- Sep 7, 2004
Tennessee vs The Maxims vs GeorgiaAs the clock wound down on the beat-down at Sanford Stadium on Saturday a strange idea crept into your Scribe's noggin. The game was enough like last year's tilt at Neyland that it might just be possible to copy that column, change a few names and insert a new historical vignette and be done with it.
But no, I owe you, my faithful readers, more than that sort of foolishness.
It seems clear, in retrospect, that the legendary “TVA” has not yet been re-established, but a firm foundation is being laid for future successes.
The SEC is stratified into three groups: 1) the elite teams: that would be Alabama and generally two others with occasional gusts to three; 2) the middle of the pack: Tennessee has, one hopes – moved firmly into this group after some disastrous outings into 3) the root cellar: usually four to six teams that would struggle to beat an upper-tier high school squad let alone the likes of an Alabama.
Yes, Tennessee was in that elite ranking many years ago. The thing is that the 1998 National Championship is very nearly as far in the past as the 1951 Championship team was from the then-current Vol teams when yours truly arrived on campus in 1975. Despite a number of The Gen'rul's boys being on staff in various departments, I don't recall anyone talking about that 1951 team.
Enjoy the wins, accept that, until experience and recruiting catch up, there are going to be wrenching defeats. Eyes on the prize.
As your scribe closed out the Georgia report in 2019, so it will be now. We turn once again to Ol' Habbakuk for guidance:
For the vision still has its time,
presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint;
if it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come, it will not be late.
In other words, it won't get here until it gets here and not one minute earlier.
* * * * * * * * *In the late 1980s legendary guitarist Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Cadillac designer Larry Erickson were sitting in a seedy bar near the Mexican border. They were discussing Billy's idea for a hot rod based on a 1948 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette. Several months and a cool $900,000.00 later, the “CadZZilla” rolled out of Boyd Coddington's shop in 1989 bearing a license plate emblazoned “I8TOKYO”. Both the name and the plate, of course, referenced the campy Japanese “Godzilla” movies which debuted in 1954 and became a staple of late-night TV in the 60's and 70's. According to the movies, Godzilla was an implacable monster that emerged from the sea to attack Japan.
23 July 1945, Time: 0001, Patience Bay, Karafuto Prefecture, Japan
USS Barb sat with her main deck just above the surface 950 yards offshore. On her deck, the eight-man strike team had assembled and cast off in two inflatable boats paddling for the shore and carrying a 55lb demolition charge. Their target was a railroad track running parallel to the coast a few hundred yards inland. The Barb's skipper, already with a deserved reputation as one of the most aggressive and effective American submariners, had spotted this piece of track and decided to take it out by setting a charge with a pressure detonator to go off as a train went over it.
On 8 July 1942, the USS Barb (SS-220) was commissioned at Groton, Connecticut. She was a Gato-class boat: 312 ft long, 27 ft wide, displacing 1810 tons surfaced and 2415 tons submerged. Her armament consisted of ten 21” torpedo tubes (6 in the bow and 4 stern) with a 4”/50 cal deck gun and four machine guns for anti-aircraft work. Her crew consisted of 10 officers and 70 enlisted. All-in-all she was just one of the 70-odd Gatos built during the war.
At first assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, Barb carried out five patrols there before being sent ot the Pacific. After refits on both the East and West Coasts, Barb reached Pearl Harbor in the fall of 1943 and on 30 September departed on her sixth war patrol. Returning to Pearl in November, claiming one Japanese ship sunk for 8,000 tons. Note that a sub's – and by extension, its commanding officer's - effectiveness was measured in terms of the tonnage of enemy shipping sunk. During the refit and training for her next patrol, 33 year old Lt. Cdr. Eugene Fluckey (USNA '35) reported for his PCO cruise. (PCO = Potential Commanding Officer) to observe and learn. During the ensuing seventh patrol, beginning in March, 1944, Barb blew a 2200-ton freighter in half and shelled Japanese shore installations.
Fluckey would command Barb for her next four war patrols, the last ending on 2 August 1945 just as the war was coming to a close. During those patrols, Barb and Fluckey accounted for either 95,000+ tons or 179,000 tons sunk, depending whose figures one uses. Even with the lower figure, he was one of if not the highest-scoring sub commander of the war. During various actions, Barb sank the carrier Unyo, a cruiser, and several frigates. During a refit before the last war patrol, Fluckey scrounged a 12-round launcher for 5-inch bombardment rockets and had it fitted to the Barb's rear deck for attacks against shore targets such as factories and rail yards. Four such attacks were carried out until all rockets were expended.
On the night of 22-23 January 1945, Barb snuck into Mamkwan Harbor on the Chinese coast and found over 30 ships sheltering there.
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
COMMANDER EUGENE B. FLUCKEY
UNITED STATES NAVY
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Barb during her Eleventh War Patrol along the east coast of China from 19 December 1944, to 15 February 1945. After sinking a large enemy ammunition ship and damaging additional tonnage during a running 2-hour night battle on 8 January, Commander Fluckey, in an exceptional feat of brilliant deduction and bold tracking on 23 January, located a concentration of more than 30 enemy ships in the lower reaches of Nankuan Chiang (Mamkwan Harbor). Fully aware that a safe retirement would necessitate an hours’ run at full speed through the uncharted, mined, and rock-obstructed waters, he bravely ordered, ‘Battle Station – Torpedoes’! In a daring penetration of the heavy enemy screen, and riding in 5 fathoms of water, he launched the Barb’s last forward torpedoes at 3,000-yard range. Quickly bringing the ship’s stern tubes to bear, he turned loose four more torpedoes into the enemy, obtaining eight direct hits on six of the main targets to explode a large ammunition ship and cause inestimable damage by the resultant flying shells and other pyrotechnics. Clearing the treacherous area at high speed, he brought the Barb through to safety and 4 days later sank a large Japanese freighter to complete a record of heroic combat achievement, reflecting the highest credit upon Commander Fluckey, his gallant officers and men, and the United States Naval Service.” (Emphasis added)
Every man on the boat received a placard with an image of the Medal of Honor ribbon in recognition that the honor was for all of them.
Fluckey watched as the little rubber boats eased off and the men began paddling away. There were radar reflectors attached to each boat and everyone who could watched with baited breath as the little dots on the scope neared the beach. About 25 minutes later, the team landed, pulled their boats under cover and set off toward the railroad with Lt. William Walker leading the way. Almost immediately, they discovered that what had appeared as a grass field was actually bullrushes 2-3 feet tall that crackled and crunched with every step. Scarcely breathing, they made their way through the field glancing every so often at a small building with a watch tower nearby. No lights appeared and they kept going. Reaching the road, Lt. Walker promptly fell into a four foot deep ditch beside it. Crossing the road, he then fell into another ditch on the other side.
Finally reaching the tracks, the team began digging a hole between the sleepers to plant the charge. Just as they were about to place the device and wire it up a lookout down the tracks came running up whispering that a train was coming. The men dropped everything and hid in the bushes by the tracks as the train chuffed by.
As the train faded from view, the team went back to work and got the charge and its trigger set and made their way back to the boats. About halfway back to the sub, they heard yet another train coming. Fluckey later recalled that the oars were churning the water as the team frantically tried to get back. Then they stopped and looked back. The locomotive hit the trigger and the night sky lit up as it and its tender were blown sky high and the sixteen cars it was pulling collided in a burning and exploding pile.
The team made it back and Barb hauled away from the only land attack on Japan proper in the entire war. Barb would go down in US Navy lore as “the submarine that sank a train.”
In his memoir of the war years, Fluckey stated that his proudest achievement was that despite all the hair-raising combat they had been through and medals they had earned, not one member of his command had received the Purple Heart for wounds.
Barb would eventually be sold to the Italian Navy in the 1950s and scrapped in1972.
Gene Fluckey would retire from the Navy as a Rear Admiral in 1972 after his last posting in Portugal. He and his beloved wife, Marjorie, would run an orphanage there until her death in 1979. Fluckey remarried and continued running it until it closed in 1983. RADM Eugene B. “Lucky” Fluckey departed on his last patrol on 28 June 2007 at the age of 93. He is buried in the cemetery at the US Naval Academy.
One has to think that given a return visit by Fluckey and Barb or a visit by Godzilla, most Japanese of the time would say, “Bring on the lizard!”
*********So how did the team do compared to the Maxims?
1. The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win.
Three turnovers in the first five possessions of the second half and, more distressingly, more penalties in the first half than in the previous two games combined pretty well cover this.
2. Play for and make the breaks. When one comes your way … SCORE!
Leaving out the fortuitous Georgia fumble on their first series, there was precious little attention paid here. The Vols hit some big plays but also left some points on the field.
3. If at first the game – or the breaks – go against you, don’t let up … PUT ON MORE STEAM!
One could almost literally see the air being let out of the Vols when Guarantano fumbled on Tennessee's first series in the second half.
4. Protect our kickers, our quarterback, our lead and our ballgame.
Guarantano was dodging onrushing Georgia defenders. A couple of them had their arms around him so much one thought there might be a post-game announcement of an engagement.
5. Ball! Oskie! Cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle … THIS IS THE WINNING EDGE.
Blocking? Blocking?? BLOCKING?!?!? Great Day, did the entire offensive line do nothing but read press clippings during the week prior to the game? The Georgia defensive line came at the Vols like Butch Cassidy did at Harvey Logan, with similar results.
6. Press the kicking game. Here is where the breaks are made.
Tennessee's kicking game was adequate but not spectacular. However, your humble scribe recalls Georgia's punter flipping the field a couple of times.
7. Carry the fight to Georgia and keep it there for sixty minutes.
30 does not equal 60. That said the defense did all that one could expect until the simple fact that the offense was completely ineffective in the second half led to their demise.
Last week it was noted that Tennessee is still several elite players short of being able to contend in the upper reaches of the SEC. There was nothing seen Saturday to change that opinion.
© 2020 Keeping Your Stories Alive
Clay Blair, Silent Victory
Eugene Fluckey, Thunder Below!
Samuel Eliot Morison, Victory in the Pacific 1945
Lt. Walker and his team with the Barb's battle flag. (US Navy)