Speech Given by Captain Raymond A. Komorowski, USN
Banquet on 21 July 2001
Reunion Gathering of the USS BOSTON Shipmates
Wyndham Hotel, Andover, Massachusetts
This is always nothing less than a GRAND occasion. In preparing my thoughts for this occasion, I have drawn on the reminiscences of many Sailors as diverse as Joseph Conrad and VADM Koenig. We are all shipmates drawn together by the memory of our great ship USS BOSTON. Some of you may wonder how the CAG-1 became the CA-69. And I can present my own account. When orders came—and it was time—to go back to sea, I received a call from an old friend who was PERS-A in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, RADM Clyde VanArsdall. He told me that I could have command of the USS BOSTON (CA-69) or a destroyer squadron assigned to the gun line in Vietnam. He said that in the numbers game in the Pentagon, the decision was made to revert the CAG-1 to CA-69 because some Congressional bean counter said that the appropriations for another guided missile cruiser could not be made unless the Navy struck down one presently so numbered. So in the Pentagon the Navy decided to revert an older guided missile cruiser so that they could get a new one. You will recollect I served as a young officer aboard the cruiser COLUMBUS. I swore that my Naval career would be fully requited if I could command a cruiser before I retired. So, the cruiser was a clear choice.
In my long and spotty career many occasions like this have come my way, but one will never leave my mind. I was stationed in Newport, RI and was often in the company of the Base Commander, RADM Henry Crommelin, a greatly distinguished officer and gentleman, who in his declining years had probably become a little bit too fond of the juniper berry. Proximity to the juniper juice occasionally impeded his recollection of things. On the occasion I have in mind, he was introduced and took his position at the podium somewhat unsteadily, as I am standing now, and in a stentorian voice and speaking into an open microphone, he looked at his beloved wife and said, "Sally, who the hell are these people?" Well, I know who you are, my BOSTON Shipmates, and my wife's name is Mary Ellen.
Through a long career one of my most onerous duties was making judgments about the quality of performance of others. I tried always to be fair and just and truthful. But occasionally a judgment was lurking in my mind which I could not express—but longed to. Perhaps you recognize some of these: "Since my last report this officer has reached rock bottom—and has started to dig!" Or, another favorite, "This officer should go far. And the sooner he starts, the better." Of course, none of these were ever BOSTON Sailors!
It will come as no surprise to you that I like the Navy! I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with the salt spray in my face. And clean ocean winds whipping in from the four corners of the globe. The ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive her through the seas!
I like the sounds of the Navy. The piercing trill of the Boatswain's call. The syncopated clang of the ship's bell. The harsh squawk of the 1MC. The strong language and laughter of Sailors at work!
I like the ships of the Navy, nervous darting destroyers, plodding auxiliaries, sleek submarines and the steady solid carriers.
I like the proud names of Navy ships – MIDWAY, LEXINGTON, SARATOGA, CORAL SEA, memories of great battles won and great men who died in them.
I like the tempo of a Navy band as we pull away from the oiler after we refuel at sea!
I like liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port. Hell! I even like the smell of Olongapo!
I like all hands, men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest, from Nebraska, New England, the towns, the cities, 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 port again with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends.
The work is hard and dangerous. The going is rough at times. The parting from loved ones painful, but the "All for one and one for all" philosophy of the sea is always present.
I like to go below. I like the vertical ladders that take me into the hole where the gods of fire and black oil and water come together and yield power that turns the screws and the antennae and the mounts and turrets.
I like our guns and missiles! The bang and the swoosh! I know they can bring death and destruction to our nation's enemies, but I am a seagoing warrior and we have sworn to die defending the Constitution.
I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard work as flying fish flit across the wave tops.
I like the Navy in darkness, the masthead lights, the red and green port, starboard, and white stern lights.
I like drifting off to sleep, lulled by the countless noises that tell me that the ship is alive and well and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe. I fear total silence.
I like the quiet midwatch with the aroma of strong coffee permeating everywhere.
I like the hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze gray ships racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of alertness. I like the sudden electricity of general quarters, "All hands man your battle stations."
I like the traditions of the Navy and those who made them.
I like the names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones.
A Sailor can find much to like in the Navy: comrades-in-arms; pride in self and service to country; mastery of the seaman's trade. A young man can find adulthood.
And so in the years to come, when Sailors have come home from the sea, they will still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods. The impossible, shimmering mirror calms, and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of cordite from the guns, the odor of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of flags snapping at the yardarm, the faint refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom. Chief's quarters and mess decks. Gone ashore for good. They will grow wistful about their Navy days when they were part of the sea and a new port of call was over the horizon.
And so I ask you to charge your glasses. Stand tall and say with me, "I WAS ONCE A BOSTON SAILOR."
Thank you and God bless you, Shipmates!