Walter Mitty is alive and well, and living in Snap Judgment episode 934. It’s a very entertaining episode, in the sense that any good work of historical fiction or science fiction is entertaining. Snap Judgment claims their stories are “true to the teller”. But there are too many incredible claims in this episode for me to mark the story as anything other than fiction. Minimal fact checking in Wikipedia would have revealed these discrepancies. I’m calling BS.
The episode purports to tell the story of Jack Boyles, allegedly a 22 year old sailor on a US aircraft carrier during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He claims he was sent on a one-way mission on the island of Cuba to illuminate a missile silo for destruction by Navy bombers.
My BS detector started wiggling when the storyteller was identified as the only yeoman aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier. I served on active duty as a yeoman myself. A yeoman is a Navy clerk. The storyteller claims to have been a Yeoman Second Class. A second class petty officer is pay grade E-5, the same paygrade as a sergeant in the Army or Marine Corps. On my ship with a crew of about 200, we had an authorized complement of 3 yeomen. It’s ludicrous to think that a 1962 aircraft carrier would have had only one yeoman. It’s ludicrous to think that the senior yeoman on an aircraft carrier would have been only a YN2.
But let’s keep listening. After all, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
YN2 Boyles was called to the captain’s cabin. Or office. Or maybe the wardroom. That point isn’t made clear and isn’t really important. The carrier’s captain told him he was being invited to volunteer for a one-way, top secret mission. That doesn’t add up for me. The US military doesn’t send people on suicide missions. Well, ok, maybe just this once, since it was a crisis? And they just happened to have cyanide pills on the carrier already.
The mission was to shine an illuminating rifle on one of the three “silos” that were holding missiles. This was to allow US Navy bombers to take out the “silos”. But the missiles deployed to Cuba were not based in silos. They were Soviet R-12 and R-14 missiles, surface launched. No silos. Ok, well, maybe the language was sloppy, and he said “silo” when he meant “launcher”.
Mr. Boyles describes being ferried by helicopter to a landing zone near his assigned “silo”, and his walk through the dark woods to the “silo”. Hey wait a minute. This guy’s a clerk. There’s a US Marine Corps security detachment on every aircraft carrier. Why send a clerk when you could send a trained Marine? Well, maybe he had a lot of hunting experience and was used to moving at night through the woods. He says the mission was planned for 48 hours and was extended to 72 hours. Why do you send one person, alone, on a critical two day mission? Why not a team of two?
Oh, the kicker? Mr. Boyles claims to have conducted this operation from the USS Shangri-La. But USS Shangri-La was being overhauled in a shipyard in New York during the Cuban Missile Crisis. She arrived in Mayport, Florida in August, and left for overhaul in New York a month later. She did not participate in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Her air group deployed aboard USS Lexington.
The story ends with the description of a wonderful present from Mr Boyles’s son on his 78th birthday in spring of 2018: a carved model of the aircraft carrier he served on. I have no doubt that this gift triggered some memories and emotions. Many of those memories were probably true. But I don’t think this one is.
Cool story. But I have lost trust in Snap Judgment’s judgment. I hope they will take down the story, or clearly identify it as fiction.