Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Dad

I was reminded that there are a couple of mistakes in the blog about my Dad on Thursday. Dad was a detail guy and would want it to be precise. Particularly when it comes to numbers. Dad rarely made a mistake with numbers and kept complicated bond maturity rates and schedules in his head. On a bond issue once which had been calculated by a computer Dad looked down a column of seven digit numbers on a spread sheet and said that they were incorrect. The young financier who had prepared the numbers was insistent they were right because they were computer generated. After Dad would not give up the numbers were recalculate and found to be wrong to the exact value Dad said they were. The young man had used a formula that was not correct in this case. Dad did not use a computer at all in his career. The only machine he would use was a floating decimal Frieden calculator. It was a mechanical machine that looked more like a typewriter or cash register than a calculator. It used to scare me as a kid; it made noise and numbers flipped by like a crank style movieola.
In my blog for Dad I said he was 89. That is not right... he was 88 on his last birthday in June. I also quoted his military rank as Lt. J.G. The J. G. stands for Junior Grade which is a step or two below the actual full Lt. rank that he actually attained in the Navy.
I think the JG stuck in my mind because of a trophy that occupied an honored spot on the family bookshelf. It is a silver loving cup engraved by the crew of the USS Montrose and given to "Lt. J. G. Arthur Noel Johnson, Jr. for service above and beyond the call of duty in the battle of BeNo Straights." In a story that is right out of Mr. Roberts, Dad took flack from a commanding officer to save his crew from his cruel abuse. The Captain was given to telling the men, "There will BE NO liberty, there will be no movie" until certain duties were performed to his satisfaction. In fact when the play and subsequent movie Mr. Roberts came out, several people contacted Dad to see if he had sold his story to the author. Except for the ending, and a different class of ship, it was the same story. The Captain would not let Dad transfer from the ship. Instead of the men holding a forgery contest to sign the Captains name on a transfer as was depicted in the movie, the actual event was a little more theatrical.
Dad and another officer were sure the Captain was not rational, but neither one could get officials to take a look. All communications to channels were censored by the Captain. No one could get word to the shore officers.
One evening when Dad was officer of the deck, his friend and fellow officer requested permission to go ashore. His name was not on the list to go ashore, but Dad gave him the salute and he boarded the launch dingy. The Captain saw the launch from the ship and ran to Dad to see the list. When he found out who it was going ashore and that the officer was not on the list he grabbed the radio and ordered the launch back to the ship immediately. The radio message was never received by the launch crew and Dad's friend was able to get ashore and report what was going on. Dad was soon transferred and it was discovered that the Captain had a brain tumor that was causing his abusive irrational behavior. He was eventually removed from command and died soon after from the tumor.
Years later when Dad and his officer friend reconnected recalling the event, the true story was told. The crew had heard the radio command by the Captain to return to the ship, but the officer drew his 45 cal. service weapon and told them to disregard the broadcast. They knew something was wrong with the Captain and never reported what really happened. They probably did not need the 45 as incentive, but the fleeing officer was taking no chances.
Dad loved to tell his Navy stories and I loved to listen to them over and over if I could. It was heartbreaking to know that the last couple of decades of his life he was unable to tell them to me again. He was a numbers guy not a writer and never wrote them down. But the family will continue to tell them to his Great Grandchild who is due in February.
Daddy I will never forget. You made me love stories and yours were the best.
As you were,

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