Saturday, August 14, 2010

I learned I had a replacement and a ride on a destroyer escort that was heading for the states. This ship had a "V" bottom and since I was used to a flat bottom ship, I took a day or two to get used to it. We made one stop, at Pearl, on the way home. We anchored at San Diego, where I got a troop train to Chicago where I was discharged. From Chicago I got a bus home by way of Indianapolis. The bus passed two blocks from the house and I was in such a hurry to get home, I had the driver let me off there instead of going on to the Depot. I would have seen Alberta and Bob sooner if I had gone to the depot as this is where they were waiting. After this union we have not been separated for forty-eight years, except for a week she and my sister Dorothy went to Florida to visit my brother Bill, a week I spent with our son Tim in St. Louis to work on his school building, and a night a few times I went to auto mechanic school in Cincinnati.

I loafed a week then went back to work at Clark & Rile Buick where I worked before I went to Crane. I worked here about two months and learned I had made a big mistake leaving the Navy. I was making $250.00 per month in the Navy and was now working for $40.00 per week. I tried to get back in the Navy but all they would offer me was second class and that didn't pay anymore than what I was making now. I stayed with Clark & Rile until they retired in 1958, except two short periods of time. One in 1949 when I bought a gas station with joining garage with our Navy savings. I did too much business on credit and had to give it up. I did learn a good lesson here. The poorer a man is, the more likely he is to pay his bills. The ones who don't pay are preachers, professionals, and businessmen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

...While here, we loaded up for a trip to Korea. We had the tank deck about half full of pontoons. These were steel boxes about 15 ft. square and the same high. We also had them attached to the sides for most of the length of the ship. It would have been impossible to turn us over. We were wider than we were high and unless we were blown to bits, we would not sink. We were trying to finish up our load with road and dock building equipment but the waves were coming in so high we had to give it up and head out to sea for Korea. Sometime before midnight we found what had sent us out to sea early. We ran into a typhoon that tossed us around as if we were a bottle cork. I really think those pontoons saved us. We kept our bow into the storm and rode it out anchoring at Inchon, Korea. We were one of the first Americans in there and the natives came out to where we were anchored. They would give almost anything they had for a cigarette or a wormy chocolate bar. I went ashore there and traded cigarettes for a tea service and vase. After we unloaded, we sailed back to Okinawa. From where we anchored in Buckner Bay, I counted fourteen ships on their sides, grounded in shallow water, and some high and dry on the beach.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Toward the end of the war, they were sending men home on the point system. So many points for so much service. I had more than enough points to go home and had my things packed and ready to go. But I had to have a replacement before I could leave. We were anchored in Buckner Bay, Okinawa, I think it was September 13, 1945. I was standing watch in the boiler room for a boy who wanted to go to a movie on the tank deck. I never did tell you my ship was an LST (landing ship tank). It had a huge area below the top deck, about 30 feet wide and about 3/4 the length of the ship. Here we carried bulldozers, road graders, trucks, and anything they could get on. It had huge water tight doors that swung open, allowing a steel ramp that was hinged at one end to be let down for entering and exiting the tank deck. It was sometime around midnight, I heard shooting and men running. I thought we must be being attacked by a bunch of Jap planes. This was not supposed to happen as this area had been secured for sometime. We had a nuisance radar that came over at 3 AM every night, but we never paid any attention to him and he wasn't due yet. When one is standing watch they are not to leave their post for anything unless relieved by another responsible person. In case of emergency or General Quarters, the man I relieved was to go to his post and I was to go to the main engine room.

My relief didn't show up and I went to the top of the ladder connecting the boiler room to the main deck. Just as I reached the top an officer yelled at me, "Get those men inside!"

What had happened was the radio men on every ship in the harbor had heard over their radios that the Japs had asked for peace and could not keep it to themselves. As soon as the word got out the gunners headed for their guns and started shooting almost straight up. Of course, the whole crew headed for top side and were in danger of being hit by a spent shell. It was a wild and pretty sight. The sky was filled with tracers of different colors. I've never seen a 4Th of July celebration that equaled it. This stopped the bomber runs and I missed the 29's coming in low on their flight pattern to land a short distance inland...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I never saw a Marine that had any good to say for McArthur. He was known in this area as "Dug out Doug" because he slipped out at night by submarine and left them to face the Japs alone. One marine told me about when Doug came back they spent half a day searching the beach to find a spot he could wade ashore for the news people to take his picture and not get his knees wet. I think these boys were of the second marine division. They were a tough bunch. Anytime they were not eating or sleeping, they were cleaning guns and sharpening knives. you never saw a Marine without his weapon, but I can understand this because his weapon was all that stood between him and death, or worse if a Jap took him. One boy carried a bottle of gold fillings he said he stomped from dead Japs' mouths.

When Okinawa was invaded, the Marines and Army landed near the middle of the Island. The marines were to go one way, I think North, and the Army was to go the other. The marines took their end and came back to find the Army bogged down almost where they started. According to this boy, the Marine General told the Army to get out of their way and go home, that the Marines would get the job done. Which they did.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Well, I guess we are ready to set sail again. We left the canal and made a beeline for Pearl Harbor. Actually, we zig zagged. We were traveling by ourselves and I don't remember how many days it took us, but we averaged a little over eleven knots per hour and the top speed of our ship was supposed to be ten. I don't remember how long we stayed at Pearl Harbor. We topped off our fuel tanks and took on more ammunition. The gunners checked their guns every day and had spent several rounds. Someplace, I don't remember if it was in the states, at Pearl Harbor, or sometime latter that a small ship was loaded on our top deck. I don't remember when or where we picked it up or unloaded it....I must have been on liberty both times. It was unloaded by pumping ballast water from one side of the ship to the other causing it to tilt to one side. Their ship was cut loose and slid over the side into the water. At Pearl, we joined a convoy to Saipan. One could look in any direction and see a ship of some kind. After we got to Saipan, we began a shuttle service moving supplies, equipment, and Marines from Island to Island. I don't remember the sequence of our runs, but we made port at Pearl, Guam, Saipan, Eniwetok (the island that was blown out of the water after the war testing the A bomb), Okinawa and Inchon, Korea. We made several trips between Saipan and Okinawa taking supplies and equipment up and Marines back.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

We were returning from a training cruise which consisted of taking 2 green crews out in the Chesapeake for 2 weeks and letting them operate the ship under our supervision when a thermostat that controlled the flow of cooling water to our port engine stuck shut. This caused the engine to overheat. When you are coming in for an anchorage or mooring, one screw is reversed to help maneuver the ship. Men in the engine room 3 decks down have no way of knowing the position of the ship. Red lights came on and horns started blowing. A quick check showed the thermostat stuck. We tried to bypass it with manually controlled valves, which also turned out to be stuck. The engine was getting hotter all the time. We called the bridge for permission to shut it down 2 times in quick succession and got no reply either time. I finally got a hold of the telegraph and moved it from one extreme to the other. Anytime it was moved it rang a bell on the telegraph in the wheel house. This was all entered in the engine room log. We received no reply from the bridge so I shut the engine down. Shortly after this we received the command to stop and secure all engines. Our watch was over so everyone went top side except myself and one man whom I kept down to help remove the thermostat. This took about a half hour. Since this was not an item carried in our spare parts, I went top side to get permission to go ashore for a replacement. I no more than got topside when men of the crew asked me what the old man wanted that he had been calling for me ever since we had tied up. I had no idea what he wanted but when I opened his cabin door, I knew something was for sure wrong. Every inch of his neck exposed above his shirt collar and his face was as red as it could be.

He did not even return my salute, he just said, "Why did you shut that engine down on me? I had the pilot on board and we almost hit the dock!"

I explained how we had a hot engine, had asked permission to shut it down to keep it from burning it up and that all this is in the engine room log book.

He finally said, "Well, you did the right thing but you sure embarrassed me in front of that pilot. If I had known we only had one engine, we could have maneuvered differently."

When he asked why I had shut down the engine, I knew why his face was red and thought, "Here go my stripes."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Panama Canal is something to see. I don't think anyone I know could explain it without photos. How the ships, some of them so large they can barely squeeze in, are raised and lowered and towed. The cuts that have been made to accommodate ships are unbelievable.

I need to back up here and tell you a couple of things I missed. One of which I thought for a few minutes had cost me my chief's stripes. On completion of my training in Detroit, I was promoted to MOMM 1st class, and soon after we got our ship, I was promoted to Chief. I was second in command of the Engineering Department. I was actually in charge because our engineering officer was a 22 year old kid who got his Ensigns rate because he had quit college to enter the Navy. I don't think he could screw in a light bulb unless 2 deck hands turned the ladder he was standing on. He was scared to death of the old man and would not go to him for anything. When I would ask him to go to him for anything he would say, "You go ahead." In the Navy you are supposed to follow the chain of command but I soon began to leave this link out. The Captain, for some reason, took a liking to me while we were waiting on our ship and I could talk to him and get anything within reason. This may have saved my hide later on.

Friday, August 6, 2010

We left Norfolk for the Pacific with another ship like ours trailing a few hundred yards behind. The trailing ship kept falling farther and farther behind and was soon out of sight. The reason for this was the "old man" captain was running emergency flank. This was 800 RPM on our engines. The governors would shut the engines down at 840 RPM. I don't know what his hurry was, if he was trying to burn up our engines, he had a girlfriend in Panama, or just wanted to lose the ship supposedly sailing with us. After running emergency flank all this time, we received the command to run at 1/3 speed. We received this command at 2 AM. We ran twenty minutes and got the command to stop the engines, then to reverse, then stop. Those of us in the engine room had no idea of what was going on. We soon got the command to secure all engines. I went top side and found we were sitting in the harbor. Late the next day, our trailing ship came in. He had missed the harbor during the night, sailed too far south and had to turn around and come back. I think our old man did this on purpose to show the other captain (a 90 day wonder) who knew what they were doing. Our captain was an old chief who was on the Maryland at Pearl Harbor. He had 27 years in.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I received my initial Naval training at Great Lakes Naval training station in Chicago, Illinois. I left there with the rate of fireman third class. I was given 90 days leave and sent to the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri, for a crash course in diesel engineering. I studied Physics and Chemistry as it pertained to diesels along with diesel fundamentals. I graduated 13Th in a class of 250, and promoted to second class Motor Machinist. I also learned during this time I was to become a father. I was given another short leave, then sent to Gray Marine school, a division of General Motors to specialize in their Marine engines. After completing this training I was sent to Norfolk, Virginia, to work at a Naval Repair base. Here we rebuilt engines sent back from the African invasions. I was here when our son Robert Eugene was born. I got a nine day leave for that joyous occasion. In early November, I was sent to Boston, Massachusetts, to wait on my ship that was being completed at the Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard. Our ship was turned over to us the last of December, 1943. We headed out to sea, down the east coast, on the shake down cruise. On New Year's Day, 1944, we encountered a hurricane off Cape Hatteras. The ship would break over a big wave then the screws (propellers) would come out of the water causing the engines to rev up for a second. Then the governors would slow it down. They really got a work out that day. Sometime around dinner we had an engine problem, I don't remember now what it was, but I stayed in the engine room through dinner until the problem was solved. I went to the galley for dinner and all I could find was cherry pie filling. I made my dinner on this and went back to the engine room. Shortly after getting back down there I became as sick as a horse. I gave up all the pie filling, my breakfast, and part of my stomach lining. The crew said I was sea sick as most of them were, but I know it was the pie filling because I was okay until after I ate. Anyhow, I still don't care much for cherry pie.

The ship and crew proved their sea worthiness and we returned to Norfolk. Here we were assigned to training other crews on the Chesapeake Bay for six months. On completion of this training duty we were assigned in the Pacific theater of war. During this training mission our gunners had become crack shots. They sent many sleeves and buzz (radio operated target) planes into the drink. I had several 72 hour passes while on the east coast. It took 19 hours by train each way. This gave me about a day and a half at home with Alberta and Bob. Bob took his first steps during one of these trips home. During this time on the coast, Alberta made a few trips to Norfolk and one to Baltimore, Maryland.

On one of her trips, we rented a room, that after we went to bed we soon found out had bed bugs. They wouldn't bite her, too sweet I guess, but as soon as the light went out they would pop me. We decided to sleep with the light on but that didn't help either. They would watch for me to shut my eyes and here they would come again. I finally gave up and went to my ship. Alberta rented another room the next day.

Note: K.C. and Aunt Kathleen found out the name of the ship for me (it's a ship, not a boat) to add here. Grandpa was on the LST-1008. Scroll down and you can see a few photos of the ship, one being taken in 1946. Grandpa may have been on there when the photo was taken!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On August 17, 1940, I married Alberta Flinn, the girl whose attention I got with the snowball and had dated ever since. She was two years short of graduation so we had to keep the marriage to ourselves and my Uncle Lowell Akin and his wife Marie, who stood up with us and witnessed our wedding. Married girls could not go to public school at that time. Now a mother, wed or not, can go and take their babies with them.

I don't remember if it was before the Japanese' sneak attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, that work began at Crane in Burns City, Indiana, Charleston Proving Ground in Charleston, Indiana, and Allison Engine at Indianapolis, but by mid 1942 most every able bodied (some not able) man in Bedford was working at a high, approximately $2.00 an hour paying job. The mechanics at our shop went to Crane. I was the only mechanic and body man in the shop for a month. This gave me the opportunity to ask for more money. I was reluctantly given a $3.00 raise to $18.00 a week. After working one week at $18.00 I was called to Crane. I worked as a mechanic working 7 1/2 hours a day instead of ten and made over $81.00 a week and about $115.00 the next (take home). I worked thirteen days and off one. I was really in nigger heaven, making more money than I had ever dreamed of. We bought furniture and had it stored to furnish a house we intended to build on a two acre lot I had purchased earlier in 1940. This big money didn't last long. On October 15, 1941, I enlisted in the Navy to help defend my country from the Japanese.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It is now spring of 1939. I have traded cars and have gained more knowledge by experience. I bought the car from a loan company and they financed the difference on the trade. The payments were reasonable but after a few payments, I multiplied the payment by the time I found out I was paying 1/3 interest. I paid this off as quick as I could and learned to save my money first, then buy, and if I had to have something I didn't have money for, to do my borrowing at a bank where interest rates were much lower. I was still passing papers around the square and the first thing I did after getting my papers was check the want ads. One afternoon I saw an ad by Clark & Rile, the Buick dealers, wanting someone to wash cars and clean up around the shop and used car building. When I left their paper, I asked about the ad and was told I would have to see Mr. Clark but he was out on the farm. I finished the paper route and went to Mr. Clark's home here in town and waited for him to come home. He came in about sun down. He asked about my experience and wages expected. I told him I would have to give up a $9.00 job and couldn't change jobs for any less. He said he would think about it and let me know the next evening. The next evening he showed me a list of about seventy-five men and boys who had applied, some offering to work for $5.00 a week. I told him I couldn't work for less than I said, and got up to leave.

He said, "Wait a minute! I didn't say I wouldn't hire you. I just wanted to see how you would react. Come to work in the morning."

I heard later he hired me because I was sitting on his front step when he got in from the farm. I had wanted to be an auto mechanic for a long time. My uncle, Harlon Akin, had been a mechanic since I was eight or ten years old and had never missed a days work. This was before the day of the apple tree mechanic and people were starting back to work and making a down payment on an auto with their first paycheck. I saw this job as a door up for me into a secure future. I quit the NYA and was happy with my new job. The mechanics in the shop took a liking to me and soon started giving me small jobs washing parts and disassembling some minor parts. I was soon spending so much time in the shop that the job I was hired to do was falling short. After Mr. Clark coming into the shop several times and taking me off a job in there to clean up a used car, the shop foreman told him he would have to hire another man for his used cars, that he needed me in the shop. I learned the engine and body repair fast and was soon given a job to do without supervision.

Monday, August 2, 2010

After graduation, I went to New Castle where I got a job changing beds in a greenhouse. There were three beds about five feet wide and the length of the greenhouse with aisles between them. My buddy was about four years older and a hundred pounds heavier than me. Our job was to remove the top six inches of old dirt and replace it with new from a large pile outside. We had two wheel barrows. While one was filling one the other would push the loaded one out and dump it. We started out him loading and me dumping. I would get back with an empty wheel barrow and have to wait on him to finish loading. He decided I had the easiest job and wanted to trade. This was okay with me because we were getting four dollars a bed and no money was made while standing around. By the time he got back with an empty wheel barrow, I had one loaded and waiting for him to get back. he complained about me loading them so heavy and I told him if he got back quicker I would not have time to load them like that. He decided dumping was easier than loading so we spent the summer this way. We only wore pants and shoes. It was only 135 degrees inside and after a half hour our pants were wet and dripping into our shoes. By late summer or early fall we had all the beds changed and our job was finished. I had been staying with mom's cousin Martha (True) Chastain and her husband Elbert who had stayed with us in New Castle when he was a young man. Now that my job was done, I drew my money out of the bank (I hadn't done any running around and had saved most I had made except for the little I paid for room and board) and started home. As I was walking through town I passed a car lot that had a Model "A" Ford roadster that caught my eye. I ended up buying it and drove it home instead of hitch hiking as I had planned.

Shortly after getting home I started passing papers around the square and a block each way off it. Shortly after I started this job, as I left a paper at the Val-U dress shop, the manager asked me if I would be interested in any job and took it. After the store closed it took about an hour and a half to clean it up. It paid $8.00 a week and I could do it after I completed my paper route. Sometime during this fall, 1937, I started delivering Sunday papers through the country. They call these Motor Routes now. This route took me to Budah, Rivervale, Lawrenceport, Bono, Tunnelton, Fort Ritner and Sparksville. I earned enough at this to buy gas for the week. Sometime in the early spring of 1938, I went to work on the NYA, a government youth program similar to the WPA. If I remember right, we worked 24 hours per week and was paid $18.00 every 2 weeks. I was lucky in that I was holding down four jobs and none of them interfered with the other. My first job on NYA was to plot all the veterans' graves in Greenhill Cemetery. After this, another young man was sent to the Avoca Fish Hatchery to paint the large 2 story house there. After this was finished I was sent to a large grout pile (huge blocks of limestone that was not good enough for building stone. This was before the time of veneer.) between Oolitic and Avoca to cut these blocks into small building stone for the shelter house at the Fish Hatchery. These blocks were split by drilling holes, about ten inches deep, by one man holding a drill upright and turning it while another would strike it with a sledge hammer. After a row of holes were drilled across the block slips (a tapered piece of steel) was put in each hole then a steel wedge inserted between the slips. These wedges were driven down by sledge hammer lightly at first for the length of the block then go back and drive them a little more after a few passes down the row. The desired portion would break off for the depth of the block. This portion was cut up into the approximate size the same way. Each stone had a size and number. These smaller pieces were then finished to size by holding a stone chisel in one hand and hitting it with a heavy wood mallet in the other hand. After a short time I was made foreman, receiving a $3.00 every two weeks raise.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I better get back to my senior year of school. We WUS PORE in them days. Dad was working WPA for $48.00 a month. After he fed and clothed the family (except me...I had clothed myself since I was 12) there was not much left for books. I bought my math books, solid geometry and trig, and borrowed the rest from students who were not using them at the time. During this school year I worked for the school on some kind of Government program that paid $14.00 a month. I don't remember ever being broke. From the time I started passing a paper as a child, I could always lay my hands on a few cents. I learned early in life not to buy on credit. If I wanted something, I would save until I could pay cash. I found saving money this way was easier on my back than working for it. I have bought on credit but it was always 30, 60, or 90 days same as cash to establish a good credit rating in case I should need it. It was during my senior year I noticed the prettiest girl in school sitting across the study hall from me. At the time I don't think she knew I existed. The school bus slid off the road on the way home one evening and while they were getting the bus back on the road I got her attention by hitting her (not very hard) in the back with a snowball. This somehow did the trick. We just finished 53 years of married bliss this year.