SHORT of War
ALLAN R. BOSWORTH
THE Galloping Galloway was scarcely moored to the dockat Portsmouth Yard, Philadelphia. when Swede Murphy got orders to take her to sea again. Destroyer skippers are used to that sort of thing,
so Swede informed the division flag he’d get under way in half an hour, and when fifteen minutes of that time was up, he climbed the bridge to make what the United States Navy calls an “estimate of the situation.”
A man didn’t need twenty years in the tin cans to see that the situation was bad. The Galloway had lost two of her boats to the long green walloping seas that boarded her three hundred miles out on Neutrality Patrol. Two more were smashed beyond repair; that left the motor lifeboat and a brace of rafts. The ship herself, a flushdecked wartime four-stacker, was a hundred seasick yards of toil and trouble.
But you wouldn’t tell Lieutenant-Commander Swede Murphy that. He was Irish and redheaded, and so the Navy called him Swede, and he was a wartime product too, having come up from the ranks the hard way. He rated loyalties in this order: the Navy was first, his ship was second, and his crew third. He never trod the Galloway’s steel decks without pride, and every time he looked over her sea-battered length from bullnose to fantail, he felt a lift to his heart that was strangely intermixed with fear.
The fear was secret. Swede had carried it since a foggy night in Fleet Problem Twenty. He was skippering another destroyer, then. The Brent—slightly newer than the Galloway, but not a better one, mind you. There was a simulated torpedo attack on the main battle line, with the cans making thirty knots, the intervals too close for comfort, and searchlights stabbing their sudden brilliance into spray-wet bridge windows so no man could see.
And there was the crash. Swede didn’t like to think about it, but the memory lay deep in his mind every time he felt a steel deck quivering and straining under his feet. After it, he had sat ashore for a long time like a crusty old barnacle on a sea-lapped piling, thinking his Navy career had come to a full crash stop. Until the emergency arose, and the Navy recommissioned scores of wartime cans and found itself short of officers.
Fifty old ones had been traded to England. But the Galloway stayed behind. The Philadelphia Yard scraped the grease off her engines, cleaned her boilers, patted her on the fantail and wished her luck.
She’d need it. So would Swede Murphy, he thought grimly. He’d been reinstated with the loss of a few numbers. But if anything happened now—if he ran his ship aground, or rammed one of the Yard craft, or failed to take the proper initiative under the somewhat vague orders given the Neutrality Patrol, he’d be beached for life.
The tight, panicky feeling was in his chest as he came
There was no doubt about what "all aid short of war" meant to Swede Murphy, U.S. destroyer skipper — not when the fate of his old ship hung in the balance
to the bridge and nodded to Lieutenant Metzger, the big, smooth-faced executive officer who was new aboard. He looked aft over the sea wrack there’d been no time to clear away, and up at the salty, soot-rimmed stacks and the smoke whipping toward the Yard. Another destroyer was tied up close astern, and Metzger gestured toward it.
“Everything to make it tough.” he grimaced. “The wind’s putting us on the dock. There's not rcxim to swing a cat, forward, and the Sanborn's riding our taffrail.”
Metzger was latterly out of the battle wagons that needed a mile to turn in. Swede Murphy managed a grin. He could shut his eyes and give the answer, here. But answers didn’t always work. Who was it—Clausewitz?— that said if you made ready for three eventualities, the fourth would happen?
“We’ll heave the bow well in with the bow line to the capstan.” Swede said as if reciting from memory. “Put the ship at a-thirty-degree angle with the dock. Back two thirds, both engines. Cast off when she begins to move. When we’re clear of the Sanborn, stop the outboard engine and put the rudder full twenty-eight degrees outboard. Then one third astern on the inboard engine till we’ve got turning room. Standard ahead on the outboard engine, rudder full inboard, and stop the inboard engine as we start to swing.” He chuckled and added. “Simple, eh. Bill?”
The big man turned up his sweater collar and pulled his coat collar after it. He was wearing a woollen shirt too. but the cold bit him. “Simple as the devil!” he growled with admiration in his eyes. “I wish I knew these tin cans like you do. skipper!”
Swede grunted. “They’re all I do know. And they’re a tough Navy, sometimes.”
But everything moved well. Ensign Drury, young and slim, climbed atop the after deckhouse to take charge of the people handling the stern line, and to watch the dangerous margin astern. Chief Bosun’s Mate Connolly, a seagoing man and salty, was on the forecastle deck; Swede Murphy couldn’t have asked for better.
His commands were quiet and steady, for all of that tightness that grew when he felt the deck tremble. The
capstan rattled, and the manoeuvre began. Destroyer hull plates are only quarter-inch steel enclosing a huge power plant and the crowded spaces that are playfully designated as living quarters. If you so much as scraped the side on the dock, or against the fluke of the Sanborn’s outboard anchor, yonder, you could rip that hull wide open.
He felt better when the Galloping Galloivay was faced about and began fifteen-knot speed downriver. The open sea lay beyond and Swede relaxed slightly. Then he was brought face to face with another problem, just to teach him that a destroyer skipper can never really relax.
If you know the sharp turn and the current from the sea that runs in it below the Portsmouth Yard, you will remember how that current always strikes the bow of the ship first, and tries to put you on the right bank when you are trying to turn sharply to the left. The stern is still in calm water, or an eddy, and the rudder won’t take hold.
Swede Murphy broke out in a sweat when he saw what was happening. But he knew every rivet in ships of the Galloivay class. He ordered full left rudder, and had the port engine stopped. He called, “Port engine, one third astern!” and the command was rung up on the annunciators, but the Galloivay kept swinging, and he went to two thirds, and finally to full astern on that engine.
“Stop the starboard engine!”
“Stop the starboard engine, sir! Engine room answers stop the starboard engine ...”
The current was on the port, and it and the engine forced the stern around with the ship making no headway.
“Stop the port engine ! Two thirds ahead on the starboard engine!”
Her nose came out in the channel. Swede Murphy was surprised to find that he had forgotten that tight feeling under the necessity of action. He couldn’t know how much of action lay ahead, yonder in the high-rolling North Atlantic.
The first day out was reasonably calm, and the Galloping Galloivay moved merrily enough on the first leg of her patrol. Swede Murphy found time to study the engineering score, reading fuel-oil meters hourly, and calling Wilcox,
the engineer officer, to point out the heat waves shimmering over the stacks.
“There go your B.T.U.’s, mister!” Swede said. “We’re not air-conditioning the sky for the benefit of seagulls. And we’re out here to be seen, not to hide. Post a good watch at the smoke telegraphs, and make smoke. Not a light brown haze, but smoke. Understand?” .
Wilcox flushed. “Yes, sir,” he said. “Aye. aye, sir.”
Saltier members of the crew expressed a somewhat private opinion that the Old Man “had the ship on his hump,” which was destroyer lingo for an excessively dutystruck condition. But the next morning Swede was given other things to think about.
He had come from the emergency cabin to the bridge, seeing the thin grey scud out of the northeast, sniffing the air and knowing that another blow was coming. He stood there with his feet wide against the steady lift and fall of the deck, watching the smooth functioning of his ship. And the seaman striker from the radio shack came with a communications sheet:
SSSSSS. Pursued By Sub. MS Sudbury Liverpool
SWEDE MURPHY said, “H’m!” and handed the message to Metzger. He was conscious of that tightness swelling within him. “Ask her position,” he instructed the seaman.
Metzger frowned. “Beyond picking up survivors,” he asked, “what are we supposed to do in a case like this? Suppose the action takes place outside the three-hundredmile limit?”
“I wish I knew,” Swede Murphy shrugged. “If the sub’s in the three-hundred-mile zone, that’s one thing; if she isn’t, it’s another. We’re neutral, and still we’re supposed to give all aid to Britain short of war.”
They watched the sea a little space. Wind was beginning to whine softly through the antennae. It made a moaning sound over the sooty lips of the stacks, and whitecaps started showing atop the long swells. The tenseness was an indefinable thing and yet so tangible it crowded the bridge
until a man felt he had to have more room. Swede Murphy paced restlessly to the opposite wing. He was remembering that he had to make only one mistake . . ,
About 140 Miles SSW Cape Sable Boston For Liverpool. Captain McManus. Please Stand By. Sub
Has Ordered Abandon Ship. McManus, MS Sudbury.
They bent over the chart table and Swede made a hasty calculation. “Tell the Sudbury we are changing course toward her and will be on the lookout for smoke. Tell her to make smoke.”
He turned to the man at the engine-room telegraphs. “Emergency full speed ahead!” he ordered. The sailor repeated, and sang out that the engine room had answered correctly. The Galloping Galloway quivered, strained and quickened. Black smoke spilled from the stacks; the rising wind thinned it and laid it flat astern to sully the Galloway's white wake. There goes the engineering score ' They had lighted off a third boiler . . .
“Change course to zero three zero.”
“Change course to zero three zero, sir!”
In a little while, the Galloway was galloping at twentyseven knots. She vibrated badly at eighteen, but steadied beyond that point. Now there was the din of three blowers going, and the smash and shudder of the long swells breaking against her bow.
There were radio messages on the air, mostly in code. But a Halifax news broadcast said at least one Canadian destroyer was somewhere in the area reported by the Sudbury. Then, finally, an answer from the ship herself:
No Chance Make Smoke. Shelling Us Now. Look
Darkness fell with the wind humping the ocean into long, leaden ridges that rolled with a solid force; only the crests, curling and breaking into a driving spray, looked fluid. Swede Murphy was forced to reduce speed as the sea rose—first to fifteen, then to ten knots. He thought of
men riding that sea in ojien boats, and his eyes were bleak.
He drank uncounted cups of black coffee and remained on the bridge. Hours dragged, and the radio man of the watch rejxirted more code messages. It wasn’t until dawn lay grey on the sea that the Halifax station announced that the Sudbury's boats had been picked up. All hands but three were saved, it said. Those three liad been killed by a shell that went through the freighter’s engine room.
Swede Murphy was digesting this information when the lookout telephoned the bridge. He had sighted the Sudbury.
A little later. Swede was picking her up in his glasses. She lay grey - hulled and aslant, a rusty-looking jiacket of some five thousand tons, lier bow almost buried and the sjiray feathering white over her forejiart. Her ujiraised stern had swung with the wind, and when the Galloway altered her course to steam closer. Swede could read her Plimsoll markings.
“Sjieed run for nothing!” he told young Drury and Thorjie. the jaygee who was gunnery officer and other things. “The crew’s saved, the ship's sinking—although taking a long time to do it, apjiarently. I guess the action took place somewhere along the edge of the threehundred-mile zone. So the State Dejiartment will protest to Germany, and Germany will ignore the protest, and that’s that.”
Thorjie was a young men, lean and serious, and with a quickness about him. He said. “Well, captain, these are Canadian waters too, and Canada is really at war. It puts us in—”
“Lookout reports a man on her deck, sir!” cried the sailor wearing the headjihones. “He looks like he’s hurt. Trying to signal us, captain.” Swede Murphy said. “That makes it different!” and drew a long breath as he watched the water roll between the two ships. There was one law which sujierseded neutrality proclamations and the laws of nations. The first law of the sea.
“Two thirds ahead, both engines,” he said. “Connolly, take the wheel. Keep well out and circle the Sudbury. Messenger ! I want all officers on the bridge. ”
"X/fURPHY swejit the sea with his glasses. It was empty except for this tragedy that lay ahead. He could see the man on the deck now. waving frantically. He ordered the signalman of the watch to answer with semaphore flags, and then he faced the six officers under his command.
Bill Metzger had been seasick during the night, and looked pale and miserable yet. Wilcox came out of the engine room with a heavy blue jersey jiulled over his dungarees. There were Drury and Thorpe already on the bridge, and Witte, the first lieutenant, and another freshcheeked ensign who was named Perner.
“The sea’s bad. and getting worse.” Swede Murjihy said. “We have just one boat. I’m not ordering anybody over in it to save that man. But I’ll ask for a volunteer to take charge of the rescue jiarty.”
They all stejijied forward. Young Drury was out in front, and Connolly, from the wheel, called, “Let me go, captain—let me handle the boat!”
Drury said, “I can be spared most easily, sir. And I was the best swimmer in my class at the Academy !”
Swede got words jiast the lump in his throat. “Thank you, mister. Get yourself a volunteer crew. Have the jiharmacist’s mate break out the Navy stretcher.”
It was firecarious work lowering the motor lifeboat with its five life-jacketed men, and when the sea had risen to slap it and bear it away, Swede had to watch a battle in which he could take no part beyond jirayer. Half the time the boat was out of sight in the troughs; at intervals it tossed so high he held his breath and forgot even to
pray. At length it vanished behind the slanted forepart of the Sudbury.
There was a tense moment, then. Metzger was swearing, saying there couldn't be much of a lee under the freighter's side, with her nose in the wind. Witte was breathing sharply beside his captain, and Thorjie suddenly exclaimed, “They made it—there they are!”
And even as men climbed the steeji deck and came into view, the boat shot unaccountably away from the ship, went high on a curling crest—and vanished.
They didn t see it again. Swede Murphy held his breath while he counted. Three—four—five!
His men were sate on the Sudbury's deck, and now there was no way to take them off again until the sea had subsided enough for the destroyer to lay alongside.
Drury semaphored with his hands to explain what had hapjiened. A jagged hull jilate, torn by the shell, had ripjied the bottom out of the motor lifeboat the instant the last man had left it. The same sharp edge cut the mooring line. He explained, too, that the wounded man was an engineer who mainly was suffering from concussion, but who had been left for dead. The engineer thought it likely that a Canadian destroyer had frightened the submarine away, or jierhajis sent it to the bottom.
Drury asked for orders, and Swede Murphy jiaced the width of the bridge twice while the others watched him. Orders? The resjxinsibility was his alone. He thought in quick alarm, “This is that one mistake! I shouldn’t have sent the boat over!" There was the panicky feeling, and then a shame. It was only his career; it could easily be the lives of those five men who had volunteered.
Neither emotion showed in his face. He said, “Signal Mr. Drury to ascertain if any boats remain on the Sudbury. He will make a tour of insjiection below and rejiort on extent of damage and watertight integrity. Inform him we will lay alongside as soon as the sea jiermits. ”
An hour crejit by. The sea showed no signs of letting UJI.
I he wind moaned across the stacks with increased force, and spray went high with the thunderous imjiact of each wave against the Galloway's hull. He studied the Sudbury through his glasses, and made out the shell hole at the water line—the one that had cost them the motor lifeboat. The sea went into it with every high wave, and it seemed to him the freighter slanted more steeply each time the sea struck.
A restless, helpless feeling gripjied him. He had to do something. He ordered the destroyer put on a course that brought wind and sea about twenty degrees abaft her beam, and he juggled engine speeds and rudder until she lay almost stationary in that position.
Metzger said, surprised, “Why, she rides much easier, now !”
Swede Murphy nodded. It was an old destroyer trick. He knew all the tricks of the tin-can Navy. But none of them did those five men any good !
And then Drury rejiorted. There were no boats. Two forward comjiartments were entirely flooded and submerged. He and his men had found water neck deep in Number Three hold, but had managed to bend a makeshift collision mat over the shell-torn hull plates. If it held, the Sudbury might remain afloat indefinitely. Young Drurysaid the tanks were well-filled with Diesel oil—perhajis the submarine wanted that fuel, and therefore had not used a torjiedo.
“Sail ho!” the lookout reixirted. “Destroyer two jxiints forward the starboard beam!”
C HE WAS a long way off, coming UJI slowly on the other ^ side of the stricken freighter; she was fighting the wind and the long, heavy sea. Swede Murphy got her in his glasses and saw the solid sheets of spray breaking higher than her stacks. He watched her fall off from the wind and roll until he thought those stacks were going to dip.
One of the division, he thought. She'd have boats. And then she altered her course slightly, and the searchlight abaft her bridge winked a signal he didn't understand.
The signalman of the watch manned the Galloway’s searchlight and asked for a rejieat. The answer was terse.
U.S.S. Galloway. What Ship Is That?
Hello, Yank ! H.M.S. Canadian Destroyer Sherbrooke.
Formerly U.S.S. Brent.
Swede Murjihy jumjied. “Brent!” he yelled. “Well, I’ll be damned ! The Brent—my old destroyer!”
And he laughed hajijiily. This was a reunion he’d never exjiected to see. So they’d jiatched her up; they’d straightened out her crumpled bow and traded her to England. Why, he’d have known her, when she came closer, under any name or any flag! He knew every rivet in her seascarred hull; he knew every little eccentricity that jxissessed her.
“They’re not handling her right,” he accused, as if thinking aloud. “They haven’t trimmed her jirojierly for this sea.”
A thought struck him. He sprang to the chart table and wrote a message:
Continued on page 44
Continued from page 9—Starts on page 7
Once Skippered Your Ship. If You Will Pump Out Forward Fuel Tanks And Steam About Five Knots In This Sea Your Focsle Will Stay Nearly Dry. How Much Fuel Oil Aboard? Murphy, Galloway.
Thanks, Old Man. Will Follow Advice. We Have 80.000 Gallons. What’s Condition Of Sudbury? Dolan, Sherbrooke.
Sudbury Can’t Float Much Longer And We Have Rescue Party Aboard And No Boat Left. You Can Help. By The Way, Your Ship Manoeuvres Better With From 45,000 To 85,(XX) Gallons. Murphy.
“I’ll have to get together with that other Irishman, after he’s taken Drury and the men off the Sudbury," Swede grinned to the officers on the bridge. I can tell him a lot of things about that can—things it took years to find out. You watch her, now. If they—”
“Mr. Drury signalling, sir. The collision mat has carried away. He says they can’t stay up much longer, sir.”
This was enough. But in the next instant, the lookout’s telephone talker cried, incredulously, “What’s that?” and then whirled to electrify every man on the bridge.
“Submarine surfacing off the port quarter!”
Swede Murphy’s heart jumped, and panic caught at it. He said in slow amazement, "My lord, is this ocean alive?” and started for the port wing. He turned quickly, even before he had seen the undersea raider, and Metzger, who looked seasick again, was reading his mind
Metzger spoke out of the nausea that twisted his stomach: “.Shall we warn the Sherbrooke, sir? Or . .
That was it. Swede Murphy hesitated only a second, but in that space a jumbled confusion raced through his mind. This had the makings of a nasty mess. “The Sudbury Incident.” The words screamed at him from imagined headlines. He pictured men around a table covered with green baize, and heard the words in the cold, precise reading of a court martial.
And he thought, “That’s not the Sherbrooke coming up yonder! That’s the Brent—my old ship!”
America will give England all aid short of war . . .
IT WAS a question, now, just what aid could be considered short of war. There was no telling how long this U-boat had prowled at jxriscope depth, watching. Long enough, Swede imagined, to make
out the ripple of red, white and blue at the Galloway's masthead. Otherwise, a torpedo might have been the first announcement of her presence.
But neither the U-boat nor the old Brent had seen each other. The Galloway was between them, and the slanted hulk of the Sudbury, too. They made an effective screen.
Worst of all, Swede Murphy could expect no aid from the boats of his old ship.
He answered Metzger. “No ... no, it wouldn’t be fair. But here, flash this message to the—the Sherbrooke'."
The signalman was operating the searchlight shutter. The message was directional ; nobody on the submarine could see that bright eye winking:
More Advice For You. Always
Repeat Always Be Ready To Go Into
Action Repeat Always. Murphy
He joined the others in the port wing. The submarine had moved in; she was scarcely two hundred yards away, a low, black and menacing shape with the waves breaking smoothly over her rounded hull and her newly-started Diesels pluming their exhaust astern. Men were emerging from her conning-tower hatch; Murphy saw them studying his ship with glasses. Making an estimate of the situation. And he remembered a time when the sight of (his undersea prowler would have sent gongs ringing for battle stations in the old Galloway.
Thorpe’s voice crackled with excitement. “There’ll be the devil to pay, now! Lord, but she’s a big one. Ocean-going. Size of our 1938 ‘T’ class.”
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Continued from page 44
Witte grunted, and his professional interest arose. “Except those guns,” he said. “They look like four-inch. Maybe five.”
And the sub began signaling, wig-wagging in Morse code. No voice could carry in this wind and sea. Swede Murphy glanced in the opposite direction. From this higher bridge, he could see the Canadian coming up beyond the freighter. He lost track of the message, but a signalman read it to him:
Compliments of the German captain to the American captain, and what was he doing here? The Sudbury was a prize of war, taken beyond the territorial waters of the United States.
Swede grunted and drew a long breath. “My compliments to the submarine captain.” A destroyer skipper had to be seaman and diplomat, warrior and international lawyer! “Sudbury’s colors not struck, nor was she entirely abandoned. We sent a party aboard on a mission of mercy. Boat was lost, and we have no others. Boarding party will have to remain aboard Sudbury until wind and sea abate.”
The German swung her head into the sea and took the white smothers over her low whaleback while her skipper pondered this. Swede looked toward the Sherbrooke again, and at the Sudbury. He saw the pitiful huddle on the freighter’s slanted deck, and he saw that she was down several feet more than she had been a little while ago . . .
Presence Americans Aboard Our Prize Unfortunate But Nevertheless Illegal. We Intend Refueling From Her Then Completing Task Of Sinking Her. Your Standing By Appears Unneutral And Of Possible Aid to The Enemy.
CWEDE’S jaw tightened. “So. he’s ^ getting tough!” he said, and the taut feeling inside him gave way to a cold calm. He said, “Acknowledge. We will hold submarine strictly accountable if any further operations against Sudbury result in casualties to our men !”
There would be no immediate answer to this, he knew. He watched the long sea running, and the Sudbury’s waterlogged reaction to it, and the Canadian that was coming up, yonder. In a little while, the Germans couldn’t fail to see that destroyer. Witte looked at the Sudbury and said, “She’s taking water fast. I think she’s going to save the Germans the trouble.” Young Perner’s fresh-cheeked face was pale. He’d been a classmate of Drury’s at the Academy. He put his hand on Swede Murphy’s sleeve.
“Captain, sir,” he pleaded, “if anybody knows within an inch of what a destroyer can do, it’s you ! Can’t we lay alongside— isn’t there some way?”
Swede Murphy looked at him, and looked aft. Nothing but the two life rafts; they wouldn’t do the men on the Sudbury any good. He fell to pacing the bridge. His face was grey and hard—this was his battle, and nobody could help. He saw the Sherbrooke coming up; maybe she was eight thousand yards away, now. He remembered a dark night, and the sudden glare of searchlights, and a roaring shock . . .
There was one way. It might work, and even if it did, Swede Murphy would likely lose the ship he loved. He had loved and lost the Brent that now was called the Sherbrooke. Ships go on, and a skipper doesn’t matter, he told himself. This time he’d be beached for life !
He turned on Pemer. “Yes,” he said heavily. “There’s a way. We’ll take it. Mr. Thorpe, jump forward and rouse out the C.P.O.’s off watch from the guinea pullman. Secure all watertight doors forward. Mr. Witte, break out collision mats. Quartermaster, notify the engine room I’ll want a full head of steam right away. Connolly, pass the word to stand by for collision quarters.”
They were staring at him. He paused and licked his lips with a dry and clumsy tongue. Then, abruptly: “We’ll ram her. The cne place a tin can can take it is on her bow . . . Ahead, full, both engines. Turn a hundred and eighty degrees to starboard as soon as we have way on. Signalman, semaphore Mr. Drury of our intention. All hands aboard the Sudbury will stand by for a ram. keeping clear of the port side. We will strike her just abaft the bridge ...”
The signal flag had begun to swing on the submarine’s bridge as the Galloway commenced her turn. But the message was stopped abruptly; Swede Murphy heard a siren lifting its thin wail into the wind, and he knew the Germans had sighted the Sherbrooke.
There was a moment to watch the action, now, while he took his ship into the clear. He had to admire the nerve of the U-boat; she had time to rig for diving and to submerge, perhaps, before the Canadian destroyer came up. But she didn’t. Instead, gun crews ran forward and aft with the seas breaking around their knees, and a few seconds later the first shot cracked flatly in the wind.
Swede jerked his eyes toward the Sherbrooke. He saw a cotton-white splash off her starboard bow—a good shot, considering—and then her forecastle gun belched smoke with a tongue of flame darting through it, and he heard the scream of the shell.
It went high’. The submarine was moving at top speed away from the Sudbury, and the Sherbrooke altered her course to close in. and three guns hammered in quick succession—two of them on the U-boat. Here was the chance to watch a duel to the death, and still there was no chance because the Galloway had a job to do. Swede Murphy heard the genei al alarm sounding, there was a prolonged blast from the siren that drowned the noise of gunfire, and the warning howlers began an unearthly wail. He saw men quietly taking their collision stations. A taut crew, he thought with pride. One that could man battle stations with the same coolness, if that ever became necessary.
He took one last look at the running fight that was going on yonder with an increasing hammering of guns. The Sherbrooke was closing in. In another minute she could swing and bring her other guns into play . . .
“I’ll take the wheel!” he said. “Emergency full speed ahead !”
Beneath wide-planted feet, he felt the Galloping Galloway tremble and strain. He gripped the wheel spokes with sweating hands and swung the ship around another hundred and eighty degrees. Yonder was the Sudbury on the port hand; he straightened the destroyer with the wind blasting over her quarter, and the freighter came dead ahead.
THERE WAS a smell of powder smoke in the wind, or did he only imagine it? He was driving his ship, now, and the time was too brief to thrill to the feel of it, the actual handling of this slim grey thing of power and pulsating steel. She shuddered as the waves drummed the bow and fell away in defeat; he felt the steady tremor of the biting screws. Around him, he saw men bracing themselves, men dropping flat on the deck; ahead, the Sudbury’s bulk grew formidable.
Curiously, he noticed a long, thin streak of rust that threaded down the iron hull from a scupper. The bow would strike
that rust streak. It gave Swede Murphy a target; something to aim at in this high, climactic moment.
As if far away, he heard a cheer, and the loud tympany of gunfire and shorn steel came after it from a farther distance. Then somebody yelled: it was a shrill, sustained cry. He saw a high wave slide along the Sudbury’s hull, and a deep trough came after it. The waterline was exposed; the waterline looked grey and dirty, and the rust streak came down to it and thinned out into nothingness.
He held his arms rigid. The Galloway’s sharp bow rose proudly on a crest . . .
The one great shock slammed Swede Murphy forward against the wheel with breath-taking force, and was immediately translated into little things. Glass cracking before his eyes. Men rolling in a heap, in shouting, swearing tangle. The loud, grinding squeal of sheared steel. And. forward, the life line and its stanchions folding inboard and aft. And a Stadimeter and a pair of dividers sliding from tire chart table . . .
There was black breathlessness and a space through which he seemed to be struggling as a swimmer struggles before going down for the last time. He could hear cheers, faint above the grinding sound that came with every lift and roll. He heard thunder roll over the sea, and he saw Metzger’s greenish face blurring above his own. Metzger was sitting on the deck, lifting Swede Murphy’s head, and swearing. The admiration in his eyes amounted to reverence.
“Are you all right, captain?” he asked. “Are you all right?”
Swede struggled to rise. He couldn’t speak yet, but his eyes asked a question.
Metzger said, “They made it—all of them! Here they come, now!” And there was young Drury, climbing to the bridge.
Witte limped to the wheel. “Wilcox reports all secure in the engine room, captain!” he said. “Shall we back clear, now?”
Swede Murphy shook his head, and spoke out of the pain in his lungs. “Not — yet. Inspect—forward first. Damage
“Aye, aye, sir!”
Swede Murphy got to his feet, found his battered cap, and jammed it over his red hair. He said, “What happened to the Sherbrooke?”
“Nothing much, sir,” Thorpe grinned. “But the submarine must have been hit at least twice before she tried to submerge. Then they dropped a couple of ash cans on her!”
And a little later, Swede was reading a radio message from another Irishman. It said:
Your Advice On Trimming Ship Helped Immeasurably In Fighting Focsle Gun. Your Manoeuvre Rescuing Men On Sudbury Exhibition Marvellous Seamanship And Courage. Congratulations From A Great Ship To A Fine Destroyer Man. Dolan.
THE Galloping Galloway was a taut ship;
she looked somehow trim and graceful as she steamed astern into Portsmouth, with her bow crumpled and rolled back until it was almost as blunt as her fantails. There was a crowd on the dock—Navy gold braid, Navy bluejackets, newspaper men and plain citizens: the people who own the United States Navy.
Swede Murphy was still wondering what would happen to him now, but he no longer knew that panicky feeling. He could shut his eyes and give the commands to moor the Galloway, even though she had to steam astern. That was because he knew just what a tin can would do.
But he didn’t shut his eyes. They were on the signal flags flying from a hoist in the Yard. They said, “Well Done!” and the radio in his hand, acknowledging his full report of the Sudbury Incident, said the same . . .
A Navy man can ask no more.
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