Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fire Aboard the USS Enterprise

Fire Aboard the USS Enterprise

A Sea Story by Malcolm Torres

Early one morning the USS Enterprise left San Francisco and steamed under the Golden Gate Bridge.  That night, while heading west to Hawaii, a fire destroyed the Marine detachment’s living quarters.  With over 5,000 men aboard, rumors ran wild among the crew about what caused the fire.  Weeks later, in port at Pearl Harbor, this story was told by one sailor to another while the two were eating chow in the ship’s galley.  Be warned that sailors who tell stories in the galley are notorious for stretching the truth, spreading rumors and even telling outright lies.  This is an excerpt from Sailors Delight a nautical novel by Malcolm Torres.

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The USS Enterprise tied up to the pier in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii

When the watch officer shouts, “Fall out!” the formation breaks and Chris walks across the hangar, picking his way through aircraft chained to the deck and stacks of wooden crates.  At a watertight door in the gray steel bulkhead he steps over the knee knocker into a narrow ladderwell and climbs below to the galley.
A long line of guys waiting to eat goes back through the eight-foot-wide main deck passageway, continues into a dark living compartment, down a ladder to the deck below and into the ship’s laundry where washers and dryers the size of garbage trucks clank and growl steadily.
He waits 45-minutes for powdered eggs, hash browns, chipped beef on toast and pineapple chunks, and sits at a small stainless steel table.
A second later, Martin Weary, who must have been a few guys behind him in line, sits across from him.
“Fucking Marlow,” Weary says as he shakes pepper on his eggs then plucks the Tabasco from the table.
“What’s up Weary?”
“I’ll tell you what’s up,” he says.  “I was golfing with a pal of mine on the flying squad yesterday and you’ll never guess what that cocksucker told me.”
“What’d he tell you, Weary?” Chris asks as he squirts ketchup on his eggs.
“You know what the flying squad is, right?”
Chris knows.  “No, Weary, what’s the flying squad?”  He folds a forkful of chipped beef inside a piece of toast.
“How long you been on this boat, Marlow?” Weary asks.
“Three years,” Chris says around a mouthful of food.
“Three fucking years, and you don’t know what the flying squad is, damn, I had no idea you were still such a fucking nugget after all this time!”  Weary shakes more pepper over his eggs.  Apparently, he likes them spicy.  “It’s the ship’s emergency response team, numb nuts!  Every time you hear that ear splittin’ buzzer,” Weary says “buzza” because he’s from Boston.  “You know those guys who run through the passageways like a fucking stampede, all wearing red jerseys and yelling shit like ‘gangway’ and ‘make a hole!’ Marlow, you never heard of them?”
There’s a tremendous amount of clattering trays, chairs scraping across the deck, cutlery clicking at the metal tables all around them and a roar of conversation, causing a terrific headache to grind away inside Chris’s head.
“So what did your friend say?”  Chris chugs a glass of water, attempting to extinguish the peptic ember smoldering at the base of his esophagus.
“You remember that fire we had the first night out of San Francisco,” Weary speaks around a mouthful of food, “the one in the Marine living compartment.”
“Sure.”  Chris remembers the alarms going off.
For several days afterwards, stories went among the crew about the fire.  Apparently, there was some welding and the heat from a torch penetrated a bulkhead and ignited the paint on the other side.  It turned out that a half-dozen old coats of paint had built up on the bulkhead and the welder’s torch ignited them.  There was a fire watch posted, like there was supposed to be, but when the paint started bubbling and smoking, the watch squeezed the lever on his CO-2 fire extinguisher and nothing came out because the old fire-bottle was empty.  Within seconds, the paint was bubbling off the bulkhead like wallpaper in hell and smoke as black as the backs of your eyelids filled the compartment.  The temperature shot up over 300 degrees.  The alarm for general quarters was sounded and the entire crew went to battle stations.  Before the Flying Squad put out the blaze, it incinerated the entire marine living compartment, torched their mattresses, burned all their uniforms and melted their TV.  The entire compartment was reduced to an old, broken barbecue grill, leaving the marines homeless.  For the next eight weeks, all the way from San Francisco to Hawaii, the marines slept on the aircraft hangar and worked shifts around the clock.  The night before pulling into Pearl Harbor the captain announced that the marines had completely restored their living compartment.
Members of the Flying Squad, the ship's fire fighting team are ready to battle a blaze.

“Well, check this shit out,” Weary says.  “My buddy on the flying squad tells me the blaze was a whole lot worse than what everyone was led to believe.”
Chris pauses with a forkful of scrambled eggs in front of his face and thinks it might be a bad idea to eat such a big tray of food, because he feels like someone wearing steel-toe boots kicked him in the gut, but he decides he’s hungry and continues shoveling chow into his mouth.
“Below the compartment where the Marines live, there’s a large weapons magazine,” Weary says.
“Oh shit, that’s right.”  Chris realizes why the captain put the crew at general quarters that night.  He remembers the klaxon blaring and an announcement from speakers throughout the ship telling all hands to man their battle stations.  In over three years aboard that was the only time he’d ever heard “man your battle stations” followed by “this is not a drill.”
“The whole reason the marines live right on top of that magazine,” Weary says, “is because that’s where they store nuclear warheads.”
“No shit!”  Chris doesn’t want to believe it but he knows it’s true.
“That blaze burned through into the magazine and lit off two heat seekin’ missiles.”  Weary says.  “But that ain’t half of it, Marlow.  What you ain’t gonna believe is the part about the marine guard and the two cats on the flying squad.”
“They get burned in the fire?”
“Worse,” Weary says.  “The marine guarding the magazine heard the alarm and smelled smoke and freaked out.  When the first guy from the flying squad came through the watertight hatch into the area outside the magazine, the fucking marine shot him in the fucking chest.”
“Shot him?”
“Right through the heart, man.”  Weary makes his hand into a pistol and points it at Chris.  “Pow!” he says.  “The marine thought it was a security breach or something.  Then two missiles exploded inside the magazine, which is basically a gigantic bank vault full of high explosives, and the marine shot the next flying squad guy who came through the hatch.”
“Shot two fucking guys!”
“That fire was blazing out of control in a magazine full of bombs for twenty minutes before the head of the Marine detachment finally deprogrammed the fucking guy so the flying squad could get in there to flood the magazine and put out the fire.”
“That’s insane,” Chris says.  “We’re a few decks above on the flight deck and we never heard about any of that!”
Weary shovels chip beef into his mouth.  “But the worst part is, one of them nuclear bombs got melted and that plutonium shit came out all over the deck!”
“No fucking way!” Chris says.
Weary says, “Seriously.”

*   *   *

This sea story is an excerpt from Sailors Delight, a nautical fiction novel, available on Amazon in paperback and ebook format.

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels available online at all major book and eBook retailers.  Read Malcolm Torres’s blog, which is full of free sea stories, nautical fiction, US Navy adventures and Coast Guard Thrillers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

When the Wife Sees a Picture of You in Sin City

When the Wife Sees a Picture of 

You in Sin City

This sea story is an excerpt from Sailors Take Warning, a novel by Malcolm Torres
Most sailors are best of friends, trustworthy men who watch out for each other.  However, there are always a few angry juveniles who are inclined to commit dirty deeds against their shipmates.
Mail call aboard an aircraft carrier: A much anticipated event when sailors receive news from home.

About an hour after they announced mail call, Lieutenant Gould held two envelopes as he made a beeline to his stateroom.  The letters, from his pregnant wife, made his heart ache to be with her, to see her, to place his hands gently on the bulging baby bump swelling on her lovely belly.  He glanced at the letter with the older postmark and noticed the curly cursive strokes.  He sniffed the paper and swore he could smell her perfume.  He quickened his steps along the ship’s narrow passageway, ignoring the other men walking past in the opposite direction, ignoring the rolled fire hoses along the bulkheads, the pipes and wires in the overhead.  All he could think about was reading the letters and seeing the photos his wife had sent.
He adored everything about his wife, Sarah, but she was in Delaware on the opposite side of the planet, living with her parents while he made this endless cruise.  He dashed along the passageway, resisting the temptation to open the letters.  He wanted to lie in his bunk and savor them in private.
As he walked along, he glanced at her name, Mrs. Sarah Gould written on the envelopes and the memory of her in a beautiful white wedding dress popped into his head.  And there she was, holding her father’s arm gliding down the aisle.  Her radiant beauty blew him away.  Her delicate jaw, perfect nose between pronounced cheekbones and her cool hazel eyes—she was a gift from heaven.
He hadn’t seen her since leaving Pearl Harbor five months ago.  She’d flown there to meet him and they spent two nights in a hotel overlooking Waikiki, ordering room service and only leaving to lie on the beach in the afternoon and dance in the hotel disco each night.
Sarah swore she was still taking birth control even though they hadn’t seen each other for months.  But, pill or not, they conceived a child in that hotel room.  He figured that she hadn’t really been taking her pill, or his super-high sperm count—after so many weeks at sea—overpowered the pill’s active ingredients.  Either way, they hadn’t planned to have a baby for a few years, but when he heard Sarah was pregnant joy overflowed from his heart.
He wrote to her every day even though no mail came or went while Fox kept the ship cloaked behind the invisibility shield.
When he got to his stateroom, Gould laid down to read the letters.  He quickly glanced at the postmarks and opened the oldest.  It was the first he’d heard from her since the cloaking exercise began.  Sarah wrote about how much she missed him, how her pregnancy was going.  Her boobs were getting larger and her complexion glowed.  Would he be home when she went into labor?  The doctor said it was a boy.
Gould smiled.  Yes!  A boy!  A little man!
The stateroom door opened and Lieutenant Rhodes, Gould’s roommate, stepped into the compartment.  With the exception of a handlebar mustache curling across his cheeks, Rhodes looked a lot like Gould, the composite Navy fighter pilot—a handsome jock in a green flight suit.
“It’s a boy,” Gould blurted.
“I thought she wasn’t due for another few months,” Rhodes said, his mustache bouncing on his cheeks.
“The doctor did an ultrasound and saw his pecker.”
“Got a name picked out?” Rhodes asked, absentmindedly curling his mustache.
“I don’t know.”  Gould rolled onto his back, wet-eyed with the news.  A son!
He fantasized about being with Sarah for his son’s birth.  Since she got pregnant in Hawaii, he knew she was almost four months along.  That meant she had several months until she went into labor.  He had no idea where he’d be.  This cruise, unlike other’s he’d made, was open ended.  They’d stay out until Fox proved that the ship’s cloaking system worked.  If only the ship would pull into Singapore or Hong Kong, he could hop a flight home.  But that wasn’t going to happen, so Gould resigned himself to the fact that he would not be there when Sarah went into labor.
Damn this top secret cloaking system!  Why couldn’t he be there when his son was born?
Gould imagined asking his Commanding Officer, Commander Aronson for leave to go home and be with his wife, but he knew what Aronson would say:  “I have three kids but I only saw one pop out!  Just be glad you were there when your wife got pregnant, Gould.”
Yet he still imagined catapulting off the flight deck and flying all the way around the world to be there when his son was born.
The second letter didn’t smell like perfume.  He pulled out a single sheet of paper and instantly a jolt of panic twisted his heart when he saw the photo.
The alcohol-flushed face was a little blurry, but unmistakably his own.  The girl was 13, maybe 14.  His tongue flicked at her nipple.  She cradled his Ivy League head in her skinny, brown arms; crumpled pesos clenched in her delicate hand.  Her long nails, painted brilliant pink.  His hairy chest pressed against her smooth brown tummy.  Beneath her pastel eyelids, a forced party-girl smile.  At the bottom of the photo, his lecherous hands clutched her bare, adolescent buttocks.

—months ago, the ship visited the Philippines, right before they started the ship’s cloaking exercise.  He and several other Stinger pilots went out drinking at a bar in Manila, and he got so shitfaced that he woke up with two naked girls on a dirty futon the next morning.  A lumberjack smashed at the inside of his skull with a dull ax.
When he returned to the ship, the guys chided him.  “Gould, you wild man,” they’d hooted.  “Your little girlfriends were cute.” and “You’re out of hand, Gould.  Dancing on the bar with that chick’s panties in your teeth!  I thought I knew you, brother!”  He remembered those stunts, but he couldn’t remember what happened afterwards.  Five or six hours remained unaccounted for—locked in a booze-induced stupor— somewhere between playing around with the strippers at the bar and waking up with them.
He’d regained consciousness scratching itchy mosquito bites—shit, mosquito welts were more like it—and stumbling around looking for his clothes.  His anus was sore—damn, how drunk was I, he remembered thinking at the time.
He’d had a few nights like that over the years, but the memories always came back like post cards from his subconscious.
But not that night—he had figured that night was never coming back.
How wrong he’d been, because that night was coming back to him right now on this glossy photo in the mail from his wife of all people.  Dread punched a hole through his gut and everything good drained away.  He read the letter from his wife, his x-wife now, full of the worst possible news.  He winced as his thoughts completed the circuit—Some asshole, probably an enlisted guy, snapped this photo and sent it to Sarah.  With proof of my cheating, she got an abortion and filed for divorce.
The photo prompted a vague memory of a camera flash, and he tried to recall which of his crooked shipmates had snapped the picture and sent it to his wife.
X-wife—the word burned as he rolled onto his stomach, buried his face in his pillow for fear that Rhodes would see the tears bursting from his eyes.

Stories in the Sea Adventure Collection by Malcolm Torres are always free.  Read one on the Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo or Smashwords by clicking the link below.
Click Here for Free Stories in the Sea Adventure Collection

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels available online at all major book and eBook retailers.  Read Malcolm Torres’s blog, which is full of free sea stories, nautical fiction, US Navy adventures and Coast Guard Thrillers.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Day Bombs Went Off on the USS Forrestal

The Day Bombs Went Off Aboard the 

USS Forrestal

From Sixty-Four Days, a free sea story by Malcolm Torres

Aboard the USS Enterprise in the 1980s, our old Senior Chief told stories about when he was young.  One of the stories he told took place aboard the USS Forrestal off the coast of Vietnam in 1967.  I was a young sailor, only 19 when I heard this story and it burned into my memory.  Years later I took a writing class in college and I wrote about my old Senior Chief.  Here’s an excerpt from Sixty-Four Days, A Sea Story.   By the way, this story has over 200 great reviews and it’s free on eBook sites all over the internet.

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Nineteen-year-old Brendan O’Reilly walked across the carrier’s flight deck, clutching the handle of a toolbox.
Jet aircraft were lined up along the perimeter of the deck, their engines screaming loud.  Pilots were in the cockpits going through last minute checks before being launched into the sky.  All the jets were loaded with bombs and missiles.  All the jets were topped up with gas, ready to fly over Vietnam on bombing runs.
Suddenly a thread of blue smoke shot across the deck, marking a missile’s trajectory.
Brendan knew it was a terrible mistake.  In shock he dropped his toolbox and put his hands over his face, and before the toolbox hit the deck, a tremendous explosion and orange flames lifted a cloud of black smoke into the sky.  The alarm, “Fire on the flight deck!” spread quickly through the maze of steel passages below.  That missile had scored a direct hit on an aircraft that was fully loaded with weapons and fuel.  The explosion killed several men sleeping in their bunks in the compartment under the flight deck and it knocked over file cabinets five decks below.
An investigation later found that stray voltage in an F-4 Phantom’s armament system had found its way to the jet’s trigger and launched a Zuni rocket, but right then there was a hellish fire to fight.
Brendan jumped on a hose team and ran straight at the inferno.  Instantly, a second explosion knocked the hose team to the deck and showered them with flaming jet fuel.  The nozzle man looked like a scarecrow soaked in gas and set ablaze.  The high-pressure hose slithered like a snake as salt water gushed from the ripped end where the brass nozzle had been.  A splash of flaming jet fuel soaked the right leg of Brendan’s pants.  Brendan rolled on the deck in a panic, slapping the burning fabric with both hands until a mechanic pulled off his turtleneck jersey and smothered the fire on Brendan’s leg.  Brendan’s pants fused to the skin on his right thigh.  Blisters rose on the palms and fingers of both hands.
The bombs on a third jet erupted, consuming the aircraft in a spectacular blast.  The jet’s flaming tail section collapsed into a catwalk fueling station, melting the black rubber fuel hoses.  Torrents of flaming aviation gasoline flowed through a ventilation duct and poured fire into compartments below.
Brendan stood paralyzed, unable to run away and unable to fight the fire.  Although his hands stung with a cruel pain, somehow he’d grabbed a fire extinguisher but found himself helpless to use it.  He watched a flight deck chief run in to rescue a pilot burning in a locked cockpit.  Without warning a Cluster bomb detonated, disintegrating the chief as ten-thousand burning sulfur bits surrounded him.  Black soot burned in Brendan’s eyes and mouth, making it impossible to see or breathe.  Deafened by the explosions, Brendan could not hear the men shouting orders frantically around him.

Flame-engulfed jets collapsed into holes torn in the deck by their own exploding bombs.
When the fire spread to a flare locker in the catwalk, hundreds of flares whistled in white arcs across the blue sky.
It took fifteen hours to get the blaze under control.  Without the aid of a destroyer that pulled alongside and doused the fire from outboard, the carrier might have sunk.
In the aftermath, they counted over 130 dead sailors, including six pilots incinerated in their cockpits.  The bodies of thirteen sailors, asleep in their bunks in compartments below, were later excavated from the wreckage.
Rumors about a guy who was blown up while taking a crap in a head right under the flight deck went around after a crash and salvage crew used a welder’s torch to dislodge a pair of blackened hipbones from a stainless steel toilet bowl.

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If you enjoyed this excerpt, please click the picture below to grab the story.

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels available online at all major book and eBook retailers.  Read Malcolm Torres’s blog, which is full of free sea stories, nautical fiction, US Navy adventures and Coast Guard Thrillers.

The Sea Adventure Collection by Malcolm Torres