Machinist Mate Doug Brentlinger
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
My name is Doug Brentlinger and I was a Machinist Mate in the Navy from 1960-1964. I didn’t
exactly grow up in the best home environment, the military was a way to get out and away from my family. My dad was in the Navy in the Pacific during WW2 and I wanted to see what the Navy was like. While growing up, I was always mechanically inclined, looking at how things work. I took that skill with me by working on the ship’s main engines. When I took my
advancement tests in the Navy, I passed all of them with excellent scores. I decided I was smart enough to go to college.
I was stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI. I was on the USS Taylor, a Fletcher-class destroyer made
for WWII, 2100 tons displacement (for comparison, aircraft carriers were 30,000 tons). Some of the people who ran those ships became very skilled at destroying Japanese subs, ships, and planes. During the Okinawa campaign, they stationed destroyers like mine 50 miles north of Okinawa to shoot the kamikaze pilots down. Quite a few ships were sunk too.
I did not have much trouble adapting to military life; my house was run by violent authority, so
my lifestyle did not change much. I never got into any trouble and I was forced to cope with
idiotic bullshit. My least favorite part was watching how people were treated. Racism was deeply seated in the Navy; they had separate duties for people of color, it was an ugly sight. You would find people of color in the deck gang, supply, and serving the officers, but rarely in the machine rooms, even though we were supposed o be a unified crew. I worked in an engine room, on a ship run by steam. We had two engine rooms full of turbines and 2 boiler rooms full of boilers. I stood watch when we were underway and did a lot of repair work when we were in port.
I was in Okinawa, Philippines, Japan, and an RR trip to Hong Kong in 1961 and 1963. We did
picket duty during the Atomic bomb tests in 1962 (Dominic I and II and Starfish) at Johnson
Island. I will never forget the hydrogen bomb blasts I witnessed, especially the Starfish blast. It
was so bright it would burn your retinas out. It was so bright, we could see our bones through
our flesh, it was like an X-Ray. We steamed from there all the way to American Samoa.
The Navy was very disrespectful to people. I remember starting in the lower echelons as a
fireman recruit and receiving absolutely horrendous treatment. I was glad I didn’t stay down
there for long; just do your job and you get along fine. The navy showed me how not to do
things. However, I never opened my mouth about it while I was in; that was a surefire way to get your ass kicked. The Navy taught me how not to treat people!
As a civilian, I always tried to treat people respectfully. I was a blue color worker for 16 years
and finished a Masters's degree in counseling while working. I looked around for a business that might improve my work life and decided to go to computer school in 1979. I had a very
successful career in software engineering and still treated my coworkers with respect. One of
my female coworkers was getting sexually harassed but she couldn’t tell anyone who it was.
She finally quit. Another woman who knew the guy told me who it was even though at the time you weren’t supposed to use names. I told her if he causes her any trouble, give me a holler. She hollered! When I came into the lunchroom he had his hands in her hair. I slapped his hand, and he got all defensive saying, “I’m just a boy when it comes to girls!” I said “You’re a grown man, behave like one!” and I threw him into a wall; he stopped harassing women. Back then it was pretty bad, but today the situation is worse! When you believe in something, you gotta take an honest position about it. I was happy to put my job on the line to do it; I could have easily lost my job when I stood up for my female coworker; I accepted the risk.
Education is the key to success in life, I cannot stress how much it has helped me. I wouldn’t
say I was proud to have served, it was more of a growing experience. I thought I was a bit of a
dummy in school, my grades were not the best; however, the Navy taught me that I was smart
enough to go to college. This was an important part of me being in the Navy. The number of
jobs you can get with a high school education isn’t the biggest; the Navy opened a lot of doors for me. It took me 16 years to get a master’s degree, but I managed to get into the computer business.