Reflections of a Blackshoe
by VADM Harold Koenig, USN (Ret).

I like the Navy. I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with
salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the
four quarters of the globe - the ship beneath me feeling like a living
thing as her engines drive her through the sea.

I like the sounds of the Navy - the piercing trill of the boatswains
pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship's bell on the quarterdeck,
the harsh squawk of the 1MC and the strong language and laughter of sailors at

I like Navy vessels - nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet
auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers. I like the
proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea -
memorials of great battles won. I like the lean angular names of
Navy 'tin-cans': Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinix, McCloy - mementos of heroes
who went before us.

I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers
as we pull away from the oiler after refueling at sea. I like
liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. I even like all hands
working parties as my ship fills herself with the multitude of
supplies both mundane and exotic which she needs to cut her ties to
the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there
is water to float her.

I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the
Midwest, small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains and the
prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as they
trust and depend on me - for professional competence, for
comradeship, for courage. In a word, they are "shipmates."

I like the surge of adventure in my heart when the word is passed
"Now station the special sea and anchor detail - all hands to quarters
for leaving port", and I like the infectious thrill of sighting home
again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends
waiting pierside.

The work is hard and dangerous, the going rough at times, the
parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy
laughter, the 'all for one and one for all' philosophy of the sea is
ever present.

I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as
flying fish flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to night.

I like the feel of the Navy in darkness - the masthead lights, the
red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating
phosphorescence of radar repeaters - they cut through the dusk and
join with the mirror of stars overhead. And I like drifting off to
sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that tell me that
my ship is alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch will keep me

I like quiet midwatches with the aroma of strong coffee - the
lifeblood of the Navy - permeating everywhere. And I like hectic
watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank
speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of alertness. I like the
sudden electricity of "General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations",
followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the
resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transforms herself
in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war -
ready for anything. And I like the sight of space-age equipment
manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and soundpowered phones that their
grandfathers would still recognize.

I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made
them.  I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry,
Farragut, John Paul Jones. A sailor can find much in the Navy,
comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman's
trade. An adolescent can find adulthood.

In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will
still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods - the
impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water
surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff
of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the
bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of
hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief's quarters and messdecks.
Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days,
when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over
the horizon. Remembering this, they will stand taller and say,