I just finished watching The Cain Mutiny movie on TV, and it brought back memories similar to that in the story. While serving in the Merchant Marine, during WW2 we were riding at anchor off the East coast of Okinawa waiting for sailing orders, having discharged our cargo of ammunition. Suddenly, we received emergency orders to leave at once, as a typhoon was headed our way. Since it is very dangerous to be close to land during a violent storm, we sailed at once, not bothering to prepare the ship for sea.
It wasn't long before huge swells began to rock the ship, and we knew we were in store for a big one. Of course, we had to see that all the cargo holds were covered tightly and everything was secured.
It wasn't long before we began rolling, and the wind increased, causing waves to crash over the ship, and tossing us in all directions. The plan was to outrun the storm by going in the opposite direction, but as the wind grew more intense, we knew that running away was not possible. The only alternative was to turn around, and head directly into the storm, which we did. That was all that could be done.
The greatest danger in such a violent sea is to prevent the ship from slipping sideways so the waves hit the side, causing the vessel to turn over. As long as the bow is into the waves, you can survive.
This was particularly vicious storm which leveled every standing building on Okinawa. It tore the bow off of a Navy cruiser, and sank several more Navy ships. My ship weathered the storm, but it took a quite a beating. I remember steering the ship through much of it, and the waves were crashing over the flying bridge, which was 60 feet above the water. I was cautioned not to let the ship get off course or we might roll to far to the starboard, or to the port and roll over. I was constantly turning the wheel from right to left in order to keep upright. The next day the sea was littered with debris, and there were massive swells. I had been through many storms over the three and a half years that I served, but nothing equaled that one.
We did survive after a terrible ordeal.
----- Harold E. Flockhart
Biography of Harold E. Flockhart, Merchant Marine
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