By Mike Ferrin, Navy supply
I served my country for more than 20 years in the U.S. Navy supply department. I gave more than 10 years active, more than 10 years in the active reserve. I retired honestly.
Over the years I developed back problems and vertigo from years of moving heavy supplies. Today, my problems are disabling. I cannot sit very long. With dizzy spells and numbness in my legs and arms, no one would hire me so I opened an espresso shop. Quickly, I learned that I was unable to work for my own business.
I requested service-connected compensation from the Veterans Administration because I am unable to work. The VA said that 20 years of handling heavy supplies on steel or concrete flooring for the Navy did not cause the damage to my back and that the headaches aren’t debilitating enough.
I need to inform all military personnel in supply to complain, complain, complain or get discarded. I complained back in 1986. “Buck up. Be a man,” I was told. “Get it done. Get the supplies moved.” I told the Navy about my back problems but nothing was ever done.
They spend countless lives and billions of dollars on wars but only care about the votes of veterans and not the problems we have gained by serving our country. They give out plenty of drugs at the VA hospital and that’s good for the drug companies, but the VA has not hired more people to handle the backlog of claims. They just delay it and deny it until the veteran just gives up or dies. That is how our country serves its veterans. Dope em’ up with drugs and put them in the corner to die.
If Congress truly cared, we would not have to wait until we die to get benefits. I have written to Sen. Patty Murray.
After serving my country and helping to create jobs, my country has thrown me under the bus. What Congress has done to our country and the veteran amounts to treason. Tax breaks and offshore accounts for companies with government contracts. I thought war profiteering was illegal.
By now, I have waited for two years and I will be dammed if I will wait another two years for something that I damn-well earned. I served our country.
Murray said she has to fight just to help veterans. But, for the most part they give lip -service and take our votes.
I wake up dizzy. I go to bed dizzy and my back is always killing me. I am pissed off! If I did not have savings to live off, I would be homeless. At 53, I don’t get a pension until I am 60 – if I’m not dead. The Navy did not have to wait for two years for me to move their supplies. I took care of the Navy and served my country, it left me unable to care for my own home.
“Submariners know they’re in that iron coffin together, with only each other, and they depend on each other very much. That dependency leads to forever friendships,” Davis said.
The crew also had a mascot named Skeeter, a mutt picked up at Lefty’s bar in San Francisco in 1944 during ship overhaul. Skeeter was sent to captain’s mast twice, once for being “surly and belligerent” in the battery compartment and the second time for relieving himself on a chief petty officer’s leg.
But it was Skeeter’s canine senses that alerted the crew that something wasn’t right on the morning of Nov. 14.
Davis recalled that the Halibut had just finished torpedoing four Japanese freighters in the Bashi Channel and were changing course to go deep and rig for depth charge. At 200 feet, Skeeter began barking at the port aft corner of the sonar operator’s station and would not stop until the crew paid attention.
“I reported Skeeter’s behavior to conn, and so did the sonar operator who added, ‘but I have nothing on my screen.’ But luckily, because of Skeeter, we were at our battle stations when it hit the fan,” Davis said.
As the explosions hit the Halibut, rocking the submarine violently, deck plates fell out from under the crew and a few crewmen fell into the bilges, according to Davis. The lights also went out leaving the crew to endure the attack in relative darkness.
Davis said that his only thought during the attack was securing the ship’s torpedoes since it had been in the reload position when it was hit, and the skid could have caused torpedoes to roll loose. He called several crewmen to scramble for torpedo straps while the Halibut continued to take a beating.
Air pressure in the forward torpedo room rose to 52 psi as number one air bank ruptured and the crew had to seal off that section and try to equalize pressure with the rest of the ship. The Halibut lost all radio, compass, depth gauge and main instruments.
“The depth gauge was frozen at 480 feet so we knew we were in trouble,” Davis said. “How much, we didn’t know until we tried to surface four hours later.”
When the Halibut surfaced four hours later, the crew was battle-weary and unsure of the total damage. With complete loss of hydraulic control, every part of the ship, from steering to opening vents, had to be hand-operated. The ship was able to radio to Pearl Harbor, but not re-submerge.The Pintado (SS-387) arrived to tow it to Guam.
The Halibut crew was flown back to Portsmouth, N.H. and dispersed. The USS Halibut received the Navy Unit Commendation for her performance. She was decommissioned on July 18, 1945 and sold as scrap.
Davis went on to meet his wife Betty during a shore tour in Portland, Oreg., and have three children, Kathi Lee Garrison, Mary Louise Williams and Frederick Tudor Davis. He also served on the USS Pomodon, USS Capitaine, USS Chopper, USS Pickerel, USS Cubera, USS Rock, USS Pargo, USS Greenfish, and the USS George Washington, retiring in 1961.
Davis founded the United States Submarine Bremerton branch in 1981.
“I consider Tudor as one of my later year mentors,” said Don “Red” Bassler, USSVI historian and webmaster. “He is the typical torpedoman of his era, rough and tough.”
Bassler added that Davis has worked tirelessly for the last 30 years to keep an active submarine veterans association, even though “many have lost interest over the years.” The story of the Halibut, which he has heard many times, “does not change.”
Davis said that he continues to send out Christmas cards to the six remaining crew members of the USS Halibut and their families. He visited Norma Thomas, a widow of Norman “Tom” Thomas, the Halibut’s cook who adopted Skeeter after the war.
“The list gets smaller with the years,” Davis said. “But you have remember each other and the history. It’s your nation, and you’re the one that is going to suffer or enjoy the future through the actions you take now.”