I don’t know a damned thing about Thomas Rudd except that he worked on a ship back in the seventies and died aboard ship. I forgot even if he worked in the engine or the deck department. The man that told me this story was an old salt that was sort of a misfit himself and didn’t really fare well ashore. In the late ‘70s I met him in a bar in Colorado, of all places. He was visiting his sister, who lived there, and had sneaked out for a couple of drinks.
I, of course, being in my twenties at the time was scouting the gin mill for a little strange ginch. Whatever.
Anyway, this guy died at sea and the captain did his job and saw to it that the body was places in the freezer so it could be shipped back to the States for proper burial. The next two ports they stopped in at would not accept human remains for shipment.
Thomas Rudd’s family was notified. Apparently he was a single man that had no family to speak of, perhaps a distant aunt or something. The family of sorts accepted the shipping company’s suggestion that Thomas be buried at sea. The shipping company notified the captain that Thomas Rudd was to be buried at sea.
The captain sent for the ship’s carpenter and ordered a casket to be made from whatever was available aboard. This was done. The remains were placed in the box and carried on deck. The ship’s engines were stopped, the crew gathered, and the captain read the burial service from the Common Book of Christian Prayer. Then he made a little eulogy about Rudd being a good shipmate, and a fine man.
As the crew slid the box containing the mortal remains of Thomas Rudd over the side, the captain spoke: “I commit this body to the sea.”
The box hit the water with a splash and floated away from the ship, drifting in the South China Sea. The carpenter had forgotten to weight it down!
“Lower the boat,” ordered the captain.
The boat was lowered, the casket recovered, the boat was raised and the carpenter got his ass chewed out royally.
The engines were started and ship got underway.
A couple hours later, the crew gathered, the captain ordered the engines stopped and re-read the service out of the Common Book of Christian Prayer, and repeated his eulogy.
“I commit this body to the sea,” he said.
Much foul language.
The carpenter had loaded the bottom of the casket with an awful lot of scrap steel and hadn’t taken into consideration what was going to happen when the weighted casket hit the water. The bottom had ripped out and there was the casket minus the bottom drifting in the South China Sea. The casket was heading in one direction and the mortal remains of Thomas Rudd drifting in another.
“Lower the Goddam boat!” ordered the captain.
The boat was lowered and Thomas Rudd and the casket were recovered and brought back aboard. The ship got underway.
This time the captain was too livid to reprimand the ship’s carpenter. He knew that if he did, he was apt to become violent.
This time the captain took charge of the operation. The casket was re weighted, and wrapped tightly with steel bands every six inches. Holes were drilled in the casket to make sure that it filled up with water and sunk. The casket was now ironclad and heavy as hell. It would do the trick!
It took almost the entire crew to horse the casket back on deck. The crew assembled, the ship’s engines were stopped.
The captain spoke: “You’ve heard it twice. I commit this body to the sea!”
The casket hit the water and sank like a stone.
“Now goddammit, let’s get this show back on the road’” roared the captain. “This has cost us too damned much time already! Start ‘em up, and flank speed! We’re running late enough as it is!”
I heard a similar story about a Navy burial at sea of some dignitary or other.
Supposedly, back in the day before remains had to be cremated prior to burial at sea, a smaller ship (cruiser or destroyer) had aboard the casketed remains of a deceased Navy VIP, maybe an Admiral, for burial at sea, per the decedent's last wishes.
Anyway, the burial party forgot to put holes in the casket, so the body goes over the side, and floats away.
With the aghast family looking on, the C.O., in a panic over protocol, calls the ship's MAA and a small-arms party bangs away at the casket with M14's, without effect.
Things really start to go downhill when the crew decides to break out the .50 cal's....
Reportedly, the C.O. was quickly relieved of command upon return to port.
True story? You be the judge....
The Navy will still bury casketed remains at sea. I know because that's the way I'm going to go.