Midwatch in Verse

New Year’s Deck Log Poetry of the United States Navy, 1941–1946


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About the Book

Naval deck logs require young officers to record mundane details of a ship’s condition every few hours. According to a U.S. Navy tradition, the New Year’s midwatch log—covering midnight to early morning of January 1—can be entered as poetry. Each chapter of this first book-length examination of midwatch poems presents verses written 1941–1946 aboard a ship engaged in combat during World War II, including celebrated warships like the USS Enterprise and nameless vessels like PC 1264. Historical overviews of the ships’ operations, along with biographical sketches of the author(s), relate each poem to its moment in history.

About the Author(s)

David E. Johnson is an emeritus professor of psychology and a former president of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. He has published articles, chapters, and books on the pedagogy of psychology. He lives in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, where he continues his research and writing on U.S. Naval history.

Gary Guinn, an emeritus professor of English, is the author of two novels, short fiction, and poetry. He served as a medical corpsman in the Naval Reserve from 1968 to 1974 and now lives in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

Bibliographic Details

David E. Johnson and Gary Guinn

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 249
Bibliographic Info: 63 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8926-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4811-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction 5
USS Detroit: The Dashing “D” 11
USS Finch: The Ultimate Indignity 21
USS Dewey: The ­Whale-Struck 27
USS Gilmer: Chasing Subs in Puget Sound 32
USS New Orleans: The Coconut Log Bow 38
USS Marblehead: The Long Journey Home 44
USS Russell: A Highly Decorated Lady 56
USS North Carolina: “Showboat” 63
USS Aylwin: Surviving the Hurricane 71
USS Casco: God Keep Our Ship 78
USS Allen: The Old Girl 86
USS Colorado: A Tale of Endurance 92
USS Murphy: The Luck of the Irish 98
USS Washington: Not Just Any Man Overboard 107
USS Buchanan: The Scrapperoos 114
USS Texas: Engage Until Neutralized 119
USS Lansdowne: The Lucky L 124
USS Dent: “There’s Nothing Like a Dame” 130
USS Bush: A Brief and Tragic Glory 137
USS Ringgold: A New Slant on Bunghole 146
USS Mason: The Grand Experiment 150
USS PC 1264: An Inglorious Fate 159
USS Pennsylvania: “Old Falling Apart” 165
USS South Dakota: Battleship X 173
USS Ticonderoga: The Indestructible Captain Dixie 180
USS Idaho: Perdition to Our Axis Foes 186
USS Alabama: Very Well Done 193
USS Enterprise: The Big E 201
USS Huse: The Hunter Killer 210
Conclusion 217
Appendix A: Material Conditions in Navy Ships 219
Appendix B: How Ships Get Their Names 221
Appendix C: U.S. Navy Hull Designations in This Book 223
Appendix D: Candid Comments by Poets in the Poems 224
Appendix E: Non–World War II Poems 228
References 233
Index 239

Book Reviews & Awards

• “A unique and original telling of the story of the US Navy in World War II. A humane and penetrating look at young officers in wartime called on to perform the most incongruous of duties—to write a poem in the place of a deck log. Midwatch in Verse informs, delights, and reveals a side of the US Navy known only to the few. Highly recommended.”—Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, Chief International Security and Diplomacy Analyst for NBC News, former Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and author of 2034: A Novel of the Next World War and To Risk It All: Nine Crises and the Crucible Of Decision

• “Midwatch in Verse reveals a side of sailors seldom seen in the thousands of articles and books written about the US Navy during the war. I definitely want a copy of this book to add to my collection of books on WWII.”—William Buskist, Professor Emeritus, Distinguished Professor of the Teaching of Psychology at Auburn University

• “It’s always delightful to come across something completely unexpected, and that’s what this work by Guinn and Johnson is—an unexpected delight.”—Patty Kirk, author of Confessions of an Amateur Believer, Starting from Scratch: Memoirs of a Wandering Cook, The Easy Burden of Pleasing God and The Gospel of Christmas