Saturday, December 26, 2015

Too Close to God.

It is 1969, and FTG3 Dimson* was in a sad state.  He was going to have to deliver some bad news to a close friend of his.  He was asked by his friend if he could organize a ship wide blood drive for the Red Cross, and in return, the Red Cross would forgo any fees for blood needed for a critical operation.  This would save someone hundreds of dollars.  Which in 1969, was a substantial amount.

There was an understood quid pro quo here.  Any sailor who gave blood got the rest of the day off.  It was a win for the Red Cross, who could easily get 100 pints at one session, a win for the Navy marketing as a force for good, a win for the poor person requiring the operation, and a win the individual sailor, who got the day off.

But some people didn’t see it that way.  In this case, the XO of the ship, who approved the blood drive, but not the liberty chits.  With that piece of news, FTG3 Dimson** found his list of potential donors dwindling to below the minimum number that the Red Cross required to set up a station.

So, he had to make a phone call to his friend with the bad news.  He explained the sad story to her, and was somewhat surprised at her nonplussed response,  “That’s ok, you did you best, I’ll see what I can do”.

He hung up the payphone and took the long walk down the pier and rejoined his division in their efforts to repaint their Mk 56 gun director.

A day went by when a message was passed on the 1MC.  “Petty Officer Dimson, lay to the XO’s Stateroom.”

Now any E4 would think, “What have I done wrong now?”  And with Dimson’s character, maybe, “What did they find out?”  But no matter what you have done, it is still highly unusual to be summoned to the 2nd in commands quarters.

Well sweated from a day in the sun, and with a uniform full of rust and paint chips, he headed for the wardroom.  He read the plaques on the doors 1 by 1 till he found the one for the XO.  The door was closed, but there was some loud voices emanating from within, not enough to make out the words, but louder than expected.  He assumed the parade rest position.

A minute later the Captain strode down the passageway, and after exchanging salutes he commanded Dimson to go in and have a seat. 

The Captain entered the room, and said, “XO, I told Petty Officer Dimson to be seated”, and then left the room.

Inside was a disheveled and very sorry looking Commander.  The XO was on the telephone and the conversation went something like this:
“No Sir.”
“Yes Sir.”
“Yes Sir.”
“No Mister Secretary.”
“Yes Mister Secretary.”
“Yes Mister Secretary.”
“No Mister President.”
“No Mister President.”
“Yes Mister President.”
“Yes Mister President.”

The beratement went on for some time, after which he hung up the phone and looked at Dimson with an expression of both dread and relief.  He then handed Dimson a special request chit for 96 hours liberty, checked approved, with the XO being the only signature.  “Get off my ship”, he growled.

At this point Dimson still had no idea what just happened, but packed a ditty bag and left for four days.  When he returned, he was greeted at the gangplank with another 96 hour liberty pass.  This was repeated 5 more times for the next month.  After which he was allowed on board, but was transferred soon afterwards.

As Paul Harvey would say, this is the rest of the story.

Petty Officer Dimson finally contacted his friend, and related these strange events, and she explained what she knew.

Sometime in the past, she had dialed a wrong number, and the phone was picked up by then President Kennedy.  There was some chuckles and conversation, and basically she wound up on the Presidential Christmas Card list.  Once a year she would make a call wishing Kennedy a Merry Christmas.  After his assassination, her contact was maintained through his successors, Johnson and Nixon.  When she got word of the broken promise she decided that this was worth her one wish, and made a call to President Nixon.  Her plea was something like “I thought the Navy always helped.”  To which Nixon replied, “Why yes, the Navy always helps.”  And with that she rebutted, “But it didn’t.”

And within 24 hours, there was a response.  Befuddling one low ranked sailor and blindsiding a Navy Commander.

As to the number of 96 hour liberties, and subsequent transfer, the thought on that is that FTG3 Dimson, was just too close to God for anyone’s comfort.

*Not his real name for obvious reasons.
**Still not his real name.

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