Midshipman’s School, Notre Dame 1945
|Conrad Frieze in the middle of the back row.|
Even though I had spent only four months at Notre Dame during my pre-major semester in V-12, it was rather like a homecoming when I arrived on the familiar campus on 11 July 1945. Notre Dame seemed timeless except that a large Navy drill hall had been erected east of the main quadrangle and just north of of the football stadium. West of the quad there was a new building that housed the classes of the midshipman’s school.
The first evening I was back on campus, I went to the faculty quarters and found Brother Justin. The fat, balding lay brother was enormously pleased to see me and immediately challenged me to a game of chess—beating me as usual but gently teaching me tactics as the game progressed. Sitting there in the small, quiet lounge with him, I had a feeling that I had hardly been away.
I was also pleased that first weekend when I went on liberty in South Bend, wearing my sailor whites because our grey midshipman uniforms were not yet ready, and visited the old Music Box. When I walked in and sat at the bar, the lady at the organ stared at me for a long minute, then her nimble fingers swung into “Sentimental Journey”. She remembered me after two years! I bought her two drinks that evening.
Life at Midshipman’s School was different than the carefree life we had led previously at Notre Dame as college students. Now we were, indeed, officer candidates and, as such, were far more regimented. No carousing weekend nights on the town. We were expected to conduct ourselves as officers and gentlemen. Special liberty was hard to come by. Wearing the grey midshipman uniform that was the same as officers grey except that our cap and collar insignias were simple gold anchors, we were subject to demerits for ungentlemanly conduct either on or off campus. Fifty demerits and it would be back to the fleet in our old “crackerjack” uniforms as seamen. During our initial briefing by Lieutenant Bergen our company commander, we were asked to look closely at the man on either side of us. His promise was, “One of the three of you will probably not graduate.”
Instead of strolling across the quadrangle between classes, we now fell in and marched to the beat of a drum, sometimes at double time. In the morning when the bell rang for muster we had exactly two minutes to be in formation in front of the dormitory. For meals, we also feel into formation and marched to the mess hall. We filled in and sat stiffly at attention in our chairs until food was in front of us and the “At ease, gentlemen,” was given.
Infractions resulted in demerits, the number depending on the offense. They were not irrevocable. Demerits could be walked off by “penalties tours”—marching with a rifle a number of laps around the drill field.
We had no more general classes from the priests. All our courses in Navigation, Seamanship, Ordnance, Navy Regulations, Boat Handling, Ship Construction, Damage Control, etc, were taught by Naval officers. We spent long hours on the drill field under the eagle eye and hawk nose of Lieutenant Tomlin, one of our nemeses, in his always present sunglasses. Reviews and inspections occurred weekly.
As soon as our 4th Company, First Battalion, was formed our traditional white hats were changed to blue-banded “middie” hats and we were fitted for our officer’s uniforms. Two weeks later our grey uniforms were delivered. Our officer’s dress blues would come only at commissioning.
Once more my record as an experienced fleet sailor resulted in my being appointed a cadet officer and I became sub-battalion commander of the First Battalion. The shoulder boards of my dress grey coat now carried not only the midshipman anchor, but also the three stripes of a commander. Since a good friend of mine, Johnny Berry, from the University of Washington was also in my midshipman class, I continued to be known as “Pappy” Frieze. Johnny also had a distinction. He was a drummer, joined the band, and was one of the men that beat the tempo on his snare drum for class or meal formation.
On the 11th of August, we were sworn in as U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipman. I asked Lieutenant Anderson, the battalion commander, how it could be that I could be in the Naval Reserve when I was a regular Navy enlisted man. Apparently, that part of my record had somehow been overlooked. On August 21st, I was officially discharged from the regular Navy and re-enlisted in the Naval Reserve, back-dated to August 11th.
Now, away from the distraction of Vancouver and my infatuation with Shirley Mills and being subjected to the discipline of midshipman’s school patterned after the Naval Academy at Annapolis, my grades came back to where they should have been all the time—close to a 4.0. My letters were infrequent because I had to spend my evenings studying. Hers were prolific and full of wedding plans.
We were notified that our date of commissioning would be 2 November 1945. When I wrote Shirley of that, she promptly set the wedding date for November 8th and the invitations went out. I was not too pleased when she sent me a copy of the invitation which she had prepared in the form of a theater ticket for a production called “For Life”. It was a bit too cute for my taste but I let it pass. If it pleased her, fine—it was not important to me.