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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Friday, November 4, 2016

Brothers Reunited and Moving to Midshipmen's School

Conrad Frieze (far left) leading a V-12 inspection and review in Husky Stadium, the UW Seattle, 1944
"I led my last V-12 review and inspection in the quadrangle on June 16th"

In April of 1945, my brother Dick, who had been in the South Pacific the whole time, finally got back to the states and came to Seattle while he was on a long leave.  It was the first time I had seen or talked to him since 15 September 1942, the day before I sailed from Pearl Harbor on the USS COPAHEE bound for New Caledonia.  I signed my own special liberty pass and we had one hell of a liberty in the dives of the Seattle waterfront.  I do not believe that Captain Barr would have approved of the condition in which his battalion commander returned to the campus in the wee hours of 16 April 1945!
It had been two and a half years since we, who had grown up almost as twins, had seen each other.  Dick was never (and still is not) much of a hand at writing letters so we had a lot to catch up on.  After a few drinks, he left me in stitches with his sea stories about all that had happened to him down in the Solomons.  He had been in and out of trouble countless times, had been busted in rank, had been to captain’s mast more times than he could count, and had even spent a little time in the brig, but he had one hell of a happy time at it.
Dick’s story about coming back stateside from some remote island in the Solomons carrying a skull in a ditty bag left me roaring with laughter in some bar down on First Avenue.  (Repeatedly I have asked Dick since to tape record his tall tales so I could write a book titled “Tales of the Soused Pacific” but he has never done so.  He has said that his daughter, Janice, would take on the chore of recording his exploits but too often nothing comes of old Dick’s plans.)
Somewhere along the way before we got tossed out of some joint at closing time, Dick did reveal that he had gotten a divorce from Diane.  He was obviously still in love with her, but when he came back from the South Pacific to Honolulu without advance notice apparently, he found his Japanese wife shacked up with a Marine.  I was sorry to hear that because I liked Diane very much.  In fact, I visited with her later just after the war when I went through Honolulu in the spring of 1946 as a new Navy ensign on my way to Guam.
(In the end, it turned out for the best for Richard.  While he was still on leave in 1945, he went with our parents back to the Ozarks, met a beautiful brunette from South Greenfield, and married her.  They are still together and I give credit to my sister-in-law, Mary, for being some sort of a saint to have put up with Dick’s foibles all these many years.) [My Aunt Mary Frieze was strong in a way similar to her mother-in-law—Missouri produces strong women—and so much fun to be around.  And yes, she loved Uncle Dick as no one else could have.]
Dick joined others of the family and friends that had questioned the wisdom of becoming engaged to Shirley.  Several had thought I was making a big mistake.  One day I came to the Beta House to find that an eight by ten photo of Shirley that I kept on my desk was in the waste basket.  When I protested, Dykeman growled, “Aw, come one, Con—that’s what you ought to do with it!”
Dick’s comment during our liberty was more to the point, “Hell, brother,--why buy a cow when the milk is damned cheap!”  Infatuated, I ignored them all.
By May of 1945, tired of the routine at the UW, I was feeling very keenly the disappointment that I was not going to be in at the end of the war in the Pacific.  The war in Europe was finally over.  Mussolini in Italy had been long since assassinated and his body and that of his mistress hung by the heels in public.  Adolph Hitler was dead, and his cohorts such as Goering had been arrested and would be tried as war criminals.  The many stories, photographs, and newsreels of the Nazi extermination camps were sickening.  Hitler’s Third Reich, designed to dominate the world and last a thousand years was over, the most infamous chapter in the history of mankind.
Out in the Pacific, Japan was doomed but was still fighting back as the invasion of Okinawa was winding down.  The once-mighty Japanese Navy was impotent and had been effectively destroyed.  Our Grumman F6F Navy fighters and the gull-winged Vought Corsairs outflew the vaunted Zeroes and shot them down almost at will.  The most fearsome weapon the Japanese had left were the kamikazes and their numbers had been decimated.  Boeing B-29 “Superfortresses” laid waste to Tokyo, except for the Imperial Palace, and other Japanese cities.  Now it was only a matter of time before a long and bloody invasion of the Japanese home islands would begin.
Also in the back of my mind was the knowledge that when the war ended the V-12 program would be terminated and I would not get my coveted commission in the Navy.  I knew, too, that the requirement for midshipman’s school was at least two years of college and by the end of spring semester I would have completed my junior year.
For once in the old country boy made a right decision.  I filled out my application for fransfer to midshipman’s school, took it to Captain Barr personally, and—almost on my knees—begged him to forward it.  I explained my background to the captain, pointing out that I had been there at the beginning and wanted nothing worse than to be there at the victorious end.
Barr, an over-average career man, could appreciate my reasoning.  He forwarded my request to BuPers and on the last day of May approval of my request came from the Bureau.  On 14 June 1945 orders came from BuPers for me to report to the University of Notre Dame for midshipmen’s school on 12 July 1945.  The orders were to be effective at the end of the semester on the 22nd of July.
I led my last V-12 review and inspection in the quadrangle on June 16th, breezed through finals week, and on June 22nd left the UW for South Bend via a two-week delay in orders that, of course, I spent in Vancouver.

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