I was born and raised near George, in Lyon County, in the state of Iowa. I graduated from George Public High School in 1938. We lived on a small farm with no money for college, so I picked up whatever jobs I could get. We had an ex-navy man who operated a successful tavern and eating establishment in George. He, naturally, repeated the slogan, "Join the Navy and see the world!"
A good friend of mine and I decided to go to the recruiting office and find out what this was all about. We passed with flying colors and, after obtaining the signature of my father, we were both eligible. We received our notices to appear at Sioux City, Iowa for transportation to Des Moines for acceptance on January 2, 1941. Our lady friends drove with us to Sioux City. All was well till time to board the train, when my friend backed out. I had come this far, so I boarded the train for Des Moines by myself!
I was sworn in for a six-year hitch and sent to Naval Training Station in Chicago. Another new experiencesleeping in a hammockrows upon rows of them! Chicago newscasters would announce on radio, "What a BEAUTIFUL day in Chicago!: as the wind off Lake Michigan would blow through the walls of our living quarters, zero degrees and below accompanied with blowing snow.
Graduating from training station and off to San Diego, California to be assigned to Hospital Corps School. Just imagine, a young Iowa farm boy serving in the medics! SoI completed Hospital Corpsmen School, boarded a passenger ship to Pearl Harbor T.H. (Territory of Hawaii, in those days). Really a beautiful showplace to my innocent eyes!
Now they assigned me to a surgical ward and, after a short time, the navy nurse in charge says to me, "It's about time you learned to give a hypodermic shot to a patient." I obliged by getting the hypodermic needle prepared for the patient who happened to be a colored man with skin like leather. Guess what??? You never would believe there could be so many parts to one hypodermic needle! After picking up the various parts, the nurse says, "Now that you have that over with, let's try again the proper way, which I did and the shock was over, especially for me. The poor patient had no choice, but he lived through it. Sometime thereafter I was transferred to the Medical Records Department, where I was at the time of the bombing.
At that time, we underlings at Pearl Harbor had absolutely no idea what the Japanese insignia on the wings of their planes stood for. In fact, we hadn't even had a "blackout drill"! Of course we took cover as ordered by older personnel. One Japanese "Zero" kamakazied into our nearby abandoned Navy Nurses Quarters. A short time afterwards a senior corpsman asked for the luger I had taken off the Japanese pilot. First of all, I had no idea what a luger was nor had I been even near the dead pilot or the plane. He finally accepted my denial and I proceeded toward the nurses' quarters. My duty was to try to place some type of identification on our casualties as they were being retrieved from the canal. Of course, many of the dead were completely covered with oil from our damaged and sinking ships. Many casualties had no means or identification at all. No dog tags, fingers severed, oftentimes no hands nor even arms. The dead were stacked up like cordwood for identification by dental records or some other technical means. Approximately seven of us, as I recall, worked at least 8 hours before being relieved of that duty.
LATER: I was in Personnel Records for about one year before transferring to a Naval Medical Supply Depot. Among my duties there, I would pick up a list of "ship arrivals" from CINCPAC so that we could replenish their medical supplies as soon as they docked.
After the first three years, I returned to the good ole USA on furlough. About 30 miles out of San Francisco, a place called the Farlone Islands came upon us in the dark of night, like 3 a.m. There was a shipping lane going out to sea and one coming in to the States, but our merchant skipper tried making a new lane between the island underwater peaks and sunk our ship. The Coast Guard rescued us in the early hours of the morning. All that was salvaged was the clothes on our backs. Our uniforms, mementos, gifts, letters, everything was left on the ocean floor.
After my 30-day shore leave, I was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Astoria, Oregon. Another year and a call came that I was being assigned to the Marine Corps. (At that time, the Navy furnished medical services to the marines.) Reporting to Camp Pendleton, California, I was transferred overseas. After a few delays, I found myself with the 1st Marines in Patio Beach, China for approximately a year.
On a transport ship from Guam to China, I had another interesting experience. After docking at Tsingtoa, China, we boarded a train for Tientsin, China. Smudge pots were used primarily for heat and light on Chinese trains. I had 21 men in my charge. Upon arriving at the train station at Tientsin and departing from there, I had another terrifying experience. Unbeknown to us, some Chinese servicemen had gotten into our car and seated behind us. They cut the bottoms out of our sea bags and emptied them completely while we sat in our respective seats! We were non-the wiser until time for us to pick up our empty sea bags to board another train. That is when I instructed my men, "If any Chinese soldiers or anyone attempted to board our car, to just pitch them off. I did just that. However, to my dismay, the Chinese soldier I ordered off was Chinese General!
When we arrived at our destination, a call was out for the smart Chief, which was me, to return to Tientsin, subject to court martial! Thanks to our Navy Commander, he convinced authorities that we had no knowledge of who was what because they all wore the same drab unadorned uniform!
Another year and I was sent back to the States for terminal leave and discharge, if I so desired, as my 6-year hitch was up.
I was flown to Guam and then boarded an oil tanker bound for the States. The night prior to going into San Francisco Bay, the ship's engineer unloaded ballast from amidship. Later a wind came up and the ship almost buckled in two.
This farm boy decided he'd had enough unexpected thrills and preferred not to made a career of the military. So he took an honorable discharge and his memories and went home to be an ordinary citizen. He was never regretted enlisting into the Navy "to see the world" as he did see some of it and in the process grew from a boy into a man who was surprised to see his country at war and who tried to serve his country to the best of his ability. He still cares and is still trying to keep the memory of Pearl Harbor from being forgotten deep into the history books.