Jack S. Futterman Oral History
Part III- Wartime Experiences
Getting A Commission
I left Social Security to go to war. I had applications with the Army and Navy and Coast Guard. I had some inquiries from the Coast Guard; I was not interested. And the reason why was the type of work they offered me in the light of my work background.
I could have sat out the war. I didn't. As I said, I was a first-generation American. And I knew that in those days, as a first-generation American, you had to be a 110 percent American, to be fully accepted. And this is often the case, not only in citizenship matters, but in religion too. It happened with Roman Catholics, and the same thing happened concerning Jews.
Q: So you saw it as a patriotic duty?
Yes, I did. I would say in 1936 and 1937, I was 24 or 25 years old. I had a college degree, a B.S. from Harvard, cum laude, in the humanities; and I had my master's degree in education, and I had six years of work experience. And Walter Winchell, who was on the air several times a day, on the radio I'm talking about, was saying, "If you are a college graduate, they need you; Uncle Sam needs you." I was a graduate, and I had experience. But I didn't want them to take my recordkeeping experience and put me in that kind of job, I wanted to help fight the war.
I wanted to go but in the course of processing my application, I was being frustrated. They weren't making it easy for me. So I did write once on an application that I was young, unmarried and vigorous, and I had all this background. And they were looking for and taking people who hadn't even graduated from college, taking them in the second year and putting them through all this training and giving them commissions. And Walter Winchell said, "The Navy badly needs you." And I was responding, and getting rebuffed, and at one point, I telegraphed, I wish I had a copy of that, I wrote Admiral Nimitz, Chief Naval Personnel. And I said, "I've done this and this, and I belong there, and I'm ready to serve, wherever the Navy wants me, without qualifications." And I got a response, I don't know whether it was to that or not. I had an application pending in Norfolk, so they ran me down to Norfolk.
The office where I applied was the Chief of Naval Procurement in Washington, Office of Naval Procurement. I would sit on a bench waiting for my turn, while others got called. They got up and said "Yes sir," and were disposed of, and they had their commissions and they had their orders pretty soon. Here I was sitting and waiting. I think I was probably being discriminated against. I won't go into that, to any great detail. But I think it's well to have a little token of the times in this.
Q: Since you brought this up, let me just have you make it clear so that people understand what you are talking about. You had trouble getting into the Service because you were Jewish, is that what you are saying? You've been very diplomatic about it. But I think we should make it clear.
Yes. Plus, to a small degree, that I was too young.
Q: Do you want to talk about your experiences in the war or something else?
Well, I can do it in summary fashion. I ultimately got an assignment as an Ensign Supply Clerk. I think I could have been more useful than as an Ensign Supply Officer. But I took it with grace and settled the matter. The money didn't particularly concern me, or the position or the power, the money could have helped, but I was willing to start anyway.
My appointment was to take effect in May. And I had to buy my own uniforms. I had to buy a heavy raincoat--really a dress coat of heavy material that went below your knees and was a double-breasted coat, that I never used. Plus two white uniforms, a surge-blue dress uniform with brass buttons, and a cap, and whatever. I got that at Hamburgers, which was then located on Baltimore Street, not too far away.
Training To Be A Sailor
I reported to Dartmouth College for indoctrination. And it occurs to me that it had to be somewhat informal around the barracks, because, well, they assigned us to the student dorms. And I inherited, with two other officers, a room, in fact, two rooms. My bed was one little string which was like a hammock, except that it didn't swing to and fro; it required your back to be broken. And the other two occupied a smaller bedroom.
Every morning we had to get up around 5 or 6 o'clock in our skivvies, oh, I guess, we had a white T-shirt. And we had to go outside and do our calisthenics, it was cold. We did our calisthenics really to get warm. And we ran and marched to various places.
I'm not a swimmer, never have been, and I was required to be a swimmer, at least the requirement was that I be a swimmer when I graduated from college. And I used to go to the swimming pool occasionally to try to learn to swim. But I was always in the low part of the pool, and I frantically would try, without any help, I would try to throw my arms out so fast that I would propel myself to the other side. I'm talking about the narrow side of the pool. And when I got there, I grabbed the rail and so forth.
Well, I had never gone into the deep end of the pool in my college days until the day I was to be tested to pass the swimming requirement. And I took my life in my hands, literally, to swim the length of the pool and I just did before I went under. And I'm not sure they were prepared to take me out. Well, that was my background.
So I was really a non-swimmer, in the Navy term. And the Navy had a requirement at that time that you be a swimmer; and your papers indicate that you are a swimmer. They assured me that I would be a swimmer. And we non-swimmers were supposed to get training. And we were assigned a certain time. And the first time we got there, we had to do certain things, to overcome our fear of the water, and whatever. And every other time that we were scheduled, the college had a use for that pool. And so the time came where, to stamp my record, swimmer or not, I was labeled, "swimmer." So I became a swimmer overnight! And my naval records will show that.
One other comment about the nature of the indoctrination. This is at Dartmouth. At the very time that I was undergoing this process, indoctrination at Dartmouth, they staffed the college mostly with second-termers from Annapolis. Why? The Navy was undergoing a very big buildup, and it obviously needed people. Annapolis graduates were the prize, and were given commands that ordinarily they wouldn't get for years during peacetime. But in the time when you are building up, you build up as best you can. You take the best candidates available, so you take Naval Academy students. So the second-year men, who knew very little about the Navy, they were our trainers. And the point of this little anecdote is to give you a little flavor.
The training that we got there was mostly in the non-military aspects. A large part of it was in the non-military aspects. What these youngsters knew, people from Annapolis, was the kind of things that were important to them, like when you visit a Commandant at a post how many cards did you leave at the captain's house when you visited him? And we learned, and I learned, and I'm caricaturing it a little, but you learned you should leave six cards, so he could put one in his file, and one for his wife so she could have a social file that she was in charge of, and one for this and one for that and a couple of extras to make sure they had enough. And that was what we learned--whether you used dress whites or blues or whatever--a lot of that.
And how to tie a knot, a Navy bowline. I still can't tie a Navy bowline, it's a very simple knot. The usual attempt by a non-informed person will end up as a granny knot. You take two pieces and make a knot. Well that's not a bowline; a bowline is designed to be able to slip it without any problems in certain situations--tie a knot, and quickly untie it. I never learned how to do a bowline. But it was things of that nature, which were under the broad heading of indoctrination, that the Annapolis trainers taught us.
And I bought a big Navy book--I still have it. The code of Navy regulations. Whether you were supposed to obey every order you got and whatever. But it was an opportunity to physically put us in some kind of shape.
Becoming An Engineer
From there, I went as an accredited naval officer to the University of Illinois at Champaign. This was the diesel engineering school. Because by this time, I had received orders for sea duty, which indicated that I was destined to be a diesel engineer aboard sea-going vessels. And there we had again some Annapolis people who had never been to sea themselves; a lot of them were from Iowa and other places in the Midwest; the ocean was something they had heard about. And I learned about as much about diesel engineering as I learned about being a sailor in basic indoctrination. But again, being together built a sort of a camaraderie that was useful, it wasn't wasted. They didn't know exactly where to put any of us anyway, we were sort of in a holding pattern. And it was useful in that holding pattern to build up in each individual some feeling of affinity for the organization, the Navy organization.
We were not getting any real diesel engineering training. What training we got was done under the stands of the University of Illinois stadium. All they had there were pedestals on which some engine hulks were mounted which had been recovered from the bottom of the Mississippi River. Any relationship to a real diesel engine was purely coincidental. Most of them were just the casings of the engine. They were large, four feet tall. And they would just be the engine casing, the outer covering, and on them was displayed a plate which said the name of the engine, and whether it was a 2-cylinder, 2-cycle or 4-cylinder, 4-cycle, and the RPM rating.
Our function each day was to report to a leader, one of these Annapolis boys, who had a little book, and he called attendance and checked us off. We were able to walk around the machine casings. And after we walked around it, he would test us. The question was, "What kind of machine is this? How many cycles?" And that was supposed to be our score; I don't know for what purpose. But every day, he kept the score, and we'd go on the next day to another machine. I may be exaggerating it slightly, but this is the essential truth.
Q: So you became a certified diesel engineer?
Not yet. Not yet. Because, I mean to show you my qualifications! It soon became apparent that I had talent, but not for this. The teacher, the officer in charge, near the very end of this, called on me one day, and this stands out in my mind, and he asked various questions. And he saved one for me at the very end and he said, "Futterman, which is the flywheel end?" And I said to myself, "I know there are two choices, I've got a 50/50 chance." And I said, "That one." And I chose wrong! I was some diesel engineer wouldn't you say.
The next common activity for everybody at the school was to order additional blues, that's dress blues. I had dress blues; I had two dress whites, and I had a dress coat. We were told that we all should order another dress blue, you needed two dress blues. And they had arranged with a tailor place in Chicago, Simpson's, to come down and measure us all. And one other thing along that line: I remember I had occasion once to use my dress whites, in the graduation parade, we had never paraded before or after. And I was duly promoted.
Sent To California
I got almost to my next duty assignment while I was in Champaign for R and R. My wife-to-be was living in Washington, D.C. and we decided to get married. She converted to Judaism, not that I asked her to, and we got married in Champaign, Illinois after I had completed my diesel engineering training. The only Jews at that wedding were myself and my wife, newly converted, and the rabbi who came down from Chanute to perform the ceremony. The rest of my classmates who were attending and who took us out to dinner afterwards were non-Jews, I think maybe one was a Jew.
Well, one of the things about the Navy was that you were not supposed to volunteer. All the old-timers told you "don't volunteer." And it's true, to a large extent. What is true is that it seems a disproportionate part of the time, when they have a choice in the Navy to go this way or that way, if you indicate a choice, a disproportionate number of times, you'll go the other way. Now there may be some very good reasons, I can think of one or two. But this kind of underscores it: don't volunteer in the Navy, don't indicate what you prefer because you're sure not to get it. And nonetheless, I volunteered to be assigned to Norfolk, Virginia, even though at that time the naval base in Norfolk was regarded as a hell-hole. Whereas San Francisco and Los Angeles, in California, were regarded as desirable. I indicated a desire to go to Norfolk so I would be close to my wife, who had to return to Washington. Knowing that the Atlantic was rougher than the Pacific, and besides Norfolk didn't have the allure of California, almost all the rest of the guys went for California. I asked for Norfolk; I got California.
I spent several months in California, waiting my next assignment. I finally got my next assignment which was to report to Portland, Oregon as engineering officer, Ensign Engineering Officer aboard LST-461, which was going to be commissioned in the Kaiser yards which then were building these ships under contract for the Navy. We assembled a crew. At that time, Kaiser had extracted an arrangement from the Navy in making contracts. He said, "I'll build ships at this pace, providing you understand I will not accept any changes in what I'm going to build. After I deliver it, you can make all the changes you want." And so the arrangement was that Kaiser would build these ships and turn them over to the Maritime Commission, and the Maritime Commission would turn them over to the Navy. So Kaiser did not deal directly with the Navy. And when it came time to turn over the newest ship there was a ceremony at the Kaiser shipyard near Seattle. So the crew that had been assembled in Portland was called up to have the ship turned over to us. Up to that point, we had not learned one whit about LSTs.
Q: I was going to say, how much confidence could they have in you guys?
There was no provision for doing anything except having us wait for our orders. We were free to go on the town during that time, but we had to report back daily for orders. So we never went very far. Portland was a nice town to be in, very hospitable. It was nice to look north up Main Street and see the ice-capped mountains in the distance. The climate was gray; it would rain in the afternoon and we didn't go out very much, but it felt good. But we were blind; we didn't know what was going on or what was to go on. We didn't even know we were going to go up to Bremerton and eventually pick up a ship; we didn't even know that. There were all kinds of speculations about what was going to happen. And the only ones that were listened to were people who had served as Warrant Officers and so forth who could speak with authority, and that was the word God! And there would be ideas like, "We were going to be assigned a suicide ship." And they had it approximately right as it turned out because those ships would go on the beaches to disembark troops and equipment during battles. But they didn't really know; they had a little more information within the ranks than we had. And they would pass it on. We looked up to these "mustangs," we called them. Mustangs is the Navy term for people who had served as Warrant Officers and commissioned Warrant Officers, and ex-chiefs who became officers. Not through Annapolis, but coming up through the ranks.
Getting A Ship
Q: So you went and took over the ship?
Yes. And there was this interesting experience which had really no relationship to Social Security, except it relates to me and it's kind of interesting.
I was the diesel officer. I didn't know one single other person on the ship. But they were assembled and there was a ceremony. The ceremony consisted of some Kaiser official saying some words, and there were streamers around and balloons, etc. saying "Commissioning LST-461." It was not then LST-461, it became LST-461 when the Navy took it over. And the Maritime Commission was there representing the government to take possession of the ship, which then they would turn around and turn it over to some Navy representative. And forthwith, we found ourselves aboard the ship which was tied up at the dock.
Q: The same day of the ceremony?
At the ceremony! I think part of it took place on board. We were on board during the ceremony, and all of a sudden, it was our ship. We found that we had a captain, and the captain was an old Boatswain's Mate. You know what a Boatswain's Mate is?
Q: Not really.
Merchant marine; he was the head of the deck hands. He was a roly-poly sort of guy; he was still blondish and grayish. He was very Swedish or Danish, Norwegian in his speech. A rosy, obviously outdoor type, he spent a lot of time outdoors, his cheeks and his face were just red. He was the captain, the only one of the crew who had ever been to sea to my knowledge. And I got to know everybody aboard the ship after that. He was the only one with any knowledge of the sea, not as an officer, but as a Boatswain's Mate, as the head of the deck hands. And he was rough, tough, and was able to wrestle with any of them and enforce order among the deck hands. I'm talking about the merchant marine. And he was a good choice. And while he wasn't trained, the sea was not strange to him.
I was the Engineering Officer. I was the next oldest, because I was graduated from college and got my masters in '34, and this was '42. The officers all had gotten their commission as graduates of the Naval Training Schools, as a part of their college; I think two years of naval training was incorporated with their college and they got commissions upon graduation, and they were Ensigns. And they were supposed to be able to handle, you know, navigation, whatever, aboard ship. And that was our crew. We had a crew of about a 100. And we were supposed to be able to handle about 1,000 troops, sleeping all over the place on the deck, and in all the rooms. And we took off--never been to sea.
Q: That same day, right then?
We almost lost the ship.
Q: They lost your ship?
No, I almost sank it! The first thing you need to understand. I'm saying this because of amusement; I could go through my naval career giving you the amusing side, some of it was dead serious, a lot of it was.
But the first day, the helmsman had never been at a helm, and so on down the line. And the captain was ordering him, "Left rudder," or "hard right," or "10 degrees left," or "steer so and so." And we went straight for a bridge that was not raised all the way, toward the middle, you know. I was sure we were going to hit it. We avoided it.
The next thing I knew, we were tying up at a pier where diesel oil fuel was dispensed. The guy on the pier said, "Where do you want it?" Nobody answered, we didn't no who he was talking to. I had just discovered a little while before, two things: one was where the engine room was. I had looked at it. And I saw it had two big General Motors engines that used to power the transcontinental trains. I omitted to mention some of the training that I was supposed to have gotten in California. We were assigned to one of the places where the railroad engines would come in and get overhauled. We were supposed to report there, there was no Navy officer there. We reported as our instructions required us. And nobody was there to tell us about who was supposed to do this or that. We just reported there and tried to stay out of the way.
Q: But at least you recognized the engines?
Yes. I didn't see the engines; I saw the railroad engines. I didn't see the outer walls of the engine which was contained in the thing; but I understood that was what they were. I saw the engines for the first time in the Engine Room that's where they were assembled.
We had another engine room, called the auxiliary. The Auxiliary Engine Room was powered by three superior diesel engines. An order would come down from the deck that said "starboard ahead one third" and we pushed the instruments down below. That was obvious. We would respond up the tube "starboard ahead one third" or whatever. That's all we had to do, was follow the orders given that way.
Q: That and figure out where to put the diesel fuel?
You're pushing me to the point, which is appropriate. I didn't know anything about the fuel. I mean, I wasn't even asked. I didn't think of asking.
But I had gone down the steps to the engine room from the deck, and I had noticed some round covers on the deck. Frankly at that point I had not even tried to figure out what those little covers were on the deck. I don't remember, I guess I would of guessed that they were some way to get in or maybe it was some kind of sewer. But we had a number of those openings. Just like it had a lid with a hinge and they also had these buckles that would enable you to tighten it down and seal it. But I never looked at it before, never thought about it. Obviously if you look at it enough you recognize what it was for that was to seal out water from going down.
There was an opening in which you descended a ladder, an iron ladder two decks below, in our case, to the Engine Room. But it also had a way to get to the first deck below. So I had proceeded after the commissioning to take a visit there below, to see what it was like and then to climb back up the ladder to wait for the next development. And as I stuck my head above that scupper, my head was just above the deck, this guy was asking "where do you want the fuel." If I had not by chance to have been up there, I'm sure that he wouldn't have been directed at me. I just thought it was fortuitous. He was asking where do you want it. And he kept asking, so finally I deduced that nobody else was going answer. He said "I have four hundred thousand gallons of diesel fuel, where do you want it." So I said, "I didn't know, where do you usually put it?" He said "I don't know, this is my first filling job." Up to now the Shell stations had been doing this. And I was in a dilemma. Then I remembered that just as we were pulling away from the docks at Bremerton somebody came running toward the ship with a pile of blueprints. And I happened to be up there at the time. And he was obviously trying to give it to somebody aboard ship. And I leaned over and took it. I said "what is it?" He said "blueprints." Well, I'm an engineer so I took the blue prints. I'd never seen them before, never read a blueprint in my life. And I put them in a safe. And here we are, what to do. I didn't know where to take the fuel, where to put it, how to do it, and where would it go. Well I finally figured out, but I almost sunk the ship right there, but I'm a chance taker.
I couldn't look at all these blueprints. In the first place I wouldn't really understand very easily what 95 percent of them said. There were two or three profiles that you could recognize in the blueprint. I began to realize that the theory of those ships was to be ballasted with sea water. At the bottom of the ship were a series of water tanks, so that the angle of the ship as it hit the beach would be parallel to the beach. So you could go all the way up and then it would come to rest, all at the same time. The back wouldn't hit first, or the stern wouldn't hit first, or the bow wouldn't hit first and the stern be above. The idea was to control the angle of the ship by controlling the amount of water in the various tanks. The purpose here was a cheap way of getting fuel transported to the area where it was going to be needed by ships that were leaving, LST ships which ordinarily and functionally would be ballasted with salt water were to be filled with fuel to make this journey.
Q: You were just ferrying this fuel?
Actually at first. Nobody knew it, nobody explained it. It's easy now, once it's explained. But then I had to immediately know: How do I do that, where is the opening etc. And then, after it comes down, how do I direct it to the varying tanks, so that it gets to the appropriate level etc.? Well I was using common sense throughout my career. Sometimes common sense can take you only so far.
Well one way to avoid filling each tank individually is to open the valves, which I understood in theory. These were valves that allowed passage from one tank to another. So I deduced that the big wheels sitting in front, were valves, and we had what they called a manifold. A manifold was just term meaning many, many valves. So I thought that if I just opened all the inter-connections then I wouldn't have to worry about trying to balance the fuel in the various tanks. They would all be coming and the fuel would seek it's own level in the ship. And all of the tanks would be filled up at least to the same height. And so I proceeded to order the men to open up all the valves.
Q: That was your first order?
Well close I guess. And so that's what we did. And lo and behold the 400,000 gallons came in. Only later did it occur to me that somewhere aboard that ship ,in the engine room, which I didn't know then, was a valve to scuttle the ship. You opened that valve up, the ship would be sunk.
Q: The water would come in and sink it?
Yes, that was the idea. All ships have a scuttle valve. So I almost sunk the LST-461 right at the Second Oar Lock. Just by luck we didn't open the scuttle valve.
Well this went on. We went down river, I think it was the Columbia River, although I was down below a lot of the time. I didn't get to know the information that was coming in at the communications deck where the officers were privileged to get the messages going back and forth. They would be in the know, hell I was in the engine room. I didn't have to worry about time keeping because I was on my own. And I didn't serve these kinds of duties, four hours on and four hours off. I was the sole officer there and I was on call whenever. But I didn't get the information or was not even particularly in the know. My fellow officers aboard ship that were friendly, some of them passed on what they knew. Maybe they didn't see me often enough.
And so we went down the river and then we discovered that when we left the warehouse to go to Seattle we left the ship's manual behind. The warehouse was established in Portland and the theory was that each ship was to be equipped with, first off, a manual that informed the captain and the officers all about this ship-- how it was built what were the features of it, how to run it, what parts you were going to store, keep on board. What tools you were supposed to have, etc. What drills you were supposed to have. When we left Portland we never had that.
What happened is that in the warehouse they established piles of material for each ship, manuals, parts, supplies and the like. A pile for each ship. The first ship that was built by Kaiser in that yard was numbered 450. I think he had a contract for 15 ships initially. So when ship no. 450 left port from Portland they took whatever was there, even though there were different piles for different ships. Because they didn't have everything they needed, so they scrounged, they took everything they needed. And so when 451 came along they didn't have a lot of things that were supposed to be there for them, so they took whatever was left. So by the time 461 got there we got nothing. I'm overstating it a little. But of all the tools we were supposed to have, we ended up with a couple of screw drivers, and we didn't have a lot of the other stuff. And so we had to do our scrounging and I became, against my nature, the scrounger.
So as we proceeded down the Columbia River we stopped at a couple of Naval Supply places. And I took with me, when we stopped, an electrician's mate. We two, and a couple of leathernecks who could write, and we went to the supply house, went through the catalog, just like you go through an encyclopedia to see what was listed there. And then we would take reams of forms that were pasted together on a pad. And we would take a good selection of screws and bolts, and what have you, and hammers and whatever. We even ordered a lathe. As an aside, we didn't get those tools until about a year later, at the port in Honolulu. And then they had to signal from shore that they had a lot of stuff for us, for the ship. We had forgot about it but there was the lathe and all, a lot of it was not authorized, like we were not authorized to have a lathe. But what we ordered, what I ordered, showed up. There was no screening.
But we had to go from the mouth of the Columbia River to San Diego, and it was really a breaking-in, to see how well the ship functioned. But what happened to us, they had already had design change orders on the ships which they were holding up because of some experience of the previous ships. Not only from that location but from other locations. They were not done because Kaiser wouldn't do them. So as we went down the coast the auxiliary engines began to break down one by one, blown cylinders. Of the 36 cylinders on the three engines, we had ten working. You know without the auxiliary engine you loose all your lighting, you loose all your power etc. Not the other power on ship, but you needed the auxiliary engines to operate the steering, the rudder, and so forth. So we were then laid up, but this was scheduled.
We tore the engines apart, gave it all the changes that were supposed to be made. And they ripped all the walls apart. They had just been built, but they ripped them all apart because they were not fire-retardant. They put up what today would be regarded as worse, they put up fiberglass. And, they stored it away and all that. And we lived aboard the ship while the air was thick with fiberglass which no doubt embedded in our lungs and made some people die prematurely with things like lung disease. We were finally outfitted and we went to sea.
Seeing Action In The Aleutians
After fiddling around we went up the Inland Passage to the Aleutian Islands. We made some stops at Ketchican, which is at the top of the Inland Passage. We crossed the gulf of Alaska which is a very, very violent sea. That kind of a ship is flat-bottomed and has a high free-board, which is the area above the water. The side of the ship was about 30 or 40 feet above the water. The winds were blowing in the Alaskan Gulf for a long, long time, violently, the waves were 40 feet high, The ship would begin "sailing," being blown by the wind because of the enormous free-board, which acted like a sail against the wind.
We then proceeded to Adak, which is at the western end of the Aleutian Chain. We got commissioned there. I saw it commissioned there. It was very warm that day, I remember.
The officer in charge of the port operation is the person you had to get permission from to do anything. So I asked that he give us permission to tear our main engines apart. Which meant that we would not be able to be used for awhile. The reason that I asked for this was I thought the best way for the men to get to know about the engine was to take it apart and put it back together. I didn't do that with the auxiliary--couldn't. If we did that we would lose all our power. And that's what we did. They took the governor off, they took the cylinders off, and they took everything apart. I myself tried to familiarize myself with the parts, and I wanted them to be comfortable in the knowledge of what this thing was all about. It really worked.
We were one of six ships in the Aleutians, and while we had a lot of trouble with the equipment and so forth, our men became sort of confident that they could handle things. They would run down if the ship broke down for some reason, or if we were blowing black smoke, indicating some malfunction. They would be able to handle it under my instructions. They would come up to where the manuals were and try to read a little and guess at what the possible problem might be that produced the black smoke or whatever. And then I'd go down, and by this time I'd designated a straw boss, we didn't have any rated personnel. And I'd ask him a few questions, trying to help them figure out what to do. I'd ask them a few questions. I'd say "Have you considered this?" if they had, they'd say yes. If they hadn't they say "let's try that!" And I built in them, I think, an attitude that they were the ones that were going to hold this thing together.
I met one of the engineering officers on one of the other ships. He was a trained engineer, an electrical engineer and a civil engineer. He worked in a way that was easy for him, he directed the crew and told them what to do. But our crew was by far the best of the six ships. Our ship, of the six stationed there, did about 90% of the work. I'm talking about the year or so that we were there we engaged in a couple of operations. We could develop skill by running up and down the chain, in between engagements, and the others were mostly laid up, we hardly ever ran into them. I think we could handle whatever problems came up. Whereas, my friend the engineer perhaps made his crew too dependent on him. I don't really know, and that's pure speculation. But I do know that of the six ships we did probably 90 percent of the work. The other ones were laid up all the time. And the only thing I can account for the difference was my own experience with the men having broken down the main engines so they didn't feel strange. They had not had any proper training, but they sure acquired a feeling for how to maintain a ship, the engines.
We were loaded with a specialized type of equipment to establish the airfield at Kamchatka, which is the eastern end of the chain. Which were then occupied by the Russians. We had troops, but when we got to Attu, before we went out to the Aleutians, they took that equipment off. They took the troops and they gave us other kinds of equipment, on our deck, so we actually came up, after Attu.
The battle had been going a few days and we were getting a lot of our troops back because the gorgeous leather boots that our troops had been outfitted with were getting waterlogged within a hour after they hit the shore. Because the nature of the covering that was on top of rock in the Aleutians was just sponge-like. And as you put the weight of your foot on it then the water would seep up. So their feet were immersed in this liquid, this fluid, and then they would get jungle rot. That was the biggest problem, I guess. As we talked about that the Army and the Navy developed this ugly boot which was rubberized and you still have these things today, for working in the woods, you know what I'm talking about. They replaced these leather things and boy our men were glad to acquire these rubberized boots. Because they retired the leather ones for hunting and so forth when they got back home, at least I know my captain, one of my later captains, had saved them.
So we were on that first engagement and we were there but we were not in any particular action. Then our next assignment, the next substantial assignment, in between we were delivering things from one island to another to sustain the men, etc.--I'm talking about the Army men. The next assignment was to take someone from the Aircorp on board, he joined me in my cabin. He was in charge of a secret mission. Piece by piece we put it together with some information afterwards. His mission was to establish a base from which later on the as yet unbuilt airships could bombard the Japanese mainland. About this time we had already lost all those ships in Tarawa, and around Alaska. We had sustained great damage to our Navy. This was long-range planning for the stage when we would be able to turn things around and bombard the hell out of them.
The island of Shemey, which is an island about 2 miles long and 4 miles wide, within sight of Attu, to the west of Attu, was just covered by penguins, nothing on it, nobody living there, no trees, no nothing. This was supposed to be the location of the airport. It was secret, and so never explicitly described by Colonel Bassett to me, but he did tell me quite a bit more than was generally known. But his function was to look at it, see whether it could be developed, but it turned out not to be suitable.
Now up and down the chain there was supposedly a Japanese force at Kiska, which was an island in the middle. And then there were temporary bases that had been made at other large islands, so-called large islands, they were all very small. And so there was a vast army, Army and Navy, arranged for removing the Japanese from Kiska. There were all kinds of stories going around. Japanese submarines, suicide submarines, etc., were having a great time with the American ships from the Aleutians. It was only for fear of the Japanese fleet. That the Japanese Navy had done so much damage to the American ships. And of course Pearl Harbor. We had lost all those ships at Pearl Harbor and we were defensive.
We were looking to get the Japanese out of the Aleutians. That was the force, a joint Canadian/American combined force. They were the predecessors of the American Rangers. They were able to fight on sea, on land, whatever. And it took a joint force of Canadians and Americans, but we were the first ashore at Kiska, it was not scouted extensively, before the first time we docked. Any real information was in the form of aerial photos of the beaches.
Our ship was designated as advanced task force. And it was constituted by LST-461 which had a three-inch gun at the stern, which couldn't hit anything. But it's function was not to do any damage. Its function was to skirt the island and decoy the Japanese, supposedly. We were supposed to go within sight of the south shore of Kiska. Our companion was an APD, a four-stacker from World War I. I think that by this time it had lost three of it's stacks. It was called a fast transport APD. A is for advanced, P is for passenger, I don't know what the D stands for. And these two vessels, that couldn't do a damn thing, both of us, were to flaunt ourselves, going east along the southern shore, to confuse the Japanese, all day prior to H-hour. Then at H-hour minus six we were supposed to go up the east coast and debark the troops that we had aboard.
We had rubber boats for the landing crews. They knew that there was a coral reef and the intelligence was that there was a coral reef and a pebbly beach. And their function was, according to the pictures, and the orders for the engagement, the function was the troops would go ashore and bomb a narrow inlet that separated the ocean from the inland lake. Very close to the eastern shore was this inland lake of pure water. Their function was to bomb it, or at least we were told this, I personally never saw it. At least the men were telling us when they were aboard, that was what they were going to do. And that would allow Navy boats to get through this narrow isthmus and go into the inland sea, into the lake and operate within them. A lot of this may be fairy tale, it could of been because the pebbles turned out to be boulders and there was no way our ships could go in there.
After H-hour, like six hours later, when half the force would be deployed to the north of us and half to the south, the rest would be deployed ashore and then go up this mountain. We heard shooting during the night, during the morning, we had our men, the men we had launched before, coming back to the ship in their rubber boats. Talking about that they had bombed, they had grenaded a dozen Japanese in one cave, all those kinds of stories. The truth was, none of it was true. Maybe it's the kind of stories that men tell each other, you know bravado. But none of it happened because first what we did hear was our own troops from the south shooting at some of the troops from the north! And second when we investigated the island we found a couple of pickle barrels and seaweed barrels and one small submarine, a one man submarine, on some stilts getting worked on, and a couple of primitive electric generators in a sort of a cave. I saw that when I had a chance a couple days later to see what it was. The Japanese left that island several days before. They probably had gotten wind of our intentions.
So we had 35 LSTs that came up to join us, we had six LST's up there in action. I think we had 35 LSTs that had been training for a long time down in San Diego, enduring all the hardships of war down there. I'm laughing. They came up smartly, executing all those maneuvers, turn left and right. We had been there about a year already. But these ships came up, then turned around and went back, and we were still up there.
That ended that, we went back around Christmas of that year, 1942-43. And we tied up at the naval yards at Plymouth, it was Christmas. We were given five days leave while they were tearing down the ships. I guess I had started the tearing down a little prematurely. The engines, I was right, that happened first. But when we returned they tore out all the walls and everything, and replaced the fiberglass and did a lot of other work.
And we were given five days each, the officers. If you wanted to go home, you could go home. My wife lived in Washington and there was no way for me to go home except by regular public transportation. But we were the last category, we could be bumped anywhere on the ground. Some of the other officers were much more fortunate, some of them lived in California and Texas. And their wives came up to be with them from where they were. And they had much more than five days together. Because we were shipping out in maybe a month or so. I was just on five days leave. I took off Christmas day on a DC3 airline, with the understanding that I could be bumped at any time. DC3s then ran about 150 miles and then came back to be refueled, etc. I thought I'd be bumped, this was Christmas day. I made it home that day about 24 hrs later, after about 19 or 20 stops. Expecting to be bumped at anytime. As the day went on there was less and less probability because people were already there. I stayed there four days then came back.
Then I had to cool my heels with nothing to do waiting for the ship to be repaired. After the ship was repaired we went back into the Pacific and were at Hawaii, we were on the islands like Tarawa, some of them we engaged, some of the more southerly island chains, east islands as I recall it. And we stayed there until we got orders to go to sea.
Action In The Pacific Theatre
We went, we engaged in serious combat soon thereafter at Saipan and Guam. But the first engagement was at Saipan. We had Marines aboard, with "alligators." Alligators were nothing but a flimsy shell, looked like a tractor, an open tractor, which in the water was fairly uncertain, and the flippers gave it the motor power to get ashore. It was a horrible war weapon, there was no protection for the people inside. They're propelled by these flippers at about one mile an hour. They were very slow, you can imagine they just didn't grab much water.
I had as a roommate the Captain of the force that was going to go ashore, he was the nicest guy. He was a marine, he was everything a marine was supposed to be. Tough, direct and clean-cut, kind, and good looking. He was so sure that he was going to just waltz in there, lead his men, whatever. He never made it to shore. The Japanese picked them off. He was one of first casualties. There were many Japanese on that island. As I say they resisted the Army and the Marines.
There were two Smith's, General Ralph Smith I think was the Army, and General Howard Mayer Smith was a Marine. They operated on two different philosophies. The Army on shore were following the line of being conservative, consolidating before moving on. The Marines operated on the reverse. It was always a problem ensuring that the loop between the two just didn't open up and provide an easy way for the Japanese to separate them. Somehow or other we won there. We had considerable casualties among the men.
It so happened that at that time, I forget the name of the novel, there was a very famous movie related to the novel, Henry Fonda was in it. Captain Queeq was the captain who was always rolling these steel balls in his hands. There were suicide bombers coming down and doing their suicide jobs on our ships so we lost a lot of ships during that phase. It was also accompanied by a williwaw, in the book and movie, as I recall very clearly, they were bringing that out, although in the movie it was humorous.
Q: Williwaw is what?
Williwaw is the equivalent of a typhoon in other parts of the world. And that's not untypical. A williwaw is something that is used to describe these winds that come out of the mountains up in the Aleutian Islands, and the North Pacific. We were still battling lower in the Pacific. And, there was this horrible typhoon, and the safest way to deal with a typhoon is to go to sea. I learned that, I didn't know that before. But we all went to sea and there was a lot of damage. Of course a lot of ships had also been damaged by these suicide bombers.
And the island of Saipan came under our control. We reassembled, I think, when I say then, I don't mean right after. We were going here and there, sometimes alone in the ocean, delivering something from one place to another.
Then the next big thing we went back to Hawaii where, instead of getting relieved for being at sea for quite a few months, we were tied up, all the LSTs were tied-up, in a small inlet in the Hawaiian islands. And as luck would have it, we were tied up, getting gas or something like that. There were a number of ships tied up there and there was some ammunition on one of the ships and everything blew up. The ammunition blew up the ship. The ships had all kinds of cargo on their decks, like gasoline, guns, and what have you, and so ships began exploding one after the other. They were tied together very closely in a narrow channel. We were fortunate enough, in our own case we were about one row remote when this happened. I gave orders to chop the lines, we were either first or second out of there. I was Executive Officer by this time and we launched our life boats so we could help, because there were men jumping in the water. This was kind of a secret thing, not publicized, and we launched our small boats. A lot of our men had gone on liberty at the time, so we had a skeleton crew. But, everyone we could spare were left behind to be of some help. And we didn't know, we didn't have any maps or anything, and so we started up stream, to get away from it, to limit our exposure. We went up upstream and the ships began to form behind us, and then we came to a point where it became apparent that upstream was not the way to go, we were running out of water. So we turned around and we went down stream. And by that time we had gotten permission from the commander of the port that we should proceed out to sea. Which we proceeded to do the whole night. We went out to sea and circled around it until we could come back.
Well we lost about 8 or 10 LSTs, we lost a lot of material and maybe 100 men or so. And it was not in the papers. It turned out we were supposed to be one of the LSTs that was not to be included in the next invasion. But we were still running and some of the others that were supposed to be in this were disabled or gone.
And so we went west and our function in this group was to participate in a total Navy attack on the island of Yak, which was supposed to be the island stronghold of the Japanese in the Pacific. There were two theories at that time about how to deal with the Pacific war. One was to island-hop and that's what they planned it on. We were equipped with a large armada leaving Pearl to take the stronghold back. In the middle of which we got a message, uncoded that everybody could understand, we got it on one of the channels that we had, we only had a few channels, from Admiral Halsey, which said in effect, "The other night I bombed the hell out of the Philippines, and it's free for the taking." Well that didn't mean that we would turn around and then attack the Philippines, what it meant was we went to New Guinea.
New Guinea had an enormous base, we had thousands of ships in New Guinea. And we were there for about a month, waiting aboard ship to get revised orders. They had abandoned the idea of island-hopping. They decided to attack the Philippines and then from there go on to attack Japan. We were in New Guinea trying to stock up while they were replanning the whole operation and we left New Guinea for the operation through Leyte Gulf. Leyte is in the Philippines--is an island. Luzon was an island. Mindanao was the largest island. You had Luzon then Leyte, then Samar, and then Mindanao. And the gulf in between Leyte and Mindanao was Leyte Gulf.
We embarked on that on D-Day, which was October 20th, 1944 and true to the tradition of LST-461 we left on October 19th, D-minus 6 hours. We were supposed to get there before the rest of them, and we did, as part of a special task force.
During that time the old battle wagons, the World War I battle wagons, a lot of them were sunk at Pearl Harbor but there were a few old ones under an Admiral named Barbie. His function was to use those ships to bombard and "soften-up" the shores before an operation. So he was there in Leyte Gulf, with these old battle ships which had these big guns. I don't know the sizes anymore, but they were the largest around. And then the next day the Fleet came, with all these transport and supply ships, and the men, and we began our invasion of Leyte.
During that there was an attack by the air force of the Japanese. We got our first 3 or 4 ships hit. It was an intensive attack.
We ourselves were unfortunately placed. There was a captain that asked me as the Executive Officer, he said, "How do we get up on shore as far up as possible so we can launch the men." I said "I don't know about the island but the theory is we go as far away as we can, pump out our ballast so that we were high above the water and go as fast as we can towards the shore." And that's what we did. We didn't get all the way in, but our men were able to wade ashore. All the other LSTs were discharging too. When the time came for us to get off the beach, we couldn't get off. Because at that time it was the lowest tide for a month. Just one of those times when the tide doesn't rise very much. So we got help from the side to lift us. We were stuck on this dry land even though we were not all the way up. We were beached, ran aground. We had no additional buoyancy because we had in effect pumped out with our ballast and it was at that moment that the Japanese choose to attack.
The attack persisted all night. We made smoke to hide the ships. We would send our boats out to generate smoke to rise over and cover up the fleet. Two or three days later, two days later almost seems forever, I was on the Con for all that time, because my captain, went down to sleep, whenever there was action he was up. The captain was on duty all the time so, he was entitled to take a rest whenever he could. I just stayed at the Con. It was a tedious thing.
We tried everything, like using tractors to push us off the land. We broke a number of anchors by dropping them astern of us and trying to pull ourselves off with these stern anchors. Which was a procedure that was supposed to be standardized. We also had a lot of ships, little small boats trying to push on us. Nothing would happen. Two days later, the only other thing we could do, to in effect put the stress on by going ahead, going back, going ahead, going back, on each of the engines. We turned left and right, so we tried to break the torque. And finally, two days later, for whatever reason, maybe the tide became more favorable, we floated off. And we were still under attack the whole time.
We were told to assume a position in the southern part of the group in the Leyte Gulf, to the south to make smoke, so we did that. But we were under attack, and it was at that period that we shot down several aircraft, I think it was three or four. But we also got hit by other ships, that leveled their guns. One of the things about machine guns or anti-aircraft guns on our ships at that time, you couldn't depress them below horizontal. You couldn't do that too well. So if somebody in a small boat came at you, you couldn't shoot, but that wasn't important this case. We had some suicide bombers that came at us and a ship that was not too far away from us, shot at the suicide bomber and hit us. We didn't suffer any personnel damage, we were lucky.
But what did happen, prior to that was an incident involving a TBS, Torpedo Bomber Airship. The TBSs were planes that had torpedoes underneath their haul and these were supposed to be fired at ships, but we didn't have any big carriers, what we had were "Kaiser ships," small carriers. That was the term that was used. That was the term for these very slow carriers that moved at a very slow speed and therefore had very limited application. They could only be launched against the wind. Otherwise the plane would not be able to get up enough speed to get up, to get altitude. So if you launched them against the wind the wind would help it gain loft as it was launched from the ship. And for the same reason it could not land on the ship unless the ship was so aligned that they could land on it against the wind. During the engagement the Kaiser small carriers, which were protecting the fleet in the gulf, had gone out and the Japanese had chosen that time to attack. (Some of this may not be syncopating, I don't know the exact sequence. But all of this happened.)
The Kaiser Carriers were stationed outside the gulf in the event the Japanese would attack with their fleet. We were supposed to have these torpedo bombers which would go and attack their fleet, with their bombs, and then reload. Go back to the carriers, and reload.
Well, the Japanese had chosen a three-fork approach. It's been written up in many places after the war. There was a force coming through the Mindanao Straights, this was the southern force. Mindanao was an island, and between Mindanao and Leyte there was a straight. The middle force was coming through Luzon. The northern force nearer Japan was a decoy, intended to draw the Allied force away from Leyte.
Now Admiral Halsey, who had such a great reputation, did the stupidest thing. He went after that fleet which was near Japan. He exposed two thousand ships or so, and all the troops that were in Leyte, in and around that area, to the two pincher-movement of the Japanese fleet, through Mindanao and Luzon. The ships from Luzon were coming down to join the middle force, and there was nothing left to stop them except the Jeep Carriers, who were protecting to opening of Leyte Gulf, in which there were about 2,000 ships, big and small. That's the term for Kaiser ships, we called them Jeep Carriers.
These airships tried to get back to the Jeep Carriers, but the Jeep carriers were fleeing away from the Japanese fleet. They had nothing to do to the Japanese Navy after they launched their TBSs. They were just helpless. And they were fleeing. Our TBSs that were launched could not get back on board. So what they had to do, what they did, was to come down and fly across Leyte Gulf, hopefully to land on the airstrip that had been established on Leyte, the island of Leyte, by that time. As they went across the armada that was in Leyte Gulf, these airplanes, which were un-similar to anything the Japanese had, which were clearly distinguishable as American, were mistaken for enemy planes. The trigger-happy people aboard some of our ships, with everything under action, let go and about half of the airships we downed that day, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, were TBSs, our own planes. And I can recall that night when we learned that we had fired on them. And we knew, we could recognize them. But one trigger-happy guy sets off the whole bunch of us.
I can remember getting on the fantail of the ship at night, in the dark, and then we had called off General Quarters, so the crew could get some rest. And that night I made one of the best spontaneous talks of my life, telling those kids, and they were kids, compared to me, I was 32. A lot of the kids were maybe 16. I don't know how they got in the service. I think they took their older brother's birth certificates and got in, some of them. I made them put themselves in the seat of that TBS, and I had them imagine the feeling of the TBS guy, who was desperately trying to find a place where he could land. And then flying across his own flotilla and he was shot down by his friends, not by the enemy. And he might be a brother, or father or whatever. And that we needed to put a rein on that kind of careless reaction, and not follow unthinkingly what others were doing. It made me feel better, and the men, you know, kind of responded.
We remained in Leyte for awhile after we survived that. We did beat back the Japanese air force, and we took the Philippine Islands, but it didn't come all at once. There were many battles that we were in as we took various places. On Leyte, and Mindanao and Lingayen, which was the Luzon place that MacArthur left from when he went to Australia--from Lingayen Bay. This was his coming back, he came back I think on the 20th or 21st when we were at Leyte. He is pictured walking ashore, wading ashore with a bunch of high officials--"We shall return."
We made many of those engagements all round the island. I can't remember, whether it was after Okinawa or Iwo Jima. Anyway, I was waiting for orders. By that time, I had been at sea as long as anybody around that squadron, that fleet of LST's at sea, a little over two years. And I hadn't gotten any relief, I didn't expect any. But it eventually came to me, although the same as everyone else that I had served with who had been relieved and sent back to the States for rest and rehabilitation.
So I went back to the States on leave. But it took a month and one half on a ship to get back to the States. What happened is that we had freed the American Colony at Manila, they had been imprisoned by the Japanese. These were Americans, civilians, who were imprisoned at the start of the War. And when we liberated the Philippines we were able to free them and then we had to repatriate them to the States. But they had to be fattened up because they had been starved while in prison. So we tried to fatten them up by feeding them all kinds of high-fat foods, things like butter and cheese and ice-cream. We took the American Colony as well as these laborers, Army people, as well as the international colony. The ship that I went back on, the Admiral's ship, was a fast transport, a really a big ship, that in peacetime would have been good in transatlantic travel. But of course we were crammed all over that ship, in every available hole--terrible living conditions. I was fortunate in that I was with two or three other officers in a state room. And we had sort of a cafeteria. And so I ate ice cream for a whole month or something--there was chicken and all this stuff. We only had a little piece of deck space for each of us, because there were so many people. I was with the International group, and we all came from the same places. It took a month, or a month and a half. This Admiral Ship, I guess, was under instructions because of the condition of the passengers, to go slow so they would have time to restore their health. They had tried to fatten them up so they weren't as skinny and thin. Now this is a surmise on my part, but I believe that the Admiral ship was, in effect, ordered to take it easy, to take a long time, to give a ocean cruise, and all that. We weren't looking for an ocean cruise, we were along and grateful to be along, on such a ship even though we all had about a cubic yard of deck space to live on. We were getting fed two or three meals a day.
I found it a learning experience. Right along beside of me was a Dutch nurse, who had served with the force in some way on Lingayen. Until recently I had her brown hat, her beret. She had given it to me and I used to wear it when I did my watercolor painting.
We had an officer, an Army officer, who looked like skin and bones. At one point he had been the head of the Leprosy Colony in Lingayen and he was just skin and bones. He was well known at the time in terms of what had happened before MacArthur had left.
We eventually got to shore in Long Beach, California after some time, and as we were coming in we got over the radio the announcement that the European war had ended. So that would place it in time. And I was expecting early orders to return to Hawaii for rest and rehabilitation, which was kind of comical. But I was told to report twice a day. So I was kept there for a month or so, hoping to get to see my wife. Not knowing whether I was going to be there long enough for her come to California, to warrant her trying to get across country, which was not easy to do. She didn't go. I didn't ask her to do it. Because, I was hoping each day to get orders to go home and then report in 30 days or whatever. In the meantime, I was required to keep on checking.
I was one of the fortunate ones. At that time, it was a swank officer's quarters in Long Beach, the bachelor officer quarters, where I reported to. I think my allowance per day was three or four dollars a day for living expenses. I think the bachelor quarters probably cost me maybe about a dollar. Meals in this place were cheap all over. I remember martinis, the best martinis you could get, because they weren't selling good liquor; they did have it at the officer's club. It was kind of a shame that I was able to indulge in these diversionary activities, even though I wasn't looking for it, when poor men had to go out to some beer parlor or whatever.
A Final Assignment
It took a while before I got orders to proceed home for rest and rehabilitation and then on July 4th or 5th to report to Millington, Tennessee, to be Executive Officer of that Naval Training Station. To be in charge I think. This time I said I wasn't going to be separated from the wife. We would make every effort, even though it might be uncertain how long we would be in a set place, that she would be with me. That was her idea as well. So I went home, to her place where she was living in Washington, and I was there for 30 days.
Prior to the end of that time, I met a former Executive Officer under whom I'd served on the LST-461. A salesman type, who had always had a great deal of respect for me and showed it many ways and said it. He thought "I was a real smart guy." Even when he was the Executive Officer, he leaned on me. He'd ask my advice, I didn't give it to him unsolicited but he was also a good friend and was also smart as hell. He frankly didn't pretend to be smart, he was a salesman type, he got along well with people, the men liked him. But as an officer in the Navy he just didn't know beans. I didn't know either, but I'm talking about knowing how an officer upholds the tradition, etc. He didn't know anything about that, didn't care anything about it. When I was in Washington, with my wife, he got in touch with us somehow, looked us up. And he had been with a Commander Knox in the Navy who had a small office, and I forget what the function was. It was enough of a function to be attached to the Secretary of the Navy's staff. And Paul, my friend's name was Paul Guiss, my former Executive Officer, had told him that he ought to get me for his staff. Paul got in touch with me and said that Commander Knox had asked for me. He told me that "I had recommended you for his very small staff because of what I know about you." They were very much interested, would like to have you. Now I would go wherever I was asked to go, but I learned not to volunteer, because I knew it wouldn't happen if I did. I said they would have to ask for me. He eventually had to come back to me and he said "he can't ask for you, that he would gladly want you for a member on his staff, if you were to make the request." And I sat there for a while thinking it over. And he said, "That's the way he wants you to do it." So I answered, "I'm sorry, the answer is no."
Three or four days later I was to report to Tennessee, my wife and I were to get ourselves located for what we thought would be a long assignment at Millington, Tennessee, where we could enjoy being together. We found an apartment that was as big as this room, and it had been made of three rooms, the bedroom, a living room, and a little kitchen. You can imagine that when you put the bed in, it occupied the whole space. You had to walk sideways around it. It was a cute little house, maybe a little bigger than I described it, and we settled down there. We stayed a night or two at the hotel beforehand. An old hotel named after a governor of Tennessee. We'd been to look for a place and when we found this place, and we paid for it, I guess it was no more than three or four days, before July 4th. I reported and I couldn't get in. It was policed by Navy police and they wouldn't let me in, and they wouldn't tell me why. I got mad at them and I said "All I want to do is report here." And they said, well we better get back to the station and report.
Well that station was being closed down, there was some scandal at this place and they decided to close it down, and do an investigation. So there I was in Tennessee, having established myself for a long stay, and I had no orders. I couldn't report and so I went to town to send a telegram, a second telegram, to the Chief of Naval Personnel. And I said I reported to so and so; the station had been closed down, and advising him that I had no orders to proceed. I needed orders to proceed and may I suggest that a Colonel Knox in the Secretary of the Navy's office had indicated to someone on his staff that he might want me to serve on his staff, and I would be glad to serve wherever, etc.
Well they ignored that and they sent me to Fort Skyler in New York City. Colonel Knox's office would have been a good choice because my wife was from there. So we take ourselves up to New York. And this was the first victory I won in that I finally maneuvered the Navy into giving me an assignment that was fit for me. They had sent me to New York, and my mother was living there, my father was still alive, I had family there. And we found a wonderful apartment, we didn't find it right away, but we were able to bed down there because I had four other brothers that were in the service, and there was plenty of room in the house and we stayed with mom and dad for a while until we found a place up in upper Manhattan, around 213th Street. It was kind of a swank leg of Manhattan, past the popular Riverdale section. A place so high-up we could look from our back window and see all the way downtown to the Empire State Building. That was flat land and we were high up in the Heights of Riverdale. In fact, the house that we stayed at had an apartment, it was really an artist studio and home. The garage was at the second floor level, there was one level above it, two levels above it and two levels below it. It was on a sheer cliff.