Capt. Dan, part 13: The War ends and a runaway train…

I finally got orders to the Sub-Chaser School at Miami, a one-month course. Upon completion, I was ordered to the Fleet Sonar School in San Diego. At night, while at Sub-Chaser school, Eunice would flash signal cards at me so I could memorize them. While in school, Pat was born at Fort Lauderdale in Broward Hospital, Dec 11, weighing in at about 9 lbs. Eunice had to stay in the hospital more than a week. Doctors were awful fussy in those days. Eunice drove herself to the hospital as I was out on a sub-chaser. The course at Fleet Sonar School, now Fleet Anti-submarine Warfare, was four months training to be an ASW Specialist. I came cross-country by train from Miami to San Diego the end of Jan ’44. Eunice followed in early April with 4 months old Pat by train, stopping in Phoenix to visit her sister Libby. Before Eunice arrived, I billeted in Balboa Park with 150 officers in one big room, double deck bunks. You lived out of your suitcase. There were three showers, three washbasins and commodes. To beat the crowd you got up way before 5:50 reveille. Buses took us down to Sonar School where we ate in the general mess. We also had lunch there but evening meal back at Balboa. We sure made use of the small “0” club at the school. That building is still in Balboa opposite the large gym building.
When Eunice arrived in San Diego, we shared a house with a divorcee with a baby girl Pat’s age. The deal was that Eunice would mind both tots while the divorcee worked in a defense plant. It worked out well since Eunice is easy to get along with and loved kids. The house was the second one in on the SE corner of Pescadero and Sunset cliffs Blvd. It is still there, same color, light green; we got the place by placing an ad that read about as follows: “Four months old baby boy looking to share home with baby of similar age. My Mommy will take care of both of us while yours works.” It got a few quick responses. I use to walk from there over the barren hills of Point Loma to ASW school and back as we had no car, about 2 miles. Eunice use to push baby carriage from Pescadero up to Newport Ave to shop in OB. A few times, Eunice and I rode open busses from Grant Hotel out to Camp Elliot, a Marine Camp at that time, to get a steak dinner for $1 and drinks at 10cents each!
Netting covered Pacific Highway, so that from the air it camouflaged the Convair plane buildings. They are now General Dynamics. From the air, the area looked like a farm as they had rigged barns, silos, etc on top of the buildings to blend in with the netting that looked like plowed fields, grass, etc.
I really learned a lot, as we had to break down sonar gear, trouble shoot, etc., plus learning all sorts of ASW tactics on training devices plus, at sea in ships. After finishing the course, I received orders to report to the Fleet ASW Command in Boston Navy Yard. We rode the Santa Fe Super Chief, 59 hours to Chicago at which point our sleeping car shunted over and hooked onto the 20th Century Limited for 15 hour run to NYC. I had some leave so we stopped and stayed with my parents for a week.
Eunice rented a small house over by LaGuardia Airport. Planes use to fly right over it at low altitude, as it was in line with runway. She pushed Pat in baby carriage all the way up to Roosevelt to shop, even when snow covered the streets. When I didn’t have the duty I rode the train down from Boston on weekends. One weekend I was to meet Eunice, my parents and Frank Costello’s friends at the Copacabana for dinner. The Boston train was two hours late. I hadn’t eaten since early that morning, made the mistake of tossing down a few hard drinks and just about passed out in the men’ room at the Copa.
While at Boston, I use to operate an Attack Teacher for training ship sonar teams. I remember a French crew, one day they were taking a run on a sub on the attack teacher when the French sailor started arguing with a French LT which way to turn to attack the sub. He let go of the helm while arguing and the ship went around in a circle while they jabbered away in French! I thought to myself, my God no wonder the Germans knocked the French out of action so quickly.
I received TAD orders to go to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for two weeks to work with their scientists in developing tactical sonar doctrine on how to use screening ships depending on sonar conditions determined from bathyograph readings (temperature vs. depth). From this, we developed screening tables used by sonar-equipped ships. Next, I attended a one-week course of instruction on the new British l47B submarine depth determining sonar gear. We also received instruction on how to install it in escort ships.
While at the Boston Navy Yard, I was under the command of the ASW Unit, Fleet Operations Training Command, US Atlantic Fleet. I received further TAD orders to Quonset Point NAS for a one-week course of instruction in Sono Buoy operations, devices used to track submarines. This was during August 1944. In October I received TAD orders to supervise the installation of the British l47B depth determining sonar on the UCS HAVERFIELD (DE 595) at Boston Navy Yard. On completion, I rode the HAVERFIELD to Bermuda, and while in the Bermuda area, we were involved with making practice runs on an Italian Sub that had previously surrendered. While on the Haverfield, which was part of an ASW Hunter-Killer Task Group, we chased a German sub for three days. The carrier’s (BOGUE (CVE-15) air group caught the sub on the surface, about 50 miles from the surface escorts.
I flew back from Bermuda landing at Floyd Bennett NAS in Brooklyn in a PBY. In November, I received orders to report to ASW Unit in Norfolk. While there, I attended several short courses in damage control, sonar buoys, and radar. In addition, I attended a four-day course in Loran and a five-day course in ammunition handling at the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, VA. The Radar School was in the Cavalier Hotel at Virginia Beach, which the Navy had requisitioned. There I also had a two-day fire-fighting course.
In January ’45, I received TAD orders to Key West to conduct special sonar tests at sea using sono buoys by an Escort ship against a sub. Working up a system wherein sub could be located near a sono buoy pattern. I managed to get to New York a few times, and took ferry from Little Creek to Cape Charles, then the train to Philadelphia, transferred at Pennsylvania and then on to NY.
At the end of February ’45, I received orders to report to Fleet Administrative Command, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard for duty as an ASW Specialist. While there I supervised the installation of l47B depth determining sonar in the USS RAMSDEN (DE-582) and USS EDSALL (DE-129). The war had ended in Europe about this time. Eunice and I rented a cottage in Bayville east of Ferry Beach. There we used a kerosene heater to heat. We bought an old Dodge from a local clam digger, and Rode to Locust Valley to take the train to Brooklyn, then the bus to Brooklyn Navy Yard. Pat loved to push the frame of a baby carriage all over. He also liked to push boats out into the water. I bought a small dinghy for $25, and took Eunice and Pat sailing to Lloyds Neck and back. Eunice would take Pat in the baby carriage to shop in Bayville village, which was a good ¾ mile from the cottage. We also picked up our mail at Post Office there.
In September, I received orders to the Mine Warfare School at Yorktown, VA. While at Yorktown, we had rented a large cottage across the river. The cottage had a wood stove in the kitchen that was a combination heater and hot water heater. I had to load it up every night with wood so that on the cold fall mornings I would get up and light it off before Eunice got up. We had a shuttle boat to take us back and forth across the York River.
Flu finally got me and I ended up in NAVHOSP, Ft Eustis, where I was diagnosed with T.B. (Eunice went to NY and stayed with my parents when I went to NAVHOSP). I was there about two months, at the end of which time, I was ordered to be survey out on a medical discharge stating that I had contracted TB before I entered the service. I wrote a strong rebuttal to the Survey Board’s findings and eventually BUMEN reversed the findings. I was then ordered to COMFIVE for TAD awaiting orders. While at COMFIVE, I was sent over to Norfolk Naval Shipyard to inventory equipage aboard the ex-HMS TRACKER, a CVE we loaned the British. I wish I had kept a huge oaken whiskey cask trimmed in brass with “GOD SAVE THE KING.” I am sure some shipyard worker made off with it after it was removed from the ship.
In January 1946, I received orders to report to the Fleet Sonar School in San Diego for duty as a PCO/PXO Instructor. In December, I had requested transfer to the regular Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The Navy was seeking Reserve Officers for the Regular Navy. I dropped by NY for a few days before taking the train to San Diego. On the way west the train stopped at Needles, CA for a 15-minute stop. Everyone got off to stretch their legs including the conductors and porters. The train started up, but the conductors said not to worry they were just changing engines. Well, the train proceeded out of sight and all hell broke loose. The Station Master wired ahead, to have the train stopped. Meanwhile, a good number of school busses, local city busses and two greyhound ones were employed to take us up into the mountains, and get back aboard the train. We had to hike about two miles from the last passable road and finally got aboard. Our sea bags, orders, etc were on the train. I never did fine out why the train left, maybe the engineer didn’t like the conductor or was drunk.

to be continued…

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