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- How the Navy Would Have Been Better Off Without Me
- Narrated by: Stephen Davenport
- Length: 2 hrs and 47 mins
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"What was I supposed to do with my B.A. in literature: gather the sailors around me just before taps and read Faulkner to them as they fell asleep?"
Ensign Stephen Davenport was the most severely under qualified of the Ninety-Day Wonders, the derisive term for commissioned officers in the Naval Reserve with only ninety days of training, all of which were on dry land. For his final navigation exam, he actually plotted a course that landed a fictional destroyer somewhere in the Sierra Mountains. Nevertheless, in in August of 1953, he reported to his first assignment aboard the USS Vermillion. He would be overseeing the First Division for training in amphibious landings.
Once on ship, Davenport quickly learned that while he held authority in title, respect was less easily learned. The First Division was manned by deckhands who could do things he had no idea how to do—like maneuvering a winch to drop a truck into a landing craft bobbing in the waves thirty feet below without killing the crew, or getting a landing craft on and off a beach through huge surf in the middle of winter. Davenport just called out orders—and he didn't always feel confident in that either. He fell for dangerous pranks by the crew, permitted an inebriated sailor in his underwear to ride a horse up the gangway, and almost caused a collision at sea. Though he served for only two years, Davenport's time in the Naval Reserve was bizarre, incredible and absolutely unforgettable.
At times hilarious, other times scary, Ninety-Day Wonder is the riveting account of dangers, triumphs and fundamental lessons learned aboard ship by an inexperienced officer among far more experienced sailors.