Like anybody in show business I have done many curious things. And many things that I have done have no relationship to radio or television, but they’re all deeply involved in show business.
Shepherd was part of a film crew for
the documentary “Summer Incident.”
This is why he is on the carrier
heading through the Mediterranean
toward Beirut and an American invasion.
I remember one night in the Mediterranean, deep in the bowels of an American aircraft carrier. Temperature down below decks in that carrier one-hundred-fifteen, maybe. I am lying in a bunk and the ship is hurtling its way through the nighttime sea and we’re off the coast of Turkey and we’re heading around the great golden horn, it’s two o’clock in the morning and I’m lying in the bunk sweating my head off. Have you ever been so hot, so sweaty and so tired that you’re kind of out of your head? Most people in their lives haven’t. Most people have never driven themselves to the total limits of human endurance. Most people work their eight-hour day, come home, drink their beer, and go to bed, and that’s about the extent of it. So they don’t necessarily find themselves ever really driven to the limits—which are beyond your control.
So here we were, on the aircraft carrier that was out doing its sweaty job. This particular carrier was the last remaining World War II carrier that was on active fleet duty as a carrier—an attack carrier. It was not air-conditioned below decks, which the later ones were. Hotter than the hinges of hell, barreling through the sea and I was way below decks, lying in a bunk which was about the width of your average bookshelf and about that softness—and hot. You put your hand on the bulkhead, which was armor plate—steel, and water would drip down the walls. Very humid in that part of the world anyway. And way out to sea it’s very humid and salty. The drinking water out of the little faucets was brackish and lukewarm. This was on tropical duty and they had it laced with salt.
So we were lying in the bunk there, hotter than hell, and up to this point we had been working so hard—this group of guys I was with—this particular mission we were involved in, so involved and so long that we had gone maybe seventy-two hours without sleep. I’d say, close to four days without sleep. This produces a peculiar psychological effect. That, coupled with the heat, and everything started to seem funny. And directly up above us was the steam-driven catapult. Sleeping under the catapult was an experience.
Part 3 of the Beirut/carrier story to come