Shipboard life was punctuated with scheduled announcements over the ship's 1MC speaker system to initiate activities throughout the day. These messages originated from the quarterdeck in port or the bridge at sea. All announcements were preceded by the screeching of the bosun's pipe and many were accompanied by bugle calls.

We didn't actually have a bugler on hand to sound the calls. Instead we had a cassette tape with recordings of the calls and the bosun of the watch selected the appropriate call and played it on a cassette tape player. I borrowed the tape that was used on the USS Oklahoma City during 1972 and made a copy. Here are some of the calls.

First in the morning was Reveille. "All hands heave up and trice out. The smoking lamp is lit in all authorized spaces." Everyone was to get out of bed and prepare for the events of the day.

Mess Call was sounded morning, noon and night to announce when the mess decks were open for business.

First Call To Colors called everyone to morning quarters. Each Division had a place to muster where we could take a head count to determine if anyone was missing.

Morning Colors was at 0800. In port the national ensign was raised on the flag staff on the stern and the Union Jack was raised on the jack staff on the bow. After colors in port the US National Anthem was played (followed by the Japanese National Anthem when we were in port in Japan). We played the Philippines National Anthem when in port in the Philippines.

After morning colors the work routine of the day started. There were several scheduled announcements, such as "Sweepers" that did not have a bugle call. We also had several unscheduled events that were announced with bugle calls.

Flight Quarters was sounded when the ship was launching or recovering a helicopter. "Flight quarters! Flight quarters! Set the Aviation Readiness Detail. Flight Quarters!" In addition to the Admiral's helo Blackbeard One we also received a mail helo (Big Mother) in the Gulf of Tonkin and other helos delivering supplies or transporting personnel.

Mail Call was sounded when the ship's Post Office received mail, usually not long after the mail helo arrived at sea, or after the Supply Department collected the ship's mail in port.

Sick Call announced when the ship's infirmary was open. Anyone could go to the infirmary at any time, but occasionally we had a lot of cases of venereal disease or other widespread illness that required a daily dose of medicine. In these instances Sick Call was sounded to remind sailors to line up for medicine.

Liberty Call was the sound sailors wanted to hear most when we were in port. Everyone not on watch (or restricted to the ship) was free to leave the ship and go into town. Most of the time the sailors didn't have to report back until Morning Colors, but occasionally in some ports liberty was only until midnight.

General Quarters was something we usually didn't want to hear. "General Quarters, General Quarters! All hands man your battle stations!" The message was followed by the ship's klaxon and the bugle call. It meant prepare the ship for combat or for some other serious event.

Evening meals in the Wardroom were announced in officers' quarters with Roast Beef of Old England, also known as the "Dance of the Fairies."

At sunset in port Evening Colors was sounded. The national ensign was lowered from the flag staff and the Union Jack was lowered from the jack staff.

In the evening Watertight Doors was a reminder to report closure of all watertight doors and fittings.

Taps was sounded to tell everyone to turn off white lights and turn on red lights in corridors. Everyone not on watch was to hit the sack.


What is a bosun's pipe?