How I Steamed the Captain's Butt

By Lew Cowden MR 2/c


Lew Cowden 1945

Lew Cowden 2002


The year was 1944 or 1945*. WWII was going strong in the Pacific.  USS Whitehurst DE-634  was swinging on the hook in the Ulithi anchorage.  Movies were scheduled for the evening. It was almost show time and I was anxious to see whatever was showing.  We couldn't watch movies at sea because of the darken ship regulations.  The only place to show them was topside on the fantail.  An enemy plane could spot a projector lamp from miles away.  It was somewhat safer here in Ulithi because the war was moving farther north, toward the Japanese homeland.

As movie time grew nearer I was busy trying to repair a hot water problem.  As Machinist Mate (Refrigeration) my assignment was in the "Auxiliary Gang".  We took care of the Evaporators, Cooling systems, and Hot Water systems.  That evening the water was getting too hot.  Either the control valve or the temperature sensor was failing because I could not adjust the temperature downward.  The procedure was: Drain the hot water, fill with cold water, adjust the valve,  turn on the steam, and watch for the water temperature to settle.  The water tank was pressurized so the water temp could exceed the boiling point.  No adjustment seemed to work though the procedure was repeated a number of times.  Any one in the shower would suffer with the temperature cycles as the water went from too cool to boiling.  Just before movie time I said "the hell with it", shut off the steam, and left it. 

I got to the movie on time, but don't remember the name of it.  There was no spare control assembly so everyone had to shower with cold water from then until the ship went back to Pearl Harbor after the Kamikaze attack.  I do remember that our Engineering Officer, Syd Calish, quizzed the Aux Gang about the hot water problem.  It just happened that Captain Horton was using the officer's shower at the exact time I was trying to adjust the water temperature.  With all the exuberance of  youth, I took pride in being known as "The guy who scalded the Captain's ass!"

* note by site author...George Baskin's Log mentions Ulithi several times in the entries between early January and late March 1945. Only the March 30 entry mentions movies. "Mar. 30, 1945 Arrived in Ulithi in the morning, lay to awaiting orders to go back, saw a movie in the evening,  had GQ during the movie."

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