When I was early in my Gunner's Mate training, on the USS Mullinnix, I witnessed something that shocked me and impressed me at the same time. We were shooting Naval Gun Fire Support training at Viequez Island, for some reason, I was in Mount 52, a rarity. We had fired a large number of rounds when Mount 52 had a casualty and quit firing. Naturally, we ended up with a "Foul Bore". Again, that means that the gun is loaded, a round in the chamber, and it won't fire. On top of that, because of the large number of rounds fired, we had a "Hot Gun". Again, that means in theory, the temperature of the gun barrel and chamber are sufficient to cook off the powder charge or the projectile. Now, if the powder charge cooks off, it is the same as the gun firing. Unless you are behind the recoiling parts of the gun, or have the firing mechanism out, not a bad thing. But, if the projectile cooks off, it will cause catastrophic damage and possible death to personnel. I got that from a Navy circular on the MK 18 Mod 3 gun barrel. In any case, "Hot Gun" and "Foul Bore" are any Gunner's Mates worst nightmare.
However,, I was a young, inexperienced kid, and all I was doing was exactly what I was told. Chief Sadowski was assessing the situation, trying to find out what went wrong, when the Captain stepped into the gun mount. The Captain himself!!!! Now I was surprised, shocked, and scared all at once. Do I salute, stand at attention, get out of the way, hide?!?! Chief Sadowski was not so impressed, he looked at the Captain and said in his gruff manner of speaking, "Captain, get out of my gun mount. You don't belong here." Now I was confused, because the Captain left. He said nothing, he just left. I was sure that he left to draw up the courts martial papers. I was sure my Chief was going to be busted to E-nothing!! As things happened, Chief Sadowski solved the problem, cleared the muzzle through the bore, and we went on firing. But, I was sure the Chief would have to pay for his actions. But, nothing happened. One day, two days, three days passed, and nothing. Everything seemed to be normal. So, on the forth day, I mustered ALL the courage I had and I asked the Chief after quarters why he did not get in trouble for what he said to the Captain. He replied, "Because he knew I was right! He did not belong in the gun mount. Only essential personnel should be there in a "Hot Gun" "Foul Bore" situation. That's what the book says!!"
Chief Sadowski lead from the front, we all knew it, and moreover, the Captain knew it.
Well, I am the sum of all that I learned from all who taught me over the years. Many time through my career, in tough situations, I would ask my self, what would Chief Sadowski, Chief Mowery, or fill in the names of the many who mentored me, do? So, one day, late in my career, on the USS Caron, I had a similar catastrophic casualty while shooting. I don not remember where we were, or if it was a combat situation of training, and it really does not matter in the ordnance field, but, Mount 51 had a catastrophic failure that left a projectile in the breech, a powder half in the breech, the breech open, and the cradle up. The entire gun loading system was full. So, about 23 rounds of ammo direct exposed. Plus, the loader room had about 100 rounds of ammo laying on deck, in racks, and in general every were. Then of course there was the 600 rounds in the magazine, and too many rounds in forward staging.
To make it as easy to understand as I can make it, we had a very hot gun, a foul bore, and an open breech, with a lot of ammo capable of blowing the front off of a Spruance class destroyer and sending her to the bottom causing catastrophic loos of life! There's that phrase again. The "Hot Gun" predictor from "Clearing Live Ammunition From Naval Guns" tech manual said to evacuate the gun and wait 2 hours or until it exploded. I just could not do that, and I did not think those who trained me would either. So, I followed the rules, somewhat. I evacuated the gun mount and all spaces forward of Frame 58, just like the book says. But I stayed, to try to close the breech and start cooling of the gun barrel. My GMG1 would not leave either. I was glad, because I needed help.
The chain of command had an endless need for information. The FC2 on the Gun Control Console in CIC kept asking me stupid question after stupid question. I know, not his fault. But its' hard to think and read electronic prints when you are being asked,"What's the Estimated Time of Repair? (ETR)" Hell, I don't even know what's wrong, how can I tell you how long it will take to fix it? And they have a torturous way of asking the same question a hundred different ways. So, I took the sound powered phones off, turned off the speaker amplifier, and tried to troubleshoot this problem before we all got sent to the bottom.
Not long after I quit answering their inane questions, the Combat Systems Officer opened the completely dogged down door of the loader room and looked at me. I gave that young Lieutenant "The Look"! And he closed the door and left. I knew there would be more.
Now, the gun hydraulic motors were running and GMG1 was up in the gun, when the Captain opened the door to the loader room. He asked me where GMG1 was, and I told him, "He didn't want to know." He left on that note. Soon after that, the Executive Officer opened the door. His statement was, "the Captain wants to see you when this is over." I already had that figured out.
Twenty minutes into this dangerous situation, GMG1 and I managed to get the powder charge back into the cradle, the cradle lowered, the test casing into the breech, and the breech closed! Then and only then could we, by the rules, start internal and external water cooling to the gun barrel. Of course, if it was going to blow up, it would have by now. Thank God it did not.
Then GMG1 and I evacuated the gun and I reported to the Captain on the bridge. The ship was at General Quarters, so the bridge was full of enlisted and officer personnel. I reported to the Captain, who was sitting in his chair on the starboard side of the bridge. I saluted and stated, "Master Chief Dolence reporting as ordered. The gun is secure and internal and external water cooling have been started." The Captain glared at me. I remained at attention. Then he let me have it. He stated in a loud, authoritative voice, "How am I supposed to enforce safety on this ship when the leading Gunner's Mate and my Command Master Chief violates every ordnance safety precaution written!!!!" My reply was, " Sorry Captain, I did not have a choice." He replied, "Never let it happen again! You are dismissed!" At that, I saluted, did an "about face" and started to walk towards the ladder that lead off the bridge. The Captain yelled "Master Chief!!" I turned and said, "Yes Captain". He smiled and said, "Thanks"
He knew what we had done, and he knew the danger. Probably better than I. But, he had to enforce the rules. He had to let everyone know that's not how it should be done. But, he appreciated me leading from the front. I know that, because that Captain is still my friend.