The Bosun

In 1944 there was a first-class bosun in USS Eagle 19 who was Asiatic. By that I mean he had duty in China before World War II. He was unmarried, boozy, and tattooed like the sailors described by Richard McKenna in The Sand Pebbles.

The bosun was promoted to chief petty officer. Of course the transition from bell-bottom trousers to a double-breasted suit required an immediate Asiatic-style celebration ashore. In his not yet one-day-old chief’s uniform, the bosun was carried back by his loving shipmates who removed the six toilet seats that spanned the trough that was typical of the heads in World War I vintage ships. They tenderly laid out the already embalmed bosun as if they were undertakers and the trough was a coffin.

One shipmate officiated and prayers of a sort were incoherently uttered with the equally fervent wish that their buddy was at last being ordered to, “that big distillery in the sky.”

The ceremony lacked only flowers and candles. In the trough is where the bosun spent what was left of the night with the flush water running around him full length.


When the skipper learned of the wake he busted the bosun’s remains back to first class.

Six months later when the bosun was again eligible he was once more promoted to chief petty officer. The entire episode was repeated just as if the same script was used.


Copyright © 2005 (text only) by Louis D. Chirillo