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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Monday, October 31, 2016

Chapter 35

University of Washington

1943 – 1945

It is not necessary for me to put the reader to sleep with boring academic details of my nearly two years at the UW.  I will but summarize only the development that I remember as significant to my young life.

During those long months, I was constantly nagged by the regret that the war was passing me by.  The tide had turned and the Allies were winning in both the Pacific and the Allies were winning in both the Pacific and the European Theater of Operations.  Previously unknown went dow2n in history as battle after battle was won—Guadalcanal, Makin, Betio, Tarawa, Guam, Siapan, “the Mariannas Tukey Shoot”, then Okinawa and the kamikazes as the expanding U.S. invasion feets and the aircraft carriers closed in on the Inland Sea of Japan.

It was the same in Europe as the Axis forces were steadily beaten back after Rommel was swept from North Africa.  I followed reports of the invasion of Sicily, the invasion of Italy, Anzio, and Monte Cassino as the Allies doomed Mussolini and moved north toward the “soft underbelly of Hitler’s “Fortress Europa”.  Then came June 1944 and D-Day for the invasion of Europe in Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge”, and the crossing of the Rhine into Germany at a town called Remagen.

In Seattle Late in 1943, I saw one of the mighty new Boeing B-29s fly overhead during the flight test program out fo Boeing Field.  More and more I felt that I belonged out there behind a thudding 5—caliber machine gun instead of enjoying the luxury of a free college education and safe, comfortable quarters.  It would be my desire to get back out there before the end that would eventually result in my leaving the UW at the end of my junior year for midshipman’s school and a commission.

When I reported in at the UW V-12 unit, I found that the quarters assigned me were a fraternity house leased by the Navy.  Mine was the Beta House on a corner of “Greek Row”.  Not only would I be living in the comparative luxury of a fraternity house, I was assigned to the little first-floor suite that was normally the fraternity president’s quarters.  With three other men, I shared a spacious bedroom (now with four bunks), a lving room in which we each had a desk, and a bathroom just for the four of us.  It, like the Notre Dame dormitory, was a world away from Ile Nou!

My roommates at the Beta house were Bob Brosy from Portland, Cliff Cason fro Montana, and another Montanan naed Cramer (I do not recall Cramer’s first name).  Bob Brosy and I were to become fast friends because we both had ties to the south, me with my engagement to Shirley in Vancouver and Bob with a fiancée in Portland.  Her name was Jean.

Our supervision at the Beta house was a chief petty officer (athletic specialist) who, with his wife, occupied the housemother’s quarter at the rear of the large grey stone building.  The Beta house was a four-story structure with a stone terrace at one side.  (It was later expanded and re-modeled so the terrace is no longer there.)

Inside the main entrance to Beta house, our dandy quarters were to the right and to the left was a large dining room used also as a frat lounge and equipped with a piano.  A broad stairway led upward from the large entry hall to the sleeping quarters and communal bathrooms on each of the three upper floors.  We did not use the dining room except as a lounge.  All our V-12 meals were taken at the Commons down off the main university quadrangle.

Outside the Beta house, 45th Street which led to one of the campus main entries was a wide boulevard with a grass median.  It became very familiar to us because not only was it our daily route to and from classes, the grassy median was where we fell out before breakfast every day for morning calisthenics.  Other than the calisthenics and sometimes dress parades in the quadrangle on Saturday or infrequent admiral’s reviews in Husky stadium and the fact that we wore our apprentice seaman’s uniforms, we lived no differently than the rest of the college students.  All our bills, including books and such items as slide rules for engineering students, were paid for by the Navy.  It was truly a free college education.  Our only responsibility, other than observing taps at ten and attendance at morning house muster, was to keep our grade point averages above 2.5 else we would be mustered out and sent back to sea.

Elaine Eberle was no longer at the UW.  I do not think our relationship would have been much different had I not gotten engaged to Shirley; however, during the time I was at NATTC and Notre Dame, Elaine had married a newly commissioned Naval officer and was now Mrs. Jim Thompkins.  (Elaine’s mother told me in confidence many years later that when Elaine came home from the UW and heard the news of my engagement to Shirley, Elaine paced the floor and let go a tirade.  I do not know if she was angry because I had gotten engaged or if it was because I did not tell her personally.  Fifty years later it does not matter.  Elaine found a good mate and, in the end, I found the perfect mate for me.)

Patty Cross was in one of the sororities at the UW, but I did not see much of her.  She was going with, and eventually became engaged to and later married, one of my VHS classmates, Colin Dykeman.  Colin was in pre-dental and after the war became a dentist in Vancouver.  It was not surprising to me as once, long before, Patty had told me that she intended to marry a dentist because they made lots of money and had nice houses.  Later, after Cason and Kramer were sent to sea on destroyers for going AWOL (a story that I shall relate later). Dykeman became one of my roommates at Beta House.

It quickly became obvious that my infatuation with Shirley was not going to do my grades any good.  On weekends (except for dress parades and inspections) we had liberty from Saturday morning muster until taps on Sunday.  Instead of studying, I moved heaven and earth to get to Vancouver.  I tried hitch-hiking (good in those days, but not a speedy or reliable way to travel) but most times I rode the train out of the King Street Station.  Evening when I should have been hitting the books, too often I was writing letters to my fiancée.

We were required to carry full loads of seventeen academic hours, three semesters a year (no extended summer vacation) to obtain a bachelor’s degree in two and a half yetars instead of four.  From nearly a 4.0 my grades in tough courses such as Advanced Geometry, Calculus, Chemistry, Thermodynamics, Aerodynamics, etc. I quickly dropped below a 3.0.

The problem, especially after sex became a factor in our relationship, was that I had become what was known in the Navy by a crude term that translates “woman-whipped”.  One entry in my little diary states that during the previous semester I had gone to Vancouver fourteen out of sixteen weekends.  The reason I did not go the other two was that Shirley came to Seattle for a house dance once and I had the duty the other.  It was not something of which to be proud, just a fact.  It was very fortunate for me that at least half of my courses such as Machine Shop and Foundry, Engineering Drawing and Design, and the like came easily to me and through them I kept my grade point average above the dismissal line.  I am ashamed to say that on one occasion I came near to flunking Quantitative Chemistry and one flunk meant back to the fleet.  It was the only “D” grade I ever received in my life and should never have happened.  I nearly sweated blood until the examination scores were posted.  I got a D minus.

My roommate, Bob Brosy, was in the same boat in his relationship with Jean in Portland.  We often contrived together to get to Vancouver and Portland on weekends.  Sometimes we could pool our few gasoline ration stamps with someone having a car and drive down.  If we had the money, we rode the train.

On our apprentice seaman’s pay, money was the problem.  I had quickly exhausted my small savings account.  We needed some extra money and, together we came up with an idea that caused further inroads into our study time.  We decided to go into the bootlegging business.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Transferring to the University of Washington

In September of 1943 we were required to select our major.  I debated for quite a long time between Naval Architecture and a line officer’s commission, Civil Engineering and a request for the Colorado University at Boulder (in my basic Engineering Drawing class I had gotten interested in bridges and dams), and Aeronautical Engineering which would result in an aviation specialist commission.
The latter won out.  First because airplanes and flying were my first loves and, second, because the best aeronautical engineering school would be the University of Washington in Seattle and I would be within reasonable commuting distance of Vancouver for weekends and leaves.  In that regard I was influenced, I must admit, by Shirley’s urging that I do that.  I made application for transfer to the University of Washington in aeronautical engineering on September 16th, according to my very brief little diary.
By that time, I had bought my grades back up to close to a 4.0 and that placed me high on the list for choice of transfer.  Captain Burnett, the V-12 commanding officer, approved my request and on 15 October when the trees on the Notre Dame campus were a glory of fall colors, my transfer came through approved.  The semester ended the following week.  After saying my goodbyes to Rossi, Brother Justin, the blonde softball player, and the lady at the Music Box organ, I left for Vancouver on the 20th of October on three days delayed orders before reporting to the V-12 unit at the University of Washington on November 1st.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Getting to Notre Dame

Chapter 34

University of Notre Dame – 1943

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that one day this old Ozark boy would walk onto the campus of fabled Notre Dame as a student.  When I alighted from the bus and walked through the main gate under the huge leafy trees of the big quadrangle, I was walking as if in a dream.  There before me was the gold leaf covered dome of the administration building and surrounding the main quadrangle were traditional old dormitory and classroom buildings.  Some were of stone and some of ivy-covered brick.  In the distance to the right I could see the football stadium that was familiar from newsreels of triumphs of the “Fighting Irish”.  (The famous Knute Rockne had passed on and it was the era of coach Frank Leahy.)

When I reported to the executive officer of the V-12 unit, a lieutenant commander, he was delighted to find that I was an experienced fleet sailor. Most of my classmates would be youngsters recruited fresh out of high schools.  The Exec promptly pu me to work helping to form the class.  (It also turned out that I was one of the older men in the class and it was no me who became known as “Pappy” Frieze, a cognomen I would carry all the way through V-12 and midshipman’s school until commissioning when I would become just another young ensign.)

It was on the morning of my second day at Notre Dame that I swore at a Naval officer for the second, and last, time.  (The first was that young ensign who didn’t know where the master switch was on PBY 71-P-7 starting out the “Hogan’s Goat” flight.)  I came into the V-12 office to assist with the class “Watch, Quarter, and Station Bill”.  When I appeared, the Exec’s yeoman casually said, “Hey, Frieze—too bad about that second set of orders.  Would have liked to have those myself.”

I stopped dean in my tracks.  What second set of orders?!”

“Geez,” the yeoman said, “thought you knew about it.  Your orders to flight school came yesterday.  The exec sent ‘em back.

“He WHAT?!”

Sent ‘em back.  He said that your orders to V-12 too precedence even though the orders to AP flight school were dated first.”

Without hesitation I bolted into the exec’s office.  He was working on some papers at his desk.  I do not recall my words but they spilled in a torrent, some as purple as my face no doubt was, to the effect that I should have had a choice in the matter.  The lieutenant commander carefully laid down his yellow pencil, leaned back in his chair, ad heard me out.  He did not speak until I ran out of breath then his words were terse.”

“You through, sailor?”

“Yessir—I guess so.”

“Then sit down!”

I did so, clutching my white hat between my knees and knowing I had lost my temper.

“Now look, I will only tell you this once.  If you went to flight school, you would wind up this war nothing but a journeyman throttle jockey.  If you didn’t get your butt shot off by a Zero—and the woods are going to be full of ex-service pilots when the world is over.

“On the other hand, if you can hack it in V-12—and about one out of three of you won’t—you are going to get a fine college education in the major of your choice—all paid for by Uncle Sam.  If you took those flight school orders instead of V-12, you would be a whole lot dumber than I think you are!  Besides, once you get your commission you can apply for flight school as an officer if you are bound and determined to fly.  War will likely be over by then—we hope—but I do believe it can be won without you out there.  Any questions?”

The officer waited patiently while I fiddled with my white hat and thought about it.  I knew he was right.  I suddenly flet stupid about my tirade.  It would have been a dumb old country boy mistake.  I came to my feet, stood at attention, and said simply, “Nossir!”

The lieutenant commander smiled faintly as he picked up his pencil and turned back to his papers.  “All right, Frieze, we’ll have men arriving all day.  Get out there and help Williams figure out the which dorm to put them in.  By the way, you know that you have to revert to apprentice seaman in the V-12 program so get that first class “crow” off your uniforms.  Carry on, seaman!”

That evening I sat in my room in one of Notre Dame’s ivied dormitories and, with a razor blade, took off both the first class AMM badges and two of the three white strips on the cuff of my dress blues.  I also had to find a tailor to put the white seaman’s stripe around the left shoulder of my blues and the blue one on my whites.  It was difficult to adjust to being a “boot” once more—especially on payday when I would drop from more than a hundred dollars back to the apprentice seaman’s pay of twenty-one dollars a month!

Coming as I had almost directly from the war in the Pacific and the crude living conditions in Dallas hut C-4 on Ile Nou, Notre Dame was a dream come true.  We bunked tow men to a room in the first brick dormitory building to the left of the main campus gate.  My roommate was a slender, black-haired New Yorker named Rossi.  He was a pleasant young fellow and we explored the campus and went on liberties together.

All the buildings were old, but they and the spacious campus grounds were immaculately kept.  Down a slope from the main quadrangle was the grotto with a statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking a lake beyond which lay Saint Mary’s, the Catholic female equivalent of Notre Dame.

Except for the specialized Navy classes conducted in a new building west of the main quadrangle, our classes were taught by either priests or lay brothers in their black robes and crucifixes.  They showed no bias about we non-Catholics and at no time during my two stays at Notre Dame was any effort made to convert me to Catholicism.  [It is possible that the conversion had happened the other direction 350 years before.  Rumor has it that our earliest ancestor coming to the New World, Francis Perkins, was a part of the Gunpowder Plot in England and hence had to flee.]

The only daily reminder we had that Notre Dame was a Catholic university was that each class was begun by an “Our Father” recited in unison.  To me, of course, it was the Lord’s Prayer and thoroughly familiar, with one exception that embarrassed me the first morning of classes.  The “Our Father” does not include the last line of the Lord’s Prayer, “For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory forever and ever.  Ah-men.”  When we got to that point in Brother Justin’s English class, I rattled right on with the last line loud and clear causing everyone to turn and look at me.

Mortified, I muttered something like “I’m sorry, Brother Justin, you see I am a Protestant.”

Brother Justin, whose huge bulk in the black robe made him resemble Friar Tuck in the stories about Robin Hood, simply smiled kindly and said, “You will find, Mr. Frieze, that will not be held against you here.”  Then he eyed my slender frame, patted his fat belly, and added, “We shall get together sometime and perhaps you can pass along your secret of girth control!”

In actual fact, I did spend some non-class time with Brother Justin.  He and many others of the staff were quartered in an English motif grey stone building during that semester and later when I came back to Notre Dame for midshipman’s school, I sat in the lounge there with him and Brother Justin introduced me to the game of chess.

Our Saturday night and weekend liberties in South Bend were not as raucous as those in Chicago but it did not take Rossi and I long to find a favorite “watering hole”.  The South Bend of those days centered around the LaSalle Hotel, the largest in town.  It was conveniently situated downtown.  A block north was a bowling alley which we frequented.  One block west was a street having some bars and taverns.

Our watering hole to replace the Crown Propeller Lounge in Chicago was one called “The Music Box”.  It featured a long bar behind which was a small red-draped stage containing an organ.  The organist on Friday and Saturday nights was a pleasant elderly lady who had an extensive repertoire and was pleased at requests, most especially when they were accompanied by a fresh drink.  The first couple of evenings we spent there, I promptly requested my favorite, “Sentimental Journey”.  That lady had a memory for more than music.  From then on, like the combo at the Crown, when she saw me come through the door she would welcome me by swinging into that song.  (No, doubt it was the campaign bars on my blouse because, on twenty-one dollars a month, I did not have much extra money to buy her drinks.)

Our meager funds were another reason we frequented The Music Box.  They had an ex-pug in the kitchen that cooked the best bar chicken I ever tasted and, with a drink, it was dirt cheap.  That was often our supper.  Of course the fact that the Bendix Company had a factory near South Bend that employed a lot of the “Rosie the Riveters” during the war and some of them were regular patrons of the Music Box did nothing to scare us away!

We did not spend all our liberty time in bars or the bowling alley.  Depending on our finances, we often took in a movie, went to a ball game, or accepted home visit invitations form South Bend residents willing to entertain servicemen far from home for dinner or a picnic.  (We found to our glee that sometimes the latter would be some “Rosie the Riveter” types looking for men and some dandy parties resulted!)

There were also afternoon or evening USO dances.  At one of those I met a delightful little blonde tomboyish twenty-one-year-old whose name, I regret to say, I have forgotten.  I persuaded her to give me her telephone number to let me see her home.  She was from a home similar to mine back on the west side of Vancouver and we enjoyed each other’s company.  She belonged to a girls’ softball team and I spent a couple of Saturday afternoons watching her play.  There was, however, still Shirly waiting back in Vancouver and no real sparks flew between us so nothing ever came from that relationship except some innocent and enjoyable companionship.

Monday, October 24, 2016

An Inspection and an Examination

Although I was barely twenty-one years old and had been in the Navy less than three years, I considered myself an “old salt”.  I wore my white hat at a cocky angle over an eyebrow and my liberty neckerchief was non-regulation pressed black silk.  My tailored white uniforms were also non-regulation with wide bell-bottoms.

The imaged I had of myself was reinforced from the unlikely source one weekend shortly after we reported at NATTC.  On Friday afternoon just after we secured for the day, Lieutenant Dugan, the division officer for our class, informed us that there would be a surprise admiral’s inspection the following morning.  The class would fall in for inspection in the central passageway on the first deck.  Since the weather had turned warm the uniform of the day for inspection would be dress whites.

Come Saturday morning when I started to dress for inspection I was dismayed to find that I did not have a fresh clean suit of regulation whites.  Except for the gabardine tailor-mades I had bought in Honolulu, my white uniforms were in the laundry and for some unknown and unexplained reason our laundry, due on Thursday, had not yet come back.  Also, I could not find my regulation issue neckerchief that was worn rolled.  I had only the pressed black silk.  I knew that if the admiral was a hard-nose I could wind up on report for a non-regulation uniform but I had no choice.  I put them on.

When we fell in for inspection and Lt. Dugan looked us over, the division officer sharply ordered me to go get into regulation uniform.  I said, “Sorry, lieutenant—my issue whites are all in the laundry which didn’t come back this week.  It’s this or nothing.”

Lt. Dugan shrugged and turned away looking down the row of white-clad sailors, most of them looking as if they were just out of boot camp—many were—with baggy blouses and stovepipe-legged pants.  Their rolled black neckerchiefs were uneven and did not tie neatly.  Their crimped white hats sat squarely two fingers above the eyebrows.  They were regulation all right and were quite a contrast to my crisp white gaberdines that were pegged at the knee and had flared bell bottoms.  My white blouse was tailored to my slender frame so that I had to have a zipper under one arm to get it on and off.  The division officer shook his head and said, “Okay, Frieze,--don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

I never knew the inspecting admiral’s name but when he came down the line he had the appearance of a stern officer that went by the book.  I heard him cite two or three for non-regulation haircuts or for unsatisfactorily shined black shoes.  At least, I thought, I was in the base barber shop two days ago and I knew that the toes of my black shoes could have been used for shaving mirrors.

The admiral halted directly opposite and looked me up and down.  He took in the crimped but crisply clean white hat tilted just a bit over the right eyebrow, the three campaign ribbons over my pocket, the first class AMM “crow” and chevrons, and the gunner’s badge on my lower sleeve.  I was at rigid attention,--my back ramrod straight, my thumbs precisely on the inverted side creases of my trousers, and my gaze fixed in the distance past the admiral’s right ear.  The admiral’s scrutiny went to my bellbottom pants then he said softly, “What your name, sailor?”

I am happy to say my eyes never wavered as I responded, “Frieze, Sir,--Frieze, C.R.”

I waited for the senior officer to tell the yeoman at his elbow to take my name and offense but then my gaze fell to his as the admiral said, “Been in the Pacific, eh?”

“Yessir—two years, admiral.”

“Well done, son.”

Then the grey-haired admiral made my day.  He turned and looked back alpong the long line of baggy regulations uniforms, then turned to Lieutenant Dugan.  “Now there, lieutenant,” the admiral said mildly, “is a sailor!”

I never knew the admiral’s name but I went on liberty that Saturday evening feeling as if he had given me the Congressional Medal of Honor—or at least a Navy Cross!  Dutchy and I celebrated sufficiently after she got off work at the lounge that I did not make it back to 87th & Anthony until after noon Sunday.  I woke up in Dutchy’s tiny apartment in the murphy bed between she and her blonde roommate Alicia.  “Allie” was a bit out of sorts that morning because she had not been able to find her nightgown the night before.  The missing nightgown bothered her a lot more than getting from bed to the bathroom stark naked.  I got my bellbottoms on and the three of us had breakfast before I headed back to NATTC.  It was a causal relationship and Dutchy, Allie, and I kept it that way.  The two were more than used to the sailors who came and went as the war went on.

One afternoon, still in April I believe, the NATTC education officer came looking for me.  The eager young lieutenant junior grade explained that he had been going thorough personnel records and he believed that with my high school record, I should apply for the Navy V-12 officer training program.

Until then I had never heard of the V-12 program.  When the lieutenant explained that it was a training program that would provide a complete college education to officer candidates followed by a commission in the Navy after midshipman’s school.  I tipped back my head and laughed.

“Hell, lieutenant, sir, I ain’t a college boy—I’m a fleet sailor!  They say they’ll make me a CPO when I get out of here in two months, then I can help form a new squadron and go back out to fight the Japs.  That’s where they started it and I aim to be there when we end it!  Besides, I got my application for AP school to learn to fly.”

Looking at the record of my high school grades that was in the personnel file in his hand, the JG—as I recall—said something like, “Okay, Frieze.  Fine.  Do me a favor though—let me fill out the application for the program.  You may not make it anyway.  They only need sixteen people form here this spring.”

Somehow that riled me a bit.  I thought about my Annapolis ambitions, the preparatory courses that I had taken in high school, and the injustice of my Annapolis examination being burned during the Japanese raid on Hawaii. I laughed and said, “Okay, lieutenant.  Fill out the papers and I’ll take the exam!”

The next Friday evening Byrd, Rineman, and I were at our usual table at the Crown Propeller Lounge.  I was reasonably sober when we got back to 87th & Anthony but, I must admit, had a pretty fair hangover the next morning when Rineman woke me and said, “Hey, Frieze, aren’t you supposed to be taking that examination today?”

I groaned.  It was nearly oh eight hundred and the examination was scheduled for 0830.  I had a quick shower, but was still foggy when the education officer put the examination packet in front of me.  

It was not a snap exam.  There were sections on English, American History, World History, Geography, and Mathematics through solid geometry.  The answers came hard to my aching head.  At the four-hour deadline I turned in my papers with the thought, “Well, that takes care of any chances to go to officer candidate school!”

I went back to my classes on Monday feeling sure that I did not have a chance at V-12.  I recall clearly that I had just finished a class on the Stronberg-Carlson pressure injection aviation carburetor when I encountered Rineman in the passageway.  “Hey, Frieze,” he said, “they just posted the results of that exam you took for V-12.”

It wtas not exciting news and I figured that I probably finished way down on the list; however, I went by the bulletin board to have a look.  The names were listed in order of grade and a red line had been drawn beneath the sixteenth name.  To my astonishment that sixteenth name was “Frieze, C.R., AMM1/c”!

It was dizzying news.  I immediately called my parents to tell them I was going to go to college.  I also called Shirley and told her to put aside any wedding plans.  Officer candidates were not allowed to be married until they received their commissions and, going to school year ‘round, college and midshipman’s school would take more than three years.  I offered to break off the engagement, but she would have none of it and insisted that she would wait.  I let it ride.

On 21 June 1943 my orders arrived.  I was to report to the University of Notre Dame ion South Bend, Indiana, for my pre-major semester in the Navy V-12 college training program.  The orders included a seven-day delay enroute.  That was not enough to make a trip back to Vancouver, but I did not care.  I decided to go down to the Ozarks to see my grandparents and relatives.  I took the train to Kansas City, then the bus to Greenfield.

I had deliberately not notified my grandparents, but wanted to surprise them and easily found their little white house a block off the courthouse square.  When I walked up carrying my zippered blue ditty bag, Grandpa Stanley was out back painting the tailgate of the small pickup truck that he had in retirement.

It was a joyful reunion and my grandparents were flabbergasted when I told them that I was on my way to college.  I recall clearly that Grandpa blew his nose on his red bandanna and said, “Well, boy, we have been real proud of you and Richard and now we are especially proud of you!”  Grandma promptly got a dozen eggs and made me one of her fabulous angel food cakes.
The author's grandparents in Greenfield, MO 1943

We had three pleasant days of visiting.  The weather was clear and balmy and one evening we sat out on the front porch.  At my urging, Grandpa got out his old violin and played several pieces that had people stomping on the street in the twilight to listen.  His “Marching Through Georgia” was rousing and toe-tapping and when he played “Amazing Grace” there in the still and balmy twilight you could see and hear bagpipes in the Scottish Highlands.  (My mother told me in later years that it was probably the last time he touched his fiddle.  He already had the first signs of a terminal illness and died the following year.)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Naval Aviation Technical Training Center in Chicago

Chapter 33

NATTC, Chicago – 1943

When I arrived back at the Naval Aviation Technical Training Center at 87th and Anthony ins South Chicago, the first man I encountered was an old shipmate from VP-11, J.P. Byrd.  With him was another VP-11 man, Rineman.  We checked in together and were assigned adjacent bunks in the second story barracks level of the huge training complex.  We would be in the same class.

J.P. Byrd was (and still is) quite a character.  He had a tall, spare, long-legged, but footed frame and shambling gait.  He was easy going and a shock of tousled brown hair topped an ever-present friendly grin on his lean face.  He was soft spoken with a sort of southern drawl and hardly ever spoke without a pun or a joke.  In his tight-fitting tailor-made dress blues with the badge of an AAM1/c, “J.P.” projected the image of the typical absent-minded professor dressed up as a sailor.  J.P. was not actually lazy, but professed to be an advocate of conservation of energy—save it because you never knew when you might need some!

Bob Rineman was a shorter man with black hair above a pleasant face.  He was also an agreeable shipmate and the three of us were to be frequently liberty companions with our first class petty officer “crows”, aerial machine gunner emblems, and campaign ribbons identifying us as veterans of the Pacific theater of war, we were accorded some degree of deference by our fellow trainees.  More often than not, they also resulted in civilians in bars insisting on buying us drinks or driving us in their cars wherever we wanted to go.  It no doubt made us a bit cocky but, with sarcastic humor, we kept each other in perspective.

Since we were, indeed, real veterans and the memories of war were still fresh, we were to be a bit embarrassed the first morning at NATTC.  Barracks were the wide open second floors of the two or three large buildings.  At each end there were large double doors leading to large landings at the wide stairways.  The three of us were assigned bunks not far inside the entry doors.  It seemed to be a convenient location but we were to find one bad flaw in it.

We did not know that first night that reveille at NATTC was held by what amounted to a small drum and bugle corps.  About six musicians, three drums and three bugles, would assemble outside the entry doors.  On the stroke of six, the doors would be thrown open and the band would cut loose while they marched the length of the long barracks down a wide central aisle way.

We were sleeping in blissful ignorance that first morning at reveille.  When the drums and bugles cut loose it was such an unholy din that shattered our slumbers that both Byrd and I thought we were in the middle of a Jap attack.  Before we were awake we hit the deck and were ten yards down the aisle ahead of the band running for cover when we became aware of where we were.  We went sheepishly back to our bunks to get our clothes to the laughter and kidding of our bunkmates.  After that episode we would hear the sounds of the band assembling outside the doors and could prepare ourselves by buying our heads under our pillows when the loud music started.

Although I continued to have ambivalent feeling about my engagement to Shirley Mills, shortly after my arrival in Chicago I decided that if it were to stand it should be formalized with a ring.  I rode the El to the loop, found a reputable jewelry store, and although my savings was dwindling, spent two hundred dollars on a small diamond rind.  (That was in 1943 dollars.  It was, I think, something less than a half carat and would probably be worth ten times that today.)

After a few drinks on the way back to 87th & Anthony I decided that the ring should not simply arrive in the mail.  I gift-wrapped it and mailed it to my brother Rex with the request that he hand-deliver it with some flowers.  He did so.

Despite the urgency of war for more trained men as the might of the United States began to flex its muscles, our classes at NATTC were on a five-day week and we had liberty every weekend.  Byrd, Rineman, and I found the classes relatively easy after our training at North Island and our two years of practical experience in VP-11 and the engine change shop on Ile Nou so we made the most of liberty in Chicago.

During our first liberty weekend, we explored the Chicago Loop area in the city, but other than movie houses and two large ballrooms, the Trianon and the Aragon, I believe they were, downtown had little more to offer than the South Side.  One weekend we did go to a professional football game at Soldier Field.  In the main we made liberty at an area of small night clubs, movie theaters, and bars at 63rd and Cottage Grove.

In the days of World War II, The Chicago South Side was still thriving.  We could walk a few blocks east and catch the train that ran between the Chicago Loop and through Gary to South Bend, Indiana.

Our favorite watering hole was a small night club on Cottage Grove called “Crown Propeller Lounge”.  (The sign outside was a neon airplane propeller.)  It was run by a retired Irish cop and featured a small live combo.  Sometimes there was a small “floor show” by an aspiring singer, magician, or standup comedian.  The waitresses were friendly, the drinks relatively cheap, and the owner always bought every second or third round for men in uniform who were veterans of the War in the Pacific.  The bandleader soon learned our favorite songs and would stop a piece and shit to one when we came in and took a table—more often than not “Sentimental Journey” which I liked and often requested.

We felt comfortably at home at the Crown Propeller Lounge and knew that we could always count on getting back to the barracks at 87th & Anthony.  On the occasions that we celebrated too much and the staff of the lounge thought we might run into a Shore Patrol or have trouble finding our way, the Irishman would call a cab at closing time and make sure we had enough money for the ride back.

Although we never got into trouble that might land us on report or in the brig, the three of us “old salts” had some high old times.  There was on chubby little waitress called “Dutchy”, a brown-haired woman about thirty, who took a liking for me.  Sometimes at the midnight closing time for bars, Dutchy and a friend would take us to one of the many illegal after-fours bars in the city.

I recall one after-hours joint in particular.  From the outside the place appeared to be nothing but an abandoned ice cream parlor.  Behind the counter the door that once led to a kitchen opened into a draped anteroom and then into a very nice nightclub with a bar, dance floor, and very good band.  Dutchy liked to dance and it was her favorite place to relax after work.