In World War II we had
been at sea a long time. We never had enough of
canned orange juice on the ship so mostly it was rationed to
the pilots. It was served in their ready rooms while
they were being briefed on their next flight. The
steward mates had custody of the juice. There were
many black steward mates who cooked and served the officer
food, made the beds, and so forth. Now the
enlisted airplane mechanics decided that they would like
some of this orange juice controlled by the steward mates.
The mechanics had access to some alcohol. So one day
the mechanics and steward mates made a deal. They
would swap what each wanted. That night the steward
mates had a big party drinking alcohol. But they
started getting sick. They were afraid to turn
themselves into sick bay because they knew they would be in
trouble. But then one of them died. They all
made a dash to sick bay. They had been drinking methyl
alcohol rather than ethyl alcohol. Several more died
and the rest could not work. The officers beds went
unmade and they had to eat cafeteria style at the enlisted
mess for several days. I do not remember the
punishment awarded, but I am sure the steward mates got off
lightly. I trust the mechanics were punished severely
for knowingly furnishing the methyl alcohol.
The Dirty Bombs
I have heard of
similar stories happening currently in 2001 but this is a
true story from 1945. The aviation gunners must get up
very early in the dark morning to install fuses on the
bombs, which themselves may be left on deck at night.
The gunners noted that in the dark they were getting some
very stinky stuff on their hands. This went on for a
couple of mornings then the gunners decided to do something
about it. They put out guards to determine what was
going on. They caught a culprit urinating and
defecating on a bomb. They took him to Captain's Mast.
His story was that he wanted to crap on the Japanese and
that was his way of doing it. The Captain was not
My flight as Gunnery
We had been in the
Bremerton Ship Yard for some time for repairs. We got
underway and were supposed to test some new ammunition the
next day. We got a message that another carrier nearby
had just tested it and the gun mount blew up, killing a
number of men. We checked with the other carrier and
we had exactly the same lot number of ammunition. I
did not want to test it, but the Captain wanted to do it
anyway since he was anxious to get back to the war zone.
So we made a compromise. I would go ashore and call up
the experts at the Bureau of Ordnance. In those days
we had no ship to shore phones. But how was I to get
ashore? The Captain noted that we had an old torpedo
plane on board that the pilots had been flying from the
Kitsap County airport to get their flight time in.
this plane was too old for combat. The plane had a
seat for only the pilot so the Captain decided I would act
like a torpedo and be stored in the torpedo bay in the
bottom of the plane. They strapped me in a sort of
hammock and closed the torpedo door. It was dark in
there. They put the plane on the catapult and fired.
I heard rivets popping everywhere, the catapult was too much
stress for the old plane. But we did get to the
airport, the pilot got me out of the torpedo bay and I
called the Bureau of Ordnance. They said it was just a
freak accident on the other carrier and that we should test
the ammunition. The pilot strapped me back in the
torpedo bay, we took off and then we had to make a carrier
landing. I could not tell what was going on, but all
of a sudden the plane bumped and stopped quickly. I
knew we were back on the carrier. I reported to the
Captain. This was my first and last carrier landing.
We tested the ammunition without problems. We sailed
for the war zone.