18 september 2020

From The Shores of Tripoli to Pearl Harbor.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY. Dad finishes Sea School and is ordered to Pearl Harbor Sept 1941.

While I was in Sea School, the movie “Shores of Tripoli” was filmed with some of the action taking place on the drill field. Our platoon was used in some of the scenes, and Sergeant Roddenberry’s was the voice used in all the scenes where John Payne was supposed to be drilling troops and counting cadence. I have seen the movie a few times and can never recognize any of the troops, and yet I know I was there. I thought it was a real big deal, not quite like being discovered at Schwab's Drugstore, but to me, being in the movies was a big deal.

One day I was told to report to the Company Office, and was informed I was to be given orders to report aboard the USS Houston, and would join her in the Philippines. She was the flagship of the Asiatic Fleet, I was ecstatic. My first choice have been the Asiatic Fleet, and I was finally going to sea. Before I could proceed to San Francisco to board the transport Chaumont for transport to the Philippines, my orders were cancelled and I was ordered to proceed to the Marine Barracks, Pearl Harbor, T.H. for further assignment. It was about the 1st of September, when I boarded the transport, USS Wharton, and a week later arrived at Pearl Harbor. It was sudden, I spent my first four days at sea, SEA SICK, and thought, Oh shit, I'm going to spend the next two years puking into the Pacific Ocean. Why in the hell had I wanted sea duty, when I couldn't seem to cope with being aboard ship, the constant motion, the eternal queasiness. I was also saddened by the fact that I didn't get liberty once my orders were issued, and I did not get a chance to bid a farewell to Lois. I wonder if she thought anything of my not showing up. Did she worry? I never did find out, as when I next saw San Diego, the do-gooders had closed the whorehouses. Maybe she found work as a Riveter.

The two Dunn's were on the draft to Pearl Harbor with me, as was Jack Huddleston. Merrifield received orders to report aboard a ship which was in dry dock in Mare Island, California. The Dunn’s were assigned aboard the Battleship Tennessee, which was sunk at Pearl Harbor, later raised and towed to Bremerton Washington for repairs. Barnes Dunn was killed while in Bremerton, after being hit by a snow plow. I next saw D.W. Dunn in 1945 while on Guam where he told me the news of Barnes death. George Merrifield, I did not see again until we met by chance at the end of the war. “So much for undying friendships.”

I was at the Marine Barracks, Pearl Harbor for two weeks before being assigned aboard the USS Northampton. During that time I stood my first guard duties. It was a day on day off situation, with liberty call every other day. I soon found my way to Honolulu, and the dens of iniquity which flourished in that city. Cab fare from the main gate to the town downtown YMCA or Black Cat Gin Mill, depending on which side of the cab you got out of, was 15 cents. There were usually six or seven passengers per trip and the cabs ran a steady turn from the Fleet Landing at Mary's point to town and back. Always full. At the Berritania Cafe I could buy a T-bone steak which overflowed a large serving platter, complete with fried potatoes, salad and coffee, for fifty cents. I bought Siamen (Japanese noodle soup) from street vendors for a nickel a bowl. A complete Chinese dinner could be had for thirty five cents. But, the cost of nookie was higher. Three dollars was the going price in the houses in Honolulu. Like San Diego, the town was filled with servicemen. There really wasn't much one could do except sightsee, have a meal, get laid, and return to the base. Going back, I was usually down to my last coins, and I would wait and catch the little train which ran on narrow gauge track, and fare was only a nickel. The days were balmy, the duty easy, money was a problem, but somehow I managed. I was happy.

On the days I had the duty, we would have morning Guard Mount, and if I was lucky I would be posted as part of a five-man detail to the Aiea Pumping Station. The post was remote, and a Corporal and four privates would be trucked out to the Aiea area where we would descend into the pumping station down through a long tunnel consisting of stairs and ramps, until we were about 200 ft underground, and there were the huge pumps which supplied the water for the Naval Base. To say it was bomb-proof is understating the fact. It was impervious to any type of assault. About forty feet down the tunnel was a guard room, with five bunks, a refrigerator, table and chairs, all the necessities of comfort. There was also a small arsenal of weapons. A sentry was always on duty at a Gatehouse at the mouth of the tunnel. It was four hours on, eight hours off. Three times a day our meals were delivered in large vacuum containers from the mess hall. In our off hours we played pinochle, or hearts, or we would read, or sleep as the mood struck us. It was a perfect place to recuperate from a Honolulu liberty

The day finally came when my ship returned to port, and I packed my gear and the guard truck delivered Jack Huddleston and myself to Mary's Landing where we boarded a motor launch. I was finally going to sea. The Marine Detachment of the USS Northampton was to be my home for the next fourteen months.