Chapter 23

A short time after this I was called to the office and advised that Jennie was quite seriously ill and that they had already arranged emergency leave and transportation via NATS, Naval Air Transport Service.  I quickly changed into the chiefs aviation greens and got a ride up the coast to the field where they were based, got a quick salute from the marine guard and headed for the plane.  It was about the same comfort level as the PBM which I had come from New Caledonia on and I found that it was no direct flight.  We made a stop in southern California, one in New Mexico and then on to Kansas City.  I spent an uncomfortable night in the bus depot in KC and boarded a bus for Mason City the next day and once again they took the scenic route.

 

I was picked up at the bus depot in Mason City by Jennie’s family and went to the hospital.  Jennie sure didn’t look good at all, swollen face and extremities and I learned that she had gone into convulsions from the effects of toxemia and that they were going to induce labor.  The doctor seemed to think that the baby would have a better chance than Jennie.  The baby was born the next morning and was named Alan Lee.  I watched through the window in the door as they worked on the baby but nothing was available such as the equipment they have today for prematures.  It soon became evident that they held no hope for the baby and it was just a matter of time.  It was pretty hard to carry that news into the hospital room.

 

Arrangements were made for the service and burial with Jennie unable to attend.  I was able to remain just long enough for her to come home and get settled in before I had to return.

 

It was a long trip back to join the squadron at Santa Rosa and quite difficult to concentrate on my job.  Eventually as Jennie got her strength back we decided that she should come out and join me.  She made the trip by train and we got a hotel room in Santa Rosa which would give us time to look for an apartment, or so we thought.  It seems that the hotels weren’t too enthused about military personnel setting up housekeeping.  People were borrowing hot plates, keeping milk out on the window ledge, etc., so they had a three day limit on our stays.  In the meantime I found a buddy at the air base who was going overseas and he and his wife had been running a motel for the owners who were separating.  We went over and interviewed with the Knowldens who owned the Downtown Motel on the highway in from San Francisco.

 

They were apparently satisfied with us and we moved in to the apartment which was quite spacious and there was a maid every day except one when we would have to do the chores.

 

It was a seventeen unit motel, with no number 13 and it was quite interesting.  Across the way a couple of girls had gone into business for themselves and had to be evicted.  A girl in the unit next to our office OD’d on drugs.  We had a family from one of the southern states in a 2 bedroom unit with a kitchen and the kids wrote on the plaster walls with crayons.  Most of our business came from salesmen though and we would know ahead of time their arrivals and departures.

 

We decided it would be nice if we had transportation so we went car shopping and came home with a ’36 Plymouth Coupe.  It was a nice area for sightseeing and we also had a very nice park just up the street a ways across from Luther Burbank’s home.  By living off base we had the usual problems as everyone else, rationing.  We went to the ration board and obtained the red points, blue points and whatever coupons were necessary.

 

I would pull the night shift on the line now and then and Jennie wasn’t too enthused about running the office until midnight.  It became obvious that the squadron was getting ready to go to sea with the increased activity and Al Jenkins began pestering me to trade places with him.  He said that with my wife there it would be nice if I stayed and waited for the next squadron to go out and he wanted to go with Lyons, Pagel and the other chiefs.  I talked it over with Jennie and I told Al it was OK with me.  It was no problem with paper work as Al and I held the same rating and it was all accomplished in short order.  I took his place in CASU 12 which I found later was only a short reprieve as I didn’t get a new squadron.  In a few weeks I was transferred to a detachment base at Shoemaker while awaiting orders.  Jennie’s brother Harm was out on the west coast and agreed to drive Jennie back to Britt in the ’36 Plymouth Coupe.  They got very good mileage on gas but they poured oil into it all the way home.

 

While at Shoemaker, I received the bad news that VT5 had gone out on the Franklin and in their first engagement every chief in the squadron was killed, Tumosa, Pagel, Zeno McKay, Gordon Lyons, Jenkins who took my place and all the others with whom Jennie and I had spent some fun times with.  I particularly remembered Hontz and Teague, a couple of fun characters whom I had flown with and wondered about their fate.  The Franklin was nothing more than a floating junk yard which was eventually towed back to the USA and scrapped.

 

My new assignment was CASU 6 and I boarded the train for Seattle which was to be my departure point.  On the train ride, April 12, 1945, I learned of President Roosevelt’s death and wondered what effect that would have as he was a strong Navy supporter and promoter of our two ocean Navy.

 

One night in Seattle and we boarded a transport for the island of Guam.  I made friends with one of the chiefs who was going to Guam also and he offered to do a pencil sketch of me for a haircut as I still had my hand clippers.

 

It was quite boring, all that time on a ship and not having a job to perform but Acey Deucy and hearts helped pass the time.  I missed the carrier battle group as we only had a couple tin cans for escort.

 

On arriving on Guam my outfit was CASU 6 on Orote Peninsula which sat up high on the end of the island.  We had crushed coral all around the base except for the runway.  My job was maintenance and one of the worst jobs was changing out radios in the belly of the fighters.  Sitting on top of that white coral with the sun beating down it was like an oven inside.  You could only stay a few seconds and usually had someone standing by to pull you out if necessary.  I usually had a shirt pocket full of detonators to put in the electronic equipment with an impact switch to blow the stuff up during a crash.  I found out I had been walking back and forth in front of live radars with those in my pocket and put them in a metal box to keep from being blown up.

 

The food wasn’t the best but we did manage to get some native produce such as fresh onions, some fruit but I was to learn much later in life through the VA that these things were suspect in health problems

 

We had separate quarters for the chiefs and I got into some spirited Acey Deucy games with Fussel who was a southern fellow and not a good loser.  We had a chiefs club which was just another Quonset like all the rest of the camp and as a favor to the other chiefs I would cut hair there once in a while.  One night I was cutting a mans hair and he noticed a scorpion on my shoe.  I did a new dance right there.  It was about like in New Caledonia, you would shake out your shoes in the morning before putting them on.

 

I had gone by the army base where the B29s were being flown to Japan on bombing raids and never learned until after the war that my cousin, Johnny Cary was there and had failed to return from one strike.  Also Lowell Baker of Britt was on Guam as well as Willy Bartik.  I didn’t leave Orote Peninsula very often so never ran into anyone there.

 

One evening things livened up a bit when we got  a Jap in our chow line.  They had holed up in caves the same as Americans had done while it was Jap occupied.

 

A couple of men got caught stealing potatoes from mess and were operating a still.  A couple more from camp had gone out to a raft in the harbor at night where ship’s service items were stored while awaiting transfer to the proper camps and had made off with radios, pens, watches and all sorts of stuff.  They had sold it and were in the process of sending money orders home when caught.  We had fast buck operators of all kinds.

 

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