|Return to Main Page||Contact R. J. Coraor by email|
the image to the right for full Photo Album
Click the image to the right for full Photo Album
Below is a description of my father's (George R. Coraor) Navy experiences starting from the time he was attending Illinois College and was recruited into the Navy's V-6 program. He wrote this as part of two family history volumes, The Coraors and The Fernandes. This selection was from the book The Fernandes. [R.J.Coraor, ed., click to contact me ]
"During the year, navy recruiters arrived on campus touting the V-6 program that guaranteed that we would be called up after we had graduated. I signed up after discussing the pros and cons with my parents. They agreed it sounded better than being drafted immediately. I finished my freshman year and also a summer course that covered a year of analytical chemistry. By this time, the V-6 program had been replaced by the V-12 program; I was called to active duty in July 1943 and assigned to Wabash College presumably to finish college, after which I was to be commissioned and serve the remainder of the war. Some other Illinois College students were also sent to Wabash. We left on the Eastbound evening train from the Wabash station on Lafayette Avenue, the same train I had been meeting for the Express Company. My whole family including Mom, Dad, Grandpa and my local aunts and uncles were on hand to see me off.
At some point beyond Decatur, we changed trains, to the Monon Railroad, which continued eastward. We arrived in Crawfordsville, Indiana about 2:30 am, walked to the campus, checked out bedding and proceeded to one of several fraternity houses that were to serve as barracks. It was a short night. We were awakened early to find a chief petty officer eager to march us around for an hour before breakfast! We also discovered what a college cafeteria cook thought a navy breakfast should consist of. He served baked beans for breakfast at least weekly. Thank God, he was the only cook to do so. We attended regular college classes with some added navy rituals: interminable marching, running, physical training that provided much less exercise than my Railway Express job, and a course in navy affairs in which we learned such things as the ranks and ratings, naval etiquette, types of ships, signal flags etc.
With a full college course plus navy activities, we were kept quite busy. There was little time for other essentials such as doing our laundry. Furthermore there were no laundry facilities — washing machines, tubs or a place where they such items could be used. All we had were four or five small lavatories in the bath room for more than thirty people. There was also no place inside or outside the house to dry wet clothes. There were no coin operated Laundromats in those days and commercial laundries were prohibitively expensive. We received $50.00 a month from which we were all but forced to buy a $25.00 savings bond that cost $18.75.
I apparently mentioned our laundry problems in a letter home. Mom, who was eager to maintain as much contact as possible and help wherever she could, urged me to send my clothes home. I had noticed that most of my Wabash friends sent their laundry home in a canvas covered box. Parcel Post was quite inexpensive then and so was the canvas covered box. I hated to burden Mom with my laundry but I got two more letters with more insistent urging so I bought a box. Mom washed the clothes and Dad mailed them back the next day. Mom learned how to roll Navy clothes like an old salt. She didn’t have a washing machine yet! This was all hand work! I regret that I told her what my friends were doing.
The Post Office was a half block from where Dad worked. Parcel Post was then fast, efficient and cheap. Everything went by passenger train and trains went everywhere. The laundry made the weekly round trip in all weather without fail. In light of today’s delivery times, this was astoundingly good service.
It wasn’t long before a bag of popcorn began appearing in my laundry, “To fill empty space.” Later, cookies appeared despite sugar and fat rationing. I objected to the folks using their precious sugar ration on me; I had no rationing. Each objection insured that the next box of laundry would have only popcorn. But cookies soon reappeared. Mom used ingenious methods of sweetening them and heavens knows what kinds of fats they contained. My roommates certainly appreciated her baking. When I passed on their thanks, extra cookies and other goodies began to appear in a separate package “for special occasions.” My parents provided every means of support they could think of.
I managed to get home several times that year, usually by hitchhiking. I first tried the trains and buses; hitchhiking was much faster. Truck drivers were especially considerate and dependable. I learned to ask where I would be left off BEFORE accepting a ride. This savvy was developed after being left on the highway in the dead of winter at a little dirt side road in the middle of nowhere with no light to help anyone see me. A trucker finally picked me up.
I was at Wabash College exactly twelve months (the commitment that we would finish college having been altered). From there, I was sent to “pre-midshipman’s school” at Asbury Park, New Jersey, which proved to be little more than a place to wait for an opening in midshipman’s school. This occurred in little more than a month. The only activities I recall while in Asbury Park were marching, exercises and swimming. I had yet to learn to swim, a requirement for receiving a commission. We never had cash to spend on recreation that had an entry fee when I was a kid and neither Illinois College or Wabash College had a pool I wasn’t actually given any swimming lessons at Asbury Park. I was instructed to jump off a twenty foot platform fully dressed into the pool while wearing a life preserver, then do it again without the life jacket. We non-swimmers were reluctantly allowed to wear our life preservers for the second jump. I don’t remember whether I was at Asbury Park long enough to do any laundry.
It was while I was at Asbury Park that I had my first broiled steak. We were free on weekends. One Saturday morning several of us took the train to New York City to sight see. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant. The owner said he had something special for us. He broiled each of us a huge steak, that he insisted we have for lunch. He was obviously, “Doing something for the boys.” We all had one. I couldn’t eat all of mine, in fact I didn’t think it was particularly good. I hadn’t encountered medium rare meat before. I would have much preferred fried chicken! To paraphrase an old adage, I guess you can take the boy out of poverty but you can’t take poverty out of the boy! I have since learned to enjoy such steaks and did so frequently until age, weight and medical science convinced me to favor lighter fare!
At Columbia University, midshipmen filled three dorms: Johnson; Fernald; and John Jay Halls; I was in Johnson. There was also an ancient battleship permanently docked in the Hudson River that housed a few engineers. Its superstructure was a barn-like wooden structure. Most of the day was spent in classes on such subjects as navigation, ship and aircraft identification, ship handling, rules of the road, damage control, firefighting and naval procedures. We marched a lot and had some physical training and we non-swimmers had several swimming lessons per week. I finally learned to swim while there by mastering the elementary backstroke! I have often wondered whether one poor guy ever made it. He would jump in gamely, sink to the bottom of the pool like a rock and paddle there fruitlessly until the instructor lowered a pole to him.
The first month or so we were not allowed out on our own. We were given navy blue flannel pants and shirts to wear. What an improvement over thirteen-button bell bottoms! Sometime early during this period, we were measured for our uniforms, which were delivered sometime during the time we were confined. We were marched to Riverside Church on Sunday mornings. A couple of times we went to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, an immense, ornate place that was used when the entire school met en masse. We received our orientation lecture and our commissions there.
I enjoyed midshipman’s school. The classes, swimming and navy rituals kept me fully occupied. That our own and other lives depended on our mastering the subjects ensured our concentration. We passed in review every Saturday morning in front of the school officers on the parade grounds. The commanding officer was a Commodore. He appeared to be a kindly old fellow who had been brought out of retirement for the job. Commodore was no longer a rank in the navy; he got his rank when it was still active. A commodore ranked between a Captain and a Rear Admiral and wore one two-inch-wide gold stripe on his sleeve.
It must be a navy axiom that standing watch wins wars or that to leave anything “unwatched” is sinful. “Guards” were posted at all exits to the “barracks;” every lobby sported an Officer of the Deck, a Scribe and a Messenger 24/7. I can remember standing guard at the rear door in a downpour during a hurricane. It turned out to be the door that the Commodore used. The hurricane was underway when he left. We engaged in a few pleasantries about the weather and he was gone. No one else came near the place. That there wasn’t much to do proved excellent training for life in the service thereafter. The navy has been said to be a system developed by geniuses that can be operated by idiots. I saw much of the idiot end of the operation but much less than during peace time.
At midshipman’s school, cleanliness, neatness and correctness of uniform, person and quarters were inspected daily. Demerits were passed out for minute infractions. The penalty was having to march for several hours on Saturday afternoons, a time that was otherwise free after the first month. I never got any demerits (a rare accomplishment). This was entirely luck as it was the drill instructors’ stated goal to make sure everyone had to march at least once. I was guilty of one transgression: failing to empty the wastebasket. My roommate, Dave Byrne, had to march because he was in charge of the room that week! We alternated weekly as to who was in charge of the room.
Dave was from Saunemin, Illinois. His father farmed. After the war, he went to the University of Illinois and studied agriculture so I assume he returned to Saunemin. I know he intended to. After the war, I ran into Dave Byrne at the U. of I and met his wife. Gerry and I exchanged visits with them several times. Dave and I were ideal roommates. He was six feet four inches tall and I was five feet four. He had the top bunk; I had the bottom. He cleaned high and I cleaned low — usually including the waste basket! In addition to our bunks, our room had two desks, a wash basin and a clothes closet. I believe the wash basin was defined as “Low.”
Dave and I got along well. When we were free to venture out on our own, we and two other guys from our company explored New York City pretty thoroughly in the two months that remained. We had one-and-a-half days free each week if we had no demerits that week. Subways only cost a nickel then but were free for service men. They were also safe so we traveled them far and often. I became quite familiar with the three New York subway systems. We took a boat trip around Manhattan, explored the sights and famous places around town and attended plays, concerts, stage shows and a pro football game free. The New York Giants played the Green Bay Packers. Don Hutson, the Hall-of-fame wide receiver, played for Green Bay. It looked like New York would win, but during the second half, Hutson kept catching passes late in the game and the Packers came from behind to win. We also saw a Columbia University football game. All tickets were free for servicemen. We picked them up from a kindly lady who had a desk in our dorm lobby.
We went to the top of the Empire State Building in the daytime and at night, toured the RCA building including its broadcasting studios. Servicemen got in free if there was any room available at all. We also saw a number of shows at the RCA Music Hall and a demonstration of television. The demonstration consisted of a man, who we could watch inside a building as he spoke into a microphone. In a display window outside the building viewers could watch the man and hear what he was saying via a monitor and loud speaker system.. If there was nothing else to do, Riverside Church had a record dance every Saturday evening in a big room to the top of their tower. The view from there is spectacular. The tower is much taller than anything else in the vicinity so one can see all of New York City and some of New Jersey in clear weather. One guy in our company met his wife there. There were always more girls than men so none of us who went lacked someone to dance with or talk to. They saw to that.
Midshipman’s school lasted three months, after which I became an officer and a gentleman. How can anyone in a fighting organization be considered a gentleman? Three months of training seemed pretty little; midshipmen at Annapolis get four years. Of course, my two years plus of college education supplied some of what is offered at the service academies. When I got to the fleet, I found that for whatever reason, I was about as well prepared as any newcomer.
Mom wrote almost every day while I was in this country. There was little news in her letters but they let me know that my folks were supporting me with all their heart and soul. I was kept up to date on all the family matters and who was home on leave. I don’t remember reading news about who had been killed; I assume that was purposely omitted.
After midshipman’s school, I enjoyed a two-weeks leave and thereafter went to Norfolk, Virginia to destroyer school. I was there for several months. Little stands out in my mind about my stay there. I was housed in the bachelor officers quarters on the base. There were movies and an officer’s club on the base but there was not much to do in the town. We had classes in fire fighting, damage control and aircraft and ship identification. I could never understand where all the convenient pieces of wood we used in damage control would come from on a destroyer. Damage control classes had a realistic facet. A mock up of a small compartment was outfitted with connections to several four to six inch pipes through which water could be pumped into the compartment at various places on the bulkheads (walls) and deck. At least one of these was turned on and we had to improvise a patch as the compartment rapidly filled with water. It was an effective teaching aid; our learning was spurred by the icy temperature of the water.
After being at Norfolk a couple of months, I was sent to Tactical Radar School in Hollywood, Florida. This was during the winter of 1943-44 [winter of 44-45 I believe, ed.]. Florida was having one of its periodic cold snaps when I arrived. We were housed in the Hollywood Beach Hotel located on the beach. There were no carpets on the concrete floors, drapes on the windows or potted plants in the lobby. Otherwise, the hotel was very much as it had been without its bar and haute cuisine dining room. The exterior environment was fantastic. Weekends were spent poolside or on the beach. I enjoyed this school. There were no watches to stand; we were there to learn to use radar, not to learn discipline. We were taught to use surface and air radar to arrive at tactics for fighting the ship in naval and air engagements. We learned the desirable orientation of the ship in various situations and learned how to get it positioned most efficiently. We were also taught to direct fighter planes to intercept incoming enemy aircraft. There was another school similar to ours that taught only fighter direction. We didn’t get as much training in fighter direction as they did but we learned to do the job. In their school, they directed real planes; we used simulators that fed radar screens. We also learned enough about sonar and its use to direct the ship to attack a submarine.
Miami was just a few miles south of Hollywood but I never ventured there. I didn’t feel it had anything to offer that was more appealing than the beach where we were stationed. Because of the proximity of the beach, all physical training was done there, barefooted and in swimming trunks. Other than sunburn, the principal hazard faced at Florida beaches are Portuguese men of war, a jellyfish with a little blue membrane floats and tentacles that can extend to a several foot diameter. If you touch one of the tentacles, many little razor-sharp nozzles are extended by reflex and you receive a shot of venom that, at best, is excruciating. At worst, it can be incapacitating and has been known to result in a few deaths. These little monsters merely float along waiting for food to encounter one of its tentacles. Of course, if one tentacle is touched the others rapidly close on the victim. Many of our exercises involved swimming, floating or treading water for an extended period of time. Believe me, one kept a sharp eye out for those little blue floats. They were all but invisible among the waves sloshing over you. A lot of guys got walloped. I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t. One had to watch for dead ones on the beach as well. For a while after death this reflex still works enough to give you a pretty good jolt. I did encounter a couple of these.
Japanese kamikaze pilots had appeared by this time. The pilots flew their planes directly into ships, sacrificing their lives. The first ones did so only when they had no chance of returning to their carrier or base. But before long, they seemed to have that task in mind even though they and their planes were unharmed or low on fuel. It was a frightening thing but it was an act of desperation. It was the first evidence back home that Japan was in a losing battle although I suspect few civilians viewed it this way; Japan lacked the capacity to replace the pilots and the planes lost in this way. Pilot training is lengthy and expensive. The policy was pursued, of course, because, the Japanese navy had been badly beaten at the battle of Midway and it was their only hope of destroying much of the U.S. fleet, which was growing at a rapid pace at this time. If a Kamikaze could sink a ship, especially a carrier, the trade off would be worthwhile for Japan. Of course, a single Kamikaze had to be lucky enough to hit a magazine to sink a carrier; none did so.
From Hollywood, it was back to Norfolk — from the sublime to the ridiculous. Norfolk was not such a bad place but the town was not very big and there were so many of us that we overran the place. Further damage control and firefighting classes were again the fare while I waited for an assignment. V E Day occurred during my wait [8 May 1945 ed.]. The celebration was rather muted because the war was not yet over and success in the Pacific depended heavily on the Navy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt also died [12 April 1945, ed.] while I was at Norfolk. His death affected military personnel more than V E Day. He had been a great president who dealt creatively with the three monumental problems that faced the country: the depression; the war; and the isolationist stance that was incredibly strong.
I had a throat infection while at Norfolk. The doctors decided my tonsils should come out. They did. I was given a local anesthetic. While sitting upright, totally exposed in my scanty belly button-length gown amongst several nurses stationed where they could supply the most embarrassment, the doctor hacked away. This at least kept my mind off the fact that my friend Mac Pine’s brother had been left a quadriplegic by a botched tonsillectomy. I’ve never had a sore throat as bad as the one I had that night. I was in the hospital a couple of days and immediately thereafter was on my way to San Francisco to a distribution center.
I had been sending money home regularly — not much — but some. My pay as an apprentice seaman, $50 a month less a war bond left little to send home. I don’t remember my pay during midshipman’s school. It was under a hundred dollars a month and almost all of that went to pay for uniforms. When I knew I was going overseas, I had essentially all of my pay sent home. I told my folks to use the money but they refused. Dad insisted on putting it into a savings account in my name. While I was overseas, the account built up; it came in very handy after my marriage. I don’t remember my pay as an Ensign. It was in the neighborhood of $150 -$175 a month, from which mess bills, laundry and, while in this country, room rent had to be paid.
I had a short leave at home and went from Chicago by train where Uncle John and his family saw me off to San Francisco. During the train ride, I got acquainted with several other navy officers going where I was. They proved to be good company while on the trip and while I was in San Francisco. The city was jammed with people on their way to the Pacific. Unlike east coast ports, which were blacked out to protect ships from U boats that prowled the coast, lights in San Francisco glowed brightly.
I was in San Francisco about six weeks — much longer than I expected. A group of us used this time to see as many of the city’s sights as possible. One fellow who was familiar with San Francisco served as guide. We didn’t spend much money doing this; we either walked or took public transportation that was free for servicemen. I saw Fisherman’s Wharf, which still operated as a fishing wharf. There were some seafood restaurants there as well but they hadn’t taken over the pier then. I saw Knob Hill, Telegraph Hill, the Cable Car Museum, The Mark Hopkins (or is it Marque), Seal Island, the universities in the area, the bridges and the Embarcadero. I could write my folks during this time but mail from them never got through to me. It went through the fleet post office that was apparently waiting for a permanent assignment. Because I had had most of my money sent to my parents, my lengthy stay in San Francisco left me quite short of cash toward the end of my stay. I was down to having two meals a day, at least one of which was macaroni au gratin at a cafeteria near the center where I was located. Macaroni au gratin was the cheapest dish on the menu.
The United Nations came into existence at a meeting in San Francisco while I was there [June 1945, ed.]. I never got to one of its sessions; I wish I had. I kept up with the accounts in the newspapers and saw the parade held at the conclusion of the conference. It included all the participants including our president, Harry S. Truman, who were there to sign the treaty. Finally, I was ordered to board a ship, not as a member of the crew but as a passenger.
I found myself on the USS William P. Biddle, built in 1908. An additional section had been added to it some years after it was built. Again I had ample company. The entire troop ship was loaded with navy and marine officers. It was a typical troop ship with closely spaced racks jammed into every available space, including what had been the cargo holds of the ship. I was located in one of these. Everyone without scrambled eggs on his hat had no chance of assignment to officers’ quarters or officers’ mess. We ate enlisted men’s chow — after the crew. I was many decks below the weather deck. I thought I was just above the bilge, but not so. After all of us were aboard, the crew opened up our hold and began loading beer aboard four or five decks below me. The crane operator saw to it that the cargo net was swung vigorously into one of the decks on the way down in order to spill some of the cases down into the hold. The broken cases that couldn’t be stacked were quickly soaked up by the crew, who, when sated, i.e. loaded, began throwing cans to people watching on the decks above. Cans were flying everywhere. The party got pretty riotous before all the beer and beer drinkers were fully loaded late that night.
The next morning we got underway and joined a convoy with several other troop ships, tankers and freighters escorted by a couple of old destroyers and several corvettes. We skimmed along at the dizzying speed of 11 knots, scarcely more than 12 mph. Nonetheless, this pace almost did our ship in. We managed to reach Pearl Harbor after seven or eight days of steaming where we remained for a week. I suspect we were waiting for enough ships to make up our convoy but the Biddle had a number of repairs carried out while we were there. With all the brass among the passengers and their total lack of activity, it is not surprising that one of them stumbled on the idea that we low-ranking idlers should be kept busy standing watch. Watch duty consisted of observing a section of the rail in order to spot anyone who fell overboard! I had lousy luck and got a wee hours watch. Can you imagine the excitement of this demanding responsibility! May I hasten to assure you that no one fell overboard. Throughout the entire voyage we had calm seas with hardly a cloud in the sky.
While at Pearl Harbor, I didn’t miss the chance to see what I could of Oahu. Waikiki beach was nice. I went there a time or two before learning of an officer's club across the Pali that had a much nicer beach than Waikiki. A bus crossed the island every hour or two so I made a couple of trips there. That side of the island had not been built up. The beach was absolutely clean, white sand; the setting was idyllic with semitropical trees, shrubs and flowers. The trip across the Pali was also scenic. There wasn’t much else around the club. It was quite isolated.
I learned it was possible to tour the big Dole canning factory in Honolulu. It proved interesting and also filling! At the end of the tour we were ushered into a room with spigots that yielded pineapple juice. They also brought out skewer after skewer about a foot long loaded with fresh, ripe pineapple slices! When everyone had gorged himself on all the pineapple and pineapple juice he could hold, candy bars were passed out. We were invited to take along all we could carry. These were the product of another Dole plant on the island.
One day I took a bus that circled the entire island of Oahu. It was a school bus painted olive drab. The trip took all day. At noon it stopped for lunch at a rustic native restaurant. Much of the island was undeveloped. Parts of it were wooded with natives living in scattered primitive cottages, many with thatched roofs. But, alas, nary a grass skirt was to be seen. War is hell! I was the only rider who made the whole trip. The bus was strictly a means of transportation; it had no amenities. The ride was bumpy and dusty but well worth the day it required. The rest of my buddies preferred the beach. I didn’t spend much time touring the city of Honolulu. I saw the big hotels, the Royal Hawaiian and the Mauna Loa and visited Diamond Head. I guess a city tour would have been next if I had more time. The day after I circled the island, we left in a larger convoy than the earlier one.
We steamed at eight knots, a pace more suited to the Biddle’s capability. The same passengers were aboard so we returned to the same ritual. The trip took almost a month. There were some fantastic poker games that went on endlessly. I was in a group that played bridge under a life raft that screened us from the sun. By the time we reached Tubabao, our destination, I had become an almost acceptable bridge player. One fellow aboard was reading the Bible the entire trip. He said he was reading it as literature. Another enterprising lad brought along a little hand drill, a saw, tin snips, emery cloth and some stainless steel coil stock. He set up shop making stainless steel bracelets and wristwatch bands for several dollars apiece. I bought a wristwatch band that I wore for many years.
We encountered schools of porpoises and, as we got further south, flying fish. They can fly for about twenty yards and can get as high as twelve or fifteen feet. We found a few dead ones on the deck each morning. Our unimaginative leadership failed to institute a watch for conserving the flying fish that landed aboard.
We stopped at several of the islands that had made headlines: Midway; Eniwetok; Guam. On the trip, what proved to be a cyst at the base of my spine began hurting and oozing a smelly liquid. The medical staff told me the cyst had been there since before my birth. It was probably opened as the result of my sitting on the deck playing bridge daily. The ship had a couple of complete operating rooms and a staff of idle surgeons aboard, who naturally were antsy for action. They descended on my ailing rear end like tigers after hamburger. Perhaps they drew lots or had a contest of strength. Anyway, my doctor proved to be Danny Fortman, both a college and pro Hall-of-Fame football player who had hands as big as dinner plates. He was a likeable, cheerful man and was said to be an excellent surgeon. He operated on me one sunny morning while we were anchored in Eniwetok harbor. The operation was carried out in a large weather deck-level compartment at the forward end of the superstructure. It had several portholes on two sides. Each was manned by two or three spectators watching Danny operate. I had a spinal anesthetic. I lay face down with my legs spread out lower than my body. The spectators reacted audibly to Fortman’s every move. “Oh, my God!” “Look at that!” “Wow!” “Jeeesus Cheeerist!” was the background music for my surgery.
When the episode was over, I was carried on a sheet to a bunk with good springs and mattress that was sheer luxury compared with my rack below. I was told to keep my head down or I would have a headache that only time could cure. I kept my head decidedly down. How to eat the delicious lunch that was brought to me — on a plate — from the wardroom while keeping my head down was a challenge but hunger proved to be the mother of ingenuity. I managed to accomplish the task. Unfortunately, they learned I was not of the gentry by evening so chow came from the enlisted men’s galley on an aluminum tray. I was allowed to enjoy my comfortable bunk only one night. Early the next morning, I was discharged and told to rest and report back daily for dressing and inspection.
I asked to be excused from the insane watches and was assured this would be arranged. Unfortunately, someone didn’t get the word for I was awakened at midnight for duty. I don’t recall telling the poor devil to go straight to hell but he soon got the idea and headed in the right direction. But I was all too soon standing watch again. I don’t remember much of the rest of the trip except standing instead of sitting. It was insufferably hot in our sleeping quarters during the day and not much better at night. Getting into the rack (mine was the bottom one, only a few inches above the deck and the one above me was a few inches above that) was not easy for one with a bum rear. Even if it were cool, staying in my rack was hardly an option. There was insufficient light for reading. There also wasn’t enough head room in the rack for reading even if the light had been adequate. Sleeping was all it permitted and that was ruled out by the temperature. The rest of the days of the trip, I spent standing or, for variety, strolling around the ship.
My doctor, Daniel John Fortmann, was born in Pearl River, New York and graduated from Colgate University. He wanted to go either to Colgate or Cornell Medical school and planned to finance his schooling by playing for the New York (football) Giants. The Giants wouldn’t consider him because he was too small (210 lbs and a half inch under six feet). He had grown considerably since then. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the last (30th) round. He hitchhiked to Chicago and signed on to play for $110 a game. He also applied for admission to the University of Chicago Medical school. While attending medical school, Fortman was the Chicago Bears pulling guard on offense and linebacker on defense, averaging 55 minutes per game from 1936 through 1943. He was extremely fast and smart. He played in six consecutive All-Pro games. For many years thereafter, Bear’s owner George Halas, blocked all attempts to reduce the number of rounds in the draft. He would say, “Remember, I got my best lineman on the 30th round.” After the war, Fortman became chief of staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital in suburban Burbank, California. I have a copy of an article from the New York Times written when he was elected to the Professional Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
At some of the islands, the ship stopped for beer parties on the beach. Standing on the beach, to say nothing of a bobbing landing craft, held no more appeal to me than standing on the ship. But I was informed by experienced partygoers of the nature of these fests. When on the beach, each party goer was given his share of warm beer (two or three cans). Then the party started. Bartering, selling, shooting craps and quick games with bets on the outcome soon redistributed the beer and those with the requisite skill quickly chugged their winnings before the boats returned to the ship. On the way, a substantial fraction of the beer was transferred alee to the sea one way or another over the gunwale. “Every bit helps.” said the little old lady who peed in the river!”
Our destination, Tubabao, one of the smaller Philippine Islands, proved to be primitive. It was a jungle, in which, a receiving station had been built. The buildings were crude; there wasn’t a permanent structure among them. We were told not to venture far because a few Japanese soldiers had eluded capture (this was true until the 1970s when what was apparently the last remaining straggler came out of the jungle). Somebody had been killed by one of them the week before we arrived. I did get out for a short walk in the jungle near the center; it met my idea of the tropics. Being in a malaria infested area meant taking atabrine tablets with meals. A bowl of them was placed in the center of the table. I was there only a couple of days when orders came to report to the USS Moale, DD 693. I was taken to her in a landing craft and welcomed aboard by Commander Charles M. “Call me “Chas” Lyons, the captain.
The Moale was a Sumner class destroyer, the first of its class to be completed. All performance data on the class were obtained from her sea trials. The Sumner, DD 692, was completed a couple of months later. She operated in our squadron (Desron 60). Our ship got its name from a Lt. Moale whose distinction was that his widow married an admiral. We had a picture of him that hung in the after officer’s head. It was said to help a lot.
Shortly after I joined the ship, the Japanese sought to end the war. When this occurred, August 10, 1945, we were tied up in Leyte Harbor. (No doubt the Japanese realized how hopeless it was to continue fighting after someone so extensively trained as I had arrived)! Actually, there were thousands like me arriving every day. The harbor lit up with every search light in the area; every ship of any size had one, most often a 36-inch diameter light, as ours was. It was a dazzling spectacle. Some flares were fired as well. We were loading supplies and ammunition in preparation for joining the third fleet to invade the Japanese mainland. Instead, we supported the landing of occupation forces.
On August 24th we steamed north and for the next three weeks steamed up and down the eastern coast of Japan as the occupation proceeded. We had dawn and dusk general quarters (man all battle stations) at first because no one knew for sure whether everyone had got the word that peace had really arrived. We had one “sub” contact during this period. It was a real contact; the sonar compartment (more the size of a closet) was a corner of Combat Information Center, my battle station. Other destroyers also reported the contact. In such attacks, CIC's job was to plot the sub’s course and speed and tell the captain the course and speed to intercept it. I could hear all the pinging clearly through the open door to the sonar room as the soundings were relayed to us. The rest of the task force veered away and we were ordered to attack. Depth charges were dropped but no evidence of a hit came to the surface. It may have been a submarine that dove toward the bottom until we gave up the attack. We continued searching for some time but found nothing. When the sea has been churned by several passes, sonar is not very effective.
After the occupation had proceeded for a week or so, Admiral Halsey called off the dawn and dusk general quarters. That made life a good bit easier. We only had to stand regular watch (four hours on and eight hours off duty). We had a strange incident occur when the occupation was all but complete. A blip appeared on the radar screen that was headed directly for the task force. It turned out to be a rusty old freighter. I have never seen another that looked more pitiful. Our task force was comprised of about thirty ships in the usual circular formation with the cruisers, battleships and carriers in the center and destroyers on the perimeter. When this old tub continued to approach as though we weren’t there, efforts were made to raise the ship by every means available: radio (every channel we had); signal lights; flags; and semaphore. The destroyers closest to it turned their thirty six-inch searchlights on the ship and bellowed over their bull horns — all to no avail!
Admirals — especially carrier admirals — unaccustomed to making way for anything afloat, especially a rusty old tramp freighter, waited until it was all too obvious that it was going to steam right through the middle of a significant fraction of the U. S. Navy. The admiral finally ordered a turn after the ship had penetrated the destroyer screen and was nearing the heavy ships in the center. It was a turn like no other I have seen or hope to see. Ships went every which way as they maneuvered frantically to avoid one impending collision after another. It was quite a sight. The freighter didn’t alter course one degree. She steamed straight through the middle of the task force! I hope somebody woke up before they reached land!
When the occupation was complete, the entire fleet steamed into Tokyo harbor on September 18, 1945. I’ve never seen so many ships. All of the ships of the line, escort vessels, transports, troop ships, tankers and tenders in the area were anchored in the harbor. It was a grand sight. We were allowed to go ashore in groups with a couple of us in each group armed. I went ashore twice while we were there. We had to walk from Tokyo harbor into the city proper, perhaps a mile away. From the harbor, Tokyo looked like a modern city with many tall buildings. As we got closer we saw that these were only gutted shells with major parts missing. When we got into the city we saw there was hardly an intact building other than the emperor's palace complex that had been purposely spared. We wondered aloud where the people got food; we saw no stores open for business and no food distribution centers. The stench of rotting flesh was still evident from the pre-invasion bombing that was underway when the peace overture was received. Bodies were still being removed from the rubble. We saw few Japanese. Those we saw stayed clear of us. Attempts to give candy to several children were to no avail. I’m sure they had been warned by their mothers not to go near the foreigners!
We took a quite modern electric train to Yokahama about fifteen or twenty miles away. To our surprise, there was little evidence of bombing along its right of way. Yokahama was in bad shape but the part we saw was not totally destroyed as was Tokyo. Later I went with another officer to Yokasuka Naval Base to pick up some communications. It was run by Americans then, of course. When in port, radio watch is kept ashore. Messages directed to our ship or operating unit had to be picked up periodically. When in a harbor where no navy radio coverage was provided ashore, navy ships in the harbor divided up the job. I didn’t get to look around the base very much. It seemed to be in good shape although I didn’t see many supplies on hand. I don’t know how much had been done to put it together since the beginning of occupation. The Japanese Navy didn’t amount to much by war’s end; perhaps bombs weren’t wasted on its bases.
On September 27th we left Tokyo for Guam. There we picked up passengers (fly boys) and left for home on October 5. We came home by the great circle route that took us past the Aleutian Islands. It was a rough, cold trip. Our passengers, who after paying their share of mess bills, spent the entire voyage in their bunks retching. The mess made a profit on that trip! One passenger who did venture topside was lost overboard. He was on another ship, not ours. We came in the strait of Juan de Fuca, discharged passengers in Seattle and proceeded to Longview, Washington where we were scheduled to be for Navy Day. We had hardly docked when we were ordered to Astoria, Oregon where we actually spent Navy Day.
Astoria was then a small town on the Columbia River populated mainly by fishermen and loggers. The town really went all out to welcome us. In the morning, there was a parade in which the captain rode in an open car; he later spoke at a service club luncheon. He arrived back at the ship in a Plymouth, which I suppose had been provided by a dealer to the conquering hero. I was appointed to chauffer him to any further events. The main event was a gala dance in the evening. Just before dinner, I discovered by chauffeuring her to the ship that the captain or someone in the city had arranged a date for him, a girl about half his age. I refrained from asking how or why she was chosen. The rest of us were not extended this consideration so had to take pot luck at the dance. His date, who turned out to be quite a nice girl, had dinner with us in the ward room. Thereafter, she was given a tour of the ship, after which, I chauffeured them to the dance.
The dance was underway when we arrived. When any member of the crew entered, he was pounced upon by the nearest local belle or belles. Thereafter, the sexual ratio of the crowd insured that all of us were put through our paces all evening. It was dance, sailor, dance, dance, dance! It was a true wildcat who could defend her catch very long. Why these girls were so dance-crazy, I don’t know. Perhaps they had been getting in shape for years for this event or they were all world class athletes. Sailors aren’t the best conditioned lot; walking a few yards from one compartment to another on a ship little more than 300 ft. long doesn’t build endurance. While escaping for a brief rest in the men’s room, I caught a glimpse of diminutive, mild-mannered Lt jg David Teeter, our supply officer, being danced (there was no other way to describe it) by a girl half again his size. He was hopelessly outgunned and about to go down for the count. I was more than glad when it came time to chauffer the captain and his companion; I got to ride back to the ship! I’ve often wondered how Teeter managed to survive.
We remained in Astoria another day. Two of us were invited to visit a logging camp in the mountains. I don’t know why I was one of the two selected. We rode through seemingly endless forests of gigantic evergreens to enjoy a huge, delicious meal. My shipmate, who outranked me a grade, gave a short speech about the ship and what we saw in Tokyo. Everyone listened intently and applauded vigorously. The affair was over at an early hour. Power saws were not yet in use; these guys did it all by hand so they went to bed early. It was dark when we drove back to the ship.
The next morning we headed back to sea and down the coast to Long Beach, California. On the way we exploded several floating mines, a process we had been engaged in all the time we were at sea. This always involved the same ritual. We would stop and the 40 mm gun crews would blaze away for awhile. The water would be frothing so you couldn’t see the mine. It seemed impossible for it to survive — but it always did. The 20 mm guns would then take their turn with equal frothing. Eventually, the Captain would order the gun crews to cease fire, nod to the Executive officer who would saunter to the rail with a rifle and explode the mine with one shot.
The captain also stopped one day and put a couple of buoys overboard for rubber docking exercises. The buoys defined an imaginary pier and the ship had to be brought alongside that “pier” without damage to the ship or the pier. Each officer other than the captain and the executive officer was given the opportunity of conning the ship alongside an imaginary line between them as if docking the ship at a pier. I had seen this done once while in midshipman’s school but never had a turn at it myself. I remembered how to use the engines to maneuver the ship when its speed was too low for the rudders to be of use. As the most junior officer, I had to watch everybody else try. To a man, they did poorly, some spectacularly so. I was obviously expected to fail; the only question was how badly. I brought the ship in as though I had been doing it all my life. The captain, who had been quick to call an end to the attempts of the others, even watched while I worked the stern in with the engines after I was close enough to have the bow tied up. I positioned the ship precisely where it should be. The captain, who was not the best of ship handlers, was immensely impressed. Thereafter, I had not only his attention, I had his respect.
At Long Beach, the Moale was assigned to do plane guard duty for carriers qualifying the hoards of new pilots to take off and land on a carrier at sea. All flight operations are carried out with the task group headed into the wind. Plane guard duty involved destroyers taking stations close to each carrier in one of three positions located on the plane’s landing circle (the path taken by planes when landing). The stations taken depended on the number of destroyers (one to three) assigned to guard each carrier. When operating with a carrier task force, plane guard stations were filled by destroyers pulled in from the screen before flight operations began. The plane guards were stationed where pilots who failed to take off or land properly on the carrier were most likely to “go in the drink.” When a plane went in the water, it was the plane guard destroyer’s duty to rescue the pilot. We went on at least a half dozen of these cruises to qualify pilots for landing at sea. Each such exercise lasted three or four days. One of the planes went in the sea after a failed landing and sank before we could reach it. Planes don’t float very long; a pilot who is knocked unconscious or is slow getting out sometimes doesn’t survive. New pilots continued to be qualified at a high rate for months after the end of hostilities.
One Sunday, when about two thirds of the crew were ashore, a bad windstorm occurred. Long Beach doesn’t have a harbor. Ships anchor offshore; there were very few piers at which to dock. We were one of a number of ships anchored about a thousand yards from shore. Several of the ships began dragging anchor — an exceedingly dangerous situation — especially when being blown toward shore as we were. Both the captain and executive officer were ashore. The senior officer present decided to get underway. With the crew we had aboard, we did so. We could see other ships getting underway as we steamed away. We stayed well off shore all night and returned the next morning to pick up the rest of the crew. The captain agreed that the right decision had been made. Crew members who found no ship when they returned Sunday night must have had quite a shock.
Eventually the ship went into dry dock in San Diego for a major overhaul, including cleaning and refinishing the hull. Many long service people were transferred off the ship, the majority for discharge. Those of us who were not transferred were given leave. Eventually, I got several weeks off, I believe a month. My leave proved to be extremely well timed. It was almost over when a friend in my college literary society asked if I would escort the maid of honor to the Illinois College Senior Ball. Very few males were home from the service as discharge machinery was still being established. I escorted my future wife, Martha Geraldine Wells, to the dance and I’ve not been free since!
Gerry and I struck it off well immediately. Without discussing the matter, we were definitely going steady by the time my leave was over. Actually, I had met her at a freshman mixer three years earlier; I had even danced with her in one of the numerous rituals designed to introduce people to each other. She didn’t seem to be amused by my best efforts so I hadn’t pursued her. She still can’t remember meeting me at the mixer. Her failure to remember me has proved to be prophetic. She can remember in detail everything our children and grandchildren ever did, said, enjoyed or wished for but can’t remember my preferred foods, clothes etc. I hope she doesn’t forget me all together!
We lived aboard the ship during its overhaul. It’s a bit odd going aboard when the ship is in dry dock with compressed air lines and electrical cords festooned everywhere. The overhaul included installation of considerable new mechanical and electronic gear as well as hull and deck refinishing. When the ship eventually got out of dry dock, the overhaul was completed while we were tied up alongside a pier. Some rancid butter we had in our refrigerators proved extremely valuable in getting favored treatment from shipyard workers. It was pretty bad but butter had been so scarce, it proved to be worth its weight in gold to get something extra done. We had a short shakedown cruise and were ordered to do more plane guard duty.
By this time, most of the senior officers except the captain had been transferred off the ship and replaced by junior officers. While in Long Beach I had become CIC Officer, that is, in charge of the whole CIC crew, a heady job for an Ensign. Before I had time to digest all of my CIC duties, I found myself Communications Officer, a gigantic jump above CIC Officer. In wartime, the Communications Officer was an experienced full lieutenant (two full stripes). Six other ensigns reported to me. In addition, I was one of three officers standing top watch underway, that is, officer of the deck at sea and special sea details (while getting underway, docking, mooring, navigating a river or strait or transferring fuel, mail, supplies or personnel at sea). My rubber docking performance, no doubt, had something to do with this turn of events. This was an unusual and a highly responsible assignment. I jumped from serving watches in CIC to conning the ship. The communications officer also serves as officer of the deck during general quarters (when the ship is fought). I made out all right and did not cause the captain any embarrassment.
I replaced Lt. Encil Raines, known as “Encil, the pencil.” A skinny, odd-looking fellow, who had been so afraid the ship might sink during heavy seas that he slept on the signal bridge. He had also rigged his life vest with every known survival device: fish hooks, line, matches, gun, knife, toilet paper, food and you name it. The first thing I did was conduct an inventory of everything I was responsible for. A bottle of medicinal liquor was missing from the medical locker. We searched the entire ship but eventually had to conclude that Encil had taken it; the medical department was under his command so he had access to the key. The captain was not overjoyed after having given the guy a good rating. He said he was going to write a letter about the incident.
Another little guy on the ship was even more deathly afraid of the ship sinking all of the time. He never took his life jacket off — even when he showered. Indeed, he slept in it. When he was transferred off the ship, someone dropped his greasy, crusty life jacket overboard and it sank!
I had only one anxious moment at sea. My junior officer of the deck (JOOD) had the conn. (I saw to it that they got as much experience as possible). I was straightening out something that one of the petty officers had brought me. A turn was signaled, something any JOOD could handle. A turn is when all ships in the formation turn simultaneously to a new heading. They remain in the same relationship to each other by compass as before the turn; only their direction of travel has been changed. After it was executed, the JOOD said casually, “That’s odd. The bearing (to the carrier on which the formation kept station) is constant but the range is closing.” That means collision !!! I yelled, “I got it,” meaning the conn, and ordered the tightest turn the ship could make at flank (top) speed ahead. The engine room grumbled about no warning but put on enough turns (propeller rotation speed) that we made it but never has a carrier looked bigger or more menacing. We closed to within 500 yards of her bow before beginning to pull away to reach our proper station. My JOOD had executed a left turn to 325 instead of 235 (he hadn’t turned far enough left)! Thank God he said something when he did or I might not have noticed the problem in time. I told the captain immediately. It was amazing we didn’t get an order to, “Posit” from the screen commander or the task force commander (an order to get to your proper station — FAST).
I was terrified one other time by a JOOD — the same one. This occurred when we were in port where the officer of the deck and the JOOD each carry 45 caliber automatic pistols. Part of the procedure when relieving the watch is to check your gun. Automatics are unforgiving. You must: 1) remove the bullet clip from the grip; 2) cock the gun by pulling back the shell injector and allow it to return; (this will eject a shell if one is in the chamber. 3) pull the trigger with the gun aimed in a safe direction; 4) inspect the gun; 5) reinsert the clip; and 6) replace the gun in its holster. If you cock the gun before taking the clip out (i.e. reverse steps 1 and 2) a bullet is in the chamber when the trigger is pulled. Quite a few people have been killed as the result of this mistake; a 45 caliber bullet blows a hole in you nearly a foot in diameter when it exits the body. My JOOD made that mistake. I caught him before he pulled the trigger. You were supposed to aim the gun away from everything and down when you pulled the trigger. He had it aimed at a bulkhead so the bullet would have ricocheted had I not stopped him. I always watched closely when anyone was going through this exercise because I had been warned of the hazard in midshipman’s school. This guy apparently hadn’t paid attention.
We usually went to sea for three or four days with one of several carriers and one or two other destroyers that were based in the area. Sometimes our captain was (by virtue of seniority) commander of the screen, namely the destroyers in the formation. This meant that whoever was on duty on our ship when flight operations began had to assign individual destroyers to specific stations. In normal sailing, the destroyers were in screen positions in front of the carrier(s) if it was a partial screen. Of course, if enough destroyers were present to form a circle around the carriers, that was the preferred formation. With a circular screen, the carrier admiral could order any turn and the ships of the screen do not have to maneuver; they simply make the same turn the carriers do. With a partial screen, destroyers in the screen on the signal to “Execute,” must move so that they regain their positions in front of the carrier on its new heading without “embarrassing” (getting too close to) the carrier or other ships in the operation. With a circular screen, destroyers are ordered from the screen into the carrier formation to assume plane guard positions. Depending on how many destroyers are present, those not involved in plane guard duty either spread out so as to retain a “thinner” circular screen or reposition themselves into a partial screen in front of the carrier. On these training operations, we always had a partial screen.
When the task group commander ordered the beginning of flight operations, the task group turned into the wind. The screen commander had to order specific destroyers to occupy specific plane guard positions. These assignments had to be made so as to cause the least potential danger of collision in moving from screen to plane guard stations or vice versa while the entire task group was changing course. Especially to be avoided was causing a ship to cross close the bow of another. Crossing a carrier’s bow was a special “No no.” Carriers are overwhelmingly expensive! Assignments had to take into account the direction the formation was traveling before, after and during the turn into the wind. As OOD during special sea details, I was the guy who had to decide which destroyer took each plane guard station when our captain was the screen commander; our captain was screen commander slightly less than half of the exercises. If ships were made to cross the formation or to get in each other’s way, it embarrassed our captain (when he was screen commander) not only to his peers but to numerous senior officers on the carrier who might someday decide on his advancement. (One needs to know what is really really important)! Unless the captain chose to make these assignments himself, the officer of the deck was expected to do so. Given an experienced Combat Information Center officer, CIC could be relied on. Our CIC officer was so new at this time, I made the assignments on the bridge.
It is surprising the captain, who was one of the most cautious men I have ever met didn’t insist on making every decision; he was a world class worry wart. Maybe he wasn’t very good at it! We did so much of this kind of operation, I got pretty good at it — at least with no more than four or five ships to keep track of! I could work out the problem by making imaginary lines and angles with my hands on the radar scope.
The captain usually conned the ship during special sea details when something demanding was about to happen. The executive officer I first served under, Jack Beardall, was also allowed to have the con sometimes as well during such maneuvers. He was an outstanding ship handler, much better than the captain. He could hold our ship so steady (at the same speed and heading) as the larger ship we were fueling from it looked like we were a part of it. I hope he made became an admiral like his father. He was quite competent and was also a very nice person.
To fuel at sea, a throw line was passed first that had a big line, about two inches in diameter, fastened to it. On each ship the line would be run through a pulley and kept taught by a crew of eight or ten men on each ship moving (sometimes running) forward or aft on the deck to keep tension on the line and whatever was being transferred out of the water as the ships moved relative to each other. A fuel hose, about five inches in diameter, supported by a series of pulleys along its length was rolled along the line from the tanker. It was connected to our fuel inlet and fuel was pumped into our tanks as the men on each ship kept the heavy line and hose up out of the water.
If passengers were being transferred between ships, a breeches buoy (a trapeze-like seat (with a wood or metal seat about six inches wide stead of a rod to sit on) that dangled from a pulley riding on the heavy line) was pulled back and forth between the ships by means of lines that went to each ship. Only a couple of men were required to do the pulling but there is precious little room on a destroyer deck for them to operate without being bowled over by the crew holding the heavy line taut. For cargo transfer, a cargo net substituted for the breeches buoy. The crews did a lot more running when the captain conned the ship than when Jack Beardall did so. More than once mail or supplies was dragged through the water. I saw only one transferee get dunked. He suffered no harm, except to his dignity.
The captain was very edgy about maneuvering in a harbor, channel or river. If pilots were available, we always used one even if other destroyers did not. If no pilots were available, the captain or exec (our first one) conned the ship. On the last trip I made on the ship I was amazed that the captain actually let me enter the San Diego harbor channel. I didn’t go very far before he took the conn, but I did enter the channel, something I never saw him let anyone but our first exec do. It was a tricky day. A gusty crosswind tended to blow the ship across the channel to its starboard (right). That was what prompted the captain to take over when he did. I had to keep turning to avoid being blown out of the channel or hitting one of the red buoys. Actually, he did no better than I did. In fact, when he came alongside another destroyer tied to a mooring buoy, he rammed it (was blown into it) and damaged its rail near the bow slightly. He was greatly embarrassed and apologized profusely to the neighboring captain.
I was home for leave over Christmas (1945). Gerry and I spent every evening together. On Christmas day I asked her to marry me. (It’s a dangerous season)! It seemed like an eternity before she answered, “Yes.” Perhaps she had to think it over a bit. I didn’t have a ring to give her. I hadn’t gone home with the thought that things would progress so fast. When I got back to the ship I did the necessary shopping and sent it to her home. She was already in Chicago learning to be a medical technologist by the time it arrived. Her dad delivered it to her when he was in Chicago. Gerry had planned to study medicine but decided she would take up medical technology after we became serious. Medical doctors don’t have time to spend much time with their children and Gerry definitely wanted to have children and to be home to be their mother and teacher. I robbed the world of a good doctor. But she was a terrific medical technologist, and a wonderful wife, mother and grandmother! Choosing a wife is one thing I know I did right!
Before I left the ship I had one other incident that was interesting. While I was officer of the deck in port one week end, several guys came to me complaining bitterly that they had been ordered to leave the ship immediately for discharge. Doing so would deny them the ratings for which they had just been qualified. The yeoman on duty verified that they were telling the truth. Neither the captain nor the exec would be back until the next morning. The men were scheduled to leave the ship within an hour. Our executive officer at that time was neither as good an officer nor as nice a person as the one we had when I joined the ship. When I learned I was the senior officer aboard, I had the yeoman fill out the advancement forms and I signed them as “Acting Captain!” I told the captain about this when he got back. He only chuckled and said the advancements would probably go through all right. He agreed I did the right thing. The navy had been urging everyone to reenlist rather than be discharged. If these men left feeling cheated by the navy, they certainly would not reenlist. If they didn’t reenlist, it made no difference to the navy whether they left with an extra chevron on their sleeve. The executive officer was livid when he learned what I did but I could care less, I was soon to be discharged myself!
When I finally left the ship, it was in the San Diego navy yard being outfitted with monitoring equipment for participation in the first atomic bomb test at Eniwetok. [This was to be Operation Crossroads conducted at Binkini in July 1946. Eniwetok Atoll was near by and also used for testing but later in 1948 through 1958, ed.] The Moale was to be the closest ship to the explosion. The captain, who was always nervous about sailing close to land, was even more worried about performing correctly in sight of so much brass and so many dignitaries — especially with an inexperienced crew. He offered me a spot promotion if I would stay on until the test was over. I declined with thanks on the grounds that I really had to get on with my education. He said “Two stripes,” technically a full lieutenant (two jumps up) but I assumed he really meant Lt. jg. Either way, the offer was much appreciated. I declined for a second reason: I knew what nuclear radiation was and I knew what Madame Curie had died of and that painters of clock faces with radium-containing, luminous paint, visible-in-the-dark paint were dying of cancer so I wasn’t anxious to be a guinea pig, especially one so close to the blast. I’m glad I made that decision.
The Moale remained in the fleet at least through the mid 1970s. A friend reported seeing her steam up the Delaware River toward Philadelphia. There were a few World War I destroyers in active service throughout World War II; they were quite satisfactory for convoy duty. The Moale probably has been scrapped. If it still exists, it is probably “moth balled” (protected from corrosion) and moored in some river.
I have sometimes wondered what happened to my friends and shipmates in the service. Did Jack Beardall make Admiral? What happened to Charles Lyons? I had a number of close friends but didn’t remain in touch with them after the war. I’m not sure why. None of us thought of giving each other his “permanent” address if that was possible. So much rapid movement took place at the end of the war, any address given was soon quickly no longer valid. Some transfers also came suddenly, at the end of a leave so that two friends who had not yet exchanged addresses never had the chance to do so. Most of my friends were of the age where their address after the war would not be the same as before the war. We also weren’t given to planning very far ahead. We were focused on getting through each day, one at a time.
I ran into one shipmate, a fellow we called Radar because he had a prominent nose that was decidedly red and if he had a drop or two of alcohol, it became even redder. He was my roommate late in my tour of duty on the Moale. A little guy, Radar surprised us all by acquiring a stunningly beautiful and very nice girlfriend when we were operating out of San Diego. I ran into him at the University of Illinois at a football game. I didn’t have the presence of mind to ask if he married that girl. I’ve mentioned seeing Dave Byrne, my midshipman roommate when we were both at the University of Illinois after the war. I also met our lead trumpet man, Bob Branson of Wabash College V-12 days also when at the University of Illinois after the war. So since the war’s end, I have met only one person from each of my wartime assignments except premidshipman’s school in New Jersey, that was really a place to wait for a midshipman’s school opening.
I was discharged at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago. Gerry was going to Northwestern University Medical School studying to become a medical technologist. I saw her briefly before heading home. It was tough leaving her in Chicago and heading to Jacksonville. Needless to say, I went to Chicago at every opportunity I had that summer. Technically, I was on terminal leave for three months so I would wear my uniform while traveling in order to qualify for a room at the YMCA for $6.00 a night!"
|Other USS Moale web sites:||http://www.ussmoaleassn.com/|
|Return to Main Page|