The Indispensable Man

Although technically part of the engineering gang, Carl Ochs, the metalsmith extraordinaire, was often the salvation for any kind of problem to which he applied his prodigious talents. And when he wasn't fixing something to keep the ship's equipment functioning right, he was turning out steel knives for shipmates he liked, or making ashtrays out of empty 40MM shell casings.

Once when a shaft on the stern steering engine broke, the job to make a new one was too big for Carl to handle in his teeny shop on board the POTTER, so the skipper sent the broken piece over to the Battleship IOWA, which had a much larger shop. In the meantime, we had to steer by manual control, with great difficulty. The Captain put heavy pressure on everyone concerned, particularly Lt. Rural Meadors, the engineering officer, to expedite getting the newly‑made shaft back on board, installed and steerage back to normal.

Back from the IOWA came the new shaft, and post‑haste, the engineering gang set about getting it installed. But, HORRORS, it didn't fit!

Carl Ochs was called to the rescue. Taking the new shaft into his workshop, Carl deftly began cutting it down to size, making certain it was a perfect fit. The harried Meadors kept ducking inside the door of the shop, exhorting Ochs to expedite, and over and over plaintively pleading for Carl to inform him the precise moment he had the shaft done. The rugged metalsmith had had just about enough.

Meadors had peered into the shop for the umpteenth time, when, Carl swears, the hammer in his hand somehow slipped from his grasp and went flying, taking Rural's hat off in its flight. Meadors was unhurt. However, he didn't duck his head into Carl's shop again until Ochs got the job done. When it was, the shaft fit fine. The Captain was happy, the chief engineer was relieved. It must be said that Ochs remained a devoted friend of Rural Meadors right up until Rural passed away unexpectedly in the late 1980s.

Taken from "USS Stephen Potter - The Story of DD538" compiled and edited by Lt. Wilson F. (Bill) Minor USNR (Ret).