Once I Was A Navyman
Once I Was A Navyman - written in 1978 by E. A. Hughes, FTCM (SS)
I like the Navy. I like standing on deck during a long voyage with sea spray in my face and ocean winds whipping in from everywhere - The feel of the giant steel ship beneath me, its engines driving against the sea is almost beyond understanding - It’s immense power makes the Navyman feel so insignificant but yet proud to be a small part of this ship - A small part of Her mission.
I like the Navy. I like the sound of taps over the ships announcing system, the ringing of the ships bell, the foghorns and strong laughter of Navy men at work. I like the ships of the Navy; Nervous darting Destroyers, sleek proud Cruisers, majestic Battle Ships, steady solid Carriers, the essential Fleet Auxiliaries and silent hidden Submarines - I like the workhorse tugboats with their proud Indian names: Iroquois, Apache, Kiawah and Sioux - Each stealthy powerful Tug guiding the warships to safe deep waters from all harbors.
I like the historic names of other proud Navy Ships: Midway, Hornet, Princeton, Saribachi and Saratoga. The Ozark, Hunley, William R. Rush and Turner, the Constitution, Missouri, Wichita, Iowa, Arizona and Manchester, as well as The Sullivans, Enterprise, Tecumseh, Cole, New Jersey and Nautilus too - all majestic ships of the line - Each ship commanding the respect of all Navymen that have known Her - or were privileged to be a part of Her crew.
I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty Whites", “13 Button Blues”, the rare 72 hour liberty and the spice scent of a foreign port - I like Shipmates I've sailed with, worked with, served with or have known: The Gunners Mate from the Iowa cornfields; a Sonarman from the Colorado mountain country; a pal from Cairo, Alabama; an Italian from near Boston; some boogie boarders of California; and of course, a drawling friendly Oklahoma lad that hailed from Muskogee; and a very congenial Engineman from the Tennessee hills.
From all parts of the land they came - Farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England - The red clay area and small towns of the South - The mountain and high prairie towns of the West - The beachfront towns of the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Gulf - All are American; all are comrades in arms - All are men of the sea and all are men of honor.
I like the adventure in my heart when the ship puts out to sea, and I like the electric thrill of sailing home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends, waiting on shore - The extended time at sea drags; the going is rough on occasion. But there's the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the devil-may-care philosophy of the sea. This helps the Navyman - The remembrances of past shipmates fill the mind and restore the memory with images of other ships, other ports, and other cruises long past - Some memories are good, some are not so good, but all are etched in the mind of the Navyman - And most will be there forever.
I like the sea, and after a day of work, there is the serenity of the sea at dusk. As white caps dance on the ocean waves, the sunset creates flaming clouds that float in folds over the horizon - As if painted there by a master. The darkness follows soon and is mysterious. The ship’s wake in darkness has a hypnotic effect, with foamy white froth and luminescence that forms never ending patterns in the turbulent waters - I like the lights of the ship in the dark of night - The masthead lights, the red and green sidelights and stern lights. They cut through the night and appear as a mirror of stars in darkness - There are rough stormy nights, and calm, quiet, still nights where the quiet of the mid-watch allows the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world to stand watch with you. They are abundant and unreachable, but ever apparent - And there is always the aroma of fresh coffee from the galley.
I like the legends of the Navy and the Navymen that created those legends- I like the proud names of Navy Heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Beach, Farragut, Mc Cain, Rickover and John Paul Jones. A man can find much in this Navy - Comrades in arms, pride in his country - A man can find himself and can revel in this experience.
In years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still recall with fondness the ocean spray on his face when the sea is angry - There will come a faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils, the echo of hearty laughter of the seafaring men who once were close companions - Now landlocked, he will grow wistful of his Navy days, when the seas were the largest part of him and a new port of call was always just over the horizon.
Recalling those days and times, he will stand taller and say: "ONCE I WAS A NAVYMAN!”
1978 E. A. Hughes, FTCM (SS), USN (Retired) - used with the kind permission of the Master Chief.
ONCE I WAS A NAVYMAN (original version) - written in 1958 by E. A. Hughes, FTCM (SS)
I like the Navy - I like standing on deck on a long voyage with the spray of the sea in my face and the ocean winds whipping in from everywhere - the feel of a giant steel ship beneath me - its engines driving against the sea.
I like the Navy - I like the sounds of the Navy - The reverence of Taps at lights out - the ringing of the ships bell - the foghorns and the strong laughter of Navymen at work. I like the ships of the Navy - The nervous darting Destroyers, the sleek silent Submarines, the plodding Fleet Auxiliaries, the Light and Heavy Cruisers, the majestic Battleships and the steady solid Carriers.
I like the names of Navy ships: Midway, Hornet, Ranger, Enterprise, Manchester, Princeton, Missouri, and Constitution - Impressive names for majestic ships of the line.
I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy band, “Liberty Whites”,”13 button blues” - and the spice of a foreign port. I like the Shipmates I sailed with - the kid from the Iowa cornfield, a pal from the East Side of New York, the Italian from near Boston and a drawling, friendly Texan.
From all parts of the land they come - from the farms of the Midwest, the small towns of New England, the cities, the mountains and the prairies. All are Americans - All are comrades in arms - All are men of the sea.
I like the adventure in my heart when my ship puts out to sea - and I like the electric thrill of sailing home again, with waving hands of welcome from family and friends on the waiting shore. The work is hard - the going rough at times. But there's the companionship of robust Navy laughter, and the devil-may-care philosophy of the sea.
I like the sea, and after a day of work, there is the serenity of the dusk at sea - with the whitecaps dancing on the ocean waves and the mystery of the ocean night. I like the lights of the Navy in the darkness - The masthead lights, the red-green sidelights and the stern lights - They cut through the night and look like a mirror of stars in the blackness. There are the quiet nights and the quiet of the Mid-Watch when the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world stand with you in the night - and there is the aroma of fresh coffee from the galley.
I like the legends of the Navy and the men who made them. I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut and John Paul Jones. A man can find much in the Navy - Comrades in Arms - Pride in his Country - A man can find himself.
In the years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still recall with fondness the ocean spray on his face when the sea is angry - and there will always be the faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils - and the echo of hearty laughter of seafaring men who were once his close companions - Locked on land, he will grow wistful of his navy days - when the seas belonged to him - and always just over the horizon, was a new port of call.
Remembering this, he will stand a little taller and say "Once, I was a Navyman".
1958 E. A. Hughes, FTCM (SS), USN (Retired) - used with the kind permission of the Master Chief.
13 July, 2013. "I would consider it an honor if you would post my work “Once I Was A Navyman” on your very fine USS SAVAGE (DE/DER-386) web site. You certainly have my permission to post it.
I originally wrote “Once I Was A Navyman” after I completed my first hitch in the Navy and was attending Denver University on the GI Bill, while still in the Inactive Naval Reserve. I completed this short essay for an English 102 class requirement. My professor for that class was not really happy with it, she told me that Navyman was two words, the way I used the hyphen was not allowed in the English language and much of my sentence structure was very poor.
It turns out that our professor wanted these assignments done so they could be entered in the Annual Freshman Writing Contest at Denver University, and even though she was not real happy with my work she gave it to her brother who had just recently been released from the Navy, for his evaluation, and he told her something about it being right in line with a Sailors thinking. I got a passing grade for that class and that work so I was happy.
Within about six months after that time, in the latter part of 1958, I reenlisted in the Navy and stayed for another 20 years before I retired from the Navy in 1978. Sometime before I retired I added some things to “Once I Was A Navyman” that had to with Navymen that I had become acquainted with or served with in these last 20 years, some of the ships that they had served on, and where these Navymen came from as that was always one of the first things any Sailor was asked when he reported to a new ship. I never mentioned any of these Navymen’s names in my work but I sent a copy to each one of my updated work and they were all pleased because they knew who I was referring to, without even mentioning their names.
I do not know which of my versions of “Once I Was A Navyman” that you have so I will send you both and allow you to use whichever one you want. And I want to thank you for your wanting to post my work."
E. A. Hughes, FTCM (SS), US Navy (Retired). View the Master Chief's Naval career.
["Old Salt of the Sixth Fleet" reproduction of an oil painting by Frank E. Zuccarelli. Image of painting courtesy of the Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. - U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command.]