by C.R. (Bart) Bartholomew
The Division Commander boarded SARGO carrying a suitcase and horseshoe. He hung the horseshoe in the control room and said, "It brought me good luck for 20 years.”
More than one crew member mentioned that the Commodore hung the horseshoe upside down. That would allow the good luck to run out. SARGO had been plagued by mishaps, mechanical breakdowns, malfunctioning torpedoes and leaking engine exhaust valves during her first four war patrols. Some figured the horseshoe meant good luck.
Starting the fifth patrol with a trim dive the exhaust valves flooded the bilges. Three nights later as the Commodore paced the main deck smoking a White Owl cigar, a not entirely house-broke lookout waited until a black cloud blocked the moonlight.
Leaning far to port, the lookout emptied his bladder as the Commodore passed below on the main deck. Many figured the Commodore got what he deserved because the crew was not allowed on the main deck nor to smoke topside in the war zone. The lookout mess cooked the rest patrol. A few nights later in the darkened conning tower, the helmsman goosed what he figured was a shipmate conning down the upper conning tower hatch. The Commodore angrily slapped the hand away. Later around midnight, an enemy patrol boat appeared dead ahead at 300 yards.
The Commodore, lookouts, Officer of the Deck and Captain tumbled down hatches. The Commodore left the control room and immediately returned. He pointed to his bald head and snapped at the Captain, “One of your lookouts stepped on my head and passed me in the hatch.” A foot print cover his head from front to back.
A week later the Commodore entered the forward torpedo room during a heated discussion about the damn torpedoes not working.
"There's nothing wrong with the torpedo warhead,” the Commodore insisted pointing at the torpedo man complaining the loudest. “I'll have warhead armed and give you a ten-pound sledge hammer to hit it with. If it don’t explode I’ll fly you back to the states and give you a 30 day leave.” That ended the discussion but not the bad luck.
The Commodore entered the Officer’s Head in the forward torpedo room to take care of natures needs. A few minutes later he backed out of the head with his face speckled with body waste. Luckily a new gasket was installed immediately. Crew members were offering a cash reward to anyone brave enough to take the DAMN HORSESHOE topside and deep six it. Then a three thousand ton enemy freighter lumbered toward SARGO. A spread of four torpedoes sped toward the target. One exploded on contact blowing a hole in the hull the others malfunctioned. Three more torpedoes sped toward the crippled ship and all malfunctioned. The Commodore suggest a BATTLE SURFACE to allow the deck gun crew to prove they earned the Gunnery Excellence Award before the War. It took 53 rounds of 3” .50 caliber ammunition to sink the enemy. That brought an end to SARGO’S ten months of bad luck.