In the Greyhound movie, we can see a black messmate (or is it "messman"?) Cleveland regularly bringing food to the captain. When the U-boats attack, there is a moment, when we can see Cleveland passing ammo to the guns.

Towards the end of the movie, we can see that the ship has been hit in the gun turret and one of the victims was the previously mentioned messmate Cleveland.

-Direct hit on mount 43, sir. Damage Control reports fire, abaft frame 24. [...]

-Who are the dead?

-Pisani, gunner's mate, third class. Marx, seaman, second. Cleveland, messmate. Took a hit at the portside 40-millimeter gun tub, loading ammunition, sir.

Would someone who is basically a "navy waiter" really work around guns during the battle? I would think that handling live ammo would require certain training.

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    I believe everyone on a ship has both a combat and non combat job (hence “battle stations” being announced - meaning switch to your combat job). Obviously many officers do almost the same thing regardless of combat or not: engineers stay in engineering, captain, navigator, etc continue in those roles. I think it’s the NCOs and enlisted who usually have plenty of work to do when not in combat as well as combat duties. “All hands to battle stations” includes ALL hands, and the mess and galley are generally not battle stations. Oct 27, 2020 at 0:55

2 Answers 2


In the Navy everyone regardless of job has a combat or damage control position when the ship is in a combat situation or one that will cause damage to the ship. Even though the position is normally in the mess they will normally serve some other duties during combat situations due to the fact that there are limited numbers of people on the ship and everyone needs to pitch in and help.

Now the question as if that was a realistic position in this case I can't say but it was feasible for him to be in that position during combat.


Messmates were occasionally drafted in to perform roles including ammo-loading and stretcher-bearing during 'battle-stations'.

In February 1943, the messman branch was changed to the steward branch. Mess attendants became steward’s mates, and the “officer’s” was dropped from the cook titles (although the duties remained the same). In June 1944, new rating badges were introduced to cooks and stewards that had petty officer and chief chevrons. However, despite the rating badges, even chief cooks and chief stewards ranked below petty officer third class. It was not until 1950 that cooks and stewards were accorded petty officer status. How messmen, cooks, and stewards were used in battle depended to a degree on where in the country the ship’s commanding officer was from. In general, most had battle stations that involved significant manual labor, such as ammunition handling or stretcher bearing, and a number of others assisted in first aid stations.

On some ships, however, they were given more responsibility. For example, on the submarine Cobia (SS-245) the skipper held a competition among the crew to find the best gunners to man and operate the deck gun. Cobia’s two Black stewards won the competition, and when the submarine went to surface battle stations, the Black stewards manned the deck gun. Nevertheless, Cobia’s action reports treat the fact that Black sailors manned the deck gun as almost an embarrassing secret, but at least the skipper put combat capability ahead of racial prejudice.

USN Live History (An official website of the United States government) - H-001-4/2021: Loss of Cook 3rd Class Doris Miller

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