Seaman "Cindy"

The Adventures of SEAMAN CINDY

By Richard H. King, CDR USNR-Ret.

At the time of this story, CDR King was LT JG, Main Propulsion Assistant (1965-1968), 
(Assistant Engineering Officer for Main Propulsion) 

    On July 14, 1967, the USS CHEVALIER DD-805 pulled into Victoria, British Columbia, as part of a five ship American delegation to help celebrate the Canadian Naval Centennial, and simultaneously, the British Columbia Centennial. We were greeted warmly upon our arrival, with almost as much enthusiasm as when we finally departed, about a week later. But that's another story. Sometime during our tumultuous fun filled stay, one or more of the boatswain's mates smuggled a small puppy on board and hid her in the boatswain's locker.

     By the time we were almost back to San Diego, the only person on board unaware of the stowaway was the Captain, G. G. Ely Kirk. The X.O. finally gave the boatswain's mates an ultimatum. Tell the Captain. A small delegation of boatswain's mates approached the Captain on the bridge, confessed what they had done and asked the Captain for permission to keep the puppy on board as the ship's mascot. The Captain sat there for a minute and then said "well, how can I make a decision until I have seen the dog?  Smiles broke out everywhere.

     The puppy was rushed to the bridge, and apparently she passed inspection because she was enlisted on the spot for a one-year tour, including the 1967/68 deployment.  The dog was named "Cindy" (which coincidentally was the name of the Captain's teen-aged daughter), given the rank of Seaman Apprentice and assigned to First Division.

     SA Cindy adjusted bit by bit to life on a destroyer and became a very popular shipmate. For most sailors, billets on the "Watch, Station and Quarters Bill" were handed down from on high. But for Cindy, she sort of found her own. Take for example her General Quarters station. Part of the training workup for a West Pac Deployment were gunnery drills. On the day of the first gunnery exercise after Cindy came on board, she was frolicking around the main deck. General Quarters was sounded, everyone rushed to their GQ Station, Condition Zebra was set (all doors and hatches shut tight) and in the process, Cindy was just plain overlooked and left out on deck.

     Mount 51, on the focsle, was the first mount to fire, and when the pair of 5" guns went off, SA Cindy was directly under the gun barrels. She bounced about three feet in the air, and then took off running aft. She arrived on the fantail under Mount 53 just as it too fired. Her plight, however, had been observed by the bridge watch and the lookouts and orders were given to break Condition Zebra and let her into the deckhouse.    She proceeded immediately to Damage Control Central (Engineering Log Room), almost exactly in between the forward and after gun mounts, and curled up at the feet of the phone talkers.   From that day forward, whenever GQ was sounded, Cindy would race on her own to Damage Control Central and remain there patiently until "Secure from GQ” was sounded.

     As time went on, Cindy found her place on other Watch Bills. For the Special Sea and Anchor Detail, entering or leaving port, she stood "Forward Lookout", with her nose sticking out through the bull nose (the ring at the very tip of the bow through which a tow rope or mooring hawser could be passed). In port, she spent most of her waking hours standing "quarterdeck" watch at the brow (gang plank).  Seaman Cindy (she had by now been promoted) never mastered ladders, so she stood watch, ate, slept and hung out on the main deck, both inboard and outboard. By the time CHEVALIER arrived in Olongopo, Philippines, Seaman Cindy knew every member of the crew, about 270 total, and would vigorously "challenge" any non-crewmember coming up CHEVALIER's brow.

    During our short first stay in Olongopo, the Subic Bay SRF (Ship Repair Facility) was doing an emergency overnight job in the forward fireroom replacing the No. 1 boiler main steam outlet elbow.  It was a critical and important job because that boiler constituted a quarter of our propulsion capability and we were supposed to leave in the morning for Vietnam. While enjoying a few gin and tonics at the "0" Club on base, knowing they would be the last gin and tonics I would have for a long time, I received a phone call from the duty engineer. I was told that the Ship Repair Facility "yard birds" (civilian workers) working on the boiler had gone on strike and were sitting on the pier. They refused to go back to work until we got rid of "that vicious guard dog".  I rushed back to the ship and locked Cindy up in the air-conditioned electronics workshop. After some persuasion and assurances, the Philippino workers went back to work and the CHEVALIER got underway in the morning, with the last of the workers having to climb over the rail to the pier because the brow had already been removed.

     Sometime in October of 1967, while CHEVALIER was engaged in Naval Gunfire Support for army and marine units ashore in Vietnam, Seaman Cindy hurt her leg and was put on the "binnacle list" (too sick or injured to carry out her duties). A few days later, when CHEVY steamed into Kaohsiung, Taiwan for a "TAV" (tender availability period), there was an "Arrival Conference" in the wardroom.  Work Requests were reviewed and approved or rejected. At some point during the conference, the captain of the tender remarked that he had excellent medical and dental facilities.         Captain Kirk replied that he had "one sailor needing attention", but didn't explain it any further.

    Thirty minutes after the conference concluded, however, Seaman Cindy was in the tender's sickbay, much to the surprise of the doctor and corpsmen. The doctor took an x-ray and concluded that Cindy had a broken leg. The fracture was set and a plaster cast with an aluminum tip was applied. The story of Seaman Cindy's treatment was put into the tender's P.O.D. (Plan of the Day) as a news item, and before the T.A.V. was cut short by an approaching typhoon, the tender delivered to CHEVY a beautiful wood dog bed, stained, varnished and upholstered, with suction cups on the bottom to grip the deck in heavy weather and an engraved nameplate on the side. The bed was placed in the after athwartships passageway opposite the ship's store.  Cindy took to it without hesitation, obviously liked it and in time recovered completely.

  The amazing thing about the tender's gift was that no Work Request (Form OPNAV 4700-2C) was ever submitted in triplicate and approved in quadruplicate to "fabricate dog bed for medium sized dog". Cindy's bed was the only tender job I can remember which was completed without a duly prepared and signed OPNAV 4700-2C.

Captain Kirk and Seaman Cindy got along well despite their disparity in rank.  Kirk took her ashore with him on several occasions I can remember including the ship's party on Grande Isle in Subic and again in Australia to a Cricket Match!

    Captain Kirk, through his influence in high places, had managed to retain command of CHEVALIER for almost three years, a year longer than the normal Bureau of Personnel pattern of rotation. At the very end of this deployment, we headed for Brisbane, Australia. Just before departing for Brisbane, however, Captain Kirk's relief came on board. While the outgoing captain and the soon to be new captain went through the turnover process, we crossed the equator and had to go through the proper "crossing the line" ceremonies. In these ceremonies, "shell backs" (sailors who have crossed the equator before) initiate "polliwogs" (sailors crossing for the first time).        Seaman Cindy, of course, was a "polliwog" and had to go through the same gauntlets as her lowly peers, including a crawl through "the garbage chute" and "kissing the belly of the Royal Baby". At the end of the ceremonies, everyone was issued about three beers each. This was even more illegal than having a dog on board, and the soon to be new Captain just had to take it all in. Change of Command ceremonies were held while we were in Brisbane and Captain Kirk flew home to the states.

    Upon returning to San Diego, I overheard the new captain, CDR Glen Palatini, tell the X.O. that although Seaman Cindy seemed to be a good sailor, very popular with the crew, the X.O. needed to start looking for a way to "transfer" her off the ship in a manner, which would not hurt morale. A few weeks thereafter, while CHEVY was tied to pier six in San Diego, liberty call was sounded and everyone not in the duty section rushed down the brow at 32 knots, including the captain, the X.O. and all department heads.

     I was C.D.O. of the duty section and about a half hour later, I was just standing on the fantail exchanging scuttlebutt with other sailors who also had the duty. As usual, Seaman Cindy was hanging out in the same general area where she could keep an eye on the brow.  Someone noticed a gray official Navy sedan coming down the pier, sporting a pennant on the fender with two stars on it, and called it to my attention. Since no official "flag visit" was expected, and since we were opposite the pier from a new DLG (guided missile destroyer leader, about twice CHEVY's size), I assumed the Admiral's destination was the DLG. "ASSUME" is a Navy acronym for “makes an ass of you and me".

    The car stopped midway between the two ships, an aide jumped out, opened the rear door on the CHEVALIER side, and out bounced an Admiral who then headed straight for our brow! OH SHIT!    I risked the guess that this was our flotilla commander, although I had never met or even seen     him, and told the watch to bong him aboard as such. Even as sweat was forming under my cover (hat), by the time the Admiral was halfway up the brow, I suddenly had a new problem. Seaman Cindy couldn't tell the difference between an admiral and a seaman recruit and in her mind, he was just an intruder! Accordingly, she went into her "Alarm Model' and began barking louder than I had ever heard before.

     As the somewhat startled Admiral saluted the national ensign, I grabbed Cindy's collar with my left hand and a few seconds later rendered one of the most memorable salutes that admiral ever received, holding Cindy by her collar and therefore in a very crooked version of attention. Then the Admiral asked, "Is this part of the ship's security program?" My reply was "Yes Sir! She knows every member of the crew and alerts the watch if a non-crew member is coming aboard."        Thankfully, Cindy had stopped barking and her tail was now wagging. The admiral bent over and petted Seaman Cindy while asking first if the Captain was on board, and then if the X.O. was on board. After learning that neither were on board, the Admiral told me "Tell the Captain I dropped by", turned around and departed as quickly as he had arrived. In the morning, I duly reported the surprise flag visit, but left out the part concerning Cindy's greeting.

     Seaman Cindy was the "best friend" of every member of the crew, but to her, some of her "best friends" were better than others. At the very top of her list were the ship's cooks who prepared and served her meals just inside the galley door. Shortly after the "Admiral incident", the X.O. learned that one of the cooks was going to retire. Then he found out that the cook was going to retire to a family farm in northern California.   After a brief conference between the cook and the X.O., it was quickly agreed that there would be a double retirement ceremony, much to the X.O.'s relief.

    When the big day came, there were the requisite six side boys in full dress white and a boatswain's mate with his boson’s pipe. Although it was a Saturday, a large crowd gathered on the fantail, including the X.O. The cook went down the brow first, to the traditional "pipe" and announcement. A moment later, the "pipe" was repeated, "Seaman Cindy, United States Navy Retired, departing" was announced over the loudspeakers and Cindy was led down the brow to the car belonging to the cook's family.   Her service in the United States Navy was thereby honorably completed and so far as was known, she lived happily ever after.


A Final Note from CDR King:

    I fell in love with Seaman Cindy (initially Seaman Apprentice Cindy) the first time I saw her. But after she was enlisted, how was this going to work?  The Boatswain Mates were supposed to take care of her, but they did not do a good job.  I was in Engineering Dept, a very junior "O" but somehow I found time to address the problem.  First thing was toilet training.  Under normal situations, a puppy is first taught to use newspapers.  Later they are taught to go outside (but there is no "outside" on a destroyer at sea).  My theory was we needed to paper train Cindy on newspaper and never go to the next step.  I found an obscure spot on the main deck inboard and the training began.  The Ship's Cooks on the other hand did a good job.  All the food she needed but not too much and served at regular times each day.  Also, care to avoid too much fat. 

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