Friday, October 11, 2013
How do you command your ship during a vicious Pacific Ocean storm off the California coast so that you avoid contact with other ships attempting to navigate the same storm? And how do you do this with radar down, white spray lashing at your face like hot pellets from monster waves dead ahead and men missing from your radar detection spaces? Such was the challenge for Lt. Stephen Wheatley, Officer-of-the-Deck of USS Latner, DD-952, a Forrest Sherman class destroyer, during a horrendous storm off Catalina Island at the end of the Cold War in 1990. Wheatley was under the Captain's Night Orders to report all unknown surface contacts, known as "Skunks," to him when within three nautical miles. But events,weather and loss of focus intervened. The result was Latner came into "extremis," the situation where any maneuvering by one of two ships will result in collision. The resulting events were tragic for one wandering engine man on board Latner and devastating for Wheatley, who then faced a most contentious general court-martial, a military legal process than can result in dismissal from the service, or more dire, in death. "I'll kill the sonofabitch," thought Wheatley about the prosecutor. Wheatley's misadventure leads to his search for personal redemption and reclaiming his professional bearing. His is the story of The Caine Mutiny and The Poseidon Adventure. "You'll all be killed!" urges his new love interest as Wheatley sets off from a pier on San Francisco for a Pacific Target range where a former troop carrier is about to be deep-sixed by the Navy. Absolute Bearing is now an Amazon.com selection. Read Excerpts from Chapter One in subsequent blogs.