(I've struggled, off and on, to express all that my years in the Navy meant to me. Admiral Koenig has done an outstanding job here, and I'm proud to share his words with you. Happy Veterans' Day to all my brothers & sisters who wore the uniform, and to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. - Paul.)
Reflections of a Blackshoe
by Vice Admiral Harold Koenig, USN (Ret), M.D.
I like the Navy.
I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my
face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the
globe – the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines
drive her through the sea.
I like the sounds of the Navy – the piercing trill of the boatswains
pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship’s bell on the quarterdeck, the
harsh squawk of the 1MC and the strong language and laughter of sailors
I like Navy vessels – nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers.
I like the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea – memorials of great battles won.
I like the lean angular names of Navy ‘tin-cans” Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinix, McCloy, -mementos of heroes who went before us.
I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers as we pull away from the oiler after refueling at sea.
I like liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I even
like all hands working parties as my ship fills herself with the
multitude of supplies both mundane and exotic which she needs to cut her
ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where
there is water to float her.
I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest,
small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains and the
prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as they
trust and depend on me – for professional competence, for comradeship,
for courage. In a word, they are”shipmates.”
I like the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed
“Now station the special sea and anchor detail – all hands to quarters
for leaving port”, and I like the infectious thrill of sighting home
again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting
The work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the parting
from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter,
the ‘all for one and one for all’ philosophy of the sea is ever
I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship’s work, as
flying fish flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to night.
I like the feel of the Navy in darkness – the masthead lights, the
red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating
phosphorescence of radar repeaters – they cut through the dusk and join
with the mirror of stars overhead.
And I like drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large
and small that tell me that my ship is alive and well, and that my
shipmates on watch will keep me safe. I like quiet midwatches with the
aroma of strong coffee – the lifeblood of the Navy – permeating
And I like hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray
shapes racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of
I like the sudden electricity of “General quarters, general quarters,
all hands man your battle stations”, followed by the hurried clamor of
running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as
the ship transforms herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful
workplace to a weapon of war – ready for anything.
And I like the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad
in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would
I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made
them. I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry,
Farragut, John Paul Jones.
A sailor can find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self
and country, mastery of the seaman’s trade. An adolescent can find
In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will still
remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods -the
impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water
surging over the bow.
And then there will come again a faint whiff of
stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the
bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of
hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief’s quarters and messdecks. Gone
ashore for good, they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when the
seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the horizon.
Remembering this, they will stand taller and say,
“I WAS A SAILOR ONCE. I WAS PART OF THE NAVY, AND THE NAVY WILL ALWAYS BE PART OF ME.”
(Note: The article was found on the website of USS SKAGIT (AKA/LKA 105), and can be read here.)