A Priority Matter

Just before quitting time on 27 November 1956 and just thirteen hours before sailing time, Walter Schalsha, the New York representative for the Superior-Lidgerwood-Mundy Corporation, telephoned and asked that Sir William Wallace be allowed to accompany him during the builders’ sea trial of USS GYATT (DDG-1). I advised that they should be prepared for harsh conditions. After all the British knight was then eighty-two years old, the ship would experience sustained pounding during a four-hour full-power run in the cold rough Atlantic off of Boston, and the trial was likely to require a few hours more than the sixteen hours scheduled.

I explained that there would be no furniture, not even chairs or bare mattresses. I emphasized that unlike the catered meals that characterize sea trials out of private shipyards, the Boston Naval Shipyard required that everyone bring brown-bag meals. The galley would not be lit off except for the coffee maker. Everything I said was acknowledged.

Thus the next day during the fatiguing sea trial, affable Larry Kinsella, my civilian assistant and I, while looking for an out-of-the-way place to have lunch, were surprised to discover the New Yorker and Sir William sitting on the deck of an unpainted stateroom just having a conversation. There was no food in sight. I sat next to Walter and during an opportune moment whispered, “Don’t you have anything to eat?

Walter replied, “I now remember your advice, but in the rush to catch the train to Boston, I overlooked buying some sandwiches.”

Larry and I were also involved with the conversion of destroyer escorts to radar-picket ships, a high-priority program designed to provide early warning of intercontinental missiles crossing the North Atlantic. We knew from experience, before Murphy promulgated his law, that the things that could prolong a sea trial will prolong a sea trial. We were prepared; we had enough food to share.

Afterwards, Sir William opened his expensive-looking attaché case. Obviously it was custom made. Inside it was divided into green-felt-covered compartments that snugly held the contents as if they were a brace of expensive antique pistols. Instead, the case held four bottles of scotch. Each was labeled Sir William Wallace, his own private brand.


They had not thought to bring food, but they had not forgotten to bring the scotch!


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