It takes a thief 2

In the late nineteen sixties, there was a TV series starring Robert Wagner called “It takes a Thief”. Wagner starred as a reformed thief who used his powers for good instead of evil. The series was loosely based on an old English proverb that said “Set a thief to catch a thief”. (Or as is more widely used, “It takes a thief to catch a thief”.) If I remember though, the underlying premise was that stealing was still wrong.

Times have changed. Or have they?

As a kid, I was brought up in a world where stealing was one of the absolutes. We learned the lessons at home and in school. It was strongly reinforced in church and in the scouting programs that most of us belonged to. I seem to remember that oath including a reference to “morally straight” which included not taking other people’s possessions. Since we went on camping and hiking trips a lot, being able to trust those around you was a pretty big deal.

Boot Camp

When I got to boot camp in the summer of 72, one of the first things the Company Commander pounded into our heads was that he would not tolerate a thief. The boys who came together to form Company 215 were from all parts of the country and all walks of life. I am sure that many did not have the same upbringing that I did. That became evident by the way they spoke, their accents, and the things they did that reflected their upbringing. But it was understood that the CC would turn a blind eye to any punishment delivered by the unit for a thief. Of all the offences, that one was nearly unforgivable. For the uninitiated, that would be a late night blanket party which would leave an unmistakable lesson on anyone so accused.


“To steal an article from a shipmate is a criminal act. In any large group of men there may be a few who are dishonest or who might be tempted to steal if the opportunity were too inviting; hence it is wisest to keep things locked up. Theft is a serious offence in the Navy. The least punishment given is a bad conduct discharge; the greatest may be several years in prison and a dishonorable discharge.”

This quote comes from the Blue Jackets Manual, Fourteenth Edition, Naval Institute Press (the edition that I carried in my back pocket during boot camp.)

The thirteenth edition which was used post World War 2 actually specifies 2-4 years in prison and an honorable discharge).

Interesting note: By the twenty fourth edition of the BJM, no references to stealing from a shipmate are included. The whole section about morals and individual responsibility has been replaced by lessons on sexual harassment and diversity. I guess they must have run out of room for what was previously cautioned about. The version I have has some interesting information about Green, Yellow and Red with a 1-800 number to report anyone who goes into the red zone. I am frankly surprised that there isn’t a Twitter or Snapchat feature to speed the process up.


Barracks life

When I graduated Boot Camp I moved across the street into the Snipes Castle which was the barracks reserved for men who were entering the Machinist Mate, Boiler Technician, Engineman and other mechanical engineering rates. The comradery of boot camp quickly dissipated as we were all thrown into a barracks with a little more personal space but still no lockable doors. The Navy was going through one of its growing stages where artificial space was created by the placement of lockers around the bunks we occupied to form cubicles. There were still no walls per se and the overhead lights were either all on or all off. The second day I was there, I learned my first lesson about why the Navy is so hard on thieves. I had come back from class and needed to shower. Since the common shower was only a few feet away and I was only going to be a minute or two, it didn’t seem dangerous to leave my stuff unlocked. It was a combination lock and I have always struggled to memorize numbers.

When I returned a short time later, it only took a moment to realize that I should have taken the time to remember that not everyone has the same values as I do. My wallet with all of my cash in it was gone. So was my liberty card, my ID card, my chow pass and my picture of my then girlfriend. I tore everything up looking for it. But of course, it was gone.

I have to tell you, I felt violated and betrayed (and a bit ashamed for being that stupid). I went to the duty Chief and humbly told him my woes. He of course asked me if I had not read the very large signs at both ends of the barracks passageway about locking up your stuff. Yep, it just kept getting humbler and humbler. He did take pity on me and gave me a temporary chow pass so I could at least eat. But without the liberty card and ID card, I wasn’t going very far. Not that it would make any difference. I was now also dead broke. Not that we made much anyway, but it was always in cash since none of us had banks. I can only imagine the damage a thief could do now with all the plastic I routinely carry.

A few days later, after class, the Chief called me to the Quarterdeck. The mailman had just been by and dropped off my wallet. The cash was gone but the ID cards were still in it, along with that picture of my girlfriend. I took my lecture well but had already started locking up everything else I could and shortly after moved off base with a couple of guys I went to Boot Camp with. I’ll save that story for another time but let’s just say I had a little less faith in humanity from that day on. In my whole career, I would be very sensitive to the potential that someone else might not have my same moral compass.


The absolute aversion to thieves becomes even more important when you sail on a ship or on a submarine. I will freely confess that my shipboard experiences were all as a Chief and Officer so I will assume that the berthing areas for lower ranks potentially have some issues.

But from the minute I went to my first submarine, the old rule about how thieves are dealt with returned with a vengeance. The close quarters and need to rely on your shipmates is such an overwhelming force for Submariners. You literally have inches of personal space on some of the boats so respecting that becomes almost sacred. On the five boats I served on, I do not ever remember any long periods where a thief was able to operate. Yes, there were the exceptions, but in most cases, we knew each other’s business and habits so well, it would have been nearly impossible for a thief to operate unchallenged for any length of time.


In all of the leadership course I have taught and still do, the core bedrock of a functional team is the existence of trust. In order for a team to operate with efficiency, that trust must be cultivated and grown until it is the most common expectation of any member.

I would like to say that it is common in life but sadly, trust is one of the first things sacrificed when people have their own agenda. It just evaporates and once it’s gone, it’s nearly impossible to get back. The absence of trust is a powerful enemy to progress. It is hard to look forward when you always need to be looking over your shoulder. When someone breaks that trust for any reason, it makes you a little wary of dealing with not only them but others like them.

How is the lack of trust overcome?

  • First, you have to set a personal example. Every single day, you need to strive to respect others rights and possessions and make sure you are not guilty of appropriating incorrectly that which belongs to them.
  • Second, help others to get back on track. That occasion where people find shortcuts and are tempted by the relative freedom of taking things belonging to others should be an opportunity for you to help them see the cost of their actions.
  • Third, recognize that we live in a world that still requires locks and hasps from time to time. No matter how much you want to give people the benefit of a doubt, you have to recognize that some people are just morally bent or broken. Keeping your stuff locked up properly actually helps them since it deters them from doing the one thing that makes them a thief: taking advantages of the unprepared.

As a writer and someone who creates content, I am aware that there are many who will not respect where the idea came from. In the past year, I actually felt it necessary to copyright some of my more widely viewed work. I had discovered that some of it was appropriated, modified to look like original content and rebranded for sale. That is a shame. It’s also now a crime. I have freely shared many things on social media but have decided to cut back a bit on that. Articles on theleansubmariner that are mostly made up of properly quoted content from other sources will still be available and shared. I will also work very hard to make sure to properly credit every item I include.

But I am going to be very careful about what I post from now on.

Mister Mac



A Bluejacket’s Memory 4

The Peacoat

I can think of few images that better represent an American Bluejacket more than the famous statue of a sailor in his peacoat with the collar turned up and his hands in his pockets. I remember the controversy when the Lone Sailor was first unveiled. Purists were quick to point out that the guy not only had his hands in his pockets but the buttons were undone and he generally looked a bit like a sailor on his way home that was tired of the sea. His grim expression seems to strengthen the notion that he was not the happiest person on the pier.

Yet in a moment, he captured the heart of many sailors that have left their home and served in what is best described as challenging to one’s soul and one’s physical being. Ever since man learned that a correctly designed craft could break the bonds with the land, men and now women have found the joy and the suffering that comes with the trip. And the boredom which probably occupies quite a bit of a sailors life.

The Navy announced last year that it was going to phase out the peacoat. I have to be honest and admit that I went through some emotional soul searching when the announcement was made. From a practical standpoint, the decision made some sense. After all, with modern fabrics and design capabilities, there are many more effective coats available that would exceed the ancient design and materials which make up the peacoat.

Yet, the coat is still listed in current Uniform Regulations

The Navy Peacoat

A double-breasted, hip length coat made of dark blue authorized fabric with a convertible collar, a set-in pocket in each forefront, and a single row of four 35-line black plastic anchor buttons down the right front and three on left. Men’s Peacoat buttons to the right.

So where did the coat get its name?

According to a 1975 edition of the Mariner’s Mirror, the term pea coat originated from the Dutch or West Frisian word pijjekker or pijjakker, in which pij referred to the type of cloth used, a coarse kind of twilled blue cloth with a nap on one side.

Another theory, which is mostly favored by the US Navy, is that the heavy topcoat worn in cold, miserable weather by seafaring men was once tailored from “pilot cloth” – a heavy, coarse, stout kind of twilled blue cloth with the nap on one side. This was sometimes called P-cloth from the initial letter of pilot, and the garment made from it was called a P-jacket – later a pea coat. The term has been used since 1723 to denote coats made from that cloth.

That’s a long time. That’s a lot of tradition. For a young man of eighteen years of age, being issued one of these was a family tradition. The coat I was issued was nearly the exact same coat as my Grandfather and my Father. In fact, one of my favorite pictures of Dad is when he was my age and stationed in the Finger Lakes Region of New York in the winter of 1945. I am pretty sure he was glad for the heavy wool in that very cold climate.

I thought about that coat a bit last night as I looked up at my Lone Sailor statue on the mantle. Not sure why other than the fact that the heat was blowing to overcome the weather outside. I remembered looking at the pile of clothes they had just issued me and coming to grips with the fact that this government issue outfit would be my main gear for the next four years. (I had no idea that it would stretch to more than twenty years at that point.)

It was June of 1972 and the Company was instructed to wear our cotton whites. But June of 1972 in Great Lakes was not a very warm time. In fact, it was colder there than parts of winter back in Pennsylvania. When we were in our off time (which wasn’t very often) that heavy coat actually came in pretty handy. I would find that to be true a number of times over the next few years.

The garment they gave me in boot camp smelled faintly like mothballs. There was a government label inside that had a place to write your name and number with a stencil pen. There was a precise way to fold it as well.

All Navy sailors learn quickly that space on boat a ship is very precious and limited so we had to learn the exact best way to fold our clothes. In the years since I have retired, I collect old Bluejackets Manuals and as far back as I can see with the ones I have collected, this folding thing has been around forever.

Some of the uniforms I was issued are long since gone from fashion. The Navy gave us something called utility uniforms. They were supposed to be more durable than dungarees but no one actually liked them. Frankly, they made us look like some kind of third rate Navy sea scouts instead of sailors. I was never so happy to ditch a uniform than when those went away.

The same with the miserable undress blues which were made of the coarsest and least wearable wool ever created. I often imagined some Senator made a killing by voting to provide unwearable wool to the Navy that came from his brother in laws chintzy factory.

The peacoat was special though. It was a lot like a wearable blanket. And a shelter from the wind and rain. The letter W comes to mind when I think back to that jacket.

Wool, Waterproof, Warm, Windproof, Wearable, Worldly

It was how we identified when we were out and about. In a crowd, you all looked the same or at least you did until you noticed that Petty Officer’s wore their distinctive rating badges. Those badges became something to strive for. A bluejacket for a bluejacket. It wasn’t armor but sometimes it felt like it.

I was glad for that jacket while I was in Great Lakes that Fall and early winter. I was even gladder when I went to New London for submarine school. But I quickly found that it was nothing more than a space absorber in my seabag when I went to Charleston. It didn’t make the trip to Hawaii not did it go with me as I sailed the oceans of the Pacific. I would use it in later years, but only when it was dictated.

I wore all kinds of foul weather gear as I changed submarines, homeports, and advanced through Chief to Chief Warrant Officer. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a Bridge Coat when I went to Scotland but that never came to pass. It would have been a waste anyway since I soon transferred to an older submarine tender where I spent three years in an engine room surrounded by hot diesel engines and other equipment that tested the crew all of the time.

I still have the peacoat I was issued.

To be honest, it doesn’t fit anymore. I like to think that the wool has shrunken over the years but that’s a lie. Success and life have contributed to my girth increasing beyond the point where anything I once wore might even barely fit. Yet I can’t throw it away. Maybe someday when the nephews are cleaning out the junk form our house they will laugh a little at Uncle Bob’s tendency to hold on to stuff that no one cares about anymore. Kind of like the Navy wanting to get rid of the peacoats. No one seems to care anymore.

But I am glad to have the memory of being one of a long line of sailors who was identified by the Bluejacket I wore.

Mister Mac

“Love, Your Son Butch” Chapter 2–Early May 1945 1


This is a part of a continuing series  based on letters my Dad wrote home during World War 2. For information about the series, see the introduction at:


While John completed his boot camp training at Camp Sampson New York, the war continued to rage with a fierce level of energy. The Japanese knew that they were in trouble as American and the allies came closer and closer to the home islands. Okinawa was particularly hard for them to lose since it represented not only a direct attack on the home islands but placed the allies well within bombing range of the remaining Japanese resources.


Troops of the Seventh Infantry Division continued to advance in the eastern sector of the lines on Okinawa on April 30 (East Longitude Date). By mid‑afternoon advance elements of the division had entered the village of Kuhazu. Local gains were made along the remainder of the front. The at­tack of the infantry was supported by heavy naval gunfire, heavy artillery and carrier and land‑based aircraft. A few enemy planes were In the area of Okinawa on April 30. One medium sized ship was damaged.

Letter from John C. MacPherson to his parents from Company 510 Barracks G5L Tuesday May 1 1945

Dear Mom and Pop,

Well, how’s everybody?

Well, we won that ball game last night 17-3. I pitched a pretty good game yesterday but tonight I didn’t do as good. Company 50 g, that’s topside beat us 5-3. Boy we sure are taking a razzing from the rest of the barracks. I struck out 2 and I walked one – not so bad. Its not so cold out tonight but its getting chillier out every minute. Well, it won’t be long before I break, will it? I don’t know what time we’ll hit Pittsburgh. I imagine sometime between 6-8, 8-10 I don’t know. Well not much more from the Sampson front. When you get Dick’s address send it right away and I’ll look him up. He might come to our unit. I hope not for his sake.

Well, I’ll see you all soon.

God Keep you both strong

Your Son, Butch

N. D. COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 594, MAY 2, 1945

Far Eastern Waters.

1. U. S. submarines have reported the sinking of 21 enemy vessels, includ­ing two combatant ships‑a destroyer and an escort vessel‑in operations against the enemy in these waters, as follows:

1 destroyer, 1 escort vessel, 1 destroyer transport, 2 medium cargo transports

2 small cargo vessels, 12 medium cargo vessels, 1 large tanker, 1 medium tanker

2. These actions have not been announced in any pervious Navy Depart­ment communiqué.


The Seventh Infantry Division which captured Kuhazu Village during the late afternoon of April 30 continued to advance southward on Okinawa on May 1 (East Longitude Dates). No substantial change was made in other sectors of the lines where our troops were under enemy artillery, mortar and small arms fire. On May 2, ships’ guns destroyed a number of enemy emplace­ments, strong points, and boat pens and carrier and land based aircraft bombed enemy defenses. The Infantry resumed the attack during the hours of dark­ness on the morning of May 2 and elements of the Seventh Division moved 1,400 yards forward to the vicinity of Gaja Hill, approximately one mile north of the town of Yonabaru. Tanks and flame throwers were being em­ployed to develop this salient. The Seventy‑Seventh Infantry Division and the First Marine Division launched an attack in the center and on the right flank and were moving forward during the morning of May 2.


The Tenth Army resumed the attack in Southern Okinawa on May 3, (East Longitude Date), meeting artillery, mortar and small arms fire from the enemy’s fortified line. The First Marine Division made a limited advance in its zone of action while other sectors remained stable. The attack was supported by ships’ guns and aircraft.

In the early evening hours of May 3, four small groups of enemy aircraft attacked our shipping off the coast of Okinawa inflicting some damage on our forces and sinking two light units. Seventeen enemy aircraft were destroyed.

Planes from escort carriers of the U. S. Pacific Fleet continued neutraliz­ing attacks on airfields and air installations in the Sakishima group on May 2.

As of May 2, according to the most recent reports available, 1,131 officers and men of the U. S. Pacific Fleet had been killed in action in the Okinawa operation and associated operations against Japan. A total of 2,816 were wounded and 1,604 were missing. All figures are preliminary and incomplete.


Among the ships of the British Pacific Fleet which engaged in operations against the islands of the Sakishima Group during the period March 26 to April 20 were the following fleet aircraft carriers

HMS Indomitable, HMS Indefatigable, HMS Victorious

N. D. COMMUNIQUÉ NO. 595, MAY 4, 1945

1. The submarine USS Swordfish is overdue from patrol and presumed lost. Next of kin of officers and crew have been informed.


During the night of May 3‑4 (East Longitude Dates) about 600 Japanese soldiers using landing craft attempted to attack behind our lines at three points along the West Coast and at one point on the East Coast of Okinawa. By daylight the landing effort on the East Coast had been repulsed and enemy groups on the West Coast were pocketed and being destroyed. During early morning darkness a number of enemy aircraft attacked Yontan Airstrip, caus­ing some damage. In the same period, ships offshore destroyed 15 suicide boats one of which caused minor damage to a light surface unit.

There was virtually no change in the position of the lines of the Tenth Army in Southern Okinawa on May 4.

Between the hours of 0745 and 0915, on May 4, a substantial number of enemy aircraft attacked our forces afloat in the area of Okinawa, sinking five surface units and damaging a number of others. Preliminary reports indicate that 54 enemy planes were shot down over our forces by ships’ guns and combat air patrols. One of our destroyers shot down a Baka bomb during the attack.


Following and in conjunction with the attempted landings of Japanese troops behind the Tenth Army lines on Okinawa on the night of May 3‑4 (East Longitude Dates) and in coordination with his heavy air attacks of May 3 and 4, the enemy on May 4, launched a general counterattack. Its greatest weight was against the positions of the Seventh and Seventy‑Seventh Infantry Divisions. This attack was supported by tanks and was preceded by intense artillery fire. Our troops supported by a heavy barrage from Army and Marine artillery and low level strafing by carrier and Marine air­craft broke up the enemy attacks. Taking advantage of the disorganized state of the enemy’s lines after his failure in these operations, Army and Marine infantry men resumed the offensive on the morning of May 5 and were advancing at midmorning when elements of the First Marine Division began an assault on Hill 187, east of the Asa River Mouth. A total of 3,000 of the enemy were killed during the attacks on May 3‑4, including troops which made landings on our beaches. Five enemy tanks were destroyed.

During the air attacks of May 4, our forces shot down 168 planes over the Okinawa Area including 45 by the Second Marine Aircraft Wing and 67 by Fast Carrier Forces Patrols. Early in the morning of May 5, a small group of enemy planes approached our forces and bombed the Yontan Airstrip causing no damage.

From the beginning of the Okinawa operation to May 5, the enemy lost 33,462 killed and 700 prisoners of war including 297 labor troops.

The Tenth Army up to May 3, lost 2,337 soldiers and Marines killed. A total of 11,432 were wounded and 514 were missing.


Heavy units of the U. S. Pacific Fleet in attacks coordinated with those of carrier and land‑based aircraft bombarded enemy positions on Okinawa on May 5 (East Longitude Date). During the early morning and early evening of that day a number of enemy aircraft approached our forces without causing damage. On the morning of May 6 a small number of enemy air attacks were made on ships off Okinawa. One light unit suffered minor damage and four enemy aircraft were shot down.

Search aircraft of Fleet Air Wing One based in the Okinawa area swept Tsushima and Korea Straits and the coastal waters of Western Korea on May 5 and inflicted the following damage on the enemy by low level bombing and strafing:

Sunk: Two large oilers, One medium freighter, One small cargo ship

Damaged: One large fleet oiler left dead in water and sinking, One cargo ship exploded and left sinking, One small freighter left abandoned and sinking, One large cargo ship left burning, One freighter left listing and burning, One medium oiler left burning, Nine small cargo ships damaged, One lugger damaged

Letter from John to his parents Sunday May 6th, 1945 postmarked May 7 at 11:00 AM

Dear Mom and Pop,

Well, how’s everything at home? I’m sorry I haven’t written but it’s a long story. The last letter I wrote I was feeling fine, then I got a sore throat, then I couldn’t eat. My gums got all swelled up and I didn’t sleep for about three nights. Every little chance I got, I lay down to rest. Well this morning, I went to chow and I couldn’t eat… my gums and throat were too sore, so I went to see the emergency dentist. He sure was a swell guy… he fixed me up good. I told him I was going home in 10 days and he said don’t worry, I’ll be home and I’ll be as good as ever. He asked me if I was sick last week and I said yes and he showed me why. That crazy fool that pulled my tooth must have done something wrong. Anyway, my gums are all infected. Everybody’s sick, its rained every day for 4 weeks except on Sunday’s and everybody got a bad cold. The dentist said there is nothing to worry about now. He even took an x-ray of my mouth. Gee I hope you don’t worry too much because the Chaplain had a sermon on “Christianity” this morning and it was based on “those who believe in God don’t worry”. I’m feeling much better tonight and I know I’ll feel better tomorrow. Well, just think, ten more days and I’ll be home. Boy, it sure will be swell to see you all. Well, enough of the gab for now; I hope you are all feeling fine.

God keep you both strong

Your son, Butch


Dental Techs at Sampson 1945


I wonder which one worked on Dad the first time?

Well Theo, this ends the eighth week of boot camp for John C. MacPherson Jr.

I hope that reading about his story has helped you to pass the time. The next time I see you, I expect to see a real American Naval Bluejacket.

God Bless and Keep you Theo

Uncle Bob

Paul Richard Rupp
Born in 1920, Paul served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Paul was inducted on June 19, 1943. He trained at Gulfport Mississippi and a variety of other posts before being sent to England in August of 1944. a flight engineer on a B-24 and was shot down over Germany on October 14th.


B-24 Plane on a bombing run in 1944

The items below were standard POW messages that the German’s permitted to be sent by our captured troops and fliers.



Stalag III was situated in the forest near the town of Sagan, 100 miles southeast of Berlin, now called Zagan in upper Selesia Poland. The camp was first opened in 1943 and admitted its first prisoners in April. The word Stammlager roughly translates to Stalags for enlisted men. It was one of six special German POW camps, especially built for the ever increasing amount of POW aircrews. At the height of its short history, about 10,000 officers and enlisted men were assigned to the camp.

Luftstalag III was probably most famous for the event that came to be known as the Great Escape. In March of 1944, a group of about 80 Allied prisoners escaped from the camp by digging their way out. Only 15 men actually managed to work their way to freedom. All of the remaining escapees were killed by the Germans.


A clipping from a local newspaper announcing

the awarding of the Air Medal to Paul Rupp

Paul was liberated by American Troops in April of 1945. He returned to his home at war’s end and married his wife Betty in 1949. He and John stayed in touch over the years and when I was stationed in Mare Island California in the mid seventies, I was able to spend some time with he and his wife. Although our communications were infrequent over the next twenty years, we did manage to visit from time to time. When I started this project, I found some original notes from Paul that I felt should be returned to him so that his descendants could have some idea of the man he was at one point in his life. On Memorial Day 1999, I returned the artifacts to him. Here is a copy of the note he sent back to us:



Included with the note was this picture of Paul and his family from the previous year

On May 16th 2002, we received word that Paul had passed away due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease on April 26th of that year. Betty sent us a note and told us about his final hours. At one point he told her “Goodbye” and she asked him where he was going. He told her: “To the Lord”. Shortly after those words, he left to meet his Savior.


An article in the San Jose Mercury News stated,
“a humble man who loved life, brought out the best in others
and rarely talked about his accomplishments or the rough times.”
In Loving Memory of Paul Richard Rupp
Born December 28, 1920
McKeesport Pennsylvania
Returned home
April 26, 2002
Faithful Friend To Three Generations Of MacPhersons


Chapter 3 will detail the remaining part of May 1945 as SR John C. MacPherson completes his training prior to shipping out for the Pacific theater