Saturday, September 30, 2006

14 December 1955

This will have to be short, as I’ve got to take a shower before going to bed. Let’s face it—who cares?

If I take a shower?

Yes, if you take a shower.

Well if I didn’t somebody would notice it.

So what? So why write about it?

Got to have something to write about.


Oh, come on, now, let’s not be bitter.

Who’s being bitter? I’m just stating facts.

There will now be a soft intermittent violin throbbing in the background.

So you actually thing you’re going to be a writer?

I hope so.

You know damn good & well you couldn’t even write an interesting piece on the end of the world.


Well what?

How much paper are you going to waste?

You know, I was just thinking, this might be called a split personality, but we both hate me.

Quick, fetch the wood—Joan of Arc is at it again.

Out, out damn spot--& on with the journal, if you’ll keep out of it.

I will.


We refueled at sea this morning, a beautiful day with the water as smooth as glass & a deep blue. Across it glided several grey ships, among them the Lake Champlain, several tankers, & some little destroyers, dragging a white bridal train behind them. I tried taking some pictures, & hope they come out, but am slightly confused by the complexity of the lenses, & get more confused as I try to figure it out.

Had a wonderful sleep last night, & enjoyed every minute of it, I think. Unlike my childhood I no longer begrudge going to sleep, but am still not too anxious to go to bed.

Each week we hold an inventory of all mess gear, & it is fabulous to watch the results. Every week, we lose an average of 200 cups (placing guards at all entrances & exits to the chow halls have little or no effect). Now that is a little steep—but when we turn up missing 39 mess benches (each 8 feet long) I can’t help but wonder: where on earth could they go? Oh, well, into each rain a little life must fall….

Friday, September 29, 2006

13 December 1955

A calm, almost lazy day, though I kept busy most of it. Outside, the weather was nondescript—overcast though not glumly so. The sun shines so rarely over here that its presence is more conspicuous than its absence.

Emotionally I’m feeling fine, excepting for a few brief moments this afternoon when they started playing Christmas carols. Physically, my case of pneumonia has toned down & is content to sit idly somewhere in the cavities just above my nose, causing no bother. Currently I am engrossed in chewing my bottom lip, which is getting quite raw as I tear off tiny pieces of skin, and a gigantic hangnail, which seems intent on pulling my entire left thumb off.

I shouldn’t have said that I kept busy most of the day—the afternoon was pretty well shot, what with G.Q. & a typing test for Petty Officer. That was the first typing test I’d taken since high school, & high school is just a memory out of the distant past.

Someone is supposed to come in tomorrow to oil my typewriter. It’s getting so that it just creeps along &, slow as my typing is, there are occasionally five or six keys jammed up together.
Especially the "h". That is the most casual letter I have ever seen. It goes up & makes its mark with admirable speed, but then it either sticks there, or comes back so slowly that sometimes I have to stop & watch it, fascinated. Oh, well, the poor thing has been in almost constant use for almost two years with little or no repairs.

Mentioned the other day that we’re required to wear our blue flat hats while on liberty (none yet) & our blue watch caps while running around the ship. These watch caps are ingenious little things. I had one when I was in 7th grade, & haven’t seen one since. Made of heavy cotton, they’re like a large stocking cap &, when pulled down all the way, would make us all the rage of the 1920’s. They’re very warm, which is nice for out-of-doors activities, but miserable inside. We’re supposed to wear them all the time, except in the office, but I don’t—just carry it in case, & even then not always.

Nick is on my list for having carefully poured a cup of water down the back of my neck. I don’t know about that boy at times. We call him Joan of Arc (or Nick d’Ticonderoga) because he is rather prone to playing the role of martyr. Whenever there is work to be done, Nick does it—even though it needn’t be done right that minute. He’s a good kid, & at times reminds me of a very small boy (he’s only 18). He’ll always be epitomized by one instance of the first week I was mess-cooking. It was around lunch time & I asked him when we ate. He was sitting on the edge of his desk with his feet dangling over, not quite reaching the floor & swinging his legs back & forth. He looked up at me with the expression of a little boy with his first bicycle, & said: "I can eat any time I want to."

And then there’s Conrad—a 1st Class cook serving as PPO (Police Petty Officer—in charge of keeping the compartments clean). He gives the impression of being smaller than he is, perhaps because of a slightly large head. His voice is loud & sharp, though not high. He has an almost morbid fascination about death, particularly in its more violent forms—he tells in great detail how his own mother & father were killed in a car-train accident in 1949—his mother being thrown from the car after it had been shoved 200 feet. The way he talks of accidents & death—almost with relish. Andy says he was in several landing parties during the Second World War, & evidently had it tough. As a greeting, he grabs you by the muscles of the shoulder just below the neck & squeezes. This can be quite painful if the right muscles are involved. They usually are.

What’s this? Only five after nine? I must be slipping. Better try to write some more on the Paris trip. Till tomorrow (or the next page)….

Thursday, September 28, 2006

12 December 1955

At sea again, & feeling a lot better—the shaky handwriting is caused by the ship’s vibrations, not my emotional outlook. I go up & down the emotional scale rapidly, but fortunately I spend most of my time on the top of the cycle rather than at the bottom.

Got another letter from home, which made me feel a little better. They’ve been getting my letters but almost none of my journal. It’s frustrating to think of all that work going for nothing. Perhaps I was loading the envelopes too heavily. Also, as yet, they haven’t gotten "Ching-Chong"—he’ll probably arrive in a million pieces about next June.

The minute we leave port, the sun comes out in all its glory—it was a beautiful day; at least the ten seconds I saw of it was. The last few nights in Genoa the seas were so rough they had to cancel the liberty boats, thus stranding 200 or more guys on the beach all night. They had a terrible time—all of them had to go & rent hotel rooms & stayed up all night drinking & running around the city. Poor things. Of course, some of the guys who were completely out of money slept aboard the two destroyers moored at the end of the same pier the Christoforo Colombo was.

Went to the library last night, for the first time in ages, & got two books—one of them Ogden Nash’s "The Face is Familiar," & the other Bulfinch’s "Mythology." The former was to elevate me out of the stupor I was in, the latter to improve my stagnating mind. Finished Nash the same night, & set about today (in what little spare time I had), to learn the names of the nine Muses—I could only recall one off hand—Terpsichore, muse of the dance. I enjoy reading mythology, but it is frequently confusing as to which god is related to which.

If you will notice, yours truly seems to be on an "I" binge again. Much more care must be taken in the future to correct this.

As of Naples, we’ll be required to wear our blue flat-hats instead of the white ones. Never having worn one, it ought to prove interesting. For some reason, I look ridiculous in any kind of hat.

Also, while dissecting my writing, it may be noted that almost nowhere can you find a sentence unbroken by one or several comma’s , unless it is a very short sentence. I lean heavily on "therefore"’s, "Of course", "also", & almost any device to break up a sentence into more palatable portions.

It is already after taps, & though I am in the mood to write indefinitely, bed beckons. As you may also have gathered, my spelling is atrocious. "I calls ‘em the way I sees ‘em"….

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

11 December 1955

A miserable day; my mind is a dark & empty reservoir, completely drained of thoughts. It’s just as well, for if I had any thoughts at all, I would feel terrible.

For one thing, I am becoming increasingly homesick—which isn’t the correct word, but the closest thing to it. Mail from home only aggravates matters. None of the letters I send home—perhaps ¼ of them—ever get there. The letters from home ask the same questions over & over & over. So I wrote home, or rather tried to---whether it ever gets there is another question—telling them that I’m not gong to write another letter while in Europe.

Sometimes I get so frustrated & angry I feel something will have to give. I realize that this is wrong thinking, not at all conducive to a healthy, red-blooded outlook.

When I get back to college I’m going to have to do some research on the effects of climatical changes on people. There definitely is one.

I give up—maybe tomorrow….

Postcard Dated 11 Dec. 1955, postmarked "U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA-14 Dec. 12, 9 a.m." Subject The Gardens of Victory Square, Genoa, Italy

Dear Folks,

These are the gardens I tried to describe in one of the letters you probably didn’t get.

I reverse the decision made not to write home—I’ll send post cards.

Sure wish I was home—the more I see of Europe, the more I want to be home. Oh, well, only eight more months (236 days). You can stop writing if you want, but I hope you don’t.

Love, Roge

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

10 December 1955

Dear Folks

Don’t know why I’m writing this at all---you haven’t gotten any of my letters (as of 2 Dec.) & I’ve been writing every single day & sending them airmail. Yours get here in eight days with just a plain old 3-cent stamp. It’s all very discouraging, like having a broken telephone speaker & hearing someone say "Hello? Hello? Hello?" & not being able to answer. You say you wait every day for a letter—well, so do I—every time I expect to see "Finally got your seventy-two letters…" but instead: "Why haven’t you written?" It’s enough to make a man bitter (as if I weren’t already.)

To show you the perfect timing of this cursed postal system, I received today a package from Aunt Thyra. In it were a box of Pixies & as card saying "Happy Birthday." At the same time came a card from Pleasantville, New York, saying I was to receive a year’s subscription to Reader’s Digest as a Christmas gift (thank you, mom). The saving feature of this was the thought that I’ll be out of this damn Navy before the subscription runs out!!

No sense in trying to write more—it’d be perfectly useless. I think I’ll stop sending my journal home too,--every now & then I’ll send a blank sheet of paper home giving perhaps the vital statistics on my health & welfare. And if you don’t get this one—I give up.

Till August 12th

Love, Roge


Merry Xmas

P.P.P.S. This is my last letter (or try) till I hear you’ve received some of mine.

Monday, September 25, 2006

10 December, 1955

One year ago today, almost to the very minute, I was in an R5D landing at Floyd Bennett Field, New York. The day before, I had graduated from Pre-Flight. Oh, how long ago it all seems—the band, Mr. Barnes, parades on Friday, bookbags, navigation classes—all as though they’d never happened. Then I’d never have dreamed I’d be aboard the USS Ticonderoga, a mere enlisted peon. But all that is gone now, & I must look to the future, which surely must be brighter but could hardly be more interesting.

Two hours or so have passed, during which I was in the library, reading magazines. I came across a clever "filler" in this month’s Reader’s Digest & will quote it for you, in case you missed it:

When a destroyer escort cut too close behind the flagship, an unlucky roll brought his sea boats’ davits in contact with the carrier’s stern. The Flag Officer promptly signaled to the destroyer: IF YOU TOUCH ME THERE AGAIN, I SHALL SCREAM.

Tonite is Saturday, which means that with good luck, I should be able to sleep late tomorrow morning. Sleep, to me, is a marvelous state of nonexistence, mixed occasionally with wonderful fantasies & unrealities.

Not, by mentioning nonexistence, that I plan to put an end to my own "veil of tears," but I do enjoy the complete freedom possible—where the mind creates & controls things it has no power over while awake.

Have you ever stopped to think how, though people envision a marvelous Heaven, so few of them are willing to die to attain it? How, though they curse Man as evil & moan that life is Hell on Earth, they fight, scratch, & claw to hang onto it?

If Man would only open his eyes, he may find that, though the light hurts at first, there are colors never dreamed of. I believe that we are capable of far more power than we utilize. I have not found perfection, & never will—but that does not mean I cannot look for it, & thereby perhaps find things worth more than I have now.

It is my desire to always seek something that is forever out of reach, & so climb only part way up an endless stair—but isn’t that better than just sitting at the bottom saying "I can’t make it" & not go anywhere at all?

Logic is something that should be projected. If two & two made four yesterday, & they make four today, isn’t it safe to assume that they will make four tomorrow? For some unknown reason (fear of change?) Man is unwilling to even glance over his shoulder (he stands always with his back to the future) to see what might be. He assumes that, because something is not practicable or possible here, now, today, it never will be. If he prepared for it, he would not stumble over it when it arrives. All it takes is a little projection—a little acceptance that things will change; that someday the automobile will replace the horse.

Someday; someday soon. Maybe tomorrow….

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Italian Line's Cristoforo Colombo Posted by Picasa
9 December 1955

Just got back from a tour of Genoa, Rapallo, & numerous small towns & villages in between. It was an interesting tour, but I was kept so busy watching everything it was quite tiring.

We left the ship this morning at 7:30; the sun was not even completely up. There were 157 of us going, & I managed to get into the first boat. Seeing Genoa harbor by day made it look different, but not less impressive. I was wrong about the sunken ships—one was the end of a long pier, & I couldn’t locate the other. The white liner had slipped away sometime between Tuesday & today, & in its place was the sleek black-&-white Cristoforo Colombo, a big & beautiful liner.

Three large busses & one very tiny one were waiting for us when we arrived; I wanted to get on the little one, but ended up on one of the larger. Since ours had been the first boat to leave the ship, there was a long delay before the others got loaded & came ashore. At about eight fifteen or so we got going. Of Genoa itself I have little to add to my previous observations. We followed almost the identical route I had walked Tuesday night, into the heart of the city. On the main square, our guide pointed out the Genoa Opera, which like Milan’s famous La Scala Opera House, had been bombed out during the war. Unlike La Scala, Genoa had never rebuilt hers, & the building stands today a hollow, broken shell.

Caught a fleeting glimpse of Christopher Columbus’ boyhood home, behind what appeared to have been the arcade around a church garden. It stands in the shadow of one of the original city gates—huge, round fortress-like things. The house itself is almost invisible, being covered by all sorts of vines. Originally it had been three stories high, but was now reduced to at most one or two rooms. It reminded me of the card houses I used to build on the living room floor; sometimes I’d get them up to three stories. Then I’d bomb them with poker chips, and the whole thing would tumble, leaving perhaps four cards propped against one another.

Victory Square was fairly interesting—garden-like at one end, & mall-like at the other. In the center of this mall, which is surrounded by attractive government-looking buildings, is Mussolini’s little Arch of Triumph—he called it a memorial to those killed in the First World War. And at the very end of the mall a hill rises up &, on it, in red plants are the designs of the Nina, Pinta, & Santa Maria; one above the other; below them are three anchors, also in red plants. Stairs run up the hill on either side, & the hill is topped by an arcade of brown stone. All very pretty.

For almost the first time since we’ve been in Europe, it was a nice day, though very cold. I had my camera, but was very low on film, so I tried shooting singles—snapshots. Surely hope they turn out; it will probably cost a small fortune to have them blown up to a visible size.

The most fascinating place in all Genoa is, without a doubt, the cemetery. It is laid out like a city & is indescribably fascinating. At one end is a hill, covered with thick poplars & large tombs with spirals & domes & towers & arches—like an Italian Olympus. But the most beautiful part of the cemetery are the statues. They stand about in long corridors, by the graves of the people they represent. Nowhere have I seen more realistic figures. They never dust them. The result is that the dust becomes covered in the crevices & folds of clothing, making it appear as though it were real velvet. There is one statue in particular which I was interested in. It is of an old lady in a full Italian skirt & shawl. She stands on a pedestal, holding in her left hand, even with her waist, a triple string of chestnuts, which runs to her right hand, at her side, in which she also carries two large rings of bread. This woman sold chestnuts, beads, & bread on the streets all her life so that she could afford a statue to perpetuate her name. She herself posed for it. She lived only 14 months after its completing, & used to come every day to look at it & lay flowers on it. It cost her 65,000 Lira (then about $3,000), & earned every penny of it herself. That was 75 years ago.

Briefly , to mention some of the other curiosities of the cemetery, it is like St. Michael’s in New Orleans—graves are only rented, & then only for five years with no renewals. The very floors of the corridors of statues are tombs in which bodies are placed five deep—one atop the other. It has, near the corridor of statues, another long enclosed corridor copied after the catacombs of Rome, wherein bodies are placed lengthwise in the walls.

Now, to leave Genoa—Mountains are everywhere, & sprinkled all over, from base to summit, with towns & villages. Tall church steeples rise above the trees everywhere you look. The roads are narrow & writhe around the steep mountainsides crazily. Houses seem carved out of &, in some instances are, into the mountainside. Old forts, castles & churches stand on prominent ridges & peaks of every mountain, as if the mountains were put there expressly for the purpose of holding them.

The houses, in the villages & outside them, are frustrating if nothing else. Nowhere did I see a single-story house. Even on the infrequently sparse sections of road, six story buildings are not uncommon. They are all, without exception, basically exactly the same—tall, square, small sloping roofs, & very straight—no curves or juttings; exactly straight on all four sides. To combat this, & try to appear different, they paint cornices & frames above & over the windows, balconies, & even paint windows where there are none. Each window on each house has green shutters. To hide the fact that all the walls are perfectly smooth, or at best pebble-dashed, they paint lines on to represent blocks; some they paint to look like marble. They paint fancy cornerstones, running up the sides. Paint, Paint, Paint—all of it pastel (usually a reddish-pink or variations of yellow), & all of it faded. The whole thing makes it appear as though they wallpapered the outside of the house. I called them frustrating, for when one does come upon a house with real stone, or real balconies, it is necessary to look twice to be sure. Those very rare houses one finds painted just one color with no pseudo-art aren’t half bad.

Rapallo is one of those picturesque little villages huddled in the few places where the mountains do not run directly into the sea. It is different from all the other picturesque towns we passed through in that it has a real, honest-to-goodness castle. It isn’t a Hollywood-type castle, with walls & miles of drafty halls. This one is rather small, no outer protective walls at all. It doesn’t need them, for it sits out a safe (in those days) distance in the water, with a narrow strip connecting it to the land. It is so old that no one is quite sure who built it or when. Its thick walls are used today not to keep people out, but to keep them in—currently it is Rapallo’s jail.
I could go on describing all the quaint & pretty things I saw today, but I’m really very tired, so if you will excuse me….

Postcard postmarked Rapallo/Genoa, December 9 1955. Subject: A middue (sic) ages castle

Dear Folks

Thought I’d better send at least one card home the regular way (via European mail), so you can see what an Italian stamp looks like.

I’m sitting within view of the castle on the card—it’s used as the town jail now.

Well, we’re shoving off for Porto Fino, where they have the submerged statue of Christ seen in Life.

More later,

Saturday, September 23, 2006

8 December 1955

Like everything else in this blasted Navy, my journal writing could be piped down at 8:45 every evening, regular as clockwork. I’ve come to think of the Bos’n’s pipe (previously affectionately described) as a sort of Pavlov’s bell. He, as you probably know, was a Russian scientist who experimented on the conditioning of animals to certain bells—ring a bell & give food; ring a bell & give food—until finally all he’d have to do was ring a bell & dogs would start to drool.

Today was the type of day I have now firmly fixed in my mind as typical European—dull, cloudy, & lethargic; the landscape & the city just sitting there, waiting for something. Perhaps it’s only a quirk of my imagination, but I seem to recall that in America, even in winter, we had some nice, clear days.

Tomorrow morning I take a sightseeing tour of Genoa & Rapallo, though I’ve already seen all I care to. The only time Genoa is pretty is at night, & from a distance.

By this time, as you may have gathered, I have become thoroughly homesick—or should I say “Europe-sick.” It is very nice to go to a foreign country, & walk their streets, & look in their shops—but, like skeptics say of a circus, when you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. For each country is just as foreign as the next, & none of them is America. Still I would not trade this experience for anything short of my discharge.

If anyone should ever tell you a ship is not alive, don’t believe them—she pulsates, quivers, & breathes. Only during G.Q. does she cease to live—almost--& then she is frightening. Earlier this evening the movie was called “The Cruel Sea,” which I’d seen before, but wanted to see again. This second time I enjoyed it more, for I felt closer to the action; when the Compass Rose went down, it seemed much more real.

Speaking of sinkings, the other night I had a most interesting dream (as most of mine, happily, are). I’d dreamed once before of the Ticonderoga sinking at her berth; this time it was the entire Brazilian Navy. For some reason, they were scuttling their entire fleet. Several destroyers sank gracefully, one capsizing just before she sank—a huge battleship was listing heavily to starboard, & they were using bazookas to blast more holes in her. A pretty red-&-black freighter at a pier directly across from my vantage point sank suddenly, as though the water had risen up over it, instead of its sinking. I was miserable at the gigantic waste—a Brazilian naval officer said they were all being sunk because the metal of which they were all built was greasy.

Don’t ask me why I chose the Brazilian Navy to sink, or what greasy metal had to do with it—dreams have a wonderful logic all their own, which ceases to exist once a person wakes. I suppose the idea for it came from the fact that I’d seen a couple of sunken ships in Genoa’s harbor.

We will have been gone a total of 140 days when we again reach the States; a notice came out regarding customs regulations on the quantity & monetary value of things being brought into the country. It is proportional to the time spent away. 140 days or more away from the States, & the goods allowable are unlimited (an asterisk explained that we would have been gone just 140 days). Haven’t figured it out yet, but it doesn’t sound like eight or even six months.

Because of the tour tomorrow, I’ll miss Field Day (lucky me) so I’d best clean up a little tonite…..

Friday, September 22, 2006

7 December 1955

14 years ago today, on a chilly but bright Sunday afternoon, I stood in Aunt Thyra’s living room & listened to the tall, ornate wooden radio announce that United States military bases & ships in Oahu Island, Hawaii, had been attacked by planes of the Imperial Navy; no one knew the exact number of casualties as yet, but the death toll was undoubtedly high. And so a stunned & shocked America saw herself thrown into the longest, bloodiest war in her history.

Today, aboard the USS Ticonderoga anchored off Genoa Italy, a ship where 345 men died in one day of that war, not a word was said—none remembered. Wars are forgotten so soon, as are the lessons they taught….

My cold is much better today—that is to say, I have it under a semi-control; it only bothers me when I cough.

I neglected to mention yesterday that in the brief time I was in Genoa, I manage to throw away 600 Lire! For this fabulous sum, I bought one pizza, one beer, one glass of wine, one Time magazine, & four chocolate covered cherries (unpitted), one of which is still in my peacoat pocket & must be disposed of. It is a little less shocking to consider that 600 Lire equals roughly 90 cents in American money.

Just checking my drawer, & found about six pages of accumulated scrawlings not mailed home yet. I’ll do it tonite. Of course, the six pages does not include my Paris adventures. I’ve finished it up to the point of the first half of the first day, & already have eight pages. By the time I finish it, it should about equal Gone With the Wind in volume.

No weather report forthcoming in today’s entry, as the only time I stuck my little head outside it was very early & almost dark.

The major problem of the day seems to be the Christmas Present Situation. Oh, woe—what to do. As for myself, I’m already resigned to the idea that there just won’t be a Christmas this year—just pretend they left it off the calendar. But what a dirty thing to do to the folks back home—it will still be Xmas for them. But I’ve decided I won’t send anything home, though I have presents for everybody. A present will do no good if it doesn’t get there, or if it arrives in forty or fifty pieces.

Nick was rummaging through my billfold this evening (with my permission) & when he got through, everything was lying in a huge mound in the center of the MAA’s desk. So I sorted through it, & put away all the movie ticket stubs from Los Angeles & Miami & New York, & my entrance pass to the Louvre Museum in Paris, & my special request chits (one requesting to go to NAS in the Uniform of the Day for band practice—the other asking to get off early to meet dad at the airport in Norfolk), & dozens of other things. Not one of them is worth anything, but to me it tells a story (of great depth & pathos) of my adventures & misadventures in this cruel world. Every single scrap of paper means something very special to me, if to no one else.

Nothing of vital interest to write about today’s activities, for I am sure you care little about how to type up menu cards, or the procedure for running off stencils for next week’s meals.
Mail arrived on board tonight, but since it is now almost 9:45, there is not much chance of there being a mail call.

Ah, to be a civilian again. If this trip does nothing else for me, it will be a constant reminder to me how wonderful America is, with all its faults.

So, with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner in the background, I will bid you goodnight….

Thursday, September 21, 2006

6 December, 1955

In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered America. In 1955, I discovered Genoa. Chris got the far better bargain.

The first glimpse of Genoa was strikingly beautiful—it was slightly after noon, & a heavy mist was just clearing away, showing the city as if in a dream, spread out over the hills; grey towers & steeples rising above huddled buildings, & white skyscrapers along the shore.

That was Genoa as seen from the USS Ticonderoga (CVA14). Once in the city, the impressions are somewhat different. First, like most European cities, there seems to be no plan—streets meander thither & yon with no purpose or destination in mind. There are myriads of side streets, invariably going up or down-hill steeply. Neon signs are everywhere, but just plain raw tubes—no backing; if you come upon them from the wrong direction, they appear to be written backwards—which doesn’t mean much since I can’t understand Italian anyway. The effect of all these signs sticking out in the narrow alleys (can’t truthfully call them streets) is that of a kaleidoscopic rainbow.

The buildings themselves are heavy, old, & sprawling. As usual, they sit out on the street, & look like they’re trying to squeeze the already narrow streets—like a closing trap. Many of the buildings are huge, with ornate, palatial staircases & archways behind great doors which open inward from the streets. Some of the banks are literally drive-ins, for I saw cars parked inside the large courtyards, as they might be called.

There are several "main drags," but they also wander so aimlessly that they’re almost impossible to follow. Most of the business is conducted on the side streets—the sidewalks in front of Marshall Fields in Chicago—even in front of the Talcott Building in Rockford, are much wider than most of the streets. Almost every other business establishment is either a grocery, a bar, or a butcher shop. These butcher shops are fabulous places—refrigeration is unheard of, & the meat hangs around on large hooks—they have some of the most disgusting looking things for sale there; squid & entrails & other things I have no idea at all of what they could be. All these grocers & butchers are in sharp contrast to Gibraltar, where there are none to be seen.

So I walked up one street & down another, the only pattern to my travels being to take the direction with the most lights.

Being the foreigner is quite an unpleasant change—never again will I think anyone who does not speak perfect English—or any English, is stupid.

No doubt by morning I shall have lost my voice entirely; right now I can hardly speak--& even then it’s an effort.

The harbor of Genoa is swarming with ships—long black tankers, graceful white ocean liners, & stubby little freighters. Though it was dark when we came in, & we were in a covered boat, I think I noticed several sunken ships lying about the harbor, lights marking their masts & outlines. Coming back, we were in an open boat, & I was so enthralled with watching the city, glistening & glimmering on the mountains, that I didn’t check the ships.

Now, if you will excuse me, I shall exit, playing Camille….

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

5 (?) December 1955

During the night my sore throat mellowed & blossomed into a case of pseudo-pneumonia, causing me to keep half the compartment awake by continual sniffling, wheezes, & futile attempts to breathe. You never realize what a job it is to breathe until you try.

So the day got off to not exactly a flying start, liberally interspersed with trips to the head for toilet paper—which is much cheaper than handkerchiefs, even though the capacity is limited.

The only thing of even vague interest, aside from our sailing away from picturesque Sardinia, was that a homosexual was discovered on board. How, I neither know nor care, but the whole matter was handled with such obvious inconspicuosity that the whole ship knew about it. I was sure we would all be invited to the flight deck for a public stoning. Instead, he was shuffled off in a helicopter to an unknown but assuredly unpleasant fate. Homosexuals are viewed by the Navy in the same light as witches & little men with ticking briefcases.

Mail call today, which instead of helping my battered spirits, only kicked them harder. For one thing, the letters from home were dated later than the last ones I’d gotten, but were written asking questions & saying things they had known & mentioned before —have I received my camera? Did the cookies come? And last time, dad had told me how much to ask for my old camera, now that the new one was here. It was quite disconcerting, to say the least. And then came two letters from my auto insurance company, addressed to NavCad F.R. Margason, which went over like a concrete dirigible.

Tomorrow we land, or rather anchor, in Genoa, Italy. This afternoon I exchanged American money for Italian Lire—huge, 6"12" sheets of paper, which struck me as being not only unhandy but downright cumbersome. Italian money is not the least bit pretty as were French Francs, but they both employ the watermark. On either side of the center of the bills is a white space, apparently blank—but when held up to the light, a face can be seen in each; quite ingenious, but I still prefer good old American greenbacks.

There must be quite a battle raging inside my head, for I’m constantly flushing gallons of semi-fluids from my nose. I’m considering installing a spigot.

I have been informed by Mr. Coutre that what I have been writing, aside from my physical woes, is treason, detrimental to the Navy, scandalous, & not nice. The Navy must be considered by all as a living Post Office poster. No doubt this is true, but being an incurable romanticist, I still believe in freedom of speech. In a few short moments I could be transformed from an average airman to a hardened criminal, strongly suspected of having Communist leanings. My court martial would be held by several zealous gentlemen no doubt violently waiving American flags while sentencing me to, at least, an Undesirable discharge.

The difficulty with being pure white is that it cannot remain that way while there are other colors around. America, if she allows all the freedoms in their widest sense, leaves herself wide open for the powers wishing to destroy her. Yet she cannot forbid these freedoms and still remain America.

My outlook on life might be compared to a news article I read sometime back. It concerned a 19 year old boy who had a loose tissue or nerve in the back of his throat. The result was that he ticked—not audibly; only he could hear it. He never mentioned it because he took it for granted that everybody ticked. That is my problem—have I something no one else has, & do not realize it? Or, more likely, does everyone have something I don’t have? Everyone else manages to muddle through life naturally enough, but for me, life is one great mystery after another.

Tatoo, which means nothing except that taps will be in five minutes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

5 December 1955

Dear Folks

I have a stinking suspicion that all is not well between the State of Illinois & the USS Ticonderoga—I’ve sent several more than five letters home, plus Ching-Chong, whom if you haven’t received by now you probably won’t at all.

That settles it, though—I’m not mailing another single thing home—Christmas will have to wait till next August, & that’s all there is to it.

It only affirms a belief I have held for some time—namely that I despise the United States Navy & everything connected with it with an undying passion. I would not spit on the best part of it & advise anyone considering joining to shoot themselves without further ado!

I do have Xmas presents for you, but I’ll be damned if I’ll mail them

Of course I got the camera—I wrote & thanked you profusely. You in fact have a very short memory, because I received a letter from dad telling me how much to ask for my other one. Oh, hell, this whole Navy is so damn …**@ed up it’s a wonder all its ships are still afloat.

Yes (again) I got the cookies—very good. Yes, I got the fudge—sorry to say it was excellent. Ah, but now it sounds as though I’m bitter---Well, I am. I hate, loathe, abominate, abhor, despise, detest, & generally dislike the U.S. Navy. Do I make myself clear? The point I’m trying to get across is that I am not particularly enthralled with military life.

Got two letters from the Auto insurance company addressed to NavCad F.R. Margason—H A H ! ! !

Sorry—don’t know what made me blow up like this, but I honestly am so damned fed up with the whole mess—not disheartened, mind you; just sick.

I’ve written every single day, usually mailing them in batches of two to four days in one

Didn’t you read about our "explosion" as the papers called it? Gary wrote & mentioned it—it happened on the 21st & your letters I got today (5th) were mailed the 28th—not a word.

Enough drivel—I’ll vent the rest of my spleen in tonite’s journal.


P.S. KSFM Remember that picture—have it taken at once! Excuse the profanity, but I hear so much of it, it becomes a part of me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

4 December 1955

A very nice day in all, notwithstanding the fact that I have half a sore throat (right side) & an aggravating case of the “blows”—trying to blow my nose when there’s nothing there. I hate that sensation. Always had an intense dislike of being sick—fortunately, I seldom am. Usually I have but one cold a year—it generally starts in December & lasts until March. But I don’t really mind it, since it’s usually very unobtrusive & only shows itself by an occasional sniffle.

Somehow all the ships in the harbor, with the exception of the Lake Champlain & ourselves, managed to turn around during he night. The submarine sank, or did whatever submarines do, as it was missing when I looked for it this afternoon.

Took an entire roll of film of Sardinia yesterday—I only hope it turns out. The mountains are really beautiful—some rugged & brooding, others bright & almost gaudy. Some of them are as though they’ve been painted—tan & brown of bare rock, shadows, & the green of vegetation—no trees, that I noticed.

Don’t feel much like writing tonight—I’m in one of my neuter moods, when I don’t feel particularly good or bad; no sensations whatever except the annoying area around my throat. Here it is twenty-five to ten already, & I have to take a shower & stencil some of my clothes prior to sacrificing them to the laundry.

Mail is leaving the ship tonite, but we haven’t received any for several days now. I won’t mail this until later this week, when we get to Genoa. Sure would like to take that tour to Venice, but can’t afford it. They had a tour scheduled for Munich, Germany, but because of an Austrian law forbidding the wearing of uniforms, they had to cancel it.

Well, short as this is, I’ve got to take that shower….

Postcard dated 12-3-55, postmarked "U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA-14 Dec. 4, 1955, 9 a.m. Subject: The Rock of Gibraltar at night

Dear Stormy
I’ve had this card laying around my desk for weeks—best I mail it off tonite.

Hope you still remember me when I get home—we’ll probably both be getting old & grey by that time. Oh, well, only 253 more days. I can’t wait to get out of this man’s Navy.

See you


Sunday, September 17, 2006

3 December 1955

Nine o’clock—I’m beginning to think of it as my witching hour (occasionally a different spelling).
A beautiful day for a change, though the atmosphere below decks couldn’t prove it. Nick is busy playing Joan of Arc. Poor kid—he never gets any mail from home; I’d go nuts if it weren’t for mom writing every day.

Come to the conclusion that it is impossible to try to write & listen to the surrounding conversation at the same time. It was quiet until a couple MAA’s came in. Oh, well.
Tonite I feel like a real writer—been working on my Paris tour, & now this.

Anchored today off Sardinia again—a different part this time—very pretty; cloud-topped mountains, a small town clustered on the edge of the water, & half of the United States 6th Fleet anchored off shore. The Lake Champlain is back with us; on the other side is a battleship (the New Jersey). Sprinkled liberally around are five or six destroyers, ten oilers, cargo ships & various other ships—oh, yes, & one black submarine, close in to shore.

Pay day today—Xmas presents tomorrow. It seems so nice to have money again, though I know I won’t have it long. I was honestly broke for the first time in my life—well, maybe the second.
I’m afraid I’ll have to make this awfully short—got to drop a line (short) to Sandy—she was nice enough to write me.

Still 3 December 1955

Dear Folks

Yes, it’s me again. I don’t know why I even bother to write these little preambles—just to let you in on a few details I forgot in the Daily Journal.

First,--mother, I want a picture of you—a good picture, one taken at a studio. That & the Confederacy are all I want for Xmas.

As for your Xmas presents—you will be getting them all year, I’m afraid. But, better late than never.

Dad—did you tell me about those binoculars? Let me know immediately if not sooner.

As for calling home Xmas—there are about 10,000 American soldiers, sailors, & marines .in Europe who will be wanting to call home. Initial time difference is six to eight hours--& it takes three hours to connect calls—that is if I can get a line right away. Cost from Gibraltar was $18.00 for 3 min. What think ye? Shall we set a date sometime after Xmas or before, or shall we drop it?

Well, taps again. Don’t forget that picture—a good one of either you or you & dad; not a snapshot. And make it as soon as possible: this Saturday if you can. I have my reasons….

Till I hear from you, I am
As Usual & Always

P.S. Don’t forget that picture—a big one.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

2 December 1955

Nine-fifteen & another day shot (to paraphrase a quaint Navy colloquialism) in the posterior. I can’t get over the impression that every day spent in the Navy is a day lost. That isn’t fair, of course; without the Navy I wouldn’t be in Europe—which, surprisingly, has exactly the same type of air, land, water, & human beings as America. So let’s not say every day has been a total loss—just most of them

An excellent example of the importance of each day may be gotten from the fact that I dated yesterday’s entry as the 30th of November. A s a matter of fact, I even neglected to put down "November" and had to add it just now—after first writing December. Now you may see why my letters are addressed AN instead of N/C.

Replenishment today, & I got to watch none of it—instead stayed in the office & held a one-man field day. We were supposed to get aboard 218 tons—how many we actually got is a mystery.
One full sling of provisions—about four tons, dropped off the transferring lines & into the sea, still neatly secured. Also lost were a group of movies we were sending to them, which will make them very happy, I’m sure.

Somehow, after the tallies were taken, we ended up with ten cases of rutabaga—you think my spelling is bad, you should see theirs. It took us a full five minutes to decipher it. Where it came from or where it went we don’t know, because no one had ordered it & no one has seen it since.

Always, during replenishment, there is the problem of a little fun-loving graft.. Usually most of the credit goes to the ship sending it over to us. They are supposed to give us, say, 10,000 lb. of steak. We only get 9,000. Where is the other thousand pounds? You guess. So we chalk it up as being lost over the side, or some such thing. Those replenishment ships are the best-fed vessels in the Navy.

And here on board the Mighty T last replenishment, the Engineering department managed to walk off with two cases of fruitcake, one case of assorted nuts, & several crates of oranges. They were caught—that’s the only way we knew about it. Otherwise it would go on our Lost at Sea report.

Today, though, we fooled them. Someone got away with three large crates—no one knew who it was. Later, the crates were found on the hanger deck behind one of the boats; it was three crates of vegetable oil.

Mail call today-one letter from Harry Harrison, the only NavCad buddy I still keep in touch with, one from Sandy Bonne, my cousin, & only one from home.

Payday is tomorrow, & will it ever be welcome! In my pocket at this moment I have 20 Francs & sixpence—a combination hard to beat, but for all general purposes worthless.

I’ve had a book of Shakespeare’s comedies on my desk now for weeks & just haven’t gotten around to reading it—not through lack of will, but lack of time.

Think I sold my small camera today. I hate to get rid of it. I get so childishly attached to things; hate to throw anything away. I remember once, when quite a bit smaller than now, mother asking me which of two throw rugs I liked best in a store. I said I liked them both, because I didn’t want to hurt the less-pretty one’s feelings. I’ve always been that way.

I, I, I, I, I—focus your eyes just right & that’s all you can see. Well, how else does one write an autobiography without them?

Taps, Taps—only 284 more times will I have to hear that.

And so (candle in hand) to bed….

Friday, September 15, 2006

30 November 1955

Just up brushing my teeth, & as I looked in the mirror I thought: "Who are you trying to kid? Here you want to be a writer & all you can do is write a half-assed journal even I don’t enjoy, so how can anyone else?" What I am and what I think I am are two very different things. My writings are loose, disjointed, & choppy—I can never find the words I need. However, rather than feel sorry for myself, I think it is a good thing that at least I’ve admitted my faults to myself.

There are times, such as now, when I get very zealous, swearing that I’ll really buckle down & work---let’s hope it can be carried out, this time. Too bad there are only 24 hours in a day.

Days—hah—every one is a carbon copy of the one before & a shadow of the ones to come. Read in the Daily Press—our own little New York Times—that the States are really having some unusual weather. Over here it’s an even, steady chill. Below decks it ranges from Sahara to Antarctic, depending on whether the fans & blowers are on full blast or turned off. Whenever movies are held on the mess decks, the engineering department plays a game they call "Turn off the Blowers & See How Hot it Can Get."

Another of my pet peeves in the dear old Navy is the Bos’n’s pipe. It’s quite shrill, & they use it to announce everything. Like most Navy traditions, its practical use has long since terminated, but because it has become tradition, it clings on. The most aggravating is the call to meals—now, they announce over the loudspeakers that "Early Dinner for Messmen & other required personnel, " & everybody knows it’s dinner time, but still they blow it. Not only is it the longest call they have, but they try to set new records in length. God, will I be glad to become a civilian.

The Navy being very rank-conscious (or, I should say "rate-conscious"), there is usually very little open friction between the higher echelons of the non-rated. Today, though, we almost had a battle royal between one of our chiefs & a First Class mess deck M.A.A. The chief decided to hold a meeting of cooks on one of the mess decks while the M.A.A. was cleaning it up. The M.A.A. told the chief to get the hell out. Now, this just isn’t being done, this or any other season. The Chief almost had a stroke, he was so furious. They both came in to Mr. Clower & we (Nick, Coutre, & I) had to leave while they thrashed it out.

Now among peons like myself, things are settled somewhat differently. Last night two of our Mess Cooks got into a little argument. They agreed to meet on the fantail, where they proceeded to beat the living tar out of one another.

Tomorrow we meet a replenishment ship & take 218 tons of gear aboard. With their usual Navy efficiency, they (the Powers-That-Be) let us know yesterday. So we had to type, stencil, run off, & put together 180 twelve-page notices on who was to do what where & when. Ah, such fun.

Some interesting but otherwise useless bits of information about the good old Ti:
888 feet in length, 164 feet in extreme width. Has 1,644 doors, 2, 892 telephones; carries enough gasoline to drive a family car for 350 years, enough fuel to supply fuel for a home for 4,000 years! Also, she generates enough electricity to supply more than 2,800 homes. And, last but not least, her steam catapults are powerful enough to shoot an automobile over a mile straight up in the air. (Now that is a fascinating tidbit.)

Notice the unconscious selection of writing paper tonight—red (?) & green—Xmas. Oh, woe is me. The first time in 22 years away from home. I still remember my first Christmas in a wicker wash basket at Aunt Thyra & Uncle Buck’s. Won’t even have a Christmas tree—green needles smelling like pine, bright strips of tinsel—red balls & silver bells. The little Santa Claus in his red costume, surrounded by a cloud of cotton, now dirty with age.

When I was very small, we used to set out cocoa & peanut butter sandwiches for Santa, so that if he were hungry he could have a bite to eat. And the stockings—we never had a fireplace, but always stockings, put over the back of a chair. It was such a disappointment to find out there was no Santa Claus. Mom told me in a way I’ll always remember: "No there isn’t a man called Santa Claus, but there is a spirit of him in all of us, & that is something very real." Always struck me as an excellent bit of psychology.

Grandma’s on Xmas eve, & her tree, always smaller than ours, & always with three white envelopes in the branches—one for Shirley, Sandy, & me. And I always anxious to go home, to open our presents. I always get as much enjoyment out of what others think of what I gave them as I do with my own presents.

Snow on the front porch, TV & a box of pretzels—the light from the kitchen, Stormy with his head on my lap to be petted.

Aunt Thyra always smelling clean & with just the slightest bit of perfume; Uncle Buck calling me "Guggenheimer"—sitting on his lap "helping" to drive the car—standing on a baggage cart watching for the train to come huffing in, walking in steam.

I’ve always resented growing up—I don’t think I ever will, really. At least, I hope not….

Thursday, September 14, 2006

29 November 1955

Dear Folks

As you can see by the new stationary , I finally got my package—thank you much. I enjoyed & can use everything, including the harmonica. I’m planning on giving a concert soon. The handkerchiefs will put an end to my sniffling & running madly to the head for a piece of toilet paper when I have to blow my nose.

The stationary, I fear, came out second best in the battle of the U.S. Mail. The box was unrecognizable as such, but aside from being wrinkled & somehow slightly water stained, it will do very nicely. Mom & I have many similar tastes.

Speaking of taste, you must learn how to make Bouliabaise (horrible spelling)—anyway it’s like potato soup. The French have it all the time.

Haven’t been ashore at all in Cannes—loaned out my remaining 4,000 Francs, so I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to. It’s just as well, I suppose—I was thinking of going over tonite, but I just would have spent it all.

Just went topside to see if they still were selling American magazines—several weeks old. They weren’t, but there are about forty mail sacks; probably all packages, but I hope there’s some regular mail, & some of it is for me.

Been stuffing myself all day with bread—yesterday I happened to be in the Bake Shop & saw some of the guys playing football with a batch of leftover dough. I told them that next time they had any left over, I’d like it if they just plopped it in the oven, as is, & gave it to me. So today they came over with my own personal loaf of bread, divided into four parts like a pan of Parker house rolls. So I’ve been eating. And eating. I’ve got one section to go, then will start on the apricots.

Haven’t heard yet from the insurance company about my car. If no word comes in this mail, I’ll send them another. Of course, they can ignore that, too, & there’d be nothing I could do about it.

A couple hours have gone by, during which time I’ve been busy cutting stencils for replenishment—what goods go where, etc. Also, we’ve had mail call, & I got four very welcome letters, asking me why don’t I write; that you haven’t heard a word from me & that you wondered if my letters could be mailed without stamps. Nothing quite like the rapid handling of mail by the good old U.S. Navy.

First of all, the only time you can mail letters without stamps is when we are at war & the letter sender is in a war zone. Between "when" & "we" a whole day has gone by. I was cut off in mid sentence by more work—and still more work.

Spent all day working out a new liberty schedule—completely erasing & rewriting 3 boards with 131 names—surprising I can still write tonight.

Tell me—did you read about our accident in the papers? One of the guys got a letter from home (Chicago) & said the Tribune had a big story on it. The commander who lost both his legs died in a hospital in Munich. That makes 12 guys the Ti has lost since I’ve come aboard.

Got a letter from Gary, at long last. I’ll have to write him tonite, if I have time. Just think—he’s a 2nd Lieutenant & I’m a slob. Oh, well, such is life.

Did you get Ching Chong yet? God, Christmas is going to be all fouled up this year, as far as presents go. Mr. Clower said he was at the Nice airport when our mail came in on an R5D or some big plane—you know how high those things are off the ground. He said they just opened the cargo doors & threw stuff out on the ground. They were very good about insured fragile packages—they threw them out, too, but didn’t throw anything else on top of them.

Well, I’d better close or I never will get finished. Probably the mail won’t go off until Genoa anyhow. Till I see you, then, I will send


P.S. I’m homesick.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

P Postcard courtesy of crewmember David Gregory Posted by Picasa
28 November 1955

Ah, I fear this "journal" is falling apart at the seams—I have less & less time & more & more things to write about. Two more days in Cannes & then we’re off for Genoa (arrive 6 December, leave 12 December).

Just spent three & a half hours arguing various things, beginning with the difference between imagination & faith. I was holding down the corner with the opinion that they are, if not the same thing, at least interrelated, & that one could not have faith without imagination. As usual, I was in the distinct minority, with Nick, Coutre, & Chief Sewell against me.

As is inevitable in any argument dealing with intangibles, religion was soon dragged into the picture, & I played the role of Martin Luther to their Inquisition. The chief soon gave up in disgust, Coutre refused to enter the debate on the grounds of the fifth amendment, & Nick & I were left alone on the field.

"In other words, you don’t believe in God." This statement is also inevitable.

"Of course I do. But I can not and I will not accept such a petty and restricted God. My God does not have five fingers on each hand, & does not give a tinkers dam whether we go out & steal an apple or not."

"Oh, he’s one of those green things from Mars with tentacles & everything."

"No, I never said that. He has no shape or form. He does not sit Somewhere & watch us with eyes & judge our little quarrels."

Things along in here usually go from bad to worse, & I roll out my heavy artillery—almost a speech by this time. It is the one dealing with our worshipping of carven images & Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb.

Haven’t had a chance to write about Paris yet—haven’t even finished the one on Gibraltar, as far as that goes. I just don’t have enough time.

Mailed a batch of postcards today, from both Paris & Gibraltar. Think I’ll mail what I have of the Gibraltar story written sent home. Hope you open these letters in sequence—did you note the numbers? Been getting occasional letters (in batches of three or four), which are very welcome. Write soon & often!!!

Dad, I was looking at some 8x56 binoculars; they had some 10x50 but the guy said they were so powerful you have to have a tripod to set them on, or they’ll shake all over. Answer right away if this is what you’d like.

Got Aunt Thyra’s cookies on the night I got back from Paris & they were gone the next day. Tell her thanks for me, as I already did on the card.

Damn, there it is taps again. See what I mean; you just can’t win in this racket.

Glad you liked the dress, mom. I was wondering if you would. I know I liked it.

For some reason I’m very tired tonight. I guess arguing takes a lot out of you. Don’t mind my occasional rampages in the journal. Write soon & often. Till then, I’ll be sending

Much Love

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Paris Journal, Part 5 (November, 1955) Regular letters resume tomorrow

Two things I found of special interest—one were the gargoyles. Lord, they’re fantastic. Whoever possibly dreamed them up must have been suffering from an advanced stage of Delirium Tremens. The other is not to be found in most travelogues or books; over the main altar, far in the back of the church where it was so dark you could hardly see, hang cardinals’ hats. They are on very long strings suspended from the ceiling far above, & are placed there upon the death of a cardinal. There they hang. But, should one of them fall down of its own accord, it’s not put up again. Currently there are nine or so.

The entire cathedral is surrounded by & covered with statues, spires, buttresses, flying buttresses, & what have you. But with all this, it somehow doesn’t look cluttered.

I was also quite disappointed to find Quaisimodo had never run about among the gargoyles, or saved a fair maiden from an angry mob storming the cathedral by pouring molten lead on them.
Undated insert between pages 10 & 11 of handwritten journal

Dear Folks—

Quick note department—enclosed find one more page of the Paris journal—I’d better finish it soon or I’ll forget it.

Fresh milk today—how wonderful. Buy a cow. Got a large box of cookies from Ann Margason.
Journal continues

I’ll never forget the end of that movie; Quaisimodo, with his arm around a gargoyle no uglier than himself, watching the so-called heroine ride away with her prince charming. That one scene always struck me as being a rare glimpse of the beauty that lives within the human soul, which shows itself now & again despite all we may do to hide it.

Somewhere between the time we left the busses & the time we left the cathedral, the girls left us.

One of the officers, in civilian clothes, was wearing a sporting cap similar to those that were the rage in America in the late twenties. They are currently considered fashionable in Europe. Not only did he wear it, but he wore it backward. When he was getting on the bus, Leonard, a Mess Deck MAA also on the tour, looked at him, grinned, & said "Hi, cat!" The look he got could have melted the tires.

The Eiffel Tower looks like a huge erector set. It also looks old. And dirty. It’s painted brown, which from a distance looks like rust. Since there is only one Eiffel Tower—what use anyone could possibly find for another I can’t guess—there is nothing to compare it with. It looks largest when standing directly under it; then it is gigantic. It was built for an 1898 (?) world’s fair, in spite of people’s skeptic opinions that it would never get off the ground (it didn’t).

The bus couldn’t get within two blocks of it, so we had to be satisfied with gazing from a distance. Naturally, through the whole tour, my camera was going as much as speed & weather would permit. Bob took a picture of Jim, Roge & I with the tower in the background, which incidentally turned out quite well.

Postcard postmarked "U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA 14, Nov. 29, 1955, 9 a.m. Subject: The Rock of Gibraltar from it’s airfield.

Dear Folks
Bet you can’t guess where I was. Ah, no fair—you peeked. Many long letters coming of my expeditions. Took some film on my new camera & hope & pray it only turns out the way I took them. Don’t think I’ll send them home—it’ll be more fun when I can be there to explain them. Thanks for the cards


Monday, September 11, 2006

Paris Journal, Part 4 (November, 1955)

Somehow, by blind luck & a little homing pigeon blood, we found our way back to the hotel. Dinner set the pattern for all meals thereafter—first, soup; next a salad (or fish, or spaghetti—most often spaghetti). Then the main course—meat (roast beef or veal slices), potatoes, a vegetable (green) & more bread, which we ate in amazingly large quantities. After the main course, cheese, many varieties brought in on a platter by the waiters, who served whatever cheese you selected. Next, fruit—oranges & apples, probably more in the summer; and then, desert. To drink—wine (coffee only at breakfast) or water (bottled). We’d always order two bottles of wine at 300 francs (50 cents) a bottle.

Immediately after lunch we went out to the busses. I ran upstairs for my camera, though the sun still wasn’t out, & off we went.

Unfortunately, I do not have the elephantine memory seemingly required by writers—there is a pamphlet tucked away somewhere, outlining our tour point by point, but it is, for all practical purposes, lost.

The Place de La Concorde is a wide, flat space without much purpose that I could see. Scattered around it are tomb-like structures with statues upon them representing 12 of France’s leading cities. On this square, Louis the Fifteenth (?) lost his head, as did Robespierre, the power behind the thrown, Marie Antoinette, & some 3,000 assorted noblemen & commoners. Here also died Dr. Guillotine, who lost his head in his own invention.

To the right can be seen the Eiffel Tower—directly behind is the River Seine, which is disappointingly just exactly like every other river in Europe, with the possible exception that it has more water. The Louvre Museum & several other official buildings stand guard over another square on the other side of the river; I forget the square’s name, but it is much more park-like. All these buildings are the color of dirty cake & of the rather cold architecture of the Revolutionary period.

The tomb of France’s great humanitarians, including among them Victor Hugo & Louis Braille, is housed in the Church of the Madeleine; the exact replica of the Parthenon. Napoleon had intended it to be a temple for & to his men, but somewhere along the line it became a church, & the burial place of France’s great humanitarians.

Napoleon’s body lies in the gold-domed church of Les Invalides, in five successive coffins. The outermost one is of highly-glossed ebony, fashioned on top like an open scroll. It is at the bottom of a large rotunda, from which you look down on the tomb & the twelve winged statues around it, representing Napoleon’s twelve great battles. I stood on the same spot another sightseer had been, sixteen years before—an obscure upstart named Adolph Hitler.

Directly across the rotunda from the entrance, and on a raised terrace in the highest part of the church, is a copy of the altar in St. Peters in Rome. The altar is covered by a high vaulted canopy, supported by four of the most beautiful columns I’ve ever seen. Though the imitations are wood, they could easily pass for marble. They are not straight, but twisted like taffy when both ends are twisted in opposite directions. The originals are of dark & light marble; the canopies are of red silk. The church has no electricity; all light enters through two tall yellow-glass windows on either side of the altar, which even on the gloomiest of days, as this one was, the entire building is filled with a soft diffused light.

A glass partition behind the altar closes off the chapel from the rest of the church, which is now a national museum. What the Church of the Madeleine is to France’s humanitarians, the Tomb of Les Invalides is to her military heroes. Besides Napoleon, the church also houses some of France’s most renowned military dead. Marshall Foch, leader of the allied forces in the First World War is guarded over by eight French soldiers, pallbearers in bronze, carrying his coffin. A wreath had been recently laid at the base of the monument, and our guide told us there is never a time when there are not flowers of some sort placed there.

Many others are there; generals & admirals unknown to us, but remembered with pride by the French. Six of them have their hearts enshrined here while the rest of their remains are buried elsewhere in France. Napoleon’s son Joseph is in a small room off the rotunda in a heavy, barbed steel coffin—brought from Austria as a gift to the French people by Adolph Hitler.

While we were gazing down upon Napoleon, Roge & Jim discovered two American girls from Minnesota. While the rest of us moved reverently about from body to body, Roge & Jim, like Napoleon’s twelve guardian angels, helped hold up the rotunda & discussed the American scene with the girls. They were, it turned out, a schoolteacher & a stenographer in Minnesota, had been in Europe three months, had wandered all over, from Greece to Germany, & were leaving for the States the next day. They had spent their last fifty francs getting in to see Napoleon, who didn’t really care much one way or another.

They were lost someplace in the shuffle, & we left without them. It had started to drizzle again, very lightly, as we got on the busses; when suddenly somebody spotted the girls, half a block down. Commander Miller, in charge of the tour & in civilian clothes, took out after them. After a few minutes of talking, interspersed with glances toward the bus (everyone had their noses pressed to the windows) they started walking toward the bus.

They were hustled to the rear by a group of officers (also in civilian clothes), which Roge took as rank discrimination, & there they stayed, while the enlisted men up front sulked.

Next on the agenda came Notre Dame Cathedral. It lies on an island in the Seine river. From pictures & postcards, I’d assumed the island was just big enough for the Cathedral. Hah! I wouldn’t have even guessed it was an island if I didn’t know.

The first impression I had was that it was a lot smaller than I’d ever imagined it. Not small, by any means, just small-er. It’s about the same color as Illinois topsoil, surrounded on one side by the Seine, in front by a park, & on the other two by the city, which crowds up irreverently close. It is magnificent, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s a delayed magnificence—it gets better the more you think about it, but standing in front of it on a miserable day, it’s just a building. The arched doorways are works of art, covered with carvings of saints & devils—one saint, I forget his name—is standing there holding his head in his hand, which is at his waist. He was decapitated by the Romans or someone. The great central doors have been closed, I believe, since Napoleon’s coronation, when he went in a general with his wife, & came out Emperor & Empress.

Inside, the most impressive sight are the Rose Windows—North & South. 300’ in diameter, they are a kaleidoscope of color. Taken out piece by piece during the Second World War, it took several years to put them back.

Frankly, not meaning disrespect & realizing that it took several hundred years to complete, I think Washington’s National Cathedral will be much more beautiful when finished.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Paris Journal, Part 3 (November, 1955

The street was busy, with little cars & people wandering about, some in a hurry & some not. No one even gave us a second glance as they went about their business.

Perfume shops & candy stores; restaurants (which they call Brassieres, & shook Roger all up) & novelty shops lined the street on both sides. Some of the restaurants looked big & modern, & had little outside windows for people who are just passing by & would like a sandwich or roll.

Most of the shops were small, modest, & quiet. Occasionally a woman would pass us with ridiculously long loaves of bread, carried like a standard.

The importance of a street can usually be judged by its width. The one we were on was average, but soon opened out into Rue Monmartre, a very wide thorofare, which we had come down on our way to the hotel. Here the shops were larger & a bit more elegant, but nothing really fancy.
Sidewalk cafes were still operating, though completely enclosed in plywood & glass. Newsstands were on almost every corner, covered with magazines & newspapers. And every so often along the street were the "Suze" pillars.

They fascinated me and were, in a way, the most typically Parisian things I’d seen. They stand about 12 to 15 feet high, & resemble huge sawed-off peppermint sticks, though they’re always green. Atop them, like a hat, is a metal overhang, supporting yellow glass frames that announce, in black letters, SUZE. They’re used for advertisements—for everything. Yet they always manage to look neat, & the posters appear to be new.

At infrequent intervals were squat round dark green metal structures, open at the bottom which usually show several pair of legs, facing inward. These are the public restrooms, though I only saw men using them. Ah, Paree….

Along Rue Monmarte were many large movie theaters—one picture was playing at several theaters around Paris, & lines of people were continually in front of them. The name of the movie was "Graine De Violence"—an American import, the story of average, happy American schoolchildren originally called "Blackboard Jungle." What an impression of our school system they must have gotten out of that!

Outside each entrance to the Metro—the Parisian subway—is a large map of Paris, with outlines of all the subway routes; very convenient for the French, but almost no help at all to an outsider. We stood looking at it, trying to find something recognizable, when a little man in a tan overcoat walked up and asked "Can I help you?"

We asked how to get to the Arch of Triumph from where we were, & he traced it quickly out with his finger; so quickly that it didn’t really show us much. We said "Merci", & started up the street toward the entrance to the Metro. He passed us & started down the stairs, saying "I’m going that way myself—I’ll show you." We told him no, thanks, we were just looking around right now, & walked on.

About six blocks up the street, in the direction the bus had come, we came to a dance hall which was featuring Louis Armstrong in person. Making a mental note for future reference, we decided it was time to start back to the hotel for dinner & the tour. The street we turned down was one of the very narrow ones, where only two could walk abreast on the sidewalk. Bob & I walked ahead, looking in the shop windows; Bob was looking for a pair of garters to send home for his girl.

I glanced behind us and saw that Roge & Jim weren’t there. We saw them back about half a block, talking with a little man in a tan overcoat.

We had been warned, both by the officer in charge of the trip & our guide, that Paris was alive with Communists who will do anything to get their hands on American dollars. The purpose to which they put them I don’t know, but seeing our little friend whom we’d left heading for the Arch of Triumph, now running into us six blocks in the opposite direction, I felt that something was not quite as it should be.

Bob & I got back to them just in time to hear:

"…400 Francs for an American dollar. You have some with you, yes?"

"No," Bob cut in, "We left all our money back at the hotel."

"You are in Paris a long time?"

"Just got here this morning," volunteered Roge, happily unaffected by it all.

"You have money at the hotel you would like to change?"

"Nope; we already changed in all into Francs" Jim said, glancing at Roge.

‘There are many of you American sailors in Paris?"

"Oh, a few," I said, noncommittally.

"Hey, you know where any good places are—inexpensive but nice?" Roge can, at times, be remarkably naive.

"Oh, yes—the bistros—they are very nice; not expensive—many pretty girls. You would like I will take you there tonite."

"Well, maybe sometime," said Bob.

"Where are you staying?" the little man asked.

"Hotel Swisse—I’ve got a card here…" & before we could stop him, Roge had shown him the green card the hotel had given us to show taxi drivers.

"Ah, yes. I know—I come by at eight o’clock, & take you to these places. Very nice; very inexpensive. There are many American sailors at this hotel?"

"OK—we’ll see you at eight tonight," Jim said, as he grabbed Roge’s arm & started ushering him down the street.

"Promise?" our friend called.

"Sure," we said.

Poor Roge never did quite get the point.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Paris Jounal, Part 2 (November, 1955)

From the outside, French railway cars also resemble ours—entrances at either end. Once inside, the resemblance ends—a corridor runs along the right side of the coach; enclosed compartments take up the rest of the space. Each compartment seats—&, in the case of couchettes, sleeps—six. Entrance to each compartment is through a sliding door, half glass & half wood, flanked by two narrow windows. Inside, two full-width seats face one another across a very narrow aisle.

The seats are covered in a slightly coarse material about the color of dark burlap. The walls & paneling are of brown stained wood—the ceiling is painted white, & covers the entire width of the car—the space over the outer corridor is used for baggage. All the windows have shades, & a three-bulbed overhead fixture furnishes light. Arm rests can be lowered out of the backs of the seats, dividing them into six separate chairs. Directly above the seats is a paneling of green wood, with mirrors & photographs of European scenery. In the couchettes, these pull down to make the second of three tier beds. The third tier was already lowered when we came aboard. Fortunately, Europe has many mountains, for it takes a very agile person to climb up into the top rack.

Jim, Roge, Bob and I were joined by a Photographer First Class who was serving on the shore patrol, & a Gunner’s Mate Second Class. We soon found out that the compartment idea is not so much for privacy as for warmth. It got colder & colder, & we never did figure out how to operate the thermostat (a long handle on a silver half-moon; one end of which said "ferme" & the other "chauld" or something like that).

As for privacy, there can be none. Six perfect strangers may be thrown in together & have to sleep together—therefore, they seldom remove their clothes while sleeping.

Bob opened his pastries soon after the train started & discovered that one piece of cake had been baked with a liberal amount of rum, which made him very happy, & the rest of us sad, for that was the only piece of that kind he had.

I read my magazine, or tried to, while everyone discussed the accident of the night before. Jim was trying to finish a pocket novel & had reached the climax, where the hero and heroine are obligingly left alone by 10,000 Amazon headhunters long enough to make passionate love. Actually, according to Jim, who kept us informed, there were only 6,000 indians left after ten pages of fighting. He was bitterly disappointed when everyone died in the end, including the hero’s horse.

About ten thirty or so, Navy habit got the best of us & we decided to go to bed. Oh, what fun that was—six guys in a space of 2x6 feet, trying to undress at the same time. I clambered up to a top rack & undressed there, which was no mean accomplishment in itself. The "sheets" were like large canvas handkerchiefs—the pillows were filled with straw, & the blankets were of exactly the same material we use as mats beneath our rugs. But it was so cold it didn’t matter.
The seats & bunks are 6’ long—Bob is 6’1", which made it a little inconvenient for him.

Our "guide" woke us about seven thirty the next morning, & the undressing process was repeated in reverse. There are toilets at either end of each car, but are not specified for men or women—first come, first serve. The commode looks directly down on the railroad tracks, which may save the railway company some money, but most certainly discourages undercarriage hitchhikers.

The sound of the wheels over the tracks was like a wild, prolonged drum solo, with an intriguing detached rhythm.

The day itself, when we had rubbed enough steam off the windows, was pensive, if not downright glum—low dirty-grey clouds covered the sky as far as the eye could see, & the gingerbread, completely un-American houses slipped by silently, like solidified shadows. Once or twice I caught sight of the type of French farms you read about in fourth grade—a square of buildings with the farmyard in the center. We arrived in Paris without fanfare & without actually realizing it—the houses just blended into one another & became streets & then the train was in the rail yards, sighing to a stop in the high-arched corrugated, iron-domed railway station. Paris.

A bus was waiting from American Express to take us to the hotel. The streets in Paris range from very wide to so narrow two pedestrians & a car cannot be on it at the same time. No horns—they’re outlawed—few traffic lights—the ones there are are either on a two-foot high pole in the center of the street, or wafer-thin versions of American lights. And above all, there are no rules—you do not drive a car in Paris: you maneuver. It reminded me of a popular ride in American amusement parks where you just sit in little cars & steer, seeing how many other cars you can hit.
Surprisingly few American cars—I guess they are too big to survive long in Paris traffic. Oh, and no gas stations as such—just two gas pumps on the curb.

The style of buildings is old, 1890ish & a bit heavy. They apparently are very fond of buildings with rounded-corners, and as most of the streets shoot off at odd angles, you see them often.
And almost every building, no matter how big, has some sort of slanted roof. No matter how new the building, it manages somehow to look old—their version of "modern" is largely of the neo-modern style favored in America in the mid-to-late 30s.

On the way to the hotel, we passed Bastille (pronounced Bahs-TEE) square, where stood the prison so often mentioned whenever France is the setting for an 18th century novel. Not a stone remains of the building—a tall column stands in the square, engraved with the names of the 1,305 people beheaded on that same spot by liberty loving revolutionaries.

Drove past Marshall Foch Avenue—at the end of which, on top of a gentle rising hill, stands the Arch de Triumph. The same street, on the other side of the Arch, becomes the Champs Elysees.

We were now entering Monmartre—the naughtiest part of naughty Paris—but you’d never know it—shops, stores, banks like anywhere else. The gates of St. Mark’s & St. Denis’ stand guard over a now-wall-less city; two of the three remaining gates to the ancient City. At one time there were 14. They look vaguely like narrow Arches de Triumph.

A left turn on Rue Faubourg; on one corner an advertisement for pizza & another for a movie Le Cusine d’Angeles (an American picture originally called "My Three Angels"). Further down the same street, another movie was playing something I was unable to translate, but had a billboard with an unmistakable Rhett Butler & Scarlet O’Hara. All this time, streets were coming & going aimlessly.

And then at last came the Gran Hotel Suisse (Swiss); a four story building of yellow plaster, at the top crotch of a Y of streets. Down farther, in the opposite direction to where we’ve come from was a large sign underlined with a red arrow, saying "Follies Bergere."

After unloading all our gear & stacking it in the lobby, we went directly into the dining room to the right of the desk for breakfast. The Europeans waste an awful lot of plates—they serve everything in courses. The main course for breakfast (& the only one I can recall) was ham & eggs—the ham placed directly in the center of the egg, so that you had to eat them together. The French eat an awful lot of bread, which is really quite good; it has real body to it & a crisp, thick crust. It is roughly oval, & cut at an angle, instead of straight, like we do.

Water had to be asked for, & came in bottles—evidently it is so horrible all over Europe that few people drink it, subsisting on wine, which is frequently as weak as water.

After breakfast, we were assigned rooms—two to each room with an adjoining bath connecting, or close by, two rooms. The keys were of the large skeleton variety, attached to tags resembling large sheriffs’ badges. Bob & I took room 123, Jim & Roge in 124. They were up two flights, through plain red-carpeted halls which creaked as we walked down them.

Our rooms were at the end of the hall. The doors, like all the doors in the corridor, had no knobs & were opened by the keys only. Jim & Roge’s room was a bit larger than ours, having a small entryway between the door and the bedroom. It was located on the corner of the building, with two large French windows facing in the direction we’d come. It was also very cold all the time because it had two outer walls.

Our room was next door, facing a narrow side street. There was a splendid view of an open-fronted fish market across the street; the proprietor had a particularly loud voice, no doubt through much use, as he called out his wares. The whole street was lined with open shops, stands, and push-carts. The French do not believe in paper bags—everything you buy is wrapped in newspaper.

Our room was also cold—a small iron radiator, painted yellow, stood against the wall behind the door. By holding a hand about two inches away, a very slight warmth could be felt. The knob was turned all the way in one direction, so we turned it all the way in the other—which did absolutely no good at all, so we gave it up & wore our peacoats most of the time.

Against the rear wall, near the window, stood a large plain wardrobe, with the inevitable full-length mirror. We unpacked our things into the drawers at the bottom right side of the wardrobe, washed, shaved, and were joined by Jim & Roge, who wanted to use our sink since their room was far too cold. My electric shaver was of no use; French electrical sockets consist of three small round holes arranged in a triangle.

By this time it was around ten or ten thirty; since the first tour did not start until two, we decided to go out & walk around, to more or less get our bearings. There was no sun & no prospect of any, so we left our cameras.

Friday, September 08, 2006

27 November 1955--Paris Journal, Part 1

The Big Ti anchored in Cannes harbor at about 0900 the morning of the 22nd. I spent most of the day in the office, straightening things up for my 4 day absence.

If it were not for emptying the wastebasket, I would seldom see anything. On my pilgrimage to the incinerator, I caught a glimpse of a fair day, somewhat cloudy, & cold enough to destroy any illusions about Cannes being a year-round resort similar to Florida. The city itself wound along the narrow band of land between the mountains & the sea, & even from a distance it looked quite wealthy.

About four that afternoon, I quit work, went to the compartment, packed all my clothes, & took a shower. At six thirty all of us going to Paris met on the quarterdeck. It couldn’t be called a muster, since everyone just milled around waiting for the boat. I made good use of this extra time by running below decks at least three times for forgotten items, such as my peacoat, socks and ticket.

Thirty two of us, including six officers in civilian clothes, got into one of the liberty boats (much to the displeasure of those waiting in line to go on liberty), & rode the half mile to shore. We landed at the head of Cannes’ one long pier, illuminated by rows of neon lights & lined by small yachts belonging to Cannes’ wealthy summer inhabitants.

Some small boys were playing tag near a group of dingy house trailers half way up the dock.
They were exactly the same as boys everywhere, except that they wore short pants, longer hair, & shouted in French instead of English. An American Express bus was waiting for us. At seven ten, after waiting for a Commander from the Ti & three sailors from our shadow destroyer, we got going.

Cannes struck me as being an extremely wealthy city—the stores offered things found in only the best shops in America; were it not for the slightly narrow streets & dim-lighted foreign cars, it could easily have been mistaken for any city in America.

The railway station is a sprawling, cold building without restrooms (which always seem to be lacking in Europe whenever they’re needed). There wasn’t even a waiting room—just the one, large room, partly divided off into a baggage room at the far end. The only place to sit was on round table-like things near the ticket windows. The whole effect was that of the movies I’ve seen of the betting windows at race tracks. All along the walls were posters in French to the effect that when traveling, one should go by train.

We were introduced to our guide, a short man in a beret, who continually smoked a pipe, which he used as a baton when emphasizing points.

At eight forty-five we shuffled through the one narrow gate, being eyed suspiciously by the "controller" and counted like sheep.

For some reason, the French feel it necessary to cover not only the waiting platforms but the entire train, though all sides but that of the station my be open to the elements.

Fruit & soft drinks, among them one called "Pschitt" were available on the platform, with Coca Cola selling for about twenty cents. European coke bottles are of pale glass, & not marked on the bottoms as are their U.S. cousins.

At one end of the platform, to our left, was a tunnel leading beneath the city, from which the trains emerged.. A newsstand was situated at the other, selling French & American magazines. I was amused at a batch of French comic books. They seem to go in for westerns in a big way. One of them was called "Le Petit Sheriff"—a sort of French"Bobby Benson of the B-Bar-B". Another had the French version of a cowboy on its cover. He was riding an oddly distorted horse; behind him was what was supposed to be a ranch house, but more closely resembled a Swiss Chalet—and behind it was a simple, flat-topped mountain.

I bought an American magazine to read on the train &, while reading an article entitled "Should Honeymoons be Banned?" (conclusion—No) I ran into Bob Schmahl, a former mess cook, & two of his buddies—Roger Riso, from Utah, & Jim Bessette, from Aurora Illinois. Bob was carrying a box of pastries he’d bought across the street from the station; Roge was too busy eyeing all the passing women to be carrying anything. Jim and I were trying to find who, if anyone, we knew in common, & reassuring each other that there really was such a place as Illinois. The sound of a train coming through the tunnel sent everybody jostling to the edge of the platform. It turned out to be a false alarm in the form of a single engine.

French engines, like everything in France, resemble the American enough to be recognizable, but are different enough so that you know they aren’t. The two major differences are a complete mystery to me, as to the reason behind them. First are the two long heavy-looking shields, running the entire length of the boiler section. This gives it the impression that it is either trying to hide something, or from something. The second is the lack of smokestacks, which are missing only on diesel & electric trains in America. The result is that the smoke boils out of the engine & falls directly back on the train, wrapping it in a continual fog & spreading a thick layer of soot over everything if you are foolish enough to open a window.
Soon another engine appeared, this time pulling our train. Even reality didn’t quite spoil the expectancy or the magic of seeing the sign by the waiting room door saying "Paris—Arivee 845".

Thursday, September 07, 2006

21 November 1955

Several entries in this journal have begun “Nothing new today,” or words to that effect—I would rather have every day like that than one like tonight!

The movie on the mess deck was “Houdini”—the story of the great magician. I was sitting crouched on my chair, the better to see over the heads of the guys in front of me. About two hundred other guys were seated on benches, chairs, or the hard steel deck, or standing in the back. The movie was approaching its climax when suddenly the squawk box blared: “Man Overboard—Port Side!” The ship swung so sharply & suddenly to starboard that benches & chairs toppled & everyone was forced to the side of the hall. The lights came on almost immediately, & everyone began filing from the room, with much confusion. I saw one of the cooks & asked where we were to go—he said we had to muster on the hanger deck; that is the only way they could tell who it was who had gone over.

The scene on the hanger deck was one of mass confusion. Many planes were parked about, & guys were running every which way, getting to their stations. A jet was on the number two elevator, evidently just being lowered—I noticed it was a very dark night—the kind of blackness found only on the ocean. An officer came running across the hanger deck, yelling for guys to push the jet off the elevator & onto the hanger deck.

Since only cooks muster on the hanger deck & mess cooks muster on the mess decks, I went below. A few moments later Nick came down, looking very pale. I asked him what was wrong. He said “You can’t walk on the flight deck without slipping.”

A jet, coming in for a landing, had missed all the barriers & smashed into a group of guys preparing to launch planes—no one knew how many were dead, or how many had been thrown over the side. The bodies were scattered all over the flight deck, all dismembered. They’d started bringing them down on the elevator just after I’d left.

No one knows yet how many are gone—we’re missing two mess cooks (guys sometimes go up to the flight deck to watch operations). Six bodies were brought down, with God knows how many injured.

Sick Bay has been calling for blood donors; there is blood in the passageways leading to Sick Bay. As I am writing this, a call came to the Commissary Office to open the Garbage Disposal room so that the stretchers can be washed. The Reefers (Refrigeration Rooms ) have been opened to receive the bodies.

As the muster was called, I looked at the faces around me—all silent, some very pale; a few smoked cigarettes, others looked around as each name was called, wondering who would not answer. Something I will not soon forget.

Rumors & scuttlebutt will sweep the ship for days, but we will never be told how many went over the side, or how many more died. It may be in the stateside papers, but I doubt it.

And just a few moments ago, the squawk box announced, as it has hundreds of times during flight operations: “The smoking lamp is out while fueling aircraft.”

The doctor was just in, asking for keys to the Reefers again—“We found some more gear belonging to one of them—we don’t know which one.” A destroyer just came alongside with the pilot of the plane—other destroyers are busy searching for others. Let’s hope they are all found.

I could go on, but somehow I just don’t feel like it….

Another call just came for O-blood; at least thirty guys are standing in line, from seamen to Commanders. People can be marvelous beings….

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

20 November 1955

Here it is the witching hour again, & another grain of sand has been dropped onto the Desert of Eternity. As is usual about this time, I am hungry—a sandwich of dried bread & Spam did little to fill me up. Though I will probably never be able to taste anything again—at least not with the tip of my tongue, which has had all the taste buds scalded off. For lunch today, we had cocoa—while waiting for the chow line to open, suddenly great clouds of steam rolled around the turn in the passageway leading to the mess decks. It was a very wet steam, & I could feel it on my arms, even through my blues. It also smelled deliciously like cocoa. A swab brigade was formed & rushed into the fog, returning shortly to report that a sea of cocoa was washing across the mess deck, having boiled out of the copper (the 45 gallon ones). I thought no more of it, & when the line filed past the cup racks, I took one & filled it with cocoa. The first thing I did upon sitting down was to take a big swig of cocoa, which differed from lava only in color. That was at ten this morning. It is now almost ten at night, & I have an annoying void-of-taste spot on the tip of my tongue.

Today being Sunday, we were permitted to work a little less hurriedly than usual, & I got a chance to go & get a close-up view of Sardinia which, if it is an island, is an awfully big island. It seems to be entirely mountainous, with several mountains (my term for mountains being awfully large hills & on up) going half-way up & dropping suddenly off. It was a very cloudy day, with sheets of clouds rather than puffs—occasional holes in them let the sun leak through in long slender rays. The harbor, which this must be, as we are almost completely surrounded by land, contains a good portion of the United States Mediterranean fleet. We found the Lake Champlain again, & boats have been running back & forth between us & all the other ships all day. The crew of the Lake Champlain wear identification tags on their left sleeve, near the shoulder. They look quite nice—wish we had them.

Taps again. Because of replenishment tomorrow (which promises to be a madhouse) reveille is at 0400—what an ungodly hour!