Wednesday, February 04, 2015

More stuff for family

Military Service.

When I completed the 18-month Navy program in November 1944, World War II was still raging. I wish that I could regale my children and grandchildren with heroic tales of combat and valor, but I cannot. After a brief period of desultory training in cold, dreary Asbury Park, NJ, I was sent to midshipman school in Chicago.
This was a time of easy courses and much fun. I frequented jazz and blues clubs and for a time dated the beautiful daughter of a Chicago gangster who was murdered in the ‘30s. The only famous musical performer I can remember seeing was Doris Day, singing in the Palmer House Hotel with the Les Brown Orchestra. 
Near the end of Midshipman School, I volunteered to serve in a navy unit called Scouts and Raiders. At the time, this unit’s mission was to sneak into Japanese-held Pacific islands prior to invasion by our forces and bring or send back tactical information.
(“The pigeons always came back”) However, by the time I was commissioned and sent to the training camp we had about run out of islands to invade and so the mission had been changed to fighting as guerrillas against the Japanese in China.
Although we did do some of the original training, such as strenuous swimming and carrying rubber rafts through swamps, the type of training had changed. We had classes to learn the Chinese language (but Mandarin only) and lots of training in judo and other hand-to-hand combat.
My fellow volunteers were mostly a rough and ready lot, big football players and other athletes. One older guy had fought in the civil war in Spain and tried to recruit some of us for the International Brigade. We all partied strenuously. In my more foolish moments, I several times “stole” the Elk head from The Elk Club, carrying it back on my lap on the bus to the base. So I looked very foolish.. I always did return the trophy. A welcome respite from our daily training was when the base commander would summon several of us to his “office”. This meant that he wanted to play an hour or so of volleyball.


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