Chapter 15

Standby,     Mark!
by Lynn Forshee

Coming into Pearl was a bittersweet event as I had just lost my home for the past year and shipmates for that same length of time.  Some of our buddies were on the dock to meet us.  One of the first bits of information we received was that Musgrove and Rowley were here in Pearl and safe.  After our bout with the Jap float plane they ran out of fuel and went down, used their rubber raft and parachute for a sail and sailed back to Tulagi, traded their equipment to the natives and with the help of a missionary were able to make it eventually down to Australia.  Once there they made contact with a British cargo ship and got a lift back to Pearl Harbor.  What an event that must have been for their families as we had already sent their personal effects home.

 

We were given a few bucks emergency pay and turned loose to make it to the Royal Hawaiian hotel once more.  I made a stop at a uniform store and they accommodated me by sewing the proper “crow” on a couple of jumpers and a white hat completed my uniform.  Out to the hotel to clean up and then for liberty with the rest of the gang.

 

They all wanted to hit a certain bar where one of them knew a girl and had dated her.  I decided to be sociable and had a drink, then blotto, I awoke next morning in the hotel with my arm in a bandage.  Must have been a fight but I didn’t remember it, take off the bandage and there for all the world to see was a rather large tattoo of a skull with flying helmet and the words “U.S.S. YORKTOWN”.  I discovered later that these friends, and I use the term loosely, had slipped me a Mickey.

 

I furthered my education that night as we gathered in the room and three of them were going to teach me to play poker.  I found out that you never play poker with your back to a full length mirror.

 

McGowan and I had to report back to Kaneohe Bay and were two of the first to fly in the new SB2C which was to be the replacement for the SBD.  It did not come up to our expectations and apparently others also as the SBD was to be used throughout the rest of the war.  Most of our pilots were sent back stateside and we were mostly with strangers for the first time so it was not a disappointment when we were reassigned to CASU 3, carrier aircraft service unit.

 

I had a chief aviation radioman named Oliver Wendel Grew who was all business, wore a handlebar mustache and insisted on cleanliness around the shop, “a good coat of paint will cover a multitude of sins” and “familiarity breeds contempt” so we tried not to become too familiar.

 

I think he did take a liking to me however and one day he came to me and said I was to report to the Enterprise in dress uniform.  When I got there I was lined up on the flight deck with some others, mostly officers.  Admiral Nimitz went down the line presenting medals and shaking hands.  Coming to me he handed me a little card with a gold star on it.  I guess I betrayed my puzzled feeling as when we were invited into the superstructure for lemonade and cookies he came over and said “son, apparently you didn’t understand the gold star”.  I said no sir, I thought just Navy mothers who had lost a son got that.  He informed me that it was for a second Distinguished Flying Cross and promised to look into it personally.  In about a week sure enough I was told to report to the pier at the sub base at Pearl Harbor.  We were lined up again and they started reading the “heroic deeds” of one man, called for him to step forward and receive his medal, they called his name a second time and someone stepped up to the captain who was making the presentations and said very quietly (into the mike for all to hear) he’s in the brig sir.

 

McGowan and I had liberty the next day but decided to get off to an early start.  Took our clean whites fresh from the laundry, wore our dungarees and sneaked out the gate with defense workers and headed for “Aunty Maes”.  With the city of Honolulu blacked out we found it impossible to get farther than the Nuanuu hotel where we put up for the night.  We were just about asleep when there was a commotion outside.  I said to Hank, “shore patrol” Hank said no, just defense workers.  With that the shore patrol came into the room and asked to see our liberty passes, of course they were for the next day.  They made us get up, unwrap our clean whites and they took us to be guests of the city of Honolulu for the remainder of the night and we had to sleep on the dirty cell floor.  We did get to make one call and Hank informed Aunty Mae that we would not be there.

 

We were taken back to the base the next day and required to spend the next 2 days confined to the administration building.

 

Chief Grew said that they were looking for some men with knowledge of radio and recommended us.  We found that we had been “volunteered” to a highly secret place with no windows, double marine guards at the door and we could not carry as much as a pencil in or out.  From early morning to late at night we attended class not even going out for lunch.  We were attending RADAR school which up until now even the word was secret.

 

After six weeks we  were graduated a bit early due to an assignment of CASU 3 to the south pacific.  I sure wouldn’t miss those ice cold showers where we bunked out by the airstrip.

 

I had acquired an Indian 101 motorcycle, WWI vintage and knew I wouldn’t be able to take it so I hurriedly sold it to one of the aviation mechs in the outfit.  He was to pay me $75 payday which never came and he boxed it up marked spare parts and sent it on ahead.  This would not be the only time I would be taken.

 

We went out to New Caledonia on the U.S.S. DIXIE and I was assigned a bunk on the mess deck or more properly a cot.  It became unbearable hot one night below the equator so I took a stroll out on the deck and met a sailor who said he couldn’t sleep either.  He said he had a hammock up forward and after learning of my assignment, he offered a trade.  I pulled myself up and settled in and later I discovered why he couldn’t sleep.  When the ship rolled the hammock swung out over the water.

Copyright ©2004-2007 Lynn R. Forshee.  All rights reserved.
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