Each mid-morning a group of Becketwood Cooperative gentlemen meet for coffee hour in the carpentry-electrical workroom, their mancave, discussing  topics of mutual interest.  Virtually all these men are WWII veterans well into their mid-eighties or early nineties. Upon occasion their war experiences surface for discussion. Such was the case on a recent morning when talk dealt with the capsizing and grounding of the Italian cruise ship,  the Costa Concordia.  One seasoned marine veteran, usually very silent spoke at length utterly amazed at the low loss of life, perhaps a score-plus  among some 4000 passengers. Devastating is that an American couple from nearby White Bear Lake are among the missing. Retired this was their dream of the cruise of a lifetime.  Our veteran colleague himself experienced abandoning ship twice  jumping both times over the side of the ship. The details of the grounding of the Costa Concordia were initially rehearsed.

The story is familiar enough being currently in the press. The Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized having hit a rock barrier on Giglio Island off the Italian coast. Seemingly the captain had gone off course without permission, refused to accept the gravity of the situation, delayed evacuation, and left his station before all passengers were off the ship. With virtual total disorganization and lack of leadership from the crew passengers secured life-vests and had to scramble up near virtual corridors to escape the rising water. Seeking life-boats the crew had no knowledge how they are operated.  The Italian coast guard official in charge questioned the captain why he was not at his station  on his ship. The captain replied he had, incredibly, stumbled and fallen  into a lifeboat. Ordered to return to his station he stated it was too dark.  The captain is under arrest with a possible charge of manslaughter forthcoming.

Our usually quiet marine veteran began to hold forth at great length explaining his utter amazement that more lives were not lost on the Costa Concordia. He related how he abandoned two ships. The first was at Pearl harbor when his ship loaded on deck with barrels of gasoline exploded.  Ordered to their bunks the hatches were closed. The men lay in their bunks in absolute quiet. Eventually the order to open the hatches given the men abandoned the ship. Jumping overboard he does not recall much of being fished out of the water with a long pole and heaped in a boat with others on top of each other. Dispatched to the Pacific Islands he experienced the invasion of Tarawa, other islands in the Central Pacific, and finally, the invasion of Okinawa.  His ship was hit by a Japanese suicidal Kamikaze attack. Again jumping off his ship he was picked up by life boat and brought to safety

Why his amazement on the relatively small loss of life resulting from the Costa Concordia disaster?  He discoursed regarding the absolute necessity of preparation for any possible occurrence while on shipboard: organization must be in order, orders to be absolutely obeyed, and the key to it all is someone in absolute command.  This is the key to survival as he experienced his own. Small wonder at his amazement.  One might discuss the applicability of survival principles in living in any community.

Published by profbartling1

Retired professor Concordia University, St. Paul, Mn. Taught mainly American History. Also taught in other areas of history, philosophy, and theology,


  1. Lessons in leadership might suggest that one not always depend on the captain! His later excuse that he slipped and fell into a lifeboat was far better then any excuse I thought of when I was later for dinner! So always secure your life vest first! When the ship is sinking don’t rearrange the desk chairs! i

  2. If I was on that boat I would have put myself right in the scene of Titantic when the bow went straight up into the air. As for the vets, I wonder if they were conditioned to think of “the worst case scenario” where ever they were. Not exactly what people spending their money on a luxuary vacation ever think.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: