To Hear Real Player Music, Stop Midi and Click Here
Click Here To Download Realplayer (Basic Free)
Biography of John M. DiFusco
QM3/c, U.S.N., U.S.S. Belleau Wood, 1942-
We were in the third fleet and we got a new commander, Admiral Bull Halsey, We now had 16 carriers in our third fleet, what a site to behold, we had the equipment now to really kick the Japs a** and we were headed for the Marianas Islands, now occupied by the US Marines but they were out there on their own and the Japs had plenty of bases from which they could hit our Marines, so we were going after these bases to protect the Marines. We were going to take Palu, for two days we blasted the shit out of the Japs, and only 500 miles away was the Island Of Mindano in the Philippines, on September 9, five days before the landings at Palu we started to bomb the shit out of the Japs on Mindano,our planes destroyed about 14 planes there and strafed the hell out of them, we also covered the landings at Peleliu, the US Forces on the ground were getting pounded by the Japs and for the first time we went in real close to the Island and with the battle ships, cruisers, destroyers we were hitting the shore batteries, we were close enough to see the artillery duel going on on the island, what a site, as the battle ships fired their 16 inch shells you could see the projectile leaving their guns, it was the first time that we were ever in a bombardment line, something I will never forget and we could feel the hell our troops were going through. It was at night we could see all the fires,carriers,as a rule, never get that close to shore. On the 18 of September we headed for Manus Island in the Admiraltites for provisions.
Let me start here. I dreamt of things last night. I haven't had flashbacks for years and years. But last night I had a couple, but they were good ones. Little incidents that happened that I think will be amusing. If you can imagine the open bridge on a ship, we were a converted cruiser so we didn't have the luxury of a big closed-in bridge like they did on the big carriers. Anyway, we had an open bridge. On the bridge at night after the Captain had gone to his cabin for the night, there would be a Lieutenant Commander or a Commander in charge of the bridge. There would be an Officer of the Deck who gave directions to the rest of the people on the bridge. And then there would be a Junior Officer of the Deck who gave directions to the helmsmen and so forth and so on. And there would be myself representing my department because we kept the ship's log and everything else. And then there would be a Gunnery Officer up there on the bridge and a couple of other runners and incidental people.
Well this one particular Commander, I have to call him Commander "S***head" because that is what he was. He is up in the front now and he said to me one night, call the Wardroom. That is where the officers ate their dinner. And he says, tell them to send up two cheese sandwiches. Well ordinarily when a command man on the bridge would order sandwiches, he would ask the other officers if they wanted something, because we had our own galley to go down and get something if we wanted it. But he was always just thinking of himself. So now he is about twenty feet away from me and we had about twenty knot winds coming across that flight deck plus the ship is moving at about twenty-five knots and I am downwind of him about twenty feet. So I am sort of whispering when I called the stewards to make some sandwiches for him. So I order some ham sandwiches and other stuff for us and we would get this guy before he gets to the bridge and we take the sandwiches off that we wanted and send up what the man ordered. Most of the officers knew and they just played along with it. Well he, this "S***head", heard me say a couple of ham sandwiches and all that. He said I didn't tell you to order any ham sandwiches, d**n I ordered cheese sandwiches, what are you ordering, blah, blah, blah!!!! Giving me a bad time. So I says just the cheese sandwiches sir. And so we get the cheese sandwiches. But this same particular guy used to relieve my Commander and it was part of our duty for the Quartermaster to go wake the officer up who had to go on duty. And I would go wake this guy up and invariably he would go back to sleep. And he would always be late and when he would get up there he says to my boss "Well Pat, your Quartermaster didn't wake me up." And I would explain "Sir, we woke him up he just didn't get up!" So I decided I would fix his a** . So I went there one night and woke him up, I said "Commander so-and-so, Commander so-and-so. Let's call him Commander S***head . Commander S***head it's time to get up and sign the book. So he signs the book still half-asleep and he don't show up. He's late. And he gets up there late, so the first thing he says to my boss is "Well if your d**ned Quartermaster would wake me up I would be here on time". So I say "Sir, you signed the call book" and I showed him the signature. That ended him and his bulls**t!
We were headed out towards the Philippines to do a little more damage. And you know they were, the guys were hanging over the gun tubs. We weren't in a combat area and this chickens**t executive officer that we just got went up to the Captain. I was standing within three or four feet of the Captain. And he said "Captain, I want permission to sound quarters". That's to get the crew on the flightdeck. Well the Captain says, "Well why do you want to sound quarters?" "Well look at them, those men just lying around those gun tubs and everything, I am going to get them up here on the flightdeck and give them some exercise". The Captain said "Those boys don't need exercise, they need rest and part of your job on this ship is to build the moral of the men and you see that you do that". Now here is the Captain of the ship talking to the next in command like that, in front of enlisted men. But Captain Perry was that way, I mean he said it the way it was, his crew to him was number one.
I will give you another example of Captain Perry. If you can visualize this whole fleet traveling and if you were up in an airplane three or four thousand feet and if you could look down, they were traveling like a circle. And the outer circle consisted of, in one task group, of maybe twenty some destroyers at this particular time before that we didn't have too much to fight with. And then there were maybe four to six cruisers and a couple of battleships. So we had a new officer up on the bridge one night while the old man was sleeping and they had the duty commander. And the outer screen picked up some Jap planes on radar. So this new officer panicked and sounded the battle stations alarm. The Captain, his sea cabin was about ten foot down below from where the bridge was and he came running up on the bridge and says "What's happening, What's happening?" And the officer said the radar picked up some planes. "Well where are they?" The destroyer said they are about thirty miles away. Captain Perry chewed this guy out, he says "Look, my crew will get to their stations when them g*dd**ned destroyers start firing on those Jap planes, then you call us!" That's the kind of guy Perry was.
And to go one step further, I'm going ahead a little bit because I've got to tell you these things as I can remember them. The next time that we went back to the island, Fleet Anchorage, the Captain got rid of the Executive Officer. He didn't want anything to do with that sonofab***h anymore! And he made the Air Officer the Executive Officer. And this guy was highly appreciated by everybody on the ship. He was a fantastic man and a gentleman. A guy from Mississippi. Just as nice as could be and happy to say he is 93 years old and still going strong. I get a Christmas card from him every year. One of the sailors was saying that he got transferred after the War ended and everything, he got transferred to this base and he found out that our Ex-Air Officer was the Commanding Officer of the base. So this sailor marches up to the office and he tells the Captain's secretary "You tell the Captain so-and-so that I would like to talk to him" and he said, "Who the hell are you?" And he said, "Just tell him it's one of his people from the Belleau Wood". He no more told him that the Ex-Air Officer came running out of his office, greeted the guy and gave him a handshake. Said, "Come on in the office", told his secretary to get them some coffee. That's the kind of people we had on the ship.
Back to the War now. On the 24th of September, after a three-day rest in Marianas Islands we took off into the Philippine Sea to patrol around Palau and wait there while the other task groups were taking on their provisions. On October 5th, we all joined up and headed South and man was it miserable. The ship was rolling and pitching too much to prepare any chow. We were in part of a d**n typhoon. And a lot of the crew was seasick. But what they did was make sandwiches and hung the coffeepots right in the overhead, because we were right on the tail of the typhoon. And you know I was scared s**tless. That d**n ship rolling over. Because you know it rolled over one time in forty-three degrees. And here I am a young kid and scared s**tless! And then the Captain called the Engineering Officer and asked what will this thing take. Because a ship will reach a point and it will flip over and it will sink, it won't come back. There were two destroyers lost like that. So the Engineering Officer told the Captain to take thirty-five. Now here I am a kid and scared sh**less and Captain said, "Oh, we only have two to go." I didn't sleep down below for two days. I would sleep up in the bridge area or by the helmsmen. There was that little spot on the steel deck and use a bunch of d**n life jackets for pillows and everything else. I was just to chickens**t to go belowdecks because if that ship did go down I wanted a fighting chance. I would have a chance like a snowball in Hell with thirty or forty foot waves. It was really, really a bad time. We still didn't know where the Hell we were going. And then they told me to break out some charts. And I got the charts and thought Holy s**t. We were going to Okinawa. Old Halsey trying to put our necks in a noose. It was apparent that the closer the fleet struck Japan the less the Japs would concentrate on Palau. We had no idea that a fortnight away was the invasion of Leyte to take place. And there was ship after ship after ship going there. Long before dawn on the 10th of October the first carrier planes started striking Okinawa. Hundreds of planes flew off the carrier decks to sweep the islands, to strip them, to bomb them, the hangers the industrial plants, the workshops, small freighters. Destroy anything that got in our way, the airplanes and all. Any Jap shipping. Well this time the yellow bastards fought back. On the 13th, there was a helluva lot of planes coming in at us. And some of the fighters from my ship vectored out and investigated. They found there was enough to make ones eyes blink . At about twelve thousand feet there were about a dozen betties. They were twin engine bombers with a layer of about twenty fighters. They were coming out. So our fighter planes dove into that group and they started streaking down and started shooting down those Jap planes. And a bunch of them like frightened chickens, they broke formation and went back to Formosa where the pier was safe. It was getting dark on that same night on Friday the 13th and we were steaming into the wind and two planes later identified as betties appeared on the horizon. They started heading for us and our port guns opened up and split the planes apart. The first plane passed the stern of another ship and tried to get through the formation. The largest gun we had was a 40 millimeter, it was noisy enough, they were fast like a machine gun, damn good anti aircraft in that day and age. We were firing from all guns in every direction. The plane was hit and started burning and the second plane crossed the port of the Franklin and headed through the formation. It crashed in flames amid a lot of anti-aircraft fire about six hundred yards from us. A third plane came through and was heading for us again. But he was going for the Franklin's beam and they started shooting and they shot down that betty. A fourth plane came from the same direction and went for another carrier. It got caught in the midst of all the anti-aircraft fire and everything. And he was shot down to join his ancestors. Then about 7:00 another one came in and one of the other ships just nicked him. But he started burning and he finally crashed and burned. But he was about nine hundred yards astern of us when he did that.
The next day we got a message from Admiral Davidson, and I quote "The performance of all hands during the vicious attack last evening was magnificent. I am proud to command a task group with such guts. Our task force commander has sent us to attack Luzon and his orders told us to give them Hell. And I am sure after seeing you in action, that you will carry out your orders." The following day we were all eating down in the mess hall and "Tokyo Rose", our favorite lady because she had better music in Japan than we had on our ship. She told us that we were one of the sixteen carriers that got sunk the day before. For two days planes from my carrier were strafing and shooting at targets in Manila Bay. On one of the raids that our fighters escorted bombers from another ship wound up in a vicious dog fight over the target. The Captain of what we used to call the "Enterprise" was called the "Big E". On October 15th, another snooping Jap plane was caught over the task group by one of our planes. A few more shots at him and a wing broke off and he just floated down real lazily. And I think that picture has been in more d**n war type movies than anything I have ever seen, because that was the plane. We also received a message from the Enterprise saying "All my pilots have given united praise to your fighters for the very excellent cover provided during the attacks yesterday morning on Nielson Field. Please express my appreciation to your fighter squadron. Of fifty Nip fighters attacking, not one got through to the bombers torpedo formation."
On the 19th of October, one of the other ships, the Franklin, was taking its aircraft for the evening and it was almost dark and they had their lights on. And they would pass close to the ship on their approach to their ship. All of a sudden one of their d**n planes got so close that he hit us right above our water line. As a matter of fact, his engine had gone through the steel and ended up in our mess hall down belowdecks. Unfortunately, the two men on the plane were killed. But the plane caught fire and was doing some fire damage to our ship and sort of lighting us up a little bit. I happened to be on the wheel and a buddy of mine came up and said "Hey John the ship is on fire." So man, I got my a** istant to take the wheel. I had to go see what the hell was what. We got the fire out, but you know the bad thing was that two guys got killed. But they made a ten-foot hole in our mess hall. We stuffed mattresses around it so no light would go out and no water would come in.
On October 20th, we started the invasion of the Philippines. It was D-Day on Leyte. And there were amphibs and everything else. Of course, we didn't see that because they were in different groups than us. But also a couple of our submarines had picked up some Jap ships coming our way. They spotted about thirty ships, five battleships, eight cruisers, destroyers and everything else. They were going to come after us. But they didn't have a carrier on that one. Both of those forces were attacked on the 24th by other planes from the fleet that I was in. In the meantime, some of our carriers were over at Luzon and we just pounded the hell out of them. It was here that my sister ship the USS Princeton was sunk. She was hit by a bomb that went belowdecks and had all internal explosions. She was not in my group, she was in another group incidentally. The ship was just blown to bits inside and totally a mess and couldn't be saved. So they abandoned the ship and we later sank it with torpedoes from our destroyers. That was CVL23. That was the sister ship of mine. It was built before mine because mine was twenty-four. And it was ironic that the other sister ship, the Independence, was twenty-two and it was the first one of its class. It took a torpedo a few months before that. So CVL22 had taken a torpedo and CVL23 had been sunk. And we were CVL24. Were we going to be the next victim?
On the 24th of October, some land based Navy pilots, we did have some Navy pilots flying off the land down there too, they spotted another task group of Japs. And this task group had about 17 war ships but there was also about 4 carriers in it. That was the first time the carriers had come anywhere near us. Late that afternoon, the Executive Officer, Commander Dall calls over the PA system, "Attention all hands, this is the Executive Officer, we are steaming North to intercept the Jap fleet which is coming out to fight. When the gong rings, (that's the battle alarm) move in a hurry. Be prepared for anything. That's all." We raced at full speed all night going after their fleet. We wanted to get to them and get the d**n thing over with. About 6:00 in the morning, our planes struck their fleet. They only had fifteen zeros up in the air. But the carrier decks didn't have any planes on it. And our hell divers, they zoomed down and started bombing and everything else. Our fighters were shooting down the planes. But we waited and waited. That is the worst part of a d**n war, the waiting. The fear of the unknown, again. But the Jap ships, we never saw them. We never got under an air attack. When it was all over, our planes sunk their four Jap carriers. They, I think, got one cruiser and maybe a couple destroyers and then the two battleships they had with them were really damaged. The Japs had lured Halsey into a little bit of a trap and Halsey wanted to get more carriers. But they lured him into a trap and we sort of left the landings unprotected. We had some of those escort carriers down there. They are really, Kaiser coffins is what we used to call them. They couldn't take much of a beating, they weren't fast and everything else. And these Jap battleships came after them and they sank, I think, two carriers. They could have wiped out that little fleet that was down there protecting the landing area. But the last minute, the Japs turned around and hauled a** out of there. And the beachhead at Leyte was saved but unfortunately we lost two carriers and fifteen hundred men. If we saved half of them that was something.
On October 30th, hell, we were only sixty miles off of . Hell, that was pretty d**n close. And about 11:00, one of the lookouts on the battleship spotted two betties. So we sent the planes out to shoot them. But we never found them. So it was kind of a serene and calm day. Some of the people were eating an early lunch, one guy was sunbathing. Shortly thereafter, I went down and had my lunch. It was a beautiful day, nice baseball weather. But unfortunately, we were not in a place to play baseball. So I was having lunch with one of my buddies from my hometown, Johnny Allen. shortly after 2 o 'clock we got bogies [Japs] on the radar screen and they were only 60 miles from the task group. And they were rapidly closing on us, so we were all called to our battle stations. Stop everything, and go to our battle stations. All the water-tight doors are closed and everything. So we got ready to scramble our fighters to go up there and meet them to shoot them down. When one of these planes dropped out of the sky and headed for the Franklin. He was shooting and shooting at her. All of a sudden there was a big flash at the island structure where the bridge is and everything. Here the d**n Jap plane didn't drop any bombs, he just crashed right into the g*dd**n island. Up until that point, we would find out later that they were the suicide planes, they had never used them before. And they used one on the Franklin.
So I was watching her burn, when I see this other sonofab***h coming out after us. They usually go for the bridge, because they knock out total control of the ship and all the high ranking officers up there and everything else. So he's coming, and I didn't know what to do, whether to s**t, jump in the water, do, what the hell to do. Because the closer he came, the closer I felt I was to jumping into the water. At the last possible moment, he executed a quick turn and dove into our planes on the flight deck. And the guns from both sides of my ship were firing at that sonofab***h. He hit right in the middle of them. All of our planes were loaded with 500 pound bombs, depth charges and loaded to the gills with gasoline. All of our guys just below the flight deck elevations got cremated right at their gun stations. They fired and fired, never left their stations and they all got killed. There was flames and wreckage, chunks of metal blowing all over the g*dd**n place. And smoke all over the place. Guys dead from the gun crew. The ones who were alive stopped flooding their magazines and then abandoned their stations. And a lot of these guys jumped in the water, because their bodies, their clothes and everything was on fire. The lifejackets were no good because they were burnt. And we cut a lot of rafts loose so they could get on them. They were all picked up and got on the rafts. Then one of the destroyers went over there and picked them up. And Johnnie Allen, my friend from my hometown, was badly burnt. They put him on one of the rafts. And when the destroyer picked him up, Johnny must have been in terrible pain. You could see his body was just burnt. He jumped over into the water and he said to the guy, "Tell John or Don to tell my mom what happened and I didn't want to go home like this." And that was the last of my little Irish bastard buddy that we went from boot camp. The guy that went up into the mountains and cussed me all day because I told people how much I loved the milk. That was the end of John. Later that evening, I was to find out that three or four more people from my hometown were killed or wounded or burnt. And this really worried the s**t out of me because a bunch of us kids; our mothers formed a little club and when one would hear from their son they would call the other. And I was really concerned because my mother was a real pessimist, if there ever was a pessimistic person. It was my mother and that's what worried me more than anything else. We fought that fire with that foam and everything else we had. A destroyer came up next to us and helped us fight the fire. The flight crew did a helluva job. But even when most of the fire was out, the smoke and everything else, the men on the gun crew all burnt and dead. Live ammunition going off, it was a real Fourth of July. There was a real good buddy of mine who was on gunners mate on one of the guns in the aft part of the ship. He stayed there and threw all his ammunition that was in his gun mount over the ship so it wouldn't blow up. Everybody else abandoned their stations because there was flaming gasoline pouring down there. Later on he got the silver star for that, for leadership. I said "You crazy bastard. Why the freak didn't you jump in the water." He said, "John, I can't swim number one, and number two I figured s**t if I jump in the water those four big screws on the propellers that propel the ship were gonna suck me in and chop me up. So, s**t I did the next best thing to save my a** ." And it's another thing that heroes are made and not born. And you're a hero a lot of the time because you are protecting your own or your buddy's a** . Anyway, the shrapnel was flying all over and ammunition going off. I'll tell you, I have never gone to a fireworks demonstration since that day and never will. The captain told everyone who wasn't actually doing something to go down there and help fight the fire and so hell, I'm not a firefighter, but I went down there and held a hose and helped the guys. No protective clothing or anything. I ended up with a real bad case of sunburn. Then came the chore of picking up your dead buddies, putting all the bodies in a place on the flight deck. They started to wrap them in canvas, putting a five inch shell in between their legs, so when we buried them at sea the next day, they would sink. A lot of the guys got a burn like I did, which I didn't consider anything in particular bad, it was just a d**n bad case of sunburn. And that night, nobody could eat dinner or anything, but I was on duty up in the bridge, midnight to 4:00 in the morning. I could look down on that flight deck and see all those bodies wrapped in canvas. I couldn't go down and get a Purple Heart, s**t, I was alive.
Most of the wounded men were burned or had shrapnel from the blowing up of bombs and ammunition. There were doctors and medics, they worked until 9:00 that night getting everybody in shape and taking care of their wounds. We got the fire all out. And small fires would keep burning and we would put them out. It was a night that I will never forget for as long as I live. Over one hundred of our crew was dead and I don't know how many were wounded. We transferred a lot of the wounded over to a hospital ship the next few days. The next day, after we got hit, we fueled up the ship and starting cleaning up the wreckage. But right now it hurts me, I still see those guys burnt at their fire stations and firing right to the end. Those are the heroes, not me, I was just another kid doing what I the hell I had to do. We had two hundred and forty-five casualties in all. We had 97 in sickbay and 54 severely burnt. How many of those we lost I don't know. It was my day in Hell, I guess. But I also consider that day a rebirth, because that should have been my day to get killed. But the Guy upstairs saved me for some reason, and Hell to this day I don't know why he saved me. So that's why I tell everybody, S**t, I am 74 years old going on 54 and acting and holding at 39. And even my doctor tells me that I am 10 years younger than I actually am. So who the hell am I to argue with anybody. G*d was looking out for me that day. Somebody told me, and I am not a religious guy but, that day was the start of a new life for me, and I believe it and am here today because of that.
We had been out there about 18 months and we, the ship's guns shot down 9 Jap planes. And our air groups shot down numerous planes and sunk a lot of ships, including an aircraft carrier bigger than we were. October 31st, was a very bad day. We had memorial services for our friends who got killed and we hoped that they didn't die in vain. But they were gone and I was saved. Why I will never know. That was 54 years ago. And talking about it right now, I have tears in my eyes and have to stop.
Shortly before sunset, on the 31st, the USS Franklin and the USS Belleau Wood, my ship, the screening destroyers, departed from the task group. The Admiral bade us farewell and our Captain, the Admiral's code was badger and we were Fagan, and the Captain says "Badger, this is Fagan, Goodbye, we will be back." On the 2nd of October, we were in the lagoon of Ulithi, in Fleet, Anchorage. The Admiral sent someone to check our damage. They said we could do this and pass this and pass that. Captain said oh s**t my people are not going to land on a flight deck with just steel over the place where the Jap plane dove into us. I want the Admiral to check the damage himself.
The next day he came over, Halsey himself, but no one told us he was coming over. Its Naval tradition that when the Admiral comes over, you have people waiting on the gangway, pipe him aboard and all that crap. The Admiral wasn't that type of person and he just came and was d**n near on top of us before we knew it was him. And then they call the Captain so at least he could be there to greet him.
He came aboard the ship, sailors sleeping on the flight deck. Bull Halsey was the same guy you have seen in movies and other places, he was a sailors sailor including a tattoo. I saw him from about 10 foot distance, this being my other brush with a famous admiral. No starched uniform on Halsey.
Halsey came aboard without all the fan fare, walked with the Captain and crawled over sleeping sailors on the flight deck and looked around.
We weren't too happy a crew, you can well imagine why. We left our buddies buried in the ocean. Well, anyway, he took one look at the ship and said get everything off this ship that other ships can use, anything you got, your ammunition anything we can use. Get your ass back to Pearl Harbor. Take on what you got to take on there and go back to the States. You got to go back there to get repaired, and then he left.
So that is what we did. The men were tired. We were all happy but also very sad for all our crewmen who were buried at sea. But you learn fast that people will get killed, but not you, and it was better to say better them than me but you never really meant it, it was a way to keep your sanity. So when they told us we were going back to the States, we woke up a little bit. Cause we left a helluva, it seemed an eternity before, since we left there.
We were soon headed east and it was part of our g*dd**ned job as Quartermaster to keep turning the clocks ahead one hour as we would pass every meridian. On the 21st of November, we anchored in Pearl Harbor. There were two truckloads of mail, which we really needed and wanted to help boost us up. And they put a couple of PBY on our flight deck to take back to the States and a couple of piper cubs. They needed major repairs on it, so they figured what the hell, since they're going back, put something on there. So now we got this great big hole on the flight deck, we got a hole in the side of the ship and we were headed back to the States. The hole in the side of the ship brings back another anecdote, or whatever you want to call it. A couple of days after we had the hole in the side of the ship we were refueling from a tanker, and there was a telephone line that we shot across the two ships. So the Captain of the tanker told this runner to ask the Captain if we were the ship that a Japanese Admiral was supposed to have dove his plane into a few days before. So our Captain, very rough and tough, says oh tell him yeah, they will believe any g*dd**n thing you tell them. He was that kind of a guy. Shortly after Thanksgiving dinner, on the Thursday, the bugle sounded announcing that the ship was cleared to the dock and the band was on the dock playing "California, Here I Come". Captain Perry had somehow or another finagled a priority plane trip back from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco for one of our officers off the ship. He had all the pictures and everything about the damage of the ship and he was to take this to the Commandant of the Naval District in California. They determine how many days we would be in port for repairs. At the same time, the Captain told the officer, when you get done explaining to these people what has to be done, you get in contact with the railroad. Because in those days you couldn't just get no d**n airplane and go wherever you want. It's not like it is today. He says when we get to California, I want the g*d**n railroad people down there and anything else. My men can get their tickets to go home, wherever it is, right on the ship. Waste no time, they deserve it. On a cold damp November morning, November 29th to be exact, we saw the lights of San Francisco. There was a lot of cloud cover. Cold, it was cold in San Francisco, d**n can it get cold there. We slipped underneath the Golden Gate. Believe me that was a sight that we had wanted to see for years. The minute we got underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, I mean there was a cheer that I think you could have heard in the town of San Francisco. We were happy. We were home. We were back in the States. Now they already set up the lead party for the crew. In other words, we were put in two different groups. One group would go home and they would come back. The other group would go home and they would come back. And then they would allow an "X" number of days to get the ship ready to go back to sea. When we got to the dock to tie up, that officer that had flown back came aboard. As soon as the gangway was down, he was aboard and came up to the bridge. Because we were still on the bridge, everybody that was working up there including the Captain. He came up and said to the Captain that he had some bad news. The Commandant of the Naval District said that you can only give your crew ten days leave and whatever travel time it takes to get to their homes. You only have a 52 day odd period so you can only give them a ten day leave. Well the Captain was so mad, he got a hold of the Exec and he says their only going to give us ten day leave plus whatever travel time. G*dd**n, I don't want any leave put in these guys records. As far as anybody is concerned they didn't have any leave at all. Let them go home. Most of these boys will be transferred and they will get the leave that will be due to them. Now that is a man that takes care of his crew. Later that afternoon, I was off the ship, I had my train ticket to Rhode Island. I went into the train station and got aboard the train. I had quite a ways to go but the first thing I did was to call up that pessimistic mother of mine and tell her I was alright. Because if the Navy for some reason unbeknownst to me, through an act of real stupidity, my mom told me that the Navy informed the parents of these friends of mine from my hometown that were killed about what happened to their kids on Thanksgiving Day. I was later told by my father that my mother had cooked and the table was all set, when one of the mothers called up crying and said did you hear anything from the Navy. My mother said no, no, no. She said well my son was killed. And my mother got three or four more calls. Thanksgiving dinner was not eaten at my parent's home that day. But why the Navy, and to me I will never forgive them for that, on Thanksgiving Day to notify the parents of these kids.
Boarded on the train, it was loaded with service men traveling all over the country. I was given ten days leave and ten days travel time. And some of the trains must have been in service when they first joined whatever year that was when they put the gold and spike into the rails. G*d it was an old sonofab***h. But we didn't care. And there was a bunch of kids from my hometown and we had a helluva ball on the train. We could stop someplace for a layover and get some booze, so s**t we weren't feeling any pain. We had a seven hour layover in Chicago, and a typical sailor, by the train station they got army/navy stores and they sold uniforms. I got a tailor made uniform, cause whether you know it or not, sailor uniforms don't come with bell bottoms. That's not regulation, but it was a surge suit and navy pants only had two pockets. I had the regular pockets in it and I had put into it one pocket in the back and a pocket put into the back of my neck of my jumper and a zipper pocket behind my regular pocket inside my jumper so I could keep it away from some broad if she tried to roll me or something. I didn't put that d**n uniform on and I had a pair of shoes in my duffel bag that s**t I must have polished at least a hundred times. D**n you could shave with them, in the reflection.
About 3 hours or so later, I went back and picked up my uniforms and then took the train to New York. When we got to NY, I rented one of those toilet stalls and I put on my campaign ribbons, glory bars and all that bulls**t. Put on my new shoes and heck it is only a 4 hour ride to Providence. Now this is in November and believe me, I was freezing my a** off, cold as a sonofab***h. I was in the South Pacific all that time, nice and warm. My a** was freezing. I went to Grand Central Station and got on a train that was being made up to go from New York to Boston with a stop in Providence. So the train hadn't started yet and I crapped out on the seat, taking a little nap. It was a Sunday night, I was supposed to be in Providence 10 or 11:00 that night. The train no more than got started with a jerk and someone said is that seat taken. Goddarn can't he see I am sleeping. Well it was a Navy Ensign, Navy Nurse. Well she sat with me. It was about forty miles from Providence, and we stopped. The freaking train couldn't go any further because the switches were all frozen. They had to get a crew out there to defrost the snow and ice off the darn tracks right there. We were 3 hours late getting into Providence. Well, s**t I got relatives from one, this is Sunday night now and they all got to go to work the next morning, end of the platform to the other. We finally got into Providence. Got off the train and start meeting my relatives. I saw my mother and she started crying and s**t, I cried too. My mother was a very religious woman. I never heard her swear until that night. She asked me how much time I had off. And I told her I could only be there ten days. She said, "Them sonofab***hes." And I said "Well that's the way it is, I will be back again." She said, "You're just telling me that to make me feel better." My girlfriend was there and all that bulls**t, and cousins. Snow on the ground up to my a** , cold as heck. So we all end up at my dad's house for something to eat. S**t it is getting to be about 3:00 in the morning, people start going home. So now I haven't seen my girlfriend in twenty months or so. My pop says he will drive us to her house. I said I would drive, but she said I hadn't driven a car in two years. Oh bulls**t. He let me drive and I took her home.
It was good to get home for the ten days. It was cold the whole goddarned ten days, snow up to my a** . Not too many friends around, they were mostly all away in the military. So really all I could do, and all I wanted to do was visit all my relatives I hadn't seen in almost two years and eat some good home-cooked food. While I was home, I got engaged to my girlfriend. I started going with her when she was fourteen. Cradle-snatcher. She was now seventeen, in high school with a half carat diamond ring on her finger. And her mother was a real nice lady, but her father I wouldn't give two cents for him. He didn't like me, and the feeling was mutual. The night we got engaged, we didn't get home until 4 in the morning. It was just her and I, we wanted it private. No family involved, we were getting engaged, not the whole family. We went out and had a real good dinner, rode around and I gave her the ring. When we got home, her father had his coat and hat on. I thought something was wrong because she had an older brother at home. He was getting ready to go out looking for us and he started chewing out my butt. I said we had just got engaged. Well he thought they should have known but I told him that we just wanted it between her and I. I said "You don't care for me and I don't care for you. So what the heck we didn't need you around. If you don't like it, we will go out and get married." He said, "No, no, no." That was about the last conversation that I ever had with that a** hole. But her mother was real nice.
It was nice to sleep in every morning. God was it nice. Not have to get up early, good meals at home, being with my folks and relatives, relatives, relatives. Heck, I had nine uncles and aunts, plus their children on their side and six on the other side and their children. So it was one party after another. I enjoyed it. It was the fastest ten days of my life. And the next thing I knew, off to California. It was a nice trip, meeting people on the train and have your drink and what the heck with the rest of the world. The trains were crowded. They would let the service people on first. You would see some girl there with a little kid and she would have to wait. So I would say that she was my wife so they would let her on. She was probably going to visit her husband, the poor girl with a baby. So I think it was about a four day trip all the way back to San Francisco. And I went and reported in to my division officer. There were civilian people working all over the ship. You couldn't leave a pair of shoes out or they would steal them. A bunch of goddarned crooks. But I fixed their a** es, I had bought about fifteen or twenty cartons of cigarettes before we got within the three mile limit. I paid 50 cents a carton for them. And I used to get ten of these guys and take half a buck a piece from them. Put their numbers in a hat and whoever won got a carton of cigarettes. Well I made $4.50 off them. Well, maybe we were in San Francisco about four days and my division officer came down one morning, Bill Baines. I had taken my test for Second Class Petty Officer and passed it. But they had frozen all the rates. So he came down there and told me he was making me Second Class. In about six months I ought to be First Class Petty Officer. There was no way in heck with the short enlistment I was in that I would make First Class in such a short time. So I asked him what the deal was. He said "Well its either this or take a transfer." Well it took me about a quarter of a second to give him my answer. I said "Mr. Baines, the Japs didn't get my a** the first time. They don't get no second chance at my a** ." So the next day they called a bunch of us together that was to be transferred and we all reported into Treasure Island in San Francisco. We go there to make our leave papers. Some smartass guy, yeoman says he knows that the Bellawood guys had ten days. Me and my big mouth, I says "Is it in my records?" and he says "No". I said "Then I haven't had any leave have I? I got 39 more days leave." So he was going to make out the papers and it would take a few days so come back again. So I went off in San Francisco and you couldn't get a place to stay. Rooms all booked up. The first night my buddy and I spent the night in a darn theater. I had to wire home for more money. Typical sailor, I was broke but I did have money in the bank in Rhode Island that I had been sending home. The second night there we went across to this hotel at Bush and Stockton. I will never forget it, the Victoria Hotel. We went in there and this lady was at the desk, it was not a big hotel but a nice old hotel. She said there was no room and she said there was a dining room we don't use since we can't get the help. There were cots in there which she said we could use. She charged us a very nominal fee, very little. The next morning we get up and the lady who booked us in the night before with her niece are mopping up the lobby. My buddy and I were a couple of swabbies, what the heck, we said give us those mops and we will show you how its done. We mopped up the whole darn lobby. We got to stay there two more nights there for nothing. Which is pretty nice. I ended up taking the niece out one night for dinner. But it was pretty good.
In the mean time, one of my buddies from my hometown, he was in the second leave party and he went home. He went down and paid a visit to my mother. She told him she got a telegram from me for more money because he was coming home again. My friend said that I was just saying that, and I wasn't coming home again because when my friend went back we were going out to sea again. She wondered why I would say that and want more money. My friend thought maybe I just wanted to have a good time but was broke. Then he left. My mother was kind of depressed. In the mean time, I got my papers all in order, got my Orders and off I go to Rhode Island again. S**t another cross country trip. I get to Rhode Island and heck, now I think it is January '45. Still colder than heck and snow up to my a** again. What a goddarn winter they must have had back there. But all I knew was that it was cold. After I was there about 3 or 4 days, I got into a little argument with my girlfriend and we broke off our engagement. So one night my brother wanted to use my father's car and I wanted to use it. So my father said I should have it since I was home on leave and I have first choice. My brother was really down in the dumps. He had a first date with some girl. I asked him where he was going. He told me he was going roller-skating. I said I would go with him if she had a friend for me. So he was happy. He called up the girl and she had a friend to bring along. So we went roller-skating. But this girl was seventeen and, heck, I was twenty years old. I didn't really want to bother with a kid. So I ended up meeting a girl at the skating rink. I left brother, his new girlfriend and the girl they brought with this new girl. We spent a few hours together, if you know what I mean. The girl my brother's girlfriend got for me was so pissed off that she wouldn't even ride home with me in the front seat. She sat in the back with my brother and his girlfriend. When my brother and this girl got married a few years later, she was the Maid of Honor and she still wouldn't talk to me. Heck, I don't even blame her in a way.
So while I was home, I had no friends at home since they were all in the military. I went up to Boston to the Chelsea Naval Hospital and saw the nurse that I met on train the first time I went home. I spent a day or two with her. Then I went back to Providence and spent the rest of my leave sleeping and eating and visiting relatives like I did before. Then it was back to California. S**t, what the heck, I was a young kid on a train having fun, who gives a s**t about the rest of the world. I got back there and they were in the process of transferring me. So they had to have something for me to do. I lived in an old abandoned store building right on Market Street and they made me Shore Patrol. I worked from Midnight to 7:00 in the morning. My beat was Market Street. Well, s**t, I would walk in one theater, sit down and watch that movie, walk out and walk in another. By the time my patrol was up I would see 3 or 4 movies and back to the building to have the rest of the day off. I got back one morning after working all night and checked the bulletin board. My name was on the list to be ready at 8:00 in the morning because I was in charge of a draft. I had to take 11 Quartermasters from San Francisco to Miami, Florida. Now it was 7:15 and we had to be ready at 8:00. So man, I just backed my sea bag up to my locker and boom, boom, boom threw everything in there and in half an hour I was ready. So I got these 11 guys which one of these guys was one of my buddies from the ship, Don Borne. So we all got on the darn train, it was what they used to call a troop train. The troop car, it had bunks in it, no place to sit except on the bunks. They put us in the last car on the train. We hauled a** out of Oakland and were heading East. We stopped in Salt Lake City. We had about a 3 hour layover. So naturally what does a sailor do but find a booze drink. Believe it or not there was plenty of them in the Mormon country. Then it was on to Pueblo, Colorado. And then on a Sunday morning we were in a town called Ostowatome, Kansas. You talk about a hick town. They dropped the whole goddarn car off. The train with the engine and the rest of the cars took off and left us there. We had to wait 12 hours for another engine to pick us up. Well, there was one cop in the train and he welcomed us to his town. After awhile we met some of the local yocals and we found out that each county had their own regulations about booze. We met this guy and gal and they told us about a county not too far away where they had booze. So we went there, and there was a little dancing joint with a bar and everything. We met a bunch of young kids and had a heckuva good time. When we got back to that town, boy was that cop ready to run our a** es out of town. Then we got on the train and headed southeast. We stopped in Little Rock, Arkansas for about 4 or 5 hours. And one of the guys I was in charge of said I will see you in Florida. He said he was from Little Rock and he wanted to stay a few days with his family. I told him that he would have to go to Florida with us or I would have to report him AWOL. He told me he didn't give a s**t, report him. Sonofab***h, when the train left that night, he wasn't there. So we finally got to New Orleans and we got about a six hour layover there. It took us a darn week to get from Sand Francisco to Miami. All I got to feed these guys on was these chips the Navy gave us and all the restaurants were supposed to take them. S**t, we went in a good restaurant there and when it was time to pay, I went up to the guy and I gave him those chips. He said they didn't take those. I told him you take these or we don't have any money. I wasn't lying, we were all broke. I had been in transit so long that I hadn't a chance to get paid anyplace. He had to take them and he was pissed off. The next stop was Jacksonville, Florida. I had to make arrangements with the railroad station there. The guy said there was a little bit of a problem. He told us he had two less pullmen berths. Heck pullmen berths, now we were going first class. The Navy must have screwed up somewhere. I told him we only need one, so we are only short one. He told us a couple of the guys would have to double up. Hey man, in the Navy if you get caught sleeping with another sailor then your a** is in the brig. No way, you kick someone else's a** off. So we took the, I think it was about a 12 hour trip, s**t, you got to remember this was about 50 some years ago, and we pulled into Miami. I mean we are dirty, been on that darn train, we got our blue uniforms on and they are all full of crap. No money and all out of cigarettes. I had a number to call when I get there, so I called it. About 20 to 25 minutes later a big stake body truck comes over and some sailors are in it asking if we are so and so. So we get on there and the next thing you know we pull in front of a hotel in Miami proper on the corner of Biscane Boulevard and Flagler Street. The guy said okay this is where you guys are gonna stay. S**t man, this is good. So here were are all reported into a hotel and they a** igned us two men to a room. Heck, it was really nice and we had a heckuva time. I couldn't believe it, I thought they were fattening us up for the kill or some goddarn thing. But I found out the next day that we were all down there for small craft training. You get off a darn carrier and now they are gonna put you on some s**t scow. So we weren't too happy about. I reported the man in AWOL. Well that was my job.
S**t they sent us to school one or two days a week. They just didn't want to bother with us and we didn't want to bother with them. We all came from the fleet from different ships. Then we were in a park across from the hotel one day, they were giving a lecture on condoms and there were some girls walking by. Someone told the instructor "hey be quiet, some girls". The instructor told us if they would listen to us there would be less "VD" around here. So a few days later, my long lost friend came in from Little Rock. Heck, he ended up as Shore Patrol. So they put me on the 7th floor of this hotel I was living in and I had a bunch of men up there that screwed up. They called them prisoners at large or restricted men. My job was to make sure they were out of their bunk at 6:30 or 7:00 what ever time it was in the morning. Then I was done the rest of the day to screw around or do whatever I wanted to do. I think we were mainly we were down there to get some rest and recouperation. But it was a lot of fun. The Navy had all the hotels in Miami proper and the Air Force had all the hotels in Miami Beach. And we would go up to Miami Beach to go swimming. And we would be on the beach getting some sun in our bathing suits and we would meet a couple nice looking girls. We would go get dressed and we will see you in a little bit. The minute they would see us in a sailor suit that would be it, they didn't want anything to do with us. They knew sailors didn't have any money. So we hung around with the Air Force guys and we had a good time.
I guess I was there a couple of months and this chicken s**t Lieutenant called me down to his office. He said you got all the foul-ups in the Navy. But he didn't us foul-ups, he used that other word. He said I couldn't tell him that no one had done nothing wrong. I told him they were in enough trouble, why should I give them more. So one word led to another and he and I got into a little argument. He said he could court martial me for talking like that to him. I asked him if he had ever been on a ship and had his a** shot at. He said no. I said well I have and most of those guys up there have too, so be easy on them. Well he didn't like that one iota, who the heck is this enlisted man telling him what to do. He said he could court martial me but he would do worse than that, he would get me another ship. Up yours buddy is what I am thinking. Well the next morning I had orders to report to New Orleans, Louisiana. I had my ticket, orders everything and said get your a** out of here. So I go to New Orleans and report in and I am assigned to U.S.S. YW112. A YW is a yard water barge and what you do is go out and give water to ships in the harbor where the harbors are polluted and so forth and so on. It only has an eighteen man crew. It only does 7 knots if you're on a little pond. When you get in the ocean and get your a** tossed around and it probably don't do 5. And the first day I am there the sonofab***hes have me cutting grass. The second day they got me washing cups in the new mess hall they are getting ready to open. So I go to the personnel department and I speak to this warrant officer up there who I found out later on was an ex-Quartermaster like I was, when he was enlisted. Hey, they got me washes goddarned cups, mowing lawns and my rate don't dignify me doing work like that. My rate was, in those days, they don't have it now, it was right arm rate and it was about ten right arm rates. They were superior to all the other rates on the left arm in the Navy. Basically, we would take over control of a ship before a medical officer or commissary officer because we were what they called sea-going type rates. So he asked how long I was going to be here. Heck I didn't know. I told him what ship I was assigned to. He asked me where the ship was. Heck I didn't know that either. Well, he told me to go down to the outfit pier and ou find out from them. I went down there, and the guy looked it up and told me it was in Duluth, Minnesota. It will be down here in about four months. He asked if I wanted to go down there and get it. S**t, it's too cold up in Duluth, I want to stay down here. I went back to the office and told them what I had found out and they offered me two different jobs. In those days in New Orleans, the military had to be off the street by 1:00 in the morning. They finally offered me the job being in charge of a barracks. But I had to be off the streets at 1 o'clock. I said no way. He offered me this other job and I said no way. He said well you can work in the brig and you are on 24 hours and your off 24 hours. And the 24 hours you are off, you don't have to come back to the base. You get a special card that permits you to stay out on the streets. Hey that's great for me, s**t, we would go out and these sailors and soldiers would spend money to get broads drunk, then we end up taking them home and going to bed with them. We didn't have to spend any money on them, so it was pretty darn good deal. So mean time, while I was in New Orleans the war in Europe comes to an end.
My grandmother wasn't feeling to well but she wasn't that sick. So I called up my mother and told her I wanted to come home. She said I can't do anything for you. I told her to send me a telegram that says your mother is sick and leave the rest to me. So the next morning I get called to the Chaplain's office. I will never forget that day, it was raining like a sonofab***h. I got a poncho on and I am riding a bike from the brig to the Chaplain's office. He says he has some bad news for you, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to go home. He said we don't send people home for grandparents. I looked right in his eye and said my grandmother raised me, if you don't let me go home then I am going over the hill. Now son, he said you don't want to feel that way. The minute he said son, I knew I had him by the balls. So I ended up getting fifteen days. While I am talking about that, I want to go back to an anecdote or whatever you want to say it is. When my ship was in Philadelphia, before I went to sea, I was in the R Division. That was a repair division because I was working the shipyard before I went in to the Navy. My 19th birthday was just a few days off, so I went up to my officer with a request that I have a 3 day pass. And the reason I put down for this was that we are going to war, I am going to get killed and I will never see my parents again at least let me go home for the 3 days. He rejected it, the bastard. So I will fix his a** , I went to the head of my department, his boss, that's way over his head and showed him the request. And again, his words are now, my son you don't want to feel that way. Whenever they say son, you know you have them by the balls. So he signs the thing. I went to my division officer and told him he would need to get someone else to take my place for the next 3 days since I am going home. No you are not, he said, I rejected your request. Well Commander so and so approved it. Now this guy was only an ensign. He might have been out of OCS a week longer than I been out of bootcamp, so he didn't know his a** from a hole in the ground. So I went home for the 3 days. When I got back, he was so pissed off at me that he transferred me out of his division and into the navigation department because they had an opening. That was the best goddarned job in the Navy. All I did was push a pencil, correct charts and work up in the bridge with all the officers. Anyway, away I go to Rhode Island on the train. I am up there and my uncle, my mother's brother is married to this gal, and she had a sister my age, so I spent all my time with her while I was home on leave. While I was home on leave, I told my mother that when I got back to New Orleans, I am going to put in for submarine service. My mother told me I was crazy, that something happened to me out on that ship. My friends all got killed and now I want to go into submarines. She thought I was an absolute nut and she would pray to God that I don't pass that test. Heck, I am 22 years old, healthy as an ox, what did she mean not pass the test. So I go back to New Orleans and I am there a few days, and one night we went by where the waves, they weren't called sailor in those days, the waves ate. The girls were out there playing softball and one of the girls hit the ball to where me and my buddies were at. And man, I threw the ball as hard as I could back to the pitcher. It stung her hand, because she was standing there jumping up and down and shaking her hand and everything else. The next morning I go up to the office to take my psychological test for the submarine and they said I had to go to so and so's office. S**t, it was the woman that I hit with the ball last night and she is a lieutenant. So this wop did a lot of that sorry and that s**t. She said if she had gotten her hands on me last night she would have killed me. So I spent all day with her taking tests and boy, they put you through the freaking mill. So then they sent me over to the eye/ear/nose and throat specialist. The first test is the eye test. S**t, my eye was bad. I shouldn't have gotten into the Navy. When I took my eye test at the recruiting station, the guy is looking at me and I am looking at the chart, I had both eyes open. He didn't know cause I had my hand blocking my eye but it really wasn't. The doc said how the heck did you get in the Navy. I told him that I cheated. With that eye I wasn't getting on submarines. S**t what the heck do I need good eyesight down in a submarine. He said with the work I do, I am usually one of the first ones up and darn near the last one down. Because you gotta report any enemy ships or airplanes, anything like that. So he said let's go through with the rest of the test. I passed the rest of the physical fine. He told me he would get a waiver for me from Washington. You know they rejected it. Now I had never been on a submarine and didn't know how small they were, and this was in 1945. I finally went on a submarine in 1974, I went from Arizona to Rhode Island to visit my family. And I went to this town called Four River Mass which is about a ten minute drive from my brother's house. They had the battleship Massachusetts there and a WWII sub and they now have the destroyer Kennedy there. I went on that sub and I said "Oh Christ, thank God, my mother's prayers were answered because I don't think I could have taken it. God, were they jammed in there like sardines. Oh, before I went back to New Orleans I went to the movie one night with this guy who was on leave from the Army. I was sitting next to this gal, they would have two movies in those days and have a litte stage show in between features. My cousin had just gotten out of the military with some medical problem and he was a saxophonist in the band that they had. I always had a set of balls, so during the intermission, before they even started playing the music I got up and I was maybe 4 or 5 rows from the stage. So he could recognize me and said Hey Ralph. Anyway this girl said something and I asked her what her name was and she didn't want too much to do with me. Sailors had a bad reputation in Providence. I don't know they probably had a bad reputation wherever they were. But some of it was rightly deserved and some of it wasn't. After the movie ended my buddy and I , he wasn't really my buddy cause I didn't like to run around with that guy because he was bad business. But we took the girl for a cup of coffee, come to find out I went to school with her brother.
Anyway, I went back to New Orleans. Lo and behold this water barge comes down the river that I am assigned to. In the mean time, the darn war ends in the Pacific. So we get the ship all outfitted and we had to go from the Navy base on the Algiers side of the Mississippi to the New Orleans side and get some final radar stuff. The darn base didn't have any gates. It was a civilian yard and you could just walk right out. So my buddy and I walked across the street, young kids and we had too much to drink. We had dungarees on, which was not the uniform, and we had our white hats on. He said let's go to down town New Orleans and we got picked up by the coast guard shore patrol. We ended up sleeping in the brig that night which was the old French Quarter French prison.
Then the next morning they took us back to the ship, they didn't do anything to us on the ship. We loaded up our provisions and headed up down the river and out into the ocean. There were ten ships, 3 YW, 3 YO (oilers), 3 YF (freighters) and an LST. What a fleet, from fast carrier task forces to sh*t scows, lol. And they moved so slow and you could paddle faster than they could move. I came from fast carrier task forces that could do 33 knots to the YW with a top speed of about 7 knots going down hill, lol.
We went on through the Panama Canal and on the Atlantic side, the captain of the little ship said you have the least to do out of anybody on the ship. I am sending you to the hospital for a few days of first aid so if anybody gets hurt you can so a person's finger or put a bandage on. So I always say I went to medical school for two days.
So I went through the Canal a second time, and had leave a second time in Panama. This time, of course, there was even more room in the Canal than when we went through with the Belleau Wood. Our YW and the other small craft went through together. We were 3 abreast! As for Panama, well the war had ended and it was still the pits.
We took that ship out of the canal and I was on the watch the second night out. We got caught in a big storm. We were lucky, we were loaded with fresh water, those other poor bastards were empty and they had a rough time. I was on the Bridge from midnight to 4 in the morning and the lighting was striking all over the place, more hash marks on my shorts, LOL. I never seen a lightning storm that bad in my life. God, you know lightning can strike a ship and do a lot of damage. To be honest, I was scared s**tless. After my four hours of that, I had enough of that, I went down and when I got to where I was sleeping I closed the port whole cover cause I didn't want to see that s**t. We took the ship all the way up to San Diego. Our orders were to stock up and fully load the ship with provisions in San Diego and then go to Hawaii and then to the Philippines. Christ, I thought, it will take forever to go out to the Philippines and they will forget me out there and I will never come back home. So I told you about the ceremonies when we cross the equator, well I hurt my back. So I get my a** up to the dispensary and the Doc says your going to have to be operated on. So I go back to the ship and I tell the Captain that they need a replacement for me because I had to go to the hospital. So he was a little pissed off but he went to personnel and got me a replacement who would come aboard that next morning before they left. So about 7 o'clock that evening the captain says everybody has liberty but you. I told him I didn't give a s**t because the next morning I would be on the dock waving you guys goodbye. About 11 o'clock that evening, s**t I am sitting down having beer, we would put McHale's Navy to shame. We had green uniforms like the Marines except they had USN on them and we had those what they called field shoes and baseball caps for hats and all that kind of crap. And if you had a clean pair of blue dungarees and a clean green shirt that is what you wore. No regulations whatsoever. Well I am sitting down having a beer and this messenger had a telegram for the captain. The captain wasn't there and I was the only one there I can take it. Since I am the only one there, s**t I can open it up. It said Orders have been changed, proceed to San Francisco for duty. Now there is no way in heck I want to go to the hospital in San Diego. I wait for the old man to come back and I said you are a good guy, wherever you go with this ship I will go with you. I reached in my pocket and said this telegram came for him. He said you sonofab***h, you are not going with me. I said look I took this ship all the way from New Orleans. We took that ship all the way up to San Francisco. Before we left San Diego when our orders still read the Philippines, we loaded that ship up with provisions. God, we didn't have much storage, we had crates of canned goods under bunks and every square inch that didn't have something that was operative in it we had stored canned goods and stuff. Because number one it is a long way at 7 knots. Anyway when we got to San Francisco, they put us on subsistence. We were paid a dollar something a day each of us got for food. Man, we didn't have to buy any food for quite awhile. All we had to buy was fresh milk and bread and stuff like that. We would go out in the harbor and give ships water. A lot of the ships were going out of service, being decommissioned. So we would beg and borrow and steal food from them and we very seldom had to pay for anything. So that was an extra 30 bucks a month.
When we reported into San Francisco, we had to report into this Lieutenant Commander. He told us that he would give us a few days to get the ship in shape and then he would inspect it. About 3 or 4 days later he came down and we had, heck it was a brand new ship, good and clean no rust on it yet, linoleum floors up in the bridge, decks as you would call them in the Navy and man, they were all polished up and everything. We made one heckuva impression on that guy. He took one look at the ship and said he wouldn't have to come bug us anymore for more inspections. He was a real nice person to work for and he stood by us as you will find out later.
There is an old saying in the Navy ," the worse shore duty is better than the best sea duty." Well, that is correct but in my case I had better than both of them, On the YW [water barge}
I operated in San Francisco Bay giving water to the ships at anchor, we had 48 on and 48 off and not all the hassles of a shore station and better than sea duty. We could either wear regular Navy dungarees or Navy greens work clothes, well in our case, with no washing machine on board we would wear mix matches, No saluting, no Saturday Inspections, just like being in Mc Hales Navy, only better. I really liked it.
The war had ended and all the ships in the bay were down to a skeleton crew and we used to beg or steal food from them, On the YW we give given a subsistence allowance for our food, most of the time we only had to buy fresh milk from the commissary. I was great being on that ship, life on the carrier was good, we had everything including the war, but on the YW we ate like royalty. Nice quarters, open kitchen.
The currents in San Francisco Bay are pretty wild with cross-currents blowing from every direction. We were going along side this big ship one day, a submarine tender, they tender all submarines in the port and such. I sent them a message to pull their gangways up because you can't just slide a ship in like you would do an automobile, you have to have room to run and everything else. So they put up one gangway and then the officer's gangway they didn't put up, they left it half way down. I got got rough waters and it threw me right against it. We broke the main portion which you step out of the boat onto the gangway. The captain was scared s**tless. He was the next enlisted man, he was afraid they were going to bust his rank. Captains came down wanting to know what happened. This guy was scared s**tless and I said not to worry about it. What do you mean don't worry about it this is my a** . I told him when we go back to the dock, we get up to the office and explain our situation. After we got done giving them a lot of water, we went back to dock and right away went up to the office. We went to see the Lieutenant Commander and explained what happened. We told him the forward gangway was not put up all the way. So the next day he put out a bulletin, anybody requesting water from the water barge will do as the water barge captain tells you to do or you don't get any water.
One day the Captain wasn't on board and we had to go out and give water to a big cargo ship. Now you got to realize that most of these ships were being de-commissioned where they have maybe a 4 or 5 hundred man crew, they would maybe have 100 men on there. All they had to do was keep the engines running to generate what electricity they needed. I am making my approach on them, and they have what they call a boat boom, it swings out from the side of the ship when you are in port and there was a jacob's ladder that you go hand over hand down to get in the little boats that you tie up there. Because, there weren't any docks or piers where you could just go up to them to tie up. So I made my run and at the last minute this cross-current got me and bong the next thing I know the boat boom is passing me. Now here I am only a 3rd Class Petty Officer and wondering, oh God, all I can see is a board of inquiry there. About that time a couple of young lieutenants come over and asked what happened. Those darn cross-currents, etc. They said don't worry about it. The captain of my ship came back one night about 2 in the morning. The night before, there was a long, long pier and we always used to tie up there and it was maybe two feet wide. But the night before somebody came in to tie up for the night and they went right through it and left a gap in there of about 3 or 4 feet. There were no lights, nobody put up a lantern or anything to tell people don't go any further. Well the captain comes back and he is half stoned and he takes a step and the next thing you know he is swimming. Well he finally got on a ladder and got back up and came down to the ship. The first thing he did was come wake me up. What the heck did you do now. What did I do, I was sleeping, I didn't do anything. He used to call me the "Menace to navigation" and I will tell you why in a second. He said he was just walking and then all of a sudden he was swimming.
One time both he and I were on the ship and all the crew was having lunch and I really wasn't supposed to work that day but the crew was having lunch, so heck I will steer the boat and let the Captain direct me. So there was a marker buoy out there, he said to just skim that and go hard left to port, left side. So when I got up to the buoy and I gave it a hard left before I should have and bong, bong. I turned it hard enough so the back end of the ship would hit the buoy. Goddamn, he went crazy. The guys came up from the mess hall and wanted to know what was going on. He starts giving me Heck and I said he told me to skim it. I took some paint off the damn thing what did he want. We were the real, first McHale's Navy. We wore what the Heck we wanted, no regulation whatsoever. Matter of fact, we had a Second Class Fireman on that ship, that is the lowest rank you can have other than a boot camp rate. This guy liked to wear khaki uniforms like the soldiers, GI's, wore. He had khaki pants, shirt and Army garrison cap. One day we were tied up and this ensign came up for some reason or other and he saluted this guy. He thought he was Captain of the ship or something. But it was a fun crew. We had a lot of fun. My best friend down there was a Chief Engineer. We all had big titles. He was a Second Class Motor Machinist Mate, he worked on engines and everything. A polish kid, Diaczinski, we had a lot of fun. We went out drinking and the first thing you know he is drunk and wants to fight. But he don't want to fight with anybody else, he wants to fight with me. But when he had a few drinks you could blow at him and he would fall over. But him and I found this neighborhood bar in San Francisco. So we used to go there all the time, drinks were cheap and the people were real nice. And Heck we became one of the neighborhood crew. Heck a lot of the time we ended up tending bar. The owner would say he had to go somewhere and ask if one of us would tend bar for him. We had a lot of fun in San Francisco.
And like I said before, a lot of the ships were being decommissioned. They were down to just a skeleton crew. We would go out to give them water and we would say do you have any extra this and any extra that. They would say sure how much do you want. Like I said the Navy was giving us $1 for our meals a day. I lied, I checked my service record and they were giving us $1.25 a day for our meals. So we used to beg, borrow or steal food. At one time we had so much beef on there, that the cook got all the best cuts that you can get and we threw the rest of the side of beef into the bay and fed the fish. All ships had a spud locker, where they keep the potatoes and onions that are kept on the open deck out in the fresh air. Now if we would run out of those and some night we had to go along a ship and they wouldn't give us any, I would send a couple of guys over and they would steal a couple sacks of potatoes and onions. They would all give you bread. So the only thing we would have to buy, was fresh milk and ice cream. Even at a $1.25 a day, we were making money off them. Like I said before, we had loaded up so much food because we were preparing to leave San Diego to the Philippines, and that meant seven knots. Two thousand miles to Hawaii. If you could make 100 knots in one day, that is twenty days. So we had food stocked every which way possible, under bunks and any square footage that was available. It was my responsibility to order most of the food and the cigarettes. We were going to sea so I ordered a lot of cigarettes, Heck we were going to sea. At 50 cents a carton, big deal. Man they lasted a long time while we were in the States. Heck we didn't have to buy them for a long time. I think they were $1.25 a carton when you bought them in the States. Anyway, it was McHale's Navy, but we had a good time and got our job done. There were some good people on there. I did regret not going up to Duluth, Minnesota because from what the guys who had gone up there told me was, damn the women up there were out of this world. There was this 38 year old guy with a bald head and you should have seen the good looking gal he had. Anyway, everything happens for the best, you know all that. Not only that, I would just as soon be in New Orleans in January or February, than in Duluth, Minnesota freezing my a** off. I guess everything you do is for a reason. The Captain met a lady up in Duluth and then when the ship got to California she was waiting for us. She had a 16 year old daughter, I think. Well the Captain used to give this radioman, who I think was a little funny if you know what I mean. Well he used to give the kid 2 or 3 bucks and tell him to take the girl to the show to get them out of their hair. But the radioman from the ship used to come back early all the time with the girl and make the skipper real mad, pissed off in plain English. So when they were in San Francisco, I said look Boots, that was the Captain, I said you don't have to give me any money and I will take the girl out. He said he wouldn't trust her with me for a million dollars. I was a good kid, you know I wouldn't do anything bad, you know, not unless I had the chance to. We would be out in the bay and race the ferry boats, we would come close, just about as close as you could come to Alcatraz, without getting turned in for being that close. We would be on our way to give a ship water and go by there. We used it as our own pleasure ship. The Captain and I rotated duties at times and it was a real good deal. And I think it was December, without going through my records, it was between the 10th and 15th of December in 1944, that I had to go to the hospital. So I turned myself in at the Treasure Island Naval Hospital and was operated on there. So Christmas came along and people in San Francisco were great. The newspaper in San Francisco, I don't remember the name of it anymore, but the people all gave money to the newspaper and then the newspaper got that money to every sailor, soldier, marine, coastguardsman that was in the hospital each got ten bucks. Hey ten bucks was ten percent of my monthly pay. And we got all kinds of books and different things. I got something, I don't remember, but the people that donated it left their name on it so I called them up to thank them for it. The lady said nothing was too good for you prisoners of war. So I said to myself, somebody sold them bill of goods, a prisoner of Navy maybe but not a prisoner of war. But they were real good to us. And the Navy also at Christmas time gave each of us five minute free call to our hometown. That is when I found out that my Grandmother had passed away, my mother's mother had died. That was a tough Christmas. But even being in the Naval Hospital after I was operated on, I was ambulatory so I could go into town if I wanted to at night. And one of my friends, his hand was cut off at the wrist, and he was hooked on Morphine. Sometimes before we would go out, he would say how much he hurt and I said he never complained about it before. So he would go up to the nurse and they would give him a shot of Morphine, so he got hooked. From that day to this one, I don't like to take any dope. Even if it is prescribed, because I seen what it did to that kid.
Along comes the day before New Year's Eve, this girl from the telephone company came by my room at the hospital, my bed area. You know we would stay in our bed if it was to our convenience, like when it was time to eat if you were ambulatory you had to go to the mess hall. When it was time to eat, I was in pain and when the meal was over and I didn't have to worry I was out of pain. I would heal real fast. She came by and invited me to a New Year's party at her house. Now, here I am a 20 year old sailor and the wheels start spinning in my head. She said to take my toothbrush and toilet articles. So I said to myself, "Oh boy, this is going to be a good New Year's Eve for me." I went there for the party and it was real good. Then everybody left and typical sailor, what am I ready for and she brought blankets and a pillow and she opened the door to the garage. There was a cot there for me to sleep in that night. There went my ego, to Heck that night. She was a real nice lady, though.
After about a month at the hospital, they said I had to recuperate now and you have two choices where you can go. Sun Valley, Idaho, and this is January, so it is cold or Santa Cruz, California. Everybody told me what a good deal Santa Cruz was, there was a 350 room hotel across the street from the beach. There was an amusement park and a big ballroom. From one of the floors in the hotel you could walk in this covered walkway from the hotel over the street to this ballroom. There were only 90 sailors in the hotel and we were served by civilians in the dining room, so it was really living. You could have a room all to yourself, but what the Heck, you want a roommate. So I had this guy from Massachusetts who was a really good piano player. To me it seemed like a college dorm, the bed linens would go to this lady and she would give us clean linens. We had it made. Well this guy from Mass., he was good and he played by ear. There was a nightclub there on the main drag called Steppin Eddie's. It had a piano and he would just sit down to play and pretty soon people would start requesting songs. His name was Lucky Ross. He would play songs for drinks all night. The bartender didn't care, we would mooch drinks all night, so he didn't care since he was selling booze. We had a good time there. That was the first time I ever saw Gregory Peck in a movie. It was called Spellbound with Ingrid Bergman, I think. They had a local movie house there and it was a good town, the people treated us well. They had a Catholic church about four miles from the hotel. But right across the street from the hotel, it was a Greek restaurant and the owner would take me to church every Sunday and I would get back on my own. If you ever went in town and got loaded and you didn't feel like walking back, cab drivers would take you back for half a buck. Then there was another guy who was a photography nut, he would stand outside of the hotel and offer to take your picture and develop it and print it for a nickel. So that wasn't bad at all. We really had it good at that hotel. You never knew you were in the Navy. A medical officer would come by every day and you would stand by the door jamb. Since you were out drinking almost every night the door jamb would help hold you up. He would ask how you felt and go about his business. Never once all the while I was there was I seen by a doctor, it was always Navy corpsmen. On Fridays you were off from 11 o'clock to 8 o'clock Monday morning. Well who the Heck wanted to go to San Francisco, this little town was heaven. There was a dance every Friday night at the ballroom and we used to have a lot of fun. I had a back injury but I rode the roller coaster on the boardwalk. There was a beautiful beach. I forget how long I was there, about two and a half months. But I heard they were going to close up that hotel and give it back to the owners. The patients left would be sent to Sun Valley, Idaho. So I got to be pretty good buddies with Corpsman and my wound was still open, right at the point of being healed. Sign me off that I am okay so I can go to Boston for discharge. He said he didn't know if he should do that and I told him to give me some bandages to put on the thing and I will be all right and take care of it myself. So I finally convinced him to let me go. The doctor would approve anything anyway. So they gave me orders and I went down and got my ticket, lower berth, first class, all the way to Boston. Now, usually the train goes through Providence on the way to Boston. Every train I ever knew of went that way. By God, the train they assigned me to went through Worchester, Mass and bypassed Providence and I had a 12 hour layover before I had to report in for discharge. So I had to put my duffel bag in a locker and went to Providence. Later that night I took the train back into Boston and next morning I get up to go through the 3 days of indoctrination on how to become a civilian and all that crap. When we got in line the first day, the doctor examined me and said my wound wasn't healed. I was surprised as Heck (yeah, right). He asked where I was from. Providence. Go home and come back tomorrow. So I go home to Providence. This happened for about 3 or 4 days and I finally got a little tired of it. So I told the doctor to let me go home and come back when it is all healed. He didn't like that idea so he was going to give me orders to go to Chelsea Naval Hospital in Boston. So I ended up there for awhile. Now on Wednesdays, the doctor would come by and say I could go home today but come the weekend he would say you shouldn't go home because you might get drunk and get hurt again. So I made a couple of trips over the fence, the Heck with them, what the Heck could they do to me. And I was just about healed and some damn corpsman went to burn the adhesions off my wound and goddamn, he burned me too much. I ended up in the hospital another week. So I went back to what they called the receiving station and I was discharged from the Navy. Happiest guy in the world, I guess. But that was me and My Naval career. Which I had some tough times but I had a lot more good times and a Heckuva lot of fun. The only bad thing is all the friends I lost. But that is the Will of God and that is what it was all about.
Story about one pilot who thumbed his nose at the Captain. I found it in one of the notices I got from a reunion, a newsletter. There was a pilot, named Bill Harvey, from the air group 24, which was a fighter pilot. It is a brief note about the Captain's pride and his personal concern for the pilots, specifically those in air group 24. "Shortly after leaving Maui, we took part in a raid on Kawjalein. As we withdrew from the first strike, we experienced problems with engine fluctuation. Which upon return to our ship was found to be caused by our fuel filter bowls being fouled by the fine red Maui dust. The skipper of the squadron called for mayday. I was ready to ditch. However, my engine kept clearing as I flew passed the bridge. Since the Captain could see no problem, he didn't turn into the wind until I made several passes. With each pass my plane became more of an impending submarine. Finally, the signal to land. As I approached the final cut the engine quit and we landed dead on the deck. Suddenly the operations officer yelled get that plane out of there. I jumped out of the plane, thumbed my nose at the bridge and went below and wow was I mad. Later Captain Pride called for the skipper and me. En route to the bridge, I thought that I should have ditched rather than meet the Captain after thumbing my nose as I did. But to my surprise, he apologized to me instead for the chief had shown him the fuel bowl problem. He advised him that if we had been airborne a few more seconds my plane would have hit the fantail. The fantail is the aft end of the ship. I would have landed in the gun mounts and killed a bunch of people. That was Captain Pride, understanding and proud of his pilots and their crews. I was very proud to have known him, for that incident and secure in the knowledge that our ship was in excellent hands. " Bill Harvey, Air Group 24.
I don't know what else to put on here. All I can say is the war really ended for my on October 30, 1944 after our ship got hit. It has been 54 years ago. Sometimes it seems like it was yesterday and sometimes it just seems like a bad dream. We, my shipmates and I, are reaching the stage in our lives where we are in the twilight of our lives. We have lost a lot of them since the war and we continue to lose them everyday. Some of them, to this day, suffer from their injuries. But I was very fortunate, like I said before all I got was a little case of sunburn and a chip in my right elbow. That was caused by my hands full of cigarettes and candy, coming back from the ship's stores and the ship rolled and I fell down the ladder. I got a cut on my chin from a fight on the ship but I told the doctor it was from a fall. But all in all, there were bad times and a lot of good times. War is funny, it is sometimes very monotonous and sometimes scary as all Heck. You want to find a place to hide, but you don't do it. You do your job. The attitude is it won't be you to get it, someone else will get it, but not you. And I think that is what carries you through a war, you will never get hit. My poor cousin lost his life, he was 19 years old. Me I went through all battles and everything and never got a scratch. The Lord left me on this earth for some reason, and one of these days I will find out what the Heck it is. My attitude on life is very simple. I think young, I act young and will forever be young. I am not your typical 74 year old man. I have no medical problems, thank God. I don't eat right and I don't exercise. I have been smoking since I was 16 years old. I have good genes and I guess I am one of those lucky sonofaguns. I go to my doctor every year and have blood work. I don't want any surprises. The last time I went he accused me of sending my son to the blood tests. They were all perfect and the way I live he couldn't believe it. The only thing he could tell me to keep doing what I am doing, because I am doing something right. My friend, Don Born, that I mentioned who was from my hometown and was also in my same division. I got him in my division, on my ship. We went to a reunion in Jacksonville, Florida in 1987, I believe it was 87. He was suffering from Leukemia. The next reunion was to be held in Vegas. He and his wife were going to fly to Tucson and then we would drive from Tucson to Vegas, the 3 of us. It never came to pass, he died in the mean time. I went to another one in San Diego in 1989. One of my shipmates came all the way from Australia, he was born and raised in Kissimee, Florida. But he moved to Australia and became a rancher out there. He came to the reunion in San Diego and then went on to Florida to visit his family. At the reunion in San Diego, there was the USS Bellawood in there, but she was a LSA. A landing helicopter south ship that mostly carried Marines. It had a flightdeck but not like the flight deck we had on the carrier I was on. It had no elevators. The rear end of the ship opened up and all the amphibious landing craft could just drive out the back of the ship and go ashore. They had, I think it was a 200 bed hospital on the ship. They had ramps going from the lowest part of the ship up to the flight deck, it was quite unique. Like I mentioned before it was an eerie feeling when we walked up on the quarterdeck and saw all the bronze plaques of the battles that my Bellawood was in. And then the ship's bell from my Bellawood was there. And it was an eerie feeling because I sometimes rang the bell to make the time and everything else. My Bellawood was sold to a scrap metal dealer and it was decommissioned. Well it had gone to France for a bit after the war. When they were done with it, they gave it back to us. It went to Chester, PA, I think, where they cut it up for steel. As a matter of fact, some of the guys on the ship were working there taking the thing apart. It is just unreal.
A few days after I got out of the Navy, I went to visit my girlfriend. The gal I mentioned who was my uncle's sister-in-law. I had a brand new suit on, the first civilian clothes I had on since 1942 and this is 1946. I had a peg on them at the cuff. I think normal pants were 19 inches. I had mine pegged down to 18, but you couldn't hardly notice. The reason I had them cut down was I didn't like my pant's cuffs in those days draping over the instep of my foot, I didn't think it looked right. She was a bossy kind of gal, and she never noticed it until I made mention of it. This was shortly after the days of the zoot suiters and everything where all that stuff was noticeable. She couldn't notice this. She did tell me however, to go home and have those pants fixed and don't come back here until they are fixed. Well that was in March or April of '46 and I haven't seen her since. As I left her house, I stopped by to see an aunt and visited with her for awhile. Then I asked if I could use her telephone. I called a girl that I met in a theater in Providence. I knew where her father's office was. She didn't work there, but she just happened to be there that time. She had gone across the street from the office to the drugstore to get medicine for her dad. When the girl in the office answered the phone, I didn't even remember her name, but I asked for Clara because I thought that was her name. Someone said tell him there is no Clara here but my wife, or my wife-to-be popped up and said there is an Ida here. Oh yeah, that is who I want to talk to. If you could have known my wife, she wasn't that type of person. I asked her if I could come see her and I went to chat with her. I saw her every night after that up to the day we got married, which was a year and a half later. After I got married, about 2 weeks later I drove my father-in-law to Arizona. He was coming out here to buy some land because he had asthma and this was a good place for asthma. I got here in July 1947. It was hot and in the humid season. I said this is as goddamn close to Heck as I want to get. I was only there 5 days and I took a bus back to Rhode Island. When I got back to Rhode Island I went to work for my father-in-law's construction company. I was driving a truck one day and I stopped for a stop light and there was a vocational school there. They taught refrigeration, oil burner work, they taught radios and plastic. And I thought to myself, well any idiot can drive this truck so I pulled over and went in and signed up for school. So I went to the vocational school for a year and graduated in June I think it was. We had a nice little apartment that belonged to my father-in-law. My wife worked in his office then. We sold all the furniture that we had in the apartment and even rented the apartment to the people we had sold it to. Loaded up a 1941 Chrysler which had 52,000 miles on it and headed out to Arizona. We got here shortly after 4th of July in 1948 and I have been here 50 years. My 2 children, John, Jr. who is going to be 49 this month, oh my God. The only time I know I am getting old is when the kids have a birthday. Then Robert, my son, he is 44 and married with 2 children. I have a grandson who is a 19 in college and a granddaughter who is a junior in high school. My son, Robert is in the heating and air conditioning business. Although I was in the heating and air conditioning business for a number of years, I got tired of it. I went to work on airplanes, an electrician on B29 bombers and B47 bombers during the Korean War. When I got tired of that I went back into refrigeration. Then I went to work for a man, I think it was in 1954, who had a small shop. It was just him and I in the office. I helped him build that business and run that business. Then Montgomery Ward, in the mean time, built a store in 1961 and I was able to get their contract to do their heating and air conditioning installations. The manager asked my if I would go to work for them because of my background in refrigeration and air conditioning. No I had a good job. Our shop had grown to about 17 people at that time and all I did was make sure my guys were working and off to the golf course almost every day. The man asked me to please go to work for him and help him get off the ground. So I said I would do it for 90 days. At the end of that I would leave but I didn't want that to hurt my relationship as far as my being his installer. So I worked there on Mondays, Wednesday, and Friday evenings for 3 hours and Saturday s. It was like stealing money, because I enjoyed selling. The customer had his paycheck in my pocket. I had to see who was a better man. After I would sell the equipment to him I knew I was the better man because his money was in my pocket. I was with him part-time for about 3 years. One Friday night the boss said he was being transferred and had recommended me to take over the department. The store manager wanted to see me the next day. He gave me a real good deal and I would let him know on Monday evening. When I went to work that evening, I told my boss about the offer but I don't want to take it. We are more like brothers than we are employee and employer. He told me if I didn't take that job he would fire my a** . I said if I took the job he would be broke in a year. That was his problem. I took the job and it wasn't ten months later the business went broke. The guy liked to gamble and spent all his time on the golf course gambling and not paying any attention to business. I worked for Ward's for a number of years and I had a lot to learn. I wasn't used to working for a big company like that . Their procedures and what I could and couldn't do. I finally got disgusted with the pay and they told me I was making more than the average manager. I said that was their problem not mine. I looked around and gave them 3 weeks notice and told them I was going to leave. A friend of mine was working at an aircraft company and he knew a guy up there that was looking for mechanical engineer. I wasn't a mechanical engineer. He said he told the guy that but he told him also what I can do and have done. I have always had a knack in all my adult life and even in the Navy that I could get more out of men than they thought they could give me. And that is one of the biggest assets in managing people. I went up there and the guy offered me more money than I asked for. He was very blunt, you can do all these things right, in 60 days I will give you a raise or fire your a** . That seemed fair. In two years I was his assistant and in four years I had his job. Before I left I had a mechanical engineer working for me, an electrical engineer, an architect and a man who had been in the construction business for years. After my wife died in 1983, I lost my desire to work. What the Heck was I working for. But I continued to work, I was too young then. About the time I turned 63 they called me in, a lot of other fellows in my age bracket with enough points to retire early and they offered me 6 months pay to retire. I think this was around the middle of April and I had to go the first of May, June or July. May sounded good to me, so I retired the first of May, 1987. It has been 11 years and I enjoy every moment of it. I do whatever the Heck I want, when I want and if I don't do it, who gives a damn. I don't have to report to anybody.
I was having lunch with my granddaughter in a Mexican restaurant one day. They had these picture frames on the walls and they were made out of cactus. The giants of all cacti, you may have seen with the arms coming out and they live to be 100 to 125 years old. Without thinking, I said I could make her one. She asked me to make her one. So I had a little shop in the back and I started fooling around and made her one. My son, who is particular as all Heck, I didn't think he would like anything that Southwestern. It is typical Southwestern style. Heck, I ended up making him window shutters for his office and house, tables and I made my daughter-in-law for her office.
You might ask if I was sorry I didn't stay at that Shipyard job I had when the war started. The anser would be no. The Navy was the best thing that ever happened to me, though I did not think so at the time. I learned so very much about life and being able to grow up in a hurry, because you take on tasks that you would shun in civilian life and you just do it. My whole life after the Navy was based on that. I was always put in charge no matter what I was doing. I could get the most out of people when they thought they have given me their all and I did it without people getting angry with me.
I don't know what else to say. Heck, you know a lot more about me than I know about myself.
Summary of Accomplishments
U.S.S. Belleau Wood & Air Groups
Ships Sunk: 1 CVL, IJNS Hiyo (aka Hiyu), Ise Yamato, Aoba. Several other vessels
Planes destroyed on the Ground 285
Planes destroyed in the Air 208
Planes destroyed by antiaircraft fire 9
Locomotives destroyed 20
many hangers destroyed
Approx. 17 Total Months in Combat
Awards: 12 battle stars, The Philppine Liberation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation and also a Presidential Citation From The President of the Philippines
- John M. DiFusco
Back To Biography of John DiFusco, Part One
Unit History of USS Belleau Wood, CVL-24
Boot Camp Liberty - Photo of John M. DiFusco and Mother
USS Belleau Wood - En Route to Sea from Commissioning
USS Belleau Wood, CVL24 - A frontal view
Majuro Lagoon - Photo of Boats of U.S.S. Belleau Wood 2/1944
Marianas - Photo of 2/22/1944
Kamikaze Hit on USS Belleau Wood - Photo of 10/30/1944
Kamikaze Hit on USS Belleau Wood, 2nd view - 2nd Photo of 10/30/1944
Kamikaze Hit on USS Belleau Wood, 3rnd view - 3rd Photo of 10/30/1944
We Got Even - Photo of 1945
USS Cabot - Recent Photo USS Cabot, Belleau Wood Sister-ship
San Francisco - Photo of John M. DiFusco, 1/1945
At The Beach - Photo of John M. DiFusco, 1946
Quartermaster, A Story by John DiFusco
Reunion - Photo of John M. DiFusco and comrades 1987
At The Wheel Again - Photo of 1987 on USS Saratoga
San Diego Reunion - Photo of crew reunion on new Belleau Wood, 1989
USS Belleau Wood, LHA3 - Photo of The Modern Day Ship Where 1989 Reunion Photos Taken
USS Belleau Wood, LHA3, Description, with link to home page of modern Belleau Wood, Use Back Key To Return
Bookcase, Photograph of Artwork of John DiFusco
Fireplace Screens, Photograph of Artwork of John DiFusco
Frames, Photograph of Artwork of John DiFusco
Back To Justin Oral History, Navy Biographies
Please Share your Stories! E-mail the Curator to share or discuss or with any questions!