Chapter 3
Marriage and the War
We were married just weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and honeymooned in Idyllwild using a cabin that belong to Hubert Chamness’s family. We decided to drive down to Palm Springs for a day and had just driven past a camp ground when the Chevy stopped dead. I knew enough to determine that the distributor rotor wasn’t turning. I walked back to the camp ground and the only persons there were an elderly couple driving a new Cadillac. They were on their way to Palm Springs and said they would give us a push. I draped the rear floor matt over our bumper to keep from scratching theirs and they push us a several miles to the long decline and we coasted down the mountain. They were right behind us when we reach the bottom and pushed us to a garage. I don’t know what we would have done if they hadn’t been there and been so willing to put their beautiful car in jeopardy. The repairs used up all we had to spend in Palm Springs plus a little more so we just drove around rubber necking and then headed back to Idyllwild.
Now I always stop if I can when I see someone stranded. A few years ago I was on the same road on my way back from Palm Springs to San Diego when a car with an elderly couple was on the side of the road. My cell phone couldn’t pick a signal so I drove on to the nearest garage and sent a tow truck back. It felt good to be on the same road and help someone as we had been helped.
Hubert Chamness, who had lent us the cabin, was a great guy with a sparkling personality. He married and used it for his honeymoon the day after we returned. Two years later he was lost over Germany.
I was still in trade school so for a few weeks we had a room in Los Angeles and spent weekends in Long Beach. I had joined the Carpenters Union so when I graduated I went to work as an apprentice for a old time contractor who knew me from my working with Dad. He was building a large home on the Virginia Country Club golf course and was strictly old school. He did not believe in the new fangled Skill Saws that we had been taught to use. So, I had to cut every stud, crippled stud, header, rafter and fire block with a hand saw. But the worst was the sloping deck on the second floor, I had to hand rip a long slanting cut in each of the floor joists and in the process discovered unknown and unused muscles.
My next job was working on the first subdivision built in a new, adjacent area called Lakewood Village. (I sold some of the same homes years later as District Sales Manager for Walker and Lee and later as Sparow Realty) As an apprentice I was assigned to the "finish carpenters" crew but all I was allowed to do was nail the plywood sub flooring cut and laid by others. (Try nailing for 8-hours a day on your knees.) One morning I quietly started installing window and door trim and succeeded until mid afternoon when the foreman found me.
But, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor I wanted to work on something more meaningful than tract housing. We were at war now so the next day I went to the Union hiring hall and asked to take my Journeyman Oral Examination. The interview was very brief after they discovered that I had been to Frank Wiggins. On the way out I was given a work slip to go to the construction site of the Naval Base on Terminal Island. It said "Journeyman" which meant that I had been fully vetted. The pay increase was welcome and it meant I was going to be doing something more meaningful.
I was put to work with the crews building the huge dry docks forms. When the foreman found out I could read the blueprints I was paired with another carpenter and we were assigned to work with the engineers and surveyors checking out the completed forms before concrete was poured. We became friends and wrote each other during the war. He had moved to Fallbrook and was raising turkeys and thoroughbred Collie's. I had written him about the son I had waiting and his next letter said he had a litter of Collies and that he would save one for Dan. When I got home we went to see him, had a great visit, and picked up the dog. We named him Fella but he became too big and too active for little kids and since we didn’t have a proper yard we shipped him to Mom and Dad and their 20 acres in Grass Valley. Fella blossomed into a beautiful dog who could have played the role of Lassie if time and gender and location had been different.
Months before Pearl Harbor Dad and Mom had been visiting Grass Valley and bought an old home on 20 acres that use to be a dairy farm. They had sold their home in Long Beach and left town the day of the night that our anti aircraft thought Jap planes were overhead and attempted to shoot them down. There were't any but the town was thoroughly shaken up.
I had tried to enlist in the Air Corps in L. A. but was rejected on flat feet and varicose veins. Later my doctor explained that the examiner would evaluate my arches while he had the stethoscope on my chest listening to my heart. So, all I would have to do is hold my arches up when he did that. He injected my varicose veins and when I applied again four weeks later at the Pasadena recruiting center I was accepted and started a three month wait for a call to duty.
Marguerite was working in the "Pilot’s Loft" coffee shop of the Ferry Command based at the Long Beach Airport and we started buying war bonds for both the Country’s and our future. In anticipation of becoming a pilot or navigator I took a night course in spherical trigonometry and was happy to received an "A".
I wanted to spend some time with my folks in Grass Valley but Marguerite was about five months along and was told she shouldn’t ride in the car but could take the train. Going ahead I got a job as a carpenter constructing barracks at Camp Beale located east of Grass Valley and sent for her. She saw the Doctor again and got his blessing and gave me the date and time to meet her. I drove to Colfax and she wasn’t on the train. I finally found out that she had become ill on the train and had been taken to the hospital in Santa Barbara because of a miscarriage. Unfortunately her Doctor had failed to listen for a heart beat when he examined her and the fetus had been dead for some time. I packed, said good bye to the folks, Grandmother and Bobby and took off for Santa Barbara. It was a long, worrisome trip but her Mother had driven up from Long Beach and she was okay.
It was in the first part of February, 1943 when my Air Force call finally came. Marguerite moved in with her Mom, Dad and sister Betty Anne. She drove me to the train in L. A. and it wasn’t easy to say goodbye. We had no idea when we would see each other again.
Fresno’s Fair Grounds had been converted to a basic training camp and was our first stop. All of us were Aviation Cadets and this was the first of the tests and examinations we faced before being sent to preflight. Assigned to a barrack and briefed on what to expect we began to get acquainted. After chow I walked over to the Enlisted Men’s Club and as I walked in I was greeted by Sinatra singing a soon to be classic, "That Old Black Magic". Hearing it always takes me back to that first night. Then it was all drills and aptitude and IQ tests for a few days until they loaded us on a train for Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe, Arizona.
It soon became apparent that the Air Force was warehousing us. They had enlisted more cadets than the flight schools could handle so they had us taking dumb and dumber courses. The math class began by reviewing decimals and I was amazed when some of the cadets had problems with them. Another class was on the flora and the fauna of Arizona which didn’t seem to advance our flying skills or much else.
We were housed in the campus dormitories and marched in groups wherever we went on campus. We ate in the cafeteria and were served by coeds who also lived in dorms. We weren’t allowed contact with them on campus but there was coffee shop nearby and in the evenings some of them would be there. We were housed two to a room and we slept in large, sleeping porches. One night after lights were out and a beautiful moon was shining one of the sororities serenaded us. It was like something out of a movie. Another time I was invited to a Sorority House for Sunday breakfast. I don’t know who put me on their invitation list but it was a real treat.
We did get a few hours of flying in basic trainers and finally we were shipped to Santa Anna for air crew classification: pilot, navigator or washout. After more tests and a psychological evaluation I was told I had qualified for either pilot or navigator.
But, the next day they notified me I had failed the depth perception eye test required for flight crew. It was a sharp disappointment.
Sixty years later John Steiger and I met in Oceanside Rotary and discovered that he had also been on that train and had been one of the acting Cadet Officers and went on to become a pilot. We also discovered that he had been active in the Oceanside Jaycees at the same time I was active in the Long Beach Jaycees and we had attended some of the same State Jaycee meetings. He was proud or our relationship and always introduced me as "Senator" to his friends. He was known as "Mr. Oceanside" for his years of public service and passed away while I was writing this.
Next stop was English Field, Amarillo, TX along with 200 other washed out ex-cadets. Some who had advanced in flight training to the point they had bought their uniforms. I was warehoused there for two months and finally shipped to Sheppard Field at Wichita Falls, TX where I asked to be transferred the Army Engineers Corps. Instead I was assigned to a Mess Group’s Carpenter Shop. At the initial meeting with the assignment officer he told me they had never had anyone with an IQ as high as mine. I wish I had answered, “I guess that disqualifies me for officer training.”
It entailed a few months of making huge paddles for the cooks to stir the pots, a shotgun case for the commanding officer and a jewelry box for Marguerite but not much of anything that would add to the war effort.
When it appeared I’d be stuck there for a while Marguerite joined me which was a real blessing. We rented a room with kitchen privileges from a lady who only had 40 watt bulbs in all the lamps. I bought 100 watt bulbs and when she gave me notice she was increasing the rent because of the brighter bulbs I referred it to the war time Rent Control Board who threw out her claim. Next, we shared an apartment with a soldier friend and his wife who were from Santa Barbara. They were a nice couple but he wrote me later that she had sent him what became known as a "Dear John letter". She had fallen in love with someone else.
Three months later I was given a brief leave of absence and orders to report to Newport News, Virginia for overseas duty. We drove home using black market gas coupons because there was no other way. After visiting family and friends in Long Beach we visited Grass Valley to see Mom, Dad, Grandmother and my brother Bob. I caught the train for the long ride to Newport News. Saying goodbye wasn’t easy not knowing when the war would end and when I’d be coming home.
The ship was a new Army troop carrier with wire sleeping racks stacked four high. I was okay until we hit the high seas and then, if I wasn’t laying down I was sick. We did get an hour on deck each day and three trips to the mess hall. I learned that if I saved some food and ate it just before going to the mess hall I could make it there and back safely.
We sailed unescorted for 41 days and spent the time reading, playing cards and writing letters. We cruised down the East coast and then through the Panama Canal and ran into a storm when we hit the Pacific. We were in the bow and when the bow came down it sounding like a hundred cannons. We all prayed that the women riveters knew what they were doing.
We traveled under Australia to Fremantle on the west coast where we were given a one day shore leave. While waiting our turn we were allowed on deck and talked to the Aussies on the dock who came to visit. One of them threw a newspaper on board and there was a big ad that said, "Keep your pecker up!" We thought that was funny even after we found out it meant "spirits". The next day a bunk mate friend and I took the narrow gage railroad for the short trip to Perth, the capital of Australia. We hit a bar the first thing and what a disappointment, they drank their beer warm. Later we met a young couple who had a car with a charcoal burning tank as their fuel source mounted on the rear. They took us on a drive to a park on a hill where we had cookies and tea while they told us about their country. I had read about crumpets and had looked forward to having one but was disappointed when I discovered they were much too similar to cold pancakes.
From Fremantle we steamed north to Bombay, India where we marched through the streets to a British Transit Camp. Needless to say it was good to be back on terra firma. (The more firma the less terror.) A short walk away was a French restaurant and when we could afford it we would eat there since the British army food was worse than ours. In reference to army food the big joke at that time was, "Food would win the war, the problem was, how do we get the enemy to eat it."
The restaurant food was excellent and their pastries were out of this world. I noticed once that my napkin was dirty and was informed that because laundering was so hard on linens there was only one per place each night. If you were first it was clean.
But, most distressing were the children on the street in front of the restaurant who had been deliberately crippled so they could beg. I won’t burden you with the descriptions of how. A large part of the City was western but when you entered the other areas you wished you didn’t have to breathe.
A few days later we were put on a train for Calcutta on the other side of the continent. Three of us were put in a small compartment that had benches facing each other and a baggage rack above one of them. Two of us slept on the benches and the smallest had to sleep in the baggage rack. The toilet in the bath was a concrete floor sloping towards a hole with pedestals on each side for our feet. We had been given "D" rations to feast upon when we were hungry and at train stations the Red Cross furnished us boiled hot water for our chocolate drink. Three days and three nights later we were in Calcutta. I thought that was a long trip until I met a soldier who had been on a freight train for a week that was side tracked for all passenger trains.
We were only in Calcutta long enough to catch a narrow gage train for Dinjan in Assam, India to join the 10th Air Force Headquarters. Assam was a province in north west India now called Bhutan and borders on Burma, now called Myanmar. It is separated from Burma by a mountain range named the Little Hump as opposed to the Himalayas, the Big Hump. We came to a river and had to get out and walk across a bridge to another train carrying our baggage.
When we arrived we found that the 10th Air Force headquarters was moving to Mytchinaw in northern Burma. I had been assigned to a fighter squadron that was on its way to China that couldn’t use my talents so I was reassigned to the 1st Tactical Air Support Squadron and we moved to Mytchinaw.
We were a communication unit that sent out teams to the British, Chinese and American armies. When an air strike was needed the Army would specify the type of target and bombs required and we would relay the information to an air base, wherever it was. When our planes came over we would talk them into their targets. Due to the trees and foliage, the enemy wasn’t always visible and we didn’t want bombs dropped on our forces or ourselves.
The siege of the Mytchinaw airfield had lasted 70 days with allied forces at one end of the field and the Japs at the other. I know it’s not politically correct now to refer to them as Japs but under the circumstances at that time they were referred to as the, %@^&#m Japs. After we arrived we were only bombed twice, each time by a lone plane that dropped one bomb. It was their last effort in their retreat south towards Mandalay. The British Army was on their tail backed by our Air Force. Later I was sent to join them.
For entertainment there was poker and, on rare occasions, movies where we would fight the mosquitoes and eat bananas. There was one USO show with Pat O’Brien, a big star at the time. Speaking of mosquitoes we all carefully took our Atabrine daily to avoid malaria. For recreation we would take walks in the jungle to some of the little villages and occasionally a temple. In the ruble of a dilapidated temple I found a small, brass Buddha and a wooden carving of a dog faced temple guard. I sent them home and displayed them for years. I finally gave them Michael who had become a Zen Buddhist. He was uncomfortable about how I obtained them but, had there been any sign that the temple was in use I wouldn’t have touched them.
We also played soft ball if the heat wasn’t too bad and we had ridged up a shower by putting a 300-gallon tank up on some posts and pumping it full of river water. It was cold when the air temp was 110 degrees. Occasionally we would check out a Jeep and drive a short distance to a nearby village that had the equivalent of a restaurant. There weren’t many choices but their egg fu young was safe, very good and not what they call it here. It was an omelet with chopped green onions and maybe some spices and seemed to be the safest item on the menu.
The Officer’s "Dog Robber" (Gopher) was a hillbilly who would take the bulk raisins that no one would eat, put them in a 5-gallon water can with water and sugar, tie a piece of gauze over the opening and let it sit until it was ready to drink. I tasted and passed on seconds but some of the others enjoyed second and third swigs.
I had entered Danny’s baby picture in a Red Cross baby picture contest, won 1st prize and a week’s donut supply. I wrote Marguerite about it and she sent me a newspaper clipping with his photo and the story.
I was able to go on an expedition to Mogok, the ruby center of the world for thousands of years. It was a short flight but the Jeep ride to the village was a butt buster and blisters on my hand from hanging on. It was a small, Burmese village that had been liberated a short time before. They had flooded the mines and buried their stones before the Japs invaded.
The jewel merchants seemed to be Chinese and brought their wares to a grassy area where we sat in a circle while they laid their out their stones and passed them around for our inspection. A few were purchased but I didn’t have that kind of money because most of my $50 monthly paycheck went home. When we finished we drove back to the plane and without shame one of the men proudly displayed an excellent star ruby that he had palmed. We admired the stone but I question that any one admired him.
Sid Spira, a friend from the troop ship and I arranged to take our furlough together and caught a C-47 on a flight to Calcutta. We stayed in a Red Cross hostel while we saw the sights and a movie with Danny Kay who was a star at the time. I still have an Army booklet that listed approved restaurants and all of our restaurant choices resulted in good meals.
There were two parts to the city, the Western that appeared much like back home and the Eastern where the squalor made you wished you could hold your breath. Hard liquor didn’t exist at the base so when we went on furlough we brought back all we could carry. My contribution was ten bottles of gin making me very popular as long as they lasted.
When an Inspecting General became available I was first in line again. I told him of my construction classification and qualifications that were going to waste and asked to be transferred to the Army Engineers who were in need of experienced construction workers. He said that my request was the first that he could do something about. Foolishly forgetting I was in the army, I went away happy. Two days later Capt. Stackfleth told the Master Sergeant to have me complete any pending work that I was leaving. That was the last I heard about it later realizing that the paper work required in an active war zone made it an unrealistic expectation.
My next request was to be sent out to one of our support teams and after a long, butt busting two day ride in the back of a half ton truck on primitive dirt roads, I joined our team with the British 36th Division.
Arriving two days before Christmas I discovered they had fought in Africa and then been sent directly to Burma without repatriation. It was the first night that a ban on fires and lights had been lifted so they were making the most of it sitting around fires, smoking and enjoying the comradely. The next day was Christmas Eve and that night we went to a bombed out temple with most of the roof missing and under a beautiful moon the British sang carols. It was a moving experience and of course we sang the ones we knew along with them.
Christmas dinner on the banks of the Irrawaddy. We had traded the natives candy bars and cigarettes for several chickens and no one else knew what to do with them so I became the butcher as well as the chef. Heating a tub of water until it boiled I chopped their heads off while others dipped them in the boiling water and pulled off feathers and pin feathers. Next, I cut them up and cooked them slowly over an open fire. We turned an abandoned boat upside down and threw a parachute over it for a table cloth. With the British bread along with whatever else we could throw together we had a feast washed down with wine someone had scrounged. It was a Christmas to remember. It was so much more than many of our troops had in other theaters.
I liked the British, particularly their morale after their African tour. No one bitched because they hadn’t been furloughed first. We ate with them and they had one thing I really appreciated. They baked bread every day that was a real treat because except for a few restaurant meals, we’d had none after we got off the troop ship. However it did require watching for imbedded well cooked bugs.
All of our supplies were air dropped. When we change camp sites we would pick a clearing, remove brush or trees that could interfere, and soon the C-47s would start circling and parachuting supplies from the cargo doors in their side. Rum in tin cans was air dropped with the other rations and rum was issued with evening meals. It gave me heart burn but I took my ration and soon made new friends by sharing.
During my time with the British we had no action but we were given a thrill. We had just moved camp and the next morning they told us to dig in because there were Japs on a hill above us. A heavy mist was appreciated because they couldn’t see us. About the time the dirt stopped flying we were told they had left. Another time, in the middle of the night, guns started firing and we couldn’t see what was happening so we just laid in our fox holes until it ended. The perimeter was guarded with tin cans with some pebbles strung together and apparently an animal had triggered it.
It was impressive when the British 36th Division’s headquarters moved further south. They had a Company of Scotts and their bag pipers led the troops. It is something you have to witness in order to appreciate. If you saw the "The Bridge Over the River Kwai" you’d understand.
The Japs were in retreat towards Rangoon when our unit was ordered north to Bhamo. There we joined our Squadron and began our caravan over the Burma Road with our vehicles and equipment bound for an airbase in Luliang, China near Kunming. The Burma Road is the centuries old trade route made famous by Marco Polo. I had just finish reading a book about it written by a reporter who had accompanied the Chinese when they retreated from China into Burma. I can’t remember the name of the book but I learned a great deal about the road’s history. He related what he had seen to what Marco Polo must have also seen as well as to the history of the people who inhabited the area.
Some History of the Burma Road
The Road was a link with the People's Republic of China and ran 717 miles through rough mountain country between Kunming and Lashio. The sections from Kunming to the Burmese border were built by 200,000 Chinese laborers in 1937 and completed by 1938. The British used it to transport war material to China before Japan was at war with the British. Supplies would be landed at Rangoon and moved by rail north to Lashio where the road started. After the Japanese overran Burma in 1942, the Allies began to fly supplies over the eastern end of the Himalayas and General Joe Stilwell built the Ledo Road to connect Assam, India to the Burma Road through the north of Burma.
Chinese forces had retreated into India in 1942, and had been re-equipped and retrained by American military under Lieutenant General Joseph Stilwell. Stilwell's aim was to drive a new road, called the Ledo Road that would link India and China and allowed aid to reach the Chinese under Chiang Kai-shek, supplementing the air supply route over the Himalayas known as the "Hump." By the start of 1944 Stilwell was preparing to advance on Myitkyina and his forces included an American long range penetration brigade known after its commander as "Merrill's Marauders."
In October 1943 the Chinese 38th Division began to advance from Ledo while American engineers and Indian laborers extended the Ledo Road behind them. The Japanese 18th Division had advanced to stop them but failed.
Whenever the Chinese divisions ran into Japanese strong points, Merrill's Marauders were used to outflank Jap positions by going through the jungle. A technique which had served the Japs so well earlier in the war before the Allies had learned the arts of jungle warfare.
While the Japanese offensive on the Central Front was being waged, Stilwell's forces continued to make gains. After a march across the Kumon Range of hills two days before which nearly crippled the already weary Marauders, Merrill's forces captured the airfield at Myitkyina on May 17, and the town of Myitkyina was finally captured on August 3, 64-days later.
The capture of Myitkyina marked the end of the initial phase of Stilwell's campaign. It was the largest seizure of enemy-held territory to date in the Burma campaign. The airfield at Myitkyina became a vital link in the air route over the Hump. This was when the 10th Air Force Headquarters was moved from Dinjan to Myitkyina and my unit moved with them.
Two of us were assigned to drive a Jeep pulling a water tank. Unfortunately, my co-driver thought he was a "scat" singer and kept singing "The Sunny Side of the Street" while beating it out on the steering wheel. Fortunately he quit before I killed him. There were caravan stations along the way where we were provided meals. At one stop there were little kids outside the mess hall with gallon tin cans they held out for us to scrape in anything left on our plates. It was overcast and more than cool but all they wore looked like a flour sack with holes for their heads and arms and a large hole cut in the rear at their buttocks.
In some spots the road was under repairs for construction and the coolies were laying rocks by hand that were carried to them by others using a shoulder yoke with baskets of rocks on each side. Construction doesn’t get any more primitive.
The end of the war in Europe was eminent so every night we’d fire up one of the radios for the news. The third night out, May 5, 1945, we heard that Germany had surrendered but fortunately there was no liquor or we wouldn’t have been able to drive the next day.
As we entered China there were miles after miles of rice paddies and we came across stacks of wooden caskets along the road that were the results of a famine and too many to bury. On the seventh day we rolled through Kunming and on to Luliang, an old walled city with much of the wall in ruins. Near by was our air base that had been constructed by the Chinese complete with tower, administration building and barracks. The barracks were furnished with bunk beds and chests of drawers. The mess hall put out some almost delicious food and all the KP and guard duty was performed by the Chinese. There was even a recreation hall with a beautiful mural on the wall. War doesn’t get any better than that.
We could walk into Luliang but there was raw meat hanging out with lots of flies and other extremely unattractive sights with which I won’t burden you. Lined up along the road between the town and the base were numerous stands selling liquors with counterfeit brands and black market items. They had a number of wines and while I wasn’t much of a drinker I found a berry wine I liked. We were comfortably sitting out the rest of the war and while I never figured out why we were sent to China it was better than Burma.
The bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and our war was over. We didn’t have much to celebrate with but we did our best and settled down to wait for our marching orders. I was surprised when in less than a month I boarded one of the new C-53 Troup Carriers. It was much larger than a C-47 and instead of a row of bucket seats around the perimeter it had row seats like an airliner but, not as fancy. We landed in Calcutta and stayed in a transit camp where we were able to do some sight seeing until they transported us to a troop carrier in the harbor.
Boarding the ship was different than at Newport News where we started. Instead of walking up a gang plank from the dock, shore boats landed us on a barge next to the ship. They lined us up and asked for volunteers for ship duty and my hand was the first one up. I was willing to do almost anything to avoided being stuck in the hold a month or more as I had been on the way over. I lucked out and was assigned to the officers mess where all I had to do was stand at the entrance with a counter and click on each officer who showed up.
I discovered the first day they had fresh baked bread, butter and a toaster so I proceeded to help myself and how good it tasted. I had the run of most of the ship and instead of returning to my bunk in the hold I slept on a cot in a gun turret until an order came down that said no sleeping in the turrets. After that I slept on the steel deck because it was better than in the hold.
The weather was beautiful and we stopped at Colombo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, to refuel and then proceeded west through the Arabian Sea to the Gulf of Aden, then north through the Red Sea to the Suez Canal and on into the Mediterranean to the Straits of Gibraltar.
Leaving what had been a beautiful cruise through the Mediterranean we passed the "Rock" and hit the Atlantic. A storm came up which prevented sleeping on deck so I went to the officer’s dining room in the center of the ship, put a row of chairs together for a bed and avoided getting seasick.
Thirty days after leaving Calcutta we steamed past the beautiful, green Statue of Liberty and docked in New Jersey and were transported to Camp Kilmer.
Construction experience may have saved my life or serious injury. Leaving the ship there was a long line of us on deck with our duffle bags headed for the gang plank. The line was moving slowly and I happen to look up and saw a cargo net full of boxes suspended from a crane moving overhead. Having learned in heavy construction that you never stand under cranes moving items that can fall I moved ahead of few paces. Moments later I heard a crash and a soldier behind me was on the deck with a box near him. They kept the line moving so I never learned more.
Three years earlier another crane almost got me at the Long Beach Naval Base. I was in a dry dock foundation excavation marking the cut off point on the driven pilings. I was bent over with my head down when a piling that was being lower shot out of control and swinging like a battering ram hit the top of my hard hat squarely and knocked me head over heels. Because of the direct hit on the hard hat I got up and walked away. Moral of the story? Wear a hard hat and keep your head down.
Two days later I was in a bucket seat C-47 on a night flight across the country making numerous stops. We were over the California high desert just as the sun came up and painted a wonderful panorama of colors. I didn’t even bitch about the C-47 being noisy, cold and the seats totally uncomfortable. Our eyes feasted on the landscape below and shortly after that we landed at Camp Beale, where I had worked as a carpenter while visiting the folks before leaving for the Air Corps.
The second day we were mustered out and given severance pay. I called Marguerite and she met the train in Los Angeles. Life was good! I was home and she and my son were okay, what else could matter? We parked in front of her parent’s home where she had been staying and as we walked up, the front door opened and Agnes, Marguerite’s Mother came out carrying Danny who was 16 months old. She was holding him out to me and kept saying to him, “It's your Daddy!, It's your Daddy!” But, he was screaming his head off and wasn’t paying any attention. Regardless, it was a heartwarming welcome home.

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© 2011 Oliver W. Speraw