This is a continuation of the Mid-Watch in Verse series. A Deck Log from a US Navy vessel chronicles exacting administrative detail regarding the status of the ship, it’s location, speed, etc. However, for a four hour period at the beginning of each year, the Officer of the Deck (OOD) is allowed to be creative by writing the Mid-Watch report (0000 – 0400) in verse if they choose to do so. This series highlights examples of this tradition and the officers who posted them. I focus on WWII era deck logs. For a more thorough history of the practice check out this article from the Naval History and Heritage Command.
The USS Bush (DD529) was a Fletcher-class destroyer commissioned on May 10, 1943 (see also the Bush Navsource page). After initial training exercises, she began patrols in Alaskan waters and shortly thereafter headed to destinations westward in the Pacific for escort and screening duty. The Bush maintained a busy schedule until April 6, 1945, when she was hit by three Kamikazes and sunk. Part of the Action Report for this event is both gripping and heart-breaking. The USS Bush website posts the content of this report. She earned seven battle stars for her shortened service.
Here is the content of the USS Bush’s deck log for January 1, 1944, from 0000 hour to 0400. The actual deck log can be seen here.
Steaming as before on true course 054
Checking 061 on a mission of war
Nine knots (88 rpm) is the speed of advance
Patrol thirty degrees, as though in a trance
Got plenty of steam, four boilers in parallel.
Enough stuff at the guns to give the Nips hell
Torpedoes are ready, five at each mount
Personnel stationed to make each fish count
It is degrading business, have amphibs in tow
LST’s 459, 457, 465, 206, 26, all in a row
Anti-submarine screen 54 natural order of ships
BUSH (CDD48), BACHE, MULLANY, as in any other trips
Working for Doug, ComSouwespac
Condition one easy, no time in the sack
Taking artillery to Cape Gloucester – New Britain, not Maine
ComTaskFor 76 orders to blame
Dated 29 December of year 43
Our operation order 4 dash 43
0020 was disturbed to find,
the radar operator on the line
Range 4.5 miles bearing 316 true
The boatswain mate call, all hands to GQ
Target was lost at double 0 four nine
Back to one easy, everything fine
At midnight plus 56 minutes
New course 085(T) our hearts not in it
Checking 091 psc
New Britain’s coast we’re beginning to see
Bring on some Japs, it’s getting mighty late
Our thoughts they be – sail under the gate.
P. A. Lilly, Jr., Lieut., USN.
Percy Anthony Lilly, Jr., was born in Sutter, CA, on December 28, 1917. His father of the same name and his mother were both born in Kentucky and were farming according to Percy Jr.’s birth certificate. Sometime between Percy Jr.’s birth and 1920, the family moved back to Kentucky and Percy Sr. became the co-proprietor of the Henrietta Hotel in Princeton, KY.
Lilly attended the Kavanaugh School in Louisville, KY, a prep school that was often called “Little Annapolis” due to the fact that it graduated 150 future Navy officers between 1914 and 1945. Lilly received an appointment to Annapolis in 1937 and graduated in the class of 1941 (see Lilly’s Lucky Bag entries here and here).
In addition to serving on the USS Bush, Lilly also served on the USS Stack and the USS Steinaker. Over the course of his naval career, Lilly rose through the ranks, eventually being promoted to Captain. Through the 1940s into the 1960s, he commanded five different ships: USS Newport (PF-27), USS Uhlmann (DD-687), USS Lindenwald (LSD-6), USS Dufilho (DE 423), USS GRIDLEY (DLG/CG 21). He also served as Executive Officer on the cruiser USS Boston (CAG 1/CA-69). Additionally, he commanded Destroyer Squadron 25. He also held several high-level Navy administration positions.
Lilly earned many awards during his career. According to one of his obituaries his awards included the following: Legion of Merit with one Gold Star, Bronze Star Medal with “V” Device, Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal with one Silver Star, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (Korea), Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device (1960), American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with one Silver Star and one Bronze Star, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Occupation Service Medal, China Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korea Service Medal with four Bronze Stars, United Nations Service Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with two Bronze Stars, Philippine Presidential Unit Citation Badge, and several Presidential Citations.
By all accounts, Lilly was an affable, competent officer. While aboard the USS Bush, he participated in what some called The Great Mustache Contest, during which the officers competed for who could grow the best mustache. The USS Bush website chronicles the competition with photos. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to see comments about who won.
While commanding the USS Lindenwald in 1955, Lilly and his crew had an interesting encounter with a polar bear. The Carroll Record newspaper of Taneytown, MD, humorously details the encounter including a personally led chase by Lilly in landing craft.
There is also a satirical letter about the height of urinals on ships that is attributed to Lilly that can be found floating about the Internet. Often labelled as This correspondence was recently unearthed at Annapolis, and titled Fire When Ready, Gridley – Navy and Urinals, it outlines a request for changing urinal height on ships along with accompanying reasons. I do not know if Lilly actually had anything to do with this letter that carries his name or if it is merely a meme that somehow got attached to his name. One can never be sure about such things online. Copies can be found here and here.
From the 1958 USS Boston Cruise Book about Cmdr. Lilly (Executive Officer), “With an eye for every detail, with a word here, and a steely look there, a smile and a prod, he has contributed immeasurably by interpreting and executing the policies and guidelines laid down by the Commanding Officer.”
After retiring from the Navy in 1970, Lilly became the Harbor Master of Maui County, HI, where he was responsible for harbors on Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. He retired from that position in 1980. He died on June 5, 2012, at the age of 94.
A second January 1 deck log appeared just one year after Lilly’s. Written by Lt(jg) Newton Perry Foss, the original copy of the deck log is erroneously labeled as January 1, 1944. Here is the entry:
“Steaming as before”- – that we can’t say.
A full log we must write on New Years day.
One January, nineteen hundred forty-five
And, frankly, we’re lucky to be alive.
We’re steaming back from old Mindoro
Where the “Kamikazis” are plenty thorough.
The mighty BUSH – – the fighting five two nine
Using boilers two and three on the line.
That furnished all the power we need
Eight and a half knots – – not very much speed.
For were not alone, we’re heading the screen
For that convoy known as Uncle plus fifteen.
Course zero eight five, checking one zero two
The latter magnetic, the former is true.
Commander R. E. WESTHOLM, USN
Skippers us there – – and back again.
Eight cans form the screen
For old Uncle plus fifteen.
Twenty three LST’s, a merchantman too
And one Army ship completes our screen
Now there are those who sing of “31 knot Burke”
But it is not for him that we do our work.
At one easy we labor with might and main
For “Four and a knot Captain McLean”.
ComDesDiv forty eight (sometimes ninety, too)
And also commander of this TU.
Seventv eight dot three dot one five
Has been busy as bees in a hive
Forty five GQ’s in the past five days
Rough on sleep but with the nips it pays.
We can hear him now – – “Flash Red, Control Green”
This message comes from Demerit Fif teen.
Thirty-nine planes have been the splash
While the five inch roar and the fortv’s flash.
The jeep tells us that bogeys are near
The nips from the sun start into their dive
A message comes on the air from Austere
Sorry no CAP, savannah is five.
Rear Admiral Struble is seventy eight point three
For him we sailed the Sulu Sea.
He got his orders to operate
From Vice Admiral Barbey, CTF 78.
And over him is Com Seventh Fleet
Vice Admiral Kincaid, mighty hard to beat
And supreme in command, most resplendent by far
Is “Dug out the Doug” the mighty five star.
Now we head for San Pedro Bay
And the bogeys over Tacloban way.
Through patrol dog – – of Bush reknown
Where we shot those two planes down.
We’ve come pretty far in forty four
But we’ve got to go a whole lot more
The new years goal for which we strive
Is Tokyo in nineteen hundred forty five.
… N. P. Foss, Lt.(jg), USN.
Newton Perry Foss was born on August 1, 1921, in Portsmouth, NH. He graduated from the well-known and highly respected Admiral Farragut Prep School in 1940 and entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis. While listed as a member of the Annapolis class of 1944, Foss actually graduated from an accelerated program on June 9, 1943 (His Annapolis yearbook entry can be seen here). His first duty assignment was on the USS Bush after undergoing aircraft and ship recognition training at the Naval Air Operational and Training Command School in Jacksonville, FL. He arrived on the Bush on September 23, 1943, and his time on the Bush overlapped with Percy Anthony Lilly highlighted above.
On February 25, 1945, Foss married Ada Louise Foster in New Hampshire, and in June 1945 he reported to the Naval Aviation Station (NAS) at Ottumwa, IA, to begin flight training. He eventually went on to command Attack Squadron VA-106 (The Gladiators) from April 1958 to December 1959 aboard the USS Essex (CVA-9).
Foss served as Executive Officer (XO) on the USS Independence (CV-62) from August 3, 1963, to December 21, 1964. He commanded two ships during his career. From June 25, 1966, to May 19, 1967, he captained the USS Chara (AKA-58, later AE-31 upon recommissioning in 1966) that saw service in Vietnam. Later, Foss took over as captain of the USS Hancock (CV-19, later CVA-19), an Essex-class aircraft carrier, from February 1969 to June 1970.
Captain Foss experienced a “first” in 1970 as he brought the Hancock back to Alemeda, CA, after a deployment in the Pacific. According to an article in the Edwardsville Intelligencer (Illinois), U.S. Customs allowed two women Inspectors (along with 3 men) to be helicoptered out to the Hancock to begin the property declaration process, so that the sailors could leave the ship as soon as it docked (see the clipping here and here). In the past, only men had been given that duty. Captain Foss said that their visit should be pleasant and that they would be greeted in “true Navy fashion.” The crew had a lot to declare, as seen in this clipping from the The Argus (Freemont, CA) in the April 17, 1970, edition. Honda motorcycles were very popular in 1970!
Foss also held a variety of commands after his service on the Hancock, including Commander United State’s Pacific Fleet’s Training Command and Chief of Staff for the Pacific Fleet Naval Air Force. Foss advanced up the ranks, eventually reaching Rear Admiral by July 1972.
Foss’ daughter, Janice, followed in his footsteps by earning a commission as ensign in the Navy on December 22, 1972. Admiral Foss was there to congratulate her according to this photo and caption from the Newport Mercury.
Foss’ awards and decorations included the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (January 14, 1969) and two Legion of Merit Awards (May 20, 1970, and June 28, 1972) along with a host of other WWII and Vietnam era medals.
Foss retired from the Navy in 1975 and died on August 20, 1979, in San Diego, CA.