I served in the Repair Division, under a Warrant Officer who - was always called "the Carpenter".
That seemed odd to me, since there are very few items made of wood on Navy ships with steel hulls.
We worked all over the ship. We were the "grunts" who did the heavy lifting - jacks of all trades,
masters of none. We were assigned to the Engineering Department, since much of the repair work
we did was in the main machinery spaces. The main propulsion engineers didn’t claim us until
something broke down and they needed our services to fix it. We were known as "fresh air snipes".
When something on the ship was broke down and had to be fixed, the Repair Division was usually
the first to be called in. I did welding jobs near the top of the main mast, about ten stories above the
flight deck. I also did repair work in the dark and dirty keel bottom tanks - eight or nine decks below
the flight deck. I Earned my stripes back in those days.
A few notes of interest about Navy history and tradition: In the sailing ship days of the 1600's and
1700's in the British Navy, the Carpenter was an important figure on all ships. He was primarily
responsible to the Captain for the maintenance of the wooden hull, to maintain its strength and
water tightness. He was an important player in the Captain’s Team. He also assisted the Ship's
Bo'sun in maintaining the boats, repairing the masts, platforms and riggings. In battle, he sometimes
even assisted the Ship's Surgeon, by sawing off the limbs of sailors who were badly wounded.
These special assistants were basically civilian contractors - older men who were all very
experienced in their fields. The Carpenter supervised the loading of the vessel, to make sure it
stayed in "proper trim" in order to be sea worthy. He took charge of all repairs to everything made of
wood. He was the main player when it came to keeping the ship afloat. Several seamen worked
under the Carpenter. They did the heavy lifting and performed the tasks the Carpenter ordered
them to do. In battle, they were responsible for fighting fires, evacuating the wounded, controlling
flooding, removing wreckage and repairing battle damage.
In sailing ship days, the organization of the new American Navy was patterned after the British Navy.
Typically, a ship had a commissioned Captain, a commissioned Lieutenant (First Mate), a few
midshipmen in training and several assistants, civilians who served under special warrants. The
assistants (later Navy Corps Officers or Warrant Officers) included the Surgeon (doctor), Chaplain,
Purser, Sailing Master (sail maker), Boatswain (bo'sun), Gunner, Carpenter and some others. A pool
of several seamen worked under these assistants, sometimes rotating around among them, when it
Things became more specialized in the U.S. Navy starting in the early 1800's - seamen could
choose to become "strikers" so they could eventually become Boatswain's Mates, Gunner's Mates,
Carpenter's Mates, etc. Earning the designation as a "Mate" was a very important milestone for
In the U.S. Navy, the Carpenter's Mates later became the Damage Controlmen and Blacksmiths
In keeping with tradition, a U.S. Navy Warrant Officer with the designation "Ship Repair Technician"
is still called "the Carpenter". Things hadn't changed much since the days of the sailing ships when I
was on the HANCOCK. The main concern for the Damage Controlmen and Shipfitters was still
keeping the hull in good shape to maintain watertight integrity and seaworthiness. Those ratings
were later combined to create a new rating - "Hull Maintenance Technician", which is what I was
when I retired in 1987.
The hull is a ships most important component - whether it is made of wood or metal or plastic or
titanium. That hasn't changed since the days of sailing ships and it never will change.
|THE SHIP'S CARPENTER AND THE REPAIR DIVISION
It takes many people to keep an Aircraft Carrier operating. On the HANCOCK, there were over
fifteen hundred men in the "Ship's Company". Most of us had nothing to do with working on the
Flight Deck, around the aircraft. We were the "worker bees" who did the routine work that had to be
done all over the ship - the clerks, cooks, medics, technicians, mechanics, electricians and other
craftsmen of all kinds. We kept all of the wheels turning.