My diary continues on the 4th of July: “A 4th of July I should remember. Got up at 0530, and saw Diamond Head looming up before us. Had my first introduction to the Hawaiian Islands. They are different, to say the least — green hills arid beautiful cloud effects. We had to wait outside Pearl Harbor entrance for some time, but came in between 0900 and 1000. The different bases and ships are quite a sight. Sailed by the Lexington, docked to unload the 100,000/barrels of fuel at 1030. Holland’s boat came after me at 1100, and I had dinner aboard my own ship with Chaplain Bennett and a few other officers. Have been with Bennett all day. He is a fine fellow. We “cased” the ship and met some of the personnel. Tomorrow (Saturday) I will meet the Skipper and the Exec, and others. Bennett will be here over Sunday, which suits me fine. He took me out to Chaplain Twitchell’s home for supper, and we had a delightful time. Understand I will get to see Rosie and our boys before too long, which sounds swell.”
Before we get away from the happenings of the first day aboard my first ship, I must relate a parting incident. Aboard the Kaskaskia the Steward’s Mate assigned to me and my room was a very pleasant lad named Cook. Cook took real good care of me, and did a number of things beyond the call of duty. When the Holland’s boat came for me and my gear Cook carried all my “stuff”, including boxes of books, than which there is nothing heavier, from the ship to the dock. It was plenty warm, and Cook got a real work-out. Before he went back to the tanker I wanted to thank him, so I said: “Cook, I certainly do thank you for taking such good care of me, and for all the extra things you’ve done.” Cook’s reply was, “O, that’s O.K, Chaplain; think nothing of it, think nothing of it; you know, Chaplain, when I gets in trouble I’m gonna look you up.” Now Cook didn’t say “if” or “if and when”, but I don’t suppose he really planned to get in trouble. Maybe he realized (from previous experience) that he was accident prone, or something, and simply wanted to apply for some ecclesiastical insurance … just in case. I doubt if Cook subsequently got into as much trouble as did the Chaplain. I have never seen him again; I wish him well wherever he might be.
Martel Twitchell, who entered the Navy in 1937, was the Chaplain at the “sub” Base, where the Holland, a “sub” tender was tied up. Martel was very cordial to me and he and his wife Mamie, plus their two small children, were more than hospitable. I enjoyed visiting (and eating Mamie’s good cooking) in their home in Honolulu. We have remained good friends, our paths having crossed several times since the war. Martel retired as a Captain several years ago, reentered the pastorate, and now is serving a church not more than twenty miles from us in the San Francisco bay area. We are glad to be able to visit with them from time to time.
Turning to my diary again; “On Saturday, the 5th, I did meet the Holland’s Skipper, Captain Gregory, and the “Exec”, Commander Pendleton, plus others of the ship’s crew. Everyone gave me a good reception, which was a compliment to my predecessor. It is always nice to follow a man who was well-liked by those with whom he has worked.”
Continuing from the diary: “Chaplain Bennett (Sam) found on Saturday morning that he could leave for San Diego that evening, so he dashed around getting his things together in order to make it. I went with him in the afternoon to Honolulu, where he got his ticket and checked his baggage, etc. Then we went to the “Y”, where the Twitchells picked us up, and all of us went to the pier to see Sam off. I certainly do not blame Sam for not staying aboard the Holland longer; after all, he has a baby boy at his house, whom he hasn’t yet seen! I would have been just as anxious had 1 been in his place.”
It was after the war before I saw Sam again, but over the years we have had several tours of duty near enough to the Bennett’s that we have visited back and forth, becoming real good friends. After thirty years of Navy duty Sam retired as a Captain a couple of years ago, having entered the Navy’ in 1938, and now is the pastor of a little mountain church back of San Diego.
Back to the diary again: “Sun. July 6. My first Divine service aboard — quite a thrill, even though the attendance was small. Fried chicken dinner at Twitchell’s. A good dinner and a nice visit. Clede Markell was there, and we compared notes. Made calls on Chaplains Ackiss and Salisbury. Then met Chaplain Miller at the “Y” and went with him to the windward side of Oahu, for an evening service. Chaplain Miller (Thornton) took me to his home, where we had a nice “snack” and visit with his family. To my shipboard “home” rather late.”
A word about the three veteran chaplains mentioned above will probably be of interest. The late Chaplain Ernest Ackiss entered the Navy during World War 1 and served for more than thirty years; having held a number of important assignments along the way. He was Force Chaplain aboard USS INDIANAPOLIS in 1941. Chaplain Ackiss did valuable research work after the war at the Chaplains Division in Washington.
The late Chaplain Thornton Miller entered the Navy in 1920. He was District Chaplain at Pearl Harbor when I first met him, held responsible assignments, finishing his Naval career as a Rear Admiral.
The late Chaplain S. W. (Stan) Salisbury who became a Chaplain in 1921 was aboard the Battleship Pennsylvania when I first met him at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Having served in a number of responsible assignments, Stan became a Rear Admiral in 1949 and served his last tour of duty as Chief of Chaplains.
Well, now I was on my own aboard a strange ship (they were all strange to me), but already I had found that I was among friends, who were glad to help a “land-lubber” chaplain find his way around. I had found, even aboard the Kaskaskia, that this was not so easy for me to do, and it took me some time to become oriented in the Holland and other ships I served. At first I didn’t realize there were so many decks “down below.” It took some weeks to be sure what deck I was on, or whether I was facing “fore” or “aft”, or whether I was on the port or starboard side. Perhaps a slight tendency toward claustrophobia did not help, but after a while things began to fit into place, and I was able to find my way around pretty good. When I had any particular difficulty I just swallowed my pride and asked directions — as my wife has finally taught me to do out on the road. My aim was to get around the ship lot, and to become acquainted with the officers and men where they worked. Your “parishoners” like to feel that their chaplain is interested in them during the week — not just on Sunday. Some of the most meaningful contacts a chaplain makes are those so-called casual encounters he has as he circulates about his ship or station, becoming acquainted with the personnel. Of course, in the process they are “sizing up” the chaplain, too, and’are often pretty good at it. There are usually a few “customers” who will soon try to “work”, or test, a new chaplain — to see whether he’s an easy mark, or whether he expects people to help themselves, if they can. The word seems to get around, and usually the chaplain is known for what he really is. And that is the way most of us like it.
I am rather proud of myself for something I learned all by myself after reporting to the Holland. I got to figuring that it just might look as if the chaplain might know where he was going, and why, if he had something important-looking in his hand as he went about the ship. So I always made it a point to have a legal-sized envelope, or something, to carry around, and tried to look real important on such occasions.
A chaplain is assigned an office of sorts, which often is connected with the ship’s library, which traditionally is supervised by the chaplain. To man the library and office he is assigned a yeoman, who, if he is the right kind, can be a lot of help to the chaplain. When the Chaplain is “circulating”, a good yeoman can represent him, and also get in touch with him when it is necessary — especially in case of emergencies, etc. A good chaplain should not be found in his office too much — unless he has a desk job, as such. There is a certain amount of paper work to be done during office hours, but a chaplain’s reading and study usually is accomplished in his quarters, after hours. Of course, different types of duty largely determine a chaplain’s schedule. For instance, in the case of hospital duty, he should be found most of the time visiting and counseling the sick in the wards. His yeoman will need to know where he can be reached at all times during the day, and at night he is on call (by the duty officer) in emergencies.
A case in point in relation to hospital emergencies occurred while I was Senior Chaplain at Great Lakes Naval Hospital in the middle fifties. One day the Chief Surgeon called me and asked if I could come over right away — that they had a case he thought I might be able to help with. When I got there he told me they had a patient in the dependents ward, whose life was in danger, as well as that of the baby, if she didn’t undergo a caesarian section soon, since there were critical complications. He also told me they were confident that if the operation were performed immediately the lives of both would be saved. The problem was that she would not submit to the operation without the approval of her husband, who was on duty in the far east, and could not be reached soon enough. So, the chaplain hopefully was the catalyst. Upon entering the patient’s room (after asking the good Lord to give me the right words to say) the first thing I noticed was that she was black. I was glad, for it seems that have always had a certain empathy with most negroes. After introducing myself, I pulled up a chair, sat real close to the bed, placed my hand on hers and told her quietly and sincerely that I knew the doctors involved, that they were fine surgeons, and that she could have absolute confidence in what they had told her. I told the young lady, also, that I was sure her husband would want her to go ahead with the operation — under the circumstances. I further assured her that I would advise a close relative the same as I had advised her. After I had been at the patient’s bedside for no more than five minutes she smiled and said, “Well, Chaplain, if you think this is the right thing to do, you tell the doctors to go ahead, and I’m sure the Lord will take care of me and my baby.” Before I left, I offered a short prayer of trust and assurance, asking God’s guidance for the doctors. The surgery was performed that morning, and that afternoon I was notified that it was successful, both mother and baby having been spared. The next day I called on this happy lady again, and offered up a prayer of thanksgiving for the mother and baby, and for the father, too. I firmly believe that God uses human instruments (not only doctors, ministers and scientists, but so-called ordinary people) to help perform His miracles. We are told that “we are laborers together with God … His fellow-workers.”
The foregoing incident was not related to glorify the chaplain, but to indicate how a chaplain really comes in handy at times. This incident could, have involved another chaplain, but I was there, and had the opportunity of serving. Although the chaplain represented the church, my services probably would have been offered in vain, and my advice would not have been accepted, had not this lady not only been a church goer, but also a dedicated Christian — and sometimes there is a big difference. It was not that she distrusted doctors, but that she had had more association with ministers and needed reassurance. More and more doctors, both in military and civilian practice, are recognizing the value, and even necessity, of doctors and ministers working together, and this works both ways.
Many people traditionally have had the idea that a hospital is a place people go to primarily to die. This is no longer as true as it used to be, except that there are those (probably mostly among the elderly and disadvantaged) who still are extremely apprehensive about being admitted to a hospital, or about submitting to surgery. This applies not only to blacks, but to whites as well. So, we have to take this into consideration when dealing with certain people.
Before we leave the hospital scene perhaps another aspect of such duty that could be of interest is the chaplain’s relationship to the Neuro- psychiatric Department. Doctors and ministers in this field (both civilian and military) are working together more and more in this broad and important category. At Great Lakes we chaplains had a working relationship with our doctors in this Department, and I believe our working together resulted in great benefit to a number of patients. A couple of us chaplains regularly attended (at the invitation of the Senior Psychiatrist) the seminars at the N.P. section, where we heard individual cases discussed. We were free to enter into the discussion, and often did. We chaplains, sometimes as a result of our interviews, referred individuals to the Psychiatrists for further consultation and possible treatment. It is a wise chaplain who knows the point beyond which he should not try to go in some cases. After having demonstrated love and concern for such individuals they can be referred to the Psychiatrist, together with the findings of the chaplain. Some times the chaplain will have further contact with the patient in the ward, at the suggestion of the doctors. This is a two-way street, and the doctors often referred their N. P. patients to us for consultation. One of our chaplains held a brief weekly Divine Service in a room at the end of the N.P. ward. The patients were free to attend if they chose.
We do not favor any compulsion, or captive congregations. These services were the result of a joint suggestion by the doctors and chaplains, and it was felt that this was a worth-while endeavor.
Summing up the relationship between ministers and psychiatrists, I would have this brief suggestion for ministers: We should read as widely as possible in the field of mental illness – especially in the realm of religious factors in such illness, and become conversant with the basic terms used, while making an effort also to see the patient as the doctors see him. Many Seminaries are offering courses in this field, and there are many available seminars, and more and more helpful books in this important field are being published. The one big hazard for ministers is that it is so easy for some of us (consciously or not) to presume to become “experts” in this whole field. Let us keep in mind that we are not doctors, and pray the Lord that we might have enough common sense to realize it.
I would not presume to advise the Psychiatrists, but I have noted among some of them an apparent lack of any meaningful realization of the importance of religious factors in mental illness — and other kinds of illness — for that matter. We can’t expect every doctor to be devoutly religious (thank God for those who are), but it is not too much to expect them to at least take into consideration the patient’s religious background, including his religious faith, and the particular branch within that faith. Otherwise, I fail to see how some cases can be fully evaluated, diagnosed and treated. It would seem that medical training should include more than apparently is presently the case. So much for that. Be assured, I do appreciate doctors, and we get along fine together.
I am not trying to enhance the chaplain’s importance when I say that Commanding Officers of military hospitals (and heads of more and more civilian hospitals) would be quite reluctant to undertake the administration of their institutions of healing without the ready availability of the representatives of religion. For that matter I have known of more than, one ship’s Skipper who would not sail without a chaplain aboard.
Although chaplains (a very few) go back to the very first beginnings of our Navy, there was no appreciable number before World War I, and then there were no more than two hundred during that conflict, the number of Navy chaplains (mostly reserves) diminished along with the reduction of Navy personnel, and even a year before Pearl-Harbor there were only about one hundred on duty) practically all of these were regular Navy. While the chaplains who served before that time served faithfully and well, laying a firm foundation for the future, it was not until World War II, when the number of Navy chaplains reached almost three thousand, that the chaplains corps was adequately recognized, and chaplains more generally accepted by officers and men alike. This does not mean that everybody in the Navy is always enthusiastic about chaplains, or a particular chaplain. Sometimes we are only tolerated, if not disliked. But, by and large, I think, there is a general recognition of the place of the chaplain in the Navy, and an appreciation of his work — if he does his job.
There have been, and still are, “chaplains and chaplains” … the same as with people in other walks of life. I firmly believe, however, that in the long run chaplains, as well as other ministers, will receive respect if and as they merit it. We won’t receive, and shouldn’t expect to have, respect and admiration unless we ourselves earn it. Such recognition does not come automatically with a clerical collar, a uniform, or rank. We chaplains and other ministers have a lot to live up to, since our opportunities for serving are so great and challenging. We should be eternally grateful for those who have paved the way, making it possible for us to carry on the work they have begun. God have mercy on our souls if we betray that honor and trust! Amen.
My first week aboard “my ship” was a busy one, of course. My time was largely spent in getting acquainted with things and people aboard. The ship was undergoing a periodic overhaul when I reported for duty, so, not everything was exactly in place, and naturally there was some confusion, especially in certain parts of the ship. But this was to be expected, and I hardly noticed the difference. This was partly because I hadn’t been aboard before the overhaul was undertaken, and also because I am so notoriously “non-mechanically inclined”. It is not that I am definitely disinterested in things mechanical, but that I have always had other interests. I do like people, and seem to have a certain affinity for most individuals. There are some persons however that I like better than others, and no doubt there are plenty of people who might not “prefer” me, either; but I hope there are not too many in that category. At any rate, I made an honest effort to become acquainted with things aboard, while finding it required no special strain to get acquainted with the ship’s personnel. Not even a gregarious chaplain succeeds in learning the names of five hundred people overnight, but I am anxious to learn what makes people tick, if I can. In this get-acquainted process they (those interested) were probably looking the new chaplain over, too.
The Holland was built and commissioned in the middle twenties. She ‘may not have been the most beautiful, sleek, speedy ship around, but she was a work-horse, having been built to supply the needs of her squadron of submarines while ashore and at sea. She had a clipper bow, which enabled her, in earlier years, to hoist the small subs of an earlier day up and under this concave bow, where they could be serviced and repaired. Of course, this feature no longer was of use because of the much heavier modern subs, but the bow was a distinctively noticeable and identifying feature, which added to the beauty of the old girl. As is probably somewhat well known, no matter how much a sailor might cuss his current ship while aboard, and call it “an old bucket of bolts”, etc. when ashore it is the “best d— ship in the Navy”. If anybody undertakes to dispute that allegation there is almost certain to be an altercation, which sometimes winds up in a “donnybrook” — or just a plain old free for all, or even a brawl.
The Holland was not a huge ship, by modern standards, but housed everything from a blacksmith shop to a small instrument shop. She carried all kinds of supplies and equipment, including torpedoes for her subs. So, she was not a fast ship, but quite seaworthy. In fact, she was so seaworthy that even this chaplain can’t remember having been seasick aboard her while cruising ten or twelve thousand miles in the pacific — and that’s something.
The Holland had a pretty good baseball team, and I was able to get acquainted with most of the players, none of whom were big-leaguers, but had played sand-lot ball, and in High School, etc. They loved to play, and it wasn’t always easy — because of work and watch schedules, but they usually found a way. They played teams from other ships and from shore-based units in the area. It was hard to draw up a firm schedule very far ahead and be sure of keeping it, because of ship movements and transfers of personnel. But “we” had fun, and it was a good outlet. The Navy places a great deal of emphasis on recreational activities.
During my first week at Pearl Harbor I met some other chaplains for the first time. The late Chaplain W. A. (Bill) Maguire, who was then Chaplain of the Pacific Fleet, entered the Navy in 1917, and retired in 1946, after’ a long and distinguished career. I had heard of Chaplain Maguire while in San Diego, and was glad of the opportunity of meeting him. I saw him again several times in 1946 when he was 11th Naval District Chaplain in San Diego. He retired a few months later and died suddenly on a trip to London seven or eight years after that. I was able to attend a Requiem Mass for him in the Roman Catholic Cathedral in San Diego.
Chaplain R. C. (Ray) Hohenstein, who was aboard the battleship California at this time, entered the Navy a year before I reported for duty. Ray has the distinction of being the only chaplain to have been at Pearl Harbor at the beginning of hostilities in World War II, and also at Tokyo Bay for the surrender. Over the years Ray and I had some nearby duty, and I value his friendship. Ray retired two or .three years ago, and now has a responsible position with the Lutheran Church, with headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The late Chaplain Tom Kirkpatrick, whom I met previously at the Marine Base in San Diego, was now aboard the battleship Arizona. Tom did not have his family with him, and I enjoyed being aboard the Arizona several times, and having him aboard the Holland on a couple of occasions. Tom Kirkpatrick was one of the finest Christian gentlemen I have known. A few years after the war we had the privilege of living only a block- or so from Genevieve, his widow, and Tom, Jr., their son.
On Saturday night of my first week aboard I visited Chaplain S. [ed. Chaplain H. Cerf Straus] (whom I had “under/my wing” in San Diego) and his “Happy Hour” at the Armed Forces “Y” in Honolulu. He greeted me as a “long-lost brother”,and I “just had” to get up on the stage, where he introduced me as though I were the Chief of Chaplains, or some other V.I.P. In the process he proudly referred to himself as “a Brewster-trained man”. I was fortunate in being there that particular night, since most of the entertainment consisted of a real, old- fashioned family Hula show, which featured one large family portraying their way of life by means of the various Hula rituals. This involved every member of the family — from the youngest grandchildren through the oldest grandparents. It was really quite a revelation, and so different from the usual concept of the Hula. In the few months that Chaplain S. [ed. Chaplain H. Cerf Straus] had been out there he had become unusually well-acquainted with people and things — so, he proved to be quite a source of information.
In the few months I was in the area, thanks to the thoughtfulness of chaplains and a few other people, who were generous with their cars, I was not only able to see different parts of Honolulu, but also different parts of the island of Oahu. The sugar cane and pineapple fields were something quite different to an old California boy. The Mormon Temple is a sight to behold, and was well worth stopping for. The Pali provides one of the most spectacular views you will find anywhere.
A memorable picnic was held for chaplains at one of the beautiful beaches on the Island. In contrast to the beaches on the California coast, the water is so warm in the islands that sometimes it is almost enervating. The swimming here, however, didn’t fail to sharpen our appetites for the good “chow” the ladies had brought for the picnic supper. In addition to the feasting there was story telling and singing. Whenever chaplains (and other ministers) get together, a good, jolly time is had by all! The one ingredient that would have made the evening complete would have been to have had Rosie and the boys along. As I mentioned before, though, it would be but a matter of weeks until I would get to see them, since around the first of September, after overhaul, dry-docking and trial runs, we were scheduled for an “R 5 R” (rest and recreation) cruise to San Diego, where we would spend a couple of weeks. So, that was something really to look forward to.
I have mentioned our Divine Services aboard, and some people might be interested to know where we hold services aboard ships. That’s a good question, since we hold them wherever it seems to be most convenient. Shore stations almost always include separate chapels. Some of them, especially in isolated areas, include facilities for Sunday School, and carry on quite a church program for the Navy families in the area. Ships can hardly be built to include chapels, as such, but the newer ships usually have suitable space available. In the case of carriers; the hangar deck is often used. On some occasions, such as Easter Sunrise services, when the weather is good, the flight deck is a unique site for a large, community service. I have participated in such services in Norfolk and San Diego. In the Holland we used the recreation lounge for services when underway; when we were tied up we held services out on the main deck forward, weather permitting.
The question of where to hold services reminds me of an incident after we had gone into drydock. About the middle of the first week we were up out of the water, and everything was in disarray. I was in the Exec’s office when he brought up the question of whether or not a church service could be held the following Sunday. He said, “Chaplain, I don’t see how we’re going to be able to rig for church Sunday.” Knowing the situation I replied, “Well, Commander, maybe it’s a case of the ox being in the ditch.” His reply was, “Well, I don’t know about that, but I do know that we’re in a hell of a hole.” But we were able to hold our service. I have found some very meaningful services can be held under seemingly adverse conditions.
Where there are no permanent chapels, such as aboard ship, portable altars with suitable equipment, are provided. A special working party, usually under the supervision of the chaplain’s yeoman, is responsible for “rigging for church”, so that everything is in readiness when church-call is sounded on the bugle (usually a record) over the loud speaker system throughout the ship or station. In the Holland we had a piano in the re-creation lounge, while for services “up above” we had a little portable pump organ. To play these instruments Chaplain Bennett had hired (out of chapel funds) a young lady in her middle twenties, who lived in Honolulu with her parents. This member of our “team” certainly did not detract from our services, and may have been partially responsible for some of the attendance we enjoyed, for she was a striking looking girl. Like many of the people of Hawaii she was a blend of several races. Her father, who was a violin teacher in town, was mostly, if not altogether, Chinese, while her mother was of Hawaiian and Portuguese extraction. Their daughter was “tall, dark and handsome.” I might say that she was well-protected, since usually her fiancé either accompanied her to the ship, or met her after the service. Maybe he had been a sailor himself!
We had some interesting people, perhaps I could even say “characters”, aboard the ship, too. – One of the most colorful was our chief boatswain, a middle-aged chief warrant officer with enough seniority that his pay probably equaled that of the Exec., if not the Skipper’s. I can’t quit’e remember his name, but he was plenty Irish, so we’ll call him “Mr. Dooley”. He was not large, but he carried a lot of weight, because of the responsible nature of his job, his seniority, and the authority of his personality. Mr. Dooley, together with the first Lieutenant, was responsible for everything and everybody out on deck. The boats and all other equipment had to be in readiness for any eventuality at all times, and the personnel had to be trained to meet any emergency. Mr. Dooley knew his job, everybody knew that he knew it, and he performed it well.
The one incident that stands out in my mind in connection with Mr, Dooley occurred after our dry-dock period, and during our trial runs in Lahaina Roads. One day when deck drills were being conducted I was standing on the quarter-deck near Mr. Dooley, who was really in fine fettle as he “cracked the whip”. He was not a terribly profane man, but he could make himself heard and understood, which he did, as the men undertook to carry out their various assignments. Among the crew some (like the chaplain) had never been to sea, and naturally were inexperienced. But as I heard Mr. Dooley’s remarks, and saw such hopeless expressions on his face, I was practically forced to the conclusion that these lads just wouldn’t do! But after this session ended, Mr. Dooley turned to me and said, “Aw, Chaplain, they’re not so bad; they’ll probably do O.K. — in fact, they are a pretty good bunch of lads.” Mr. Dooley was something like some of the football coaches I have known and heard about — they don’t want their teams to become too overconfident.
Our Exec was easy enough to work with, although he wanted things done decently and in order. Most sailors will tell you that they prefer to work for a Skipper and Exec who are “hard but fair”. Our Exec was in this latter category. I was in his office one day when a junior officer was given orders to complete a certain assignment. This young officer was unwise enough to say, “Commander, when would you like to have this done?” The reply was, “Look, Lieutenant, I want it done yesterday!” It behooves a man in the Navy to learn very soon that orders are not to be carried out with “all deliberate speed”, but with all possible speed — if not “yesterday”.
The first lieutenant aboard is in charge of maintenance work, including repairs and painting. Our first lieutenant was a merchant marine officer, who had been called up (as many other valuable officers were) from the Naval Reserve. Mr. H. looked and acted the part of a man who was used to the -roughness of the sea. You got the idea from just looking at this burly guy that the rougher it was the better he liked it. He was a bit under six feet, weighed around two hundred twenty pounds, and was about forty years old. I didn’t get acquainted with Mr. H. as readily as with some of the other officers aboard — not that we avoided each other — but we just didn’t seem to have that much in common. He wasn’t a very talkative guy, but you had a feeling he was looking you over (maybe we were looking each other over) and that if and when he had something to say, he would say it. One night, after I had been aboard a couple of weeks or so, I had my first and last encounter with Mr. H. After a movie out on deck some of us drifted back into the ward room for a cup of coffee, or a drink of water — or to just “shoot the breeze” — before going to our quarters. I had gotten a drink from the “scuttlebutt”, and was standing with my back to the bulkhead when Mr. H. sauntered up’ in front of me, looked me over, and with no preliminary greeting, said, “Chaplain, you’re a big S.O.B., aren’t you?” Although he didn’t use just the foregoing initials, I supposed he meant the combined statement and question to be just a friendly get-acquainted greeting. I had known that the term among some people is used rather loosely and not seriously. However, I wasn’t brought up that way, and hadn’t become used to it … in fact, I never have. So, my reply to my “friend” was, “Well, Lieutenant, you’re not so little yourself (I was six feet and weighed two hundred, but not exactly as hard as nails), and I will take that as a complimentary, friendly greeting; but six months ago you would have had to have taken that back, or you would have had me to whip. I don’t like the term, and I will expect you not to use it again in my presence.” He did not exactly apologize (perhaps he didn’t really know how), but we got along O.K. after that. However, I wouldn’t leave you with the idea that we became “bosom buddies”, or anything like that. I do believe that he gained respect for me, and I didn’t lose any respect for him.
Perhaps I should explain to some the term “scuttlebutt”, which is used in the Navy for a drinking fountain and for rumors. It seems that the term comes from the days of the old sailing vessels, when they didn’t have the nice fountains which squirt ice water into your mouth by pressing down on a “gismo” (term for anything for which you do not know the name) with either a finger or a foot. The old sailors had to go for their drinking water to a barrel amidships, where they would gather and “shoot the breeze” (tell sea-stories and start rumors), as they gathered round the “scuttlebutt”. A familiar question as you go about a ship or station is “What’s the latest scuttlebutt?”, or some rumor-monger will rush up and tell you he has the latest “scuttlebutt”. For some unknown reason, a lot of the lads seem to expect the Chaplain always to have the latest scuttlebutt. The chaplain’s usual reply is, “The chaplain is always the last one to get the word.”
The Commanding Officer of the Holland during this period was Captain “Nino” Gregory [ed. Captain Joseph Wesley Gregory]. If I ever knew the Skipper’s real given name, I have forgotten it, but his nickname, which is the Spanish “Nino”, meaning boy, was probably attached to him because of his rather small stature. You usually have more contact with the Exec than the Skipper, and I find I don’t remember too much about the latter gentleman — except the following incident. Before I reported aboard, tentative plans were being made for a big ship’s party. Such parties are held from time to time for the officers and men of a ship, and their families. This one (and they “allowed” me to get in on the planning and implementing) was to be an extra big affair. Some kind of anniversary was to be commemorated, and awards were to be made, so, we didn’t spare the horses. The scene of the party was the pool area at the sub base, which we decorated and lighted up like a Christmas tree.
Around the pool, tables were set up to be loaded with plenty of chow, and certain beverages, including coffee. I don’t recall whether or not there was any water on the menu.
Captain Gregory called me to his cabin a few days before our “shin-‘ dig”. You usually wonder, when you get such a call, “What have I done now,” or “what haven’t I done that I should have done? But, this was not that kind of call; the Skipper had a problem this time. He greeted me by saying, “Chaplain, I’ve got a problem I want you to help me with.” “Well Captain, I replied, “I’ll be glad to help you if I can.” “Well, you see,” he said, “They’ve got me down for a speech at this ship’s party we’re having, and I don’t know just how to go about preparing it; I’m not used to this speech making business. Now, you’ve had a lot of experience in this department, and I’d like for you to write this thing up for me.” We agreed that the speech should be about five minutes long, and I went to work putting-words into the Skipper’s mouth. After submitting a rough draft to him after a ‘ day or two, and getting his O.K. on it, I put the finishing touches to the speech; the Skipper memorized it word for word, gave it at the party in a pretty good voice, and got considerable applause. The party wound up with a lot of music and dancing, and a good time was had by all. So, you see, a chaplain is even a ghost writer on occasion — among many other things. Ship’s parties and other recreational activities provide an opportunity for personnel to meet members of one another’s families, and to become acquainted socially. This is good for the morale of everybody concerned, and is an area of special interest to the chaplain.
Speaking of morale I am reminded of an incident in San Diego after my retirement. I had been going to this little one-chair barber shop, which was run by an Italian-American by the name of Joe. It was in the summertime and I kept telling Joe to cut my hair shorter — not that I had enough to worry about. So, one day Joe decided to take me literally, and he really cut it short. It was the next thing to running the short clippers over my head. But I rather liked it, and so did my wife, and several friends also said it was quite becoming. Besides, now I didn’t have to worry about my hair getting “mussed-up” while driving, etc., and didn’t even have to carry a comb. So, when I went back to Joe’s the next time I was quite enthusiastic when he asked how I liked the short-short cut. My reply was, “Oh, I like it fine, my wife likes it, and my friends like it.” “Sure, Chaplain,” he replied, “It’s good for your morality.” “Then that settles it Joe, let’s keep it short; anything that’s good for my “morality” I need and want.” So, I’ve been wearing it short ever since.
One aspect of a Naval officer’s routine that I probably should have mentioned before is the matter of “duty” calls, which are a traditional custom of long-standing in the Navy. As soon as convenient after reporting aboard a ship or station junior officers and their wives are supposed to call at the homes of the senior officers of the command. These calls are to be made in the late afternoon — after working hours, and before the dinner hour, or on Sunday. Sometimes a senior officer will announce a regular “at home” time, indicating when you should call at his home’. In some cases a command party will be held at the officers club, with the stipulation that attendance will mean “all calls made and received”, which makes it simpler and easier for everybody concerned. When making calls, calling cards are left if the people are not at home, in which case the call is considered made. I have heard of cases where people made reasonably sure that no one was at home, and made some calls rather fast accordingly.
Only a few of the Holland’s officers had their families in Honolulu, so it wasn’t too much of a “chore” to make the calls indicated — even without a car at my disposal. Since the junior dental officer had not been aboard much longer than I, we decided to make our calls together. It was not too easy, since we were not familiar with the area, which is pretty large, including several miles of travel between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. This involved taxis, public transportation, transfers, and getting caught in the rain a couple of times, but we found it quite interesting and edu-cational. In the process we learned our way around parts of Honolulu. When you make a game out of something that can be rather onerous it usually makes quite a difference. This applies not only to making duty calls in the Navy, but to many aspects of life.
I have mentioned, in passing, some of the duties, opportunities and privileges of a chaplain, but I suppose that it is not always easy for the layman to understand the relationship a chaplain has to the people with whom he is working. Some people jump to the conclusion that the chaplain must be a warmonger, since he is a part, of the military system. The Chaplain does not have an easy role to play, but as far as the military aspects of his role are concerned I have found no real difficulty. The chaplain is expected to be a minister first, and he will be respected as he governs himself accordingly. When a chaplain forgets this, and begins to think primarily in terms of the military, and proceeds to “throw his weight around”… then he loses his influence and the respect of officers and men alike. In spite of the complex role of the chaplain, I have coined the following very simple definition: “A chaplain is a commissioned clergyman who works with the officers — for the men.” This has helped me to remember my place, and to maintain it, I hope.
Several yeomen who were assigned to me in different situations have also been mentioned.’ If a chaplain is fortunate he may be assigned a young man of superior ability, who has a real interest in helping him in his office. Sometimes he has to fight to get the kind of man he feels he needs, rather than somebody that nobody else wants. I have had both kinds, and the only “fights” I have had in the Navy have been at this point. During the Korean war I was staff chaplain for the Amphibious Forces of the Pacific (Phibpac), supervising the work of about fifteen chaplains on ships in the Far East. Our headquarters were at the Amphibious Base in Coronado. To my office was assigned just one man, who needed to be efficient, talented, versatile and trustworthy. Fortunately I inherited just such a man from my predecessor, who had “handpicked” him from “boot-camp”. Carroll fulfilled all the requirements — he was a good office man, a musician, an artist — with creative imagination — and could be depended upon. When my work called me away from the office, as it often did, I knew that I was well-represented. If my work was satisfactory during those years, half the credit certainly should go to my yeoman, who was indispensable.
In order to keep in touch with our chaplains overseas my office got out a quarterly communication, which with Carroll’s talents, became a pictorial booklet that attracted considerable attention, including a commendation from the Chaplains Division in Washington. This quarterly directive was sent out as an official “word” from the Command, so each issue had to have the stamp of approval of our three-star Admiral. The liaison between the Chaplain and the Admiral was the Chief of Staff. Directives and other items were usually roughed-out by me, and Carroll would fill in and do the typing, mimeographing, art work, etc. One Monday morning, after Carroll had had my material over the week-end, I could hardly believe my eyes as I was reading one of my directives and encountered the word “invigilation,” I had never heard or seen the word before, and Carroll hadn’t either, but as he was typing the directive, which, at this point, was urging the chaplains to keep a close watch on certain aspects of their work, he decided he needed an all-inclusive word to convey my meaning. So, he “broke out” ‘ the dictionary and found what he thought would be just what the doctor ordered. I told my very efficient yeoman, however, that this word would never do. His reply was that the word was in the dictionary, and that it conveyed just the desired meaning, “So why not use it?” “Well”, I said, “The Chief of Staff and Admiral just won’t buy such an unusual word”. He persuaded me, though, to leave “invigilation” in, saying that “they” won’t know what it means, either, but won’t dare risk losing face by admitting it. The word stayed in, and the directive went through with no questions asked. Carroll, who is now in his late thirties, is an Episcopalian clergyman — so, maybe the association with a certain Methodist chaplain didn’t do him too much harm. Perhaps I should say, however, that my predecessor, an Episcopalian, got the lad started right!
While at PhibPac another noteworthy incident happened. For some time the Chaplains Division had had a program of selecting certain interested and capable men, who would conduct some Divine services and represent the chaplains on ships with no chaplain aboard. Many of these dedicated lay-men did very valuable work — under the direction of the chaplain in their particular area. In a report from one of our chaplains in the far east he spoke of the Skipper of one of our ships having done an outstanding job of conducting Divine services on his own ship. On noting the name of this Navy Captain, Howard C., and after a little investigation, I realized that more than thirty years earlier, when I was a High School senior and Howard was a freshman — he was the pupil and I was his so-called teacher or leader. This was at the Long Beach, Calif. Y.M.C.A. where I was the leader of a Bible class called the “Deacons”, and “our Captain” was a little fourteen year old, freckled-faced, red-headed freshman member. He was one of the sharpest lads in the group, and I was not surprised a few years later to learn that he had received an appointment to the Naval Academy. I had heard that he was still in the Navy after World War II, but I didn’t realize that he would become one of “my” lay-leaders in the Navy. Maybe I hadn’t done the lad so much harm, after all; or it could be that Howard was an illustration of the fact that some men will succeed in spite of anything. At any rate, this was a heart-warming experience for me.
It was not unusual for personnel of ships during their far-Eastern tour of duty to raise money for various worthwhile projects. This particular ship of ours had raised a considerable sum and it was decided to use at least a part of it to bring the mothers of four of the men to San Diego to meet the ship when she returned to her home port. They were to have the red-carpet treatment, and to be wined and dined for a week. The mothers were chosen by lot, and as the time approached for their arrival in San Diego, it was learned that one of the mothers was a negro. Perhaps this would have presented no particular problem in 1969, but it presented a potentially explosive problem in 1953. Since I had been designated as the official greeter, and to see that arrangements were made for the entertainment (including hotel accommodations) of the ladies, I soon realized that we had a problem on our hands.
In sounding out a couple of the best “north of Broadway” hotels in San Diego I was forced to the conclusion that, to put it mildly, they were not about to include our dark-skinned lady, although they would have been glad to have the ofher three mothers as guests. I realized that this would never do as a matter of expediency, in addition to the principle involved. To have the white mothers staying at a fine “uptown” hotel, while the black mother would be found in some little shabby place “on the other side of the tracks” was out of the question. This would have been a perfect “story” for some eager-beaver reporter to sink his fangs into, and make trouble for the Navy, and everybody concerned. So, it seemed to be up to the chaplain to find a way out.
I thought we were really stymied until, as I was thinking about any possible solution, I had a sudden brain-storm. It didn’t take me long to get over to see the Chief of Staff, who was not aware that we were facing such a serious problem until I told him about the “mixed” group, and what I had found out from the hotels. When he realized the potential seriousness of the situation, he said, “Chaplain, what are we going to do?” My reply was that I had just one suggestion — to try the Y.W.C.A. in downtown San Diego. The reply of the Chief of Staff was to call for an official car and driver to take me to see the General Secretary of the Y.W.C.A. She understood the situation perfectly, and without any hesitation offered us two of the building’s best rooms, which were being refurbished and would be ready just in time for our honored guests. Needless to say,, I reserved them on the spot. The Y.W. subsequently reported to us that “our” mothers were among the most delightful guests they had ever had. Perhaps the chaplain “made a few points” with the Chief of Staff when it was reported that this mission was accomplished. It is another illustration of the fact that the chaplain does come in handy at times.
The sequence to the story is that the chaplain met the mothers at Lindbergh Field, got them settled in their new rooms, and escorted them aboard the ship to greet their sons, who, together with their shipmates, saw that these ladies really had a “ball” in and around San Diego for the ensuing week. Incidentally, in addition to the “lady in black” being from the South, two of the white mothers were from Southern states. As far as we could determine, this made no difference to these fine ladies, or anybody else — and a good time was had by all!
An incident involving my”prize” yeoman might be of some amusement to others, as it was to me — and as it certainly was to Carroll and some of his cronies. One morning when I arrived at my office Carroll was unusually cheerful (he was capable of being moody) and very anxious that I sit at my desk and look over some things he had been working on and about which he had some questions. It so happened that I was in a pretty good mood myself that morning, and fortunately my language was not too bad. In fact, I was so cheerful that I was singing and humming a current song which went … “a-round the corner, ooh, who, beneath the berry tree, etc.. (l had to hum the rest of the words). Well, that yeoman had hidden a tape-recorder under my desk and had recorded everything that was said, sung and hummed during the first fifteen minutes I was in the office. He proceeded to play it back to our mutual friends at every opportunity, and I think he probably created some such opportunities. Boys will be boys!
While speaking of yeomen that I have had, others include those who have become a Presbyterian minister, a social worker, a dentist, a church organist and a business executive. So, you can see that all of them do not “go to the dogs” as a result of their association with chaplains.
In relating the incident of the “mixed” mothers, I was reminded of how the Navy (and other branches of the Service, too) have been integrated since World War II. Previously practically all black sailors were steward’s mates, but recently all the rates have been opened up to everybody, and now our Afro-Americans are to be found among the whites in every department of the Navy. Nowhere in our society will more complete integration be found. There is no separation as far as eating and sleeping arrangements are concerned, and certainly our Divine services are mixed. On occasion I have had a little fun with a few of my pastor friends by asking them how many black people they had in their services the previous Sunday. Usually the answer has been, “Well, er, I guess I didn’t have any.” My usual rejoinder has been that this seemed odd to me, since the church conventions and conferences were always passing resolutions on civil rights, integration, etc., and the military, which has often been criticized as being un-Christian, seemed to be beating the churches at their own game. I would usually be asked, “How come?” Then I would mention the fact that I have black people in my services right along, and nobody thinks anything of it. This has been a rather mean thing for me to do, for I realize that the churches have their problems, and that the two situations are not parallel. Often the problem is not so much with the pastors as with some laymen. Sometimes there are no blacks within the bounds of a civilian parish, and often black people would rather go to their own churches. However, I do think it is rather noteworthy that the military has taken the lead here.
Now, after having taken some “excursion cruises” we’ll get back aboard ray ship. One of the most memorable associations I had aboard the Holland, or in the Navy, resulted from the reporting aboard, several weeks after I did, of a young ensign a dozen years younger than I. Chet C. had received his reserve commission at U.C., Berkeley, where he had been an All-American basketball player. Since graduation a couple of years earlier he had been teaching school, but now since things were “warming up” he was needed on active duty. Chet was a blond giant, six feet four inches tall and weighed two hundred pounds. Although he probably wasn’t a “Hollywood type” he was striking looking, and his ready smile and polite manner caused him to be universally well-liked. Chet and I seemed to “hit it off” from the first — in spite of the difference in our ages. We were both from Southern California, having known a few people in common. Also, both of us had active church backgrounds.
At any rate, it wasn’t long before Chet and I were good friends, and we spent considerable time together. One of our recreational activities was to go over to the sub base pool for a swim after working-hours in the afternoon. Also we went into Honolulu and to the beach at Waikiki. Chet was a powerful swimmer, a good diver and a natural athlete. In spite of his popularity, and of all the accolades he had received, he was one of the most unassuming and modest men I have known. Our young lady organist whom I mentioned previously subsequently got married and left us, so Chet, who had played hymns for Sunday School when he was growing up, was “volunteered” to play for our services. When he played our little portable organ his knees would protrude on either side, but he was a big help, and was a good influence on others for church attendance, as well as otherwise.
Over a period of a week or so, as we were going to the pool about every afternoon, Chet kept complaining,”Geez (an expression he probably had unconsciously picked up in college). Chaplain, my gerts hurt”, holding his hand on his stomach. After a few days of this I began to advise him to have the ship’s doctor examine his “gerts”, thinking of the possibility, of appendicitis or something. So, finally one day after the noon meal in the wardroom I got Chet and the doctor together, having contacted the doctor, a Louisianian, beforehand. So Chet approached the doctor by saying, “Say, Doc, what should a guy do when his gerts hurt?” With a twinkle in his eye, and in his soft Southern accent the doctor, queried, “What did you say, Mistah C?” Placing his hand on his stomach, Chet replied, “Well, Geez, doc, my gerts hurt.” “Oh, countered the doctor, “You’ve got a bellyache, huh?” “Yeah, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” said Chet. “Well, Mistah C, ah believe if ah wuh you — I would see a doctuh.” So, it was arranged for Chet to go down to sick-bay, where nothing serious was found, and Chet’s complaint was eliminated. One of the worst hazards for tall men aboard ship is to be found in low overheads, which require stooping if a man is above average height. Poor “old” Chet was always forgetting to duck, and usually had bruises on his forehead to show for it.
After the ship’s period in dry-dock and our trial runs in Lahanai Roads, the next big event was the rest and recreation cruise to San Diego, which extended from late August to the latter part of September. In addition to providing leave for many of the ship’s personnel while in San Diego, the cruise provided an opportunity for a “shakedown” after the complete overhaul and trial runs. On our way to the west coast, as we joined other Navy ships for maneuvers, I experienced my first storm at sea. The Holland was a heavy ship, riding low in the water, and without too much superstructure, so we did not fare too badly. A couple of destroyers which were in view, looked almost like submarines as they ploughed through the waves which almost submerged these tough little vessels. Even the Carriers shipped plenty of green water. A storm at sea to a land-lubber is frightening, and yet it is a majestic experience, when one realizes the awesome power behind it all. It is also a humbling experience, when one realizes how small and weak is man, and how great is the Power of God. One is reminded of the popular hymn “How Great Thou Art”, one verse of which reads, “O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made, I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed How Great Thou art. How great Thou art.”
In spite of the storm we reached San Diego nearly on schedule, and the ship was tied-up at one of the downtown piers. Only a skeleton crew was left aboard the ship. Many of our personnel went to their homes in various parts of the country, while those of us whose families were in the San Diego area, spent most of our time ashore, being available if and when needed. This gave me an opportunity to take Rosella and the boys aboard a couple of times or so, and the youngsters seemed to get quite a “kick” out of being aboard “their Dad’s ship”. Len, who wasn’t yet five, had acquired an “official” sailor’s uniform, which naturally made him a part of the crew, and the sailors went along with it. Sailors are particularly fond of children; I suppose they remind them of their younger brothers and sisters at
These two weeks afforded us an opportunity to arrange our affairs on a longer-range basis, since, although we didn’t know just what was going to happen, I think some of us had the feeling that anything could happen, and probably would. Also, this interval gave us an opportunity to visit with relatives and friends.
Another special privilege that I had before we were to return to Pearl Harbor was that of enrolling Len in Kindergarten. I went with him a couple of times, and “just happened” to come by a time or two after their half-day session was over. One day as we were walking home after school I asked Len what they had done all morning. “Aw, nothing much,” he replied. “Well, didn’t you play some games?” “O, yeah, we played some games, all right.” Didn’t the teacher tell you some stories?” “Oh, yeah, yeah, she told us some stories, I guess.” “How about singing — didn’t you sing some songs?” “Well, the “dames” did, but we guys didn’t.” Our kids grow up faster than we realize, I guess.
As all good things have to come to an end, our time in San Diego was up, and we were to leave the next morning early. So, we were required to be aboard by midnight. Since none of us likes “good-byes”, and since the street car line was just a block away, we decided that I would go over to Orange avenue alone to catch the old number 9 and go to the ship. How do you tell your wife and two boys good-bye when you don’t really know what your ultimate destination is, or how long you might be gone? Rosella and I had been “through the wars” together for fifteen years, including the depression, and I think we had a pretty good understanding, not that it was easy. Leland, who was twelve and a half and growing up fast, without being told in so many words, knew that he would have the responsibilities of the senior male member of the household — so I think we had a pretty good understanding. But, when it came to Len it was a different story, and it almost broke me up. As he was telling me good-bye he said, “Daddy, how long are you going to be gone this time?” As bravely as I could, I answered, “Well, son I don’t know, I just don’t know — it might be a pretty long time.” So, I guess it was a good thing I went to the street car alone, since by the time it came along I had pretty well dried-up — outwardly, that is. On boarding the car I noticed our- Exec, and when I sat down next to him he said, “I didn’t notice anybody here to see you off.” “Well,” I said, “We took care of that at home.” He replied that he thought that was a pretty good idea — in fact, he had done the same thing himself.
Our ship left on schedule early the next morning, and although I was not able to see them, my little family was on the beach at Coronado waving to “our” ship as she rounded Point Loma, headed across the big pond. This was the last we were to see of one another for three and one- half years. I left Leland still almost singing soprano, and found him singing bass when I got back. Len had advanced from kindergarten almost to the fourth grade when I returned, while Rosella, in spite of the calendar, and the heavy load she carried for so long, looked younger and prettier than ever when she met me in San Francisco in the spring of forty-five. But more about that later. Our return cruise to Pearl Harbor was quite uneventful, and I can hardly recall anything unusual that happened aboard. Probably most of us realized that the road ahead was apt to be pretty uncertain, and that it could be pretty long and rough.
I have mentioned that Leland, who was twelve and a half, was still singing soprano (almost) when we left. Well, several days before the ship left we took the boys up to Long Beach to see their grandparents. After they had been there awhile, Grandmother Traver called Rosella aside and asked her, “What is the matter with Leland?” Rosella replied that she hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the lad, and asked what she had reference to. “Well, it’s his voice –something’s the matter with his voice.” Rosella said, “Well, his voice is changing — boys voices do that, you know.” “Yes, but Leland is only twelve, and their voices are not supposed to change until they are fourteen.” “Well, of course, all of us are categorical about some things, I’m sure.
Earlier in my story I mentioned being required to take certain courses in the Navy. Well, of course, you never get through taking courses, and some of them are “refresher” courses. In 1948-49 I was the chaplain aboard the hospital ship USS Consolation, based in Norfolk, Virginia. I might add that this is the ship that has been used for several years by the “Hope” project. During this period the first annual Norfolk Preaching Mission was to be held. On the program were several nationally and internationally known preachers and laymen, whom I was anxious to hear. In addition to the evening meetings there were to be afternoon sessions, which would be of special interest to pastors and chaplains. Our Skipper was a big, gruff-looking, tender-hearted guy — a nominal Roman Catholic, who liked all chaplains. So, the week before the Preaching Mission was to begin I went up to see “the Old Man” to secure official permission to leave the ship each afternoon during the Preaching Mission. “What is this ‘Preaching Mission’ business?”, asked the Captain. Figuring I had better frame my answer in language he would readily understand, I replied, “Well, I guess you could call it a refresher course for preachers.” “A refresher course, huh? Hell, yes, you need it — go on!” I assumed, of course, that he meant refresher courses are good for everybody — including preachers!
There was one amusing (to me) incident that took place before we reached Pearl Harbor. We had aboard a young officer, who, in his travels, had “latched onto” this very pretty Spanish wife, whom I had seen at a couple of social gatherings at Pearl Harbor. When we were just a day or so out from our home port, I met this young “J.G.” in the ward room. Just to pass the time of day I said to him, calling him by name, “Well, I guess you’re glad to be getting back home — after being away- nearly a month.” “Yeah, Chaplain, I sure am — you know, I’m getting awfully anxious to see my dog.” I had never been in his home, so maybe he did have a dog!
Well, anyhow, we got back to Pearl Harbor on schedule late in September, and it was “back to the salt mines.” There is always plenty to be done aboard ship [ed. USS Holland]. Chipping and painting is an endless job and there is always other maintenance work to be accomplished. The paper work is something that seems to grow almost with geometrical progression. Then, in the case of a Tender, you have your Squadron to think about, to plan and provide for. The maintenance and repair work done in the various shops of the Holland would have done justice to a good-sized factory. The Tender is really the “mother” ship, with all the problems of a mother with a large family.
Even before we left for our R & R cruise it was decided that Chet would reorganize the ship’s basketball team, and act as its player, coach and manager. This was all under the nominal direction of the ships recreation Council, of which I was an ex-officio member. On our way back to “Pearl” we made plans to have the best d___ basketball team in the fleet. Chet, of course, was a natural for this job — in fact, it wasn’t really a job to him, since he loved the game and was anxious to get the best possible team together. His enthusiasm and personality were contagious, and there was no problem in securing a good turnout of potential players, none of whom had played beyond high school.
We decided to really outfit the team in goody style, since the uniforms that were found aboard had seen’ their best days. There was plenty of money in our ship’s recreation fund, provided by profits from our ship’s store, plus a share in the overall profits from the Navy’s “ships service” installations, which are now called Navy Exchanges. So, Chet and I went to the largest sporting goods supply in Honolulu, and ordered the best, which we figured was none too good for what we intended to be not only the best looking, but the best performing team in the area.
Previously, I have mentioned that in a situation such as ours it was impossible to maintain the kinds of leagues and schedules that we might have been used to in a civilian situation. But Chet whipped our team into shape (we had access to the very good sub base gym), and before long we were playing games, and winning, against some of the teams from much larger organizations — including ships and shore based activities in the area. So the “little old Holland” was being recognized and respected, and it was being conceded that that Holland team with “that blond all-American ensign” might just clean up around there.
Of course, I got a big kick out of all this, since I had long been a basketball fan, as well as a follower of other sports. My basketball playing goes back to pre-World War I grammar school days, when we played out of doors. While I had never played on any big-time teams, I had played through high school and junior college, and have always had a love for the game. Come to think of it, I did play some one year in my late twenties. This was in Galt, California (a village of about one thousand), the scene of my first pastorate. In the fall of 1931 (when I was twenty-seven) some of the boys about town organized the “Galt Merchants”, and I was either invited, or I volunteered to go out for the team … I’m not sure which. My policy against volunteering probably was not established until after being in the Navy awhile. At any rate, I made the team, which wasn’t a great accomplishment, since there wasn’t too much competition. I found I couldn’t go “all-out” very long, since I guess I wasn’t in the same kind of shape I had been in several years earlier. But I had fun, and I think it didn’t hurt the image of the church for its young pastor to be “mixing it up” a little. However, I did hear, by way of the grapevine, that a couple of the “good sisters” of the church didn’t think it was too dignified for their pastor to be out there before the public wearing such an abbreviated costume! But, I will have to confess (and maybe brag a little) that I didn’t let that bother me too much.
Also, I became a member of the Galt volunteer fire department. The village had no community water system. You either hooked up to the “system” across the street from the church, operated by the widow Haskins (who as a little girl, had come out west in a covered wagon), or you had your own well and some kind of pump. At the parsonage we had a very shallow well and a small pressure pump that was as hard to keep going as our 1924 model “T” Ford. The only piece of fire-fighting equipment we had was an old (around a 1915 model) tank truck, which was about as reliable as our Model “T”. The truck was housed at Quennel’s garage — about two blocks from the parsonage — if I cut across vacant lots, which I did. When the siren sounded while I was at home (my “study” was in what had been a tank house) I could sprint it to the fire truck in a couple of minutes or so, sometimes before they had been able to get the thing started. It had no self-starter. But usually we got up steam and a couple of us would get aboard, and pick up others as we bounced along. The only water we had, in addition to what might have been available at – the scene of the fire, was what was in the tank of the truck. If a fire had any head-start at all, about the only thing we could hope for was to be able to help save some belongings, and to try to keep the fire from spreading to ether nearby buildings.
Some of the good people of the church probably thought that this, also, was not too dignified, and maybe somewhat dangerous for their pastor, and I guess I should have appreciated their solicitude, but it was almost a matter of self-preservation. In other words, you didn’t have much right’ to expect your neighbor to be anxious to help put out your fire unless you were willing to do likewise.
One more incident during this period may be of interest to those bom soon enough to remember the first few years of the depression when President Hoover was being quoted as saying “prosperity is just around the corner”. In the spring of 1931 we decided to have a big spring clean-up day in and around the church — a “clean sweep down fore and aft” — as we say in the Navy. The church (of no more than fifty members) couldn’t afford a regular janitor or caretaker, and if the pastor hadn’t gone down early on Sunday mornings and fired up the basement furnace — the church would have been cold in the wintertime. So, there was plenty to be done inside and out. The ladies “turned to” inside on a thorough house cleaning, while the men and boys, including the preacher, went to work on an accumulation of weeds, etc. outside.
In those days, as is quite well known through reading “The Grapes of Wrath” and other writings, a lot of people had come to California from the dust bowl and other areas. We had a few such families in our community, and a couple of them were coming to the church. One of the “old boys” (he probably wasn’t past middle age) responded to our call for a working party for our spring clean-up. I think he was from either Oklahoma or Arkansas. He was tall, lean, loose-jointed and leathery looking, with eyes that had become squinted — maybe partly because of being out in the dust and weather so much. To counteract the dust in his throat he used a lubricant in the form of a “chaw” of tobacco — when he could afford it. Our “Okie” or “Arkie” (I was born in Oklahoma myself, so I’m not calling them names) had undertaken to hoe away the weeds from one side of the church building, and was working at a clip that I thought was surprisingly fast, so … I asked him, “How come you’re working so hard at this?” “Well, Preacher,” he said, as he got rid of some excess throat lubricant, “I’m anxious to get up to that there corner yonder,” pointing to the comer of the church. Naturally, I asked “Why are you in such a hurry to get to the corner?” “Well,” he said, “You know, Mr. Hoover has been sayin that prosperity is just around the corner, and I’m anxious to get up there and look around, and see if the President is tellin’ the truth!”
Now, we’ll cross the Pacific back to Pearl Harbor, where our Holland basketball team, aided and abetted by Chet, is winning most of its games. It was a revelation to me (and I’m sure to others, too), to see this team, which would have been no more than ordinary without Chet, respond to his leadership — especially when he was on the court as player coach. As a coach he had been able to get the most out of his material, but when he was in there as a player and a leader (but not “hogging the ball”, or taking too many shots) the team seemed to become inspired. In spite of his size (six feet four was pretty big in those days) my blond friend was poetry in motion.
While any worth-while endeavor requires teamwork, there are times when we are reminded of the fact that in some situations one individual can, and often does, make all the difference in the world. While we are told in the Navy that there is no such thing as an indispensable man, we can’t help but wonder what might have happened in certain crises had not the right man come along at just the right time. I will try to resist the temptation to cite illustrations to prove the point. However, even though no man is indispensable, there is a sense in which every individual is important, and has a contribution to make.
I have previously mentioned the late Chaplain Razzie Truitt, one of the veteran chaplains, who was instrumental in my considering the chaplaincy in the late thirties. During this period in Pearl Harbor Razzie was assigned as force Chaplain, with headquarters aboard the Cruiser Indianapolis. So, we had an opportunity over a period of a few weeks to renew our acquaintance. This was not only an enjoyable experience, but one that was profitable for me, since I had the opportunity to profit from his vast experience. Razzie knew the Navy, and he knew and liked people. He was one of the shrewdest judges of people I have ever known, and certainly one of the best tellers of stories in the Navy. While Razzie was not without his serious moments by any means, he could usually see the lighter side of and enjoy most any experience. So, we had some good visits together during this period while, our families were neighbors in Coronado. One afternoon we decided to go in to Honolulu together, since both of us had several errands to take care of — some at the same places in the city. Those who have been to Hawaii now that without much warning it can rain ‘most any time — and usually does. So, we got caught in the rain without any rain gear, which most people out there pay very little attention to, and enjoyed it. We paddle around from store to store, and had a great time doing it — just as happy (or more so, maybe) as if we had had good sense! It was always fun to be with Razzie … one of the best friends I have had anywhere.
Our basketball team continued to win, but as time went on and we continued to hear more and more scuttlebutt about shipping out to the Far East, some of us began to wonder whether or not we would be able to finish our season, which had been so successful — thanks to Chet. During a time of impending crisis or emergency, or during a war, everything is “hush-hush”. Although some of the directives in connection with this sort of thing became rather ridiculous, some precautions were indicated, no doubt. However, the word around Pearl Harbor was that the barmaids in Honolulu were the best source of the latest and most reliable “dope” on ship movements. Perhaps subsequent events tended to bear this out, at least to some degree. Be that as it may, in early November, after various and sundry rumors, we did get the official word that we would be departing “Pearl” about the middle of the month. Although we didn’t know just what this was going to involve, we did know that a long cruise was probably in store, and I couldn’t help but remember that I had told little Len that “it might be a pretty long time.” Perhaps it is a good thing I didn’t know, when we left for Asiatic waters, just how long it would be or under what conditions.
After we ‘got the firm word (although we weren’t sure where we would wind up), there wasn’t much time for basketball, or anything else, except for concentrating on getting our ship and subs ready for departure.
In the midst of serious business, however, you can usually find something, even if a little crude, that might be amusing. I had become somewhat acquainted with one of our boatswain’s mates with several years of service, who was known for his intense hatred of Honolulu. Whether some gal there had done him wrong, or whatever, I have never learned. It is said in the Navy that a sailor likes just two places: Where he’s been and where he’s going — never where he is. But our friend’s hatred for Honolulu (one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions) seemed to go deeper than that. One day, shortly before we were to shove-off, I met this boatswain’s mate out on deck where he was working. Calling him by name, I said, “Well, I guess you really hate to leave Honolulu, don’t you?” “Well Chaplain, you’ve asked for it — now I’m going to tell you just how much I love Honolulu: I’d rather have a sister in a whore-house than a brother in Honolulu!” My only reply was, “Boy, you really do love the place don’t you?” Me and my big mouth!
Even though some of us were not so anxious to get away from our own territory, not knowing what it might mean, we did leave on schedule, heading West to go to the East, our destination being Manila. This was not a rest and recreation cruise, and it was more than just changing our base of operations. While I think very few of us realized, or had any idea just how soon the fireworks might begin — some of the military people out there must have realized that things were at least warming up — if they had not already come to the boiling point. I’m sure, however, that no one had the faintest idea what would happen at Pearl Harbor about three weeks after we left there.
Illustration by Rosella Mae Brewster