Hello and welcome back to “Karl’s Korner”, a historical segment written by myself, Karl Zingheim – Ship Historian of the USS Midway Museum!
The New Year approaches and we can’t wait for what is to come for 2019! As we move forward, we take the time to look back and remember a New Years tradition onboard…
Rhymes of a Midway Mariner
Although the composition of log entries is an ancient seafaring tradition, and a necessity, the notion of writing the very first entry in the New Year is not so old, and at the very least, entirely American. Deck logs record important and mundane matters concerning the ship over the course of the 24-hour day, but the contents are strictly prescribed by Naval Regulations. However, roughly a century ago, scribes on the midwatch (from 0000 to 0400 on most ships) on January first took to poetry to record the operational details in a more artistic form, preferably with clever rhymes and meter. It took a while for the new tradition to take hold, but in today’s fleet, the procedure is well known. Certainly, over the course of the USS Midway’s service, this New Year’s practice was in its stride, and we are fortunate that with her 47-year long career, there are many examples of Midway watchstanders adding to the glory.
One of the earliest examples dates from 1948, when the Midway was in the midst of a Mediterranean deployment:
“Ring out the old, Ring in the new:
We’re moored to buoys one, three and two;
And aft there’s one line, forward four
Secured to hold the ship to shore.
This is the MIDWAY’s moor in Naples:
Manila, wire, and no line staples.
Of watertight safety there is no doubt,
Since condition YOKE is set throughout.
S.O.P.A. is ComCarDiv ONE,
In this New Year that has just begun.
ELLISON, WARE and GRAND CANYON, Too,
Are vessels present to name a few.
Four Able boiler is on the line,
Providing power so the lights will shine.
Three boats are running to return the crew,
Who in the city have welcomed the crew.”
An underway example comes from 1984, when the Midway was bound for another one of her interminable Indian Ocean deployments during the Cold War:
“Task Group 70.1 steams this day,
To a fair port called Subic Bay.
From Yokosuka, of the rising sun,
A half-year’s journey has begun.
To ride the wind and challenge the sky,
CarGru Five is by our side.
And mastery of the lower seas is given by DesRon 15.
To Arabia, and Africa, we are sent,
On our way by CincPacFlt.
The employment schedule for ’84,
We must perform–aye and more.
The Kirk, and Knox, and Hammond are here,
With England and Cochrane always near.
One man commands, called ComCarGru Five,
And safely on Midway he does lie.
Emcon Bravo and Yoke are set,
And Condition Four is with us yet.
Though stars shine brightly on this night,
Sail we must with steaming lights.”
A lengthier sample came from 1989, which ends with some insight into the Midway’s sojourn in her later homeport in Japan:
“Japan is our home, our refuge from fear,
Where the dollar’s forlorn, the yen held so dear.
As the Midway floats, tied to the earth of Japan,
And ’88 fades from this “Rising Sun” land,
I pray to King Neptune on this New Year’s first day,
May ’89 be a good year for the Mighty Midway!”
The Midway’s final combat cruise occurred in 1991, when the new year brought the impending onslaught of Operation Desert Storm:
“Twas the night before New Year’s and up on the roof,
The aircraft were turning, no aircrew aloof.
The planes were parked on the deck with great care,
In the hopes that Hussein would soon take the dare.
Midway, Gloucester, Brisbane, and Mobile Bay close by,
Patrolled the Persian Gulf with a watchful eye,
Adm. March and DesRon had just said good night,
Mod Zebra, EmCon Delta, and Condition II were set tight.
When off in the distance, two figures we did see,
An old man and a child, but how could this be?
‘The boats,’ he did say with a salty old grin,
‘Baby New Year is here, let’s welcome him in.’
And so we began this year ’91–
Sea, sailor, and memories yet to come.
Happy New Year!”
The Midway’s crew lived up to the best of naval traditions, even the more arcane, like New Year’s poetry. These entries and more are now compiled and preserved by the Midway Museum’s Library Staff in their own publication, The Complete Rhymes of the Midway Mariners, available through the Library Book Store next door!
That’s all for 2018, Midway Family! Please leave me a comment below and tell me what you thought of this month’s Karl’s Korner. Are you a former or current sailor who has written on of these iconic logs? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Launch em’… until next time,