XO - D.W. Knutson
I asked the X.O. one day why the Captain hardly ever spoke with or became friendly with the crew. He explained it very clearly to me. Not that he had to but he took the time. He said that the Captain had him (the X.O.) to handle the day to day interface with the crew so he (the Captain) could concentrate on running the ship. I thought it was a good answer. An X.O. memory: The first time I had occasion to speak with the X.O. it was at precom in Newport R.I., September of 1962. Without malice, for I did not know, I pronounced his name (phonetically) as "Newt-son". He immediately corrected me stating "My name is Donald Wayne Knutson, that is 'Ka-newt-son' with a K". I believe my response started me on my fabled mess cooking career on the Semmes. I replied "Like 'Ka-newt' Rockney Sir?
Dean Slone 62-64
Great memories, Dean.
I always thought being an XO would be an incredibly difficult job. On the one hand the crew sees him as the disciplinarian...the guy that has to get all the work done and the lightning rod for all the gripes. On the other hand the captain lets the XO know whenever anything isn't going right (and hopefully when it is going right). All in all the XO is right in the middle. Not a job I ever envied.
Dean, those are good
observations, especially about Don Knutsen. He had a lot
to do with how well the ship turned out. Too bad we lost
him so soon.
My lasting memory of the XO was my
first meeting with him. I had been in Avondale with
the ship so had never met the XO.
Wanting to make a good impression, I snapped my best salute and sounded off with my best "Good afternoon, XO!". He returned my salute and gave a hearty "Howdy!!" I checked his car when I passed it, sure that I would see Texas license plates only to see Minnesota plates.
I'll second the Captain's assessment of the CO/XO relationship. The best ships that I served on (topped by the SEMMES) always had a CO and an XO that provided a contrast, at least in the crew's eyes. They could do the "good cop, bad cop" routine and interchange roles on occasion. The XO didn't always have to be the heavy. He could present the crew's case to the Captain on occasion and seem to prevail.
Thanks, Keith. That is a very perceptive observation,
nicely expressed. When this basic arrangement is upset,
as when both officers want to become dominant characters
in the same ship, the organization begins to break down
-- from the top first. I've seen it happen.
The thing that amazed me then, as a PO2 with 6 years service, and even more now as a retired SCPO with 23 years active service and more than that working with the navy, is that Cdr Knutsen, Lt. Reisinger (Weapons), Lt. Donnell (Engineering), and Lt. Mayfield (Fire Control) had all had command previously. The XO had captained a fleet tug and the other three had commanded minesweepers. When I first found this out, I expected to be witness to a major clash of egos. There may have been in the Wardroom, but I never saw it on the deckplates. I did witness a few exchanges between the XO and Lt. Mayfield (after the latter became the Weapons Officer) in combat during GQ exercises, but they didn't last long and usually consisted of Lt. Mayfield expressing his views of a particular training situation and then accepting the decision of the XO or CO. I had the impression that all four realized that there could be only one CO on the ship. I also had the impression that the Captain utilized the experience of all four officers (plus that of the rest of the officers and crew) to the definite advantage of the ship as a whole. Keith Cottrell
Excellent assessment Keith, the X.O. played his role very well. In every mans life there are a few individuals that stand out in memory as having had a profound influence. For me, the X.O. was one of those men. I don't know how or why it happened but Mr. Knutson and I developed a mentoring type of relationship. In one conversation out on deck he mentioned that he "didn't like being the hammer all the time". He would much rather have been on friendlier terms with the crew.
Remember Knudson's Word For The Day in the PODs?