The Battle of Kings Point

I first met Cliff Sandberg in December of 1942 after having completed my sea time in USAT URUGUAY. He was then a lieutenant in the U.S. Maritime Service and was serving as the principal assistant to Commander Lauren S. McCready, the head of the Engineering Department at the then new U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. They were challenged with the awesome task of quickly training cadets to become licensed marine engineers before the young men were sent back to the war at sea. As a consequence, Commander McCready attached high priority to completing the laboratories that contained the ships’ machinery destined to be training aids.

The contractor’s pipe fitters didn’t share Commander McCready’s sense of urgency. We cadets were also impatient. Thus the Department Head and his assistant assigned us to complete the unfinished pipe systems and in a splendid display of leadership, worked with us.

The leader of the pipe-fitters’ union demanded that we cease work. Fifty-years later I heard still-indignant Rear Admiral McCready recall how the oaf had said, when giving an ultimatum to the Academy’s Superintendent, “Dem children is takin da bread from me men’s mout.”

The Superintendent, Captain Tomb, with tongue in cheek ordered in a manner meant to fuel determination, that we cease work by midnight. He knew his engineering officers and he knew the young engineering cadets, many of whom had survived torpedoed ships or had been otherwise in combat.

With élan reminiscent of the Virginia Military Institute Cadet Corps when they charged during the 15 May 1864 Battle of New Market, we completed every damn bit of pipe work before the mandated deadline!

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

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