The Lady - Part II

U.S.S. Irex (482) Newsletter, Vol. 12-3, November 2006

[These documents are reflections upon the article that appeared in the July issue of the Newsletter . The Irex went to the Med in August 1961, and Tony Hastoglis describes its purchase at that time. However, Ed Steele claims the painting was there when he came aboard in January 1960. Given that the nude reproduced in the July issue is clearly not the one described by Tony, could it be there were two paintings?]

Tony Hastoglis (Charlottesville, VA) wrote

I know things get fuzzy after 45 years but I remember almost every detail about the picture. I was Engineer on IREX in the Med where we got the idea for the picture when we saw some great nude paintings in Naples. We put (an officer), who was “George” and a non-qual, in charge of getting a good painting. His qualification rested on his success. The ironic part of that was (he) was very quiet and religious. He came back with a great painting—BUT—the picture in your newsletter is not the same as our painting. Ours was a nude sitting on her haunches and her body turned slightly sideways with her arms raised and folded across the top of her head. No glass in her hand.

Two things I remember well which verify that are (I) the alignment of her nipples which were one higher and closer to the other because of her position. We had put a curtain across in front of it which met in the middle. Captain made us keep it closed during meals and, of course, when in port. When the boat would roll, even a little, the curtain would part just enough to show those gorgeous tips. (2) The painter was Italian and in the Italian style, she had all her hair where hair grows. It was very black, unlike the newsletter photo which appears to be blond. Since her arms were raised she showed a mass of thick black arm pit hair as well as—well, you know.

Another thing I remember well, which has nothing to do with the right or wrong picture, was coming off the 20–24 or the mid while snorkeling and unwinding in the rigged for red wardroom. Since the picture frame was mounted to the solid bulkhead on the passageway side there was a quarter inch or so airspace between the bulkhead and the canvas. Every time the head valve cycled the canvas would undulate a little as the vacuum pulled it away from the bulkhead, That sure looked good after a while at sea.

As far as it being stolen, I had left the boat to be Div 22 Engineer shortly before but I heard all about it of course. As I recall it happened while Sea Leopard (??) was visiting the Sub Base. An officer wearing wings came on board on a Sunday night with orders from a VP Squadron to ride the boat the next week. He asked the Duty Officer if he could have a better cup of coffee than the stale stuff in the wardroom. When the DO went aft the visitor cut the painting out of the frame and hustled off the boat. The Sea Leopard (??) soon mounted it in their wardroom behind bulletproof glass (reportedly) which slid across in front of the picture and was padlocked in place. Whenever in New London or when Irex was in Norfolk they had a regular security bill in effect, keeping hatches shut, etc. The skipper really raised hell to get it back but as far as I know, never did.

Ed Steele (Pawcatuck, CT) wrote:

“The Lady” did in fact grace the wardroom of IREX in 1960. Whence she first appeared, I do not know, but she was definitely there when I arrived aboard in Jan [1960]. IREX and SEA LEOPARD were in Philadelphia Shipyard in late 1960.

When IREX departed in Nov/Dec, some unidentified IREX crewmen (part of [Apthtorp's forty thieves] Engineer Division) seemed to appropriate a certain sign that adorned SEA LEOPARD's Eng spaces on the pier. The sign included a painting of Yogi-Bear who was the mascot of SEA LEOPARD's engineers.

Also appropriated at this time was an owl. I cannot remember if the owl was stuffed, metal or wood. However IREX would later learn that this owl had its own history of appropriation from some other staff at Norfolk.

In Jan/Feb of '61, during a Sunday nite mid-watch, two or three officers arrived with orders to ride IREX for a week. The topside watch sent the trio below. They s on reappeared topside saying they were going to the BOQ 'til morning.

When the CO arrived in the morning, “The Lady” was missing, and no one arrived to ride the boat. Yes, the CO was upset to say the least, but a photo arrived later in the week, of “The Lady” In company of SEA LEOPARD's CO.

SEA LEOPARD came to NLon when she left Philly, because I remember the doubled topside/below decks watch while we were moored opposite each other on the pier. All negotiation efforts were useless as “The Lady” had been taken to Norfolk for safekeeping.

In late 61 IREX departed on a Med cruise and we had a problem en route to Rota, Spain, and we needed a set of bearings.

Lo and behold, SEA LEOPARD was also at sea, and she had the bearings we needed. We met somewhere in the Atlantic.

Negotiations were horrendous with SEA LEOPARD insisting “The Lady” was still in Norfolk, and she wouldn't high-line the bearings without receiving the owl. We were forced to surrender the owl for the bearings.

We had a successful and eventful Med run, and yes, the water skiing stories are true. We lost track of “The Lady” after that, and was glad to see her again in the newsletter.

Vince Flaherty (Orwigsburg, PA) wrote:

I was a crew member when all that happened. The second story is the truth. But, it isn't the whole story. We stole the painting back, and it was stolen again.

Bag Katz (Reno, NV) called and said:

The painting in the last newsletter was not the one from the Wardroom.

Barry also wrote:

I not only remember the incident but, I have a picture of the painting. As I recall 2 officers with fake orders reported aboard went to the Wardroom and took the painting. The painting was not the original that was pictured by Wally. The one we had was painted by an Italian artist. The following night a (shipmate) and I did pull a fake raid on the boat the two officers were from. I don't remember the name of the boat. I put on a half wetsuit and my Scuba gear and went over the side. The water was cold enough to cause me to breathe very rapidly. (The tender} held a heaving line that was attached to my tank harness. I then started banging on the bottom of their hull at various place. I was freezing my ass off, I gave a couple of yanks on the line and (he) pulled me back. (The Duty Officer) found out about our prank and gave me a real ass chewing. They were charging batteries on the other boat and they thought that we had plugged their engine water intakes. I also remember something about a practice depth charge placed on their after deck.

Bruce Schick (Louisa, VA) wrote:

Two officers came aboard in the middle of the night. Claimed to be reservists reporting for temporary active duty. The topside watch let them go below. They cut the painting off the wall & hauled ass. They were from SEA LEOPARD.

We did put a practice depth charge on their turtleback.

Later, (another officer) & a couple of his troops snuck out on the railroad bridge & bombarded SEA LEOPARD's bridge with paper sacks full of flour as they were passing under the bridge.

I thought we eventually stole (the painting) back, but the memory fails.

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