Sea Stories

  The United States Navy is replete with a kind of Folklore commonly referred to as Sea Stories. Most are true real-life experiences; and occasionally embellished by the story teller. The unsinkable aircraft carrier, Naval Air Station Grosse Ile, also known as NFB, is no exception and the following is but one of many Sea Stories that have their origins there.  

The Sailor and the Admiral

(Blood Brothers)

A True Story

Some time in the early 50’s a Native American named King became a station keeper at the  Grosse Ile Naval Air Station. He lived in building 66, the barracks for bachelor enlisted personnel. Known to everyone, he acquired a reputation for enjoying liquid refreshments and became a frequent short time visitor to the base brig. He was a Store Keeper, usually an SK3 but occasionally a Seaman, assigned to the Transportation Department. To be specific, he had a drinking problem. He was normally seen behind the wheel of a dump truck during his extended respites from brig residency. He was relatively short and stocky with coal black hair. Everyone referred to him as Coach King or “The Chief”. During the late 50’s he was assigned to Duty Section One. The Duty Section One’s Leaders were Lyle Eastom and Harvey Muir.

Some time in the  mid 50’s Captain Daniel V. Gallery was promoted to Rear Admiral and became Chief of Naval Air Reserve Training, headquartered in Glenview, Ill. During World War II he was credited with capturing U-boat 505 in the mid-Atlantic under heroic conditions. In his new job, he was in charge of the Navy’s entire complex of training facilities, aircraft, active duty and reserve personnel. His responsibilities required him and his staff to conduct frequent inspections of all locations within his command.

In the late 50’s he and his staff conducted an All Hands Inspection of NAS Grosse Ile. On the day of the inspection Coach King had been drinking most of the day at a local bar, Broh’s Air Port Inn, just outside the gate. King managed some how to arrive in time for the inspection. Admiral Gallery had inspected some of the station personnel in Hanger One and was approaching the Division where King was standing. King stepped out of ranks as the Admiral approached and extended his arm to shake hands with him. After exchanging a few words with King the Admiral continued his inspection. The Commanding Officer of the Base, Captain Martin, then ordered the Chief Master at Arms, Sol Haney, and BM 1, Fuller to place King in the Brig for his actions as well as being intoxicated. Haney and Fuller took King in custody with great relish and deposited him in the brig as they had on so many previous occasions, only this time believing King had gone too far.  

The Admiral completed the inspection with out further incident. He then held his press conference and afterward he and a select few of Senior Base Officers, the Admiral and his Staff retired to the Officers Club for relaxation and further discussion regarding the days events. During the social activities at the “O” Club, Admiral Galloway informed Captain Martin that he wanted to talk to his “Blood Brother”.  The Captain exclaimed, “Your Blood Brother?” Where upon the Admiral replied, “Yes, Coach King. “

Shortly there after, the Admiral’s car pulled up to the Brig and his Aide (an officer) went in and ordered Haney to release King to his custody as the Admiral wished to speak with King. Apparently, there was great reluctance on the part of Haney and Fuller to release him. After further discussion and under threat of incarceration himself SalHaney arranged to have Coach King made presentable and turned him over to the Admirals Aide.

Some time later that afternoon or early evening Duty Section Leader, Lyle Eastom, received a telephone call. It was Coach King who was calling from the “O” Club. King informed Lyle that he would not be standing his watch that night as originally assigned. When questioned further, King informed Eastom that he was doing some heavy drinking with the Admiral in BOQ and didn’t know when the Admiral would let him go.

Because the Duty Section was short handed Lyle Eastom stood King’s watch for him that night. And as you might suspect no charges were ever filed against King for the incident earlier in the day or for his intoxication at that time.

By Hal Neubauer

** That story had been told to me several times by the late HMCM Guerino "Goody" Petronelli. In the Master Chief's version the Admiral and King had met when the Admiral was made an honorary chief in King's tribe. King within his tribe, unlike his situation in the Navy, was of high standing.

I hope this will explain the particular reason(s) why King was given so much room to err.
YNC David Banagis, USNR (Ret)

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Revised: August 12, 2012