USS Champlin DD-601
To paraphrase Stephen E. Ambrose in his book Band of Brothers, published by Simon and Schuster, Page 22, "Anyone who has ever been in the Navy knows the type, he (insert the name of your choice) was classic chickenshit. He generated maximum anxiety over matters of minimum significance."
Paul Fussell, in his book Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, Oxford University Press, 1989, page 80, "Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be; petty harassment of the weak by the strong, open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige; sadism thinly disguised as necessary discipline; a constant paying off of old scores, and insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances. Chickenshit is so called - instead of horse- or bull- or elephant- because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously" Also, "Chickenshit can be recognized instantly because it never has anything to do with winning the war".
Okay, now we have a definition for the word many of us used frequently, but why is it used here? The answer is such personal interactions are part of the history of the USS Champlin's personnel and should be reported as accurately as possible. I have received a few letters in response to my appeal for personal recollections that describe, in one form or another, a chickenshit situation. I quote from two of them:
First, in letters from Irwin J. Kappes S1c, dated 7/1/2000 and 7/13/2000, "In looking through some old papers I found a copy of your 12/10/99 e-mail in which you expressed interest in hearing more about my experiences with Melson. This is going to be lengthy, so I hope I don't bore you. You didn't explain why you were interested, whether it's just curiosity or whether you're assembling a comprehensive bottoms-up history of the Champlin, but in any case here are my unvarnished recollections with respect to Melson (If the word "respect" fits in this context).
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Also in this issue:
"Chicken Poop".........................page 1
I scored well in the aptitude test they gave at Great Lakes boot camp and fully expected to be sent to a trade school. But at the time I graduated all the schools were full and only two guys in my company went to a school--the rest were sent out to either destroyers or the Armed Guard. So I started out with a bad attitude. Assigned to the first division as a deckhand, I stood watch as surface lookout. Now, at this time I didn't even know how many degrees there were in a compass and the only 'training' I was given was to look for and report any floating debris, periscopes, etc.
Finally, I decided that every ship in the U.S. Navy couldn't be this bad. Don't get me wrong--there were some great guys on the Champlin. But as they say, 'A fish stinks from the head down'. And most of the fellows I knew had nothing but contempt for Melson, Smith and most of the other officers with the exception of Ensign Glass and one other officer whose name I've forgotten. The fact that Glass resisted the captain's influence and didn't take the easy way out marks him in my book as one of the most admirable people I have ever met. And having seen him several times since the war only confirms that opinion.
The deckhands were continually reminded that we had 'good duty'. The U-boat menace was largely over by now and we could get periodical short leaves between convoys, so it behooved us to keep our nose clean because if we misbehaved, we'd be transferred to 'new construction', which meant the Pacific. But what finally tipped the scale was our return from Algeria, when the Ordronaux people got 72-hour leaves and we got a 48. (I could make it home on a 72, but not on a 48.) I reasoned that if I couldn't get home anyhow, I might just as well be in the Pacific, take my chances on getting sunk, but being assigned to another ship--as you said any other ship. So I precipitated an incident that was guaranteed to get me a transfer. Ellis came over to me when I was having breakfast one morning and ordered me to do something. I responded, 'I'll attend to it as soon as I finish eating. He said, 'I want it done now.'
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