Wednesday, February 07, 2007





August 9, 1954

Having, in my sophomore year at Northern Illinois State Teachers College, studied with no little interest the Diary of Samuel Pepys (pronounced “Peeps” though I’ll never know why) and similar works, I have decided to write my own, somewhat modernized, journal. I differ from Mr. Pepys in many ways; one being that I am writing this journal, or diary, with the object of its eventual publication in mind.

I am, at the start of this modest work, twenty years old; the date is August 9th, 1954. On August 13, 1954, I shall, I hope, enter the United States Navy for 4 years, wherein I hope to become a pilot.

I plan to make this journal as revealing and honest as possible (it is far easier to make confessions to one’s future than to one’s present), and the reader must bear with my frequent ramblings. I intend to present, not to my own day, but to some future age, a complete picture of myself, my life, and my world. To the future this journal is hopefully dedicated.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dear Reader:

Life aboard a warship is not always easy. Here is a log of some of the incidents which occurred during the 1955-1956 deployment of the U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA-14 while I was aboard.


On the ten day cruise from Norfolk to Gibraltar, two died of a heart attack (one CPO and one Lt. Cdr.)

One AD (Ens. Barnes, VA35) noses over, pilot dies on way to sick bay.

One F9F lost landing gear, no one killed.

An F2H-3 on night flying crashed on landing, killing seven as the plane swept over the bow and fell into the sea.

One AD lost over the side on take-off; pilot saved.

F9F into the barrier; no one hurt.

F7U made a good landing, then hit Tillie with wing tip.

Another F9F into the barrier, same pilot as No. 6.

On landing, an F9F crashed into an F7U, pushing it into one AD and scraping another AD; one airman hit on the head with a jury strut.

AD on landing nosed up, fell back on tail wheel, and buckled the fuselage; same crew as No. 5.

F7U nose gear collapses on landing; pilot taken to Sick Bay on stretcher.

F2H-3 given a wave off; tail hook caught a small barrier, pulling the plane to the deck just aft of #2 elevator; plane skids across elevator, explodes, and falls into the sea with the pilot (Martin) Date 1/17/56.

Same date as No. 12, an F2H3 was shot off the catapult without permission; the pilot (Doane) was lost with the plane.

Pilot of F2H-3 shot off with a "dead" catapult saved (Jessie Miller, CAG-3).

AD lands, noses up; "struck" (complete loss).

An F2H-3, coming in too low, hooked the edge of the flight deck instead of an arresting cable, sheared off the shoe, damaging the tail section of the plane. Pilot (Manfredi) unhurt; 3/15/56.
Same date as No. 16, another F2H-3 missed all arresting cables but was stopped by the barrier. The pilot (Werner) unhurt, the plane a total loss.

Plane giving demonstration of dog-fighting went into a dive and did not pull out; pilot lost.

April 4, 1956; AJ turning up, man walked into the propeller.

Same date as above, an AD coming in on a GCT (Ground Controlled Approach) missed the ship completely. Pilot (Melhorn) and crew picked up by Destroyer.

July 17, 1956; F2H-3, G.F. Haggquist pilot, landed so that the tail hook hit the gutter along the flight deck, forcing the tail hook back up into the tail section; the plane went on into the barrier. No one hurt.

F7U Cutlass pilot made a normal landing, when his tail hook snapped off; the plane went on into the barrier and the nose landing gear, ten feet tall, collapsed; as the plane fell forward, the landing gear went through the fuselage, killing the pilot. As a result of this crash, all F7Us were removed from the ship.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

22 July 1956

Dear Folks

This will be the last letter from Europe, & possibly the last one until I get home. Tomorrow we arrive in Gibraltar, eight months & eight days since we first saw it. There the last mail will leave the ship.

In a way, it is almost impossible to think of going home. Just think—to be able to go anywhere & understand all that is around you, & be understood (to a greater or lesser degree) by everyone. It seems we have been away from America for eight years rather than eight months.

I have gone over my arrival home a countless number of times in my mind; all of it is, of course, glorified & will not be at all like that in reality. Still, it will be fun.

As for the presents—my all too few acquisitions in Europe—I plan to send you into the kitchen while I spread them all over the living room. Then you can come in & see them all at once. Unfortunately there are not nearly so many as I should have liked, but you will understand. If only we could have a Christmas tree!!

Last night I wrote a letter to Marc & Michel (in English) & one to Michel entirely in French, which is quite an accomplishment, if I do say so myself. It was done with a French-English dictionary, and I only hope Michel can understand it.

One night in Cannes, Marc asked us what we ate on our ship. When we told him, he seemed duly impressed, & then asked what we drank. Both he & Michel were astonished that we didn’t drink wine. When we told them no alcoholic beverages at all were allowed on board, they seemed downright disappointed—especially Michel, who drinks wine as if he were a fish in water. And when I told them about Prohibition in the States, I think they didn’t believe me.

The three major physical differences between America & Europe are: 1) Europe—or what I’ve seen of it.—has very few rivers—lot of river beds & streams, but none even the size of the Rock, not even the Seine. Secondly, the absence of green grass—it is almost nonexistent. Third is the absence of wooden buildings; only in Turkey did I see a wooden house.

Well, the day after tomorrow will be my last day in Europe. I hope, through my letters (infrequent as they may be) that you’ve gotten some idea of what Europe is like. When I return, with you, I hope, I shall have studied much more language, so that I wont seem quite so lost. As soon as I get home, let’s start a travel fund of quarters & half dollars--& every three or four years, we can take a nice long trip—to Europe, to Hawaii (first), & anyplace else we want to go. ($10 a week for three years is $1560.00)

Meanwhile, time is happily flying….

Today was quite busy, considering that I didn’t do anything of importance—went to the movie this afternoon, read a book (The Haploids), & wrote this letter. Had a wonderful sleep last night, & got up this morning around 0900.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to go ashore for some last-minute buying—mainly some good snuff for Grandpa if I can find any.

For the past few weeks I’ve been living completely in the future, dragging the present along behind me like a little red wagon.

No mail now for a God-awful time. I certainly hope there is some waiting for us in Gibraltar. How are you both? Fine, I hope.

Well, since I am now reduced to basic cordialities (the next question in line being: "How’s the weather up there?") I think it best .to close. If you hear nothing more from me for ten days, don’t worry—I’ll be at sea on my way home.



P.S. In fact, at the moment you are reading this, I am somewhere in the Atlantic, bound for the New World & untold adventures….

Saturday, February 03, 2007

19 - 20 July 1956

Dear Folks

The day got off to an oh-so-early start at 0352 this morning with the gentle tinkle of the General Quarters gong. All this is part of an exercise by the Sixth Fleet primarily to impress the Governor of Malta. I doubt very seriously that he was up at 0352 to join in the festivities. We can look forward to more of the same tomorrow, but that, thank God, is the very last day of flight operations for this ship. Oh frumcious day, calloo, callay, he chortled in his glee.

Around ten thirty or so, the Captain spoke to his loyal but disgruntled crew, giving us some very happy news (which is quite a unique event around here). We will arrive in Norfolk at 1300, 2 August 1956!--only two months & ten days behind our original schedule. Oh, joy—oh, ecstasy! Well, that’s the Navy for you—you’ve got to take these little alterations cheerfully.

One of the guys from the Intrepid, who is riding back with us for discharge, says they can release you in one day now. This I find rather hard to believe, but am happily gullible enough to accept anything if it sounds good enough. Now I’m wondering when I will get to leave the ship—will it be the day we get in? Or must I wait till Monday? At any rate, I know I have only 24 days to go in the Navy, so I should care?

And here I am again, one day later (as you may have gathered by the different colored ink). It has just occurred to me that this will possibly be the last letter I’ll have a chance to write before we get home—in two days (three, really) we’ll be in Gibraltar, & then there will not be a mail call, nor will any leave the ship, until we arrive in the States.

As it is we haven’t had a mail call since two days ago, & I haven’t gotten any since before we left Cannes. So evidently you haven’t been writing too regularly either.

Today started with another GQ at 0400, though I woke up of my own accord about ten minutes before. From 0500 until 0930, I held a field day in the office—me being the only one up; the rest of them had gone back to bed.

The water situation is becoming rather acute, & they’ve taken to shutting it off completely at various times to conserve. Why is it you never get thirsty until the water is turned off?

It is now seven thirty, & they’ve just called away the changing of the watch (as they do every night at this time) including "the lifeboat crew of the watch on deck to muster." Just what the lifeboat crew of the watch does I don’t know, but I do know that, unless the ship sank very evenly, our four huge liberty launches, two officers’ boats, & various smaller barges & gigs would never be able to be launched, being all tied down securely on the hanger deck. Even if they all could, they could accommodate no more than 750 men—our crew now, with passengers, being around 3,000. However, there are two life jackets to every man, if you could ever find them. Oh, well….

Tomorrow I’m going to the library & get a French-English dictionary, & copy from it a letter to Michel & Marc.

The Foreign Merchandise Store here aboard ship is almost sold out—what little they have left when we reach Gibraltar will be transferred to the Randolph. I bought five rolls of movie film at $3.65 a roll, which should last for awhile.

It is now eight o’clock, & I think I’ll go to the second movie before going to bed.

23 days.



Friday, February 02, 2007

17 July 1956

Dear Folks

Eight twenty, a warm night, a good movie, & here I am. The office, for a change, is very quiet—only Coutre, & he’s reading. Today passed by nonchalantly, & looking back on it I can’t recall if it went fast or slow. The main thing is that it is over now, & only 25 days stand between me & August 12.

Payday today, & I bought two rolls of movie film—I plan on stocking up before we get back; also bought four bath towels, two T-shirts, & 4 pair of shorts.

Yesterday afternoon I started packing my sea bag; put away all my blues, my peacoat, raincoat, & two T-shirts which I had folded carefully for my first inspection at Pensacola & never used. They & the shoes I’m wearing now are the only things I have left.

Just been sitting here thinking over the last two years—they seem like an eternity, & yet again everything seems like yesterday, if I try to pin it down.

I can see mother stepping off the airliner in a brown suit & little white hat, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. I remember asking her about the trip, & feeling more excited for her than she must have been herself.

I remember flying low over the road on the way back to Corry Field, listening to the steady roar of the engine & singing "Furl the Banner."

Los Angeles & Lief stalking down the sidewalk ahead of the band, & me wondering if he’d seen me or not.---The first sunrise over Gibraltar; Marc & Michel—all of it there, neatly laid out & waiting, crisp & brand new, only to be remembered to be relived.

Now that my European tour is almost at a close, I think I might like to come back for a short vacation—this time, though, I’d see the Northern countries; Germany, Switzerland, England, Norway, Denmark, etc.

If ever I should have any say in the matter, Foreign Languages would be taught—compulsory, in fact—in all American schools. You’d be amazed how it feels to be suddenly, for all practical purposes, struck dumb, & on the other hand, what a feeling of satisfaction you get from being able to speak even the rudiments of another language & make yourself understood.

As usual around this time of night, I’m hungry. Lately I’ve been getting up in time to catch the tail end of breakfast, & it helps, but not at night. I could stay up till late chow at 11:00, but then I’d be too tired to get up for breakfast. It’s a vicious circle.

We were talking the other day about certain almost-forgotten foods—bananas, milk, doughnuts, popcorn, & the like. Oh, well, soon…soon.

Day after tomorrow & Friday we’re going to play those idiotic 0430 G.Q. games. They pick that time very carefully, so that it is too late to go back to sleep when it’s over, & too early to do anything else.

Well, it’s now nine-fifteen, & I must to bed.



Thursday, February 01, 2007

16 July 1956

Dear Folks

This morning, at 0115, the last liberty boat pulled away from the fleet landing at Cannes &, with a salute to Marc & Michel—who stood behind the Shore Patrol barricade waving, we left France.
As the Ti moved out, about 0800, I went topside to catch a last look at the ruins where we’d had so much fun. I really hated to leave Cannes, & will always remember it.

Going ashore yesterday afternoon, the water was so rough we were almost an hour late. When we got to the ruins, Michel was the only one there. The water, usually sheltered by the squared U formed by the jetties, was washing over the landing, while small geysers shot up from holes in the floor. We made our stand on a flight of bombed stairs, which led nowhere. Michel hadn’t been in the water, as there was quite a bit of debris floating around, & the usually clear water was milky-grey. He produced from under his folded bluejeans the bottle of champagne & a bottle of red wine, which he took & placed in a water-filled pothole in the landing floor.

Marc soon came along, as did Phil, Tom’s buddy. Guntar & Yoakeim (correct spelling—I asked Marc) never did show up. Michel was anxious to drink the champagne, & kept suggesting it every two minutes. Finally we gave in, & polished it off in a short time. Tom had brought a blanket, which we spread over a landing on the steps, & Phil brought a radio, but didn’t change into his swimming suit since he thought the water was too rough to swim. Every now & then an especially big wave would hit the other side of the jetty, & cold spray would fly all over us.

Phil left after awhile, & Michel & I walked six blocks (in our swimming suits) to a small delicatessen, where we bought some bread, small cakes, & dried apricots. When we returned, we opened the bottle of wine, & lay all curled up & overlapping (the stair landing wasn’t big enough for four people) like a bunch of snakes. We began singing songs ("C’est si Bon"; "Hi Lili," "Allez-vous-En," "Brigadoon," etc.)—Michel & Marc in French, Tom & I in English.

Tom got to feeling pretty well on the wine—he drank most of my share because I didn’t care much for it--& he & Marc bundled up in the blanket & tried to sleep. Michel & I sat on the steps, comparing feet & exchanging names of various parts of the body.

Later we decided to go swimming. As I’ve said, water was washing over the landing where we’d laid the previous two days, & out at the end, where the landing wound around the end of the jetty, the waves washed across two feet high. Nobody wanted to be the first one in so, holding hands, we all made a dash for it & jumped in. Either the water was warmer than it had been, or we were more accustomed to it, but anyway it was quite nice.

Michel wanted to go out to the end of the landing & lay down, letting the water run over him, which he did. I went with him, but Marc & Tom decided to stay farther down toward our stairs. Michel laid down, & I was standing over him, when a huge wave, about three & a half feet high, swept over the edge of the landing. I was knocked off my feet & washed over the side into the water, bruising my ankle & skinning my elbow. Anyway, it was fun.

We laid around the rest of the afternoon, & about six thirty decided we’d better go & eat. I suggested we go to the little bar we’d gone to the first night, so off we went, leaving our ruins while long shadows stretched off in front of us.

Since it was such a long walk, we thought we’d take a bus. In Cannes, the busses all leave from one place & do not, I don’t believe, stop at each & every corner.

We got off about two blocks past the bar & walked back, past a large orange apartment building where several little boys & girls waved at us from the walled front yard.

For supper, we had chicken soup again, salad, & steak, which Helen, the proprietess, went out and got for us. That, plus one bottle & six glasses of wine, a huge loaf of French bread & two lemonades (for me, since I didn’t like that wine either & was thirsty), & a desert made from fresh plums, came to a grand total cost of 3200 Francs ($6.00 for four of us).

We stayed there until about ten o’clock, drawing caricatures & joint-project sketches on the paper tablecloths.

When we left the restaurant, we walked down to the sea—the beaches were all deserted, & the moon spread across the water in a wide, silver path. The waves washed against the sand as they’ve done for millions of years, unseen & unheard. We walked along in the sand, while cars rushed by on the raised highway not half a block from the water. I wrote our names in the sand & a large wave came up & washed them away, getting my feet wet.

By the time we reached fleet landing, it was eleven o’clock. We were hoping boating might have been secured, but we could see a bunch of white-clad bodies & knew it hadn’t. Marc offered to buy us one last drink, so we hurried back into Cannes & up an alley to their favorite bar.

Behind the polished brown bar, which ran along the right-hand wall, a bar-room mirror reflected a large bunch of gladiolas, doubly bright because of their more colorless surroundings. In front of the gladiolas stood a woman who might just have stepped out of a French comedy—heavy set, with kept-in-check brown hair that looked like it would love to fly all over the place but didn’t have the nerve. Her cheeks had just enough rouge to heighten the effect; thin, penciled eyebrows which looked comfortably out of place on her large face. Her gestures, the way she talked, and her expressions as she described some hilarious episode to a customer in French, made it no less funny for us. She was fascinating.

Unfortunately, the mood at our table was not as festive as it might have been. Tom & I kept eyeing the clock on the wall as it edged closer & closer to 12 o’clock, when we must be back at the landing or turn into pumpkins.

We all exchanged addresses & promises to write, & Marc asked "How you say in English ‘Triste’?" Triste means sad.

We walked back to the Fleet Landing & stood around, not saying much. The French police came & rounded up a group of Algerians who were peddling rugs & scarves to the sailors.

Next year both Marc & Michel must go into the army, to be sent to fight in Algiers, to try & keep hold of France’s fast-dwindling empire.

Boat after boat came & went. We waited as long as we could, until at last everyone was gone but us. We shook hands all around, & got into the boat.

"…&, with a salute to Marc & Michel, who stood behind the Shore Patrol barricades waving, we left France…."

See you soon.



Wednesday, January 31, 2007

14 July, 1956 (Part 2)

The bar—which was rather out of the way—was a small, old-ish place with large, small-paned windows. The lady who owned the bar speaks seven languages, & was very friendly. Actually, it is not a restaurant, but if you want something to eat, she will run out & get it. We explained that Marc, Michel, Guntar & Yohakiem were probably on a low budget & asked her advice accordingly. She suggested an omelet, some ham, chicken soup, & salad. Her husband ran out & returned with a head of lettuce & some carrots, fresh from the garden. The soup was delicious—a large bowl, with noodles. The ham & omelet were also very good, though the omelet was a little underdone for my taste. We also had a glass of wine & later a large bottle. Total price for the meal & wine? 2,500 Francs ($8.00 for 6 of us.).

While waiting for dinner, & afterwards, everyone began doing stunts—Guntar yodeled (he is very good), Tom did the Charleston, Marc & Michel did balancing tricks with chairs (i.e. holding one’s body at a 90 degree angle in the air while holding onto the arms of the chairs). Guntar tried—unsuccessfully—to swallow burning matches. He is really a natural comedian, though he doesn’t mean to be.

After we left the bar, we walked arm & arm down the street, singing old German war songs.
A grand time was had by all.

Yesterday, we met Marc & Michel at the ruins at 2:00, & spent the afternoon the same way—swimming & diving. I even dived for bottles this time—got them, too, only the pressure hurt my ears.

Guntar & Yohakiem had gone to another beach, & said they’d join us later. Two girls on bicycles came by (Marc & Michel are typically French—especially Michel). Soon they were swimming with us & we spent the rest of the day with them. At sundown, again, we left—the girls peddling off a few minutes before, & went to eat.

Tom, incidentally, had gone to & flunked out of OCS (Officer Candidate School), & one of his buddies who had gone through is on one of the ships with us. We ran into him, & he joined us. We never did find Guntar & Yohakiem.

After supper in a little restaurant near the railroad station, we went to the Normandie Bar, a sailor hangout. Phil (Tom’s friend) had a friend in the floor show—a girl called "Cobra." The show at the Normandie was much better than that at the U.N. Bar, where I’d stood shore patrol. The girls were all very nicely constructed, which you do not see much of in America.

During the "intermission", the piano player/hostess asked for five volunteers to come to the middle of the floor. Phil pushed Tom out, & the bar girls dragged out four more. Each was to do a dance—the first, a ballet; the second, a can-can (he backed out); the third, a Russian Dance; the fourth, a strip-tease, & the fifth—Tom—the Charleston. The winner was chosen by applause, & Tom won; the prize being a bottle of champagne! We decided to keep it until Sunday—Marc & Michel took charge of it until then.

On the way back to Fleet Landing, we stopped at Shore Patrol headquarters & got six passes to come to the ship—the two girls had said they’d like to come.

Today it rained for awhile, but cleared up & became quite hot. Marc & Michel arrived on the second boat, & Tom & I showed them around as much of the ship as we were allowed. Tom had to go back to work, & just after he left, we saw Guntar & Yohakiem. Yohakiem was fascinated by everything & anything.

Tomorrow, if possible, I plan to go over again to drink the champagne. Monday is our last day in Cannes, & our last port (except Gibraltar) before heading for home. I rather hate to leave Cannes, in a way.

More Monday.