Each paragraph is a different story and the order is my own, some may be out of actual historical sequence.
Before the War
My father was a amateur "ham" radio operator since the 1920's and ran a radio repair shop with his friend Clyde Reynolds in the 1930's in Buffalo Minnesota where he had grown up.
When Clyde got married, my Dad wanted to break up the partnership, he said he didn't want a married partner. He sold his interest to Clyde and went to Iowa State University in Ames Iowa pursuing an Electrical Engineering Degree though times were hard in the depression and he was forced to drop out. Later he moved to Minneapolis and worked as a regional sales man for Northwestern Electronics selling radio parts to radio repair shops in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
As World War II approached, and the draft was reinstituted in 1941, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve. He was called up and went through a combined boot camp and radio school which he said was the easiest route at the time.
He had been dating my Mother but had said he didn't want to leave her a widow especially with children, if he didn't come back, so they didn't marry until near the end of the war. I've always thought that the war was an excuse for one last fling before taking the responsibility of marriage.
There is a minor history of diabetes in our family, and he said that when he took the physical he was just over the line. The doctor told him to drink a lot of water and had him just sit and wait. He had to go to the bath room real bad when they finally retested him and he was just under the limit.
At boot camp they asked for volunteers for high frequency school, he thought that was for walkie-talkies and signed up for it. He had heard that they might drop a guy behind enemy lines and have him radio enemy positions. Instead it was for Radar which was top secret at the time. He went to a radio school in Indianapolis, Indiana for it.
Applying for the Far East
On graduation, he requested to go to the far east, they called him in to ask him why and he said that he wanted to see it before it was to late (remember the Japanese were at war in China). Actually, he'd heard the dregs of the Navy were out there and he thought he would stand out in contrast. So he was assigned there.
He always told the story of how a lazy chief had probably saved his life. He had orders to report in San Diego by midnight on a certain date. When he arrived in San Diego, he ran into a bunch of his buddies from school and they went out drinking and showed up just before midnight. a chief there who was suppose to cut him orders to the far east was mad that he was there so late saying that if he'd been there earlier he would have cut his orders to go out with the next group the next day, instead they held him over in transit. My Dad thought that that group of guys, which were bound for Corrigidor probably never made it back.
a few days later, when he and a buddy were on their way off the base, a staff car roared up to the gate while they were about to leave and closed the base Pearl Harbor had been attacked.
Paranoia and war nerves were very strained at that time, he said everybody expected an attack on the west coast to follow shortly, they took everybody out and had them walk sentry duty out all along the coast. He remembered walking a very lonely post up and down in the dark imagining there was a Jap behind every bush.
Within a few days he was transferred out to Pearl Harbor, he said it was still burning when he got there, and was temporarily assigned to a tender and then to the destroyer USS Clark 361.
When he reported on board, there radar was out of commission because of a burned out part. None of the old radiomen on the ship could fix it and it would take awhile to get the part. The ship was one of a few with radar and was about to leave to support the fleet. My Dad said he thought he could fix the part and did jury rig one and got it going again. As a result of this he had gotten in good with the Captain. He said the other radiomen resented him for this and he made most of his friends among other sailors on the ship.
After Pearl Harbor, the government worried that Hawaii could be captured by the Japanese. As a result they called in all of the cash and printed the word "Hawaii" on it. That way if Hawaii was captured, they could void the money and deny the Japanese of its use.
The Battle of Midway and Early Pacific Raids
The battle of Midway, was just about to happen, and the Admiral had ordered that no one go ashore. The executive officer needed a radio tube for his radio and ordered my Dad to go ashore and get it, my Dad had to go all the way across town to pick it up and in the mean time the ship was ordered out to sea. The Captain was furious with the executive officer for sending him, but to cover disobeying a fleet directive, they gathered up all my Dad's gear and officially transferred him over to another ship. When my Dad got back his stuff was piled up on the dock and the ship was gone. He still received a star for the Battle of Midway though because the battle area officially included Hawaii. He returned to his ship when it came back in a little later.
At one point, right after Pearl Harbor, his ship was sent out with an aircraft carrier for some 65 days (I think the numbers are right) but with only 30 days rations on board. After 20 days they knew they were going to run out so they cut to partial rations and cut again after 45 days. My Dad said that for a while they would get a few provisions from the carrier but after a while that stopped too. He said sailors on the carrier would throw a candy bar down on there deck and watch sailors on his ship fist fight for it, but after a while the carrier was just as bad off and they stopped doing that. My Dad lost about 30 pounds during that period and he wasn't all that big to begin with. He said they issued side arms to the officers on watch fearing a mutiny. When they got back to Pearl, the Captain had a big buffet set up on the fantail of the ship and had everybody eat to their hearts content.
His ship was then assigned to the South Pacific.
They were on the wrong side of the Great Barrier reef near Australia and so missed being in the Battle of the Coral Sea. His ship visited Brisbane and later Wellington, New Zealand. And he always wanted to go back there to visit but never did.
His ship carried out a raid on Port Moresby, they sailed in fired some rounds, sank what they could and got out.
He ship was one of the support ships at Guadalcanal when the marines landed there.
Once his ship encountered a Japanese merchant ship and they went on board and set explosives and blew it up.
My Dad recalled a suicide mission that his ship was suppose to go on, in fact his Captain had pulled rank to go on it, but his ship carried the fleet's mail and they thought the loss of that would be bad for moral. The ship that did go was sunk with only nine survivors, none of them from my Dad's part of the ship.
Another time, his and several other ships were going to go on a suicide mission but the Japanese spotted them too soon and they were recalled.
He said that while they were sailing in the Pacific in the middle of the night, they suddenly started hearing thumping all along the side of the ship. Fearing some kind of secret weapon they came to a dead stop and waited till morning, as far as the eye could see there were blocks of pumice, volcanic rock, floating on the surface, they pulled up a block on board and then pulled back and sailed around it.
Another time, they saw something on the sea coming at them in the distance, they turned toward it and as it got nearer they saw it was about a three foot high tidal wave. They cut though it okay, but had it hit them unawares it could have been very damaging.
There was a space under the torpedo tubes that provided shade from the tropical sun and let the sea breeze blow through and was one of the more comfortable places to sack out. He said that once he saw a sailor twirling the arming lever on one of the torpedoes and asked what the heck he was doing, he was just playing with it, he notified the Captain, as that armed the torpedo after so many turns and the sailor didn't remember how many times he turned it, they dropped the torpedo over the side and sure enough it exploded, the sailor had nearly endangered the ship.
They had a drink on board called torpedo juice, where they took pure alcohol out of the torpedoes and drank it. It was probably like Everclear 190 proof and I think he said it had quite a wallop though I don't think they drank it very often.
Once (or twice?) some of my Dad's clothes were stolen by other sailors. When he found out who, he proved they were his clothes because he had his name in them in indelible ink in Morse Code.
My Dad never saw a Bob Hope USO show but he always wanted to, he said he'd heard that they always did two shows, one for the cameras for back home and the other just for the troops, he said he'd heard the second was really blue (dirty).
They had an initiation ceremony when they crossed the Equator, he never mentioned much about it except two little things, one that they made a phoney pair of binoculars by taping two bottles together to see King Neptune coming on the horizon and second that there were some kind of no slip strips for the deck that they folded over to whip everybody on the rear end with, that really stung when they cracked them. In any event he always kept his papers from it proving that he'd been through it (we still have them) because he didn't ever want to go through it again (and also I think because he was proud of having done so).
Once in a while they would just stop out in the middle of the ocean and go swimming, he said there were no fish or anything in some areas and the water was beautifully warm.
My Dad never had a tattoo, but he said that once one of the younger sailors got a great big American Eagle tattooed on his chest when on shore leave and drunk, they were only staying there that one day and the sailor had it all done at one time against the tattooist's recommendation. When the ships doctor saw it when the sailor came back on board, he immediately put him on sick leave and said he'd be very, very sick. He was. His entire chest was covered by one big scab but when it came off he had a beautiful big eagle there.
One of the other sailors had two flies tattooed on his chest and when the guy was laying on his bed in the dark you swore they were real and would try to swoosh them away.
One of the older sailors had been in Teddy Roosevelt's great white fleet that had said around the world at the turn of the century.
One of the sailors on his ship had a glass eye and had memorized the chart and that the doctors looked the other way because it was war time. He shouldn't have passed the physical.
Some of the older sailors who had been around quite awhile had said that prostitutes in the ports sooner or later ended up in Singapore when they got older no matter where they may have started. They didn't know why but were quite certain in this observation.
My Dad said that my Grandfather had sent him a letter saying that two FBI agents had shown up in Buffalo looking for him thinking he was dodging the draft, they asked my Grandfather where he was and he told them he was in the South Pacific fighting the Japs and one said to the other that this was another screw up.
They would be at sea for along time and so saved up a lot of pay and then would blow it during a few days of drinking and partying once in port.
Rotation to South America
Later his ship was assigned to a flotilla of ships which sailed up and down the west coast of South America. There were fears that German immigrants in Chile might be pro Nazi and also that German raiders or submarines might strike. My Dad said that once they were on alert because a German Raider was coming around the Cape, but it was sunk before it got to them. But mostly, it was a diplomatic "show the flag" mission.
My Dad said that Chile was pro German until Hitler made a speech promising that the Pacific would be a Japanese lake. The Chileans were a little put off by this to say the least.
On there way there from the Pacific, they stopped in Panama and as they were approaching they were warned off, they were sailing right into a mine field. It turned out that the sailors in charge of maintaining the maps didn't bother to keep them up for regions they weren't sailing in. The Captain was furious and made them go through every update and correct the maps before any of them got any shore leave.
One time when they were in the port near Lima, Peru he was out drinking with his buddies and they got in a taxi cab to go to Lima proper. They were pretty drunk and didn't realize the speedometer was in kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour and were scared and started screaming at the driver to slow down. Unfortunately they didn't speak Spanish and he didn't speak English.
I think they spent most of their time in and around Valparaiso, Chile (the sea port for Santiago).
He dated the daughter of the British Attaché while there.
He was in charge of the main radar, but there was also radar for aiming the guns. Someone ordered him to let the other guys run the gun radar. They had a special demonstration for some high ranking Chilean officials where they were going to show off the radar guided guns, but instead of shooting at the target, they shot at the destroyer pulling it. The shells narrowly missed it zooming right over it. The captain was furious at my Dad until he found out he wasn't involved and then was furious at the others. After that ALL radar was put under my Dad's control.
My Dad never smoked but he said cigarettes were so valuable, especially to the civilians (in trade) that he pretended to smoke. He would light a cigarette and leave it burn in an ashtray whenever the Captain was around so that no one would ever question it.
He said he distinctly remembered buying cigarettes from his ship's store that had marked on them "Donated to the Red Cross to be distributed free of charge to American service men". He was always very cynical about donating to the Red Cross after that.
'Fred S & Me on Shore Patrol - Chucabaca St. - Valpro 1943'
(My Dad is on the right)
Once when my Dad was on shore patrol, there were frantic screams from one of the whorehouses. They rushed in, and one of the whores was screaming in one of the rooms. He said there was a sailor in there totally unconsciously drunk with his penis straight up and hard, the whore had been performing fellatio on him, my Dad couldn't figure out why the girl was screaming and then a gigantic bug the size of a tarantula crawled out from under the bed and up and out the window.
My Dad said that with that when ever their ship came in, there would be a lot of beautiful women waiting at the dock, but that all these South American women were loaded with venereal diseases and you didn't want anything to do with them.
He said that with the advent of penicillin, none of the sailors were taking any precautions and the sick call swelled with clap cases. He said the old treatment was some kind of sharp instrument inserted in the penis which would cut out the disease, because there were so many cases the Captain ordered that they would go back to the old treatment. The cases quickly dropped off.
My Dad had told my Mother that if he didn't come back clean, he wouldn't come back to her. She told him not to worry about it and that she understood if he was out with the boys.
For a long while my Dad didn't write home, either to my Mom or his parents. My Mother became quite concerned and wrote a nasty letter to the Star and Tribune to a Mr. Fix it type column, complaining that the mail wasn't getting through. Somehow this ended up in his Captain getting the word and he ordered my Dad to sit down and write a letter immediately. I don't think my Dad ever knew she had done this, I ran across the news clipping in some of our family pictures along time ago.
My Dad converted to Catholicism while in South America because my Mother was Catholic, he never said that was why, he said he saw the light, but he told me once later that when he was in Buffalo, he went to what ever church his girl friends went to, so I'm sure that's why.
Reassigned to the North Atlantic
My Dad said that several sailors from his ship started fooling around with several Chilean Senator's wives. As soon as word got back to Washington their ship was immediately reassigned to the North Atlantic.
When his ship arrived in New York it was a spring day in about the 50's Fahrenheit, everybody in New York considered it a beautiful warm day, but after spending several years in the tropics all the crew of his ship were freezing and wore their heavy pea coats in spite of heckles from the shore crews.
He said there was a chocolate factory near where his ship was docked and that even if you just ate and were stuffed, you immediately felt hungry when you went outside and smelled that chocolate.
One time my Dad was in a bar and several "Zoot-suiters" started to swarm around him as if they were going to rob him when he left. He broke a beer glass for a weapon and told them that they might take him but he'd kill the first one who moved if they tried anything. They backed off and left him alone, he said in that situation, you can't over come all of them but you could make sure you got one of them.
My Dad said that soldiers and sailors would get in fights all the time in bars, but if any of the civilians started anything they would all join together.
He said that when ever two sailors were caught fighting, each was charged with damaging government property (the other sailor) and not with fighting.
One time when his ship had reached London on convoy, one of the officers ran the ship aground and bent the propeller shafts. The Captain was furious, and they could only make about six knots. It was too much to repair it there so they assigned his ship to a slow convoy going back to the U.S. so they appeared to be giving it protection but were much to slow to do anything if attacked.
My Dad said he was in London during the night of the last V2 rocket attacks and that two of them fell within a few blocks of where he was.
My Dad said that when he was in Cardiff Wales, that they had the mandatory death sentence for statutory rape and that any serviceman even seen with a girl under age was charged. He said there were several awaiting sentence who had just been caught being in a bar with some, while he was there. And that they were in very sorry shape.
My Dad said that once when they were crossing the Atlantic, they started picking up ships in the distance on the radar, the ships would appear to move in closer and then suddenly jump out a ways and then come in again. The Captain called him to the bridge to find out what was happening and my Dad told him that the ships were very far away and that there was a weird radio skip causing them to pick up very distant ships.
My Dad said that he was in charge of the Loran position equipment which was brand new and that he guided the ship within a mile of where they were going after crossing all the way across the Atlantic.
My Dad visited Londonderry Northern Ireland on one of the trips and on shore he saw some old canon with an old man sitting next to it telling how the Protestants had used it against the Catholics in some famous battle hundreds of years before. My Dad told him he was Catholic and the old man got mad and shut up.
Once his ship cornered a German U boat in the English Channel, and that he had some kind of device that could detect where it was and when they were right over it, he was suppose to signal for the depth charges to be fired, he did and that forced the U boat to the surface and they finished it off with their deck guns, there were no survivors. I think he felt he was responsible for their deaths and I think this bothered him more than he ever let on, based on the way he talked about it just after his stroke.
End of the War - Times Square
My Dad was in New York and saw Times Square on both VE and VJ day.
On VE day, he went bar hopping with a girl friend he had in New York. They drank Champagne at each place saving the corks. At one bar he reached down and pulled off one of her shoes and filled it with champagne and drank it, saying he always wanted to do that. At another bar they bought a warm bottle and when they opened it most of it spilled out. They bought a little statue of Buddha and nailed the corks to the base of it when they got to her apartment uptown that night. Calling it "The Happy Buddha of the seven champagne corks" or something like that.
On VJ day my parents were still on their honeymoon, his ship had been reassigned to Philadelphia to be reworked in preparation of the invasion of Japan, when the A-bomb was dropped and the war's end was near, they went up to New York as the place to be. My Mother remembered looking down from a restaurant window at all the people celebrating in the streets below.
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My Dad in World War II
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