Captain's Association: an Interview with Henley!
Our next Belle has arrived, but she needs a few more minutes to set up. You don’t mind waiting, do you? Everything will be ready soon, so just sit back and relax.
What’s that look for? I suppose I am acting a little more laissez-faire than I normally do when when we’re running a bit late. I get anxious when I don’t know what to expect.
This next Belle, though? I know what to expect from her. Trust me, what she has planned will be worth the wait.
Everything’s ready to go, Professor!
And… oh! Captain! You’re here! Come on in, Mr. Big Timer!
Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!
Now, is that what I think it is?
Well, if you think it’s a spread of sandwiches, you’re correct! I thought I'd start my interview with the best foot forward, and they are the most versatile of foods, you know.
But I wasn’t sure what sort of sandwiches you and the Captain might fancy so… I decided to bring them all!
When you said “all”, you weren’t joking. What all am I looking at here?
Well, you have your anchovy and egg, rolled bread and butter, chicken and almond, a deviled cheese, a salt cucumber, a nice flaked fish, corned beef, peanut butter, and then you have your...
All right, you don’t actually have to name them all, Henley.
It’s probably best that we start the interview while the food’s still fresh.
Oh yeah...about that!
Well, I was so focused on getting off to the right start...well, I forgot to plan anything but food!
Sandwiches have the ability to derail my train of thought if I’m not careful. Anyway, don't be a stranger, make whatever sandwiches you please and however many sandwiches you please. And why not try a sandwich you’ve never tasted before - you never know what might tickle your fancy!
While you’re preparing and munching, I’ll...uh...improvise!
Well, I don't think anyone will mind if I take one of these corned beef sandwiches to go with this coffee! Thank you for all of the work that surely went into the preparing all of this for us.
Oh, I’m always happy to share.
Now, what did Stewart say about her interview? Something about where she's from?
Oh well. My name is Henley. Ha! You already know that, but a name always seems like the best place to start. I’m a destroyer, but I guess you knew that, too. Bagley-class, to be more precise.
Maybe you’ve heard of some of my sisters? There are eight of us in all. Bagley likes the Reuben special, but on focaccia. Blue likes tuna salad on rye, Helm likes salt beef on potato bread, Mugford likes a Windsor, Ralph Talbot likes buttered habanero cheddar cheese sandwiches, Patterson likes chicken salad on oatmeal bread, and Jarvis likes a curried oyster on 19th century bread. And I, of course, like the inimitable egg salad sandwich.
When you name your sisters, do you always include their sandwiches of choice?
Sometimes I just call them by their sandwiches. There’s a lot you can learn about a person based on their sandwich preference. Ralph Talbot and habanero cheddar cheese? I mean, c’mon.
I'm named after Captain Robert Henley, who, unlike me, did all kinds of things. He traveled all over, and fought in several wars - the Quasi-War with France, the War of 1812, and the Second Barbary War. He battled pirates in the West Indies, served aboard the Constellation and got the Thanks of Congress when he commanded the Eagle on Lake Champlain.
How exciting is that? If my life could be half as thrilling as his, I’d be as pleased as punch! It's a lot to live up to, though...and I'm not really sure that my sandwich knowledge is going to help out when the furnace gets hot.
My construction took place at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California, and I got my commission on 14 August 1937. I’m pretty fond of the Pacific, I’ll admit. I know a bunch of the other American Belles - yourself included, Professor - consider the East Coast to be the tiger's spots, but I’m of the mind the West Coast is best. All the sun and surf and… sandwiches!
After that, I'd like to say that I've done some important things, but...uh...I visited Hawaii for my shakedown, and transited the Canal to see...well, Florida. Since then I've kind of been...that is...the Navy sort of put me in upkeep status. I've just been, you know, helping out around Mare Island since July of this year.
But with the Morganas out prowling, they're sure to reactivate me...I think.
*Ahem* I...guess that leaves a lot of time for you to train? Training is always good.
Nope! Been making sandwiches!
I've got a real skill with the bread and spread, although I guess I'm a little more clumsy than the other gals- but I’m still plenty capable as a ship - I promise! When I turn up the screws, I can manage a speed of 38.5 knots. My endurance speed is 12 knots, and I can travel nearly 7,500 miles, so long as I have the coffee and the food to tide me over!
On board, you’ll find four 5"/38 caliber guns, the Mark 12's. You can actually grill on the barrels, if the guns are exercised enough! And then I've got four .50 Brownings, sixteen 21" torpedos and two depth charge racks. I'm a pretty fair shot, and I can actually operate any of those guns with a sandwich in hand.
Of course you can.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me for a moment…
What are you up to, Henley?
I have one more sandwich-related treat in mind for the two of you. Just wait here, and I’ll be back in a jiffy.
All right. I’ll keep the Captain entertained while...and there she goes.
By the way, have you tried this prosciutto, Captain? I don’t know where Henley is buying her meats, but I’ll be sure to find out before we go our separate ways.
Now, moving on to her WWII service history…
She was, in fact, reactivated in September of 1939, and sent to Division 7, Battle Force, based in San Diego. With the rest of the Division, she rebased to Pearl Harbor on April 14, 1941, as tensions with Japan began to rise. I still can't get over that she was put on upkeep at such a young age, Captain!
Henley was moored in the East Loch, in a destroyer nest with her sisters Ralph Talbot and Patterson when the Japanese attacked on 7 December 1941. By chance, a member of the gangway watch had spilled a little of his egg salad sandwich on his uniform, and, distracting while trying to clean it off, accidentally sounded General Alarm instead of Quarters for Muster. As a result, much of the crew were already at their stations when their attack on the Utah came. Hers were the first 5" guns to fire in defense that morning.
She was able to slip her chain roughly a half hour later, narrowly dodging a bomb intended for her nest, and sailed out of the harbor under the command of a Lieutenant. Her gunnery brought down one airplane, and assisted in the downing of another. It wasn't until later that morning, during submarine patrols, that her Captain and XO were able to catch up to Henley and board via a towed life raft!
In the weeks which followed, Henley set out with the task force attempting to reinforce Wake Island. She then took part in convoy escort and anti-submarine duties, guarding transports to Guadalcanal, patrolling the Solomon Islands, and operating in Australian and New Guinea waters. In May 1942, she rescued survivors from the oiler USS Neosho and the destroyer USS Sims, in the aftermath of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
That August she was sent to aid the marines at Guadalcanal. As part of the eastern group, she could only watch the horizon as the First Battle of Savo Island devastated the U.S. Fleet and nearly sent her sisters Ralph Talbot and Patterson to the bottom. After taking on as many survivors as possible, she was ordered south to Noumea.
On 18 August, she and her sisters Blue and Helm left harbor escorting a convoy to Guadalcanal. Near midnight on the 20th, Henley and Blue left formation to attack and destroy enemy ships reported to landing in the Tulagi area. There, a torpedo from the destroyer Kawakaze found home and blew the stern off Blue. After a lengthy struggle to tow her sister into Tulagi harbor, Henley was ordered to scuttle her sister.
Captain...I must tell you now, I am not sure I could carry out such an order...even if you gave it! It would be too much for me to bear.
But then...could I really leave one of them to be captured by the Morgana, either...? I hope we'll never have to face that situation...
Over the next year, Henley was engaged in anti-submarine screening duties with Task Force 44. On 21 September 1943, Henley was part of a screen force protecting the Australian beachhead at Finschafen, New Guinea. She was attacked by a force of ten Japanese torpedo bombers. During the thirty minute battle, she downed three airplanes and shared credit for downing another three.
Well, it sounds like she really started to live up to the great reputation of her namesake!
Reports of an enemy submarine operating near Finschafen reached Henley on 3 October. Sailing with my sisters USS Reid and Smith, she left Buna to intercept. That evening, as the destroyers steamed in column northwards, Reid suddenly veered starboard without any kind of signal.
As the bridge crew struggled to understand the meaning of the course change, portside lookouts called out torpedo wakes. Henley immediately made a hard right turn to steam in parallel to the threat. She was successful in dodging two torpedoes, but was struck by a third in the engine room, causing the boilers to explode and breaking the keel. The main deck was awash in three minutes.
The order was given to abandon ship, and she sank stern first just twelve minutes after sighting the first torpedo. Reid was able to rescue 245 men, although two died of their wounds subsequently. Captain, I am very proud of my sisters, and Henley, too! In every kind of a crisis, she found her bravery and decisiveness.
Now, I don’t know that your taste buds are adequately prepared for this…
Just what do you have there, Henley? It smells divine.
You've had the savories, and now it's time for dessert!
Now what we have here are an assortment of sweet sandwiches, and coffee and chocolate to go with them!
Let's see, we have cherry, grapefruit and orange marmalade, sponge cake with candied fruit, fig, raisin and quince, date and sweet cream, and my personal favorite: a rose sandwich! It's butter and rose petals, and it's the ant's pants. Now that's the top row...
Give them to me now.
I made this one for you, Captain - a spicy ginger marmalade. Go on, help yourself.
I’ve died and gone to sandwich heaven.
Ah… sandwich heaven. I’ll admit, I’ve dreamed of such a place on numerous occasions.
Alright, Captain, while the Professor is distracted, between you and me - I’m a bit goofy. I've got a lot to live up to, but I can't figure out how to begin. And sure, there is that portion of my brain continuously dedicated to sandwich construction.
But I don’t want you to leave thinking that I’m not serious about the war effort. I know the threat the Morganas pose, and if someone will just point me at'em...well, I'll serve them up a knuckle sandwich! Ha ha ha! And I say that with all the enthusiasm I possess.
Captain, you know we’re going to win this war, and I just want my chance to get my licks in. And if you think I’d be a help to your Fleet, well then…come get me! I won't let you down.
Professor…? Uh...are you all right?
I told you, I died and went to sandwich heaven.
Well, it just may be that I'm not the only goofy one around here, Captain.
While she's perfecting her drama routine, I guess it's up to me to remind you about voting for the next Association Belle, as usual on the official forums:
So what do you think? Should we play along or should I go fetch a bucket of ice water?
Sincerely, USS Henley