|Recollections Of The Past
The following incidents and thoughts that come to my mind may now seem trivial, but at the time they seemed
important, at other times down right hilarious.
The time a flashlight was left in the coffee urn as we were called to stations. It was discovered only after the coffee
started to take on a strange taste.
Everyone's love of Bosco. It was put on everything. Of course the best was over coffee ice cream, which was the
only flavor available.
The time the Officers Steward, who was known to be somewhat goosey, was stepping through the water tight door
leading aft from the mess area when "goosed" from behind. Now the story, as I heard it, was that the "gooser" was
not aware that the hatch leading to the stores area was open. The result being that the "goosee" let out one big yell
and disappeared down the hatch.
The fact that someone brought aboard a "dose of crabs", which most likely was the product of time spent in
Panama, raised some havoc in the main sleeping quarters. This likely was the result of having to "hot sack" due to
extra crewmembers. I have often wondered if I was the added crew member that created the hot sack requirement.
Those berthing in the forward or aft torpedo rooms seemed to avoid the plague.
While standing deck watch one night I was amazed and amused at the crews’ unique way of getting their "passed
out" buddies below deck with the use of the galley hatch davit.
The thought of the idle time spent between watches playing the dime slot machine . . . and the rather large
vouchers that came due on payday.
The typhoon, or near typhoon, we went through off the coast of Hokkaido. You could hardly make out the bow of the
boat yet Navy regulations required lookouts top side, even if the best they could do was to just hang on.
We did, of course, enjoy the movies we had aboard, however, after seeing each one several times, the thought of a
new movie sounded good so . . . to exchange movies with another boat in the area required some skill. The
procedure was for the boats to pull alongside, pass over a hand line and rope the films across to one another. This
required great skill by whoever happened to be on the helm. Not to mention one nervous lookout (the faux
photographer) who thought he sighted a periscope behind every whitecap.
Our encounter with a Ghost Sampan that appeared and disappeared into a fog bank give us the opportunity to fire
the 20mm and 50cal guns. I feel safe in saying that we probably did not hit anything.
And who could ever forget the UNBELIEVABLE number of cockroaches on Midway Island.
Lastly . . . the inevitable encounter with the guard at the base gate. He always asked if you were taking any booze
on base. If you said "no" expect a light tap to the midsection with the night stick. If you said "yes" you had one of
three choices. Hand it over to the guard, which you never do, drink it, or pour it out on the ground. If you said "no"
and just happened to have a pint tucked away in the waist band . . . expect to be picking glass from your shorts while
feeling that warm touch of Jack Daniels running down your leg. You see, back then profiling was an art form with
some guards and PC was unheard of.
Bill "Ski" has made mention of the dropping of the Atomic Bomb and our return to Midway. If my memory serves me, it
was about 11pm when someone came running down between the barracks screaming that the war was over and to
go to the mess hall to hear the radio broadcasts out of San Francisco. It was obvious that San Francisco had gone
wild. At that point the events Bill recalled started to unfold as he described. At sunup the area between the enlisted
barracks and the Officers Quarters was littered with the remains of passed out (sleeping) sailors. The next few days I
found to be very interesting. During the conflict no one dealt into the past lives of others. I found it extremely
interesting in what different lives my shipmates had led prior to entering the Navy and what their hopes were for the
future. One that pops to mind was the fellow who had the build of an Arnold Schwarzenegger, who could fire a 50cal
off hand, only to disclose that prior to the war he had worked for the Hershey Candy Company in Chicago in the
fancy chocolate department. One fellow had one, and only one, burning desire, that was to become a fireman in Los
Angles. I only hope he made the cut. One I was told (this is unconfirmed) had escaped to England from Norway as
the Germans were invading his country. He found his way to America and joined the Navy. If true, I would guess he
returned to his homeland. I was told that one of our Warrant Officers served on the Trout at the time of the
evacuation of Corrigador, a fascinating story by itself. My bet is that he finished his career in the Navy only when
forced by retirement. It seemed most everyone was open to discussing their past, and looking forward to the future.
Much discussion, of course among the reservists, was regarding the number of points they might have accumulated
relative to their release date. Most felt however that the boat would remain in the area for some six months on
security patrol, as we were one of the most recent to arrive in theater. To every ones’ surprise we were on our way
back to the states within a couple of weeks. Some said the Skipper and the XO had some heavy suction within the
Navy Department. If that was what it took, that was OK with us. After the decommissioning of the Thornback I was
transferred to the Pompon SS-267 where I joined the gunnery group.
For myself I returned to attend a small college in Northern California receiving my degree in Business Administration.
After which I then went back to Syracuse, NY to marry a very beautiful young lady I had met while on our first leave
after returning to the States. We will enjoy our 58th anniversary in February 2007. We have three children, twin
boys and a girl, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. I worked in the telephone industry for 35 years,
retiring in 1987 as FVP and Area Manager. Life, with the Grace of God, has been extremely good to me and the
time I spent in the Navy and on the Thornback played an important part in the shaping of that life. For starters, I was
surprised and amazed to find upon returning home that my time in the Navy, coupled with the Submarine School and
other schools I attended, provided me with one full year of college credits and the impetus to move on. Besides that,
how else would I have met my wife and spawned all of those offspring.
In as much as sea stories tend to take on a life of their own, I hope I am not found guilty. When I used to tell my
children and grandchildren of my time in the Navy, most stories were met with great interest, however as they grew
older the usual response was that "grandpa, your shucking and jiving us again". I am proud to say that one of my
grandsons is on his second tour of duty in the Navy. Having served his first tour aboard the USS Nimitz. He chose
this tour to become a SeaBee. With that I will close with a parting thought . . . why, with all of the new technology that
has been employed in the construction and development of the modern submarine, the Navy has yet to duplicate that
unique smell of a diesel boat.
~ Diesel Boats Forever ~
My Best Regards to all my old shipmates . . . Ed