My uncle, Donald Inselman, S1c, was a
USS Arizona survivor and was the first Sailor that I had known. I was only
about 5 years old and was always inspired by the image he, and the typical
Sailor presented since I first knew what a Sailor was. This work is for and
about him and I hope that it would meet with his approval.
He Was A Swab
The following poem was written by E.
A. Hughes, FTCM (SS) USN (Retired)
When I was but a youngster, and knew
little of this world, I was sure of this one thing.
This Sailor was the
most important person that I had ever seen.
He had sailed the world but
said it was the 7 seas.
He talked of Davy Jones, and white caps, and
pennants whipping in the breeze.
He also spoke of other things that were
very strange to me.
General Quarters, all hands man your battle stations!
And he said " I prayed, and I knew whatever was to be, would be, but I
believe He answered me."
That was in Pearl, as he recalled, and he
survived that day.
He never spoke of Shipmates suffering, he held it in his
soul, he wanted it that way.
He always spoke of lighter things where he
would have his easy thoughts create a friendly give and take.
things he was concerned might make his strong voice break.
He was on that Battle Wagon, Arizona, on
December 7, 1941.
She was lost but he was spared, the real reason is known
He noted he was just the lucky one, and that is all he would
He went from Arizona to other ships, for the duration as it was
said, until the war came to a close.
This " Swab" as he called himself,
still served on ships with wooden decks, and he still knew that holystone.
But he had become a leading Seaman, and now his junior Shipmates had to
moan and groan.
He still talked of washing whitehats in the wake. And of
scrubbing piping with toothpaste.
Using masking tape to rid his blues of
any lint, that might spoil that look, that was this Swab's taste.
He rolled the brim of his whitehat, very
carefully while it was still wet; he mentioned.
It held that shape when it
was dry, that was his full intention.
As it set upon his curly hair, it was
not square, as the regulations state.
But it was he "the salty one" that
had seen it and done it; that, no one could debate.
The whitehat was the
start of it, and then the 13 button blues, belled and spiked with dragons on
With spit shined boots and a neckerchief that was tightly rolled
and tied close to his throat.
He was the envy of every Whitehat, of his
crew, as he stepped lightly to that liberty boat.
He later rode a Heavy Cruiser I
have indeed tried hard, but can't remember Her name.
He told me some about
Her, and I understood She gained Her fame.
She was in many battles in that
Second World War, She and Her crew did their best to even up the score.
told me he made Second Class Gunner before the War was done.
And he was a
Gun Mount Captain, aboard that Heavy Cruiser, when that same war was won.
He can speak no more nor tell me of a
Sailors way, for he's been gone for many years.
But I remain the reservoir
of many of his thoughts and words and very nearly tears.
I spent my working
life in Navy Blues, and it was always near to much of what he said.
it was an honored place and he was right to speak of the life, which he, that
Sailor once had led.
E. A. Hughes, FTCM (SS) USN (Retired),