I have finally decided to write down my experiences in the Navy, from Jan. 44 to June 46.
I enlisted in Grand Central Station in Dec. 43. I was called to active duty in Jan 44 after the Holiday's.
Reported to Whitehall building for physical, etc. Was put on a train in evening, going God knows where. Ended up in Sampson N.Y. at about 3:00 AM, and had breakfast? (Apple & some kind of processed meat sandwich).
Then started processing. Had to remove all clothes. Pack in a box & send home. Had 2nd physical, at the end of which, got shot's. Being naive, when asked if I could sing, answered yes, and got a big "C" marked in mercurochrome on my arm. When the joker's who were PM Mates saw it, they said "Oh a choir boy, let's hear him sing", and simultaneously poked needles in both arms at the same time (lesson learned never volunteer, even if you don't realize that you have).
Next started through the supply room, first getting a mattress cover, and having the QM's advice "Drag that Sack", and as we passed down the counter, having clothes thrown in to the accompaniment of "KEEP MOVING! DRAG THAT SACK". Finally, into the dental office where the Dentist tells all and sundry. He was just drafted, not happy, and was only too willing to take out his frustrations on we poor soul's.
Did real nasty work, trenched my teeth, drilling from one tooth to another, and filling them but I got off lucky! One poor guy from Pa, flinched, this animal looked at him, said to his Pharmacist's Mates, "Hold Him down", and proceeded to pull every tooth in his mouth.
Then we marched off to the barrack's (Edward's Unit, named after a Radioman Gunner killed at the beginning of the war). Our company was on the 2nd" Deck", and the first order given to us was, Wash those sacks", our mattress cover's that were filthy from dragging thru the supply room (another lesson Learned-never trust what someone tells you without thinking about the consequences.)
Four week's later, now "Salt's", at least in our estimation, we received our "Boot" leave, 7 day's at home. Then back to the OGU (Out Going Unit) to await our assignments, either to Service School's to learn a Navy trade, or "Draft's" to stations for assignment to ship's or other duties. Radio School was set up on a 20 week progressive program which allowed you to develop code, (sending & receiving) at your own pace; there were theory classes, physical fitness, electronic and encrypting classes.
One of amusing instances during R/M School; One of the students was a drafted married man of 37, to us of course an "old man" who had been the principal cellist for the Rhode Island Symphony Orchestra. He was of Polish accent, and his last name was Gryzb, which he told us means mushroom in Polish. In the 20 word-per-minute class, the instructor sent the class a message/'Send your name, rank & serial number, then code group's (five letter increment's representing encoded messages. Gryzb started G-R-Y- the instructor broke in, I said send your name etc.
Again G-R-Y-Z-, the instructor interrupted and in code again outlined what he wanted done. G-R-Y- -the instructor threw down his earphones, jumped up and pointed at our poor classmate. DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND ENGLISH ? I SAID NAME, RANK & SERIAL, And THEN THE CODE GROUP'S. Gryzb said that's exactly what I'm doing, my name is Gryzb-and showed his dog tag to the enraged teacher. From that day on his nickname was "Code Group's"
One day there was all kind's of excitement in the barrack's, a Marine platoon (unheard of in the Naval Training School's at Sampson, marched in & took up residence in with the next R/M class's barrack's. It seems that the Marine Aviation R/M School was not able to absorb the group in their classes, so they were sent to Sampson. Someone in the group looked familiar to me, and turned out to be a friend who I knew from the Crown Height's section of Brooklyn, where I was raised. He was a member of a rival gang, the Amboy Dukes, located in the adjoining area of Brooklyn, Brownsville, and (a most unsavory place - home of Murder Inc.) We got together and went to the rec. hall to talk about the old days, and to have a shake & some doughnuts. On the way out one of my buddies yelled "Hey Glover, where are you going with that seagoing bellhop?" to which my friend replied, the last belle I hopped was you sister and she was no *%A @+ good. I dragged him back to his barracks- a Brooklyn Marine Boot, what chutzpah with 50,000 sailors on base.
Finally our 20 week's were up and we graduated, were put in a draft, and went by train to NYC, where we took another train to Norton Height's in Connecticut. Actually it was an old soldier's home, supported by the Fitch Shampoo Family. The full title was: The Fitch Home for Soldier's & their families from the Civil War. Have no idea where the old fellow's went, but in wartime strange things happen. We were told it was an Armed Guard school, and that we were being trained as Navy Radiomen assigned to merchant ships-really good duty! Good Chow, east coast, good liberty in the state's & exciting liberties in Europe (we had heard stories). 50 miles from NYC, port & starboard liberty and every other weekend. That meant home to family, local liberty in Bridgeport and adjoining areas, & on & on. One weekend after signing in from the weekend, we were ordered to the mess hall for a Monday morning lecture and movie, a good chance to catch up some snooze after a busy weekend. The movie came on with a loud blast "SURVIVAL IN THE -PACIFIC", all about how to get, cook & eat strange thing's like coconut worm's, and how to squeeze water from fish., we couldn't believe it, what do we need this for? We soon found out, we reported to the supply room where we were made familiar with the TBS transceiver which weighs 70 Ibs as a back pack, helmet's & other stuff that didn't seem like thing's sailors would have use for.
A real rude awakening, within 2 week's the base was closed, we were split in 2 sections and put on separate train's with no knowledge of where we were going or what awaited us. Some of the "party guy's" got hold of liquor, and it was said you could follow our trail of empties all the way to our destination.
We had several career Navy guys in the group, and some did not want to go overseas again, but none could equal Blankenship, a guy who spent 2 pre-war years in Iceland and then lost his cushy job as a teacher in R/M school. One evening as he was lying in his bunk on the train sipping from a bottle of bourbon, a particularly obnoxious officer from N. Carolina, came around on an inspection tour, took one look, said to Blankenship , give me that bottle. Blankenship said "Sir" the officer repeated give me the bottle. Blankenship obliged, hitting him over the head with the bottle, automatic court marshal guaranteed. No brig - so they restricted him to his car - the last was not heard from Blankenship. He once told me, "Glover, they will never get me overseas again".
The train ride was monotonous, even new sight's were getting boring. No Restaurant car from Chicago on, we ate at the Fred Harvey Restaurant's which were set up to feed the traveling public who rode trains. These places had the plainest food imaginable, when they said boiled, they meant boiled. Supposedly when a train pulled into the station, the waitresses would get your food (no ordering allowed) and bring it to your table in time before the train was scheduled to leave.
Some times this did not work out; the train whistle sounded "ALL ABOARD", and off you went without your meal. We were somehow behind on their schedule which had the same meal in different restaurants on different days, we got the same darn menu everyday until we got off in Pendleton. Blankenship and a buddy deserted together in New Mexico, lamming for the border.
When we finally after 8 day's got to California, we were met at the train, in the middle of the night with searchlight's, and 6 bies, trucks with mounted 50 ca machine guns with marines all around, we were marched to "Tent City " for the rest of the night, and miracle of Miracles, we were told we were on liberty fro the next 48 hour's. The only question was "Which way to Hollywood?" The next day, we were issued "Green's" Carbines etc. and formed up in platoon's, marched to the drill field, and started doing "monkey drill " with a Marine Corporal who seemed delighted that he had a bunch of swabbies from Chief's to seamen to boot around. We stayed training at Pendleton until late Dec. of 45 and were then put on train up to San Bruno Ca., just outside of San Francisco. This base was the old Tanforan race track, owned by actor Dick Foran & some guy named Tanfredi (?) and was leased to the Govt. for the duration. It was first used as a relocation camp for Japanese, and then was condemned for that & taken over by the Navy department. The mess hall was located in the old grand stand area, and was supposed to have the best food in the Navy. There were walk overs around the track so we would not ruin the turf. Again our instructor's were Marine, and we were trained in all the stuff, obstacle course with live fire, gas drills, firing range, on & on.
We were then sent to Treasure Island the man-made island under the Oakland Bridge to await transport "some where ". We were in quarantine for a couple of week's (no liberty) at the end of which, we were put aboard an old United Fruit ship in San Francisco. Seven of us were put in a compartment in the "eyes of the ship", probably an old paint locker, right over the capstan & anchor chain. The trip was miserable.
The ship lurched up & down the waves (maybe 40 or more feet) turning side to side. I was smart enough to have elected a top bunk, but the guy's on the lower who were suffering sea sicknesses were on the receiving end from the bunks above. I decided to "tough it out" and survived, not getting seasick. We were given 2 meals a day, one hot, and one consisting of a sandwich & apple,, In the 12 days of our voyage, I had about 6 day's of meal tickets at the end of the trip. We pulled into Pearl Harbor, and the ravages of 12/7 were still visible.
Went by Battleship Row, the Arizona, etc. We landed at the civilian peace time pier, and were greeted by believe it or not, Hula Girl's with leis they put around our necks. We were then transported on low boy trailers to a dock where we were taken by ferry to the Marine base at Iroquois Point across the harbor. After we were assigned to Quonset Huts, we went to eat. first time I ever had Australian "bully beef" stringy, red & salty., instant potatoes, carrot's and peas. "B" ration's, with worse to come. The next day, off to school again, this one named Advanced Base Combat Communication Center (ABCCTC). We started learning about equipment we would use in the future. Our field gear was comprised of two transmitter vans, a code van & a radio receiver van, also TBS portable transceivers, Army 600 series transceivers real good gear.
We did all kind of drills to get ready, most of which we were familiar with. One of our officers became annoyed with us for some stupid reason, rolled us out of our sack's at 3:OOAM & marched us full gear about 10 miles to a pier where he threatened we would be sent out from some dire duty. This we knew was baloney, so he didn't impress us & finally marched us back, finally we went out on maneuvers with our gear to King Kaneohe Park, where we set up & transmitted to see if all worked as it should. While there a convoy of trucks came over a hill, looking a little worse for wear, with a scroungy looking bunch of guy's., asked our Chief who they were and he advised us this was the other half of our outfit, the3181 Sp. Sig. Co, USA. We were all pretty much relieved, the way things were going, we thought we would end up in a combined Marine Unit called a JASCO, Joint Assault Signal Company. We were glad to settle for the Army.
Shortly after we formed up with the army, we were told we would be going down to the piers to load our own gear for the invasion. It seems Hawaii's loyal, patriotic longshoremen union decided to strike! We spent about a week on the wharf's loading our gear into two ships, the Gretna Victory, which would be carrying our vans, bulldozer, 6by's , Jeep's and some palleted gear, and the Claremont, carrying the Headquarters' units, us and our personal gear.
Talking about the best chow in the Navy, while working the piers, we were told we would be fed by the Coast Guard stationed in one of the piers. Their cook went out & purchased at a civilian store, pork chops & all the fixings for one of the best meals I ever had in the service.
You can read a day to day synopsis of our trip to Okinawa & le Shima in other reports that are part of this narrative. Two things I'd like to mention from the trip: One of our guy's had found a small puppy (looked like a fox terrier) and smuggled her aboard ship. One day he had the puppy out on a hatch playing with her when the ships Bo' sun stopped by, said if that dog poop's on that hatch cover, I'll throw her overboard. The guy who brought her aboard said, "Boat's you had better be able to swim if you do that. End of remarks.
Secondly, we were recruited as temporary ship's company to install radio gear in the landing boats, and to man the 40mm gun tub's to help out ship's company who were mostly boots. One afternoon on watch I was sitting in the pointers position on tub 43, when I became really bored, so I started transversing the gun's with the "pickle" back & Forth, up & down. Finally checked the port side, just as one of escort ships came up & lowered the guns on him. Now the squawk box activated, "This is the Bridge,-gun 43 get off that escort before they blow us out of the water!" that was my last day as ship's company. The ship we were on was a new APA named the Clearfield. She got in to Hawaii with the Head-quarter's group they picked up in the Philippines. We spent over a month aboard, the last week of March until the middle of April. We were in Eniwetok for a couple of days, and went swimming and I got one wicked sunburn in about half an hour of exposure. The water was crystal clear, and when we got back to the recreation area, we each got 2 can's of beer, no idea what kind in brown painted, can's. Then, we went up to Ulithi in the Marianas and formed up in convoy. Headed out for Okinawa.
Got off coast, came under air attack (they locked us in the hold, shut off all the power except to the gun's, and we sweated out the antiaircraft gun's banging away like someone beating on a big drum!) we| were sent to one of the smaller protected harbor until things calmed down, and then were landed. The first sight we saw exiting the landing craft was a lowboy with about 40 Gl's under ponchos, not very encouraging. We got our gear together, and got on the truck's, were taken up the road from the beach past the airfield. Scared the hell out of us, saw in near distance, what appeared to be manned ack-ack gun. When we got closer, saw it was a dummy installation, even had straw figures in postures of defense. Also had reveted aircraft made of straw to lure our bomber's into unloading.
We climbed up to a position just past some tombs, they were built we were told, to represent a woman giving birth, and symbolized the body being returned to the earth. They were utilized by the Jap's as pill boxes, and us to revet our transmitter & receiver & code van's., One of the officer's ordered me to set up a guard post at the junction of 2 road's, we dug a fox-hole, filled some sand bag's, looked around at the position, and saw that the post was just beneath some rolling field's, 2 AA outfit's one Marine, and one Army (7th AAA) had set up over our position. I went up & pointed out our field of fire to these guys so they wouldn't fire into us by accident. During the night, we came under bombing attack, and the AA fired- 90 mm guns are loud! There was some nervous shooting going on, people shooting at noise & shadow, and in the morning, one of the soldiers came down to borrow our bulldozer seems like we were all told that the Jap's were strapping themselves to cattle & horses, and infiltrating then setting off s suicide satchel charges, he saw something moving, challenged, and when he got no answer shot, killed a horse. His buddies wouldn't help him bury it so he turned to us....
We had 2 pint's of water a day, K ration's & D bar's for food, slept in our foxholes, and then the rain came., week's on end, mud, cold, miserable, now you know why I hate cold weather. The Japs had set up booby traps all over the area. Some people said le Shima was the most heavily land-mined island in the Pacific -5000 land mines 3 by 5 m land mass. Evidently when they were set, the larger deal's 500 Ib bomb's, were not rigged, but were strung out in the ditches alongside the road. The smaller deal's, looked like an ammo box, and had 50 sticks of dynamite and a pressure device to set them off if you stepped on them or rode over them in a vehicle. The bomb disposal groups were nut's they would pull up beside you and just toss all the stuff into their truck's a couple of these units were killed when something would trigger a load, enough said. While all this was going on, I was experiencing severe bouts of dysentery, we had nothing to relieve this particular complaint, and I spent countless hours on a "six holer" not caring whether I lived or died. On one occasion, as I sat on the throne, we came under attack, and with stuff whizzing all around me and my companions down in fox holes yelling "Glover get in here", I just stayed where I was in misery. We were also in a state of constant wetness from the continuing rains, mud all over, even in our rations.
We finally came off K & D, C & 10 in ones, and went to B Ration's, Spam, bully beef, dehydrated vegetables, eggs, milk, and one obnoxious concoction we called "battery acid", it was supposed to be lemonade, but the acid in it would burn your stomach and make you even more miserable. To top it off, our cook was an old peacetime sailor, and on ship could probably turn out decent stuff once in a while, but on the beach with a field stove, he could burn water. One time he made spaghetti, burned it, and tried to get the scorch out by blanching it with the "battery acid". We were so incensed we went to see the Commander, who said if we didn't like the chow we could go back on K rations. We all said OK, and he relented and went after the cook ,a drunk who finally stayed sober enough to at least follow the instructions in the Navy cook book for field rations. During this period, we lost our Chief R/M. Barney Barnfield, a man who every one looked up to, and Lt. Cmdr. Talbutt depended on and had been with on other missions.
During an attack, he was hit in the head by "friendly" fire, and died a horrible death over a couple of hours. His moans will haunt me for the rest of my life. We went on, making 2-3 dashes to fox holes day & night. One period we were on duty for over 72 hours, standing watch, doing perimeter guard and not getting any rest. Our life started improving when we set up squad tents, and got permanent shelters built. My nose got broken in a boxing match in school, and our Chief Pharmacist Mate, Brockhaus, wanted me to go to the Navy Dispensary on the beach to get it fixed. For some reason, I decided not to get it done. The Dispensary was bombed, killing a lot of the crew members of an LST (808) that were in there after their ship was torpedoed. We all went down to the beach to help dig out the survivors and the dead. A section of our unit, Navy Detachment Baker, a signal outfit was also hit, and we helped evacuate them to the Army Hospital, in all a terrible night.
We continued on, until we secured in early August. Our relief was an Air Force Communication Regiment, and there equipment on the Brown Victory was lost in a Kamikaze attack, so we had to stay beyond the 90 day limit that was set for units of our type, until new equipment was sent to them and they could set up and take over. We were monitoring Air Force circuits when the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. First off, the rumor was the Jap's had the bomb, most of us didn't believe that, then we got the information from official channels, but had no idea whether the Jap's would surrender on not, after all, we had seen hundred's of B 29s, 24's, even P 47 fighter bomber's going to Japan like subway train's, formation after formation, and they still hadn't given up. We got the word Nagasaki was hit, still no word on surrender, we expected that we would be going to Japan as soon as the logistics for the invasion were worked out, then came the announcement that the Japanese Gov't. was asking for peace.
Macarthur's HQ had the Jap Peace Party come to le Shima in two Betty Bomber's, painted white with green crosses painted on the sides. We lined the runways when they arrived. Every aircraft they could get to le Shima was lined up as far as the eye could see, and then they arrived! Two specks in the distance. Then they communicated with the tower.
Corrigador, this Bataan 1 and 2 requesting landing instruction's. They came in, and popped the "greenhouse" windows, and the co-pilot's put their heads out & were actually waving as they taxied to the hardstand where 2 C 47's were waiting to take them to Manila. When they were getting off their planes, the crowd surged against the MP's, and they scrambled back in their aircraft, I guess they thought we would attack them. They were coaxed out, and were transferred. One of the diplomats knew the Col. that was sent by Macarthur and reached out to shake his hand. The Col started to reach out, then put up his thumb & gestured toward the waiting aircraft. Will fill in some of the gaps, and yarn some more of my experiences as soon as I can collect my thought's, Chronological order is not of the first order when your 79, but as thoughts and memories come to me I'll try to put them on paper. When we secured, we became sort of beach bum's, we had nothing to do, and the make work was not enough to keep us from trouble. Then the typhoon hit. We had some receivers still on frequency watch, and we heard ship's trying to reach us with emergency requests, but were not able to answer them. We were living at this time in squad tents.
When we got up in the morning, after all the howling wind etc., we got up we found that -during the storm our tent had flown away, along with all our gear including clothes, I ended up with a pair of cut-off shorts and a pair of Jap combat boots. One of our officer's Lt. Kendall was sent to Yokosuka to scout out the Navy base, where we were supposed to establish communications for the fleet. He had a father-in-law, who was in the import/export business and had business contact's in Tokyo, and while up there, he checked them out, and found out that the had hidden the last civilian products they had manufactured. He developed a scheme to get the stuff aboard empty merchant ship's returning to the States, and approached me & several other larcenous types, to be truck drivers to move material to the piers. Looked to be a lucrative enterprise, but unfortunately, the Unit was not sent, a new MCU that was in Guam was sent, because so many of our hand's had the Point's necessary for immediate discharge.
We young single guy's had not reached the stage for enough point's for discharge, so after some time of doing nothing, we were sent to Obascom (Okinawa Base Command) on Okinawa and put back on radio watch.. After a period of time, all rate's 2nd class & above were assigned to build the permanent radio station at Buckner Bay Our nemesis in this enterprise was a Chief Warrant Radio Electrician who was drunk half the time, and kept threatening us with all kinds of dire punishments including court Martial, if we didn't finish the damn installation within his time period. They put 90 foot poles, 20 ft. in the ground for antennas, and we had to climb them with leg climbing spikes and leather safety belts to install hardware. The antenna field was laid out in a triangle, 1 /4 by 1/4 by 1 /4 mile. We got the cable (all copper, 2 inches thick, up the poles in one piece, got ready to attach the drop lines for the transmitter's, when the Chief, said-you blanketdy-blank swab's stand clear while I do this, he cut & it was the main cable that he cut. He didn't say a word, just bent the cable around it self and secured it. He then said to heave the line up to tension the antenna at height; we had a Dodge Power Wagon with a front winch, and we said to him, why not use the wagon to haul the wire which weighed a ton up. He refused to let us do it, and the next day when we were back, the wire had sagged like an old wash line. Finally one day we were taken to the pier with our gear, climbed landing nets over the bows of our transport home, the PA Adam's.
There was a Boxer at San Bruno, with a real good disposition, and as dumb as that breed could be. One time we were on a training march, and because we were carrying gas masks, knew that the assistant platoon leader in the rear would drop a canister of tear gas, at which time who ever smelled it or saw him would yell "Gas", and every one would grapple with the gas mask holder to get it on and properly fitted, otherwise an uncomfortable afternoon was in store. The Boxer was following us, and when he saw the canister drop, he grabbed it and ran! We passed him, and he was chewing on the damn thing with foam coming out of his mouth and tears running down his face. When we got back to base, it was chow time, so we went to the mess hall, that was in this gigantic space in the old Grand Stand (San Bruno had been Tanforan Race Track) . There were lines snaking away from this tan figure on the deck, it was our Boxer, his tongue lolling, foam on his lips & tears in his eyes, people were saying "mad dog", we tried to explain, but to no avail. Finally someone dragged him off to the dispensary where a kind P/M washed out his eyes.
Amber was a puppy one of the guy's picked up in San Francisco. She was about 3 months old and very tiny. When the time came to ship out, the fellow who owned her , dispensed with his gas mask, and took her aboard unseen in that. I have recounted her adventure shipboard in previous remarks. When we got on Ie Shima, she got the attention of the natives, and some of the guys got cute and told the owner that they were eying her for dinner. This was not the case, and Amber somehow was bred, and had 5 pup's, all as cute as she was. On the Island, there was a colony of strange looking rat's, maybe 8-9 inches long with a bulbous red ass, and a real long tail. The group in charge of getting rid of thing like that set out meat with arsenic poison on it. Poor Amber got hold of some of it, no more Amber, no more pups
Horses; The horses were small, almost ponies, and we herded them up for shipment to the big Island for the farmers use. But before we did that, word came around that the Japs were tying themselves to their bellies, and with a satchel charge would come into an area and then blow themselves and everyone else sky high. I related previously what happened to the poor guy in the 7th AAA when he challenged and shot a horse, the aftermath was, his buddies laughed at him, and wouldn't help him bury the horse, which you can imagine smelled like after a few hours in the sun, so he came down, borrowed the bull dozer, and did the whole job himself.
Monkey shines; Fellow on Okinawa had been to the Philippines, and traded with some natives for 2 rhesus monkeys
He decided to go to a movie, and took the monkeys with him inside his shirt, Whatever happened, the monkeys started to fight, and the screams that came from this guy were horrific. Don't think he kept the moneys much longer.
Mosquitoes; We had mosquito netting, mosquito netting, and fingerless mosquito gloves, but the darn thing could sting you through anything ! Bless DDT.