Sunday, April 1, 2018

USS Juneau Discovered By Allen

Paul Allen has recently pulled the discovery rabbit out of the magicians hat by finding the remains of the USS Juneau lost to the Japanese off of Guadalcanal in 1942. A tragic loss as although 557 of her crew were killed almost immediate, 140 made it alive into the water, only to wait for 8 days before survivors were found floating in the water; all but 10 of the 140 killed by sharks and dehydration. I saw a model of the Juneau in the lobby of the Juneau airport but did not know its service history until much later which prompted me to write this poem some 24 years before Paul Allen discovered its remains on the bottom of the ocean just like  he found the remains of the USS Indianapolis  whose initial survivors into the water suffered a similar fate.
Juneau is famous for raw beauty and sights pristine,
Blue-tinged glaciers mixed with Sitka Spruce's verdant green,
Salmon bakes, refreshing glacial walks,
Eagles soar and gracefully stalk.
Miners' lore is found in abandoned mines,
Shops of native craft and other treasured finds.
Laden with memories and gifts, visitors racing to their planes,
To wait in an airport fogged in and pelted with Southeast rain.
With time to kill, only then does she merit more than a glance,
And a wonder of who she was and her card for the Martian dance.
She stands built to scale, frozen in a better time,
Clean lines, fresh paint, free from battle's grit and grime.
Motionless, she still exudes a sense of unrivaled speed,
An Atlanta Class cruiser armed to the teeth pointed to the sky above, shedding armor a warship needs.
16 5 inch guns in 8 turrets spewing out almost 18,000 pounds of lead
Not at heavier ships but at incoming attacking planes instead
In the dark days of 42, each cruiser was a horded precious jewel,
Far too often scarred or lost in the daily wartime gruel. ~
Titanic struggles in the dark, as steel maidens steamed up and down the Slot.
No matter what the skill, a ship's life seemed chosen by lot.
With five feisty Sullivans and speed, the Juneau sensed no alarm,
Even if ordered to mix with heavy cruisers unleashing deadly 8" harm.
If you bear the name of a proud city of the Last Frontier,
Armor be dammed, you steam ahead despite the gnawing fear.
After a night of dodging heavy shell and torpedo tracks,
Both sides wearied and broke off their attack.
Juneau wounded by a long lance, limped back at 18 knots with San Francico almost abreast,
Another day to have taken and passed the test.
Out of the darkness on November 13, another long lance passingunder San Francisco  suddenly found its mark.
Flames to melt a glacier, exploding in half, the Juneau sank quickly in the dark.
140 men tossed alive into the ocean, yet feeling somewhat secure,
Helena and San Francisco knew exactly where they were.
But no ship stopped, it seemed they did not care,
And screams of help drifted unheard into the nighttime air.
Left alone to die in unmarked ocean graves,
From burning oil, sharks and ingested salt water’s ranting and raves.
Each day the floating band grew smaller as they tried to cope,
Each day more was lost of a seamen's last reserve of hope.
Planes flew over and sent in position reports,
To be filed away in unknown corners without support.
On the eighth day rescue, only ten men still only barely alive.
Out of a crew of almost 700, no more would survive.
The price of freedom is heavy and never is found cheap,
The receipts are unmarked waves of crosses and ships lost to the deep.
They paid the ultimate price without question or delay,
When the trumpets sounded, she sailed into harm's way.
So stop a moment, look, and maybe shed a tear,
For the Juneau, the namesake of a great city of the last frontier                                     © 1994 Michael P. Ridley aka the Alaskanpoet

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