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Earl "Chicken" Rhoden
CPO, VP24/VP12, PEARL HARBOR, USS Saipan, USN
Hello, My name is Earl. Commonly known to all my squadron mates back in 1941 as CHICKEN. Not because I was chicken. But because of my youthful looks. I won't tell you how it came by them to call me by that name. But will say we were on wing logistics in Hilo at the time.
But long before I came to be in Hilo, I was attending High School in Augusta Georgia. The school was run by the MARIST Brothers, A Catholic group out of Savannah Georgia. I am not nor was I then of the Catholic Faith (METHODIST) but was having a bit of trouble with a couple of subjects in public school. There were about a dozen Protestants in the small school. Guess they needed the money LOL. So my parents thought it would do me good in a Catholic school. You don't know how right they were. I learned more in six months with the Brothers than public schools in a year. Even left some of my old Public school mates a year behind.
I was taught Latin, Spanish all at the same time. My Mother said I would get them going in the middle of the night. I was taught never to put out an alcohol lamp by putting the cap back on. I was taught how to give someone a Hip block when playing Basket ball and after hours was taught how to Bowl and drink Beer. The Brothers were great people. One of the Brothers was a German who had fled Germany from the Nazis, One was Irish(of course) one was french, and one was just plain old Shanty Irish American. Think their names were Michael, Joseph, "Frank" and can't remember the others. Never thought I would forget them. Kept the ruler people in business. By the time I got through calling the principal "Mr." rather than Father, I got off to a bad start, so had a few rulers broken across my knuckles.
I was in my Junior year and had to pass the post office one day in December, 1940. They had a sign with a picture of Uncle Sam pointing and saying "MEN" 17 and 18 the navy Wants You. I went in to the recruiting office and they informed me that I had to get parental consent to sign. So after some pretty hard bargaining I finally got my Parents to sign. I don't think they thought I would Qualify as I hadn't been the healthiest person in the world, but fooled them and a whole bunch of my friends . And the next thing I knew was on a train to Norfolk Va, for "BOOT "Camp. Don't let any one tell you Virginia is deep south. It may be. But it has the coldest winters I have ever seen.
My Basic training, "Boot Camp", unit in Norfolk was Platoon 199 under Company Commander CGM, New. One Sunday as we were all lined up to go to church as was the custom in Boot Camp. On the Naval Base In Norfolk Va. the whole Brick Building that the Chapel was in caught fire. Instead of going to church that morning we all spent the day fire fighting. It was by no means a small building. In fact quite a large one, Brick, think it held some of the Administrating Offices. I'd like to hear from some of the people who were there that day. Guess that was the first exciting thing that happened to me in my career in the navy.
Eight weeks of Suffering untold Hardships in Boot camp, then I was shipped to Jacksonville Florida for Aviation Mech School. Was supposed to be in the first class ever to attend school there. But some of "US MEN" came down with measles, so had to wait until we were the fifth class. Class #541. Commander COTTEN was commanding officer of the schools. And before long it was called "Capt.Cotten's Concentration Camp". Worse than Boot camp, No liberty for about the first three weeks then only on weekends and Had to stand Inspection to get liberty then!
The very day we graduated we were put on a train On Base and didn't get off that train until Reaching the Destroyer Base at San Diego, California. There we were divided up to different assignments and as luck would have it I was assigned to Patrol Squadron 24. Didn't know where? But we were loaded on the U.S.S. Wharton at the foot of Broadway in San Diego and about six days latter off loaded at Pearl Harbor. A place not too many of us had ever heard of. My Squadron was on the other side of the Island of Oahu at Kaneohe Bay, the windward side. Many of the Rest of the Class continued on to places further West.
So Six months after becoming a "MAN " I was five thousand miles away from Home. Turned 18 in Jacksonville (and last May turned 75 in Jacksonville).
As I said, I was originally with Patrol Squadron 24. We changed our designation about a month before the Pearl Harbor attack to Patrol Squadron 12, VP12. Also in the month of November, 1941, just a month before the war started, we went on Wing Tactics. This was a logistics exercise where we went to Hilo to meet Seaplane Tender Curtiss for training.
Seaplane Tender AV - 4
A seaplane tender was a ship rigged to maintain, support and supply a seaplane squadron. Although they could hoist a seaplane aboard to work on her, they didn't carry the squadron and the planes didn't take off from her like a carrier. The seaplanes would land and take off and remain in the water nearby. The Tender's mission, together with their squadron which would fly out to meet them, was to create a seaplane base in any harbor, inlet or lagoon big enough to provide protection from the open ocean for the planes and Tender. No other facilities would be needed, no runway or anything on land. This gave a seaplane squadron a tactical flexibility unmatched by any other air unit with comparable range (carrier aircraft of the day had an operating radius far less that of a PBY). While deployed with a Tender, the Tender would serve as the seaplane squadron's Supply Ship and Compartments, where we would eat, sleep and live while not manning the planes.
The USS Curtis was a larger ship, about like the tenders of today. We went to Hilo to have duty with it. The Tenders were our home base as long as we were on Logistics, and we lived aboard as such for about a week on this particular training exercise. We anchored the planes out to different buoys in the harbor and the ship sent its tenders out to feed us and take us to the ship for rest and clean ups. We would fly in the daytimes.
We were accompanied by the USS Tangier, a smaller ship about the size of a small Tin Can in today's fleet. She was Tender for another squadron at the time. The Curtis and Tangier were fierce battle mates. These two ships had a fight to see which one was the better of the two. And they didn't stop to find out while we were aboard. They hated one another's guts. So all you would have to do to start a fight was mention the one ship's name to a crewman of the other. One of the first times I was ever knocked out was on the landing at Hilo due to this rivalry! We had a little skirmish with the Tangier crew in town at Hilo as well.
Another bit of trouble was caused during this training. Part of our training was dropping water fills to depict Real Bombs. During this bombing training one of our planes landed a string of water fills on the flight deck of the old LEX, the carrier U.S.S. Lexington. There was a little hell to pay over that.
We were on Hilo the night that the Volcano on Hawaii was giving off its beauty. We flew around it and wished we could have had a camera. That was a beauty. I don't think we ever saw anything like it before. It was a thing of Beauty that even some of our Older pilots were shedding a tear over.
Beyond the Hilo shore excursions mentioned above, we never did anything to amount to anything before the war. We didn't have the money to go over into Honolulu, which is on the other side of the islands from Kaneohe over the Pali, was a long Bus ride from Kaneohe. We had so little money. We had to save. It was a long ways to go, and to go without money to do something was a waste of time. The Saturday night before the war started was a night where we had enough saved and we went over to Honolulu to have a couple of drinks and to see the show.
I was certainly no Hero on the morning of the attack. I guess you could call me a scared teenager. I had turned 18 in May of that year, had just made Petty Officer third December 1st, and certainly was one that least expected an enemy attack. Although there had been some hints, such as a couple of weeks before the war torpedoes being added to the PBY's armament, We, the enlisted, had no inkling that we were so close to war. But we soon found out !!
I had to relieve the watch on the morning of the attack and I was eating breakfast in the mess hall when it started. They had been doing some renovation on the mess hall, But normally no work was done on Sunday. About the time I entered the mess hall I heard what I thought was jackhammers and thought then it was funny that they were working on Sunday. Didn't have to wonder long. A Mess cook came running in and Said "Some guy is shooting at us from an airplane". At that we all ran out to see what was going on.
When we got out this plane with a red ball on its wings and side was circling the Administration building. Round and round. Not more than a few feet off the ground. He must have been taking pictures as he wasn't paying any attention to any of us. But there were others of his type that were flying around and up and down the bay shooting at anything. Mostly Airplanes, which had already been hit and some were beginning to burn.
At about the time we had gotten outside the attack ended (So we thought) at least they had quit shooting so we all started to run towards the hangars and the seaplane ramps. I ran into My boss at the time, who was a first class by the name of W.H. Walker. He told me that I was to report to the hangar and as I was leaving to go he said not to get hurt.Which to this day seemed a useless warning.
Our Planes were all anchored out in the bay as we were still on Wing Tactics and all had at least two crew aboard as more or less fire and anchor watch. By the time I reached the hangar a lot of the planes were already burning and were either sinking or the crews were trying to start the engines to move them. But too late to try and save any, They all burned. Along with all the crews. They had been shot up so bad.
As I recall we had eleven planes out of twelve anchored out and of course the two crewmen which had been either killed or drowned. That was where we lost most of our personnel that morning and as I said about the time I reached the hangar another attack was just starting, so some one told us to get inside the hangar and instructed me and some others to work to help with belting fifty Cal. ammo in the bomb sight vault in the hangar. And of course that definitely wasn't the safest place to be right about that time.
They had not used bombs until then, But about the time we got into the hangar they started their bomb runs. Inside each there were Steel Bomb sight vaults and that was where we were belting the ammo. Just outside the door to the vault that me and about a dozen others were some "smoke" Tanks (These were tanks carried under the wing looking like wing tanks for fuel) but carried a chemical that produced Smoke for smoke screens to be laid down by the planes. When air hit the chemicals it produced smoke.
The Japs made a direct hit on the hangar. So when the bombs hit the hanger the punctured the tanks and the hanger quickly filled with smoke. But as one of the bombs hit right outside the vault door which was partly open is when I went against my bosses order, I got hurt. But not so bad as with several others around me. One lost his leg at the knee, another was killed outright and others hurt in various degrees. I was hit in the face about an inch from my right eye (I still carry a small piece of steel in my cheek bone) also several places in scalp and right side. But nothing that made me fall.
When I recovered from the concussion I went out through the hangar to escape all the smoke and fire . With only those few minor cuts and dirty pants I managed to get out of the hangar before it burnt to the ground. That was when I remember trying to open the door to the outside of one of the shops and it would not open someone shot the lock off and we PUSHED the door open after we learned it didn't pull open.
As I got outside the hangar, The planes started strafing along side the building, as there were a lot of us coming out that way. I hid down behind a 55 gallon barrel and found a little hole had appeared at the top of the barrel as I ducked to hide. Close but no cigar that time.
By this time there was little or no order. There was not any panic. Just so much going on at once.
A fellow we called "Red" Barber told me I had better get to sick bay as I was bleeding from my "WOUNDS"?? so as soon as they slowed down with their attack I high tailed it to sickbay to get a couple bandaids. I was one of the lesser wounded so was put to work hauling stretchers. Do you know that a body gets heavier when life leaves it? As we carried one fellow he died and I will swear to this day the load went heavier.
Every time I looked up and sometime even when I didn't look up some one was sticking me with a needle with Tetanus.
I stayed at sickbay until just about dark;.Then they, the powers that be, told us all to go to the hill that was on the base and that is where we stayed that night and into the next day. We were all so afraid that the Japs were coming to make a landing that we were not allowed to sleep in the barracks. That meant we had to sleep on the outside of any buildings for a while.
Any way the navy issued nice white blankets back then, with USN stamped on them. Needless to say there were none left after sleeping on the grass and mud at Kaneohe. Neither did we wear White uniforms. They were all dyed brown at the galley in coffee so they wouldn't show up like a sore thumb. We didn't wear those coffee dyed uniforms but a very short time. We were not allowed to go ashore or go into Honolulu to be exact. So we wore dungarees. But the ship board sailors had to wear Blue White hats.
It was a time when everyone was on edge. Just knowing the Japs were planning on making a landing on the windward side (Kaneohe) of Oahu, every one was jumpy. A boat broke loose from the boat house one night and was sunk by the seaman guard before it had gone fifty yards. Any time anyone started running for any purpose everyone would run. Not knowing where, just running to cover.
We had a new skipper along about that time. Name was Commander Bulkeley. He had a bad leg. But don't get in front of him if an air raid alarm sounded. He would run over you. We weren't cowards. We were some of the few US Personnel at that time that knew what an air raid was, and could do. So it was look for the nearest hole away from the hangers and planes when it sounded.
By the way Commander Bulkeley was brother to "They were Expendable" Lt. John D. Bulkeley in the south Pacific PT boats. Great skipper, and runner!
Around this time we found out how well the Japs had mapped out for the attack. There was a tank on the base we thought was a fuel tank, and it wasn't touched during the attack. Later they found a map on one of the Jap Planes that was shot down at Kaneohe, and the map said it was a water tank. They knew more about us than we knew about ourselves.
I remember one night a gang of us was laying on the lawn outside the barracks and the chaplain had a truck with a speaker on it going all over the base playing music. Not Carols but popular song. One I shall never forget was a song called "ELMERS TUNE". I shall never forget that tune.
I believe that night was the first time I had ever been really Homesick.
As for the "MEN" of my Aviation Mech Class, Many had not stayed in Pearl but had gone on to places and ships further west, Guam, The Phillipines and ships like The OLD Lexington, Sara, and some even to the first carrier the navy ever had U.S.S. LANGLEY, built from a converted coal carrier for the navy. Needless to say very few of them survived the first six months of the war. I know of two who were on Bataan at time of the surrender. Have often thought how they must have made out and how "LUCKY" I was not to have been among the ones that went on further west.
After the powers that be figured out the japs were not going to make a landing they figured it was safe enough to go back to whites again and we could go back into the barracks. As I can remember it was almost Christmas before we were allowed to sleep inside.
The planes we had just before and during the attack were PBY 5s. When I first reported in to VP24 they had old Flat back PBY2s and 3s. No Blisters. Just sliding hatches. Well about in the early fall of 1941 we received New airplanes, The new PBY 5s were strictly seaplanes, no wheels. They had to have side mounts and a tail mount to put them in the water, it took about five men to do that, and when it was time to retrieve them the side mounts had to be attached by swimmers on each side of the plane. And then it had to be hauled out on a ramp by a tractor, which was a time consuming chore. So when we got back from a flight we had to haul it out and then wash salt water off, refuel and tie down. That in itself was a days work.
Well after the attack when we lost all but one of our planes anchored out in the bay, we went back to the states and brought back PBY5As, which were amphibians and needed no beaching crew. Great progress! The planes had retracting Landing gear built in to them. Which made them at the time the Largest Amphibians in the world. Their wing span was 104ft. and was mounted above the hull like a parasol. The hull was built like a boat and made a good seaplane. Even rough water landings. The twin engines turned two Three bladed propellers, and if the pilots stuck their hands out too far would not bring them back in.
The PBYs carried about maybe two tons under the wings. I am not sure. We carried four 350 pound dual purpose bombs two under each side under the wing. They could be dropped as depth charges or armed to act as bombs. Distinct danger to both subs and surface. I do know they also carried torpedoes. A couple of weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack some of the crew came into the barracks one night and said, "Hey They are hanging Fish On the planes." I being new never heard the torpedoes called fish up until then. Lucky for all of us we never had to make a torpedo run. That is to my knowledge. They, the PBYs, were so slow. A guy with a BB gun could hit them. The top speed I ever saw was about 130 kts. and the old gal was shivering and shaking doing that. Usually cruised about 110kts. We never again loaded Torpedoes. Think it might have been just a test or something.
Beyond the wingload, they had twin thirty cal. machine guns in the bow. We had twin Fifties in each side Blister, and twin thirties out the Tunnel hatch. The tunnel hatch was a hatch that opened in the after bottom of the Airplane behind the blisters. It was located so that anything that was coming up from below could be used as a toilet if you were unlucky enough to have to have a bowel movement in flight. Used a Poopie Bag (a water proof bag about the size of a paper grocery bag) then dropped it out the tunnel hatch, Often wondered what the enemy thought we were dropping them in the bags. Guess they were a little bit surprised when the bag hit the ground! That wasn't the real reason for the tunnel hatch though. It was originally made to help when the plane was on the water. so tender boats could be secured without hitting the plane, and other sea going uses. The Tunnel hatch was well aft of the water line on the plane. It had better be shut on take offs and landings but could be opened in calm water just sitting still.
The Twin fifties were mounted side by side, and when the gunner was firing them, He took a hugging position with his Arms stretched around each gun. It was first thought to use just one fifty, But some one thought if the japs were as afraid of one fifty as they were then they would be doubly afraid with two. The Bubble could not be closed all the way with the twin mount as one barrel stuck out. So it had a very touchy water landing.
We would take off from Kaneohe before day break in the mornings. Fly all day come back in after sunset. in the evening. After the war started and we got new planes we were short handed on crews so we were making those long over water Patrols every other day. And if you don't think flying about a hundred feet off the water twelve thirteen hours every other day wasn't work, We all of us will chow down on your best hats. The planes had an auto pilot, more or less just servos to help the pilots control the planes. Nothing like auto pilots of today. But flying that close to the water the pilots never really relied too much on them.
There is so much to be said about those old Planes a book could be written on them. I don't believe any one person could write a complete book on the PBY. It had a long and glorious history. There are still some in use to this day. Here I have just tried to explain what they were. I have often wondered how some of these pilots of today would feel about flying them. LOL. They have a PBY5A Here at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. When they wanted to fly it in here they had to get an old army Air Force Pilot to fly it, no one around here with all the fine upstanding Naval Aviators knew the first thing about flying one LOL.
I stayed with VP12 after Pearl Harbor. Our Officer in Command was named Allen, a Regular Navy Commander. Our planes sighted the Jap fleet off Midway, we were the squadron they talked about in the movie Midway. Later we did a lot of patrolling in the south Pacific. We were mainly in the Solomon Islands and worked our way up to NEW Ireland and that area. We were the original "BLACK CATS". Most of our flying in the South West Pacific was done at night. Much of our flying was Lighting up Jap Barges supplying their beachheads in the Northern Solomons and Especially Buka passage. We also did a share of rescuing downed airmen but Primarily that of dropping Flares to light up Jap Landing Craft so that The PT boats could destroy them, that's part of JFKs story. We were the Patrol squadron that they talked about in PT109.
Finding ships and boats at nights was a fairly easy thing down there. Big moon lit nights like daylight and also we had flares to light up the ocean like day. The Flares were magnesium and were about four feet long and about six inches in diameter. We had tubes to drop them through, but in the passage we had to get them out faster than the tubes could handle them. So We mostly dropped them from the waist hatches by hand. They weren't all that heavy. It was easy to toss them out of the waist hatch. Remember PBYs weren't very fast and could fly as slow as about 90 Kts. That's not too fast that like today if you stuck you arm out of a plane it would rip it off. The flares were actuated by a static cord that pulled the chute and ignited the flare too. You had to throw them down a bit but was not all that hard to do. They had Parachutes on them so when we dropped them they stayed in the air for quite a while and it got pretty bright down on the surface. Made sighting the barges very easy. We carried so many flares that it was a hard matter to find a place to sit or lay while on patrol and most of the time most were used during a mission.
I was flight crew at times, and ground crew mostly. Being a parachute rigger I was not assigned to a flight crew on a permanent basis. I would fly when I needed flight time or when they were short handed. I flew, but not like the ones that were assigned as their primary duties. I have been on the Flare missions, I was on a couple of "bombing" missions, but not like the regular flight crews. But like I said every man in the squadron flew his time. We even had a little, short, Black fellow who flew a lot on flight crew when he had time off from other duties. Back then Blacks were normally resigned to cooks and Officers' steward. But the Navy really wasn't as strict about segregation as you might think. We had a Black man that worked in our personnel office before the war started (his name was Smith). I have no idea how he got his job outside of his rating. But Smith was an excellent Yeoman, (personnel man) and sure did a good job in the office. The officers had full knowledge and there was never any controversy as to what color they were. We were separated in all other respects - Housing, Eating, et cetera until the Truman era.
Like I told you, I was not always on a flight crew. My job was safety equipment.We carried Parachutes in the planes but they were of little use as we never flew high enough to get them on and get out of the planes. I did have one instance in another Squadron of PBYs where all Thirteen crew members jumped and survived. I Know they were up near New Ireland but that's all the details I have on it.
During the Battle of Midway the squadron had sent me to a school thinking it was at Pearl Harbor. But when I got to Pearl they told me the school, a refresher course in Parachutes, was in San Diego. So about the time I got to San Diego the Battle was going on. I Stayed back in the states about three months and then was shipped back to VP12 aboard the Motor Vessel BLOEM FONTAINE. It was a dutch merchantman and was quite speedy. We went alone from San Francisco to LATOKA FIJI and I rejoined my squadron there. A Little Place called NANDI On the ISLAND VETA LAVU. The British had a small airstrip that we used for a while then went on to ESPRETO SANTOS (BUTTONS) from there we went to GUADALCANAL( CACTUS). So that's how I spent the first part of the war.
The words in brackets were the code names of those islands. I wish I could remember the others. EFATE (ROSES), But can't recall some of the others. If I am correct some of the movies picked up the code names and used them in the movie. Believe PT109 used Cactus. Air planes were CARDFILE I think. It could have been another but think that was it.
After Hawaii we went to a place call Latoka Fiji. We left there and went to Neumea New Caledonia. From there to Espirito Santos. Then to Guadalcanal, Tulagi, Munda, Green Island, Bougainville, New Ireland, New Guinea and back to Guadacanal. It was as if I were in the Marines or Army. As soon as the marines secured a piece of land and the airstrip we would move in. In fact some times before all the Japs had moved out LOL. The nearest thing I came to a ship during the war was transports to haul me back and forth when we couldn't get us all in Airplanes, LOL And a good time was had by all LOL.
I flew flight crew at times. My first time at being shot at in the air was we were going from one island to another and I was in the Port waist hatch. I saw some Lazy points of red coming towards the plane and reported to the pilots that some one was firing flares, which turned out to be tracers fired from the ground at us. Believe you me. I knew a tracer from a flare from that day on.
I did fire the fifties on the PBY. But not too often. Only one time at anything. We were on a flight one day, And this Jap comes up from Nowhere along side us in What we called a BETTY, a two engine Bomber. Like two battleships we fired at each other but we were out of his range of fire, but he was just right for the fifties. We fired back at him for just an instant. I don't know wether we hit him or not. But they were scared to death of those fifties. It was all over in a matter of just a few Minutes. Think he may have wanted to take our picture. LOL.
Our move to the Solomons signaled the beginning of night flying for VP12. In Kaneohe the planes had been painted blue, in fact they still had the factory paint job on them. The planes were painted Black either in Fiji or Esprito Santos. It was right after we got down there and found out most of our flying was going to be after dark. The paint they used originally was some they found laying around and they added Lamp Black to it to Make if as flat a black as possible. It did not shine anywhere. The Original "STEALTH BOMBERS". They were Black when we began flying night missions, giving us our Squadron nickname, Black Cats.
On Guadalcanal we flew out of Henderson Field. The field was maintained by the 63rd Seabees. For our night landings they had lighting units to mark the field. Henderson Field was made of steel matting. And regardless how well it is put down it is extremely noisy to either take off of or land on. Not really rougher than concrete but enough you can tell. Think the matting was called MARSTERN MATTING. If I am not correct sure some one will correct me. LOL. It comes in strips about twenty five feet long and about two feet wide. Has holes spaced in it so as not to be slick in wet weather. Also the grass can grow up in the holes hopefully to help hide the strip from enemy eyes. It also has locking edges so that the strips can be locked together both on sides and ends. You can still find it being used in boggy ground a lot to let trucks and construction equipment cross.
We took fire at times flying out of Henderson Field. Also, although I never actually saw the Tokyo Express, I did feel the results of it at times when they would fire shells into the islands. The reason we never took any casualties was we were well versed in digging Fox holes and covering them with Coconut logs. Palm Olive Co. Had many palm trees down there and was a tale going around that they charged the US for every one felled. But I did learn to eat Heart Of Palm Salad there.You know it kills a palm tree to cut the heart out of it to make salad??
As soon as we got off the ground or water we would light up. And would you like to know the name of our Cigarettes? They were Chelsea.Came in a Peanut can. Smoked like that much HAY. Even the natives wouldn't smoke them. We got a ration of Real smokes every once in a while along with a ration of warm, no, Hot beer about once a week. The beer was either BALLINTINES or PRIMO. I can still taste it UGH!!!
I was on The Canal when one of the biggest battles took place. Watched it from the beach. We lost several ships because they were shooting at each other in the dark Not knowing where the Japs were. But they finally sunk the Jap fleet and you know the rest. That Battle was the battle of Skylark Channel Or Tulagi Straits. Can't remember But today it is known as Iron Bottom Bay.
Also while we were on Guadalcanal an Ammo Dump blew up. It was a large one. It was located some place about four Miles from Our "Camp" and had some very big explosives in it. I think they said one of the blasts was from 30,000 lbs of block TNT, but of course to us all of it was loud. It happened on the first Thanksgiving we were on Guadalcanal. There were still Japs around, still plenty of them on the island. And that could have been the cause, I don't remember. I do know I've never liked fireworks since, LOL.
We like I have said before lived like the army did in 16x16 tents with floors built of maybe mahogany and our stores were more or less just piled on the ground where we could get to them. Any way to make the long story a little shorter, I was laying in my cot one morning about daylight when I heard all the shouting and hollering. When I got up and to the store site here was this Jap soldier sitting on top of a stack of Spam eating away on a can of the "DELICIOUS" Stuff. waving either a handkerchief or white flag, Saying "Surrender".
And though we were laughing so hard at him we finally realized he was "OUR ENEMY" so we took him to the Leading chief's tent and there he, still eating his Spam, was put under arrest as a POW. I guess that was about the funniest thing any of us ever saw down there. So don't ever say they didn't surrender.
Other times of Fun were with Washing Machine CHARLEY, this would be at night on the canal. We had a lot of air raids when we first got there. But after they started to get to the Japs up North the raids got fewer and fewer. Finally to just one a night. One lonely Jap would fly over every night. He would come in every night just about the same time, drop one bomb on the airstrip and go on about his other Business. We called him Washing Machine Charlie. He never could get his engines in sync so we could tell who it was. The tale is that he finally asked where we wanted him to drop his bomb. He never did any damage to speak of, just a few holes. But some young new gung ho HOT SHOT pilot went up one night and shot him down.
A plane doesn't scream in a fall like in the movies. It yells and makes all kind of noises. Same with a Bomb. They whisper real loud, a swishing sound. Unless they put whistles on them to make them whistle.
Guadacanal was and guess is still the only place on earth where you can stand in mud up to your hips and be blinded by a dust storm. It is also the most Odorous place on the face of the globe, Everything is Mildewed, or rotten. Also, we didn't have "PORTA POTTYS" down in the Solomons. But we had something better, Mahogany Out Houses. Mahogany was the most plentiful wood down there so the SEABEES built everything out of it, and that included the OUT HOUSES. Now how many people today have any thing like that. Glorious South Pacific. During my time there if a WHITE Gal came through there on a plane. The whole Island turned out to see her. LOL.
One time right after we got to the South Pacific that one of our planes went from Guadacanal to Tulagi. There was no strip at Tulagi so they had to make a water landing, which was ok. I really don't know if I ever really heard of a sea plane crashing on a water landing. There were times a plane would dig a wingtip float in too far and go spinning around. But not often. At least with us. But when this fellow came back to Henderson Field he still thinking about water I guess because he made a wheels up landing on the Steel Matting Runway at Henderson Field!
I went aboard the plane right after the landing. and was looking at the radioman's log. He had written "Landed (such and such time ) and in long hand And CRASSSSSHHHeeeeeeeeddd. Thought that was a little funny. No one other than the pilot's ego was injured.
After the Canal and Tulagi we moved to Munda, in the new Georgia Group. Munda was white coral. You were blinded if you tried to go without sunglasses.Only the Sand Crabs would go out in the middle of the day without them. Those Crabs were so thick and so fearsome looking I think they were worse than facing the enemy. They were called Coconut Crabs and I don't think I ever heard of a use for them. At times they crawled all over everything on the Island.
I had to go to Guadacanal from Munda one time to pick up some life rafts for our planes. We had used the ones our planes carried, ostensibly for life saving missions. Actually we didn't fly many rescue missions, flying at night as we did. We had used them ourselves. The Merchant fleet would go to Australia and bring back War supplies to the Marines and people stationed on the islands and there was always a few places they could store some of that Aussie Beer and whiskey. Well the only way out to those ships was by boat. and what better boat than a life raft? Then too we were all barefoot, ever try to walk on a steel deck barefooted in the tropics? So we used the rafts to have some way to get out to those Merchant ships to pay a dollar a bottle for Beer. And don't laugh at paying a dollar a bottle for beer, That was probably like paying ten dollars a bottle for it now. What we wouldn't or would do just for a few bottles of good old Aussie Beer. We didn't have any use other than that for our money. In fact paper money would rot so fast down there we very seldom were able to keep it long enough to spend anywhere else. Most everything was given to us anyway. So now the story of the shortage of life rafts comes out. Wonder if anyone else ever heard it?
To get back to the Transport, today I guess they would be using 747s.and probably it would be all plush seating with pretty hostesses to serve Peanuts and drinks. Well in the years of WW2 we rode in Navy R4Ds (C47s), Twin engine prop driven planes first built by Douglas Air Craft back in the 30's, Some still in use to this day. They had a wing that the engineers of the day said would never fly. Only like the Bumble Bee, no one ever told the airplane it couldn't.
During the war years in the South West Pacific the armed forces had a group of these airplanes and called themselves S.C.A.T. I never really found out what the letters stood for. But those pilots and crews would load everything from Jeeps and small tractors in them and fly out of and onto strips that nowadays would not even make a Decent downtown parking lot. Those old planes really took a beating. they were tough. And did I forget to mention that they also took passengers from island to island in the Pacific theatre? Thats how I travelled looking for these life rafts.
In case you are wondering why we didn't use the PBYs for transport, they would not have the space inside to carry a bulky cargo.You could barley stand in any place in them. Whereas the R4Ds were made for cargo and passengers. They were configured to hold twenty one passengers as a civilian air liner. Two seats in a row on one side the other side had one seat in the row, seven singles and seven doubles. Of course the military version had canvas bucket seats along the sides and room for cargo in the middle or any where else they could find to put it. Most of the time it was a combination of passengers and cargo.The seats could be made into stretcher beds. Of course those canvas seats ran to length of the plane.
Well, while I was looking for the new Rafts I had to go all the way to Australia to a supply base for them. When I found the rafts I didn't have the Authority to put them on the planes to bring back to our squadron. So had to really rough it there for a week before I could get out myself. I have forgotten the name of the place in Australia. It was in Queensland and was only a wide spot in a dirt road. but some of the prettiest and friendliest ladies were working there. OH MY.
So the squadron eventually got the life rafts. As I said we didn't fly too many life saving missions. I can't remember but one flight where we picked up a pilot. But wasn't war action. His plane just developed trouble and he happened to be close to us one day so we landed on a mill pond sea and picked him up. No Big deal except he was worried about sharks gittin him first. By the way. He was a marine pilot flying a corsair. Did remember his name but have long forgotten.
We were on Munda when VP 12 went back to the states to both rest crews and replace planes. VP 81 relieved VP 12, taking over the same sort of missions and also flying black painted PBYs. VP 81 was commanded by Cmdr. E. P. Rankin later to pilot at that time the longest airplane flight in history. From Australia to OHIO without refueling, Remember the TRUCULENT TURTLE?
Ground pounders, ground crew, were needed down there so a few of us stayed on rather than return to the States. As such I was transferred to PATSU 1-1, a ground crew detachment that supported squadron VP 81.
PATSU Stands for Patrol Aircraft Transit Service Unit. About this time of the war the navy decided that flight crews were to be different than ground crews, in as much as the flight crews did nothing but fly. I told you when we were at Kaneohe and making those long flights then having to refuel, wash down, rearm and tie down. Now we had a crew on the ground all the time that did all that when the plane came back in, the flight crew would not have to do this. All the ones not on regular flight crews were ground crew. These Ground crews were the complement of The PATSUs (or FASRONs for fighter groups, et cetera). Patsu was made up of all Ratings and did ALL maintenance on the aircraft. Up to this day and time there are still versions of Patsus. Some are called AMTDs, others have different designations.
When VP12 went back to the states those of us that had not been down south as long as the ones who flew down when the Squadron went to Fiji remained in Munda. Remember I was sent down there to meet the squadron after they got to FIJI, I was gone about four months, therefore when I returned it was as if I was just joining the squadron for this time in service purpose. Anyway we were how they got the personnel to form the PATSU. We took care of the planes that we had been taking care of only we did not normally fly as crewmen.
Remember I was a Aviation Mech. before I was a parachute rigger. So when I was transferred to PATSU I was still working with PBYs, only the squadron had changed. Also the squadron would still sometimes need a replacement flight crew man and that was where I came in. Might be for one flight. Might be for a few flights or you may be just assigned to that crew in case.
VP 12 returned to Guadalcanal about a year later and resumed its patrols and other missions. But by then I was pretty much hooked up with Patsu and didn't have too much to do with them. Almost entirely new people.
From Munda we, Patsu 1-1 and VP 81, went to Green Island and then to Bougainville. Bougainville had an active Volcano (Mt Bogana I believe it was called ) that rumbled every evening. Always had smoke coming out of it, And we were always afraid it would be getting ready to blow its top (Which it did right after we returned to the states, Written up in Life Magazine at the time).
We never listened to TOKYO ROSE as much as we did a guy that spoke perfect English, Called THE ZERO HOUR. Boy he made some really true statements. He knew what planes were on patrol that night what squadron they were from. Even sometimes down to what we had for supper. Course that part wasn't so hard because all the meat we ever got was New Zealand Lamb, Ram Sheep OR goat, or spam and Vienna Sausage, Powdered eggs, Dried Milk, and butter out of a can. No such thing as Fresh Bread. Hard Tack Biscuits right out of the can. Plenty of Jam and Marmalade (orange). Oh yeah, Plenty Of Jap rice!
Bougainville was never really taken. The Japs on Bougainville had plenty supplies and even grew their own gardens. That is where the BUKA passage was and that was where they were supplied .They would run barges from island to island at night with troops and supplies . That's where Kennedy and his gang played havoc with them.
On Bouganville. There was an army P38 squadron.and also PAPPY BOYINGTON'S "Black Sheep". The P38 squadron was the ones who shot down Admiral YAMAMOTO in the plane he was going to Rabaul in. And of course Pappy Boyington did everything. They had the F4U gull wing fighter. Both squadrons were stationed along with us. But of course we had no connection with them other than we were all in the same war. I had met Boyington and a lot of his men. But of course at that time they were just another fighting unit like the rest. And the TV and Movies hadn't made him the big hero "That he and his guys really were."
I Spoke above of the Japs having their own gardens. Well it seems that Pappy and his gang were a little jealous of the Japs having all that fresh vegetables. So they sprayed the gardens with Diesel oil and another plane would come along behind the ones spraying and fire Incendiaries into it and set them afire. Then The Japs would get mad an we would have a couple Air raids around us for a few days after.
We had two airfields on Bougainville. They were called Bomber Strip and Fighter Strip, I had thought they were Piva North and South but am not certain, those names may have been on another Island, it has been a long time. Had a bunch of FIJIANS there in the Royal Marines, That had to pay for their rifles, Because they were just a couple steps ahead of head hunters, and would rather use Machetes, which they carried with them every where. Glad they were on our side.
We took fire sometimes when taking off from the field at Bougainville. The Japs there would stand in groups at the end of the strips and fire their rifles as we took off and landed. We carried small anti personnel Bombs in the PBYs, normally in a bundle of about twenty or so wired together so when they were dropped they would separate and make a wide swathe any where they hit. Each one weighed about twenty Pounds. Some times we would separate them so that they could be thrown out of the Waist Hatches. This we would do to the japs at the end of the runways on Takeoff. Make a nice wide spot in the gang of japs firing their rifles at us. LOL. We also threw empty beer bottles at them, scared the pee will out of them especially at night. They could hear them falling like blowing across the neck of a bottle only louder. LOL. And at first they waited for them to explode, but of course never did. Did I say never? We finally wised up to throw the bottles out at the same time we threw the small Anti personnel bombs. They would just stand there waiting for the bottles and all of a sudden Bombs!
The army had a tank company there on Bougainville. They were right along side our camp area, so we thought it would be a great thing to ride one on one of their patrols ONCE WAS ENOUGH, That is for me. I didn't like the idea of the Japs shooting at me even though they only had twenty five cal. rifles, which the tankers didn't even notice pinging off the sides of the tanks. THAT WAS FUN?
I watched Going My Way with Bing Crosby on Bogainville. I also got the news of the Allied landing in France 6th Of June 44. We left Bougainville right after that, via New Ireland and New Guinea, returned to Guadacanal and trip Home on the Matson Liner Monterey, at that time converted to a Troop ship. But it had Fresh Bread. We hadn't had that since arriving in the Beautiful Tropical Isles.
We had flown those same old planes until the engines had about as much compression as a tire pump. You could almost blow on the propeller and make them spin LOL.
We were as lucky as any outfit in the war, Not having a single plane lost to enemy action. In fact the only person we lost after the December attack was a pilot that was flying with another Squadron at the time. His name was "Chubby" Ellis. He was an enlisted Pilot (NAP) and was flying with another squadron, our replacement squadron, some place up near New Ireland when he was lost. Before the war he flew for one of the local airlines in Honolulu. Or some private operator. Had to bail out one time and he always liked Riggers. He was quite a character. He was made Chief one day and busted back to first the next day - he passed out cigars anyway.
Another fellow in the squadron was old Chief Musser. He could make alcohol out of water. I had never seen or heard of some of the ways he would have to get drunk. And he never drank alone. LOL. He was an old salt from the old school. He refused to wear a shirt. One day some army general stopped him and asked him "Chief would you like to get on our Team" (meaning put a shirt on). Musser told the general to just show him the ball field and he would be right there! I saw Musser after returning to the states, either in San Diego or San Francisco if memory serves.
There were other characters in the Squadrons. At one point we, Patsu and VP 81, were stationed on Guadacanal. We had parrots down there and someone had trained one to talk. The Bird sat on top of this commander's tent and had a steady string of words to the effect "Screw The Skipper". Only that was the polite way to say it and the parrot had had no courtesy training, LOL.
There was also a Lt. Norm E. Pederson in the squadron who wrote a book after the war. But I can't agree with all he wrote. Guess over the years different folk have different memories. For example, I have a copy of his book, and he says he was over in Ewa I think when the first wave hit, but got back to Kaneohe as they were just starting to hit Kaneohe. That in itself wasn't true. We were hit first, as they were on their way to Pearl. Don't know how much sooner. There must be a million versions of what happened on that day and I would venture to say there will be something different in each LOL. But I have told it as I remember it, and dare say that anything that I've said was anything but the truth. LOL.
Norm's book is Life Of A Fighting Black Cat. His book is in the Library of Congress Catalog Number 93-87579, ISBN number 1-57087-026-8 printed by Professional Press, Chapel Hill,North Carolina 27515-43. Norm Died last year he lived about a hundred miles south of me in Deleon Springs Florida. I have a copy of his book, as you can see. It is an autographed copy and I will not let it get too far out of my sight.
I was promoted to Chief Petty Officer in 1945, just a few days before VJ day. After the war the Navy seemed like a Canoe Club so I stayed.
I got married to a long time girl friend in 1946 (October) and she didn't like the idea of being away from her Mama as we were in California, at the time of the marriage. She would have nothing to do with me staying in the navy. So off we went back to Augusta, Georgia, That is for just six months! Just long enough that the time for me to reenlist and keep my rating as Chief had lapsed. Then she and her Mama and even our silver ware went back to Mamas. LOL.
I finally went back in the Navy in 1947 as Third Class Petty Officer and was sent to Seattle, WA. Where it rained everyday I was there. So after six months due to a friend in the personnel office I got my wish for a transfer to Kodiak Alaska.
I did flew some rescue missions out of Kodiak. All were ships in trouble of one kind or another. Sickness, accidents and the like. We dropped some Oxygen to a Russian Freighter one time for an injured crewman. Like I said if I had been a regular crewman my story could have had more adventure. But that was not my plight. I flew with the Coast Guard out of Kodiak several times. Went to St. Paul Island to carry some people to study the seals. Just a long tiresome flight. and nothing there but seals when we got there and when we left. I made Second class at Kodiak and came back to the lower forty eight in 1949.
As I said I was a Junior in High School when I enlisted. So I went into the navy without a high school diploma (which is unheard of today) and through courses in the navy finished up junior year. When I took a discharge after the war and I Finished up All but three months of high school at my old school in Augusta. Then after returning to the navy they made it a ruling that all had to be high school grads, so took a few more courses and passed my GED. Since then have taken some.(VERY FEW) college courses in certain subjects and that about accounted for my education (Academic that is) LOL.
At Alameda, California, Had a blind date with a gal from Georgia that was living out there with her Parents. One thing led to another and we got married. We were married in the Chapel at Alameda, by Chaplin Henry Page White, on 11 April 1950 which happened to be my new wife's Birthday. Both for second time (and last). We are still a couple.
This is my wedding picture. I am second from right, next to me my bride. The lady on end was Best mans wife, He is next to me
After making first class was shipped back to Pensacola. I didn't Know there was any other Airplane when I first got into the navy. Thought PBYs were the only thing in the navy. Not really, but I didn't have anything to do with any other type Aircraft until the early 50s when I was transferred to Pensacola. As I was saying never knew any other type Airplane existed in the navy besides PBY. Well of course by the time I went to Kodiak, PBYs were getting to be things of the past. We had two up there but that was the last. After a tour in Alameda and While at Pensacola, had a variety of types. But my first love is and was PBYs - the Catalina. Upon the transfer to Pensacola I was stationed at Main side. Two years there and then the shock of my life. Was transferred to an Aircraft Carrier USS SAIPAN CVL48.
Light Carrier U.S.S. Saipan CVL48
Before I got aboard it was called the Chesapeake Raider. It was BBF (be back Friday). When a ship is not deployed overseas or not busy otherwise they do what they call BBF. Be back Friday. That means they go out on Monday, train and catch up on things that need catching up on and return to port on Fridays. But after I reported aboard. We didn't stop PERIOD. Went aboard Christmas Eve 1952. Left for GITMO Cuba shortly after, can't remember the month. While on six weeks shakedown in Cuba we learned we were to take the Middies on their spring Cruise to South America.
After we picked up the Midshipmen in Annapolis we headed to Brasil ( Santos) and when we crossed the equator. There was a whole ship load of Shellbacks, where only about one in ten of us were shellbacks before.
Midshipmen on Deck
During the Midshipmen cruise they took a photo of everyone on the flight deck, spelling out the words "Midshipmen `53". That wa before we got to South America. I am in the midshipmen photo. If you want to pick me out I am one of the ones in the middle of the "M". LOL.
As we neared port they asked if we knew any one on the crew that could speak Portuguese. We picked one out, but all he could say was "Where is the Cabana?" LOL. His Name was Phillips. He was a Photographer Airman. But now he is retired from the Marines. He was a pilot for them. Shows you how the Marines pick GOOD men. He is a methodist Minister now lives in Florida.
We made port at Santos Brasil and I was lucky enough to draw a trip by air UP TO Rio for Three days.
I have always been a little nervous flying Commercial Aviation; I put all my faith in our Navy Pilots. Never get nervous in a Navy plane, Because we had the best of the pilots. I still remember this commercial flight in Brazil. As I said, the Ship was In port at Santos Brazil. And I had been "lucky" enough to get a three day trip to Rio. We had to fly from Sao Paulo to Rio via Brazil air lines. Thats a long flight over a lot of territory that there hasn't been too many White men in, jungles and areas that were at that time a lost world so to speak. I don't remember just how long a flight it was. But we were in a DC3, a twin engine propeller driven aircraft. About half way through the flight, with a full passenger load of 21 souls, I think all but myself being Midshipmen, we lost an engine.
Now I knew that that old plane could fly on one engine, as they so often do. But those Midshipmen new to aviation, didn't have the slightest idea whether they were ever going to see the sun come up again. I guess that was the closest I have ever come to seeing mass hysteria. I was more afraid that they would cause trouble than of the airplane going down. Believe you me that was a scared and terrified bunch of future Naval officers. I wonder today if any of them went aviation, and if they did did they remember that flight from Sao Paula to Rio.
By the way, I was a nervous wreck when we landed at Rio. And I have often thought how we would have survived if we had crashed in those Jungles LOL.
When we landed we were met by a guide, who was wearing a tie with a picture of a guy in a toilet with a tank up high in back with his hand holding the flush chain saying Fare well Cruel World.
I Have never really talked about that trip too much. But I still have the ticket stub for the flight in an album now.
From Brazil back to Annapolis then to the Great City of Norfolk Va. OUR home port.
As I said before, when I went aboard the Saipan we didn't stop 'PERIOD'. It was announced that on our return to Norfolk and a short yard period we would be going to the Far East for at least six months on station.
We left Norfolk, Pulled into Mayport(FL) and picked up our squadron of aircraft (ADs), VMF 324, I believe that was their number. A Marine Squadron. After leaving Mayport passed through the Panama Canal, Up the west Coast Of US to San Diego Cal.Where we stayed about a week. (Good to see some of my old stomping grounds again) From San Diego to Pearl Harbor, ( Nothing like the last time I saw it) And after about a week we pulled out for Yokosuka Japan. We were there only a few days and were assigned as our home port Sasebo Japan, a small port on the very southern tip of Japan.
The days there were pretty much routine. The Korean war had been over for a month or so. At least they had quit at one another.
Some of our assignments were to take some of the Army troops from Korea on R&R to Hong Kong for a weeks Liberty and so called Recreation.
Back at Sasebo and around the China Sea for the next six months. The day we were to leave to head home the Captain called All Hands on the hangar and put it to a vote. Those who would like to complete the trip around the world or head back via Pearl Harbor with the possibility of Having to spend six weeks there on training.
We all voted to complete the world cruise; so, Hong Kong, Singapore, Columbo (Ceylon at the time), Aden, up through the Red Sea through the Suez Canal to Naples Italy and Villefrance France. One of the prettiest harbors in the world. Right in the middle of the French Riviera. Looked like a Model railroad layout. Mountains coming right down to the water, with roads and railroads built into the side of the mountains. Water was so blue looked as if you could put it in a fountain pen and write with it. So to really do the U.S. Navy's "THING" the "Oil King" aboard the Saipan decided it was the right time to open the wrong valve, Dumping "several" gallons of Bunker Oil into that beautiful water. The oil gang had to spend their time polishing the rocks along the beach and waterfront. But not before The French had just about declared war on the Saipan. They were very unhappy and we had to cut our visit a little short by request of the French Government.
But after leaving Villefrance we were lucky enough to be the first ship to make Barcelona Spain since WW2. And we were really welcomed there. They had Old cables over the city from Worlds Fair that carried trams from seaside to Fair grounds. And were worried they would fall on the populace.
After Spain we went around to Lisbon and from there back to good old US of A. Had a wonderful cruise on the Saipan around the world.
From time to time over my career there were several trips to Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. Stationed at Lakehurst for three or four times going to different schools, Refresher courses. I would go there sometimes for as little as two weeks and others more like six weeks. So Many trips there for one or the other, I can't really keep track.of what they were for. I went up there twice from Pensacola, twice from the Saipan and think once from one of the squadrons.
The schooling would be related to a specialty, like one trip for training on Liquid Oxygen, Pressure suits and regulator repair. On that trip We lived for one or two months in Beachwood. In one of the summer homes. The house belonged to Fire Chief in city there that makes fire extinguishers.
Another of my schools relating to my rate as a Parachute rigger. All of my training would be in Lakehurst. Lakehurst is the home to the Parachute riggers in the Navy. They most all trained there, The only school in the navy at that time that required you to make a parachute jump for your graduation.And to wear the rating badge with a parachute with wings, (I don't know if that is still the case or not). Anyway. It was a sixteen week school, Class A, and I have yet to figure how I ever managed to get two class A schools in the navy as they use to limit you to just one.
I was at Lakehurst the day the first student was killed in a practice jump. And as luck would have it I was standing next to his wife. I think he was a Marine. I believe there have only been two fatalities in the history of the parachute Riggers school.
Jumped from about 3000 to 5000 feet, Back when people would stop and watch you fall. Never used a static line in my life. Even graduation Jump we pulled our own rip cords. And if we didn't hold on the the handle we bought beer for the crowd. I lost a good friend, maybe I shouldn't call him that, he introduced me to my wife. Anyway he was one of the first to do a lot of free falling. And he free fell a little too far one day out in Sunnyvale California. Hit the ground just as his chute opened. Another fifty feet and he would been safe.I was his Honor Guard at his funeral. (One if not the biggest Jobs of my life to present the flag to his Mother). I think that were it not that I got my orders to Pensacola. I would have been one of the original members of a stunt diving team. There were about six of us that Jumped on the weekends just for the fun of it. And it was fun. Before anyone thought of it as a sport.
The time at school wasn't very much doing. Lakehurst isn't in the most populated part of New Jersey. More Deer in those woods than I have ever seen any where, but for people there really wasn't anything much to do. A little too far to both Philadelphia and New York for a week day liberty. And Transportation was at a premium. Just buses, which cost money to ride.
One time I went up to Lakehurst from the Saipan for two months schooling of some sort. So I took my wife and two older Boys(At that time the only kids) so that I might have a little time with family. Well I had no orders to the effect that I had my family with me and never gave it a thought. But the day I finished my course they handed me a set of orders and a bus ticket to Norfolk Virginia. I had driven them up and had a little one wheel trailer with our stuff. so was really in a bind. I tried to fast talk the personnel officer into letting me have seventy two hours leave to drive my family and car back to Norfolk, No dice. I had to report back aboard my ship within twenty four hours.
I called the ship on my own and got permission to take leave regardless of how the orders read. (Only a Phone message). Well when I got back to the ship and my orders reading that I was about forty eight hours AWOL I was in a mess. But luckily Got it straightened out before I was sent to mast. Almost had a perfect record smashed right there. LOL. Not that I was a Pantywaist. Got into plenty scrapes and stuff. But never had to go before the Captain but twice in twenty years. Proves you can have lots of fun and keep it clean too LOL.
My Sea Duty was up when the Saipan returned to MayPort from the World Cruise so both the ship and myself was transferred BACK to Pensacola. I had never spent a day on a carrier until I went aboard the USS Saipan in the fifties. Then didn't think I was ever going to get off. But looking back, on that ship were some of the best times of my life. I still miss her. We have a super bunch of people that get together once a year from the Saipan. And a lot of us are online so we keep pretty much in touch with each other all the time.
Back to Pensacola for two years from there to VP 5 at NAS Jacksonville. Stayed there until 1959 then to NAS Cecil Field. So finished out twenty years. I can truthfully say I enjoyed every day of my Naval Career.
I Retired from VF 174 (Hell Razors) at Cecil field in June 1961. We moved back to Augusta Georgia where I went to work at Continental Can Co. Making paper.
I did real good there due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. A lot of the old timers at the mill were National Guardsman and that opened a lot of positions that would have normally have taken years to open for me. In fact I received four promotions hardly before my first pay period was up. They were short handed. Finally after four years had to leave as I couldn't stand the chemicals.
Worked at Army Fort Gordon for about six months and then had an old offer from Florida State Prison to come to work as an Instructor in the Garment Factory. In 1972 the inmates got so rowdy and we had less and less control over them. I left the prison and went to work as assistant manager. Of a wholesale Upholstery Supply warehouse.
The manager was a woman, so I had the job of going all over Florida, south Georgia and south Alabama. Made a lot of friends and enjoyed the job.
After thirteen years they hired a new man as the manager was to retire, And I was sixty years old they let me go.
I worked at one of the other supply houses for about two years then retired to S/S at 62.
After that about all thats left of my useful active life I had a Heart attack and emphysema. So have been just a Honeydo now for quite a few years and enjoying My Grand Children.. I hope this will be of some use to my grand kids some day. I know I wish I had a record of my family. But other than a few cousins, I am about all that remains. A mother in a Nursing home. Still as loverable as ever. She will be 94 August 30, 1998 (Curator's Note: Mrs. Rhoden has passed away since the original draft of this Biography ) .
----- Earl Rhoden
Curator's Note, Earl has recently passed away. A Good man, he is missed.
Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000 Earl Rhoden and John Justin All Rights Reserved
Black Gang versus Deck Apes, A Story by Earl "Chicken" Rhoden
Black Staff and Flight Crew, Article by Earl "Chicken" Rhoden (Contained Above in Full)
Chief Musser, A Story by Earl "Chicken" Rhoden (Contained Above in Full)
Hurricane, A Story by Earl "Chicken" Rhoden
Parrotting, A Story by Earl "Chicken" Rhoden, (Contained Above in Full)
Black Cats Unit Page, Page Dedicated to VP12 Black Cats of World War Two, Use Back Key To Return
PBY Catalina Illustrations, Multiple Angle Illustrations of Catalina, recommended by Earl, Use Back Key To Return
PBY Catalina Foundation, PBY devoted page, Use Back Key To Return
Consolidated PBY Catalina, Aviation Encyclopedia, Use Back Key To Return
NAS Kaneohe, August 1941, Aerial Photo of Kaneohe Air Station
USS Curtis, AV-4, Photo
USS Curtis, AV-4, Veterans Website
USS Saipan, Photo
USS Saipan, Unit History, history as Saipan and Arlington, Use Back Key
U.S.S. Saipan, CVL48, Hong Kong, Photo, In Harbor, February 1954
U.S.S. Saipan, CVL48, Mid-Atlantic, Photo, Middies on deck during 1953 Midshipmen Cruise
U.S.S. Saipan, CVL48, On the Ways, Photo, Ready for Launching, 1945
U.S.S. Saipan, CVL48, Under Way, Photo, At Sea, June, 1953
VP-5, USN, Homepage, Earl Rhoden's unit c.late 1950s, Use Back Key To Return
VPNavy, Past and Present VP crew dedicated page, Use Back Key to Return
WWW.PBY.COM, A Page Devoted to the history of the PBY and her crews, Use Back Key To Return
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