THE GREAT ROAST BEEF HEIST OF 1963
It was one of those hot and humid days in Mayport, a Naval Station at the
mouth of the St. Johns River. The USS Stribling, DD-867, was nested
outboard of the USS Noa, DD-841, and with USS Meredith, DD-890, to star-
board. The old man, Captain Jacobs, was ashore and Stribling had been left in
the hands of the Exec, Lt.Cdr. Reeves Baysinger. As the hot Florida sun rose
toward the noon sky, the familiar notes of the bosn's pipe could be heard
over the loudspeakers, piping down lunch. Before the last note of the pipe
died down, rumor control had already identified and informed each and
every member of the crew that the menu selection this day would be none
other than that seafaring favorite referred to by all navymen as SOS, the
historical equivalent to World War II's spam. Adding insult to gastronomic
injury, the unmistakable aroma of juicy and tender roast beef wafted from
the officer's galley as it danced its way through the chow line.

I suppose things would not have gone past the grumbling stage if Cookie had
not tempted fate by laughing as he slowly ladled the juices over that roast
sitting in the pan; smiling as he placed it on the silver tray; standing in the
doorway with the roast in front of him, breathing in the aroma and saying
"ahhhhh." I suppose things would not have gone past the grumbling stage if
Strick had not happened to be there, but he was and so the stage was set for
an event no one who was there would ever forget, at least of all the Exec.

Perhaps it was the thought of the SOS waiting at the end of the chow line.
Perhaps it was the aroma coming from the roast. Perhaps it was the Cookie's
taunting that caused him to throw caution to the wind, but whatever it was,
Cookie left that roast alone for just a minute and when he returned, the roast
was gone. The only thing left was the silver serving platter which had only a
short time before held  a luscious, mouth watering, ten pound roast and all of
the juices, and a silver serving fork. In the center of the platter, where all of
the gastronomic delight has been sitting, was an empty space, only its aroma
lingering on.

Cookie's face turned white as he realized that the roast, his roast, the one he
had been ribbing (no pun intended) the guys with, was gone. He turned and
ran into the Wardroom to report to report to the Exe that the roast he and the
officers were expecting to eat for lunch, was AWOL. And while Cookie was
so engaged, the serving platter, the fork and the juices which had been left
behind, also disappeared. Rumor control reliably reported that Davy Jones is
now dining from that very platter. Now the only evidence left behind
consisted of a couple of grease spots heading part way up the ladder leading
to the Bridge and CIC, and the lingering aroma of a roast which once had
been.

"Now hear this. Now hear this." It was the Exec as he ordered the mess hall
closed until such time as the roast beef was returned to the officer's galley,
no questions asked. Those who had already made it through the chow line,
were ordered to leave the mess hall. Those who were in line were simply
turned away. However, neither the roast beef, not the serving platter or the
fork, returned to the galley.

Now you can say any number of disparaging things about a navyman and not
necessarily be too far off the mark. One thing no one can dispute, however,
is the navyman's ability to improvise under adverse conditions and so, some
of the hungry companions invited themselves to the Meredith and Noah
chow lines. Unfortunately, the Exec soon discovered the guest eater program
and immediately amended his previous order by restricting the crew to the
ship and cancelled all liberty "until the roast beef was returned." Since the
ship's store had a supply of cookies, candy and nuts, that order started a run
on the ship's store, until he ordered the ship's store closed. Improvising once
again, the crew of the Noah and Meredith were only to happy to aid fellow
destroyermen in distress, catching the money thrown from one ship to the
next and returning with candy-bars, nuts, cookies, etc., etc. That is until the
Exec caught on and made his next announcement which was to the effect
that anyone caught throwing money to the other ships, would face a
Captain's Mast. The money and candy-bars stopped flying and a hungry crew
began to grumble. After all, this was mass punishment for something only a
few had done.

It was a scullery maid on the day the great roast beef caper went down. A
scullery maid's duties consist of cleaning up the mess hall, running the trays
and silverware through the washer (doing dishes), and taking the garbage to
the garbage house which was located on the pier. Working in the mess hall
did not provide any of the scullery maids with greater privileges (other than
having the key to the ice cream freezer), the mess hall crew ate after
everyone else had eaten and so we were likewise denied lunch. After
cleaning the few trays we did have to clean, I and two other maids took out
garbage cans out to the garbage house. There were three of us, carrying two
cans, the guy in the middle holding onto two cans while the guys on the
outside held on to one can. When the cans had been emptied, however, it
only took two guys to carry them back, one inside the other. A short distance
from the garbage house was a public telephone and after emptying the cans,
an idea began to form. While the others carried the garbage cans back
aboard, I remained behind and lifted up the receiver.

I explained to the operator that I thought I had a story about mass
punishment that the Jacksonville Sun might be interested in. She transferred
me to the city desk and I spoke to a reporter whose name I no longer recall. I
told him all the gory details, the fact that the entire ship had been denied
lunch, that we didn't think we were going to get dinner, liberty was cancelled,
etc., etc., etc.. That he was very interested became apparent by the questions
he asked. And then he asked me for my name and rank or Rate and for the
first time I realized I might wind up on the crap details for the rest of my
Navy career, however long that might be. I told him I'd rather remain
anonymous. He told me that the Sun was not going to pursue any story on
the basis on an anonymous report; that good journalism required that my
story be checked and verified and that my identity, as his source, would be
protected. It took about half dozen times before he finally convinced me that
my name would not be revealed, that I could safely give him the identifying
information he needed. To say that I did so with deep misgivings, would be
an understatement, but what the heck - no pain no gain.

Now Rumor Control rapidly identified Strickland, RM2, as the instigator if
not the perpetrator of the Great Roast Beef Heist of 1963. Although the
Exec probably suspected it as well, he was powerless to do anything about it.
Although the grease spots had started up the ladder towards the Bridge and
CIC, the Exec could not get into CIC since he did not hold a clearance for
CIC. Even if he had been able to get into CIC, the evidence was long gone,
having been devoured by Strick and his troops. And so, after returning to the
ship, I told Strick what I had done and whom I had talked to. Strick decided
to follow up with the reporter when the opportunity presented itself.
                     See 1963HEIST2