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. . . seasick even before I reached the Shaw, never realizing what a salty old guy I was to turn out to be. A sea ladder hung over her side. I had never climbed a sea ladder. One look at it convinced me that I still might never. It was going up and down with the motion of the ship, while the boat that had brought me out was reversing things and going down and up. Also, there was that damned gear. And I had an audience. The boat that brought me was full of sailors, and the rail of the Shaw was lined with more.
To add to my discomfiture, I was trying to recall the etiquette attending the boarding of a naval vessel. Hal Thompson had explained it in detail First, as I stepped aboard, I was to salute the quarter deck; then I was to salute the Officer of the Deck and ask permission to come aboard. Not being able to recognize either a quarter-deck or an Officer of the Deck, I as in more or less of an embarrassing situation. Also, there was that damned gear. At first I foolishly tried to carry some of it up the ladder with me. A gross error in judgment. The, after getting aboard, I forgot to salute anything, my mind being on the gear that sailors were trying to hand up to me, or or less unsuccessfully.
Finally, willing hands reached down from the Shaw and dragged my stuff aboard. Then I commenced an orgy of saluting. I never did locate the Officer of the Deck. The man I saluted was Lt. N.E. Croft, the Executive Officer, to whom I handed the order authorizing me to board the Shaw. When he read my name, he was extremely cordial in his greeting. He said they had simply been notified that a Mr. Boroughs was to be a passenger.
I went aboard at 6:00 PM. Croft took me to his cabin and gave me the lower berth. After I had washed up, we went down to the wardroom for supper. I was given a seat at the Captain's right and formally introduced to all the officers. As usual, everyone was extremely friendly and cordial. For more than a month, the Shaw was to be my home; and everybody aboard, officers and men alike, helped to make me feel at home.
We got under way at 6:00 AM the next morning, Sunday, January 31, 1943; and an hour and a half later passed through the narrow opening in the reef and out into the Coral Sea, with Emedee Light and Tabu Rock to starboard. Coming in there from fighting around the Solomons, the Shaw had missed the channel and run a hundred yards up onto the reef. She had lain there for five and a half days, during which time she was once given up as a total loss and orders were given to abandon her. But by pumping out all her fuel oil, removing much of her amassment, and cutting away a deck house, she was finally lightened enough to be floated off.
Temporary repairs had been made, but her keel was badly wrinkled, some of her plates were sprung, and she had holes in her bottom that had been patched up with concrete. And she had but one screw. The Shaw was practically a wreck. It was thought that she could not steam at more than nine knots, but we did better; and at times, when we were chasing subs, she got up to 15 or 16 knots. The skipper told me that if he had to drop depth charges, fire his five inch guns, or if we ran into a bad storm she might very well sink. Some of the crew never laced their shoes during the whole cruise except when we were in port. This and the fact that many of them wore black sox so as not to attract sharks added zest to the voyage. Anyway, it was food for the imagination.
During the first two days my stomach had not definitely made up its mind whether or not it liked the motion of a destroyer. But I was never nauseated, nor did I miss a meal. And we had swell meals. Steaks, chicken, . . .
EMEDEE LIGHT HOUSE
ERB and the Shaw
USS Shaw in Wikipedia
USS Shaw Navy Photo Archive
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