Pacific Ocean (Part One)
Dear Mom & Dad:
Am writing this at sea – somewhere in the wide Pacific. No doubt it’ll be a month or more before you will get a chance to read it. I’ll start from the day we left Camp Stoneman & try to keep a running account of what goes on here aboard ship from day to day. We are not allowed to date our letters – so I can’t tell you when we started or ended our little voyage. Also can’t tell you the name of this transport, or about any enemy action along the way if we have any – we all hope not.
Leaving Camp S.
We were warned ahead of schedule that we were to leave in the afternoon so that morning I got busy & wrote letters to several friends, Dot & Arlo, & home. Was going to write to the Johnsons & Wicklunds but had too much to do & consequently didn’t quite get around to it. We were transported in large river boats down to the bay where we pulled in at the docks & loaded onto the transports. Roger & I were separated for the voyage but we hope to be going to the same destination. By the way Earle Cook was on hand to see us off & wish us bon voyage when we left camp. I guess that little combination is finally & definitely broken up. Wish this darn room would stay still – or at least the desk. – Back to the story – when we came aboard all we had to do is find our baggage, which was already in the various staterooms, & that was where we were assigned to quarters. All of us officers have staterooms – some hold 12 men, some 6 men, & others 2 & 4 men. I was plenty lucky to get in a 4 man room – it’s lots more comfortable, roomy, & private. We are plenty pleased with the way the Navy has treated us on quarters – lots better than the army has done so far. We have two uppers & two lowers in our room, (I chose an upper so I can fall farther). The mattresses are very soft & we even have sheets – they’re made up for us each morn. We have 3 combination desk & bureaus, two wall lockers & two wash basins with cabinets & mirrors above them – how’s that for luxury? The showers & toilets are right across the hall from us & the mess hall is just about 5 steps away, very handy. I was tired after unpacking my bags & moving-in so went right to bed – about 9 bells.
When we woke up & looked out of the porthole we discovered that during the night we had moved from the dock & were now anchored out in the bay. I could pick out the apartment house where Nancy & her folks live, also the Mark & other spots I have toured in these last 3 or 4 months – all so near & yet so far. This all helped to give me a sort of sunken feeling in the stomach – wondering how long it would be before I’d set foot on that shore again. At about 1 P.M. we moved out under the famous old Golden Gate bridge & headed for the endless sea. I was surprised at the speed these big boats can make – they really cut the waves. Stayed on deck most of the day just watching the various activities around the boat. When I got too cool I stepped down in quarters for a spell. Bought a crossword puzzle book which has me intrigued for the moment – I have an awful time with the things. Guess my vocabulary is not so extensive. Wish Daddy was here, I know he’s an expert at ‘em. After sunset everything is darkened on the boat – no lights or cigarettes allowed on deck. Appetite was good all day – sea-air seems to bring the wolf out in one. Layed down to read at 9:00 P.M. & was sleeping at 9:30 P.M.
2nd day at sea
Today is the day I started writing this little discourse so I’ll soon be up to date – then I’ll keep up each day, if I don’t get seasick. So far I haven’t been troubled with seasickness, but the ocean has been very calm too, so I’m not bragging yet. We’ll probably hit some rough weather soon & it’ll bring the best that’s in me out. Got up this morning at 6 A.M. after 9 hours of really sound sleep – rolling of the ship doesn’t bother me at all – yet. Three of us Artillery officers were made Ships Gunnery Officers in charge of training gun crews. Can’t tell you any more about it except that it’s going to keep us on the run for the first 3 or 4 days at least & after that the work will ease off some. Have been busy since early today on it & still have lots to do now at 5:30 P.M. It’s great to have a job – makes the time fly by. ------- It is now 9:30 & have been working all this time since chow at 6:30. Have to get up early tomorrow so will hit the hay at once.
-3rd day at sea-
Was up & at em at 6:30 this morning inspecting my gun crews to see if they were on-the-ball. Managed to keep myself busy all morning with training men on the various guns. At dinner we were all presented with a carton of Camels – compliments of the Red Cross. Haven’t decided just what lucky fellow will get my carton yet. Sea has been fairly calm all day & the air nice & cool – just right. My appetite is still ravenous & this Navy food is tops. All of us officers eat together in a large dining room amid ships. Meals are served with the same grace as home – we have plenty of everything but milk. I guess they neglected to hitch a cow to the stern of the boat. Coffee seems to be the main drink – it’s really good tho so it’s no hardship to drink it. Had watermelon for supper. This evening I read for a while & then engaged one of my mates in a rousing game of checkers. Hit the hay at 10 o’clock.
-4th day at sea-
Started the day off with one of those big Navy breakfasts – bacon & eggs & toast. One thing I do like – we can have all the butter we want it’s real butter too. After breakfast I cleaned my carbine & oiled it to protect it from the salt water which penetrates into every nook & cranny of the boat. Gave the men some gunnery drill & then washed up for dinner. Weather still pleasant but sea a little choppier today. Still haven’t been bothered with sea sickness – fingers crossed. Today we turned our watches back for the second time we have now gained 2 hours. A fine time to be handed two extra hours, just when we don’t know what to do with the ones we have got. Could have made good use of those on a Frisco weekend. – back there in the in the States.Seems funny to say that. At lunch the Red Cross came thru with another nice gift for all of us. It was a cloth kit chucked full of little knick-knacks – deck of cards, envelopes, writing tablet, pencil, housewife, pr. Shoelaces, pocket guide to our destination, a Popular Educator magazine, bar of soap & container, & a package of lifesavers (the kind you eat not the wearing kind).
Now that I mentioned lifesavers I might say that we were all issued life belts when we came aboard & are required to wear them wherever we go. We saw a school of flying fish this afternoon – they look just like perch equipped with wings. They shoot out of water & glide along a foot or two above the waves for about 50 ft. Also saw a bunch of porpoise frolicking in the water off the starboard beam. You landlubbers wouldn’t understand that kind of talk I guess, so I’ll tell you that they were on the right side of the boat. Tonight they darkened ship a little early & caught us all right in the middle of our supper. All we had to see by were two dinky red lights – couldn’t tell a spud from a piece of cauliflower. In the groping one of the lieutenants put catsup in his coffee instead of cream – they were in similar containers. We have a short wave radio here in the dining room - & tonight we listened in on the Hit Parade. Good for the morale but also bad for it, cuz it puts you in that – I’d give anything to be back there now – mood. Sat & talked with my roommate, a Georgia lad, about nothing & everything in general for an hour or two & then turned in.
-5th day at sea
We’re starting to notice the heat a little more now as we keep getting nearer to that ol’ equator line. At night especially when we have to button-up all of the port holes to black-out the ship it gets pretty stuffy. Can’t kick tho when I think of the poor men down in the hold where its really hot. The sea is still choppy but comparatively calm for an ocean – no sign of seasickness. I’m getting now so I rock right with the boat instead of ziggin when it zagged like I did the 1st day out. Was very lazy today – just read & lounged on the deck this morning & slept all afternoon. Tonight I took a shower, washed my hair, & washed out some underwear. So now I’m just a clean kid. Four of us had a little close harmony out on the promenade deck under the moon tonight. Little on the barber shop side but not so bad for amateurs. Watched a big poker game tonight – looks like fun from the side lines. I’d be a sucker to get in amongst these sharks around here. They seem to read right thru the backs of the cards. They don’t play for dimes either – I’ve seen several $100 pots. One man has now amassed a total winnings of $727 – not bad for 5 days play. It’s now midnight so guess I’ll hit the sack.
-6th day at sea
This morning I drew the early watch – from 7 A.M. to 12 noon. Had to be on duty during those hours up on the Flying Bridge with the ships Fire Control Officer (Gunnery Officer). Ate a big noon meal for my appetite was greatly increased by all the salt air I breathed up there on the bridge. We had my old favorite roast pork & applesauce plus mashed spuds. Chocolate cake for desert. This was a rarity because our deserts usually consist of canned fruits. Slept all afternoon because I was tired from my 5 hour watch. After supper I read till about 9:30 – went up & gazed at the moon for a half hour & then went to bed.
-7th day at sea
This morning we had a super good breakfast of hot cakes & ham. By the way (I guess I didn’t mention it before) the milk we have on our cereals is powdered milk – also the cream for our coffee. Doesn’t taste too bad but wouldn’t care to drink it alone. According to latest news we are scheduled to cross the equator the day after tomorrow. You probably know what that means to all of us “pollywogs” (anyone who has not crossed the equator). It means that we will be brought before King Neptunes Court & sentenced – then all the “shellbacks” (those who have crossed before) will give us a rough going-over. The position of the sun now at noon, I just noticed today, is directly overhead. As I stood on the deck my shadow fell in a dark pool right around my feet. (just ran out of stationery so will carry on with this tablet I got from the Red Cross.)
We get the news from the outside world here regularly. The ship puts out a two page news bulletin each day, & we also get short wave broadcasts each day over the loudspeaker in the dining room. Did the same ol’ thing tonight – read a little & played a few rousing games of solitaire.
-8th day at sea-
Our time was set back one more hour last night so we got to sleep an extra 60 minutes – I really enjoyed that. This morning we were presented with our subpoenas ordering us to appear before the court of Neptunus Rex tomorrow to answer our various charges. I was charged with “Spitting in Ye Royale Ocean” & for being a “miserable Landlubber.” I’ll send the subpoena home so you can keep it in my memoires. The navy shellbacks were hazing their poor fellow pollywogs all afternoon. They had them on each corner of the ship looking thru pop bottles in their underwear “on lookout for Davy Jones & King Neptune.” Tonight just before supper a couple of our 2nd Looeys were put in the “stacks” for laughing at the hazing. They were thoroughly walloped & made to chew snuff & at the same time smoke a black cigar. Hate to think of whats in store for us miserable tadpoles tomorrow. A few songs on the promenade tonight with the harmony boys & then to bed. Have to get up at Midnight & stand a 4 hr. watch up on the flying bridge.