We all make mistakes, be it in personal decisions or maybe relationships, even in our jobs. That’s part of us as human beings. At work, there’s this accidentally-sent-an-email-without-the-attachment kind of mistake, and then there’s this I-almost-blew-up-the-President-of-the-United-States mistake. For the US Navy, it’s painfully the second one.

We mess things up sometimes, and in the world of the military, these errors become the perfect means to tease your peers and make sure they never forget what they did. When the USS William D. Porter was brought back to its homeport, it was greeted with a giant, “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” Guess why?

Off to a Not-So-Great Start

In 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt and US Secretary of State Cordell Hull boarded the USS Iowa, together with the top brass of the US military during World War II. They were on a crucial and special mission of meeting their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran. These leaders included British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the Soviet Union’s dictator, Joseph Stalin.

USS Iowa in Port Mers-el-Kébir. (Dave Way via Ron Reeves, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Sailor are a superstitious lot, and some ships are considered “lucky” and others are considered a jinxed, or Albatrosses, a reference to the “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ poem from the late 1700s.  USS Porter was a hard-luck ship within months of her commissioning. As she was leaving Norfolk to join the Iowa carrying the President, her stern swept the side of another destroyer berthed next to her, smashing the other ship’s lifeboat davits and carrying away her railing. The following day, one of Porter’s depth charges slipped off it rails and detonated so close to the ship that a large wave washed over her stern sweeping a sailor overboard who was not recovered. Thinking the Iowa task force was under attack by a U-boat, the battleship and her other escorts twisted and turned out of formation until the Porter could signal that it was just a depth charge accidentally exploding.