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RADM T. J. Robertson USN, Ret.

The September 2018 Review included an anecdote related to Sub- marine Squadron TEN’s 1972 Mediterranean deployment to set up the advance refit site at La Maddalena, Italy. After a rather shaky start, and the beer crisis chronicled therein, came somewhat normal execution of submarinerefits. ForthecrewofUSSFULTON(AS11)thehighpoint surely came with a mid-deployment port visit to that gem ofthe Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca.

As things developed, this writer (Squadron Eng) was riding one of our submarines out of the Med to assist in preps for an inspection. Fly- ing to Palma after debark in Holy Loch, it was time to catch up with liberty call. Afloat there was moderate confusion. With the Commo- dore and division commanders on travel, our first-of-kind nuclear Chief Staff Officer, CDR Lew Yarger was acting. Only he was nowhere to be found! By reputation Lew was a consummate seaman and subma- riner, and world class liberty hound. Query of our protective stewards revealed that he had indeed cycled aboard a few times in prior days, but only to refuel with fresh clothing and pesos. After review and quick disposal ofthe rather limited operational business at hand, all staffhands were back off on the joys of liberty in fragrant and beautiful Palma.

Underway was early Sunday morning. The stewards checked on CDR Lew and offered the rather guarded report “Commanda’ Yaga’ still sleeping.” Later the skipper asked for the Chief Staff Officer so they could make some preps for the Monday morning arrival in La Maddale- na. Thistimethestewardcamebackyelling”Commanda’Yaga’gone.” The lump in his rack turned out to be piles of clothing. The skipper wasn’t amused when told that the Chief Staff Officer was not aboard, and suggested somebody better do something. Query around the ship revealed that CDR Lew had last been sighted near midnight Saturday in a splendid horse-drawn carriage, fully into a festa mode. When re- minded ofthe morning underway he reportedly smiled, replying he was “going to the bullfight,” apparently unconcerned that bullfights in Spain started at 4 PM on Sunday afternoon. Papers were quickly drafted to put him on leave, and the cracker-jack yeomen went to work figuring out what commercial travel options existed to get from one remote island to another in less time than our 24 hour transit. There were none even close.

During the mooring at La Maddalena I was called to the quarterdeck and to my surprise found myselftalking to CDR Lew Yarger on the two- way radio. He was all business, in uniform ashore and in full charge of shore patrol forces and Italian guards quelling a political riot threatening the fleet landing and Italian naval base. It had been a volatile year in local politics, with local fervor leaning socialist, abetted by the local Monsignor. While the commotion was political, the crowd was happy to make it anti-military as well. But there was CDR Lew in the breach, armed and in full command of a hostile situation. In the end, the day was won and calm reestablished.

CDR Lew Yarger was heralded as a hero and the Italians were gen- erous in their gratitude, as Italians can be. As for Lew, he wasn’t talking. All in a day’s work! No amount of questioning ever revealed how he got from Palma to La Maddalena faster than any combination of travel options could deliver. All one got was a wink and that famous twinkle of his eye.

Lew Yarger died several years ago but lived a long and productive life, his later years in the Jacksonville Beach area. He routinely attend- ed Navy League and Submarine League affairs with his typical social gusto. Those of us that had enjoyed his friendship and leadership style always looked forward to such encounters. Different techniques were used at times to quiz him about pulling off that magic journey from Palma to La Maddalena. He never broke, only responding with wink and engaging smile. It must have been a truly memorable liberty run. In a moment of nautical fancy one imagines Lew transforming Cinder- ella liberty into a magic carriage journey from Palma, depositing him in harm’s way, where only a true man-of-action could fill the day.

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