Uncertain as to what to do, I decided to make an inventory of my belongings.
I wanted to figure out what I could count on in my solitude at sea.
First of all, I could rely on my watch, which kept perfect time,
and which I couldn’t stop glancing at every two or three minutes.
In addition, I had my gold ring, which I’d bought in Cartagena the year before,
and a chain with a medal of the Virgin of Carmen on it,
also purchased in Cartagena, from another sailor for thirty-five pesos.
In my pockets I had nothing but the keys to my locker on the destroyer
and three business cards I have been given at a store in Mobile
one day in January when I had gone out shopping with Mary Address.
Since I had nothing to do,
I read the cards over and over to distract myself until I was rescued.
I don’t know why the cards seemed like the messages in bottles
that shipwrecked sailors pitch into the sea.
I think if I had had a bottle at that moment
I would have put one of the cards into it, playing shipwrecked sailors,
just to do something amusing to tell my friends about in Cartagena.
So their battle ended, and so,
all over the Atlantic, the fighting died –
a strangely tame finish,
after five and a half years of bitter struggle.
There was no eleventh-hour,
death-or-glory assault on shipping,
no individual attempt at piracy after the surrender date:
the vicious war petered out in bubbles,
blown tanks, a sulky yielding, and the laconic order:
But no anti-climax, no quiet end,
could obscure the triumph and the pride inherent in this victory,
with its large cost –
thirty thousand seamen killed,
three thousand ships sent to the bottom in this one ocean –
and its huge toll of seven hundred and eighty U-boats sunk,
to even the balance.
It would live in history,
because of its length and its unremitting ferocity:
it would live in men’s minds
for what it did to themselves and to their friends,
and to the ships they often loved.
After all, it would live in naval tradition,
and become legend,
because of its crucial service to an island at war,
its price in sailor’s lives, and its golden prize –
the uncut lifeline to the sustaining outer world.