supply. In addition to the pemican we had large chocolate bars
and biscuits, but nobody was hungry--water was all that we cared
    One of the men in the stern had been cutting notches in the
boat's gunnel to keep track of the days. He even had a watch and
was clocking the days to the exact hour. I was wondering if he had
hopes of turning in this trip as overtime. We had just passed
seventy hours by his watch when somebody said: "Lookl A mast]
Back there? Almost dead astern of us the tip of a mast had come
up on the horizon--a promising sight. Half the crew creaks up on
stiff knees for the first sign of her hull to see what course she is on.

Should the hull show up broadside, it means that her course is
tangent to ours and we may not be seen. And if we are on the
widening end of the sweep, we won't see the hull at all, as the
masthead will trace across the horizon in a gradual decline out of
sight. There is silence as every bleary eye watches hopefully for
the mast to rise. It does--and it grows taller, the hazy outlines of
a superstructure slowly rises beneath it, and then the hull. It's still
far enough away to appear as a toy on the horizon, but there's no
mistaking the uniform sweep of the bowlines: she is headed
directly for us.

    It is time now to relax a bit and look forward to a place of
warm rest away from the cramped space in the lifeboat and the
constant fight to fend off sleep. But until we are aboard this
approaching ship, there is still the hazard of prowling subs which
can cause her to sheer away without return. Subs have been known
to follow lifeboats waiting for a ship to stop, for a good shot. We
hope that we are not such unknowing bait, and will expect her
Captain to leave suddenly if he has to. Now closer, she shows up
as a British corvet, almost tiny as naval ships go, but comfortably
big from our position in the boat--blimey! She looked good!

    As the scattered convoy had removed accessibility to our three
rescue ships, orders against escort vessels leaving stations for this
purpose were automatically nullified. And yet, because of our rout,
no Allied ship could chance a rescue cruise unless survivors hap-
pened to be on or near a line of course. This was confirmed when
we got aboard--nobody was out looking for us.

    The corvet slows for a stop and swings to starboard to put us
in the lee of the wind, which sweeps across the ship with a pleasant
wave of engulfing warm air. A cargo net has been slung over the
side for us to climb while men on deck are ready to assist and a
man on the bridge films the scene. Now they commence to motion
for us to hurry, as a stationary ship is too good a target. We are no
more than the length of their ship away but we seem to be rowing
through a sea of mud. I got up on the bow, expecting somebody
to toss us a heaving line, but none came. Though the Mate held
the rowing-control position of coxswain in the stern, I was damned
anxious to lay hands on the cargo net, so I turned to our crew and
hollered, "Stroke!--strokel--stroke!" They speeded up a little, but
it was a sorry demonstration of rowing. When we finally inched
close enough, I reached out and grabbed a fistful of that cargo
net hanging over the side. It was a wonderful feeling to latch onto
something more stable for a Change. As I hung on, the boat was
hauled in close and the crew started aboard at once. A few men
were too weak to climb and had to be helped from below while
men on deck reached down to pull them up. When the last two
of us prepared to follow them, the corvet crew asked us to pass up
the lifeboat's supplies, being especially interested in the large
chocolate bars, which were very scarce.

    We passed these up and all else that was loose in the boat,
including the oars. I was still game to make the boat fast to the
ship, but the boys on deck told me to "push her off." Bells were
ringing in the engine room as I climbed the cargo net, and I could
feel her shudder like an excited greyhound as she dug her stern
into the sea to be off. As the last two of us climbed over the side
onto the deck, we were grabbed by the deck crew, as had been
those who went before us. It was well that they did so, for that
first landing on the deck made us all sag at the knees. One last
look at our boat as she bobbed astern (tempestuous as the asso-
ciation with the boat was, I had developed a natural fondness for
it), and then we were escorted below to sleep in delicious heat.

    Once below, each man was given a drink of rum to take the
cold out of his bones. These British lads were regularly issued a
daily "tot" of rum, and for this occasion an extra tot had no doubt
been ordered. Even at this time I had no interest in anything but
sleep and water; nevertheless a husky Britisher insisted that I
drink: "'Ere, drink this; it'll do yet good." So I returned his
civility and downed the rum. In our weakened conditions, that
one tot of rum sent us all off into a deep, warm sleep where there
was no war--just a rocking motion.

  Some time later I awoke to the violent vibrations of the ship's
reciprocating engines. She was surrrying around after a sub, and
each time that she made a turn, one of her twin propellers would
shake the whole stern of the ship as it ran almost free of the water.

Everything in the stern quarters shook like mad--tables, dishes,
bunks, and sailors. I would swear that the hull plates next to the
bunk I was in were independently flexible of the rivets. I had
bunked in stern quarters before where vibrations were a part of
every activity, along with the grinding gears of a steering engine
which would often be in the center of the bunk area, separated only
by a flimsy wooden bulkhead, but this little old corvet was the limit.

If a man had a set of store teeth it would have been wise for him
to keep his mouth clamped shut during these maneuvers--the
steel deck beneath us would shatter ejected crockery. Men off
watch in the stern with us were bouncing like marionettes on
strings; spoons, cups, and plates jingled and clattered. Altogether,
it was a rattling affair.

    The man whose bunk I was bouncing in came over to talk:
"She makes twenty-two knots," he said proudly; "no sub can get
us at this speed." I said: "Good job you've got a riveted ship here,
mate*; I don't think a welded hull could stand this." "This old
gift has been through a lot," he said. "She's a good ship."

    But with all her shaking and rolling, it was pleasant to breathe
the warm air of the snug aftercastle, with its packed bunks and
lockers draped in a helter-skelter of tossed weather gear and
blankets. And the rough wooden table and benches in the center
of all this were accommodations of the finest--a haven of rest from
a long, cold trip.

    The seaman's expression of confidence in his ship's speed as
an escape from torpedoes was a thoughtful attempt to allay any
fears, but his real protection was a prosaic matter of economics.
It was not at all likely that any practical sub Captain would waste
torpedoes on a small corvet when primary targets of crucially
supplied merchant ships were about; and only after they were gone
would she be considered worthy of a torpedo. All naval warfare

*The use of this word as an English coUoquialism for any man ts
another reason to capitalize it when part of a title.

is in one way or another dependent on the supply lines of mer-
chant ships, without which there is no purpose in fighting.
    I thanked the Englishman for the use of his bunk and
staggered over to the table on an invitation for coffce--a ritual of
balance in which arms and wrists become adjusting gimbals to
match the roll of the ship.

    It was amusing to watch these British lads banging in and out
of their small quarters, whistling and joking among themselves
with flippant Briticisms as though they were on a cruise. The
"bloody barsteds" seemed to be indifferent to the enemy below
us, as the ship had him on the run, but an alert from the bridge
would change every one of them into a quiet sentinel ready for

    Over coffee and tea at the mess table we queried our hosts on
their ventures prior to our pickup. Like all the rest of the scattered
ships, they had headed in the general direction of Novaya Zemlya
and then regrouped with a half-dozen drifters in a southerly course
for the White Sea. (Novaya Zemlya is listed as two islands--
Novaya and Zemlya, because of a narrow strait which divides it.

For reference positions, we ignored this division by considering
them as one island.) By chance we happened to be just off their
course line, from which the corvet had deviated only long enough
for us to climb aboard.

    Now feeling rested, I decided to go on deck and look over this
intrepid little ship of our hosts. The air was still very cold to my
chilled bones, so I stood in the lee of the deckhouse and enjoyed
the warm air wafting up from the engine room. It was good to be
back on a ship again. Land would come later, but at this time the
snug corvet is the best ship in the world.

    Although this convoy remnant contained six merchant ships
escorted by one French (corvett) and one British corvet (both
British-manned), someone had dreamed up: "Three Fighting
French eorvetts, two Russian destroyers, and six (small) British
escorts." There are nine ships here that must have sailed off with
"The Flying Dutchman," because I'll be damned if I could see
them! Aside from oceans-away P.T. boats, the only other craft
smaller than a eorvet would have had to be sloops, yawls, or a
couple of dories. And it is not, mon ami, that the classification of
Fighting French corvetts (with two t's) is to be taken as a
specialty of French vessels, but only that the phrase reads more
impressively--which must have been the motive of this report; for
English comets were just as tenacious, being manned by th, same
type of men from the same country.

    But that was not all: in the tradition of ghostly ships, which
are not restricted to reason by time and distance, this shadowy
convoy did not arrive in Archangel until at least ten days later than
the real ships.

    The ships composing this "romp convoy," in naval parlance,
had skittered together for mutual protection in an effort to reach
port after hiding among various ice floes and inlets. Of all the
escort vessels that had been wasting fuel in those waters, only these
two comets were still helping the merchant ships. And in electing
to form an escort for the convoy remains, the two Captains showed
that, regardless of the practicability of Admiralty politics, they
intended to make themselves useful--and for this we thank them.

In fairness to the remainder of the escort vessel officers who had
to abandon the original convoy, I must say that all of them were
very much opposed to that action--just short of disobedience.

    In one case, a bridge officer on an American naval ship who
had a brother aboard a merchantman refused to abandon us and
cursed the Admiralty loudly to announce it. His fellow officers
had to restrain him, as he intended to engage the Germans. (This
was delightful news, Admiral. You can't imagine what it did for
the morale of those recalcitrant merchant men.)

    Our friends aboard the corvet gave us another tot of rum on
the following day. It was well that they did so, for although we
were now close to the White Sea, German dive-bombers located
us and resumed bombing. This time the administration of rum
by these seagoing neurologists alleviated the bombing neurosis; and
I recall going to sleep again completely relaxed while the ship
shook and bounced from the shock of bombs exploding near
her hull. An attack on the less valuable eorvet could be expected
from a young plane pilot who would be more interested in the
game than its purpose.

    I don't know how long I slept; but when I awoke, the attack
was still going on. Now the land was converging on both sides of
us and pine trees could be plainly seen on the shores. Looking up
at the bright blue sky with puli7 white cumulus clouds, the in-
truding dive-bombers looked like irritating mosquitoes as they.
made leisurely turns for bombing runs. Five dive-bombers were
in this group, and none of them had yet made a hit. We were so
close to Archangel that we looked for help momentarily--but it
never came.

    (Later in Archangel, we met a group of R.A.F. flyers who were
quartered in our hotel. They told us that crated Spitfires were
there and had not been uncrated because the Russians said that
they did not know how to assemble them. When the R.A.F. men
offered to assemble the planes, they were refused. What purpose
this served is a question. The R.A.F. men finally became disgusted
with this frustrating vacillation and went back to England.)

    For the German pilots, the bombing runs were leisurely. They
would drop down to just above the apex of our fire and let the
bombs go. These remaining merchant ships were now veterans of
bombing attacks and proved it by their deft evasion. As the ship's
fire kept the planes high, thc drift of the falling bombs, plus the
movement of the ships, greatly reduced their chances of a hit.

But finally one bomb landed so near to the hull of the turbine-
driven S.S. Black Hawk that the shock of the explosion jammed
the engine and the ship ran dead in the water.

    (This rare situation, which could not happen to the recipro-
cating engines of Liberty ships, was the one excuse that they had
for being in war zones: The comparatively free-running recipro-
cating engine could stand continuous shocks through the hull,
wereas the close-spinning rotor of the turbine engine would bind
or strip its blades inside of the engine casing. This transfer of
force might be called an induction explosion in the latter case,
which could cause the rotor blades to shatter the engine casing
and fly like shrapnel.*

* Reference: Three brothers who have a background of war experience
on both types of vessels as marine engineers: Edward, Paul, and WilliAm

When a turbine engine becomes inoperative for one or another
of these reasons, it takes up to a week or more to realign or
rebuild it with shoreside equipment; therefore the S.S. Black Hawk
had to be abandoned right where she was in the White Sca.)

    Both corvets fell back with her while the five remaining ships
continued on alone toward Archangel under intermittent bombing
by shuttling planes. The French corvett pulled over to the freighter
and took her crew off in a fast action. She then headed after
the five ships to give them air cover. Now we swing over to the
starboard side of the dead ship, perhaps to take off a forgotten
seaman, I thought, or some special item, and this means that we
will just nose into her side until the transfer is made.

    Instead, we pulled alongside while the corvet crew got ready
to tie up fore and aft. "They seem to be planning to stay for a
while," I said to a friend. We didn't mind this so much; but
when they decided on another lashing of wire (steel cable) to
this immovable target, I was puzzled. "What goes on here?" I
asked one of the deck crew. "We're going to scuttle her," he
said. We respected the seamanship of the blighters but couldn't
see the need of the wire, as the White Sea was calm with light
swells. Wire lashings can sometimes bind, and this could cause
trouble when the Germans returned, as we knew they would.

    Up the side of the ship the scuttling crew scurried on ropes
left hanging by the merchant men. Over the rail and into the
midship house they scrambled, the last men to walk her decks.
They would go below to let in the sea--an inward bleeding that
would start her down.

    From the corvet deck looking up, the tall, curved side of the
freighter with its deck lashings and dangling ropes looked like a
dead whale all trussed for fleming. From the upper deck of the
corvet one could see that the topside of this huge steel whale was
well loaded with planes, tanks, and trucks, all shrouded and still
like the ship that would take them to the bottom.

    Before long the white-uniformed con, et men reappeared from
the midship house, tarrying and looking expectantly toward the
bridge of their ship. Now, I thought, what the hell are they going
to do--have tea up there? Then came the reason for their expec-
tancy. Somebody on the comet bridge hollered: "Ten minutes for
salvagel" Salvagel I thought. Why, you knuckleheads! What the
hell can you salvage! We had no time, equipment, or room to
salvage any of the deck (;argo, which meant that they would make
a turn or two through the quarters. Any minute now the Ger-
mans would return, and I did not like the idea of being found
tied up like this.

    (Very seldom were the Germans called "krauts" or "heinies."
Like "boche," "hun," and "fritz" of World War I, these exploited
slang terms were even less applicable to the more cosmopolitan
Germans of World War II.)

    There was nothing to do but wait out this interlude, which I
spent in muttering and thinking up new curses. It was ironic to
watch these British tars excitedly salvage such small articles as
dishes, coffee pots, clocks, and so forth, from the ship while in her
holds and on her decks was stored more than a million dollars'
worth of planes, tanks, machinery, and food--representing the
hard work of thousands of people--soon to be on the bottom. The
contrast was too much for such as I to see any value in these
small things compared to the added risk of salvaging them.

    After latching onto articles, they would mn over to the
freighter's side and proudly display them. And when one lad
hollered: "Look what I've got! a coffee pot? I hollered back:
"Don't you have a g.d. coffee pot on this ship? And where, I
wondered, would he brew his coffee if he did not come down from
there soon? And then another one showed up with a pair of
semaphore flags, the last resort for signaling. (As an able-bodied
seaman I had practiced with the flashing light of the longer-range
Morse code before it became mandatory for Merchant Marine
deck officers. I was proud of my advantage until the study of
navigation and its appurtenances allowed Navy signalmen to
surpass me.)

    Two more of the blighters had hauled out the ship's safe and
were trying mightily to lift it over the side for a drop to the corvet's
deck below. This was hurry-up potluck salvage, and there was no
time to rig any lashings for an easy descent. It was a worthy proiect
and all hands were rooting for them--gouges and dents be
damned!--but they never made it. Just about then the blokes on
the bridge got a bearing on Jerry, on his way back to have another
go at us. The two lads had to drop the safe and scurry down
ropes wis their mates while the men below jumped to cast off the
wire and hawsers. The wire gave them a little trouble .as we
watched impatiently to be off.

    With the lines clear, we made a sweep to port around the ship
and prepared to fire on it. Two German planes appeared out of
the south, where they had been hounding the other ships, to see
that no attempt was being made to salvage this one. But the
corvet crew went about the duty of finishing off the freighter. We
circled her and fired shells into the hull below the waterline. Other
shells went into the superstructure (target practice) and still more
into her hull until a red glow showed through.

    When the corvet skipper thought that she had enough, he
brought his small ship about and we headed full speed after the
freighters. Behind us we left a good ship, loaded deep with
valuable material, lying still on the calm sea--burning and empty
of her crew. She had gotten so close to delivering her cargo, only to
be immobilized by a freak concussion. And now the people who
had made such efforts to help her this far were the ones to finish
her off while the enemy flew above watching.

    At this point in running the German gauntlet, the ship had
gotten far enough down in the White Sea to drift ashore on
either side if left to herself wtihout scuttling and bombing. Once
aground, there would have been some chance of profitable salvage.
If, on the other hand, we had left the ship for the Germans to
sink, they would have had less time and bombs with which to
harass us. Either way would have been better than a petulant
sinking of our own ship.

    This ship--the Black Hawk--was the twenty-fifth and last ship
of the Convoy P.Q.-17 to be eliminated by the Germans. Its loss
reduced the small convoy to 5 ships, and the total loss of the
original convoy to 25 as follows: Christopher Newport,* Pan-
Atlantic,* Pan-Craft,* Honomu,* ]ohn Witherspoon,* Alcoa
Ranger,* Fairfield City,* William Hooper,* Washington,* Carl-
ton,* Olopana,* EI Capitan,* Hoosier,* Daniel Morgan,* Peter
Kerr,* Black Hawk*; British ships: River Afton,* Navarino,*
Empire Byron,* Earlston,* Hartlebury,* Bolton Castle,* Zaaf-
aran,* AIdersdaIe*; Dutch ship: Paulus Potter*.

    Ships that were not sunk included these: Benjamin Harrison,
RathIin, Troubadour, Samuel Chase, Winston Salem, Ironclad,
Silver Sword, Empire Tide, Donbass, Azerbaidjan, BelUngham,
Ocean Freedom, and Zamalek. Five of these ships came in under
escort; the remaining eight filtered in on their own, giving the
Merchant Marine a score of eight to five. Because of their assign-
ment as rescue ships, two of them had been favored by the Ger-
mans: the Zamalek and the Rathlin. Another ship, the Ironclad,
was small, somewhat rusty, and no doubt pitiful from an airiel
view: the kind of ship that we would call a "rustbucket." We had
joked about the Germans not wasting expensive torpedoes on it,
but then the cargo was worth more than the ship. Don't think,
however, that this ship was not liked--you can't help liking some-
thing that you feel sorry for; the damndest things were in that
convoy. (More on the Ironclad later.)

    Now that we are back on an escorting mission, the truce is
over and the Germans resume bombing. And here I became
educated to the advantage of a straight course over a staggered one
in evading dive-bombers.

    An officer of this corvet would lie on his back just forward of
the wheelhouse and dead center of the ship. He would then focus
binoculars on the underside of each plane as it dipped down to
release bombs. If a bomb disappeared from his view, he said
nothing; if it remained in his view, it meant that it was heading
for us, and he would then order the helmsman to turn either way,
without taking his eyes away from his line of vision. This method
avoided the error of zigging when you should be zagging. It was
very tiresome on the eyes, calling for frequent changes of watchers.
It was also a strain on the animal instinct to evade, until you drew
an imaginary line from the center of the ship to the belly of the
plane and realized that the blighters were right. All the same it
was a weird experience to be sailing along on a straight course
while bombs dropped around us, being diverted by a combination
of drift, speed, and the coolness of the men on the corvet. And
this attitude was most suitable for us to adopt as we walked the
decks of the running corvet trying to ignore the bombs as they
sailed down from the planes above. Back on the fantail there was
a more comfortable sensation of progress as you watched the
foaming wake of the little twenty-two-knotter, which was the
best defense against a hit. And here, where merchant and navy
men would stand in watching clusters, one merchant man was
banging out his tension with a hammer as he molded a crude
ring, sitting on a bitt and using its mate as an anvil. All the while
he conjectured to anyone who would listen that a direct hit would
set off the depth charges on our galloping gondola and blow us
all to pieces--hah! such pessimism!

    We had come in sight of the other corvet (French, mort ami);
she was well ahead and to our port on the same course after the
freighters. She was close enough for a bombing foray, but they
paid her no heed. It was understood that the Germans would
prefer to sink a British ship before a French one, but they could
not know that in reality they were both British corvets (being so
manned). The British seamen were amused by this error of the
Germans, even though we were the target of their mistake. We
Yanks could not see the humor in it--but I would have been
pleased if they had mistaken us for a German corvet.

    (To be correct, naval operations should be recorded under the
nationality of the crews and not that of the builders of the ships.
Only complete automation of ships would place them under the
operators of the controls, and before that happens, naval ships,
which are already obsolescent but not quite obsolete, would be
inescapable targets of rockets.)

    It was obvious by now that we would get no help from the
Russians, and the Germans had the sky to themselves. They never
bothered the (French) corvet in this last effort, aiming every
bomb at our (British) corvet. We and the fleeing ships ahead of
us would have to run this target range tight up to the harbor of
Archangel. Some bombs landed close enough to jar the hull of
the small ship, causing the fantail to dance in the water as her own
screws drove high; then she would bite down again like a deter-
mined terrier and bear on while her gunners fired an occasional
round to keep the planes respectfully high. We had more than a
few of these near hits as the Germans tried damned hard to sink
the British corvet; but on we went, the harried ship pounding out
every revolution that she could make in a trail of foaming water.

    Either the Germans tired of a game that was like trying to
bomb a minnow with Ping-Pong balls, or they expected resistance
from Archangel. Watching a last plane make a bombing run over
the ship, we were glad to see that no more were tracking us. Now
we are close enough to shore to provide a show for any interested
Russians, but everybody is too busy looking up to care whether or
not we have an audience. High enough to look like a toy, the
plane dips down slowly while a black dot appears below the under-
side. The plane levels off, but eyes follow this object down to be
sure that we do not meet it. Wind drift and the ship's motion are
still our best defenses against bombs, though the deck officers are
sore-eyed from staring through glasses just in case. Down and over
to the starboard it drops, hitting the water about one cable off as
the corvet holds a straight course. Once more there is a thud and
a shock as it blows a spout of water into the air, adding more dead
fish to a trail that ran all the way back up the White Sea.

    (To a merchant man one cable length equals 600 feet; to the
British Navy it is 6o8 feet; and to the U.S. Navy 72o feet. Silly,
is it not? A x954 international agreement to standardize the
nautical mile left these various decimal tenths still in use. We can
adjust to the eight-foot difference of the British Navy, but the
12o-foot difference of the U.S. Navy is really way out. Make a
note to change this, Admiral.)

    The plane had disappeared toward Norway, leaving a clear
sky and a chance to look shoreward for a change, where deep banks
of evergreen trees are an inviting haven from hounding planes.
Ahead of us the other ships had turned off to scattered berths
where raiding planes would not find a concentration. Along with
bombing our convoy, the Germans had also bombed the dock area
of our assigned destination in Murmansk, which left us orphans
without a dock, and now, like the ships before us, we had to berth
where we could.

  The corvet slows, and this will be a greater relief to the men
in her engine room, who had to keep a close watch on their racing
engine while depending on the deck men to keep the ship clear of
bombs. (Some of my esteemed friends and brothers of engine room
experience have complained of not enough coverage in the original
condensation of this story. These extra lines are just to let them
know that we on deck never forget that they provide our power,
especially on cold days. And though I am not otherwise qualified
to comment on their department, I want them to know that in
this one subject I have found that they have never been provided
with a perfect propeller--positive and negative slip not pertinent.

Even the best-designed propellers come out of their molds with an
imperfect pitch, and if the error happens to be large enough, it
can cause a racing engine to shake a ship's stern like a mad duck.
Our corvet was not new, and she had no doubt collected a few
nicks and twists in her propellers which helped to rattle everything
on her stem that was not welded together--including human

    The crew of the corvet may have sailed to Archangel before,
but I am wondering if the place may be a camp sight along the
bank. Close as we are, I have not seen a buoy, channel markers,
or even a Russian, though it was good to be at ease, enjoying a
peaceful contemplation of pastoral Russia. And I do believe that,
for ali of their flippancy, the blighters manning the corvet were
just as pleased to enjoy the solitude of the area. Like the rest of us,
those off watch were draped over rails and stanchions, quietly
gazing shoreward with an occasional look up. The enemy had
gone and the ship was not under stress, so for the moment we
would make the most of this interlude until the next time.

    Around a point of land the trees thinned out on the port side,
where a rickety wooden pier ran parallel with the shore. Beyond
this were a few rough buildings backed up by piles of lumber, and
further back more trees. We nosed toward the pier while groups
of Russians stood about watching. Lines were tossed to some of
them and the eorvet was eased in and made fast. The run was
over. It had been a rough one: days of harrying planes and
voracious subs. This was the end of it--a token remains of a
truly "Fine Body of Men and Ships."

 There had been no cheers, which might have piqued the navy
 men; but a merchant man expects a blase reception in every port--
 in war or peace. The Russians knew that our fragile alliance was
 not for their benefit, though they later displayed flags on the
 main street of Archangel in honor of the merchant seamen who
 arrived there with or without cargo. This was a singular honor
 for us which the average merchant seaman never experiences.
 The worth of merchant ships is related to a country's dependency,
 as with the English, who have long fostered their "Merchant

 There was evidence of this in wartime England when merchant
 seamen were often granted privileges above ordinary citizens. But
 following tlfis tack, the British Governor of Trinidad went a bit
 overboard with praise for a gathering of merchant seamen; and
 it is pertinent here to relate his embarrassment by a roguish sea-
 man named Ferocious O'Flaherty, who took him at his word: His
 Honor had gotten warmed up at a merchant men's tea (it's true)
 and reached a peak of daring acclaim for us by saying: "If it were
 not for you merchant men we here on Trinidad would have
 nothing to eat but yams and sweet potatoes!--And if there is any-
 thing that you want, you just speak up and I'II see that you get it!"

 Well, now, I thought, what a nice man he is, and I have a request.
 The hall was full of seamen with a half-dozen elderly ladies
 happily flitting around stuffing us with tea and sandwiches. This is
 an island full of mm? I sidled toward his Honor as he sat on the
 podium flanked on one side by the only girl in the place and on
 the other by a sharp-eyed lackey. His aide noted an air of purpose
 in my approach and placed himself in interception. I pretended
 to lose interest and signaled a henchman to elbow him out of the
 way. As soon as my compatriot had launched him into an unex-
 pected pirouette, I leaned over to the Governor's ear and said:
 "How about getting us some women, Governor?" The girl at his
 side could hardly contain herself as she burst out in a fit of giggles.
 His Honor huffed and puffed but made no sense, for it was a
 simple question. By this time his circumvented aide had regained
 his equilibrium, which called for me to make a dignified retreat
 under his glaring eyes--he had no sense of humor, that chap. The
 moral to this story is: Don't make promises to merchant seamen;
 they might believe you.

 While the corvet's Captain was palavering with the Russians
on what to do, I decided to go ashore and walk through the stacks
of lumber for a quiet stroll among the pines beyond. About half-
way through, an old lady stepped out from behind one of the piles
with a rifle pointed at me as she jabbered away in Russian. She
was short and square, wearing rough leather boots, a black shirt,
and a shawl with the usual babushka over her head. The rifle did
not waver, nor did her tirade. I did not understand a word she
said, but the gun spoke well enough. Turning about on a retreat
to the ship, I hoped that this old woman was a rational sentry on
guard against sabotage and not some rabid patriot who was ready
to shoot anybody who did not look like a Russian. The Allied
bond of World War II was weak, but I did not think it was that
bad. The old virago must have known that I was from an Allied
ship; nevertheless, I was still suspect.

 Back aboard the corvet, we were told to wait for an escort into
town. This seemed reasonable to me, after my rude encounter with
the ancient harridan.

 Shortly afterward we merchant men were directed aboard a
bus for the trip into Archangel. With goodbyes to the comet crew,
we rolled off on a short trip to a hospital on the outskirts of the
town--a plain one-story wooden building with a statue of Lenin
in front. Inside we were taken in tow by a group of husky nurses
and ordered to strip for a shower. Some of the crew did not care
to take a bath just then, but the nurses were insistent--besides,
they were all stronger than us and stayed right there to help wash.

They took our clothes and threw them into a de-louser, taking no
chances, on the theory that some of us might have been colonized.
If anybody had been keeping a home for cooties, the inhabitants
would have long since frozen to death. This precaution seemed to
be a routine based on experience. We had already seen some of
the rural "moujiks" who sewed their clothes on for the winter.
This way you are not only warm but never alone--it makes things
cozy for everybody.

 It seemed that we all had partly frozen feet, and the hot
showers began to thaw them fast. They turned red, swollen, and
very sensitive. The nurses put us to bed and began pill medication.
Aboard the corvet we had stumped around, all of us realizing that
our feet were not quite normal but feeling no pain, perhaps be-
cause of a slower return of circulation. We had slept then, but
now there was no sleep. For eleven days and nights I could not
sleep soundly. If I moved my feet suddenly, even the touch of the
blankets would hurt. The rest of the men were in the same con-
dition to various degrees. Each night a nurse would make the
rounds with pills, saying, "Schleep--schleep." The beds had no
springs and the mattresses felt like straw, but we were grateful to
them; our hosts were doing the best that could be managed with
what was on hand.

 There is no night in Archangel in July. The sky would turn a
dusty blue and stay that way, as though the sun had stopped, as
the tilt of the earth kept the northern regions in its light. Awaken-
ing from periods of dozing, the unusual sight of a blue sky at mid-
night was strange. I thought of asking the nurse to blindfold me
so that I wouldn't be as confused as a crowing rooster in an
artificial dawn.

 Walking was slow and painful. At mealtimes we were fed
"black bread" and fish. The fish I could eat, having come from a
long line of fish eaters, too, but the black bread was another story:
It was dark brown with a specific gravity greater than any other
bread, and a consistency that was known only to them. One slice
of it would about equal the weight of a whole loaf of American
bread. It could be used as a counterweight--or would be good in
a fight. I'm sure it was nourishing (the nurses were proof of that),
but it took more strength and desire than I had to masticate it. A
nibble now and then was all that I could manage: any more, and
my stomach would start to sag.

 We didn't expect the doctors to have time for us, as they were
too busy with more serious cases of frozen limbs. One young mer-
chant seaman lost both feet, one hand, and part of the other hand.
So many more never arrived with their ships; they either went to
the bottom with them or froze to death floating in boats, rafts, or

 After eleven days and nights of this, obediently swallowing
whatever pills the nurses gave us, a friend and I decided to hobble
outside and bathe our feet in the sun. After a few hours of this,
both of us were able to walk normally for the first time without
pain. Some doctors opine that the sun has no curative powers. One
may say that our feet were on the point of regaining normal cir-
culation on that day, but it was odd that it should happen to both
of us at once. We were the only two who recovered this fast. Others
of our boat crew were still hobbling weeks later, and one man had
to be carried about.

 Now that we can walk again, we are shifted to a hotel in the
center of the town. This was the hotel where the R.A.F. men
were quartered who told us of their anger at having to sit around
while crated planes were kept from them. It was especially galling
for them to see men whom they might have helped being brought
into Archangel in sorry shape. Other merchant seamen were also
there, and we compared notes on the disintegration of our convoy.
It was here that I met an old friend named Lantz who gave me
the particulars on the sinking of his ship and the refusal of the
crew to be picked up by another doomed ship--the Olopana.

 Archangel was a sprawling lumber town that was changing into
a city. Piles of sawdust were everywhere. The place was a prime
example of previous reports as to Russian industry having moved
too fast for its technology. Five- and six-story cement buildings
were in the center, with the odd contrast of one-story log cabins on
the ends of the same streets. These cabins were well made and
appeared to be snug, while the cement buildings were poorly con-
strutted with large cavities in the sides where improperly bonded
cement had fallen to the street. A trolley line snaked past these
buildings with cars running in triplicate. Needless to say, the road-
bed was not a prosaic level; it followed whatever contours hap-
pened to be there--plus a few more, I suspect, that appeared out
of a haze of vodka on a cold working day.

 Commissars and such others who were clean rode the first
car; but if you were a mouiik, you rode in one of the second two.
Lantz and I did not know this when we stepped aboard a second
car for a tour of the town. The car reeked but it was warm, and
we would take whatever odors went with it for the sake of the
heat. I was impressed by the placid, almost bovine, stare of the
peasants in the car. They were well fed and content; the malcon-
tents, having been weeded out and cleaned, rode the first car. After
a few stops the door opened and a man in uniform called to us.
He pointed to the first car and said, "It is better you go in there."
We thanked him and went forward to the first car. Here every-
body was neatly dressed and clean, with buttons and zippers on
their clothes. I am sure that this was a gesture of gratitude on
their part to avoid any possible offense; but it would take more
than a steaming warm car rocking along the streets of Archangel
to offend men who had recently been saved from freezing to

 A soap salesman might go broke among the moujiks, who were
rural dwellers to a rural town; but Archangel had public baths, as
in other localities, which were well used. We decided to visit one
of these places as part of our tour of the area. It was a single room
where you took your turn under a shower operated by a rope, after
you had carefully piled your clothes on a wooden bench--far
enough away from the next pile so that your neighbor's company
would not drop in for a visit. While we were there, a Russian
soldier came in and insisted on a shower at once. The attendant
presumed to have him wait, but the soldier pulled out a gun and
stuck it In the atendant's face with a stream of words which had
to be Russian curses. This changed the order of the bath at once--
and gave us a chuckle. After that, the attendant became very busy,
offering to arrange the wrappings of some of his yearly visitors,
ostensibly to encourage a gratuitous kopec or two. He shook out
these rags in the area of the soldier's clothes, who was now naked
but in reach of his gun. The soldier glared at him and cursed
again, knowing that Tovarisch was being unduly solicitous of the
moujik rags. I thought that this effort to start a colony in the
soldier's clothes was a slick though risky attempt at revenge. It was
an example not only of "strategy being the better part of valor,"
but of the fact that in Russia, too, one may find undeveloped
talent worthy of the musings of an elegy.

 Our compatriots from other ships were also about town
 engaging in the usual barter and exchange that transpires in many
 seaports. These exchanges follow a regular pattern, whether or not
one is a guest of the government, as we were in this case. And
you soon learn to distinguish legal tender from spurious fac-
similes--usually at a cost. These are educational incidents which
teach you what it is like to be a foreigner. My own education in
this regard is included as a parody in the back of this book: In
Russia, a strange man is addressed as "tovarisch" as he would be
called "buddy" or "pal" in the States; and it was under this
friendly monicker that I was impiously addressed as a likely sub-
ject to be parted from some cigarettes at no cost to the con

 In time some of us attended classes in Russian, which helped
when accosted by nervous sentries after curfew hours. It also
helped in public relations: when you try to speak the language of
another country, the people will always accord you more respect
than they give to those who do not try. We attended other
meetings held by Captain (later Lt. Com.) Frankel of the U.S.
Navy to advise us on the course of the war. It was at one of these
meetings that we were told by him of the German's detailed
knowledge of our convoy. This announcement only confirmed
what we had already experienced.

 There is still another important difference between the opera-
tion of merchant ships and naval ships which has a direct bearing
on the compilation of such knowledge: When a merchant ship is
under way, she is making money; when a naval ship is under way,
she is losing money. Most merchant ships spent the greater part
of their time at sea for this reason, while, except for patrol routes,
the main purpose of naval vessels is served when stationed in port
where they can be seen. Any merchant Captain (including foreign
merchant men) who sailed the American coast previous to World
War II was much better acquainted with its navigation routes
and ships than the U.S. Coast Guard because they were always
out there. Some of these Captains were Germans, who were
sailing either under various waivers on American ships or as
Masters on foreign-flag vessels with U.S. coastwise charters. These
men would naturally make the best possible sub Captains to scour
the American coast after ships that they well knew. Others were
in the Wolf Pack, with complete knowledge of our ships. This
explains such incidents as that of the Captain of a sunken Ameri-
can ship being called by name by the Skipper of a German sub.
The Captain who torpedoed our ship also spoke good English
tinted with American.

 The basis of information on nautical charts was first compiled
from information sent in by Masters of merchant sailing ships.
The old Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation then up-
dated this data, working as a civilian agency. One outstanding
exception was the discovery of the Gulf Stream by Mathew Fon-
taine Maury of the U.S. Navy, who added this piece of data to his
own. And when the Gulf Stream makes a periodic shift in course,
it will be first noted by the change in speed of regularly operating

 Some Americans were disappointed because they did not find
everything on a common level in Russia. A group of them made a
scene over a separate dining room for officers in our hotel. Most
of us, on the other hand, were resentful toward this group for
making a fuss about an affair that merited no concern, as public
dining rooms were available to all. The Russians in turn were sur-
prised-they were doing only what they thought the Americans
would expect. (A similar issue was raised on our return trip aboard
the Queen Mary, though the writer as spokesman for the group
was able to resolve it without argument.)

 But nobody complained about certain other separations, such
as barber shops (you'll never get me or any other moujik to call
them "men's salons"). If one thinks about it, consider/ng the testy
results of a haircut in a shop other than one barred to moujiks,
this one division had a sound basis for freedom that all societies
would have to agree to--capitalists, anarchists, or even beatniks
notwithstanding: As aforementioned, some of Archangel's citizens
of that period were lately of the country, and each one of them
was host to a colony of traveling companions. It follows that any
tonsorial parlor which first catered to such an entourage would
thereafter be off limits to any self-respecting commissar who
couldn't afford to be suspected of sleeping in a barn. Even in a
capitalist country this would be a good enough reason for demo-
tion. Grasshoppers are great jumpers, but for size and weight I
think the flea is king, with top honors always going to a Chinese
flea called One Long Hop.

 There were many soldiers in the streets of Archangel, every
one of them lean, alert, and wearing sidearms. In fact, there wasn't
a fat Russian to be seen in the place. And since we had a few. portly
Americans in our group, small Russian boys who were accustomed
to all of this sinew had great fun in accosting us (whether or not
you were lean) and, as they rolled their hands over their pushed-
out stomachs, saying: "Americanski! beeg ballyt" Then they would
run away laughing and we would laugh too.

 At mealtimes in our hotel, we were given two fingers of vodka
as an appetizer. Many of us found it too strong, so we would pour
our drinks into the glass of the nearest collector. The Russian
waitresses would say "No" with a strong "nyet" when they saw
this, and confiscate the large drinks. This was done because they
knew that the "Americanskis" would fall on their faces with such
a portion. But some Americans took it to mean that the stuff was
dangerously potent, and when a ship's cook who had been guzzling
too much was found dead in a field they were sure that the vodka
had killed him. It was potent, but it wasn't poison, and we
couldn't condemn the fuel for the failure of the boiler. A salute
to this ship's cook whoever he was: A seaman like the rest of us,
he helped to sail his ship as far as she could go, and like a true
seafarer he, too, went along to his limit. No snug harbor for him.
Unlike soldiers, old seamen don't fade away--they just die.

 As guests of the Soviet Government it was a flattering ex-
perience for us to walk along the flag-studded main streets and find
that any queue would move aside for us. That damned queueing
was the bane of many a man's shore leave in Europe. You would
find a line of people for everything. And I one day showed uncouth
ignorance by asking a fellow British reveIer why there was a line
in front of a place with Winston Churchill's initials on it; how
was I to know they called the john a "water closet"? We had
heard so much about Mr. Churchill in the States that I thought
this was an equivalent to the V's for victory that were scrawled
all over the place.

 Lantz and I hopped a toonerville trolley to Dynamo Park in
the suburbs. There was little doing there, as everybody was busy
with the war, but I just wanted to see a place named after a
dynamo. We got a bang out of that name. The idea has some
merit. Names of persons had been so stressed as attached honors
to public places in our lives that this clean sweep of distinction has
us as humorous. Lantz sprained his ankle trying to be athletic. This
caused us to miss the last trolley back and be late for curfew: The
summer solstice had passed and now the northern regions were
tilting back into darker nights that called for blackouts in
Archangel. We were not supposed to be abroad at this time, and
before long we were stopped short with a flashlight in the face.

This man blew a whistle that started the sound of running boots
coming toward us with the rattle of a chained sidearm. Now we
were in the soup, and the little we had learned in Russian was of
no help. The second man wasn't at all friendly, and he kept
hollering, "Bassbort{ bassborti" We had heard that spies were in
the area, and I could easily pass for a German--which is what I
think he suspected. Finally the "-bort" part sunk in and I said to
Lantz: "He means passport{ .... Da{ Da{" said the Russian', "Pass-

 After showing our papers, we were told to "go back to hotel,"
which we gladly proceeded to do, fading into the darkness with
limping Lantz setting the pace. Again we were suddenly con-
fronted by another man. This one wanted "sulphur," which was
much easier to interpret than the previous word, as a match. We
were surprised, when he lit it, to see him open a tin lamp and light
a candle. He was perhaps a civilian watchman, the first Russian
who had not introduced himself with a gun. Back at our diggings
we decided to never again be out after curfew: there were too
many trigger-quick Russians around who could make a mistake.

 The meals were good in that hotel; we were even provided with
frequent helpings of caviar, which tasted like salty tapioca to me, a
dish that a ship's cook will often whip up for dessert when he is
too foggy from his last trip ashore to make anything else. This is
only done for the record, because any seaman worth his salt will
eat ashore when he can, which gives the ship's cook a chance for
shore leave, too.

 In the business of exchange, any clothes with zippers were a
big item to some local Ruskies, who didn't even have buttons. One
of our crew had a jacket which was bound to be transferred to the
hands of some admiring mouiik. It had zippers all over it--pockets,
front and side, and what not. The only trouble was that thc owner
didn't know enough to cash in on a value that could never be
equaled in the States. (A beautiful chess set carved from walrus
tusk was exchanged for a case of cigarettes.) Most Americans had
sold or exchanged about all they owned except the clothes they
were wearing, and now, with supply short and demand as great as
ever, this jacket had to go. The next time he saw his jacket, a
Russian girl was proudly wearing it past our hotel. He happened
to be looking out a window at the time and was foolish enough
to start hollering: "That's my jacketi LookI See all the zippers on
itl Nobody had a jacket like that around herel Hey, you! .... Be
quiet, you fool," I said. "We don't want any trouble with these
Russians." Lantz helped me to calm the crewman down, but he
was all for making an international incident over it. He might have
known that a jacket with all those zippers on it in a country of
buttonless moujiks was equal to a pretentious display of wealth
which should be sold for the sake of international good will.
Hoarding is bad business.

 We learned some things from the Ruskies, and one of them
was how to make a simple judgment between cheap and good
watches. At first we would laugh to see one of them hold a pro-
posed purchase to his ear, ignoring the name. We judged our
watches by name, which meant nothing to them, but we did find
in doing this that a better watch will have a ringing tick while the
cheaper one sounds fiat.

 In my tour of Archangel to count the number of ship arrivals,
I came across the old Ironclad. I decided to go aboard this ship
to get the feel of a good old rustbucket under my feet again.
(These old ships were much more stable than perpetually rolling
Liberties.) There was a Russian sentry at the gangway and he
wouldn't let me by without a "bass." I tried to convince him that
I was an Americanski only wanting to visit, but it didn't work.
Just then one of the deck officers came out of the midship house
and we recognized each other as peacetime shipmates. But even
he had a hard time persuading the Rusky to let me come aboard
as he stood on the deck above us.

 His invitation to come aboard might be considered in the way
of a returned favor: We had sailed on the old S.S. Evangeline
(lately the S.S. Yarmouth Castle of disaster) when I was an
Ordinary Seaman (that's a rifle) and he was one of her compass-
dizzy Quartermasters. Because the steering engine of this ship, like
that of her sister ship, the original S.S. Yarmouth, was too slow for
the ship's speed, she constantly tended to mn off course if the
Quartermaster didn't keep his eyes fixed to the compass. With a
three-and-one-half hour trick to stand, the leg-weary, bleary-eyed
Quartermasters were happy to get a relief from any passable helms-
man such as I who would occasionally sneak up to take the wheel
in a fit of sympathy and to gain some steering practice in the
bargain. This was in the nineteen thirties B.C. (before gyro eom-
passes ) --for us, at least. Whosoever came up with the idea for a
gyro compass that eliminated all this should be enshrined as a sea-
man's saint, for it certainly was a blessing.

 With the guard watching suspiciously, I walked the short
gangway to the deck and shook hands with my friend. The next
thing was to naturally head for his quarters and break out a re-
union bottle. A lot of sea water had been covered since we had
both left the East Coast runs of the Eastern S.S. Co., and we
would take time to reminisce.

 As with most active ship's crews in Archangel, the men of the
Ironclad had the advantage of familiar ship's quarters for sallies
ashore, which are usually preferred to the most sumptuous of
hotels. A seaman can be robbed, rolled, or stripped of his clothes
as one was in India who came back to his ship naked, but so long
as he has a ship to return to, things are never a complete loss--
which is why a man tagged as "spending money like a drunken
sailor" is unintentionally honored with the generosity that sea-
farers often display.

 After six weeks in Archangel, some of us were told to assemble
on one of the docks to board a destroyer for the States. This was
especially good news, because while we were there, Stalin had
threatened to make a separate peace with Germany unless suffi-
cient supplies were delivered to his troops. (This threat and that
of the Tirpitz seem to be the nub of the squeeze play that caused
the Allied Command to take the desperate gamble of our convoy.)
If Stalin had made a separate peace with Germany, our status as
guests of the Soviet Government would have been drastically
changed to something more like enemy aliens.

 We assembled on the dock as ordered and were addressed in
fair English by a Russian officer. Some of his meanings were
rather hazy, but he made one thing very clear: that was, we were
not to take any Russian money out of the country on penalty of
being kept there. (He knew that was a threat.) Much as we
appreciated the kindness of our Russian hosts, the vacillation of
our respective leaders, with its untoward possibilities, strongly in-
clined us to emigrate.

 Thinking further along this line, the small amount of Russian
money that most of us carried was not worth jeopardizing one's
chances of repatriation even though the threat seemed improbable;
therefore, the only alternative was to unload one's kopecs and
rubles right then and there. Now we understood why groups of
young boys had been expectantly playing around the area, keeping
a close watch on us. This was no doubt a repeat scene to them,
and they were ready for the harvest.

 There was a good amount of grumbling, as many of the boys
were well heeled with cheaply acquired kopecs exactly the size of
a dime; but, thanks to this Russian kopee cleaner, the seaports of
the U.S.A. were about to be saved from an invasion of souvenir
kopecs. I thought that he might pass among us with a bucket or
such. Instead, he stood there with his arms folded, saying nothing
more than the order to leave the country clean--clean, that is, of
money; anything else we could have for company. Since the gist
of the Russian's warning had been that we should have arrived on
the dock broke, and all those who were not clean were guilty of
illegal intentions, there was nothing left but to dump our money
on the ground while the kids swooped down for the harvest. Some-
body said: "Maybe these are all his kids." The lads were making a
good haul while the kopec commissar pretended nonchalance, and
we in turn had to pretend the same nonchalance though the
hearts of some were breaking.

 I never knew that an American destroyer can look beautiful
until we saw one swing around a jetty toward us. This was the first
we had seen of the UiS. Navy since they left us in the Barents Sea.
They tied up just long enough to drop a board across the pier
while we scurried over it. With formalities over between the kopee
broker and the destroyer officers, the lines were hauled in with the
board and we were sea-borne again. The kids all gave us a big wave
for our money and we waved back as the destroyer backed off and
swung around for the first mn on the way home. We were told
that another destroyer had gone before us with litter cases, also
bound for the first stop at Murmansk on the other end of the
White Sea.

 Archangel had been good to us--and we had been good to them,
especially the kids. It's always a pleasure to be homeward bound
again, but the satisfaction of returning from a constructive voyage
on your own ship makes the poorest rustbucket preferable to first
class on an idle trip.

 The run up the White Sea on the fantail of the destroyer was
a pleasure; she pulled a wave behind her in excess of thirty
knots--a fast ride compared to the average ten knots of a Liberty
ship. The Germans had trained us to keep a watch on the sky, but
the navy men were not concerned at this speed--it was much
too fast for a hit. Nevertheless, the run down the White Sea had
been such a rack that the same waters caused a related tension.
The navy boys told us that we would be transferred to the
Tuscaloosa at Murmansk. Where she would take us was presumed
to be confidential, even from us. But we later heard that our
rendezvous with her and its purpose were well known to the

 Before long we were swinging around into the harbor of Mur-
mansk. Here we saw more naval ships. All but one were at anchor,
with the cruiser Tuscaloosa dominating the scene as the largest.
These ships looked good to us; we had been on the run from the
Germans for so long that it was encouraging to see Allied ships
feeling secure enough to lie at anchor. The lone ship not at anchor
was a Russian destroyer. She was cruising dangerously around and
between the anchored ships at high speed with an oversized gun
on her bow that looked like a liberation from a battleship. Squads
of sailors stood at attention on the fore deck. They seemed mad
at somebody--whether it was the Germans or the Allies' was a
question. Murmansk had been heavily bombed, we were told,
which is probably why these Russians were all steamed up; at
least, they were ready for action.

 Going aboard the Tuscaloosa was like entering a luxury hotel
after the plain fare at Archangel. Plenty of sailors were on hand to
help carry the weak and limbless aboard. Even those of us who
were ambulent were apologetically offered help. We knew that
this ship was among those which had to obey the order to leave
us, and we accepted the regret that was so obvious in their faces.
As instruments of a fiasco (somewhat unavoidable because of the
superior strength of the Tirpitz), they could not help feeling
responsible, though there was no fault or lack of courage on their
part. We, as merchant seamen, were accustomed to making our
own way without escort, and though we would have welcomed
their company, our orders to "scatter" meant not that we would
turn away from our destination, but only that we would have a
longer and harder way to go alone.

 Shortly after we came aboard they raised the anchor and we
got under way for the next run around Norway to Iceland. The
sailors turned their bunks over to us and slung hammocks for
themselves on the overhead. It was at this time that I became
acquainted with the man who showed me a copy of their order to
abandon us. I had assured him of our belief that they had reluc-
tantly followed this order; but after telling me to "wait right here,"
he returned with the copy and seemed to feel better after I had
read it.

 The next day word was passed down that the Germans had
broadcast the Tuscaloosa's mission to Murmansk--how many men
she was repatriating and where we were bound. This precise
knowledge of Allied ship movements by the Germans was now
routine. We had also heard that they might sink her. I didn't
think they would bother to do so for this reason: None of us were
of any Importance without supply ships to escort. The Tuscaloosa
was not engaged in escorting ships to Russia, and we were not
sailing any; therefore, we could be ignored for the present. It was
my belief that as the Germans had expended so much effort in
scattering our escorts to sink the supply ships, they would not
waste it on a neutral venture. (I was wrong on this assumption:
A correspondent friend, Paul Lund of Cheshire, England, crew-
man on the escort trawler Lord Austin, informed me that several
more merchant men plus escort vessels went down on the return
convoy P.Q.-14.)

 The Tuscaloosa was a tightly run ship, which accounts for the
"luck" that got her through the war. Luck! Hell, lads! You make
your own luck by being constantly alert to circumvent adverse
possibilities. The Tuscaloosa saw a lot of action in World War II
and came through it all without a serious impact. The credit goes
to her officers, who kept a sharp crew on that ship. Aside from an
unavoidable enemy strike that might have sunk her, there must
have been many risky situations in her career that could have
developed into trouble without being carefully plotted through--
that's your luck.

 We had several alerts on the way to Iceland but no sightings
of the enemy. The last alert before reaching Iceland was sounded
for a small freighter sailing alone. This amused me because the
freighter looked not only harmless but comical under the guns of
the Tuscaloosa until identification was made. A merchant man
could see that she was riding high and light, which would not be
the displacement of an armored raider. But ! admired the attitude
of the Tuscaloosa men: right down to the last man on deck, they
kept a close, quiet watch on this rinky-dink freighter, their guns
silently arcing her course until she was cleared. Her Skipper was
right; don't trust anything afloat until you arc sure. I felt that any
group of those navy men could have operated that ship just as
well--in the manner of the Merchant Marine. That is to say: A
man who leaves the Navy for the Merchant Marine has received
his basic training; and once he becomes accustomed to being
away from crowds, he makes a passable seaman.

 Other merchant men did not have such luxurious return
 voyages. One group was shipped from Murmansk to Iceland as live
 cargo in the hold of an Icelandic coal boat. On arrival they came
 out of the hold covered with coal dust and were led to an American
 merchant ship. Here the crew shared clothes and quarters with
 them and they were able to sail home more in the manner of
 passengers than cargo.

 But this coal dust crew was to again feel the ignominy of being
shunted around as of little consequence. When they arrived in
New York, where some of them had homes, the lads were jubilant
as they anchored near the Statue of Liberty. But a U.S. Coast
Guard boat came alongside and a vigilant officer informed them
that they could not go ashore because New York was not a "port
of entry" for them. This classification applied to the ship and its
crew but not the other seamen, who were the responsibility of the
immigration service. This harbor Admiral should have been out
beyond Ambrose Light where merchant seamen were dying with-
out escort.* Some of the unattached seamen threatened to jump
over the side and swim ashore, but the Admiral circled the ship and
threatened to jail those who tried. After hours of waiting and the
exchange of threats, the merchant ship had to up anchor and
head for Boston with her furious seamen.

 I will say this much about that incident, and I know that these
survivors would have agreed: If that harbor Admiral had dared to

 As it amounts to another story but pertinent to this one, a small
reference is included here about the five o'clock navy" of such people as
the harbor Admiral: Many of these wartime Coast Guard and Naval
Auxiliary boats were manned by people who were accustomed to a five
o'clock routine ashore which they carried over to the sea. Too often we
would find an escorting vessel gone when darkness came along the coast.
That a ship under way has a continuous working day did not seem to
register with them-as with a young lady who asked a seaman: "What do
you do on the ocean when night comes?" He said: "We stop the ship and
go to sleep." Many ships and men went down all along the U.S. coast
during World War II. German subs had the run of our waters. The few
that were caught had overconfidently exposed themselves, like one crew
who were sunbathing on deck.

tie up to the merchant ship where the merchant men could have
laid hands on him, his crew, and their guns, he would have realized
that New York was, after all, a port of entry for them.

 Though some military control of civilians seems unavoidable
in wartime, this phase of it still exists as it was imposed on the
Merchant Marine prior to World War II when the U.S. Coast
Guard took control of the civilian Bureau of Marine Inspection
and Navigation. This bureau was ably staffed by Merchant Marine
Captains and Engineers, who, as marine inspectors, were best
qualified to make regulations for the men and ships of their own
backgrounds. In cases where these regulations were to be impressed
on a seaman, he could be "logged" against his pay, which he would
often readily accept, as the money was given to the nearest marine
hospital. These were not military marine hospitals, but originally
havens for "sick and injured seamen" created by act of Congress
and signed by President John Adams in x789. Today these hospi-
tals are mostly taken up with military people and their dependents
plus miscellaneous government employees with lifetime admit-
tance rights. A merchant seaman's rights last only as long as he
remains active; after that he is not eligible.

 Seamen's unions are much stronger today, with correspondingly
stronger regulations, which are a basis of rapport with ship owners
in respecting contracts. A seafarers' union of today can impose a
more ethical punishment on members who miss their ships or are
lax in duty; this leaves the U.S. Coast Guard as operating holdover
controls from World War II which should be returned to civilian

 We had not been long in Iceland before heading out again.
Our next run would be to Greenock, Scotland, where we would
leave the TuscaIoosa for assignment to some other ship bound for
America. This run was without incident, as I recall--a quiet trip
on a good ship.

 At Greenock we bade the Navy goodbye with thanks and took
a small steamer up the Clyde to Glasgow, where we stayed two
weeks. Glasgow is a fair city and I would have dallied longer, but
there would be another ship for me back in the States which
would change me from a man only in transit to one with a pur-
pose; and that would be to sail again--with or without escort, war
or no war.

 Back down the Clyde we boarded the Queen Mary for New
York. The "Queen" had been used as a troop carrier, and as we
went aboard an English Marine directed: "Awfieers this wy--
ritings this wy." We "ritings" were agreeable to the packed bunks
in converted staterooms, but our assignment to the troop mess
below decks for meals was disappointing. We had been spoiled by
the luxurious cruise on the Tuscaloosa. If we had been taken
directly from the fish and black bread of Russia to dining from
the rough wooden benches and battered tinware of the Queen's
troop mess, whatever might have been served thereon would have
been considered an improvement. But we knew that "The Queen"
could provide much better than this, and we meant to claim it.

 Because the writer doesn't know enough to avoid crusading,
I was chosen by acclamation to present our complaint to whoso-
ever should be the majordomo of the Queen Mary. That person
appropriately turned out to be the Chief Steward. With my back-
up squad in tow, we walked the long passageways of that huge
ship, asking direetions along the way. We found him on A deck--
midships and thwartships, the centermost part of any ship on
whatever plane you may be. (Please, Admiral, don't confuse this
with the metacenter.)

 And here I wish to digress a bit to make a pertinent point: In
writing this story, I have endeavored to stay in the category of
nautical terms without being too salty or pretentious. I detest the
ostentatious use of words which are lifted from specialized cate-
gories and applied to unrelated classifications, such as the patho-
logical term "syndrome" for "series" and "extrapolate" for
"estimate." Anybody who uses the word "extrapolate" is trying to
build up a simple estimation: To extrapolate is to "estimate a
quantity which depends on one or more variables by extending the
variables beyond their established ranges." This is exactly what a
basket weaver does when he lays out his variable material to esti-
mate the quantity of his basket. And if one feels the need to lay
on more dressing than explanation, the position on the ship of the
Chief Steward's command post could be referred to by a name
that even the Ancient Mariner wouldn't know of, though it applies
to a flow that is "directly from a common center toward all points
of the compass; turning or dipping in all directions." Every yawifig
ship develops this focal point where lines of force are directed
from a common center--which, however, must be on one plane.

In a craving for less motion, I once made my way to this position
on a ship that was yawing and rolling heavily as she just held way
against huge seas; it happened to be the site of a carpenter's bench,
and there I dozed that night.

 The marine-sounding definition of a quaquaversal belongs to
the terra firma of geology, and, though it can be applied to a ship,
it would mean no more than extrapolating the garbage over the lee
side--even with its "certain variables."

 The Chief Steward was a considerate man and he halted other
business to hear our story. I explained that as we were all aboard
as passengers, we expected to be on equal footing with our officers,
but that once we were back on a ship of our own, we would resume
our proper stations. The latter part of this presentation was well
stressed, as the Steward appeared doubtful about such fraterniza-
tion. He turned to look over my retinue with a quizzical frown, as
though wondering how much damage they would do. Then he
fixed me with a judicial stare and said: "Very well--but I will hold
you responsible to see to it that these men behave in the dining
room." That I could be responsible to the Chief Steward of the
Queen Mary was a form of flattery; aside from shifting us all
back to steerage again, for him there would be no other recourse
against a man whose only attachment was a "hurry me home
suitcase" (the cardboard type--in case of rain). I assured him
that they were well tethered, in a manner of speaking, to which
the crew agreed. We parted with his directions and my thanks,
and as our first dining room class was not to be for some hours, I
decided on a turn around the deck.

 It's a long way around the deck of the Queen Mary; that and
the crusade for the crew had tired me--I had not gotten over the
rack of the Russian trip. The sea was moderate, and I leaned on
the rail to consider the roll of the shiP, which was too much for
a vessel her size in a moderate sea. There was need for more cargo
or ballast in the hull to counterbalance the tall superstructure--to
lessen the push Of buoyancy which helped the pull of gravity,
making her lay over too much as a tender ship. The Second' Mate
of the John Witherspoon came along, and I collared him for a
discourse on this subject. That he agreed was not a point for issue.
Ships will often run "light," depending on conditions, and in that
period even the time to load ballast could not be spared.

 Though she had some twenty-five more years to sail, like other
ships that sailed under subsidy, "The Queen" was already running
late against more economical vessels which had been introduced
by the Japanese: It was said that the English copied the lines of
Donald McKay's clipper ships when they found them to be faster
than their own. If this was so, then the credit belongs to Mr.
McKay and not United States shipbuilders as a class, because we
did some copying of our own, to the credit of the Japanese. Back
in the x93o's, while we were still doing a lot of needless plowing
of the oceans, they showed up with the fast "Maru" ships of better
lines and economy of operation than ours. In due time we built
some good copies in the C-l, C-2, and C-3 cargo ships, but we
were still behind the record runs of MeKay's clippers and fast

 I went aboard one of these Mare ships in the wake of a good-
will group. While they monopolized the best saki topside, we
went below and fraternized with the engine room crew and their
saki. We were greatly impressed by the smooth, clean operation
of the auxiliaries. This was a new experience for us, from certain
engine rooms where something was always wheezing or dripping,
with related puddles of oil and water. It was not because of the
crews that this situation existed; the equipment they had was
either worn or obsolescent. The men on these rustbuckets were
constantly repairing and improvising--on and off watch.

 There was no outstanding improvement in cargo ship con-
struction from the time of McKay until the Japanese showed us
how to build a better ship. Even now, as Japan is the leading ship
builder, credit is claimed by American capital and production
 interests. The influx of United States capital and knowhow has
 increased Japanese output, but design comes first, and without
 design, capital is stagnant and production cannot exist.

 When mealtime rolled around, our crew gathered outside the
 assigned dining room, every one of them clean and quiet. Inside
 they took their seats like the forewarned gentlemen that they were.
 The 2nd Mate invited me to the officers' table, with agreement
 from the others, but I declined with thanks. Though I would soon
 go to an officers' training school, I was still a crewman, and as such
 I thought it best to maintain the usual distinctions for the sake
 of the crew, who would consider the move not so much a com-
 pliment to one of their number as a defection from the ranks.
 Besides, as appointed overseer to the crew's table talk, it behooved
 me to be handy for a ready diversion of any that might become
 boisterous. In the privacy of our own messroom you could expect
 us to indulge in the privilege of a few curses between courses;
 but as passengers in a dining room of the Queen Mary we were
 responsible for our own conduct, and, like any group so entrusted,
 we were bound to be good.

 Sailing as passengers can be dull for men accustomed to oper-
 ating ships, so there was naught to cio but pace the decks and peer
 into the operating quarters now and then for a critical look. On
 one of her eastbound passages this ship had sliced a naval cruiser
 in two. (One of the big secrets that the Germans knew but not
 the American public.) The watch officer of the cruiser had under-
 estimated her speed in cutting across her bow.

 In New York we filed down the gangway with only the
 Immigration and Customs concerned with our arrival. In this
 respect a small service of notification to our families and friends
 might have been provided by the owners of our ship--but then, we
 had left their employ more than two months previously, back in
 the Barents Sea, which left them without any obligation to us. We
 would separate soon after a toast to the men who never made it
 back--and perhaps meet again sometime on another ship.


 It was July
in nineteen forty-two
when there arrived in Russia
 a motley crew;
 a tired and bedraggled
 bunch of connivers
 from sunken ships--
 we were called "survivors."

 But a seaman is a trader
 with a natural bent,
 to acquire what he can
 without spending a cent.
 So with war behind us,
 we straggled ashore
for a meeting with the natives
and the local lore.

 Trading was fast
 and few had scruples,
 whether one had--
 or didn't have--rubles.
 International relations
 were making a hit,
and I was right in the middle
doing my bit.

 So carried away
 was I with the cause,
 that I failed to make
 a judicious pause,
 as I made a fast deal
 with a local lad,
 to exchange some butts
 for a folded wad.

 I had been set up
 and properly primed--
 a slick operation,
 perfectly timed.
 He took the butts
 and I took the bait;
 with the deal in the bag,
 this boy didn't wait.

 He turned away fast,
 and I last saw his back,
 as I fondly fingered
 what I thought was a stack.
It was green--it had numbers,
but something was wrong,
unfolding this bundle
was taking too long.

 It opened and opened--
 this sheet I was holding;
 the original form
 of a snide piece of folding;
 all numbers and pictures,
 an old lottery paper;

 I was the victim
 of a humorous caper.

So I stood there and laughed
although I'd been had.
There was a lesson in this--
it wasn't all bad:
 I was the foreigner,
 Tovarisch had shown--
 without his assistance,
I would never have known.

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