Every sailor knows the importance of ship’s spirit—but those of of us who have been in combat know just how important a ship’s spirit is.
Those of us who were squadron-mates of SPENCE know that that fine ship had more than its quota of the sense of obligation, the resolve to meet all of her responsibilities and the willingness to do more than her share of the combat and hard work.
You remember when we were in Purvis Bay the afternoon before the Battle of Cape St. George we received orders from ComSoPac, Admiral Halsey, to “Proceed . . . you know what to do,” and I hoisted the signal for the Squadron to prepare to get under way, except for SPENCE. She had a boiler down for repairs and could not make the speed necessary for battle.
That was when the Captain of SPENCE exemplified the spirit of all hands in that hard-fighting man-of-war.
Captain “Heinie” Armstrong was over on the CHARLES AUSBURNE just as soon as he could get there. He said, “We are lighting off the three boilers we have in commission and we want to go with the rest of you for we know you expect to get in a fight.”
I reminded him his ship shouldn’t keep up on three boilers. He said, “We can if we can cross-connect; then we can make 31 knots or more.” We both knew that if the ship went into battle cross-connected, one hit destroying any part of her steam lines would bring the ship to a dead stop, with disasterous consequences.
At first, I said, “No,” but he insisted. I knew that the other four ships might need the SPENCE badly. When Heinie said, “Commodore, please let us come for we want to do our share,” that decided the question.
SPENCE went and SPENCE fought mightily, as we all know.
Every man in that wonderful ship had exactly that spirit. SPENCE always did more than her share.