ONCE I WAS A "NAVYMAN"
I like the Navy. I like standing on deck on a long voyage with the sea
in my face and ocean winds whipping in from everywhere-the feel of the giant steel
ship beneath me, it's engine driving against the sea, I like the Navy.
I like the clang of steel, the ringing of the bell, the foghorns and strong laughter of
Navy men at work. I like the ships of the Navy-nervous darting destroyers,
sleek cruisers, majestic battle ships and steady solid carriers.
I like the names of the Navy ships Bennington, Midway, Hornet, Enterprise,
Sea Wolf, Iwo Jima, Wasp, Shangri-La, and Constitution - majestic ships of the
I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty Whites"
and the spice scent of a foreign port. I like shipmates I've sailed with.the
kid from the Iowa cornfield, a pal from New York's Eastside, an Irishman from
Boston, the boogie boarders of California, and of course a drawling friendly
From all parts of the land they came-farms of the Midwest, small towns of
New England- from the cities, the mountains and the prairies. All Americans,
All are comrades in arms. All are men of the sea.
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 work is hard, the going rough at times, but there's the companionship of
robust Navy laughter, the devil-may-care philosophy of the sea.
And after a day of hard duty, there is a serenity of the sea at dusk, as white
caps dance on the ocean waves.
The sea at night is mysterious. I like the lights of the Navy in darkness-the
masthead lights, and red / green sidelights and stern lights. They cut through
the night and look like a mirror of stars in darkness. There are quiet nights
and the quiet of the mid-watch when the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world
stand with you. 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 a county. A man can find himself.
In years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still remember
with fondness the ocean spray on his face when the sea is angry. There
will still come a faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils, the echo of hearty
laughter of the seafaring men who once were close companions. Locked on
land, he will grow wistful of his Navy days, when the seas belonged to him and a
new port of call was always over the horizon.
Remembering this, he will stand taller and say, "ONCE I WAS A NAVYMAN
FTCM(SS), USN (ret)
It came to my attention as I was trying to find Ships, Shipmates and
Navymen that I had known during my 25 year Navy career, that a short essay I
had written while a student at Denver University "Once I Was A Navyman" could
be found at nearly every ship site on the internet. There were a few problems
with the the essay though. One of these problems being that when I generated
this work I made Navyman one word, and was chastised by my instructor because
she said it was two words as it appears on your website.
I originally wrote "Once I Was A Navyman" in 1958 while attending
Denver University, as an English 102 assignment. This was after my first
hitch in the Navy. In less than a year I was back in the Navy and served
another 20 years. I felt the need to say something more about my experiences
in the Navy for those 20 years, so I updated my original " Once I Was A
Navyman" to reflect my experiences of 20 more years Navy service. This
included many of the ships that I or other Navymen that I had known served
on. Along with their ships names I also tried to include the area of the
country that this Navyman came from. I have had at least three phone calls or
letters from Navymen who felt that I wrote "Once I Was A Navyman" just for
them. I was extremely pleased with the response from old Navymen that I had
I did not think much about my efforts in writing and revising" Once I
Was A Navyman" until I had been retired from the Navy for twenty some years.
I went on the internet about 3 years ago and was trying to locate old
shipmates because I had found some Navy ship sites, and many of these sites
listed crew members. I also found that many of these sites carried my work
"Once I Was A Navyman" but the sites would attribute this work to "Author
unknown" or "Anonymous " I had not obtained a registered copyright for my
work. I did not even have the foggiest notion how to do that in 1958 or 1978
when I revised "Once I Was A Navyman".
I have had to make the assumption that some individual from Denver
University liked what I had written and started passing it around from place
to place. But this individual did not take credit for this work, and
submitted it as "Author unknown", or "anonymous". And many old Sailors that
saw it altered the contents and sent it to someone else. Some folks even
changed the name but the substance remains basically the same.
You have something close to my original version of "Once I Was A
Navyman " on your website and I am sending you my latest version for your
consideration for inclusion to your website.
E. A. Hughes
FTCM(SS), USN (ret)
ONCE I WAS A NAVYMAN (mod.)
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, it's 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
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 and silent
hidden submarines - I like the workhorse tugboats with their proud Indian
names: Iroquois, Apache, Kiawah and Sioux - each stealthy powerful tug safely
guiding the warships to safe deep waters from all harbors.
I like the historic names of other proud Navy Ships: Bennington, Midway,
Hornet, Princeton, Suribachi and Saratoga. The Ozark, Hunley, Constitution,
Missouri, Quincy and Manchester, as well as The Sullivan's, New Jersey,
Tecumseh and Nautilus - all majestic ships of the line. Each commanding the
respect of all Navymen that have known her or were privileged to be a member
of her crew.
I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty
Whites" 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 voyages 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.
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 darkness -
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 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, Perry, Farragut, McCain,
Rickover and John Paul Jones - A man can find much in the Navy - comrades in
arms, pride in his country - A man can find himself and can revel in this
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 !"
E.A. Hughes, FTCM(SS),
- Copyright, 1958, 1978
HOWDY E.A. Hughes
I have added your name for credit as author for this piece as well as your e-mail and
updated version of "ONCE I WAS A NAVY MAN"
I would like to thank you for first writing this piece and second for sharing
it with the rest of us.
I don't know about any other web sites (this was sent by one of our crew members by e-mail),
but I am very happy to give you credit and recognition for this great work.
Please check this page for the update and let me know if it meets with your approval:
ALSO, by the way, the spell checker likes TWO WORDS.
Thank You again
Lonnie Whittaker ( Lonnie@uss-bennington.org )
ETR-3 OE Div.
Oct. 1964 - Dec. 1966
For a web site that works:
Hi Lonnie Whittaker;
Thank you very much for your kind remarks and for your effort in
including "Once I Was A Navyman" on the USS Bennington website. I have found
that it does a lot for old Sailors, and young ones too, to hear or see
something that takes them back to days of the past, when things they were
familiar with as young Navymen come back to mind. I myself have benefited
more than anyone else by this work being on the web even though I did not put
it there originally.
I have received numerous e-mails from Navymen that are pleased
with "Once I Was A Navyman". A large number of e-mails ask when I served on a
particular ship and what the time frame was. I always try to explain why
their ship was listed as one of the proud Navy ships in "Once I Was A
Navyman". I did get one unfavorable comment from one Navyman. He said "I am
disappointed that you wrote "Once I Was A Navyman", I have been working on a
poem that has a lot of the same thoughts in it and now all my efforts have
been wasted". That was a hard e-mail to answer.
I understand that your spell checker would detect Navyman as
being two words and would automatically correct it. My instructor back at
Denver University was right but I still like it one word.
Thanks again for your assistance.
By the way I served on the USS Manchester (CL 83), USS Missouri
(BB 63), Hunley (AS 32) and Tecumseh (SSBN 628) all mentioned in "Once I Was
A Navyman". I also served on Destroyers USS Turner (DDR 834) and USS Rush
(DDR 714). I served on one other ship, which was the Observation Island (EAG
154) a research and development vessel. I did not mention any of these last
three ships in "Once I Was A Navyman".
E. A. Hughes
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