Destroyers were fast and plentiful, making them the backbone of the fleet. Among Navy men, an ongoing debate exists over who displayed more fighting spirit-Destroyer or capital ship Vets. Since DD men were the "trip wire" guarding larger ships, their argument carries much weight. They fought the enemy up-close and were considered expendable, but were near enough to the ocean to see Dolphins playing in their wake. A sharp turn at speed enabled Sailors to reach out and touch the water, but this freedom was tempered by their cramped existence.
Then there was the heat. Few realize how warm a Destroyer's interior is. Gunship Sailor conveys the personal discomforts endured by men ready to defend freedom. It also puts to rest the old argument over who represents the finest in the Navy-it is the "Tin Can" man. I am a Pearl Harbor historian, and my bias toward battleship veterans is well known.
My Wife's father was a tin can man. Typical of His generation, he died without telling his story. At my Wife's urging, I posted an inquiry on the USS Cowell website. Surely someone remembered him and could explain what they saw on this destroyer. Ed Arnold answered, and even though he never knew my Father-in-law, he knew destroyers. He had served on the same Fletcher class vessel and exhibited the same personality as my Wife's Father. Common Navy experience compelled him to start a friendship with us and fill in the blanks of what life on a Destroyer was like.
Ed included vivid descriptions of what a Sailor sees: how a sunset looks on the South China sea, monster Typhoons survived, and the sudden death of the careless. Bar room brawls, exotic "hookers", and clueless shipmates all made for a vivid portrayal of Navy life. Our understanding of these men began to take on new meaning.
"Why don't you write a book?" I inquired. "If you could take this battleship-jaded historian and make him identify with tin can men, you could do the same with the public." Well, here it is. The story of Ed's life is inspiring and informative. He was trained as an electrician’s mate in a time when Navy ships were becoming high-tech. His skill was crucial to maintaining combat readiness at all times.
His ability to explain electrical jargon is unmatched. From gyros to movie projectors, he saw it all. This book will take the reader to a different world, where the memory of WW2 is still fresh and a mounting concern over communism determined the path one Sailor takes. While we all know of the sacrifices made in the Great War, it is time for our country to remember the next logical chapter-the cold war Navy. So sit back, enjoy this tale, and remember similar experiences shaped our Fathers and Uncles personalities. In this capacity, Ed Arnold will be recognized by all "baby boomers" who, like me, stand near Navy Veterans with a mixture of respect and dumbstruck awe.
Modern warships have basically very little resemblance to gunships. Above decks they are a myriad of radar, radio, high tech electronics, and command center. Below decks they have hidden in launchers, high speed, deadly accurate, long range, missiles with ferocious firepower.
In days of yore, all ships from a small destroyer escort to super dreadnaught bristled with guns. They evoked a persona of both fear and awe. They were magnificent in structure. The destroyer was one of these gunships. It had guns, torpedoes, depth charges, and mines. It could sink a ship, tear a plane from the sky, bombard shore positions, and crack the hull of a submarine.
These ships, were manned by boys, and men too young to really know fear. They walked with a swagger, a bravado, and pride that even a battleship sailor would envy. Oh they were afraid, but not as you may imagine. They did learn fear. Only a few salty old chiefs really knew what they were up against. The “Old Man” was usually around thirty years old. In defiance of their odds, they had mottos such as “The Fighting “I”, “Can Do” “Always Ready”, and “Nulli Segundus” (Second to None).
The destroyers and their little brothers (the escorts) were swift, agile, deadly, and expendable! Because they were expendable they were in the lead, and on the fringes of the fleet, taking the point into harm’s way. They were, and will always remain, the guardians of ghostly fleets never to be seen again.
by Ed Arnold
Publisher: Authorhouse (March, 2003)
8.0 x 5.1 x 0.7 inches; 276 pages