|King Street Station in Seattle during WWII|
To my dying day, I will swear that I had no advance knowledge of the plan Cason and Cramer cooked up.
In January of 1944, we lost Cason and Cramer as our roommates. They were both from Butte, Montana and both had girlfriends over there. Regular weekend liberty did not allow enough time to make it to Butte by Sunday evening. They were unable to get any special leave and decided to go AWOL to have at least one night with their girlfriends.
To my dying day, I will swear that I had no advance knowledge of the plan Cason and Cramer cooked up. They had to leave by Thursday night to have enough time so they needed someone to answer for them at house muster on Friday morning. That muster was very informal. We did not fall into ranks but simply gathered informally in the Beta house entry. People would be scattered all over including up the staircase and would answer up when the roll was called by the CPO. I usually answered from the door to our little suite. That Friday morning someone answered for Cason and Cramer. All I knew was that they had not been in the bunk room when I woke just before muster.
I have no knowledge of how Cason and Cramer got found out unless the chief smelled a rat and checked. At any rate, when the two of them got off the train from Montana that Sunday evening the Shore Patrol was waiting on the platform and took them into custody.
There was an investigation held in the office of Captain Barr, the V-12 commanding officer at the UW. Both Brosy and I were called in since we were roommates of the miscreants. They called Brosy in first while I waited in the anteroom. After a few minutes Brosy came out of the office, his face stony. Obviously on instruction he walked straight past me without a word, but as he passed my chair I caught the faint flicker of a smile and an almost noticeable shake of his head.
When I was called in I was facing the Captain, the executive officer, and one officer I did not recognize. I was not invited to sit down but stood at attention. Captain Barr opened the interrogation by saying “Well, Frieze, you might as well be honest and tell everything you know. Brosy has just done that so all we need is confirmation as to how our two AWOLs planned their little junket and who answered for them at muster. Was it you?”
I knew full well that Brosy would not have said that we did overhear some conversation that indicated what Cason and Cramer were going to do. I kept my face grave and said, “No, Captain, it was not me that answered.”
“But you know who did.” It was not a question; it was a statement.
“No, Sir. I did not know of their plan and was not aware that they were gone until word came that they had been arrested. I was in Vancouver on a liberty pass signed by you, sir, until Sunday evening.”
“You mean to stand there and tell me that roommates made such a plan and, living with them, you did not at least overhear their talk about it?!”
“That is correct, Sir. When we are in our quarters we are studying—“ (I could have added, ‘or I am wrting to and thinking about my girlfriend’ but I did not)”and when I concentrate I pay no attention to conversations around me. If they talked about it, I did not hear them.” I gambled, looked directly at the captain, and smiled wryly. “Try me some time when I am reading the Sunday comics, Captain. I concentrate the same unless it’s an air raid alarm or a Jap attack!”
“You do know the penalties for perjury, do you not?”
“Captain, I am a fleet sailor and I have been in the Navy for nearly four years. You will find that I have never even been to a Captain’s Mast. My record is clean. I was leading first class petty officer before I got involved in the V-12 program.”
There were more questions from the other members of the investigating panel but they got the same answers—that I knew mothering of Cason and Cramer’s plan and had not aided them in any way. It quickly became obvious that Barr’s opening comment about what Brosy had said was all bluff. Brosy and I came off with a clean slate—as we should have. Cason and Cramer were not fleet sailors, but had recruited directly into the V-12 program. They were sent to boot camp in Farragut, Idaho, and went to sea on destroyers. (They both survived the war. In later years, Cramer was a smoke jumper for forest fires and Cason worked for the telephone company in Butte.)