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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Return to Kaneohe following the Battle of Midway

"It was delightful at first, but by the third day we were getting bored and were chafing to get back to the squadron."
Return to Kaneohe

Two full weeks after the attack on Midway it was obvious that the battle was over and we were the victors.  We had combed the waters around Midway in a 750 mile radius and, after taking the survivors from the lifeboat, there were no more Japanese to be found and no more downed American pilots.  (Although my crew did not rescue any Americans, the other PBYs had pulled more than 35 American survivors from the waters between the location of the American carriers and the location of Nagumo’s carrier task force on the day of the historic battle.) 
Yamamoto’s mighty fleet had retired westward in defeat.  The Imperial Japanese Navy no longer posed a major threat to the American forces that were starting the island-to-island campaign toward Japan.  The opening of that campaign was the invasion by Marines of the Japanese –held island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in the far South Pacific north of New Caledonia.
On June 21st our ordeal as VP-11 orphans at Midway came to an end.  Both we and the airplane were tired, but we flew back to Kaneohe in high spirits.  During that two weeks, in spite of the Navy doctors’ decree that 80 hours a month was the maximum, rules go out the window when a battle is joined.  We had been in the air a total of more than 160 hours and had serviced an maintained  the airplane ourselves.
Once again there was no emotional reunion with brother Dick because once more he was ashore on a 72 hour liberty pass when we were pulled up the ramp and turned the weary PBY over to the maintenance crew.  The entire flight crew was given a welcome one-week R&R (rest and recreation) leave.
We found some changes had occurred.  Now that we were “blooded veterans: we were entitled, and required to wear the ribbons issued in lieu of medals that would some later.  They were not the decorations of heroes but were area campaign medals—an American Defense ribbon with a bronze star that showed we had been present in Hawaii on December 7th, 1941 and an /Asiatic Theater ribbon with a star indicating that we had participated in a major battle (more stars would come later as we moved south and west and more battles took place).

We also found that the Navy had taken over the Royal Hawaiian Hotel at Waikiki and were using it for R&R for combat-weary crews, mostly the submarine crews that returned from war patrols in Japanese waters.  All crews from Midway, including us, were ordered there for a week of relaxation.  I packed spare liberty uniforms and on the morning of June 22nd caught the Windward Transit to Honolulu for my time at the Royal Hawaiian.
When I got off “the Red Peril” on Beretania, I went to the garage that was the base for Dian’es taxi.  She was there getting ready for her shift and joined me for a cup of coffee at the Honolulu CafĂ©.  Over coffee I found again that casual-acting brother Richard was concerned about his “little brother”.  Diane told me in confidence that on June 4th when we took off for that torpedo attack that never occurred, Dick had gotten special liberty and had come ashore to get drunk because he was afraid that I was flying to my death.  She did not go into detail but commented that Dick had gotten more drunk then than she had ever seen him and ranted about “that dumb sonabitch was going to go out and get himself killed”.  (He did not know that we had been called back to Kaneohe until later.)  She commented dryly, “He almost wreck my apartment!”
Sailors enjoying the Royal Hawaiian

The week at the Royal Hawaiian was a delightful change from the rigors of Midway.  I was in what had been a $40 a day room (in that era when the average hotel room was less than ten dollars) with one other man.  The cost to us was twenty-five cents a day to defray maid service.
Tea dance at Royal Hawaiian WWII

Other than being expected to observe the rules about no booze or women in the rooms, we were free to come and go as we wished.  The hotel bars and dining facilities were fully operational and were no longer restricted to officers.  There were no moneyed tourists during wartime.  Each afternoon there was a tea dance on the terrace that was well-attended by respectable young ladies of the community under the auspices of the USO.
It was delightful at first, but by the third day we were getting bored and were chafing to get back to the squadron.

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