Writer in a can: a C2
takes Katja Ridderbusch
and Marc Steinmetz to
the ‘USS John C. Stennis’


This reportage about a US aircraft carrier in
the Persian Gulf watchdogging Iraqi dictator
Saddam Hussein was commissioned by ‘mare’
magazine, Germany. The story didn’t get
published in time to escape being outdated
by 9-11. However, due to renewed attention
on Iraq in the second half of 2002 it became
relevant again.
     For me, the assignment was like a child-
hood dream come true. When I was a boy
I used to assemble model aircraft carriers
and read ‘Buck Danny’ comic books.
     Newspaper editor Katja Ridderbusch (‘Die
Welt’) and I flew to Bahrain first, where there
is a huge US Navy base. A C2 transport
plane then took us to the ‘Stennis’. The C2 is
an almost windowless, claustrophobically
cramped, stuffy tube, and there’s a faint whiff
of vomit emanating from the upholstery (I
soon found out why!). The seats are facing
backwards to support your body during the
stressful moments when the aircraft lands on
the carrier, an experience you’ll never forget.


The following 42 hours aboard the ‘Stennis’
were dominated by heat, the all-pervading
smell of kerosene, and constant, physically
tangible noise. Ear plugs were a blessing!
We weren’t allowed to take a single step
unaccompanied, which, especially on the
flight deck, would have been unwise anyway.
A Navy press officer showed us around and
patiently fulfilled most of our wishes, from
6 a.m. through 10 p.m.! He must have
savoured the moment he finally got rid of
us again!
      The funniest thing happened to me
during a lengthy helicopter ride. After two
hours I couldn’t suppress my airsickness
any longer, but unfortunately the only bag
available was one of those huge blue garbage
bags. In the downwash from the rotor the
stupid thing came alive and became quite
uncontrollable. I first had to roll it up to
manageable size before I was able to press
it to my mouth and puke. What a pity nobody
took a picture of that!