Bowsprite: A New York Harbor Sketchbook

military men

Posted in Uncategorized by bowsprite on 2012/12/18

I did not know any military people until I began to work on boats. I still do not know any military women very well, just by correspondence. But I’ve met some men. Different world.

With a few rich and generous exceptions, they don’t blog. They don’t like to reveal much. It is not easy to drag a good story out of them.

But every now and then, in a calm crossing of the river while we’re both in the wheelhouse, I’d hear:
“Did I ever tell you? Oh, you’ll like this one—we were in the PBR, they were shooting at us, and let me tell you how this boat was made: you could turn a valve to use the motor to pump the water that was filling up in the boat OUT. It was called a crash turn. But you couldn’t move, then. We had to choose: pump out the boat, or get our asses outta there.”
“The boat was filling up? you were all getting wet?”
Eyes widened: “We were getting SHOT at! YES, our socks were getting wet!”
“Oh, Kenny! where were you? when was this?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Well, who made the boat?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Come on! Oh, pretty please?”
“No. I can’t.”

kenny

Tried to find the boat. A good resource here: the Historic Naval Ships Association.

They see things differently. My dear girlfriend Lilian is a potter, she gave me beautiful red clay to pinch into pots for my succulents. One ex-CG friend picked up the bag of the heavy dense stuff and asked, “It this your bag of plastic explosive?”

succulents

I could not tell if he was serious or not. That’s another thing. Poker faced, even when you step on their toes really hard by accident with a high-heeled shoe.

They act differently. Chloe, who lives in the east village, told me of a time when a fellow who was a NAVY SEAL visited her. He walked up to her fifth floor apartment of a tenement building, and warned her: “Watch out, these guys are packed around here.” He was able to detect some of her neighbors coming down the stairs concealing weapons under their pants legs. While he was there, he heard a noise and with his broad arm, pushed Chloe down to the floor and crouched protectively over her:
“What’s that?”
Chloe, stuttering, “It-it’s the fax machine. I’m getting a fax.” She works from home.

navyseal

Well, for some of us, there will always be that fascination:

And! though not Military, fellow ship portraitist Pamela just sent me this: SECRET FBI sale! Dec. 20, for the first time in its history, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will open its New York store:

“The rare offer for G-men branded gear is good for four hours only. Intelligence locates the store somewhere between the 22nd and 29th floor of 26 Federal Plaza. Special clearance required.”

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10 Responses

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  1. bowsprite said, on 2012/12/18 at 15:28

    Wow! and look how different our worlds are. I just got a gentle note about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, from a friend who reminded me about a mutual acquaintance.

    Is it better to remain silent? is it better to seek a support group? I do not know.

    I think for men, it is somehow especially difficult to talk about it. I support groups like Team Rubicon, who are veterans who have decided they are not going to fit back into their old jobs before they served, and are trying to work in the capacity for which they were trained, are very good at, and where they can be with others who know.

    I do not mean to be flip, and I am sorry if any of this hurts. My friends who have survived, somehow adjusted, and somehow trust me, I value. But I cannot imagine what they, or you, have gone through. And now, I might understand why you might not want to talk about it.

    • walt said, on 2012/12/19 at 11:31

      Amen, on Support Groups! The doc’s just reach for their pads, the ones they have in their holster, Who wants to be narcotized!

  2. bluebrightly said, on 2012/12/18 at 17:52

    You’re brilliant! The illustrations are just so fresh and funny and perfect. More please!

  3. starbuck5250 said, on 2012/12/19 at 09:23

    My Dad only rarely spoke of his time in France in WWII. I had to tease his unit designator out of him. After some research, I found out that he had watched hundreds of men drown when a U-boat torpedoed the SS Leopoldville and the convoy left them in the water because they were afraid to be torpedoed themselves. And that was before he went on the line. When I asked him about it, he seemed outwardly noncommittal but his eyes told a different story. I didn’t press him and I still think that was the right thing to do. If talking helps, they’ll talk. I think it depends a lot on the person. PTSD is real. Timely post, and the illustrations helped me.

    • bowsprite said, on 2013/01/02 at 21:55

      Oh, I am so sorry. Christmas Eve, 1944.

      When I was in Le Havre in 2010, I met some retired French fishermen and tugmen. They expressed their gratitude to American, Canadian and other soldiers. They talked about what happened at the beach, they remembered how horrible it all was, what living in France was like during those times. And, those old men spoke with regret of how the young generation does not know the history, and do not really care. It was a very moving moment. We were standing on a beach, looking at the water. I will never forget that moment of awe, gratitude, reverence, sorrow.

  4. walt said, on 2012/12/19 at 11:25

    The PBR River Patrol Boat (Vietnam War: the VC’s brown water was really jammimg up propellers)
    The PBR was the predecessor to the Wave Runner and Jet Ski.
    -Just Like the Radar in WWII became the microwave oven and the cell phones of today
    -And Sonar Becaame Utra-Sound
    The Civil War introduced us to Interchangeable parts
    What did the space program give us Tang?

  5. mageb said, on 2012/12/20 at 12:08

    We have one of those river boats at the SD Maritime museum. :)

    I’m an old Army lady without a lot of exciting stories to tell. Cuban Crisis time here and Vietnam tho they said we weren’t in it at that time.

    Cops tell those same stories. I had one dear cop friend who stopped me mid conversation, what ever it was, to say mildly that most of the folks walking by my cottage were under cover cops. LOL My neighborhood was known as the war zone in those days.

    Hugs to you, happy solstice and holiday to you. I need to get my calender while you still have them.

  6. Michael said, on 2012/12/27 at 12:57

    wonderful illustrations. Biscotti for a glimpse of your soul!
    My father (infantry sergeant, Korean War) would sometimes tell me stories if he’d had a couple of drinks. The bad stories are…bad. Millions of vets out there with these stories stuffed down inside.

  7. Ken said, on 2013/01/04 at 23:18

    Have you ever checked out hazegray.org? It’s a site of different Naval vesels.

  8. Boat Guy said, on 2013/01/30 at 12:46

    In glancing at the Wiki article on PBR’s I find it has several errors in weapons alone. The Mk 19 can only be mounted in place of the after .50. The stacked .50/81mm mortar was NOT used on PBR’s but on the larger Swift Boats. We did have a 60mm mortar as an option and there was provision to mount an M60 7.62 MG atop that. We also had the option of Mk 18 and Mk 20 40mm grenade launchers which fired a shorter round than the Mk 19.
    I was qualified as “Officer in Charge of Combatant Craft” (Naval Officers Billet Code 9279) for PBR’s. A GREAT place to see “stuff” about them (and other Combatant Craft) is at
    http://www.warboats.org/
    Full Disclosure; one of the main guys on the site is a friend from Active Duty
    We had an eductor hose on the boats that could be attached to the top of the waterjet to be used in dewatering the boat, something I had to do for real one time. I suppose if the water was over the top of the pump in the after compartment you could just open the top of the pump, but I don’t have any experience with that.
    The boat WILL stop in it’s own length as well as do a 180 in a boat length. Some of my fondest memories of my Naval service are on those boats…


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