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Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The flight from Kokura to Yokohama is a blur...I try to watch the ground slowly pass mind back in Kokura. 

A couple guys from K-13 invite me to go into Tokyo with them...amazed at the magnificent tall buildings...extravagant carnival atmosphere...and then we walk through squished together neighborhoods of paper houses...sliding lining the doorsteps - one never wears street shoes into a Japanese home. 

We are to meet in the morning for a pre-boarding meeting, medical checkup, including updating shots.  Being marched into a huge enclosed gymnasium, all lined up for inspection, we receive the order:  Lower your trousers and your shorts...we do...hundreds of half naked men standing at attention ready for "short arm" inspection... doctors and nurses casually stroll the lineups...closely examining penises ... lifting, smelling, and poking;  some are excused from the lineup and march off, pulling up their clothes.

Satisfied that those of us remaining are not smuggling contraband or some awful disease, we are allowed to pull our clothes back on, collect our duffel bags, and march out of the building to waiting buses, which drive to the nearby docks.  We board a waiting MSTS ship, finding ourselves once again shoe-horned into a huge room - 250 at least, to a room.  Again canvas stretched tight by clothesline like ropes attached to steel pipes... 8 bunks, all of 24 inches wide by 6 feet long...stacked 18 inches between each bunk from  floor level to the overhead.

I quickly climb to the top bunk, snuggling in between a myriad of pipes and wires...but high above the coming cascade of lost dinners from seasick men.

Lucky me...again assigned to latrine (The Head in Navy talk) toilets, sinks, and showers twice a day.  No guard duty in dependent's quarters this voyage.

Second night out from Japan...sailing north into the Pacific Ocean on the great circle route following the Aleutian Islands, we run into a tempest;  Gale force winds with high waves toss our ship around like a leaf.  Nearly everyone is heaving into bunks, onto floors, in the head.  I take it for one night.  Second night of the 5 day storm, I find a dogged (locked) steel door.  I open it, finding a stairway leading up to the next deck...I follow it another door into a dimly lit passageway leading toward the bow (front) of the ship.  A couple more doors...a couple more passageways, I find my way onto the weather deck at the front of the ship...surrounded by huge windlasses (winches) for the anchor chains and hawsers - thick ropes - for mooring the ship to a dock.

I snuggle in between these pieces of equipment...wind screaming over my head...deflected by the bow coaming.  Night after night, I retreat to my clean smelling - but cold - hideaway.  Impossibly, none of the doors I pass through are locked behind me; equally impossible, no one finds me on deck...strictly forbidden at any time.  I'm back in my bunk before reveille - a trumpet plays over the P.A. (public address) system, waking everyone up.

I have lots of time between dozing off and on, to recall my increasingly exciting young life...especially thinking of Keiko and Sam.  While out under the cold windy night, I mentally create a poem...a poem to be with me many years into the future...


All Alone In This Huge Dome,

The Sea – Stars In The Sky,

My Tiny Ship… Silent… Sails on,

Memories Of Days Gone By;

Rich And Poor, Those Young And Old,

Have Been Mine To Share,

Hurt And Pain – Loss And Gain,

Too Often Lay My Soul Bare;

Faced With Love – Anger – Hate,

So Confused by it All,

Stars Beam Down a Ray of Hope

And Strength To Stand Up Tall;

Despair … My Partner,

Takes Me By The Hand,

And Leads Me Blindly Through This Life,

To A Not – So – Promised Land;

To Climb Back Up, I Face A Wall,

Again Lay My Soul Bare,

By The Grace of God, I’ll Make It Through,

…Proof, At Last… I Care

What Becomes of Me … And Others, Too,

Is Priority Number One,

To Leave This Place With Lightened Heart,

And A Job, I Prey - Well Done

 Our ship docks at Pier 91 in Seattle, Washington.  Disembarking, I am slowly processed back into the United States.  My new orders read that I am to report to Hamilton Air Force Base located north of San Francisco...about half way between Napa Valley and the Golden Gate Bridge.  I have two weeks leave, requiring me to report to the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, Western Air Defense Command.

I am met outside the gate by Mother and Dad...I get a hug - never before had a hug from Mother - and a hand shake from Dad.  A cold reception. 

I decide I do not want to return to Kennewick...Please drop me off at the railroad station.

I board the train in Seattle, leaving Mother and Dad standing on the platform as my train pulls out for San Francisco.

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