header 1
header 2
header 3

General Quarters

by Willie Lagarde

I can’t set the day but it was early ‘44 when I fell from the ladder to Mt 5 quad 40. The events leading up to the fall are still clear in my mind because it was the only time I had the urge to kill someone aboard Yorktown. Figuratively speaking of course.

The gun watch crew was manning Mt 8 on the port side gallery deck level when GQ sounded. We weren’t caught completely unaware because we had bogie reports earlier. The gun covers were off and ammo cans already opened when the alarm sounded.  Shortly thereafter we could see gun flashes from our destroyers a few miles out on the perimeter. We then started the motors, loaded and made the gun ready to fire.

I was waiting for a first loader to report before running across the flight deck to the island structure and climb up to my battle station on Mt 5. The shortest route was across #3 elevator but as I was crossing realized the airdales were getting ready to take it down.

I was almost across when I heard the elevator alarm. I could see the operator had his foot near the controls but I was running full tilt, only had a few more feet to go and was prepared to leap a foot or two if need be. However when he stepped on the control to send the elevator down it dropped about two or three feet instantly and I caught the edge of the flight deck in my stomach.  

I pulled myself up on the deck and was lying in pain trying to recover when some officer runs over to give me a lecture about the elevator alarm. Under my breath I’m saying; “I know all that for God’s sake shut up”. The force was under attack with ships on the outer perimeter already firing and this guy has nothing better to do than yak at me about the elevator alarm. I held my tongue, tried to ignore him completely and half crawled to the island structure.

I was on the second rung of the ladder with my gut feeling like I had been hit with a sledge hammer when I lost my grip and I fell back on my butt resulting in the trauma that would eventually lead to a month in a VA hospital eight years later. I got on Mt 5 gun carriage just as the five inch guns of Mt 7 opened fire.

Later on I thought the man on the controls should have seen me and given me a half second to clear the elevator. If I knew for sure who it was I definitely would confront him at the proper time and place and if he wasn’t at least apologetic, who knows. I did and his plea; "I was watching the gun flashes". Good enough, case closed. See: "Words to Remember" in Life After the Navy.

Join the discussion of General Quarters in Story Discussions