This is my second installment of the Mid-Watch in Verse series. In this series of posts, I hope to highlight examples of the old Navy tradition of allowing the Mid-Watch (midnight to 4:00am) Deck Log entry on January 1 to be written in verse. My focus is on deck logs written during WWII. However, I have also collected logs from years just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and just after VJ Day in an effort to determine differences in content and tone pre- and post-war.
This entry comes from the logs of the USS Huse (DE-145). The Huse was commissioned in August, 1943, and spent much of its time engaged in antisubmarine activities. She teamed up with several other DEs (destroyer escorts) and the USS Croatan (CVE-25) to locate and attack German U-Boats. Huse participated in the sinking of several u-boats and earned 5 battle stars for her actions.
The mid-watch verse below was entered into the ship’s log on January 1, 1946. The war was over. Men were being released from the Navy and ships decommissioned at astonishing rates. On December 7, 1941, the US Navy had an active ship force of 790. By the time the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in August of 1945, that number had risen to 6,768 ships. By the end of June 1946, the number had shrunk to 1,248. Some of these ships were put in reserve and used during the Korean War or sold to other countries; most were sold for scrap. The Huse was one of those ships resurrected from the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and used during the Korean War. She was decommissioned in 1965 and sold for scrap in 1974.
The deck log below spoke to me as I read it because of its focus on peace and because the writer spoke well of the millions of “citizen sailors” who served in the Naval Reserve (Over 3/4 of those serving in the Navy during WWII were reservists.) The writer was a young Ensign. Note that the ship was being prepared for the reserve force. Consequently, the watches tended to be longer than during battle conditions. This entry is for midnight through noon on January 1. Also, note that it is reproduced here exactly as written in the log including punctuation.
Whistles and bells with voices of cheer
Ring through the night to bring in the year;
A new year of peace, the fighting is done,
Yet all is not over for peace must be won.
In jacksonville, florida on the St. Johns,
Preservation of ships is being carried on.
Alongside “Mother Melville”, old AD2
We’re chipping and painting with a fast leaving crew.
To starboard, the Scott, DE 769
Is also preserving and doing quite fine;
Both DE’s receiving steam and fresh water,
But we also get power and flushing water.
At nine-fifteen, we mustered the crew,
All hands were present and none overdue
The men that had liberty left early today
And all went to church to earnestly pray
That peace would be kept and that all would be right.
For the “Civilian in uniform” who was called out to fight.
With these ships laid up, fender to fender,
Those USN left will do well to remember
We don’t “hate” the navy, but this seagoing stuff
Is not to our liking and we’ve had enough,
The vote-seeking congress appropriations will cut
As in history past—–the usual rut.
Yet this time its different, you have all these ships
And diplomatically, Uncle Sam has a whip.
The world’s greatest Navy is in your charge;
So let us all pray by the grace of God
That we hold to our principles and never give in
So that we soft civies won’t be back in.
F W McCabe
The F W McCabe in the entry refers to Farrell Wilbur McCabe, born on February 26, 1924 in Fall River, MA. I had the privilege of corresponding with one of Mr. McCabe’s children who told me that he left seminary after the Pearl Harbor attack and enlisted in the Navy. Mr. McCabe eventually was ordained to the Permanent Diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church in 1979.
Mr. McCabe attended the U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen School at Notre Dame University and won a leadership award at his commissioning. He rose up the ranks of the Naval Reserve and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Commander in August of 1969. During his time in the Naval Reserve, he held various leadership positions. His service included time on active duty during WWII and the Korean War.
McCabe’s children were unaware of this deck log that their father posted. It was my privilege to “reunite” the verse with family members. One of his children said that it sounded a lot like their father.
McCabe died on February 23, 1997 and is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in James Island, SC. His Find-a-Grave entry can be viewed here.