About Me

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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The End of an Era

The biggest change at ComNastsAsia came early in May when we had our change of command.  Captain Luthi was replaced by a “by-the-book” Annapolis man, Captain Williams Soech (pronounced “Shay”), USN.  The relaxed days were suddenly gone.  Now we were required to wear our black neckties in the office and shined black shoes. Reserving our old boondockers for duties outside.  We no longer flipped our captain a casual morning salute, but snapped one off crisply with military precision.

Shoech was a fair man but tough.  Every regulation was enforced.  The pass-through in the office was closed up, a new intercom system installed, and the offices were re-decorated.  Visitors no longer sauntered casually into the captain’s office but had to make a formal appointment through me.  When a VIP captain was due to visit, I was required to look him up in the Annapolis register to find if he was senior to Shoech in date of rank.  (Carl Luthi had not given a damn about date of rank.  He had been casual with VIP visitors all the way up to the rank of Rear Admiral.)

Part of the change in life on Guam was the arrival of our spouses on the 22nd of May.  Spaulding and I laid on a large cocktail party at our quarters in their honor and it was well attended by officers from the captain on down and the small handful of wives that already had arrived on the island or came on the GENERAL MITCHELL.

It was, no doubt, a dull existence for our wives. There was little to do on Guam except some sightseeing around the island, an outside movie theater, the officer’s club at ComMarianas, and occasional parties.  It was bearable, but occasionally Shirley would voice her dissatisfaction with the Navy wives pecking order that was established by the husband’s rank.  A Reserve ensign was the lowest of the low seated “below the salt” at any table.  The same applied to Shirley at Navy wives functions.  She resented that.

My required year of active duty would be up in November of 1946; therefore, it was time to decide what I was going to do.  I started the paperwork applying for transfer to the Regular Navy.  Meanwhile, I applied for retention on active duty for another year.  (Shirley was not exactly pleased about that.  She preferred to return to civilian life, being simply no cut out to be a Navy wife.)

The situation resulted in some heated arguments on the subject.  I tried to confine them to times when we were off in the jeep or away from others at the beach at Talofofo Bay across the island, but Commander Spaulding and his lovely brunette wife were fully aware that life was not too rosy for Ensign Frieze and his wife.

In addition, we Reserve junior officers did not take entirely to the spit and polish of the peacetime Navy.  We soon formed an informal organization called “The Pissed Officers Club” complete with private stationary on which we wrote our informal memos to each other.  Our crest was crossed purple shafts (we felt that in some respects we were being given “the purple shaft” without benefit of Vaseline) on which was superimposed a thunder mug called “Supreme Latrine” and our motto was “A Bitch In Time Saves Nine!”  Commander Spaulding provided the motto and he and our Reserve Commander Ben Hardin, NATS Asia executive officer, were the only senior officers ever to become PSOB (“Brother Son of a Bitch”).

Finally, the dissatisfaction at the office pus the occasional bursts of temper in our private life got to be too much.  Although I longed to have “USN” instead of “USNR” after my name, the day before I was to take my application for transfer to the Regular Navy which had been approved by Captain Shoech to ComMarianas for submission I tore it up and threw the pieces into the wastebasket.

It is possible that I might have reconsidered and taken a different course (I apparently had to make a choice between Shirley and the Navy); however, in June of 1946 I received notice that my application for a one-year extension of active duty had been rejected as the Navy cut down on personnel.  As of August 20th, of that year I would go on inactive duty in the Naval Reserve.

After a rousing going away party thrown by my enlisted men for their “mustang” officer, I was detached from ComNatsAsia and we sailed on the USS GENERAL MANN for San Francisco and the separation center.  It was the end of my active duty with the Navy and the close of my first quarter century.

My Navy career was not yet completely over.  When I returned to Vancouver to try to find a job and consider finishing the year I needed for my bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering, I joined the Voluntary Reserve and, later after we moved to Seattle, obtained a billet as ordnance officer in a Reserve fighter squadron at the Sand Point Naval Air Station.  By then I had been promoted to lieutenant, junior grade, and was taking correspondence courses to be ready to accept promotion to full lieutenant.  in effect, however, it was the end of an era in my young life.

[It is tempting to feel bad (and I have) for my father at his giving in to my mother and leaving the Navy, but the promotions were going to men who had been to Annapolis and you may recall that his test and chances of that had gone literally up in smoke on December 7th 1941.  As it turned out his career path allowed him to see as much, maybe more, of the world than if he’d stayed in the Navy.]