Now that I had signed up for a new
term in the Navy, I was planning to submit a request so I could
return to submarine service as soon as possible, either by flying down to Puerto
Rico to rejoin HMCS ONONDAGA, or by being posted to another submarine. However,
as a floating radioman without a ship or submarine, I was now a prey for the
general service. I was going to learn that the Navy had
other plans for me. The general service was going to grab me before I had time
to submit my request to return to submarine service.
Late one night, as I was lying in
my bunk in HMCS STADACONA's "A" Block, someone came to my room to deliver an
urgent message. I dialed the phone number given to me and I was told that I was
being deployed immediately to the staff of the Commander of the Fleet operating
onboard HMCS PRESERVER out of Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. The deployment was
effective for two months and was to expire atl the end of exercise MAPLE
SPRING. I was ordered to report to HMCS SHEARWATER at 0500 the next morning for
a flight to Puerto Rico. I quickly packed my kit bag and I spent the night
drinking coffee and unable to sleep. Transportation came to get me during the
night and my military flight took off on schedule from the Shearwater runway. I
slept all the way and woke up as we were landing at Roosevelt Roads. Upon
landing, I used US Navy ground transportation to proceed to the jetty where HMCS
PRESERVER was tied up, and reported to the Commander of the Fleet for duty.
This short deployment with the
Commander of the Fleet was actually a nice change. Here I was stuck in Puerto
Rico during the winter season. My job was essentially the handling of radio
messages from the Commander of the Fleet to ships and submarines participating
in MAPLE SPRING as well as to CANMARCOM in Halifax. So I had to work closely
with the radio sparkers of HMCS PRESERVER who handled the radio traffic on the
HF bands. My work days were short and I had lots of time to spend in the sun, on
the beaches or at local bars.
Here are a couple of incidents I had
while in Roosevelt Roads.
One day, I went onboard a Canadian
destroyer which had come into Roosevelt Roads the night before. I am not sure
which destroyer but I think it was either HMCS KOOTENAY or HMCS NIPIGON. I was
visiting a friend onboard and I was down into his mess when the ship sailed
without my knowledge. I soon felt the motion of the ship and took off right away
for the upper deck. You can imagine my distress as I emerge from the ship and
saw the jetty half a mile away. I reported immediately to the bridge and I was
told that the ship could not return to drop me off. The Captain of the ship
drafted a message to the Commander of the Fleet, advising him of my situation,
and I still remember the subject of the message which said: STOW AWAY. The
Captain was smiling so I didn't think I would get into trouble for this
Since I was stuck on the ship, I decided to proceed to the radio room
and to offer my services while onboard. They were fully staffed so I spent the
next 2 days as a "tourist" onboard the destroyer. On the third day, the Captain
was transferred to another ship by jackstay and then flew back to Roosevelt
Roads onboard a Sea King helicopter. I hitched a ride with him and finally made
it back to the Commander of the Fleet. Everyone was laughing about my "stow
away" incident and I was never reprimanded for it.
A NIGHT IN JAIL
There were a few drinking places on
or near the US Navy base at Roosevelt Roads and I must have tried them all. One
evening, I was sitting quietly in one of the drinking establishment, sipping on
a Heineken beer. I was feeling quite good after drinking rum all day but I was
causing no trouble. The fact was that, the more I drink, the quieter I get. I
was not the type who fights or looks for trouble when intoxicated. To the
Suddenly, the US Navy Shore Patrol entered the premises and upon
seeing me, decided to arrest me and throw me in jail. I protested to no avail. I
ended up spending the night in the local US Navy jail, not knowing what I had
done or what my crime was. The next morning, a Lieutenant from HMCS PRESERVER
showed up with an escort to pick me up and bring me back to the ship. The
lieutenant was quite "pissed off" and was looking at me as if I was a trouble
maker. As I was being escorted back to the ship, the Lieutenant told me that I
was being accused of fighting with a US sailor and causing injury. This was
quite a shock to me. I knew I could not have done this since I had no memory of
such an event and no bruises on my body.
Later on that morning, I was hauled in
front of the Executive Officer to face the charges. The US sailor who had
suffered injuries showed up to testify but, as soon as he saw me, declared that
I was not the person who had attacked him. I was therefore dismissed on the
spot. I found out later what happened. The US Navy patrol was looking for a
sailor with a beard and fitting my description. I was the only one in the bar
with a beard so they assume that I was the person they were looking for.
Although I was innocent, I nevertheless spent a night in jail in Puerto Rico...
an experience I will always remember.
BACK TO SUBMARINES
While enjoying my deployment with
the Commander of the Fleet in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, I was longing for a
return to the submarine service. I had never requested to get off submarines.
The only reason I was back in the general service was the fact that my 5-year
term was coming to an end when HMCS ONONDAGA had sailed for the Caribbeans in
January 1970. Now that I had signed up to stay in the Navy, my desire was still
to return to the submarine service as soon as possible.
I was going to prepare a
formal request and present it to the Commander of the Fleet at first opportunity
but there was no guarantee when my request would be processed since the
Commander of the Fleet was very busy. After further thoughts, I decided to proceed in a
different manner and take a shortcut. Each day, I was submitting a large number of radio messages to
the Commander of the Fleet for his signature before transmission by radioteletype. So I was
very familiar with message formats and I knew how a request to Headquarters in
Ottawa would look like. So I drafted a message to National Headquarters
requesting that Leading Seaman Radioman (LSRM) Donald Courcy be posted back to
submarines. I inserted the message in the pile of other messages and I presented
the pile to the Commander for his signature. The signed messages came back two
hours later. I went looking in the pile and there it was. The Commander of the
Fleet had signed the message I had drafted. The message was sent that day and a reply from Headquarters was
received a few days later confirming that I was posted to submarine HMCS
OKANAGAN upon my return to Halifax ! ! !
At the end of exercise Maple Spring
1970, I stayed onboard HMCS PRESERVER for the return trip to Halifax. We stopped
in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a few days and then proceeded up the eastern
coast of the United States and entered Halifax Harbour in March 1970. It is with
great joy that I packed my kit bag, said goodbye to the surface Navy, went
ashore and walked over to submarine HMCS OKANAGAN. After almost 3 months of
absence, I was finally back in the submarine service !!!