BIG BANDS AND HURRICANES
The highlight of the summer around Norfolk was that of being transferred out of the
signal gang into radio operations. My lobbying was beginning to pay off, but my next step
was still the aircraft division. There was a ship's visit to New York City where I took in
the 1939 World's Fair followed by a short weekend sail up the coast to Bar Harbor, Maine.
We had several officers aboard the ship that had some good will to spread in Bar Harbor,
however, my lot was weekend duty. During the summer, I did manage to get back to Iowa
for a two week's leave. I returned to the ship dead broke. I recall splitting a hamburger in
Pittsburgh, with a returning sailor friend. We had spent the last few cents we owned on
We operated in and out of Norfolk during the summer practicing navigation and
communication. Best of all, I was manning active radio circuits, passing and receiving
radio traffic in Morse code. In my spare time, I would copy the news station WCX out of
New York City for their daily news bulletins. This station would send code at the speed of
35 to 40 wpm which was great practice. We would copy the news articles and publish
them in a small ship's paper each afternoon when at sea. This practice was followed
throughout the war into the far reaches of the Pacific.
The USS San Francisco tied up in New York City
The radio operators were routinely assigned to copy the general Navy fleet broadcasts
from Naval radio stations in San Francisco and in Honolulu. There would be traffic
addressed to your ship as well as all others, so all messages had to be copied. This kind of
traffic has long since been handled by teletype equipment in today's world. Much of the
traffic was sent in five letter groups of security coded form where copy had to be exact or
the decoding wouldn't work.
The radio room on the ship contained some eight operating positions. Everyone used
telegraph keys and earphones. The only voice circuits that existed aboard ship at that time,
were the airborne type equipment that had been bootlegged onto the bridge by individual
skippers. CW (code) was used exclusively between ships. I never was able to understand
this since voice was so efficient in emergencies. The receivers were "built like battleships"
in that they each measured 24" high x 24" wide x 24" deep, and they used the old #26A
triode vacuum tubes throughout. Filament power of 2.5 volts was supplied by a copper bus
with a cross section of 2" x 1/2" due to the heavy current requirements. They did work
well and were reliable. Most of the communications took place on the 200-500 kilohertz
band for ships and in the 2-5 megahertz band with the ship's aircraft.
The ship's transmitters including the one Collins Radio 1KW unit, were all located in
the after control area in a transmitter room just above the hangar. Power was sent up from
the engine room by heavy armored cables to DC motor generator sets where the power was
converted to high voltage DC for the transmitters. The antennas were fed up through the
overhead to the aft yardarm and then run forward to the yard on the mainmast.
A low frequency direction finder completed the radio equipment inventory. It was
installed just aft of the bridge in its own little house. The performance of this equipment
was quite accurate having been calibrated before hand. Its only drawback was that it was
limited to frequencies below 1600 kilohertz. Later, on several occasions, the aircraft
direction finders were called on for work on the higher frequencies.
On September 1, 1939, World War II began with Germany crossing into Poland. On the
5th of that month, Roosevelt proclaimed United States neutrality. He established a
Neutrality Patrol to prevent European Powers approaching the United States and the West
Indies and conducting war like operations too close to the American shores. As the 14th of
September dawned, we were leaving the Norfolk harbor, moving south to join that
Neutrality Patrol. During the next month, we cruised between various ports in the West
Indies Islands. The reality of the European War was still a long way from us.
It was in these West Indies Islands that I got my first look at true poverty. At Gonaives,
Haiti, people lived in the dirt. Their food supply was a local public market in the middle of
a dirt street where the tropical sun baked all they had to offer to a crisp. The flies covered
the meats and other food to the point that one could hardly see what was being sold. The
American sailors had money. These people would sell you anything they could for
San Juan, Puerto Rico, had its beautiful parts of town. The old El Morro Castle, an
ancient fortress to the west of the harbor, is as much an attraction today as it was then. This
town had it's up to date business buildings built with American money but they also had
their areas of gross poverty. It was here on the docks where we saw what looked like eight
year olds, fighting each other for the privilege of digging through the ship's garbage.
Bridgeport, Barbados and Port of Spain, Trinidad, were not nearly as destitute as Gonaives,
Haiti, but poverty and dirt was everywhere. Fort de France on French Martinique was in
the same class.
On the way back to Norfolk, we passed by the Island of San Salvador (now Watling's
Island) where Christopher Columbus was reported to have first landed. From the distance,
we could observe some sort of monument on an otherwise uninterrupted stretch of sun
drenched, flat sandy beach. That was all. At the time, I could visualize the disappointment
that he and his men must have felt in seeing this barren little island after their long trek.
By the end of October, the ship was docked once again in Norfolk. The city hadn't
changed one iota. It was still not much of a liberty town. That fall, I did get out to a couple
of college football games. One weekend was spent in Washington D.C. Even spent a day
in Richmond, Va., otherwise it was the duty aboard ship.
In January of 1940, my day had finally come to pass. I was transferred to the aviation
division aboard ship as an aircrewman. It had taken a long time but now I had it made. On
the 11th of January we departed Norfolk for Guantanamo Bay with rumors flying that we
were going back to the West Coast. Moral was high. My Navy flight log indicates that my
first flight as a crewman on SOC-2 #0395 took place on January 16th, 1940, with Ens.
Gwathmey as pilot. The purpose of the flight was that of towing targets for the ship's
antiaircraft firing practice. Over the balance of the month, I flew a total of 20.4 hours. We
were flying out of Guantanamo Bay where we used the beach, there on the Cuban shores,
as an operating base. During those two weeks we practiced aerial gunnery on towed targets
and spotted for the ship's gunnery practice. Spotting involved reporting hits and misses on
a towed, sea borne target. I was enjoying every minute of it, every day.
The Curtis SOC-2 Cruiser Scout Plane
The Mechanics and flight crews of the USS San Francisco
In early Navy life I developed a very bad habit, that of good cigars. Many Robert Burns
and William Penn panatellas were consumed during those years. I had a "small business"
going in that I would give one haircut for the price of two cigars. Even had the sailors
checked out in what kind of cigars to furnish. Didn't seem to have any problem with the
regular ship's barbers. Being attracted to good cigars and being in Cuba led me to take
liberty in a small town near Guantanamo Bay called Caimanera. There, one could buy
boxes of very exclusive Cuban cigars for a song. You could watch the manufacture of
these cigars by big black guys who would take a leaf of tobacco in his palm, slap it against
his sweaty groin and roll it into a perfectly shaped cigar. Those cigars had a trace of the
original green in them and were some of the finest cigars available. I recall getting a box
of these cigars to my best gal's dad, Elmer. He appreciated a good smoke, too.
Operating off the Cuban Beach at Guantanamo
The rumors of our returning to the west coast proved to be correct. In early February we
had transferred the Flag Command to the USS Wichita, left the Panama Canal behind and
were approaching Long Beach Harbor. It was like coming home. On the way to the west
coast, I experienced my first catapult shot and "Cast" recovery. I have never figured out
why the Navy referred to the recovery operation as Cast recovery, just accepted it. I had
watched so many of them during the past year from the bridge that it was almost routine to
go through the motions. It was fun and the quiet, blue Pacific made it easy.
When we arrived in Long Beach in the spring of 1940, we found that the ship was
scheduled to go to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in Seattle for an extensive overhaul. The
aviation gang and the planes were temporarily transferred to Terminal Island Naval Air
Station in Wilmington, near Long Beach. The same Terminal Island is used today for
storage of imported cars. Some of the original barracks still remain. After spending a
couple of days converting our seaplanes for land based operation by replacing the floats
with wheels, we operated out of Terminal Island on our own schedule. No more Cast
recoveries or catapult shots for a while.
In operating out of our new location during the spring and summer, we found the same
pattern of weather that is prevalent today. The fog and overcast was with us until about
10:30 each morning, at which time it began to dissipate. By noon it was clear and sunny.
We would usually take off about 9:00 on instruments, fly out to the San Clemente Island
area, run through our practice and be back by 1:00 to land in the bright sunshine. The rest
of the day was spent in maintaining the aircraft.
The SOC-2 was equipped with a fixed 30 caliber gun, firing forward synchronously
through the propeller. The pilot had a telescopic sight through which he could aim his gun,
a la fighter style. The radioman had a 30 caliber machine gun that mounted just under the
"turtle back" in the rear of the plane. He had free movement of the gun, so much so that if
he were careless, he could shoot the tail off the aircraft. One crewman of another cruiser
aircraft was reported to have shot away part of an elevator and landed to tell about it.
We would have one of the four aircraft tow a sleeve target for our gunnery runs.
Ammunition was clipped together in continuous form and loaded into the canisters that fed
each weapon. The tips of the bullets were painted a different color for each man's weapon,
thus after the runs were made, the number of hits scored by each gunner could be counted.
The practice runs involved passes by the pilot firing directly into the target. At the
completion of his run, he would pull past the target on one side then do a pylon turn up and
over the target giving the crewman a clear shot. I never had a problem qualifying as a
gunner. The technique was used more than once in strafing ground targets in the years to
Dive bombing was always a thrill. For this practice, the aircraft were fitted with "bomb
racks" under each wing. The practice bombs were about 10 inches in length and weighed 7
pounds each. Each rack held 10 bombs. A smoke shell, which exploded on contact with
the water, was placed in the nose of each practice bomb. The target was approached at an
altitude of about 3500 - 4000 feet. When the target appeared to be directly beneath the
aircraft, the plane was pulled up to a near stall followed by a sharp wingover then into a
dive straight down on the target. At about 1000 feet, the bomb was released to continue on
to the target and the plane was pulled up abruptly with a high "G" load.
It always seemed to me to be sort of a suicide maneuver especially if someone down
there was shooting back at you, not even considering the singing flying wires that held the
wings where they belonged. The wings on the SOC folded back along the fuselage for
storage aboard ship. There were a couple of high strength steel pins, only three-eighths of
an inch in diameter, that secured the wings to the fuselage. I thought about those small
pins a great many times during those dive bombing practice runs.
The target raft that was used for dive bombing practice was towed by a Navy tug out of
Long beach, but the target handling crew was made up of sailors from our aviation unit that
went along to handle lines aboard the tug. Naturally, I drew my turn to go to sea on the
tug. It was one of the two times that I can remember of getting truly seasick. The aircraft
had completed their practice runs and we were involved in hauling in the target. For some
reason the winch failed to operate and it fell to the crew to haul the towing line in by hand.
I ended up very exhausted. We were just beyond Catalina inbound. The day was
beautiful, the sea was very calm except for unusually heavy ground swells, but I was
seasick, very seasick.
On the 26th day of June, Lt. Beardsley and I made a cross country flight from Terminal
Island to Sacramento, returning the following day. Our track took us over Gorman Pass
and up the San Joaquin Valley at 10,000 feet, the same track I was to fly myself several
times some 35 years later in a Cessna 182. I recall how hot it was at that altitude, nearly
100 degrees that day in 1940.
We made a number of flights to sharpen our communication skill during that summer.
The aircraft were fitted with a radio receiver, a 100 watt transmitter, an intercom and a
direction finder. We could receive frequencies from 250 kilohertz up through about 6.0
megahertz. Our transmitters covered the same range. The direction finder worked very
well up to about 3.0 megahertz. In order to change frequencies while in flight, the
radioman was required to change a large coil package that measured about one foot cube,
into and out of the transmitter.
While the principal mode of communication with the ship was via Morse code, we did
have the capability to use voice. The intercom within the plane could be switched between
intercom and radio transmit. It was not unusual to hear the aircraft crew conversation,
mistakenly on the air, during practice. We did use voice between the aircraft for
coordinating operations in the air. There were two antennas on the aircraft, a short, fixed
one for high frequency work and a trailing wire for low frequency or longer distance.
In order to use the trailing wire antenna, the radioman would unlock the reel in the
cockpit and permit the wire, with it's 5 pound lead weight, to pay out. A typical operating
length would reach 75 feet or so. We kept a good supply of antenna weights in stock to
replace those that the radioman failed to wind in by the time the landing took place.
Long Beach was a fun place to be in the summer of 1940. The big bands were playing
at the Paladium in Los Angeles, at the Catalina Island Casino, at the Rendezvous Ballroom
in Newport Beach, and at the Majestic Ballroom on the Pike in Long Beach. Names like
Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Glenn Gray, Jan Garbor, Dick Jergens, Glen Miller, and
Claude Thornhill all made the scene.
Early in the summer, I bought myself a used 1934 Ford Coupe for transportation. Used
it was; it burned about a quart of oil for every tank of gas it consumed. Although that car
served me well, it never made it through the summer. In the early fall I loaned it to my
best buddy, a fellow radioman by the name of Bob Worley (who still lives in Long Beach),
who proceeded to intercept a big palm tree late one night. His brother in Long Beach took
care of the insurance settlement and the balance of the payments and I never saw the car
again. It was worth it all since I had a total of about $90.00 invested in it. The P & E red
cars were still running to Los Angeles and to Newport Beach as well as the shore boat to
PR shot of P.A.
I found time during this summer to take a few flying lessons at the south side of LAX
Airport which at that time was a short paved runway with several grass strips adjacent. I
did some solo work in an old biplane, a Waco UPF-7, and drooled at the possibility of
someday flying the Stagger Wing Beechcraft. During the summer, I had been upgraded to
the rating of Aviation Radioman 3rd class. Before we knew it, fall had arrived and the
ship was dropping anchor in Long beach Harbor, having returned from Puget Sound and
ready for Pacific duty. No one wanted to leave Long Beach, however we converted our
aircraft back to float configuration, left our comfortable barracks at Terminal Island,
reported aboard ship and found ourselves at sea bound for Hawaii.
The cruise to Hawaii was great. The weather was good, and the Pacific was calm most
of the way. The skipper stopped the ship about a day out of Pearl, for a mid Pacific swim.
Marine sentries were posted with their rifles, at strategic points around the ship in order to
protect the swimmers from sharks. It was on this occasion that we used the outboard
chains on the signal bridge as diving platforms. A couple of those fifty foot dives satisfied
my ego. About an hour after the swimming started, one of the Marines began firing at a fin
cutting the water on the edge of the swimmers. That canceled the swimming for the day.
During the winter months of 1940 and the spring of 1941, the ship operated in and
around the Hawaiian Islands. Seagoing drills were conducted on a routine basis during
weekdays. On weekends, we would usually be tied up at a Pearl Harbor dock. The
aviation gang with the four scout planes, operated out of Ford Island when they were not on
board supporting shipboard exercises. At Ford Island, we used dollies similar to boat
launching trailers, that could be positioned at the launching ramp with a tractor. It was a
simple matter to float the plane up to the dolly and pull it up on the apron to have it handy
for maintenance and fueling.
Our flying was a mixture of patrol and search, formation flying, gunnery exercise, and
even a few unofficial flight training sessions for the aircrewman. We spent a number of
hours on island patrol, where we flew over and around the Hawaiian Chain. The crewman
on these flights got a grand tour of all the sights including Mauna Loa on the big island,
Haleakala Crater on Maui, and the Waimea Canyon on Kauai. We spent a few days in
support of some our submarines operating off the west coast of the big island of Hawaii.
Our task was to follow and report the track of practice torpedoes as they were fired from
the subs at moving targets. It was easy enough to follow the torpedoes by the trail of air
bubbles they left in their wake, however, we were oft times confused by the big whales in
the area being mistaken for the subs.
Squadron practice off Honolulu
One day we grabbed an opportunity to do some gun camera work with the carrier based
fighter pilots at Ford Island. We each equipped our guns with cameras in lieu of
ammunition and got ourselves airborne on an agreed flight plan. The arrangement was
that we were going to have the fighters attack us and by recording the action of our guns
and theirs, we could evaluate our ability to defend ourselves. The fighters did attack,
diving down at us right out of the sun. We shot up a lot of film that morning, but the film
proved conclusively they had outgunned us. We hadn't lasted very long.
In the 1940's, there was a song made popular by entertainer Arthur Godfrey titled "My
Little Grass Shack in Kealakakua, Hawaii". There really was such a place and there
actually were little grass shacks on the beach there. It is on Kealakakua Bay on the west
side of the big island, where the present monument to Captain Cook now stands.
One warm day, the ship catapulted the four aircraft to get us off the ship and out of the
way for some target practice with the big guns. We spent a couple of hours spotting hits
and misses for them, then landed near the beach just south of Kealakakua Bay. We
anchored the planes a hundred yards or so from the beach, and spent the next few hours
enjoying a fine swim.
When we got ready to return to the ship, it was the crewman's job to start the engine and
pull the anchor in. To do so, one had to stand on a step on the side of the aircraft and
crank up the inertia starter. Once up to speed, the pilot would engage the starter and
hopefully the engine would start.
Well, I was tired from all the day's activities, but to make matters worse, there were big
ground swells coming in from the west. By the time I got the engine going, I was really
pooped. The anchor was still out and had to be hauled in by hand. With the forward
motion of the plane due to the rotating prop and the resulting drag on the anchor line, I just
about didn't make it.
By the time I dropped into my chute in the rear cockpit, I was not only exhausted, but I
was violently seasick. A half hour later, I managed to make it through the Cast recovery
and back onto the ship, but just barely. That same beach is much more civilized today than
it was then.
We had lots of weekend liberty when we were in Pearl Harbor. There was an occasional
aviation gang picnic where all the pilots, radiomen and mechanics would get together at the
Wiamea State Park near Sunset Beach. There was always a red hot ball game or two. Our
favorite swimming beach was on the east end of Oahu, just below the north side of Makapu
Point. There we could get the big rollers that came in on the northeast trade winds, as well
as a mouthful of sand if you let yourself get caught on top of a breaking wave.
The recreation department on Ford Island maintained a 35 foot sloop for use by the
enlisted men on weekends. A group of four of us were able to obtain the boat now and
then, for an all day sail around Pearl Harbor and the West Loch. I learned a great deal
about handling a sailboat that spring.
In the spring of 1941, I was still fully expecting to return to civilian life after my four
year tour of duty was up in November of that year. I had been boning up on the necessary
information to obtain commercial radio licenses to help me get the right job. On June 25th
I passed the Federal Communications Commission test for Radio Telephone First Class. I
mastered the Radio Telegraph First Class ticket on July 16th of that year. Code
requirements for the Radio Telegraph First were tough, 25 words per minute for five
minutes solid, send and receive. With those licenses, I could operate any U.S. radio
broadcasting station, or the radio telegraph equipment on any aircraft, ship or shore station.
With these tickets, I was ready for civilian life.
It was only a week after I picked up my Radio Telegraph license that we got under way
for the States and by August 1st, we were dropping the hook again in Long Beach Harbor.
With a two week's pass in my hand, I somehow worked a ride on a military DC- 3 transport
to get me to Kansas City. I recall that the plane was set up to transport troops and was
equipped with hard, cold metal seats. No matter, it beat riding trains.
In K.C. I saw my aunt Ruth Hodges for a couple of hours then took the train to Chariton,
Iowa for a visit with my folks. The next day, I was on my way to Van Horne, Iowa, to see a
girl by the name of Betty Jane Woltersdorf, the light of my life. On August 7th, her
birthday, we drove her Dad's new, yellow, eight cylinder Chrysler New Yorker from Van
Horne to Cedar Rapids. There we sealed an engagement to be married with a new diamond
ring. The time disappeared all too fast and I found myself aboard the train for Los Angeles.
Our stay in Long Beach was short. I had been back aboard about two days when we
weighed anchor and pointed the USS San Francisco back toward Hawaii. The further we
sailed from Long Beach, the rougher it got. Checking with the radio gang, I found that we
were just staying ahead of a big tropical hurricane that had formed off Baja, California.
The storm was moving to the west, in fact following us.
On the third day out, our radio crew picked up an emergency signal on 3105 kilohertz
(the old emergency band). It was an SOS for help from the dredge Jefferson out of San
Diego with 14 men aboard and drifting free about 100 miles east of us in the middle of that
storm. She apparently had broken free from her tow, was separated and lost. The skipper
decided to turn back into the "teeth of the booming gale", and attempt to find them.
We expected a rough ride. Everything that was loose on the ship was secured down.
Two of our aircraft were on the catapults, one plane with wings folded, was stowed inside
the hangar and secured to the deck with "J" hooks. The other was positioned on the well
deck and secured to the deck with "J" hooks. The two seasleds that were used for Cast
recovery were lashed to the deck with 3/4 inch line along side the aircraft. During the day,
we measured wind gusts of 80 knots and the waves were 30 to 40 feet high. All decks were
well awash with the sea.
We only had a rough idea of the location of the dredge from piecing together bits of the
radio communication. They had apparently broken away from their towing vessel during
the storm and had no way of determining their position. They were operating their radio
on batteries which wouldn't last for long. They did not have a transmitter that would
transmit on 500 kilohertz, the universal ship emergency frequency, otherwise the ship
could have taken bearings on them and homed in on them. Our ship direction finder would
not operate above 1600 kilohertz.
The well deck was open to the full sweep of the waves coming in from off the port bow.
It was late afternoon when one of the seasleds had worked itself loose and was about to be
washed overboard. A First Class Boatswain's Mate, observing the problem, was working
his way out on deck between waves, to add to the lashings of the sea sled. He had just
reached the sled when a gigantic wave hit the well deck. The seasled and the Boatswain's
Mate were both carried overboard with that wave. Our last view of that sailor was of him
sitting on that seasled out in those waves, waving good-bye. He was never found.
By the end of that day, we didn't seem to be getting any closer to the dredge. The ship's
radiomen were trying to locate them by taking continuing signal strength readings, a
technique that just doesn't work.
During the evening, I proposed to the senior aviator and to the captain, that we somehow
get an aircraft airborne the next morning where I could take some radio bearings on the
dredge's transmitter using the direction finder in the aircraft. The plane's direction finder
would work on that frequency but unfortunately we had to be flying to get accurate
bearings. With two bearings and simple triangulation, one could readily plot the dredge's
relative position. They bought the idea, dependent upon our being able to make a safe
launch and recovery.
The next morning dawned with a little better weather. The wind was down to about 35
knot gusts with anticipation of further improvement by noon. My Navy flight log shows
that on August 23, 1941, the senior aviator, Lt. Thomas and I were catapulted in search of
the dredge. Five minutes after becoming airborne, I had the first bearing. We flew at right
angles to that line of position for five minutes, then took another bearing. A quick
triangulation showed the target to be 90 nautical miles to our southeast.
We informed the ship, then set a course to "home in" on the dredge using the plane's
direction finder. Forty five minutes later we spotted the dredge straight ahead of us. When
we circled the dredge at 50 feet altitude, all fourteen men were on deck waving everything
they owned. Finally, we circled the dredge and transmitted dashes on 500 kilohertz so that
the ship could get an accurate bearing on our position. It all seemed too simple at the time.
Having established a line of position, we returned to the ship. The wind had somewhat
abated by the time we made our recovery. It was very rough but everything went OK. In
the meanwhile, the ship had made contact with a destroyer in the area. At 17:00 that
afternoon, the ship and the destroyer rendezvoused with the dredge. Leaving the destroyer
with the task of getting the dredge and it's tow back together, we were once again on the
way to Pearl. The aviators became the heroes of the moment, that day.
Fun and games out of Pearl Harbor were much the same as before, continued practice
and training. We were flying more extended patrols, morning and evenings. Anytime the
ship was at sea, we would send out scouting patrols, usually two planes in the morning and
two in late afternoon. We held lots of communications drills in the air.
I recall on one occasion, a new Reserve Ensign Communications assistant who decided
to take over the Morse code communication with the aircraft from the ship's bridge. His
sending of the code resembled someone that was sending with their left foot. It was almost
unreadable. I'm afraid that I gave him a bad time from our lead aircraft. After asking him
to repeat his transmission a couple of times, I finally transmitted to him the coded Navy
communication signal "ZLG-2", which means "use semaphore flags". My signalmen
buddies, who sensed the gag and went along with it, reported later that this fellow read the
radio transmission then promptly went out on the bridge, picked up a pair of semaphore
flags, then began scanning the horizon for the planes. We were about 50 miles away at the
time. He was too embarrassed to ever bring it up.
In the fall of 1941, I had an unusual visit from my future sister-in-law, Marian Suthers,
there in Honolulu. Marian had arranged to meet her husband Bruce, who was assigned to a
destroyer based there at Pearl. As it turned out, his ship had been ordered to the east coast
about the same time that she had boarded a Matson Liner for Hawaii. They must have
passed at sea. We had just a couple of outings together before she got word as to what had
happened. Within about ten days of her arrival, she was on her way back to the east coast.
October 11, 1941 found the USS San Francisco going into the Navy Yard there at Pearl,
for installation of some additional guns as well as routine maintenance. She was due out of
the yard on December 24th. As usual, the aircraft were sent over to Ford Island and
continued to operate out of there during this time. Life seemed to be normal around the
base and in town. November 28th, the date of my scheduled discharge from the service,
was not far away and I was getting anxious.
I had written a number of letters to Commercial Radio Stations and had held several
interviews with RCA, for a radio operating position or a field engineering job. I had
communicated with the Pan American Airways office in San Francisco for a job as a radio
operator on the Pacific Clippers then flying to and from the Orient. The future looked very
promising and exciting, but I didn't like what I was seeing in the Navy environment around
There had been some skippers refusing to discharge sailors at the end of their tour of
duty. So, I decided that I'd better request a Captain's Mast and find out what was going on.
The skipper was very patient and very sympathetic in listening to my story. He simply
informed me that he had orders to hold his crew intact, and that was that. The very next
day I received a letter from PAA requesting me to report to their San Francisco office for
Clipper training on December 15th.
Needless to say that never happened. I went through the entire war on the status of an
"extended tour of duty".