Monday, August 24, 2009

USS Josephus Daniels, CG-27

I once spent three months (November 1988-February 1989) on board the guided missile cruiser the USS Josephus Daniels teaching English and History as part of the Navy’s Program for Afloat College Education. (PACE). I was a civilian, employed by Central Texas College.

Josephus Daniels was a newspaper editor who Woodrow Wilson chose to be Secretary of the Navy from 1913 to 1921. He was, incidentally, one of the last men who ever got to give Franklin Roosevelt orders. FDR was his assistant.

Later, when Roosevelt was elected President, he made Daniels his ambassador to Mexico. That’s why the coat of arms of the Josephus Daniels features a quill, an anchor and the Mexican eagle. Daniels is one of the few Secretaries of the Navy who is remembered to this day because, in 1914, he decreed that all Navy ships would be “dry.” Officially, no alcohol has been allowed on board US Navy ships in almost a century.

In 1980, theUSS Nimitz had been at sea 100 days straight during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. The Navy arranged for the crew to have a “Beer on the Barge.” They pulled a barge alongside the Nimitz, and allowed the men to imbibe.

This situation does remind me of a WWII US Navy/Royal Navy story. When a Royal Navy task force joined Halsey’s third fleet in the Pacific in the war’s closing days, Admiral Halsey paid a courtesy call to the British admiral aboard the battleship HMS Howe. Britain invited Admiral Halsey back to his quarters for a drink. Inside the admiral’s quarters was a beautiful liquor cabinet that was inscribed in gold lettering: God Bless His Majesty, King George VI. Impressed, Halsey asked if he could send his ship’s carpenter over to make a copy of the cabinet.

A few days later, the British admiral paid a return visit and Halsey invited him back to his quarters for an orange juice. The British admiral did a double take and said, “That’s right, your ships are dry.” When the British admiral walked into Halsey’s quarters, he saw a beautifully carved liquor cabinet full of fruit juice. Inscribed at the top were the words, “God (…) Josephus Daniels.”

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