The Lucky L

February 22, 2008
Ding! Ding! Ding! The third watch. It was my turn. I am Lieutenant Commander John Gendron performing my naval duty aboard the S.S. Lansdowne located in the perilous World War Two waters of the South Pacific. I scrambled up the steep stairs and emerged on the deck. I hooked a u-turn and headed for the bridge. After a few lengthy steps, I passed the point, where, if I looked over the roping, I would see the numbers 486. Destroyer Duty 486 of the United States Navy. At this point in WWII, the S.S. Lansdowne was part of a number of ships escorting the U.S.S. Wasp, an aircraft carrier, through what sailors called “the coop.” Named because, if you are crippled within this territory, it is so infested with Japanese submarines, you are cooped up like a chicken with no escape and at the will of the enemy. I climbed a final set of vertical stairs, more like a ladder, and reached the control area of the destroyer. I approached another Lieutenant commander.

“John Gendron reporting for watch duty.”

I saluted the departing man, and he returned the act. I was now the XO (executive officer). I had almost complete control over the ship. I scanned the bridge. Sailors were sailing the boat along with others on watch. Being so far into enemy territory, the watch was paramount.
I strolled over to the port window. The early morning mist raced upwards, creating an ominous fog between the S.S. Lansdowne, the U.S.S. Wasp, and my sister ships protecting the mightiest carrier in the Pacific Fleet. I adored its colossal hull that towered over the convoy and stretched for what seemed like miles across the clear blue ocean.

“Beautiful day isn’t it?” I questioned the nearest sailor.

“It appears to be one sir,” he replied.

I straightened from my leaning position against the window and strolled towards the opposite side. Although I knew better, I couldn’t help thinking that there couldn’t be any danger out on this vast waving paradise and that the war must be on some other planet.

“TORPEDO! TORPEDO to starboard!”

My stroll instantly turned to a sprint, and I raced for the bridge’s starboard overhang. The watch’s trembling hand pointed towards a white streak below the waves. A torpedo without a doubt. Not only was it rocketing at my ship, it was heading directly at me.
“TURN TO THE STARBOARD SIDE.” I ordered. “Engines full power! Sound the alarm!”
Sailors scrambled.
“Engines at full!”
“Annnnnng! Annnnnng! Annnnnng! MANN YOUR BATTLESTATIONS!” the intercom repeatedly belted.
Every sailor sprinted from under the deck. Officers yelled orders. The guns were manned and the ship was immediately ready to take on a submarine, but not ready to take on a full size torpedo. Every effort was too late.

I watched the torpedo coming at me. As it speedily crept closer, so did my terror and my own mortality. Everything became hushed as the entire S.S. Lansdowne awaited the imminent explosion.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Time slowed down. Again, waiting, waiting, waiting.


The horrifying sound thundered into my brain. The ship shook terribly and every crew member must have lost their balance along with me. I pushed myself up from the hard metal floor, and surprisingly, didn’t feel any sign of the ship sinking or any explosion onboard. I rose to see the U.S.S. Wasp in a cloud of orange and black. The torpedo must had gone under the Lansdowne and hit the aircraft carrier’s deeper draft. I was frozen to my spot, but happy for my life, if only for a moment.

I watched in my unmoving position; the Wasp’s crew started to abandon ship. This took away my joy and made me move.

“Help them out of the water!” my captain roared to the crew.
The former crewmates of the U.S.S. Wasp were swimming to my ship and the others in the convoy. We grabbed as much rope as we could find and started to pull sailors out of the water. They were the lucky ones.
I wasn’t the only one to see the streaks of gray flying through the water. The swimmers shrieked in terror.
Sharks had already begun to prey on the poor helpless sailors. The water, that seemed so blue and beautiful only moments ago, turned crimson. The scene was dismal and gruesome.
Everyone frantically worked to get as many men out of the water as fast as possible. Terrified young men were dragged over the edge of the destroyer. It terrified me.
After hours of doing what I could, no more swimmers could be saved. My captain came to my side and sadly said, “We’ve done what we can; we have to bring her down. We have to destroy the Wasp.”
“What!” I gasped to myself.
I knew better than to vocalize this to my superior when I knew he had gotten his orders from a higher command that unfortunately chose the Lansdowne, as the ship that would finish the Japanese’s job. I also figured it must have been for the best. The convoy had to get moving before more submarines could prey on us, and the Wasp would only slow us down and make us vulnerable if we tried to tow her.
It took two torpedoes to sink it. I still remember the murkiest sight I’ve ever seen. It was the shoes the sailors had taken off before abandoning ship still floating above the water when the U.S.S. Wasp had already gone to its final resting place. Never to be seen again.
I don’t know if those shoes are still floating above the ship they had taken so many steps on, but I do know that the men of the S.S. Lansdowne performed heroically on that day. The S.S. Lansdowne was the only ship of its convoy class that survived World War Two. It also never lost a sailor; and was therefore named “The Lucky L.”

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