2 October 2000

"Laugh In Our Own Paygrade"

Ronald Allen Stewart 
Master Gunnery Sergeant, United States Marine Corps, (Retired)

In those bygone days, the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Lexington
(CVA-16) served as a division of the ship's Gunnery Department. 
The 'Gun Boss' was a former Sailor who had his clock cleaned by a 
Marine on liberty in years gone by. Something he frequently told while 
stroking three stripes on his coat sleeve. The CO & XO of the Lexington 
were, of course, Naval Aviators; having great appreciation for Sea Soldiers. 
The 'Gun Boss' wasn't Naval Air. After his ship had passed all of
the ordinary inspections put forth by BuShips & NavAir & BuNav, ie.
seen fit to fight, the Captain of CVA-16 ordered the Marines to put
on a landing party demonstration. 

After leaving Pearl Harbor we had full run of the flightdeck as sandbags
were stacked and crew-served weapons brought up from below. 
Large, aluminum food containers were stacked on the fantail, ready 
to go overboard as targets. One 30 Cal.'A4' machine gun was tied into 
a chock on the flightdeck, forward of the apron which overhung guntubs aft. 
Ship's CO & XO were on the open port bridge as the Gun Boss came onto the 
flightdeck. Barely acknowledging a salute from the Marine Captain, 
he moved toward the machine gun. Motioning to a ship's photographer, 
he sat on the deck; posing as if firing the machine gun. 

The Marine Captain asked the Commander if he wanted to fire a 
burst. Oh! By all means, yes! Typically, the Marine Captain tells his
Gunnery Sergeant to provide instructions for the Gun Boss. Well, this 
Navy Officer isn't about to sit still for instructions from a Marine. 
It's very unlikely the Gunny had the opportunity to describe exactly 
how the trigger bar is caressed ever so gently; not clamped in one's 
hand by a death grip. The Gunny may have tried to draw some attention 
to the Search & Traverse Knob, but all hands observed the impatient 
wave-off made by the Commander. Only a few saw the Gunny drag a finger 
under the bar; unlatching the Knob as he stood and stepped back. 

Over-the side went big, shiny cans bobbing in the wake as the Gun Boss 
clamped a fist on the trigger bar. Not knowing exactly what to do with a 
"free gun" as the recoil made it bounce & buck he just held on to it
tighter while trying to stand up! 

The Marine Captain is yelling "Cease Fire!" and motioning in no uncertain 
manner to the Gunny. 

A Commander's cover joins the target cans along with bits of teakwood off the 

The Gunny reaches over his back, grabs the cloth ammo belt and throws a loop 
in it thus jamming the feed. As the Commander got to his feet and wobbled away 
the Marine Skipper froze everyone with a steely glance. No instructions 
were required, we knew to laugh in our own paygrade. 

Morale in the ships Gunnery Department escalated. Our Marine Detachment 
never stood another inspection by this Gun Boss. Our Gunny was promoted and 
received orders to 3rd MarDiv. He left the ship after we docked in Yokosuka. 

The Gunners Mates aboard the Lexington threw him the biggest Sayonara Party ever 
seen; almost as big as the Marine Corps Birthday Party!