lamque dies infanda aderat . . . Aeneid, 11.
DANIEL JUDSON CALLACHAN, aged twenty-one, left the Naval Academy as a "passed midshipman" with instructions to proceed home and await orders. Even though a very junior officer, he had been allowed to signify his preference for type of duty (as graduating midshipmen still do). Dan, with some idea of ordnance in mind, had applied for a heavy ship operating off the West Coast. He was more than delighted, then, to find himself attached to the armored cruiser California with instructions to report aboard at Mare Island on July 5 for his first assignment.
From every viewpoint, duty aboard the California was choice. The ship was comparatively new—big, roomy, comfortable, without the hammocks and cramped decks of the older ships Dan had known during his midshipmen's cruises. To someone interested in ordnance and gunnery, she was a golden opportunity. For like all pre-dreadnought vessels of her class, she mounted no less than four distinct types of guns. To Dan's supreme delight, he received command of a turret containing a pair of eight-inch guns, the heaviest pieces aboard.
Besides, there was a distinct prospect of approaching action. China had just exploded into the Sun Yat Sen revolution, and the United States Government, President Taft at the helm, had an uncomfortable remembrance of how Chinese revolutions had turned out in the past. Hence the Navy Department ordered the California to get ready for a trip to Pearl Harbor to stand by for trouble. Three of her sister ships were detailed to go along with her. They made up the Armored Cruiser Squadron, specifically so named, the subject of a rollicking song by one of its officers, the chorus of which runs:
Away, away with sword and drum,
Here we come, full of rum,
Looking for someone to put on the bum,
The Armored Cruiser Squadron.
Dan Callaghan soon discovered that the Navy of his day was in a sense a hard-boiled, hard-drinking outfit, with the California well out in the van on both scores. The Armored Cruiser Squadron had been functioning as the nation's "Big Stick" in Teddy Roosevelt's phrase, displaying the United States flag in foreign ports and portions of the world. It was in the nature of an intimidating gesture. Hence a number of the squadron's officers, either in the attempt to camouflage their real intent, or further to display their national prowess, considered an all but inordinate amount of carousing their bounden duty. To the steerage mess—composed of the junior officers—this was a distinct challenge, particularly since, fresh from Annapolis and its disciplinary restrictions, drinking for them was no longer a crime but an apparent manifestation of manliness. Hence when the California was not on the bounding main, winning battery trophies—thanks to a gunnery officer named Bates, and eventually to Daniel J. Callaghan—she was often the setting for a heroic party.
The contingent of young academy graduates who accompanied Dan aboard in July were for the most part impressed by this procedure, and attempted to fall in line. This was, of course, before Josephus Daniels dried up the fleet. To Dan, the whole procedure was a considerable shock. He had been used to overlooking minor disturbances at the academy, covering up occasional delinquents among the midshipmen, but in general tending strictly to his own business. He had heard tales of the rollicking behavior of officers and crews. But the officers he had known at the academy had not been of that stripe. Above all, his uncle James Raby was a person of considerably different caliber. Dan was thus unprepared for this sudden plunge into cold reality. But it did not completely nettle him. After a talk with some of the older officers, he worked out a technique that enabled him to avoid the messier gatherings, and to pass up a proffered drink with good-natured tolerance. It required virtue on his part. There is a natural instinct in young men of his background and bearing which resents unwarranted indulgence.
Dan had made up his mind that he had no taste for alcohol —it was in line with the practice of his father before—and he hewed to that decision all his life. Nor did he bother to crusade against, or to reform, his shipmates. To a large extent, Dan was of an independent cast of mind. He kept busy with the work at hand, which he greatly enjoyed. He took part in the ordinary palaverings and horseplay of the steerage mess, but when the going got too boisterous, or the stories too shady, Dan was apt quietly to slip out of the gathering. He could usually be found lying on his bunk reading a pamphlet on ordnance, or sitting at his desk writing a letter home or to his uncle, Jamie.
Before the Armored Cruiser Squadron finally got under way, the Chinese revolution sputtered to a sudden end. Sun Yat Sen seemingly used a political fire extinguisher with considerable skill. Hence sailing orders for the California were canceled, and the winter of 1911-1912 was spent along the West Coast. Dan was thus initiated into life afloat in a more leisurely fashion. It provided him with a comfortable amount of time at home. The latter soon proved a matter of personal destiny.
One evening, while crossing on the Oakland ferry, in full family panoply—the Callaghans had been over in San Francisco visiting relatives—Dan became reacquainted with a childhood sweetheart named Mary Tormey. He had not seen her for years, although the two families were very close. Dan's father had serenaded Mary Butler on his cornet, the night of her marriage to Tom Tormey.
Dan was immediately taken with young Mary's dark bewitching beauty. He was not too startled a day or so later to learn, on a chance meeting with Charles Knights, that Mary was easily the belle of the neighborhood, "the sweetest girl I ever tried to kiss," as his former fellow St. Ignatian put it. Dan lost no time in inviting Mary aboard his "battleship" to the extreme interest of his steerage mates. Thereafter, a considerable proportion of the letters he so indefatigably wrote were directed to the Tormey household in Oakland.
Then, in the spring, the Armored Cruiser Squadron was ordered across the Pacific once more. This time it up-anchored and was off without a hitch. Together with its complement of rather raw "passed midshipmen," it arrived in Honolulu in early March. There Dan took time out to cable his Uncle Jamie about possible Congressional action on the oft-proposed Ensign Bill which would automatically commission him and his companion "passed midshipmen." This of course was a matter that occupied the conversations of half their leisure time. But before the answer arrived, the California was already on its way to the China coast and Tsingtao.
This latter port was in the hands of the Germans at the time. The Armored Cruiser Squadron steamed boldly in. It was greeted by a flourish from the Graf Spee's squadron, a division that was later sunk off the Falklands in the First World War. There was visiting from one ship to another and back. The German Imperial Navy being what it was, the visits commenced with a series of drinking parties. In almost desperation, the executive officer aboard the California, growing weary of having his officers all but roll under the table every night, finally resorted to a strategem. He allotted groups of his junior officers, in turn, to uphold the honor of the ship in the drinking bouts. When it came Dan's turn, he reneged.
lt was not a matter of religious scruple with Dan. It was simply the adherence to principle in a matter of personal behavior that he had long pondered and determined upon. Essentially, it was an offshoot of conviction that made him the strong, consistent character that he was. He had a fairly difficult time explaining his position. He didn't think drinking as such was wrong. He simply did not desire to indulge, and that was that. He knew, of course, that it was extremely bad business in the Navy to show oneself a disobliging fellow; particularly before the explicit desires of an officer of executive rank. But all the coaxing, joshing, and almost bullying of his steerage mates could not budge him. Dan declared himself modestly but firmly on the matter. To the complete surprise of his companions, the axe did not fall. Actually, the incident won Dan Callaghan considerable respect on the part of his seniors, some of whom remembered it to his advantage later on.
The California returned from China by way of the Philippines. From there Dan wrote to his mother:
The Navy Register came this morning, and I have spent all my spare time during the day, doping out how far I can possibly rise under the present scheme of promotion. The result is far from pleasing. At 25 I shall be a Jr. Lieut; 14 years later (39) a Lieut; 8 years later (47) a Lieut. Comd.; ten years later (57) a Commander in which grade I shall retire. Isn't that a nice prospect? No chance at all of obtaining flag rank or even rank of Captain and command a ship. Especially that 14 years in the grade of Jr. Lieut. does not look good to me at all. Just think of stagnating that long in one grade!
Of course legislation may change the method or speed of promotion, but having seen in many cases how ponderously slow-moving is the law in such cases, I shall be ready to retire by the time such personnel laws are enacted. ]
Those people who graduated five years ahead of me, in '06, came in just right for the last personnel law, remaining in the grade of Jr. Lt. for four months, and are now full Lts.
Uncle Jamie will be coming up for his Commander exams in less than two years. That's going some, a Commander at 40. Gee! I shall still be a Jr. Lt. at that ripe old age. Of course we may have a war in the course of the next few years, but no one likes to count that among the possibilities for advancement, for the next war we have will be nothing like that backyard fist-fight we had with Spain.
They discovered enough target shells in the magazine at Cavite to allow us to hold practice, so next Monday morning at daylight, off Olongapo, the fun begins. And believe me, it will be one strenuous week. All awnings down, hatches closed—the ships at all times during the practice being "cleared for action."
On the cruise home Dan qualified as a junior-watch officer, which meant that he could be trusted with general surveillance of the ship in ordinary circumstances—an accomplishment of which he could well be proud The record of his gun turret had been excellent, due as much to his familiarity with the mechanism as to his ability to get along well with the men who worked under him. He had likewise demonstrated his athletic prowess to the satisfaction of all aboard, working out as regularly as a clock with Indian clubs and dumbbells, and taking on all comers at tennis and handball.
Dan had but one worry in approaching Oakland once more. It arose from a rumor then spreading in Annapolis that he and Milton Anderson had both become engaged to girls in Honolulu. Knowing the agility with which such tales spread in the Navy, his great concern was that Mary Tormey had got wind of it. For it was absolutely unfounded. However, he did have matter for elation. On his sleeve he sported the broad band of an ensign, having been appointed as such, and taken the oath of office on May 21, 1912.
Dan got some leave late in June that year, which he divided between his own family summer home in Soquel, and the Tormey's. He was delighted, on reporting back to duty, to find "Reds" Sowell and a group of younger Annapolis grads newly come on board. For in "Reds," Dan had a kindred spirit, a chap with high ideals, who neither drank, nor smoked, nor caroused, and was still a hardheaded, two-fisted, young naval officer.
It was just about this point that matters came to a head in Nicaragua. The Senate had failed to ratify a financial agreement with the then current government; hence a group of New York banks tried to interfere in the country's economic and political affairs toward the end of 1911. Adolfo Diaz, a native politico, was in temporary charge of affairs when, of a sudden, Loma Fort in Managua blew up. The United States had a contingent of marines at both Corinto on the West (2oast, and at B1uefields on the East Coast covered by the USS Annapolis. On August 1, 1912, the Annapolis was ordered to Managua, to cover the arrival of Major Smedley D. Butler and three hundred marines who came up from Panama.
At the same time, a detail of ships, including the California and the Denver was sent down under Rear Admiral W. H. Sutherland, who placed two marine detachments and a battalion of sailors ashore to clean up the countryside. Practically all the junior officers from the California were sent along as aides to the battalion commanders. Dan and his gang, a little on the excited side, were happy to get a taste of real action, though they affected considerable contempt for the poor Nicaraguans, with whom they were to deal.
During these years, in the book of naval regulations, there was a standing order inserted by Teddy Roosevelt—that advocate of the strenuous life—requiring every officer to walk thirty miles in three days at least once a month. Before leaving San Pedro a new skipper had stomped on board the California, intent upon tightening down on the tough boys in the steerage. He decided upon enforcing the exercise rule. Thereafter, officers were to be observed in complete misery, trotting round the quarter-deck, mile after mile, with pedometers strapped to their legs.
To Dan and "Reds" Sowell, the landing party in Nicaragua was primarily an opportunity to cover their thirty miles without the unnatural round of the decks. But it was still an uninteresting business, until someone got the bright idea of organizing a couple of baseball teams. Thereafter Dan took over, sometimes playing with the pedometer on his leg to get his thirty miles into the official record. Today Dan would be considered the athletic officer, an important cog in a ship's morale machinery. But in 1912 it was all new. Yet Dan and "Reds" had learned something most important about the handling of men.
The climax in Nicaragua came with the Battle of Coyotepe Hill, which for all its insignificance was a matter of considerable importance to at least two men: Smedley Butler and Dan Callaghan. It was Dan's first baptism of fire. He behaved himself manfully, drawing upon the resources of spiritual and physical courage that he had been building within him since his earliest remembrance.
There were great doings aboard the California when she finally weighed anchor and headed back for the States in November. The junior officers' mess rang with the boisterous reenactment of the various behavior patterns of its inmates under stress and fire. Dan joined in the fun to a certain extent. But the realization of a closeness to eternity had been borne in upon him. Thereafter, though he remained his good-natured, companionable self, he developed a quiet earnestness and devoutness about his prayers that he simply could not camouflage.
Next Mexico blew up. Madero, in 1911, had upset the old dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz. In February, 1913, Victoriano Huerta turned traitor to Madero and had him assassinated. Finally, early in April, 1913, the armored cruiser California went down to Guaymas on the Gulf of California to watch the West Coast. There was much anti-Americanism among the Mexicans, of course, particularly when President Wilson refused to follow the British lead in recognizing the new government. Hence, one Saturday afternoon when a liberty party, ostensibly ashore to play baseball, got drunk in Guaymas, trouble broke loose. Dan was in the midst of it, as he wrote to his mother:
Yesterday (April 9th) is a day which will live long in my memory—and it will not be a pleasant remembrance either. 1 imagine that today's papers have contained an account in "scare heads" of the killing of two bluejackets from this ship. I can see how they twisted the facts and distorted them to make a thrilling newspaper story. The affair was bad enough at best, but not nearly so as it will undoubtedly be made out.
I happened to be in the vicinity when it all happened, so am able to give a pretty accurate account of the affair. I had been ashore with the baseball team and had just gotten aboard the boat; at the landing, ready to return to the ship, when we heard sounds of a scuffle. The doctor (Dr. Rossiter) and I were the senior officers in the boat, so the Dr. jumped out to see what the trouble was. He had just reached the center of the struggling mob when the four shots were fired and the two bluejackets fell. We on the boat couldn't see the scuffling as it was a half a block away, and a high wall shut off the view. The first intimation we had that anything serious had happened was when a half drunken bluejacket ran down the dock to the boat yelling "They've killed two of our men!"
You can imagine the uproar in the boat. In it were liberty men, nearly every one of whom was either drunk or on the verge of it. There was such yelling, shouting, fighting to get on the dock first. But I decided they were in no condition to pacify matters and by main force kept every man in the boat. God! It was awful! Such curses, imprecations and mad struggles to get ashore and clean up everyone in sight. After the boatload had quieted down a little bit I stationed three sober men at the steps of the dock with orders to let no one out of the boat, then ran up to the scene of the fight. There were about ten bluejackets there—stragglers whom the patrol of three men were rounding up to get them aboard the boat. When I arrived on the scene, I found the two dead men lying in the street and the doctor struggling with four or five big, burly firemen, who were attempting to go back and kill that _______ greaser!"
Finally I managed to pound some idea of duty into the patrol and we pounded, punched, and kicked the drunken belligerents back into the boat, while four of the more sober men carried the poor dead unfortunates. We shoved off and started back to the ship, with our two dead and two wounded both of whom were bleeding freely from scalp wounds which the man who did the shooting had inflected with the butt of his revolver.
That was certainly an appalling mess to bring back to the ship as a liberty party. I shudder to think what would have happened had we not been able to hold those men in the boat! Not one of us would have been alive to tell the tale now, as four baseball bats were the only weapons in the crowd and there was a plenteous display of "guns" among the Mexican mob, which had gathered. It took us 45 minutes to return to the ship and on the way back we found the S. P. coal dock on fire. More trouble! We didn't stop, however, but beat it to the ship full blast.
The Mexican who did the shooting was the Gefe del Policio (Chief of Police) here in Guaymas. It seems that while walking along the street he saw Corrie, one of the men who was killed, drinking a bottle of beer in the street, having just come out of a saloon. The "spic" ordered Corrie to put the bottle up, upon which the latter replied in a way that was emphatic if somewhat discourteous. A scuffle ensued during which several bluejackets, drunk by the way, who were standing around, attempted to take a hand in the affray, armed with full beer bottles. It was at this juncture that the Mexican drew his gun. Klesow, the other jackie killed, grabbed one of his arms, while a Filipino named Angelo grabbed and held his right arm. The Mexican fired two shots in the ground, after which he managed to get his arm free. The third shot finished poor Klesow, while the fourth dropped Corrie.
Don't know what will come of the affair. The Admiral advised the Navy department last night, but so far have received no word as to our procedure. An investigation is being held ashore now with the Captain, the Admiral and all witnesses present. Such affairs as this happen every once in a while, and nothing ever comes of it. Of course there is considerable bad blood stirred up over the affair, and from now on no one will be allowed to land except officers and men on duty. No more liberty parties here. We had a game of baseball scheduled with the Guaymas team for Sunday but that, of course, is off now.
Have been ashore twice, both times, with the baseball team. The town is quite modern but typically Mexican. There are three or four big stores and one drug store with soda fountain that looks for all the world like a drug store in San Diego which I know. Five miles from here, on the railroad to Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, the Southern Pacific has quite an extensive lot of buildings, comprising repair shops, freight sheds, and round houses, etc. There are some three hundred and eleven Americans living there, all of whom are railroad employees. This town of Guaymas is the only remaining town (Federal) in the State of Sonora and a momentary attack is expected from the rebels. The Federal army, comprising some one thousand ragamuffins, is encamped near Empaline, the railroad settlement I mentioned. The railroad is intact to within 30 miles of here, that stretch having been torn up by the rebels; as soon as the rebels take this place the track will be replaced, or we will not get mail for ages.
This letter goes to Mazatlan by a small steamer called the Ramon Coral, thence by Pacific Coast to San Francisco. If any kind of connections are made you should get this by the 21st of April. It may happen that no steamer touches at Mazatlan for some time, in which case you'll be ages getting anything.
Almost time for drill call, mother mine, so Adios for the present. much love to all at home, and don't put too much credence in newspaper reports of the doings here.
In keeping with the Richard Harding Davis tradition of the day, nearly everyone believed that the police chief's forty-five had fired the first shots of a war. But Dan didn't quite think so. He was more concerned over the passing of "a poor devil of a fireman who died aboard the next day from spinal meningitis."
The following Saturday, Dan walked up to the executive officer, Commander Traub, and with the proper salute asked permission to go ashore the next morning for Mass. The idea caused a flurry among the crew. But permission was given, and Ensign Callaghan went that Sunday morning to church, in an intensely hostile city, alone and unarmed. He continued to go to the same church every Sunday till the ship was ordered back to San Francisco and he was detached, toward the end of June.
On the thirtieth of June, 1913, Ensign Dan Callaghan reported aboard the USS Truxtun, an old-fashioned, coal-burning destroyer, for duty as "torpedo and ordnance officer, as well as navigator." It is standard Navy procedure to shift its personnel to different types of ships and various types of duty, at least every two years. The idea, of course, is to so widen the functioning experience of its line officers so that they have no special, technical prejudice by the time they reach the upper brackets of command.
Dan Callaghan thus joined this "Delilah" class, 420-ton destroyer, to find himself in as rare a situation as one could ask for. The Truxtun was hopefully categorized as ocean-going by its builders, when it first left the ways back in 1901. It had a whaleback bow that was supposed to make it seaworthy, but which somehow merely managed to emphasize its ungainliness. There were no interior passageways through the ship. Hence its personnel had to scramble from one compartment to another by crossing the deck from hatch to ladder—a perilous procedure on stormy days. This meant, too, that the food was usually cold when it reached the bridge or the wardroom aft.
There were sixty-one men and three officers aboard—which meant that all three officers had to stand bridge watches, then work away at their various duties until it was time to be up on deck once more. The officers lived in small cubbyhole compartments placed dead aft over the screws so that it was like sleeping over a meat-grinder. But this did not bother Dan Callaghan, as he never got very much sleep while at sea. Nor, once aboard, did he seem to miss the ordinary comforts of life. There was, of course, no radio in those days. The only light was provided by a five-kilowatt generator. And in cold weather the water splashed in over the hatches, usually filtering its way down to officer territory, forming a thin film of ice across the deck. The only protection a man had against the elements was the heat and energy created by hard work.
"The bunkers in those ships," says one who served in them, "were in the narrow space between the skin of the ship and the boiler-room bulkheads, and were divided into small compartments by several athwartship bulkheads. The coal we usually got was very fine, almost powdered, and frequently wet. This meant that a man had to go into each individual bunker through a deck hatch, carrying a candle and armed with a sluice-bar to strike the coal down. Between the smallness of the compartment, the powdered coal dust filling the air, the motion of the vessel, and the heat of the atmosphere, it came near killing anyone who was not very tough. 1 never went into one myself . . ."
Dan Callaghan did, especially when the going was particularly rough. He considered himself the best able to handle a difficult job he wanted done quickly. Particularly when he had taken over as engineer officer, late in October that same year, it was nothing to see him come snorting out of the engine room, sweating like a sea lion, but neat for all that and let himself down into one of the hatches. The men, of course, loved him for it, and were more than proud of their trim, handsome, teddy-bear-like executive. They were continually coming to him for advice, despite the fact that most of them were senior to him by at least ten years. Destroyer service in those days was manned principally by veterans, and though Dan did not affect the raffish, dashing swagger of the ordinary destroyer officer, his name was soon a byword in the flotilla.
In getting duty on board the Truxtun Dan had hoped to be able to spend a good deal of his time ashore. Destroyers of that day were more often in harbor than ranging the bounding main, for which their construction was ill suited. He had a very special interest in keeping close to the San Francisco Bay area; namely, the dark-haired, bewitching Mary Tormey, to whom a large proportion of his correspondence was being directed, and who was gradually crowding out navigation and engineering problems from his thoughts during the long, four-hour watches he spent on the bridge. Unfortunately, there was more sea duty than Dan anticipated or liked. He was hardly comfortably aboard the Truxtun when she was ordered down to the Mexican coast. Dan's courtship was consequently sporadic.
Matters grew worse when in April, 1914, the Huerta government arrested a group of American sailors. Half the United States fleet was sent down to Vera Cruz. However, the interval had a happy ending, as it sent the Truxtun in for a complete overhaul at Mare Island in the middle of the summer. Dan and Mary Tormey thought the situation most fortunate. They were married with a nuptial Mass in St. Francis de Sales Church in Oakland, on the twenty-third of July, 1914. "Plug" (Robert G.) Coman, Dan's skipper, stood up for them. The wedding was a gala affair, and Dan and his young bride had a time of it, breaking away into the hills of Yosemite for their honeymoon.
Life aboard the Truxtun, those days, was a strenuous affair, but it did not quite tax Dan's energies. He was associated with a group of younger officers, but three or four years his senior. He served under T. A. Symington, E. E. Wilson and Ed Guthrie, all of whom appreciated his conscientious attention to duty, his calm efficiency, and his gay spirits, and said so in the periodic reports they turned in concerning his fitness and professional qualifications. With "Plug" Coman he formed a bond of special intimacy that lasted throughout his career. Coman had taken over the Truxtun on the trip down to Vera Cruz in April, 1914, and had nursed Dan through the preparations for his impending marriage. He was kept in considerable amazement at many of Dan's doings. His first Sunday aboard, he was routed out of his bunk at six-fifteen in the morning for "permission to go ashore to mass, sir," and almost blew the ship apart when he realized the hour it was. Thereafter Dan had permission to go ashore to mass "whenever he _______ pleased," particularly if the ship was going out on a Sunday, and Dan was going to the Five.
Dan thought nothing of hopping into a wherry right after dawn and doing a round or two at the oars in the bay at Corornado or San Pedro, just to keep in trim. Together with "Plug" he worked out a technique for handling chronic seasickness or other types of malingering, particularly among the Filipino boys. It was an old saw. But when nothing else succeeded with one particular messboy, who, immediately the ship up-anchored, got himself a case of seasickness and laid out on the gratings, useless, Dan grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, hauled him up to the bunker, and put him on a coal-passing detail, threatening to "beat the devil out of him if he didn't produce immediately." Terror gave way to anger, particularly when Dan stationed a chief warrant officer outside the bunker with strict orders not to touch the fellow, but to scare the life out of him. The next morning Dan and "Plug" were in the midst of their breakfast when they were disturbed by the sudden appearance of the coal-dirty, disheveled Filipino.
Dan turned, startled at first. "What the devil do you want2" he asked.
"Permission to change my rate to coal-passer, sir."
Dan roared approval. The seasickness had vanished.
Dan made lieutenant (junior grade) in May, 1915. It was a timely promotion as Mary had a baby coming, and she was having none too easy a time of it. Dan himself was overworked, and very much disturbed over the fact that the Truxtun with three of her sister ships had been ordered to prepare for a cruise to Alaska. It was at this juncture that Daniel Judson Callaghan ran into trouble—the kind of difficulty that sears a young man's soul, and from which he emerges a distinct, mature individual.
Dan was now functioning as executive as well as engineering officer. In readying the ship for its Alaskan voyage, he discovered the starboard condenser acting up a bit. Dan opened it up, found some of the ferrules—little brass rings placed at the top of the condenser pipes to strengthen them—corroded. He replaced them. This was ordinary procedure, and Dan drew on the nearest destroyer tender for an additional supply, particularly as he noticed that these small brass devices seemed to be deteriorating faster than should normally be the case. Just before the long cruise to Alaska he requisitioned seven hundred more from the navy yard.
Late in June, the condenser had broken down once more. Dan replaced forty or fifty more ferrules from his original spare-parts supply. But early in July, with the ship starting up the coast on the first leg of its big cruise, the condenser went irreparably wrong. The Truxtun had to signal its inability to make the trip. It proceeded into a dockyard to have the whole condenser replaced.
In the Navy someone is always responsible for such a mishap. A board of investigation swooped down on the Truxtun. It discovered that the Truxtun's condenser ferrules had manifested a high rate of corrosion. It found that she was a peculiar ship, slightly different in the pitch and threading of her condenser ferrules. Moreover, it was ascertained that the seven-hundred replacement ferrules taken aboard at the navy yard were not the right type and would not fit. In the judgment of the board, the failure to requisition ferrules sooner, and to check meticulously for accuracy those received constituted dereliction of duty on the part of Lieutenant (j.g.) Daniel Judson Callaghan. He was relieved of his duty, suspended, and ordered before a general court-martial.
There was mild consternation in the destroyer fleet over the plight of Dan Callaghan. He was known as one of the most conscientious young officers on the West Coast. Representations were made. But the toils of the law plodded on inexorably toward a court-martial in August. The court then discovered that the condenser plate had developed a peculiar case of electrolysis beyond the explanation of its electrical engineers. No amount of ferrule replacement would have done any good. It likewise developed that the seven-hundred ferrules that did not fit had been received aboard by one of Dan's fireroom staff, a semi-literate watertender, ignorant of the uses of a pitch-gauge. He had considered the replacements satisfactory, checking them himself to save Dan the trouble. Dan Callaghan received a verdict of full acquittal, the highest form of exoneration he could get from the court.
He was immediately restored to duty, and in a few months took over as CO (commanding officer) of the Truxtun. But it had been a grueling time for the twenty-five-year-old naval officer. The shock of the near disaster had been more far reaching in its effect on his character than had his earlier experience, when he first boarded the California to find the Navy short of his ideals. For he had come face to face with ominous possibility of personal disgrace—the loss of professional standing, livelihood, reputation—all hinged on a twist of fate. The thousand twinges of conscience, the hopeless reconstructions of personal conduct preceding the minor mechanical failure, the ruthless march of the law, in the weeks consumed by the court proceedings, rocked his self-confidence to its very roots. Thereafter, it was a different Dan Callaghan who faced the world and the universe around him. He was a man, now, rid of the naive approach to life that characterizes the sheltered type of youth that had been his. In his prayers, in his love-making, in his work, the scar of maturity tried in the fire, became apparent. When Dan returned to duty, it was noted by those who had not seen him for several months that his hair had turned prematurely gray.