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 Caldwell (DD-605) was a Benson class destroyer that was commissioned June 10, 1942, and decommissioned on April 24, 1946. During her initial voyages, she provided escort and anti-submarine service in the north Pacific. Caldwell contributed to the assaults and re-capture of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands. In September 1943, Caldwell departed for warmer waters to the south Pacific for more escort and anti-submarine duties.
On December 11, 1944, while just off the coast of Leyte, Philippines, Caldwell experienced a couple of near misses by Japanese kamikaze planes only to be hit by a plane the next day on the 12th. Commentary from the action report details what happened when the Caldwell was hit. Sadly, the result of the attack was 73 casualties (20 KIA, 4 died of wounds after action, 9 MIA, 24 wounded in action, and 16 transferred for treatment and returned to ship). Lists of casualties can be seen here and here. After repairs, Caldwell continued her patrols near the Philippines until the cessation of hostilities in 1945.
Below is the mid-watch verse for January 1, 1943, entered by LtCmdr. H. A. Lincoln. Click here to see the original deck log. Any spelling or grammatical errors are original to the deck log entry.
00 to 04 –
With Task Force Eight in the Bering Sea
At the stroke of midnight, Forty-three,
Admiral McMorris leadeth the band,
Task Group Eight point Six his command.
Four new DD’s of Desron Fourteen
Forming the anti-submarine screen.
On DETROIT, RALEIGH, INDIANNAPOLIS in column,
Steaming darkened, sedate and solemn.
No toot of whistle nor toll of bell
To mark the old year’s parting knell.
(For the hullabalu we can scarcely risk a
League west of Buldir, Northwest of Kiska.)
Fifteen – Forty-two is our latest plan,
Admiral Mac will follow as best he can.
We’ve heard rumors of later one, Plan Sixteen,
It must have been mailed where we just had been.
For of all the DD’s we’ve seen running most
The forward our mail to Pelican Post.
Boilers one and three supply our need
For steam and juice and a dash of speed.
Course is three fifty-five, gyro and true,
Speed fifteen, turns set at one four two.
The weather is average considering the season;
It’s been raining, snowing, blowing and freezin’.
In this northern field we have enemies three:
The Jap, the cold, and “Ol’ Debil Sea.”
We have felt the cold and have taken a beating
From “Ol’ Debil Sea” at each subsequent meeting.
But so far no sight of the “Rising” sun,
We’ve cruised, cursed, and batted our brains out for fun.
So here’s our prayer for the coming year
That we meet him, defeat him, depart from here.
H. A. LINCOLN
Horatio Alonzo Lincoln was born in 1909 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He was one of the Lincoln relatives who descended from President Lincoln’s uncle. I have been unable to find much about Lincoln’s early life. He received an appointment to the Naval Academy at Annapolis and graduated with the class of 1930. His Lucky Bag entry Indicates that he was small in stature, but strong-willed, bordering on stubbornness.
Lincoln’s naval career continued until 1960 when he retired at the rank of Captain. During his early years, he served on the following ships:
- 1930-1932, USS Pensacola (CL-24)
- 1933-1934, USS Montgomery (DD-121/DM-17)
- 1935-1936, USS Pennsylvania (BB-38)
- 1936-1938, USS Bridge (AF-1)
- 1939-1942, USS Talbot (DD-114)
In 1938-1939, Lincoln served on the faculty of Annapolis, and in 1943, he began service on the USS Caldwell (DD-605), the ship he was to command beginning in February of 1943 until February of 1944. After leading the Caldwell, Lincoln commanded the following ships:
- 1944-1945, USS Samuel N. Moore (DD-747)
- 1949-1950, USS Guadalupe (AO-32) [Note: This fleet oiler was one of the most decorated ships in the Navy with 14 battle stars for service in WWII, 6 for the Korean War, and 10 for the Vietnam War]
- 1955-1958, USS Gen J.C. Breckinridge (AP-176)
Also during his illustrious career, he served as Balboa Port Commander in the Panama Canal Zone (1950-1955) and as Officer-in-Charge of the Armed Forces Radio and Press Service in New York City (1958-1960).
Lincoln was highly decorated. Unfortunately, I cannot locate any of his citation narratives. His awards were:
- Bronze Star Medal (V-device and 2 bronze stars)
- Navy / Marine Corps Commendation Medal (V-device)
- Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
- China Service Medal
- American Defense Medal (1 bronze)
- American Campaign Medal
- Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal (1 silver 1 bronze)
- WWII Victory Medal
- Navy Occupation Medal
- National Defense Service Medal
- Philippine Liberation Medal
[Note: The V device designates that the award was for valor in combat.]
Lincoln’s son, Horatio A. Lincoln, Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps. He enlisted in the Navy and in a distinguished career of his own, among other things, commanded the Nuclear Attack Submarine USS Narwhal (SSN-671). In a tribute to his deceased father, Capt. Lincoln, Jr., wrote the following in a book of remembrances of the crew of the USS Samuel N. Moore:
As a young boy, I asked my father about his life in the Navy, and his work as a destroyer skipper in WWII. I remember that he always talked about the crew in a reverent way…he almost never talked about himself. Instead he told us bedtime stories that focused on the bravery and resourcefulness of his crew.
From the many remembrances of Capt. Lincoln, Sr., by his crew, it was clear that he saw them as the life-blood of the ship who shaped its character. It is no wonder that the Navy took advantage of his leadership skills so often during his career.