Ralph Irish, Radioman
Chronicles of a Ship's Messenger
June 1957 - March 1961
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As a Radioman striker, I had some interesting jobs during my two years aboard the "Hannah". One of the jobs that strikers are always given is that of Messenger. I had the distinct pleasure of handing the promotion message to Captain Henry Miller, which promoted him to Rear Admiral.
I was surprised that the Comm. Officer on duty did not do it himself. He handed the message to me and I took off for the bridge. The Captain happened to be on the bridge at that time, so I went over to him, saluted, said, "Good Morning, Captain. Here is a message that may be of interest to you."
Normally, the Messenger carried an aluminum clipboard arrangement, with both delivered and undelivered messages, and a place for the various recipients to sign or initial, upon receipt. The Captain, after looking at the message, and breaking out in a big smile, said, "Where is the board?" I told him that there was no signature required for this message, saluted again and left the bridge.
On one other occasion, I had the mid-watch as Messenger, and another promotion message came through. This one was for Commander Tom Gallagher, the Exec. It was probably around 0300, and the Comm. officer gave me the dubious task of going to the Exec's cabin, waking him up and giving him the 'news'.
Now, Commander Gallagher had rightfully earned the nickname of "Terrible Tom', and anyone who had been aboard more than a few days was probably aware of this.
Likewise, anyone who stood an Exec's Mast before him. He was a 'no-nonsense' guy, and you did not make the same mistake twice, if he was to know about it, without getting a 'reaming', and that word should not require any explanation! He had, in his cabin, for a time, a large wooden barrel, with a knothole in the side. It was painted a nice gray color, and had the words, "Uncle Tom's Duty Barrel" hand-painted on it. I don't know if it ever got used, but that may have been one of the reasons that some Department heads went to the '8 O'Clock Report' meeting in his cabin, with some misgivings.
I knocked on his cabin door, and waited a few seconds. I knocked again, a little louder, and I heard something like, "I hope this is important," as the door opened.
The last thing he was planning on seeing was a Seaman with a piece of paper in his hand. I handed him the message, and said, "Congratulations, Captain." He replied something like, "Yeah, sure." The title went right over his head. He
stood there in the door, in his skivvies, reading the message, and finally the significance of it came to him, and he broke out in a big smile, and said, "Thanks," and closed the door on me.
30-some years later, I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Gallagher at a ship reunion. The Captain had passed away several years before, and when I introduced myself to her, and told her the story about the message, she told me that he had beem worried for a time, that he might not ever see that 4th stripe. Although he had no idea who I was, other than the 'Comm Messenger', he did relate the story to her about how the message came to him. (He eventually got the command of another carrier, the USS Princeton, LPH-5.)
Sometimes being the 'low man' on the totem pole has some perks!
To write this Shipmate, send your message to Jake the
Yeoman in Admin and ask to have your Message forwarded.
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