Firing on Normandy

Under Fire and Smoke

"The ship is shaking. There’s steam, there’s flame, there’s smoke, and it’s coming inside…"

"Now we had the skipper on the bridge, the helmsman below him, and the engine room below him, and the radar man. And the fifth man fired the rockets, and that dubious distinction was mine. I got to do the firing. Well, somehow in some sort of convoluted logic they figured the rockets are fired electrically. McDonnell is an electrician, therefore… I think it was a cop out myself. At any rate, to fire these rockets what I had to do, it was like a lineman’s harness that I had to hook myself in and hook onto the bulkhead, and every time you pulled one of those switches the whole place would be engaged in flame, and even though we had the portholes and the doors dogged down as tight as we could it still came through and you still felt pressure every time you pulled the switch. And there were 24 main switches – there were some ranging switches, but there were 24 main. And so when we got into it, here I am, I’m strapped in around target, and the captain says, “Fire ranging salvos.” We had ranging salvos that were way up in front and could verify our target. He says, “Fire ranging salvos one through four.” And I go click, click, click, click. Nothing. Nothing happens. Now, at 5 o’clock in the morning, I had checked that system up very, very thoroughly, and that system worked. The only thing that was different was that up in his little box up there he had an abort switch that if you were going to fire on a destroyer or something like that he could stop you by setting off the whole system. When he climbed in he had put the switch in the off position, then he forgot to put it back. And here he’s in there saying “fire,” and nothing happens. So I screamed over there, as soon as I realized, I said, “Throw the goddamn switch.” And he throws the switch, and all four salvos go off at one time. So now I get into the firing, you know, one after another. The ship is shaking. There’s steam, there’s flame, there’s smoke, and it’s coming inside even though it’s closed. I complete it, and my job is done."