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May 11, 1940 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1940-05-11

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l'ge Four

PERSPECTIVES.

TH PflTRJOT... by Gene Wallace

NIFING THROUGH the morning
sea, her three squat stacks belch-
ing -a spume of black smoke, the
4i; edo-boat destroyer Fernando Luis
churned the waters of the Caribbean
fsea into green white froth. Over her
Rw riding stern the scarlet and gold
haval ensign of Imperial Spain whipped
it the air. She was a sleek, deadly little
<raft and as her throbbing engines
)keled off the miles, her skipper, Com-
eander Juan Suarez of the Spanish
1avy., felt pride of her rise in his heart.
The mission upon which the ship was
engaged was a desperate one. Admiral
Cervera, bottled in the harbor of Santi-
ago de Cuba by an American fleet under
Admiral. Simpson, was in imminent
danger of destruction. The Naval Min-
iWtry at Madrid had ordered Suarez to
.'gil from Cadiz and olaking all possible
taeed, reach Santiago and somehow slip
hrough the blockading American fleet
"ti into the harbor. He was to give
Wers to Cervera that the rusty cruisers
tinder his command were to remain in
4o)1 and not attempt a dash for free-
don.
.Even as the ship sped through the
gater, delicate diplomatic negotiations
were in progress between the Spanish
#overnment and certain other land
*ungry European powers, to the effect
that in exchange for naval aid in crush-
lug the American fleet through a
roirprise blow, Spain would cede certain
colonial territories to. her allies. The
.,)anish ministers, beginning to feel
the chill breath of their declining em-
p.ire, at last were being brought to
realize that half a loaf is better than no
tread at all, and were striving desper-
af;ely to counteract their gross unpre-
iparedness through tardy alliances.
Commander Suarez paced the cramp-
Q( little bridge deck nervously. A dark
.warthy man, his uniform cap tilted at
a debonair angle, he had about him a
4im ness and air of authority that be-
spk a competent officer. Over in the
ct the faint flushes of morning Ware
Uaginning to show in the star studded
tropical sky. The helmsman's face was
qriefly illuminated by the binnacle light
go he slowly spun the mahogany wheel,
keeping the vessel on her course.
"Steady on your course," the officer
g'oid. sharply,
"Steady it is, sir," the man replied.
The churned up bow wave continued
.t, hiss swiftly astern and Suarez re-
po-nmenced his march. It was a devil-
gbly ticklish situation. The harbor of
Course would be mined; perhaps the
.4efenders had managed to sink a ship
f-R the channel. The chart in his cabin
would show none of these things. Even
with the blinding speed of his little ship,
Could he risk running the gauntlet of
the American fleet in daylight without
the certainty of being sunk? It would
t, impossible at night, of course; the
little Fernando would be simply lifted
,ut of the water by one of the harbor's
tuaderwater Bustanente torpedoes, which
ige did not know the location of.
. Perhaps the best thing would be to
land a party in a cove somewhere along
tie coast and trust to los Dios that they
qould win their way through the beseig-
ieg Yanqui armies to the city. But no,
that was incredible, fantastic. They
would be butchered in the cross-fire
litween the besiegers and besieged, and
too. he needed every available man to
work the ship. Their only chance for
iurvival would be to make the -run in
Sthe early morning light, and trust to a
huge Spanish flag at the masthead to
beep the Spanish forts from firing on
them. He must remind young Lieuten-
<rut Morales to run it up when he came
on watch; it was down in the locker in
his cabin. As it was, they would un-
d'.)ubtedly be shot up like a partridge
ou the wing.
Lieutenant Morales came up to the

bridge at 7:47 A.M., freshly shaven and
keenly alive to the exciting adventures
that were drawing near. As the man at
the wheel was relieved, the Lieutenant
and Commander Suarez consulted an
English chart of the harbor which flap-
ped and crinled wildly in the wind
of the destroyer's progress, He remind-
ed him of the ensign and suggested that
it be snapped on the halyards at once,
ready to be run up as soon as they were
through the American fleet. He ordered
ammunition placed for the 14-pounders
and two 6-pounders, and suggested that
the Lieutenant inspect the torpedoes in
the two 14-inch torpedo tubes, to be
certain that they were in firing condi-
tion.
They should make landfall at ten
o'clock. With a final injunction to have
battle stations sounded at nine, Suarez
went below to catch a brief sleep and
breakfast before action. He climbed
heavily into his bunk and sought rest

on the gimballed tray above his writing
desk by the steward, and crossed him-
self for luck. He remembered that it
was the morning of July 3, 1898 and
cursed Lieutenant Morales for not hav-
ing him called. Buttoning his uniform
jacket, Suarez went steadily up to the
bridge.
The gun crews were at their stations
when he came on deck; their rifled bar-
rels pointed at a purple base on the
western horizon that was Cuba. What
was happening? Was Cervera's squad-
ron making a run for it, or was the
Yanqui fleet merely making a routine
bombardment of Morro Castle? He re-
turned Lieutenant Morales' brisk salute
absently and stood stiffly at the bridge
rail, staring toward what would be the
barren hills of Siboney and at the
smudges of smoke on the horizon. The
men were tensed and eager. Boom ...
boom-boom-boom . . . crack! boom-
crack-crack! it surely was more than a

41

Decoration ., by Howard Whalen

head for the American ships in an ef-
fort to draw some of their fire; by the
time the Fernando could close up the
remaining miles the action wold be
decided. Disgustedly he changed Course
so as to parallel the coastline, swinging
outside the two engaging fleets. It
was a bitter decision to make.
The noise of the bombardment cres-
cendoed, and other smoke pillars arose
in the sky to the north-west. More, ves-
sels burning. Ensign Julio descended
the iron mast and saluted, his usually
placid face a dull, brick red.
"Beg to report, sir," he stammered,
"the greater part of Admiral Cereva's
squadron has been destroyed, if I have
made them out correctly."
The Commander returned his salute.
"Very well. Return to your post, En-
sign Julio."
The young man scrambled back up
the mast, smudging his white trousers
on the iron rungs of the ladder. He
raised his binoculars once more, his
eyes wet with angry tears.
The men were growling and shaking
their fists at the smoke clouds on the
horizon. They apparently understood
what was happening over there along
the rocky beach. The grizzled old Bos'n.
cried openly for his son on board the
Almirante Oquendo.
Suarez barked angrily for silence. Did
not they understand this was war, not
a child's game? He almost welcomed
the diversion afforded by a yacht which
steamed toward them to head them off;
apparently they had been sighted. The
crew had been tensed and keyed up for
too long a time. It would do them good
to fire at this Yanqui vessel.
Giving the order to commence firin$,
he again changed course so as to elude
the pursuing ship. It was soon apparent
that they would outdistance it easily; he
was certain that the Fernando could
show her heels to any naval vessel in
the Caribbean. The forward guns crack-
ed sharply and the acrid smell of powd-
er smoke came whirling back upon the
bridge, mixed with salt sea spray. Guns
on the after deck barked in answer, and
the men gave a hearty cheer. Com-
mander Suarez knew that the distance
was too great for any of his shells or
the enemy's to be effective, but it had
a wonderful steadying effect upon the
crew. White puffs of vapor blossomed
from the superstructure of the armed
yacht; she too was firing.
Lieutenant Morales came up the
bridge raging at the enemy, his lean
face quivering.
"Surely, sir," he cried, "surely we are
going to close with those damned grin-
goes and give them a belly full of Span-
ish metal."
"I am sorry, Lieutenant," the older
man answered. "I am as certain as
you that we could sink the yacht, but
by that time the American cruisers
would be up with us and it would be
the end of us. We cannot take the risk."
"But sir,-" the Lieutenant remon-
strated.
"Those are my orders, Lieutenant,"
Suarez said coldly.
The man saluted and left the bridge.
Inwardly, the Commander sympath-
ized with his junior officer. It was eas-
ier to fight than to run; that was the
most obvious course open to them. But
he felt it to be his duty now to join
the remnants of Cervera's fleet (if there
were any) at Havana, which was the
port they would probably run for. There
they would form a unit, weak though it
would be, which still could threaten the
Atlantic coast with the role of threat-
ening invaders.
No, the Fernando could not be sunk-
yet.
They lost the yacht to sight early in
the afternoon, and a breeze springing
up, no longer heardthe sound of firing.
(Continued on Page Eight)

in defiance of the shrilly vibrating,
throbbing iron shell of the speeding ves-
sel. His collar felt tight and stiff at
his throat; he unhooked the metal clasp
of his spotless white duck jacket and
rested more easily. His gilt buttons and
epaulets winked dully in the light from
the portholes and the medals on his
left breast made a small twisted splotch
of color. He stared at the grey, dimly-
lighted ceiling.
One owes to one's country not alone
one's life, he thought, as the destroyer
began to pitch easily in the morning
swell, but the exposition of one's beliefs.
Old Spain, sapped and drained through
centuries of intrigues and conflict, was
no match for the strong young giant
that was America. It would be a comic
opera war. The Commander stirred un-
easily on his bunk, and the stacatto
chukking of her engines beat loudly in
his little cabin. He could hear the men
of the morning watch stamping about
cheerfully on the deck, bringing up the
ammunition.
Cuba belonged to Spain when Spin
was strong, but now Spain was weak.
Why defend an island which was ours
but which belongs to us no more, he
wondered. It was lost in fact already,
even if not by right in war. If it was
lost in war, with it would go the
country's young men, victims of the
climate and bullets, in the defense of
what was now nothing more than' a
romantic ideal. It was all very point-
less, Commander Suarez thought, and
he heartily damned the Ministry of
Marine for its inefficiency, and the
government Junto for its arrogant cor-
ruption. Turning upon his left side he
slept soundly.
The sound -of gunfire, heavy artillery
apparently, awakened the Commander
abruptly at 9:45 A.M. He stumbled
from his bunk, gulped the coffee left

bombardment.. Exactamente! .Com-
mander Suarez thrilled to the thought
of his brother officers bludgeoning their
way out into the midst of the enemy
fleet. Such utter gallantry, with but
four obsolete cruisers and two destroy-
ers against a battle fleet. It must be
that. Yet it was so futile; he was too
late, and he knew the Spanish empire
was dying before their eyes. He whis-
tled down the tube to the engineer of-
ficer for increased speed, and the Fer-
nando surged wildly through the ocean
like an unleashed wolfhound. The gun
crews braced their feet on the pitching
deck and clung to their guns for sup-
port. The pulsing throb of the engines'
beat insistently into their consciousness,
and they ducked behind the gun shields
as sudden spurts of flung spray came
kicking over the foredeck.
Young Ensign Julio, the gunnery of-
ficer, shouted down from the crow's
nest on the stubby mast that Admiral
Cervera's fleet was running toward the
west That meant they were heading for
either Cienfuegos or Havana, Suarez
throught grimly. They would never
make it. Caramba damn! He was right.
Near the shore to the west of Cabanas
Bay a tall black sulphurous crested
pall of greasy smoke rose in the air.
Some poor devils of sailors were cer-
tainly being roasted to a fine crisp in
that blaze. He wondered what ship it
was; was it the Infanta Maria Teresa
under Captain Concas, or the Pluton or
Vizcaya with young Pedro Vasquez and
jolly old Captain Eulate aboard? He
shuddered at the thought of his com-
rades going to such a death. It must be
a Spanish ship that was burning; the
Americans were still astern, but even
at that distance their trailing clouds of
smoke could be noticed closing up, He
ground his teeth that he had not ar-
rived sooner. It was useless, even, to

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