Thursday, November 30, 2006

21 March 1956

Dear Folks

Every night about this time the Chief & I go through a little office ritual I call "the battle of the pen." There are numerous pens in the office, but most of them don’t work--& of the ones that do, the Chief has a favorite. Since it writes a little heavier, I use it too. Do you think he would use any other pen? No, he would not. Reminds me of our seating arrangements at the table at home. I used to get so irritated by father’s insistence that we sit in the same place, night after night. I remember one night when I beat him to the supper table & moved my glass over to "his" spot. We both nearly had fits—dad insisting I move & me not being able to understand why he had to sit in that exact spot! Ah, what fun.

Up at 0510 this morning, much to my regret. Replenishment went off exceedingly well; we loaded 168 tons in just two hours.

Read some more poetry this evening—I am now 1083 pages deep into it. I’ve come to the conclusion that I like poetry very much—IF it rhymes or has a rhythm, & if it comes out & tells what it wants to, & is not so distorted or loftily symbolic that it takes a slide rule to figure it out.

The modern poets (I’m up to Robert Frost) seem to ramble too much, or try so hard to make it crash & bang that it wears you out before you’re halfway through. From tonight’s reading, I especially like an excerpt from George Santayana—

For some are born to be beatified
By anguish, & by grievous penance done;
And some, to furnish forth the age’s pride,
And to be praised of men beneath the sun.
And some are born to stand perplexed aside
From so much sorrow—of whom I am one.

I like it all except for the "sorrow" part—I’d substitute "confusion", if it would fit the metrical scheme, in which I am not the least bit interested.

I’ve been thinking, lately, about becoming a teacher. Oh, not of sniffly-nosed little fourth-graders, but of High School or college. Why, I don’t know—maybe because that is about the only way I can talk for hours without interruption. Yet, somehow, I have a dread of it. Of course, I have no doubt I’d be kicked out of a school as fast as I got in, & labeled anything from "extremely liberal" to "downright fanatic." I would, no doubt, be what my students label a "character." There’s something fatalistic about the whole idea. But if, as I hope, I am t become a free-lance writer, what I do for eating money? Oh, well, I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them

144 days left. Oh, how tired you must be, listening to me slowly tick off the days like an old clock. The days past are nothing—garbled memories stacked, with more pattern than I realize, in the front of my brain. But the days ahead—one tomorrow is farther away than a thousand yesterdays.

Tell me—do you think I’ll ever be a writer? Or do my thoughts run onto the paper like dead may-flies on a bridge. While I’m thinking these thoughts, they’re alive—I hear myself thinking, speaking the words very distinctly in a voice of silence. But once they hit the paper, they are as dead and meaningless as yesterday.

Why do people ask opinions when they will only be willing to accept one answer? Still, what do I expect you to say? You are too busy living your own lives & thinking your own thoughts (not just you—everybody) to bother with mine.

And yet, if I could just effect a "breakthrough"; if people said "Why, that’s exactly the same was I feel (or think)," then we could all unlock our minds—not to let our secrets out, but to let the fresh air in.

I find it almost impossible not to "do unto others what you would have done unto you." That isn’t particularly conducive to success in this "survival of the fittest" world.

Maybe I should teach philosophy? Heavens, no! I’d have everyone in the madhouse.

Oh, well….



Wednesday, November 29, 2006

20 March 1956
145 B.D.

Dear Folks

I’ll start this letter, but know it will be a short one, for any minute now Cou will come roaring in the door & we shall all begin running around like something out a Max Sennett (spelling) chase scene.

Tomorrow, one hundred & sixty-eight tons of food will pass from one ship to another—the Ti on the receiving end, for a change. I’ll have to get up at 0500 for the occasion, though I’d as soon stay in bed.

We are, supposedly, operating with NATO forces in some sort of exercise, though I haven’t seen a single ship other than ourselves.

It has suddenly become 2030 (8:30 p.m.) & I’m still waiting for something to do. No doubt the fun will start around 9:00, & the festivities will stretch far into the night. I may not even bother going to bed tonite—who knows.

Just sitting here, picking my nose (a nasty but necessary habit if I wish to breathe), wondering what to say next. Something will probably come up.

Daydreaming of coming home again. Neither of you are home from work yet—I unload the car, play with Stormy, & spread all my gear all over the living room, like one of those shops over here.

I’m still debating on whether to send my film home or not. I have a dread fear of them being lost in the mail. Yet if I send them to you, it will be like you were there, too—God knows I’ve got to do something with them—I’ve got 15 rolls now. Oh, well….

If, when we get to either Valencia or Barcelona, they have a tour to Madrid, I’m going to take it. I regret not having much money saved, but can you blame me? Sure wish I had enough to go to Venice!

Took a little time off this evening, earlier, to read some more poetry. I really enjoy some of it—Omar Khayam’s translations & Robert Browning especially. These guys make me feel terribly inferior—I just don’t have the "word power." Oh, I’ve got it all right—you ask me what a word means & two times out of five I’ll give the right definition, but putting it on the other hand—when I know a definition I’ll be damned if I can think of the word I want.

My cold, if not a topic of interest at least one to fill up space until something more intelligent shows up, is still with me. The scene on the Throat front finds the cold moved down to where my neck branches out & becomes my shoulders. Here it is apparently making a last-ditch stand, with the result that every time I swallow, I have the uncomfortable feeling of something being wedged there. There is also a sensitive spot directly above it so that every time I breathe it tickles & I am forced to cough. I tried solving this by not breathing (read in this morning’s "paper" that a guy held his breath for 10 minutes & some seconds. It must have been a lovely funeral), but it didn’t work—which just goes to show what habit will do to you.

Oh, yes—the ship has affected "water hours"—water is turned on only during certain hours. We’ve been gone from home now for almost five months, & never had to worry about it before.
But suddenly everybody "has been exorbitantly wasting water" & they slammed it into effect.
Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that some knucklehead allowed salt water to get into two of our fresh water storage tanks (mentioned it when we were in Beirut).

Just think—after tomorrow we’ll have some food on board! Real American-type food. Which reminds me…

It’s now twenty till ten & still nothing. Now I’m sure I’ll be up all night. Well, back to poetry. More tomorrow.



Tuesday, November 28, 2006

19 March 1956

Dear Folks

A mail call today—in fact, two of them; first one for days. I got the St. Pat’s card, the one from Stormy, & three letters from you (which were as always very welcome).

Dad asked about whether we would join the Sixth Fleet. Father, we are the Sixth Fleet—us, the Lake Champlain (she’s returning to the States this month), & fifteen tin cans. The only really trouble spot we’ll be hitting is Algiers, & we might not even go there, if it gets too bad.

I hope, for the Andersons’ sake, there is no Arab-Israeli war; we haven’t a single battalion over there to protect them.

The last two days at sea have been weird ones—the sea like glass with a silver-grey haze blending sea & sky. Yesterday was beautiful in its "difference"—today was more drab.

A tour is leaving from San Remo to Venice & Milan—four days for only $49.00. Unfortunately, I just can’t afford it, so will go on a one-day Riviera tour. By the time I get home, I shall have traveled both the French & Italian Rivieras from Cannes to Genoa.

Our schedule, unless something unforeseen happens (such as going to war—unlikely—or the bottom of the ship falling out—probably), will be almost exactly as you have it.

Received two rolls of film from Rome & an entry blank to NISC. The film came out excellently. I was a little disappointed to find Northern only offers a minor in Journalism. Oh, well….

Tonight’s movie offering was that all-time classic "Fireman, Save My Child" with Spike Jones. I forced myself to stay away. When I get back to the States, I plan to take every weekend off—Friday nights will be spent at the movies, Saturdays shopping for clothes & at the movies, & Sunday getting my pilot’s license, & going to the movies.

Tomorrow is Tuesday already—Hooray! As of today I have only 146 more days to go.

Let’s see—it’s nine o’clock—have I time to tell you of my last day in Rome? Well, I can try—briefly.

I slept through breakfast & hated to get up for the tour at nine. We went first to the Vatican museum, & the Sistine Chapel. The museum itself is vast, ranging from the modern, pleasantly blended colors in some of the rooms of statuary to the gaudy & over-elaborate Library, whose books are securely locked in cabinets & whose every possible surface is covered with paintings—on the wood, wall, ceilings, & supporting pillars. It would take years to see it all in detail.

In a different section of the museum are the large paintings by Raphael (done when he was between 15 & 18 years old) & other famous painters. And then, into the world-famous Sistine Chapel. Built by Pope Sixtus IV, it is here that the Holy See meets to elect new Popes.

Michaelangelo was contracted to paint a mural on the back wall of the long, high, rectangular room. This he did in two years or so—depicting Judgment Day (I have a feeling I’ve written all this before—but I’ll do it again, for practice). The wall is about fifty feet square, broken only by a single door in the lower right hand corner. Before this wall stands the main altar. In the center of the wall is God, hand raised in passing judgment. He looks young, beautifully muscled. To his right stands Mary, unable now to intercede for the sinners, & about Him stand the Disciples, all with looks of awe & fear. Above Him are the Angels, hovering among clouds. Below is Earth—to the left, a graveyard with the souls & skeletons leaving the graves & ascending into Heaven, amid Angels & cherubs. To the left, Charon (a black, featureless form) rows the dead across into hell.

When he painted them, he made them all completely nude, figuring that no one would have time or need for clothing on Judgment Day. However, even in Michelangelo’s time there were prudes. One critic complained so loudly that Michelangelo was told that the figures would have to be clothed or the entire wall cleaned & begun again. Michelangelo became rightfully fed up & went back home. One of his pupils, trying to save the day, laboriously painted flowing bands of cloth over everybody, including God, which seemed a little presumptuous of him. Michelangelo was finally coaxed back, & when he saw what had happened, he because so furious with the critic that he painted him, naked except for a large snake wrapped around the appropriate places, & with the ears of a jackass, leading the condemned into hell.

The critic rushed at once directly to the Pope, insisting Michelangelo be punished or at least repaint the portrait. The Pope informed him that he was very sorry, but that he had no power whatever over hell.

And there he stands today, over the door in the lower right-hand corner, jackass ears & snake & all, glancing over his right shoulder & leading the souls into Hell….

Yes, I’m sue now I told you all this before. Just in case I haven’t, tell me & I’ll continue. If I have, accept my apologies.

Almost Taps, so I’ll close for now.



Monday, November 27, 2006

17-18 March, 1956 (Part 2 0f 2)

One thing being in Europe has taught me, which will not carry over to the states, I hope--& that is: "always haggle." You never enter a cab over here without first establishing how much you’re going to pay. Someone had told me I could get a cab for L1 (one pound, Lebanese)—33 1/3 cents. The cab wanted L1.50 (one pound fifty), which I refused to pay, until I found out that was the cheapest any of them would go. Incidentally, you never tip them either—in Europe, service fees are included in the price.

The telegram Coutre wanted sent contained seven words & cost L15.25 (roughly five dollars & ten cents). Since he hadn’t given me any money at all, my shopping plans took a sudden change for the worse.

After leaving the Post Office, which looks more like a bank on the inside—I wandered down one of the narrow, shop-lined side streets, looking around—shoes, clothes, pots & pans, all hanging outside the shops like weird fruit clusters.

I was inevitably "picked up" by a young man in a brown suit. These boys & young men go around looking for lone tourists, or groups of them, & offer to take you to various bars, shops, & stores—where they get commissions on whatever you buy.

After meandering through several side streets & Indian stores, we found ourselves in the market area—where sides of half-dried meat dangle in front of open butcher shops, & where the streets are filled with broken hand-made crates & vegetable leaves, not to mention large amounts of animal residue & other less tempting items.

Finally found our way (why do I say "our"—he knew where he was going) back to the same shop I’d bought the tablecloth. This time, with what little money I had left, a beautiful blue brocade robe—either for dad or for myself—whichever one of us it fits best (it’s a little large for me).

After than I found a tram headed for the "Ban Militaire"—I think that means "Military Road," but I’m not sure. Tram fare is 5 piastres—about 1 ½ cents. They’re all very narrow, with front & rear platforms (all depends on which way the thing is going) & wooden seats. They’re also electric cabled, & painted an orange-red.

I stood on the rear platform & watched the city go by. At one section, near the poplar-studded campus of the American University, I noticed the stores had advertisements & names in three alphabets—French, Arabic, & another that looked vaguely Russian to me, though it probably was Hebrew or some other Eastern language.

Near the University, a kid in a brown suede jacket & Levi’s got on. He said "Hi" & we got to talking—of course, I’d had a sneaking suspicion he might be American even before he spoke. He was a good looking kid of about nineteen—the kind you see all around you in the States. His dad is an oil engineer in Saudi Arabia—he, too, is going back to the States this fall, to join the Air Corps. They evidently do not draft Americans living over here, but they warn them to return home before they do.

He hopped off the tram near a barber shop—above its red-&-yellow pole the name was scrawled in Arabic--& waved so long. I rode on to the end of the line, where the conductor shifts the electric pole from one cable to another & starts back to town.

I walked down a winding road to where the Corniche ran past the large tent & numerous wagons of the German "Circus Belli." From there I could see the Anderson’s apartment house. In a small store in the same building, I bought two American magazines & went on up to the apartment.

Mrs. Anderson was changing clothes to go to a reception for the President of Lebanon—George had gone back to the USO for the package, which he’d forgotten. Mr. Anderson came in, told me to make myself comfortable, & that they would be back around six. Juliette brought me a Pepsi, & I listened to the radio till George came.

Pat came in a moment later & George & I decided to unpack the clock & put it together before Mr. & Mrs. Anderson got back. That provided an amusing half hour while we tried to get the thing together & running.

Mrs. Anderson had invited one of Pat’s girlfriends & her brother to supper with us. The girl—her name is Sharon, & that’s all I recall—came up immediately—we all talked & ate candy(Delicious) Pat ordered from the store downstairs.

When Mr. & Mrs. Anderson came home, the clock was sitting on an end table, working quite well. Mrs. A was very surprised & pleased, as was Mr. A. He in turn gave both George & me two packets of rare seeds from the Cedars of Lebanon. There are only about five hundred of these trees left in the country—there are rigid laws on exporting or importing any seeds or saplings of these trees. The only reason Mr. A. had any was because he works in forestry. I’ll bring them home with me—I don’t dare mail them. And we will start raising little Cedars of Lebanon in our back yard. Of course, they take 3,000 years to grow, at which time they are 80 feet tall & the second largest trees in the world, next to our own redwoods—they look like this (Very Roughly).

Sharon’s brother John came up (they live in the same building). He’d been out to the ship that afternoon & had an exciting time trying to smuggle four cartons of cigarettes ashore. Since possession of more than two packs is punishable by a nice long jail sentence by the Lebanese government, he was not too anxious to get caught. He’d had them shoved up his shirtsleeves & in his belt—anywhere & everywhere. Waiting to leave the ship, he stood in front of two customs officials—naturally, two packs had to fall down his pant leg & onto the deck. Fortunately, he got in a different boat than they, & was long gone by the time they got ashore.

Mr. Anderson broke out two bottles of champagne & took pictures of us all opening them. We really had a wonderful time.

Supper consisted of tons of spaghetti, an excellent chopped Lebanese salad, two kinds of pie, & other side dishes. I was completely bloated. After supper we all went to the USO (except John, who wasn’t allowed)—it was the Point-Four night to be hosts, & the Andersons & Sharon all had to be there.

We talked & Mrs. Anderson dragged me out to do the Polka, which I haven’t done in years. At about ten thirty, they began removing all the ships’ flags hanging around the room, & left only the Lebanese & American.

Dick Hagenbach had joined us by this time, & you know the rest of the tale.

I really hated to say goodbye to the Andersons—they did more to boost my morale than anything in the world—aside from going home—could have done. Maybe, someday….



Sunday, November 26, 2006

17-18 March, 1956 (Part 1 of 2)

Dear Folks

Here it is once again the witching hour & your son appears in a flurry of paper & unrelated thoughts. We’ve just passed into a different time zone & gained a valuable hour, which I shall employ tomorrow morning in sleep.

Rumors, having fallen so thick & heavy that they crush themselves to death under their own weight, seem to have risen again, Phoenix-like, to sweep the ship. Something, it would appear, has happened to our catapults, so that we are now unable to launch jet aircraft. In order to repair them, it is necessary to go to a port which has a large crane (for what I haven’t the slightest idea). So, consequently, we are not going to San Remo, but are headed for Naples/Genoa/Gibraltar/Home (check one only). Oh, yes, I neglected one—Liverpool, England.

I have before me a sheath of paper—all the different colors the Commissary Office has to offer. Whether I’ll get to use the rainbow effect tonite or not I don’t know.

My pseudo-cold is getting along famously with my throat. I can just imagine it, peering up out of my esophagus with its bead little eyes, just waiting for me to swallow.

I’m sorry, but sleep is winning the battle of the mind & eyelids—I’ll try to finish tomorrow….

Up fairly early for a Sunday morning (9 a.m.) only to read in the Daily Press that Lebanon has had a series of severe earthquakes, in which 127 people died. Beirut itself was apparently little damaged; most of the force being felt in the southern part & in the Bekka Valley—which I think is the same place I described a few letters ago. I hope Baalbek wasn’t damaged. If it was, I may have some of the very last pictures taken of the "grandest ruins on Earth." I’ve got to write to the Andersons today.

Also read where the U.S. has had another blizzard—Nature seems to be in a bad mood.

Today, in the middle of the Med, she is on her best behavior—sun shining (not her very best A-1 day, but a good one), blue ocean, fairly warm. I spent some time wandering around the flight deck & catwalks, but the wind up that high was cold, so I came back down fairly soon.

My cold was temporarily blasted out of my head last night by an overnight barrage of honks, snorts, & hacks. Let’s hope its defeat is a permanent one, though I doubt it.

Well, I have a little over an hour before the Sunday Afternoon Double Feature starts, so shall we go back to last Wed. & fill in the gaps from morning to late evening?

George & I had decided to get the Andersons something as a "token of our appreciation." We bought from the ship’s store a small 1,000-day clock. I typed a note authorizing us to take it ashore & get it through customs, & had it signed by Cdr. Fitzpatrick.

Everybody in the Commissary Department (or office, anyway) was planning on going ashore for one reason or another, & I thought for a minute that I might be "requested" to stay aboard, having been ashore every day but one. Fortunately, no one said anything, & we left the ship at about quarter till two. We had a little trouble getting off—George had the package (wrapped in wax paper & getting white stuff all over his blues) & I was ahead of him, with the note. I was about halfway down the ladder when I realized George wasn’t behind me. The OD had stopped him to ask what was in the box. So I trotted back up, showed him the note, & we got off.

Civilians had been visiting the ship since about eleven that morning, & our liberty boat was half full of them. Up forward, where most of the civilians were, were two women with babies.

Since our new anchorage was far out in the bay, the water was a lot rougher than it is close in. Soon we were plowing through the waves, slapping down on them & sending huge sprays of water all over everyone in the forward part. The women were drenched, as were several Lebanese soldiers & other assorted civilians. The boat slowed down & all of them moved back in the boat so that the hood could be lowered—which gives the whole boat the look of an elongated baby carriage.

Got ashore &, after a brief scuffle with customs officials, a taxi. George had seen Pat at the USO Tuesday night, & told her we’d like to see her folks again before we left; she invited us out again for Wed. afternoon. Neither of us knew their address, so we thought we’d better go to the USO & get it from their records.

Mrs. Anderson was there waiting for us, with their car. Coutre had asked me to send a telegram for him to his sister, whose birthday was Thursday, & I agreed. Also, I wanted to do a little shopping (with the money mother sent me for the call home).

The only place in Beirut where you can send a telegram is the Post Office. I told Mrs. Anderson I’d take a cab there, & come to their apartment later, by tram (streetcar). George would go out to the apartment with Mrs. Anderson.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

16 March 1956

Dear Folks

Gee Whilikers, look—yellow paper. We just got it in today. Can’t say as I’d care to have a suit this color. but it will do for variety as writing paper.

First—general news, mainly about me. Someone is strangling me-from the inside—I’m rather disappointed that it’s turned out to be just an ordinary cold instead of some wonderful new disease. Oh, well, give it time. Aside from my physical condition (which seems to be generally excellent) there isn’t too much to say about your loving son. He eats, moderately & continuously; works—12 to 24 hours a day—writes letters occasionally, & sleeps—a vocation I would like to devote more time to.

The Navy & I are still on speaking terms, but just barely. And speaking of the Navy—I shall wind my way into the main body of the letter by pointing up a glowing symbol of Naval efficiency….

It seems---well, I started to retell the tale, but you can read it in the enclosed Bulletin.

Now, let’s see—to go back to last Wed. morning (the last letter I sent dealt with Wed. night).

At about four o’clock on Wed. morning—though I was too sleepy to know what time it was—reveille was sounded, along with: "Now Flight Quarters—Flight Quarters; set all special sea & anchor details. This is an emergency. Now Flight Quarters…the ship has broken her moorings aft. This is an emergency."

Somehow, the six-to-ten-inch cables mooring us to two floating buoys had broken, & the tide was swinging us around, rear-end-first, directly toward the five destroyers, one tanker & British frigate tied up at the Beirut Dock—about a block away. The Ti is 888 feet long.

Our liberty boats were nosed against us, between us & the dock, trying to push us away. The Ti weighs 43,000 tons.

On & around the dock was pandemonium—the watch standers on the tanker & destroyers looked up to see 888 feet & 43,000 tons swinging slowly toward them. Some of the "cans" sounded G.Q.—battle stations. The tanker, laying inboard of one of the destroyers, broke out all her fire hoses—guys on the flight deck said they could see men pouring out of the hatches—some heading for the dock.

The planes on the flight deck were, fortunately, lined up correctly—engines facing in—for "pinwheel" (since we were so close in & had so little room to move about, we had pulled in bow first & the planes, acting as huge fans, turned us around). Now we hoped they could keep us away from the dock. Even though we were moving slowly, we are so big we would have crushed the destroyer like an eggshell & pushed the tanker into the dock—the result of that could be a terrific fireworks display that could blow all seven American & one British warships out of the water, as well as a good portion of Beirut.

It was the planes who saved the day—but not before our fantail had scraped the destroyer & wrinkled one of her gun mounts so badly she may have to return to the States.

So we pulled up anchor & moved way out, about a ten minute ride.

And where was your son while all this was going on? In his rack, sound asleep.

Speaking of sleep—it’s that time again. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get around to Wed. afternoon & evening.

By Now



Friday, November 24, 2006

15 March 1956

Dear Folks

Just a very quick line to let you know I haven’t forgotten you—I don’t know where the time goes, but I’m glad it goes so quickly. I should have written several letters tonight, including this one, but one of the guys from the Personnel Office was showing me some shirts he’d had made over here in Beirut. We got to talking & talking & soon the night was gone. I’ve got to take a shower—not that I need one or anything.

I caught something last night—I don’t know what yet as it’s still in its infancy. Either that or it’s lying there waiting for me to turn my back--& then it will jump in full force.

Last night, before leaving the USO (I’ll tell you all about yesterday when I have more time), I ran into Dick Hagenbach, a former mess cook. He’d been up since 0430 that morning & been drinking since about noon. He asked me to make sure he got back to the ship all right, & I promised I would.

We got into the cab & he passed out completely. He’s a big boy, about 180 or so. Down to fleet landing. Woke him up—got out of the cab. Waited for ten minutes for a boat. Ed Cortright & I got him in the boat all right, & Dick proceeded to pass out again, but he was propped up against the gunwale & in no danger of falling.

Out to the ship—a ten minute ride as compared to the two minutes it took before—very rough, boat crowded. Aside the ship—boat bobbing up & down ten-foot waves. Ted Kakuk, another mess cook who’d come in after us & sat beside me, became violently ill all over the bottom of the boat. I pulled my legs away just in time.

Everybody out but us & a Marine, sound asleep, just behind us & in our way. We (Ed & I) wake him up & ask him to move. He doesn’t want to move. He doesn’t have to—he’s a Marine! It’s raining. Dick topples over backward into the Marine’s lap. The Marine looks at him. I pull him back into a sitting position. He wakes up. I have his hat in one hand & his ID & Liberty cards in the other. He gets up & tromps over the Marine, almost falls flat stepping over the next seat.

Raining. Boat still bobbing wildly up & down. Dick gets up on the gunwale to step onto the gangway. I’m trying to hold him back. He takes a huge step just as the boat comes up, & steps on the rope buffer about a foot below the gangway. Somebody there grabbed him & gave a jerk just as the boat goes down again. Ed pulls, I push up the ladder. We get on board—none of us salute the OD (Dick couldn’t see him & Ed & I had our hands full). When we get in, Dick takes his liberty card & guides us over to the liberty card box. He can’t get his card in the box (slits are about four inches long, one-half inch high). Ed puts it in for him

Comes now the ladder leading down into the sleeping compartments. Ed on one side, I on the other. Dick starts to goose-step down the stairs ("No, Dick—take little steps—that’s a boy. Baby steps. There we go…") Into the compartment. Fortunately, he sleeps about ten feet from the ladder. Pitch dark. ("Where do you sleep, Dick?") He points with his one finger & leads us over.

Can’t see a thing. ("Ed, go see if you can get a light.") Plop—Dick falls back against some lockers & slides down onto the deck. I can’t even see him. Ed goes off to find a flashlight. One of the guys in the compartment wakes up. ("Hey,--you know where Hagenbach sleeps?"—"Yeah—top rack.") He’ll never make it. I pull him to his feet. ("There’s an empty bottom rack there by his feet." "Thanks.") He’s standing there, head on my shoulder, propped up. I manage to pull his peacoat & tie off. ("Come on, now—let’s walk.") He tries to climb into the top rack. ("No, Dick—we’ll sleep in a bottom one tonite. Come on, now, walk backwards.") Get him over to the rack, turn him around. He falls over & I push him into the rack just before he hits the deck. Ed comes back with a flashlight. ("He’s OK now—thanks, Ed." "Yeah—good night.") I unbutton his pants & manage to wiggle him out of them, taking off his shoes & socks first. The jumper is impossible. I go over to his top rack, fold his pants, lay them on his peacoat, & get a blanket. Cover him up to the waist. ("Good night, Dick." And to bed I go.

And to bed I go.



Thursday, November 23, 2006

13 March 1956

Dear Folks

Here I am, you errant son, feeling very ashamed of himself for not having written before. We arrived in Beirut last Saturday, & today is the first time I didn’t go ashore. I like Beirut very much, & only wish I had about $300 to spend. My God, you should see some of the beautiful things they have—especially cloth: silks & velvets & brocades. In one store I saw a bolt of pure white silk with a gold brocade—they wanted $9 a yard for it, but in America it would cost at least $15 for the same amount of material. I bought a pretty white rayon scarf with a simple black design for $.75. I also bought (for you both) a beautiful Damascus silk red-&-gold tablecloth, with two napkins of the same design. It’s a bit too elaborate for most American tastes, but I love it--& you can’t buy an oilcloth tablecloth at Kresses for as cheap as I got this!

Sunday evening was spent in an apartment overlooking the Mediterranean sea—with a record player & a family of three—Americans—while below in the streets vendors with baskets of odd-shaped rolls sold their wares to the throngs of turbaned men & women strolling along the "Corniche" (a street running along the ocean front.).

Over 10,000 Americans—all civilians—live in Beirut. They fall into three groups—Embassy workers, Point Four workers, & civilians employed by the vast oil companies of Lebanon & Arabia.

You can’t imagine what it was like—two worlds, completely alien, & yet running nonchalantly along, side by side.

The USO canteen is located in the American-Lebanese Club—the three groups of Americans take turns in furnishing hostesses each night—Mothers, grandmothers, & daughters—they all sit & talk, or dance, & invite us to their homes.

George Le Sage, one of the mess cooks, had met Pat Anderson the first night we arrived. Sunday we saw her there, & she invited us to her home.

Rules of the club insisted that she go by Embassy car & we follow in a cab, which we did. We drove out to the fringes of Beirut, where modern apartments dot the hills next to the skeletons of more buildings going up.

Inside the building-width glass front, a set of marble stairs led to a small, four-person elevator. A man in a white shirt, sleeves rolled up, stepped off just as we got there. It was Pat’s father, who shook hands with us & said he’d be back shortly, & left. We rode up to the sixth floor, walked down a short hall, & went into the apartment. Pat’s mother was standing in the small vestibule, & we were introduced. We went into the living room while Pat’s mother went to the dining room for some material from which she was making Pat a dress.

The apartment was very nice—gaily painted—there were at least seven rooms, all of them a different color. The furnishings were all American, the family was definitely American, & yet, somehow, the rooms were not. Perhaps one reason was that there were no rugs—the floors were tile. And they seemed rather angular; though actually all rooms are, I suppose.

The view, I’ve mentioned, was beautiful—the building faces the east, & the sea is always changing color with the dawn & sunset.

Pat played some of her records—only a few of them were purchased over here--& we talked.
Mr. Anderson works as a Conservation Engineer for the Point Four Plan. They have been in Lebanon fifteen months—Pat attends an American high school, & is returning to the States this August to finish her senior year & attend college. Mr. & Mrs. Anderson are to follow in September—government workers overseas are given 30 days Home Leave each two years (the travel cost evidently borne by the government, & the leave time beginning upon arrival at their destination).

It felt so good just to talk--& so out of place, as I said before. We got to talking of the Arab-Israeli relations. Mrs. Anderson had some very interesting points---

"You know, when we first came here, I had no idea of what was really going on. Oh, I’d read about it in the papers & I’d always thought ‘Well, isn’t it wonderful that those poor Jews will have a home now.’ But I didn’t realize that when all the Jews moved in, the Arabs had to move out. Mr. Anderson’s driver—one of the men who works for Point Four—had a brother living in Palestine; he had a small store there. One day the police came & told him to leave in two hours or be shot! He got out & they wouldn’t let him take a thing with him.

"These Arabs don’t want to fight—why, I don’t think they could if they wanted to. The Israelis would beat the pants off them. And it just tears my heart out to see some of these little refugee kids wandering around—their little bodies all covered with sores from malnutrition. These poor Arabs, they just look lost—they think that tomorrow they can just walk back home & take up where they left off—they just don’t realize that they don’t have any homes anymore. It’s like you & I had locked our doors one day & gone away, & think we’ll be back someday.

"Yet where can the Jews go? They come from all over the world to their promised land; they’ve never had a real home.

"It’s just a crazy, mixed up, terrible mess. You want to tear somebody’s hair out, but you don’t know whose."

Mr. Anderson came back a while later, & we went up on the roof to take pictures of the people walking along the Corniche. Every Sunday afternoon the people come & just walk along the sea, winding their way slowly up the hill to Pigeon Rock—which Lebanese lovers use for a suicide leap.

We talked some more, & had supper—chicken casserole. They have a Lebanese maid who speaks French (Lebanon was until 1943 a French protectorate) & whose name is Juliette.

We listened to the radio—to BBC & short wave stations all over Europe. We tried to get the Voice of America, but the Russians were jamming it. This "jamming" is cleverly done—the Russians have monitors who listen to the programs as they’re being broadcast—when they hear something they don’t like, they turn on huge oscillators set to the Voice’s frequency—the result is a humming "bzzzuuumbzzuumbzzuum" which completely blocks out every word. We do the same for them every chance we get.

Now, since it’s after taps, I’ll quickly answer your questions. Yes, I am thin—I always have been—no, I’ve not lost weight—any appreciable amount, that is (I’ve gone from 143 to 140); the only reason I know that is that the Andersons had a bathroom scale.

Got your money, mother—I’ll try & call home from Valencia or Barcelona (Spain). Check that date-place list I sent you for the dates we’ll be where.

I now have 13 rolls of film—6 more in the process of delivering & developing. Haven’t sent any home yet.

No, father,--I can not get off 22 days early. I’ll have 43 days on the books, for which I will be paid, but not (NOT) let off early.

Well, got to get to bed—I’m tired.



P.P.S. The candle is from the catacombs: I don’t recall sending any money.—I think those were ticket stubs. Here’s some Spanish money—worth about 12 cents. Notice the watermark—hold it up to the light to see it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

9 March 56

Dear Folks

It would appear that my "journal" has recently been shot to hell. I’m sorry, but the days seem to be getting shorter rather than longer. The Commissary Department of the USS Ticonderoga is coming apart at the seams; everyone is walking around on tip-toes lest the roof fall in on everyone. It’s like mother [Note: mom worked for a John Deere sales & service dealership] crediting sales of ten road-movers when they only had four to start with. Oh, well, if somebody stamps their foot down, I’m far too little a bug to get squished.

We left Rhodes this morning—a beautiful day with a chill wind—on our way to Beirut. We’ll arrive there Saturday.

Everyone who is anyone in the Commissary Department is now in the office, voices weighted with impending doom. I find it extremely difficult trying to concentrate amid talk of invoices & surveys & issues.

Got a letter from Effie yesterday—her sister had died the week before, of cancer. Someday it, like scarlet fever, will be a thing of the past, but meanwhile hundreds of thousands of us die without hope.

See what I mean about time flying & all that—another day gone by & yours truly has been busy most of the time. Ship’s Store got a load of candy bars in, which are hoarded & dispensed as generously as gold nuggets.

The brownies are all gone, & I’ll return the box soon, with odds & ends. Tell you what—I’ll send the films home on condition that you only look at them once, & then put them away till I get home. Otherwise, you’ll show them every time someone comes over & be so sick of seeing them you won’t care what they’re of.. Is it a deal?

I was thinking about getting married today—not that I want to or am going to—just thinking about it. I just can’t see myself in the role of dutiful husband. Oh, well…

Last mail call—yesterday or the day before—I got another Science Fiction book from mother—thank you; it’s very good. Wish you could pick up some "Mad" magazines for me; I’d appreciate muchly (a new word I’ve cultivated).

For some reason, I dislike dumping wastebaskets at night—I guess it stems from my old "don’t-say-you-don’t-like-one-thing-better-than-another-because-you-might-hurt-the-other’s-feelings" days. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to be dumped over the side on a very dark night. I’m afraid I was much too much influenced by Peter Rabbit—I don’t like to hurt anything.
Tomorrow we anchor off Beirut—the furthest point we’ll get beyond home. Three months from today we’ll be on our way home.

According to the magazines & newspapers we occasionally see from the States, I am missing myriads of good movies, including "Carousel"—Rodgers & Hammerstein—from which comes "You’ll Never Walk Alone." Well, maybe I can catch them third-time-around at the Rialto or Capitol.

You still haven’t told me what’s new in Rockford—any new buildings downtown? Is Jackie Fearn still planning on going to college? If so, when?

I think I’ll try to live off campus this time—get a room somewhere, where I can be all by myself & do whatever I want to with nobody to bother me, unless I want them to. All I think about lately is college. Hope I’m not building up too much of a dream so that I’ll be disillusioned when I finally get back.

Enclosed is a cartoon I got from Coutre—his wife sent it to him. Oh, yes, did I mention I comshawed (somewhere between "borrowed" & "stole") a large map of the U.S. & plotted my way home? I didn’t get the exact mileage, & won’t have a chance now because someone stole it from me, but I got all the routes & towns. I’d appreciate dad getting me a map from some gas station—the Eastern U.S.—that way I’ll have something to trace out & look at every now & then.

Today’s "Daily Press" listed the top ten songs on the Hit Parade—I haven’t heard a single one of them

Say, mother—there’s a record I’d like to have you get for me—I’ll send the money—it’s "Tchaikovski Fantasy"-all the themes from his works—really beautiful. I heard it this morning over the BBC

Everywhere is America—the Armed Forces Network broadcasts all over Europe from Frankfort, Germany. It seems so odd to hear them say: "Weather forecast for today is mild, with some rain in Northern France & the Low Countries—Italy cloudy & slightly warmer…" or "Come to beautiful Bertschesgarten—a holiday you can afford & will long remember." Remember Bertschesgarten? Used to belong to some guy named Hitler. Why is it we forget some things so soon & remember others so long?

Incidentally, save the Life Magazines, if you still get them. I very seldom get to see one & miss them.

The office looks like something from the burning of Atlanta sequence in Gone with the Wind. Gettysburg could hardly have been more littered. Miles of adding machine tape, acres of cigarette ashes, scissors, magazines, paper coffee cups, clothes, pencils, notebooks, etc. More fun. And to think, it’s only ten thirty.

Conrad insists on walking around with his teeth half out. I looked out my little window this afternoon to see Conrad leaning nonchalantly against the rack of foam cans (for fire fighting), his mouth half open & his upper teeth sticking out even with his upper lip. He looked like a horse. I looked away, quickly.

Well, enough for now. I’ll try & be better in the future.



Tuesday, November 21, 2006

5 March 1956

Dear Folks

Last night, after a landslide receipt of mail (your letters of the 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, two manila envelopes—one of mangled cocoa packets & the other contained on Science Fiction book; one large box of brownies (excellent), one letter from Ann Margason, one dated Feb. 24, 1483 & signed by "Richard, Duke of Gloucester"—return address 910 Windsor Road; two rolls of developed film, & one photograph—8 x 10—of the interior of St. Peter’s Church in Rome). I started a letter. However, by the time I finished reading it all—including a Reader’s Digest I neglected to mention & merely glanced at—it was time to go to bed. Somehow, between then & now, the letter became lost. So here I am—"and here’s the show."

Yesterday, Nature came out with her beautiful 1956 Spring model, featuring deep blue skies (neatly offset by attractive sheep-wool clouds), a brilliantly polished sun, and neutral temperatures (which are the very best kind, for that is when the body is not aware that there is any temperature).

Rhodes is a clean, pleasant city, whose differences are far more acceptable than most of Europe’s almost-similarities. Turkey can be seen only a short distance across the straits, & its influence is apparent in the minarets of several mosques, the style of several buildings, & certain fashions—especially the white headdress of the women. These headdresses are like shawls; over the head & then one end wrapped around the face like a veil.

I think I had more fun yesterday in Rhodes than I have anywhere in Europe. We (Carl Greiner—an ex NavCad--& I) rented two bicycles & went peddling all over the city. I couldn’t help laughing just for the joy of laughing. Up hills, down hills, into the narrow, stone streets of the walled Old City—through parks & down tree-lined residential streets of stone homes; my cameras (both of them) bouncing in my lap—my new one was around my lap.

Rhodes could best be described as "picturesque"—I like it very much, though I don’t think I’d care to live here. We hated to turn the bicycles in.

Everywhere we went—on bicycle & on foot, kids run after us—"Cigarette for Poppa—Cigarette for Poppa." The people are very friendly & seem to like Americans—a pleasant surprise.

The USO was doing a thriving business—feeding almost 5000 men from the Ti, four destroyers, one AK (Supply ship) & the United States Coast Guard Ship Courier—a radio ship broadcasting to communist countries. Unfortunately, the entire expense for all that food, & the food itself, is borne by the Ti. And we can’t afford it, in the shape we’re in.

We returned to the ship in time for supper, well pleased with the whole day.

Monday morning I went on the tour. So did about 300 other guys—the largest tour party I’ve seen. It took twelve busses—old, battered & uncomfortable—to hold us all. Three busses did not have English-speaking guides. Ours was one of them.

I sat with Cannon, a guy who had been a yeoman in my barracks at Saufley Field—he’s on board with one of the squadrons.

Once outside the city of Rhodes, which lies at the very tip of the Island of Rhodes, the land becomes mountainous & semi-barren. The hills & mountains are rough & choppy—reminded me of a bunch of solidified waves.

The entire trip, coming & going, we passed only four automobiles. The main source of private transportation are mules, donkey, burros, & jackasses (I can’t tell them apart). Only saw one horse & very few cows—several small flocks of sheep & many goats.

The houses & villages are all white square structures, looking more Arabian than anything. Almost everyone waved at the busses & we waved back.

Some of the villages were merely scatterings of house with flat roofs of grass, & no streets or sidewalks. Only near Rhodes did the houses have peaked roofs.

The scenery, especially where the sea lapped at the mountains, was beautiful—the Mediterranean is definitely the world’s most beautiful sea—greens & blues & greys—liquid colors against the brown of the land.

We passed through one area—the only large level area along the sea, where not a single house stood—only broken ruins—square windows shattered to round holes by explosions.

Someone—odd how quickly the memory of war dies—had built an airfield there (skeletons of planes still lay among the trees) & someone else had pulverized the entire area. Bomb craters gaped between the rows of trees & in the fields. Then, as abruptly as it had begun, there were houses & villages again, all white & unmarked.

Climbing higher in the hills, toward Lindos, the hills burst into color; millions of flowers lay strewn over them like gay Easter eggs. It was one of the prettiest sights I’d seen in Europe.

Lindos was our destination—it nestles at the bottom of a lone hill, standing beside the sea, apart from all the other mountains cluttered in the background. On the top of this hill is the Acropolis of Lindos—temples erected countless years ago by the Greeks who lived in mythology.

The busses stopped at the base, & we climbed through mosaic streets of white & black stones. The top of the hill had been surrounded in the Middle Ages, no doubt, by towering walls, making it a fortress.

But within the fortress stood the temples of the Acropolis—proud columns not of marble but of some light tan porous rock which evidently weathers better than marble. A row of these columns stand at the base of a wide flight of steps, leading to the very top of the Acropolis, where one temple still stands, roofless & without one side, but more real than many of the cheap, dirty cities that came after it. It is built on the very edge of an unguarded cliff which falls away, hundreds of feet, to the restless sea.

The view? Unbelievably beautiful—the water so clear you can see bottom, winding along the shore in white rollers, turning to a shimmering silver in the sun & fading off to a rainbow of blues & greens as the shore recedes & disappears around a mountain.

And whom should I meet, standing on the steps of a Greek temple 8,000 miles from the world we know? A former NavCad buddy, stationed aboard one of the destroyers with us. It isn’t a small world—it’s just crowded.

Almost Taps—I’ve go to close now or I’ll never get this mailed.



Monday, November 20, 2006

U.S.S. Ticonderoga Liberty Boats, Rhodes, Greece, March 1956 Photo courtesy of Dale Royston, V-1 Division Posted by Picasa
161 Days
3 March 1956

Dear Folks

Excuse me for not writing yesterday but, with one thing & another, I just didn’t get time. Tonite being Saturday, I’ll no doubt stay up quite late.

We pulled into Rhodes, Greece, today—or rather, we came within a mile of it—that’s how far out we’re anchored. I’ll be able to tell you more about it tomorrow, when I run over to take a quick look. I won’t be able to do much, that’s for sure—I haven’t got a drachma to my name. They were changing money here on ship, but only in multiples of $10.00--& I most certainly can’t afford that. In fact, I have just ten dollars to last me through both Rhodes & Beirut.

Going on tour Monday, & hope to see the site of the Colossus, if there’s anything left to see. The island itself, from what I can see of it, looks like something out of mythology—low hills, looking higher because they rise above the sea, march back in rows of color—becoming more & more purple & misty as they go. Pretty.

The Ti is supporting a USO here in Rhodes—supporting: that means we’re furnishing cooks, mess cooks, & food for as many ships as may come into the harbor. Food is free—now I know I’m going over tomorrow! Ah, don’t I sound cheap?

Second movie just let out (I went to the first one), so this place will probably be crawling in a few minutes—here they come—Cou & John Lanasa—in & out again in search of coffee.

All of which reminds me; I’m hungry.

You know, I keep telling myself I’m going to be a great writer, but I just can’t get started.
Coupled with that is the fact that I don’t care much for my way of writing—it seems too stilted, choppy. Oh, well—I’ll try anyway—I’ll force myself. Starting now.

With your kind permission, I’ll close with



Sunday, November 19, 2006

1 March 1956

Dear Folks

Just been talking over "old times" with a kid who wants to join the NavCads. I have an awful lot to be proud of—things most other guys would never dream of doing. Up to the point, that is, where they ask "Well how come you quit?"

In my locker I still have a box of stationery from Pensacola & in it an unfinished letter saying I didn’t think I’d be with the NavCads very long.

July 15—that’s an awful long time, Mom—it will have been over a year since I saw you last—that’s a year too long.

I hope you’ve received (probably one with this letter) the two large envelopes I sent yesterday & the day before. You know, at times I think: "Now suppose you got off the boat at Fleet Landing & there were Mom & Dad." Then I think of all the things I’d show you & everything we could do--& wonder if you’d be as thrilled with it all as I’d want you to be.

Let’s face it, parents—you have a weird son. But personally, I’d be bored green to be average.

Chief Sewell & I spent a good two hours today hotly debating whether, if war came & we were cut off in the Mediterranean (it would be very easy—there are only two ways out—Gibraltar & the Suez), & if we had expended our bombs, planes, & fuel, we would surrender the ship intact or scuttle. I claimed that rather give the enemy a potential weapon to be used against us somewhere else, we would most definitely sink ourselves. The Chief contended that we wouldn’t dare sink 200,000,000 dollars of the taxpayer’s money—that we should put into port & surrender, having first disabled all our guns & instruments, in hopes that we’d be able to take it back by force or it would sit in port till the American armies (victorious as ever) should come & recapture it. He claimed I was very stubborn because I couldn’t agree. What do you think?

"What in hell good reason would we have for sinking it?"

"So they couldn’t get it."

"There are 3,000 men on this thing—what are they supposed to do?"

"We have lifeboats & life jackets."

"You know how long they’d last in that water? We haven’t got that many lifeboats to begin with."

"So you’d going to sail blissfully into port & say: ‘Here we are, take us’? Oh, no, Chief. If you were kicking me in the face, I wouldn’t offer you my shoes."

And so on into the night. We finally agreed that we would make a run for it, even if we knew we could never make it, & go down fighting.

The United States Sixth Fleet—consisting entirely of thirty-five ships, including two submarines, & two aircraft carriers, is right now in the awkward position of a sacrificial lamb.

But we only have 107 days until we get back to the good old U.S.; & only 163 until I get out.

Still plowing through poetry—I’m some 746 pages deep now, reading Shelly. I especially like his

I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said: Two vast & trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, & sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well that visage read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, & the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, & despair!:"

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless & bare,
The lone & level sands stretch far away.

And on that cheerful note, I leave you with



Saturday, November 18, 2006

28 February 1956

Dear Folks

This one will probably be mailed before the one I started yesterday, because it has the second day in Rome—I’ve got three pages & we haven’t even seen the Pope yet. Do you mind my writing in such detail? I figure that that way, you know everything that went on & it’s sort of like being there yourselves.

Got a very cold, impersonal letter from Northwestern today—not even a letter, just some pamphlets. Tuition, it seems, is $765 a year, & room (you must live on campus) runs from $600 to $900 a year. So I wrote a letter to Northern—I think I’ll go back there. Ask Lief if he’d care to join me?

About the razing I’ve been getting—it isn’t any particular reason, just that this is the Navy & I take it better than most guys. It definitely isn’t because of the Valentine, mother—they got it & appreciated it very much, & as I’ve said before, every letter I get from home they ask you have to say about them. Still no sign of the brownies—the food boxes lasted two nights. Speaking of food…..

Mailing a box of stuff home tonite—I only hope it has enough postage to go air mail. Fortunately, they can’t weigh every package. As for the movies being sent home—yes, I guess I’d better—but I’ll have to write detailed descriptions of everything so you won’t miss out. I’ll send them two at a time so they don’t all get lost together. Store them in a cool, dry place.

Come to think of it, I’ll save myself six cents & mail this along with the rest. Did you ever get those other pictures of the Ti? If not, let me know. The one with the C on it was taken of Augusta bay. Also included is a bunch of stuff on the different ports we’ve hit, some postcards from the Cannes Tour & Sicily, some sugar from the San Remo, etc.

Oh, yes, the other picture was taken just as we left the dear old U.S. & A.

Well, enough for now.



Friday, November 17, 2006

Feb. 27, 1956 (Part 2 of 2)

The main audience chamber is a long, narrow room, the vaulted ceiling in gold as in St. Peter’s. We entered through the green curtains I’d seen from the other room, & were ushered into another "corral" just to the right of the door. Far up at the other end of the room, on a raised dais surrounded by red velvet, stood the Papal throne.

Directly across from us was a huge painting—showing a woman with a sword holding the severed head of a man, while the blood poured from his neck over her feet. This struck me as being slightly out of place in the Vatican, even if it was, as I found out later, supposed to represent Ruth slaying the leader of the Philistines.

The room was rapidly filling up, & a solid mass of people choked the aisle. Into the "pen" across from us, beneath the picture, came a group of young nuns, all looking excited & happy. They wore the tight-fitting headdress that showed plainly their heads must have been shaven.

Still they came—into our enclosure came all sorts of Americans & English, as well as a few French. Three-quarters of the entire Italian Army came pouring in—some wearing the red tasseled caps of the mountain fighters—generals, enlisted men, & all ranks in between.

Civilians—women with black lace handkerchiefs on their heads, from all classes & walks of life.

I can’t imagine where they put them all—more nuns, with huge white Dutch-looking hats, Italian sailors & airmen. A Japanese priest in black & a monk in brown-&-white—more & more & more.

At long last (after an hour and fifteen minutes) the green curtains were drawn & lights went on over the thrown. A hush fell on the people—a quiet, expectant murmur.

The curtains were drawn open & the soldiers in blue & gold entered again—everyone burst into applause. I turned around to see—the Pope, dressed all in white, carried on a sedan-chair by men in red velvet. He was smiling & giving the scooping-upward movement of his hands. He looked old, but not his eighty years.

People holding up rosaries & crucifixes—one of the sailors further down held up the little blond, & the Pope patted him on the head. The soldiers with the red-tasseled hats waved them in the air & yelled something in Italian. Then someone started singing a Latin hymn, & soon everyone took it up. For some reason, it reminded me of the early Christian martyrs being thrown to the lions, singing.

He at last reached the throne, & descended from the sedan-chair & climbed the steps to the throne. Two cardinals appeared from somewhere on either side of him, & someone else placed a microphone before him.

All this I saw by standing on tip-toe & craning my neck, for he was a good half-block away.

When he began to speak, everyone fell silent—he has a soft but powerful voice &, speaking first in Italian, I notice the way he slurred the R’s, as most Italians do. He spoke to each group represented; you could tell which one by the applause.---The soldiers waved their caps & chanted again, & the nuns across the way hopped up & down & clutched their rosaries when he spoke to them. Since it was a predominantly Italian gathering, he spoke at great length to them.

During this time, I got to speaking with an American in civilian clothes—found out he’s in the army stationed somewhere in Germany & was on his way to Naples to visit the grave of his uncle, who was killed during the war. We were getting along quite well when we heard the Pope say: "And now, the Americans…." His English, I am sorry to say, is so broken it was almost impossible to understand him—of course, when one speaks as many languages as the Pope, it is difficult to be perfect in all of them. He welcomed us to Rome, & gave his blessings to all—Catholic & Protestant. And that, unfortunately, is all I was able to understand or remember.
Then he lapsed into French.

After the audience was officially over, with the Papal blessing upon us all, there was a great delay from the time he descended from the throne until I saw him again. Since I couldn’t see what he was doing, I hadn’t the slightest idea what was going on.

At last he got into his sedan-chair & was carried back down the aisle, while the people sang the Latin hymn. He was carried past me, & the green curtains closed behind him. When they re-opened, we all filed out.

I & the soldier (his name is Joe Golden) almost got lost in the maze of stairways & passages (we left somehow differently than we’d come in).

When we got outside, I went to the bus & got my camera, & Joe & I went back into St. Peter’s. Had I mentioned that Pope Leo X’s body lies embalmed in a glass coffin in one part of the church?

We left St. Peter’s & walked to the USO for dinner, then decided to go to the Forum to take pictures. It had become quite cloudy as we took a bus (No. 64—cost 25 Lire: 4 cents) to Victor Emanuel Square, which is crowned by the first Italian King’s magnificent monument—the most beautiful building in Rome—in classic style.

By the time we got there, it had started to rain. We got thoroughly soaked running back & forth wondering what to do. Finally settled on going into a bar until it let up.

About an hour later, we decided to try again—we got all the way to the Forum walls (it lies, as I said, in a valley—on one end is a street, quite high above it, & with a wall on one side & the Palatine hill on the other). This time we really got wet. We ran into a building near the head of the Forum & found it was the Carcere Marmitine—the ancient cistern-like jail in which Peter & Paul had been held nine months—we saw the post to which they had been chained & the two-foot hole (there were no stairs in it in those days) through which they’d been lowered—two levels below the street.

Made our way back to the USO for something to eat, & went to the show—some one I’d seen before, but wanted to see again. After the show we found a Restaurant-Bar called The Californian. Very modern & very good food—all American; even the menu had American prices on it. By now it was one a.m., & I was tired.

We agreed to meet at 1:00 the next day at the USO & went our respective ways….

P.S. More tomorrow—I have an acute case of writer’s cramp at the moment.



Thursday, November 16, 2006

St. Peter's Square, Rome, February 1956 (cropped version below) Posted by Picasa
27 Feb. 1956 (Part 1 of 2)

Dear Folks

Just been day-dreaming of home, which is only 167 days away, & yet seems like an eternity (if not longer). No word yet from Northwestern, but I hope to hear from them soon.

I was sitting here tonite, reading Robert Burns ("The best laid plans of mice & men….") & brushing my hair—something I haven’t done in a long time. You should see the floor when I stood up & brushed myself off—it was almost ankle deep in dandruff. Oh, well—ready for the second day in Rome? Here we go----

To sleep in a real bed, between real sheets, is a privilege not enjoyed since Paris—the night the boats stopped running won’t count because it was only for four hours. The buzzing of the phone woke us at 8:00. Peter Paul answered it: "Yeah, he’s getting up now" & hung up. I sat up & said "Who was that?" Nonchalantly putting on his socks, Peter Paul said "I dunno; I couldn’t understand him anyway."

Why I bother taking my electric shaver along I don’t know—it was one of those triangle-of-holes affairs. We washed & dressed & went down to breakfast—two eggs with a strip of bacon dead in the center, cocoa, & bread. From what I could gather by looking out into the street, shady anyway, it was a beautiful day. A notice at the desk said we were to have an audience with the Pope at 0930.

The busses came at 9, & I, my pockets jammed with two rolls of film, two rosaries & a crucifix for the Chief, climbed on board. We drove first to the USO, on the Via della Conseliazione, which looks directly on St. Peters. A block or two behind us on the same street is the round Castle de San Angelo, better known as the Tomb of Adrian . Built by the emperor Adrian as a tomb for himself & all succeeding Emperors, it was turned into a fortress during the middle ages, & is connected to the Vatican by a long, covered passageway like an aqueduct, through which the Pope fled to the safety of the fortress if danger threatened.

While we waited outside the USO, an American woman working there came on the bus & explained the protocol of the audience, & to give us all special tickets, to allow us to enter. It was wonderful to see an American, & to hear her talk to us in a language we could understand. She was very friendly & cheerful, & made us feel much better. She said we had until ten fifteen, & suggested we come into the USO for coffee. "Is it American coffee?" someone asked; the stuff they serve over here is nothing but melted coffee beans.

An American away from Americans is as lost as a week-old puppy; you can’t possibly
imagine what it’s like until you’re in that position—& then you wish you weren’t. That’s why such little things as an American cup of coffee, or hearing an ordinary American voice can mean so much.

Inside, since I don’t care for coffee, I went into the USO. A red-headed woman was there with her three children—one of them the cutest little blond I’ve seen in ages, & a lot of other people, in & out of uniform.

Another group was to leave the USO & walk to the Vatican—we were to drive down & meet them in St. Peter’s Square.

When we arrived in the Square, we had to leave our cameras on the bus. The other group of about forty came along shortly, & we walked to the right-hand arcade. Audience is the correct word for it—there were already over a hundred & fifty people, with more coming all the time.
Our guide, another American girl, took us around on a sort of flanking movement, & brought us up near the head of the line. The group of people we were standing near looked familiar. They were. Americans, naturally. I got to talking with a woman from Detroit.

"We’ve been here two weeks now; we’re going back next week, & I’ll certainly be glad to go." I was saying how it seemed like you could spot an American six blocks away—she agreed. "You know, the other night my friend & I were looking for a nice place to eat, & we stopped in this small restaurant. Well, we’d no sooner gotten in the door when a waiter came over & said ‘Good evening, ladies’ & he showed us to a table & they brought over a little American flag.---And we hadn’t even opened our mouths!"

Ahead of us, standing in the entrance to the building, were the fabled Swiss Guards, dressed in orange & black pantaloons, & carrying a spear as they did 300 years ago—really a sight Behind them were a flight of stairs to rival anything Hollywood has ever produced.

Suddenly someone must have given some sort of signal & everyone began rushing toward the entrance, swarming past the guards & up the stairs—young priests running pell-mell up the stairs, their cloaks puffing out behind them. The long corridor echoed with the scuffling of hundreds of feet. Nuns, Italian women all in black, Americans—two sailors hurried by carrying the kids I’d seen in the USO. Men, young women, old women,--all scurrying up the long steps, like citizens flying from a Sodom, or toward a paradise.

The stairs turned a sharp corner & ended in a large room, heavy hung with Cyclopean tapestries & red velvet curtains. Men in red velvet robes took our tickets, & we headed into penned-in enclosures—the wooden railings were the only thing that kept us from completely flooding the room. On either long wall were immense tapestries depicting various battles—rather incongruous, I thought. Though we’d been told to stay together, we were spread all over. To the right, another door led somewhere I couldn’t see, being masked by heavy green drapes.

A troop of guards, in blue & gold, came marching from a large door center, past me, & out the door to the right. People, among them the woman I’d been talking with, followed the guards.
"Where are they going?" someone asked.

"I don’t know—maybe they’ve got a private audience."

But when a few sailors from our party started drifting after them, I began to suspect that somebody was fouled up somewhere. Our guide came hurrying up, gathering everybody together & told us to follow the stream.

"Now, when you get in the next room, stand by the railing—don’t let anybody shove past you; some of these little nuns & priests get carried away with enthusiasm sometimes & go charging in like football players—but don’t you let them. Hurry, now—everyone else will be going in there in a moment." And with that she vanished into the crowd.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

St. Peter's Square, Rome, Feb. 1956. Me on right, kneeling. Posted by Picasa
26 Feb. 1956 (Rome letter, Part 2)

The tour left the hotel at two, stopping first at the Fountain of Trevi—of Three Coins in a Fountain fame. It was beautiful, built into the side of a building. Unfortunately, I was unable to give it the awe & admiration it deserved, because my camera chose this time to stop working.

It still was out of order when we reached the Pantheon, one of the magnificent buildings of ancient Rome. From the outside it is nothing much—a circular building with a large dome.
Inside, it is beautiful—a word which doesn’t nearly approach the correct description.

Built in the latter part of the second century, it was intended to be exactly what its name means—Pantheon, meaning "all gods." Here, in one temple, all the gods of Rome were honored. The dome is a vaulted masterpiece of stone paneling; at the very top of the dome is a hole, though which the gods entered. Rain has fallen through that hole for 2,000 years, & yet the marble floors are unharmed. All around the vast room are niches containing statues of seven of the Roman gods. When Christianity took over, the Pantheon was converted to a Christian church, with the condition that should anything happen to any of the statues—even the smallest chip from a finger or nose, the statue would be removed; & when all the statues are gone, the church will be taken away from the people.

The huge bronze doors—twenty feet high—are the originals; beneath the marble floor lies the tomb of Raphael, the great painter whose works adorn the Vatican.

After the Pantheon, we drove to the Forum—during which time I fixed my camera with a pair of nail clippers.

The Forum—the heart of the Empire, whose legions ruled the known world; where was plotted the murder of Julius Caesar, & where Marc Antony carried Caesar’s body & delivered his funeral oration.

Nestled in a valley flanked by the Capitoline & Palatine hills, the Forum begins with the Arch of Severus Septimus, through which Rome’s mighty legions rode, bringing the wealth of the world to one city. Directly to the left stands the Senate House, the only building still standing complete, stripped of its marble.

A wide boulevard ran down the Forum, with tall columns topped by statues, & lined on either side by magnificent temples & buildings of state. Near the end of the Forum, on the right, stands the remains of the Imperial Palace which looked on its left to the Forum & on its right to the Circus Maximus which could seat 250,000 people. At the very end of the Forum stands the Arch of Titus, bearing the proud words which were the symbol of Rome—"Senatus Populesque Romanus" (The Roman Senate & People). On the left after passing through this arch stand the columns of the Temple of Venus. And then the road spread out & around the Coliseum, that fabulous giant of a ruin—the epitome of Rome. Once completely circular, it was badly decayed when used as a fortress during the Renaissance, & later partly restored by one of the Popes, who placed a cross before the Imperial box—from where so many Christians had been watched die.

The Coliseum to the Vatican, & St. Peter’s church. On this spot, once Vatican Hill, St. Peter had been crucified upside down. Here, in 1216, St. Peter’s church had been begun—the largest in the world. Michaelangelo constructed the dome—502 feet from the floor of the church, without any braces or supports whatever.

In front of the church is St. Peter’s Square, which is actually a circle, surrounded by two curved arcades topped with innumerable statues.

To try & describe the inside of the church would take someone with a far greater power of words than I The first thing that impressed me upon entering was not its size, but its modernness. Not gloomy, like other cathedrals, with cumbersome cold pillars everywhere—but a soft blue-grey with flat columns blended in with the walls. Overhead, the rounded ceiling is all gold. Along the tops of the walls, in niches, stand statues of the saints who founded various religious orders—all in pure dove-grey stone.

The size is difficult to grasp at first, because the proportions are so exquisite.. On either wall, as you enter, two marble cherubs hold a bowl of holy water; these "cherubs" are six feet tall, at least—standing at one side, & looking at the other, they appear very small & delicate. Height can be noticed only by looking at a group of people half an inch high far down from you, & looking up slowly it’s awesome to say the very least. And the most beautiful thing is that none of it is the least gaudy or pompous.

Every cathedral in the world is measured according to St. Peter’s –their length is acknowledged by gold stars on the floor. Even St. Paul’s, in London—the second largest church in the world, would fit nicely inside St. Peter’s. Notre Dame is a good half-distance down St. Peter’s floor.

In the center, beneath the dome, is a coupella (sunken place in the floor) where St. Peter is buried. Behind this stands the main altar. The cathedral, as are all cathedrals, is built in the shape of a cross. It is directly in the center of this cross that the dome rises. Even the dome of our own Capitol building cannot compare with the tremendous height of St. Peter’s. To look up & up & up—it leaves you numb. The dome is the exact measurement of the entire Pantheon—it too has a hole in it, covered by a smaller dome—for our God to enter.

And so back to the hotel for supper. After supper, I went out, alone, to walk around. I’d bought an American paper—the Rome American Daily, & found out there were two theaters in Rome showing American movies with American voices. It only took two hours of walking to find it—tucked away on some side street—3 Via Nicolo de Tolino, to be exact. The name of the movie was Rebel Without a Cause with James Dean. I enjoyed it immensely; the theater itself was the nicest I’ve seen in Europe—nicer, even, than some back home. They permit smoking, there are no intermissions every ten minutes, & no one comes up the aisle selling pop & toasted almonds. No cartoon, & the newsreel was in Italian, as was a commercial for Motta bread.

Tickets cost 700 Lire ($1.13, roughly) & seats are assigned. Still nice, though. Of course, if you come in in the middle of the movie, you may find your seat sold from under you at the beginning of the next showing.

Well, this is one day—I haven’t time to finish tonite—will write more later.



Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Postcard Dated 25 Feb. 1956 and Postmarked "U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA 14, Feb. 27. 1956, 9 a.m." Subject: Vatican City

Dear Folks

This, as you may gather if you read five different languages, is the Vatican, with St. Peter’s in the back.

I’ve already gone over my trip with a fine tooth comb & therefore won’t add anything now, except maybe by looking at the people entering & then at the dome, you might get an idea of the immensity of it. Home soon.



26 Feb. 1956 (Part 1 of 2)

Dear Folks

First for the "general news:--this is the first letter I’ve written since before Rome. Yes, dad, I did get the letter about the car—I’m sure I’d mentioned it before. Waiting for me when I got back were two of the food boxes—the ones with the two boxes of pretzels in them. Still no sign of the brownies. Today is Sunday, so I went to a double feature this afternoon; this evening will be dedicated to letter writing. My eyes are a little tired, but otherwise I’m fine.

Oh, yes—it’s definite now—we are not going North, but we are staying over here till June. We’re making another round of the Cannes-Naples circuit, & adding Tangiers N. Africa to it. Oh, well, why should I sweat it? I only have 168 days to go.

Give Lirf my regards next time you see him. It’s getting bad when your best friend has been to your house more often than you have!

Now, I suppose, you’d like to hear about Rome. --- You wouldn’t? Hmmm….

Rome, they say, was not built in a day; nor can it be seen in three. Still, what I did see did much to placate the bad Europe has shown me. Were all Europe like Paris & Rome, it wouldn’t be nearly so unbearable.

Four thirty is far too early for any sensible person to even consider getting up, so I did. My bag had been packed the night before & left in the office, along with all the accessories I thought I’d need, so that when the time came to go all I’d forgotten was my ticket.

Off the boat & on the beach at six thirty, & directly to Naples’ cold, impersonal railway station where, for once, the train was waiting. I was the first one on & grabbed a compartment near the rear of the coach. Odd, but I’m becoming so familiar with European trains that our own will seem odd when I get back to the States.

European trains are much more punctual than movies give them credit for—or maybe I’ve just been lucky.

One of the greatest differences between Europe & America---one so common in the latter & so rare in the former that I’d never noticed it, was the presence of large patches of rolling green fields & hills. It was the first green, aside from the trees & occasional gardens, I’d seen since we arrived—it was beautiful, & for a moment I though it was America. Then we pulled into some small town with a railroad yards & I noticed those weird little freight trains that couldn’t fool anybody—the box cars look like loaves of bread on wheels, the tank cars like chunks of salami, & the ore cars like cookie boxes. Why they’re made so small is beyond me.

Between Naples & Rome, running along the right-hand (inland) side runs a ridge of mountains, some of them massive & jagged, others round & sloping. Whenever one got in the way, instead of going over or around, the train went under. Over the flatland stretching away between the mountains & the sea, the sun shined pleasantly, watching a bunch of sheep-clouds moving toward the mountains, where they bunched together & became mists & gloomy-looking sheets.

The mountains drew further back inland, & we began to see ancient brown towers, standing alone in the midst of fields. And then broken fragments of the famous aqueducts which had carried water from the mountains to Rome. They approached from the right, swept in & crossed the tracks, then ran parallel & almost next to the tracks. The arches filled in & solid brown walls raced along with the train. And then we were in the station.

Rome’s railway station is a huge, ultramodern affair with a long arcade of shops running its entire width. The walk from our train to the busses outside the station was longer than the ride from the station to the hotel, which is on a shady side street abut five blocks away. There were two hotels, actually—the Universal on one side of the street, & the San Remo on the other. We went to the San Remo, which is smaller but nice, & fairly modern.

Off to the left of the small lobby is a sort of lounge, which leads into the dining room. The rooms—ours at least—was nothing spectacular, but adequate—two beds with a stand between, a wardrobe, two chairs, & a desk. The view was of the center court, where all the other windows look blankly at one another.

Lunch (it was now 11:40) was the same one I’d eaten in Paris, Naples, & every other tour I’ve gone on—spaghetti, beef & potatoes, greens, cheese, fruit. After lunch Peter Paul & I walked around a bit; we found a museum built partly in an old Roman basilica. Snow still lay in the courtyards, which were lined with broken statues, & friezes, fountains & frescoes. It struck me as if they were almost ashamed to be there—like a proud old man in a poorhouse.

Monday, November 13, 2006

19 & 20 Feb. 1956

Dear Folks

Got your letter mailed the 14th, which said you got my package—I’m glad you liked everything, & hope none of it was broken or spilled. The robe & Ching Chong 2 came from Gibraltar, as did the tapestry & pipes.

I never was able to figure out what Ching Chong 2 is carrying—a wine sack is most likely. I couldn’t figure out what else you might like or could use. This one shouldn’t have a crack in it as the first one did. If you like you can call one Ching & the other Chong—saves confusion.

Slept today till eleven; something I’d like to do more often. Can’t seem to concentrate tonight—an annoying habit.

I’ve learned by now that if you can’t fight ‘em, sometimes it’s just as well to join ‘em; so I’ll start again this morning.

Coutre met a buddy of his in Naples, just over from the States. They know all about us over there. We’ve had more courts-martial than any other ship in the fleet, gotten into more trouble than any five other ships, lost more planes & pilots, & cost the government more money than any other carrier we have. He says if anyone causes any trouble in Norfolk they usually stop it by threatening to put them on the Ticonderoga! Oh, well, we have fun.

Had trouble with my camera today—the door got stuck shut. I was taking pictures of flight operations (including landings as seen from directly underneath, on the fantail--& real bombings). But I guess all that film was ruined.

Showed movies all night tonite & now I’ve got to close. Rome tomorrow.

Bye Now



P.S. Enclosed are some pictures taken at Syracuse, Sicily, & Catania.

Photographs I took in Syracuse, Sicily. Date unknown

This is the amphitheater of Syracuse, where gladiators fought each other & lions fed. The gladiators entered through the arch in the back—where the two men are--& exited, if alive, through another arch directly across from it & out of the picture. The lions entered through the dark holes on either side of the men; the pool in the center held water to wash the blood from the arena.

And here is the great Theatre of Syracuse carved out of solid rock. The stage was covered in marble. The deep ridges in back supported a stage that could raise or lower by water pressure.
At the top & in the back (out of the picture) is a large ridge into which rooms were cut for the wealthy to rest on hot days

Sunday, November 12, 2006

18 February 1956

Tonight am Armed Forces Entertainment group came aboard to present a sort of musical variety show called "Go West Young Man." Most of them are English & some, I suspect, French; but they sang & danced to American songs & wore western costumes. They were not, by far, the most polished of theatrical troupes, but they certainly boosted the morale of a bunch of America-sick sailors. They had eight girls, two of whom I fell in love with—both brunettes, for a change; it was wonderful to look at some half-civilized women after these plain rag dolls one sees here in Europe. At the moment they’re eating cake & drinking coffee on the mess deck after the show, but naturally the MAAs are out in force to keep the peons away.

I had toyed with the idea of going ashore today—Nick & Cou did—but changed my mind to save money for Rome. Even at that, I’ll only have thirty dollars to take with me.

Peter Paul caught me on the ladder leading from the after mess deck to inform me he was all ready to go, except for getting Lire exchanged.

"I'm gonna take along just one pair of blue pants, & a pair of dungarees to sit around in at night. We won't want to wear blues all day & all night, too."

Now, just what he means by that, I have no idea. I can't imagine what he thinks we'll be doing just 'sitting around,' but for myself, I plan to do other things than sit in a hotel room & stare at four blank walls & Peter Paul's face.

Ah, woe is me….

A moment’s reflection on my health shows that, aside from a case of the snorts, my cold remains firmly entrenched somewhere between my nose & the top of my head. While walking down a passageway this afternoon, I rammed the back of my hand—just below the base knuckle of my middle finger—into a hatch-dog. Now the whole hand hurts, especially when I move my fingers. However, if that is all I ever have to worry about, it will be all right.

Yesterday we had a vendor come aboard to sell us 400,000 pounds of flour, tons of meat, & a great quantity of cheese. Nick took an immediate dislike to him because he was impatient & carried an umbrella (he was quite young, wore large glasses & one of those hideous horse blankets they have the audacity to call overcoats). With him was his assistant, or side-kick, or accomplice, or whatever, equally well attired. This one spoke no English & looked as though he’d just gotten out of school.

The Commander’s signature was required on one of the contracts, & the Commander himself was in his stateroom, sleeping. "When will the Commander wake up? When will he be able to sign the papers?"

We tried to explain that one does not go bounding into a Commander’s stateroom gaily waving a set of contracts, but it didn’t seem to penetrate. Finally, saying he had business ashore but that he would return shortly, he took his umbrella & departed, leaving his cohort to hold down the fort. So he sat. I looked at Nick; looked at the kid, & the kid looked at the floor. Nick brought him a sandwich, which he ate with great relish (it was on an Italian roll we’d gotten that morning). After an hour or so, he decided "I go." Cou had called from the Supply Office to hold him there. It took us awhile, but we finally got it across that he was to "wait for our boss."

The umbrella man came back at last & said for Nick to tear up all the contracts. Then he & his friend left.

Mr. Clower came in shortly after & said he’d found out that they were not affiliated with any government recognized suppliers—that they’d been fired six weeks before.

Nick was pleased. Then, as an afterthought, he said: "And to think I gave that crumb a sandwich."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

16 February, 1956

At one thirty this morning, I was awakened by a flickering light. It was Andy & Nick, who said "We brung ya sum’m" & plopped onto my bed one pepper shaker, four matched glasses (two large & two small), three rolls, & an orange ("Thought you might be hungry"). Andy recanted & took one of the rolls back "For Dickie-Poo" (North). I thanked them profusely, & they staggered off to bed.

About a week ago, the Captain spoke over the loudspeaker about our outrageous shore-patrol record, & concluded with "let’s make our stay at Naples one without a single bad report." Out of the five report chits handed out last night, four were from S-2 Division.

So today the ax fell. The Captain spoke again—this time not so cajoling, with the warning that from this moment on, Gestapo techniques by the Shore Patrol would not only be condoned, but encouraged. Every night twenty officers & thirty petty-officers without Shore Patrol brossards, would patrol the city & send anyone they thought might get into trouble back to the ship. If this does not work, we will avoid liberty troubles by curtailing liberty.

And knowing the dear old Ti as I do, we are very likely to sit out the rest of our cruise. My loathing for the Navy has not abated in the least.

Perhaps, just to get out & walk around, I might go over this Saturday, but I doubt it very much. It all depends on the weather, & how I feel (mood, not physically). I’ve had one of those annoying "snort" type colds for several weeks now—slowly driving me nuts.

Time out for a cup of chicken soup—it looks hideous but tastes very good. Fresh milk coming aboard tomorrow—the Navy has a farm it maintains by U.S. Government standards for the Naval Air Station & some of the 10,000 Americans in & around Naples.

An hour & a half & one chicken breast later, it is now after taps, & I’d better get into the rack. Had a most realistic dream (in Technicolor) of the Ti sinking—I was just ready to jump off when I woke up. Maybe I can continue it tonite. We shall soon see….

Friday, November 10, 2006

15 Feb. 1956

Dear Folks

Something is not as it should be—either the mail is fouled up or you aren’t writing every day. How did I reach this conclusion? We were at sea for seven days without a mail call, & when we finally had one, last night & this morning, I got three letters. See what I mean?

Got paid today, as well as a Cholera shot they gave out with each pay chit—sneaky of them. It felt so good to have real honest-to-goodness money for a change. I ran out (or rather "down") to the ship’s store & bought four rolls of film—at $3.65 (up 40 cents from last time) a roll, which should last me through Rome.

Vesuvius was beautiful today—when it could be seen at all—pure white & towering over the city larger than it ever did before. Snow almost all day—thick, heavy flakes. Some guys built a snow-woman on the Number 2 elevator, while others threw snowballs into the water.

Because a strong wind was driving the ship into the sea wall to which we’re moored, all the hangar bay doors were opened to allow the wind to pass through. Needless to say, it was a wee bit chilly.

According the chart you sent, I owe the government $7.46, which I will not pay until they ask me for it.

Nick, Cou & Andy went out early this afternoon for the express purpose of getting smashed drunk. Last time Andy & Cou went out, they came back with a bar stool. They had another chair picked up from a sidewalk café, but the owner caught them at fleet landing & they had to give it back.

Nick, I’ve found out, is very bitter toward the Navy (who isn’t?) because when he finished boot camp he asked to be sent to communications school & someone told him he couldn’t go because he is a security risk (his father was born in Russia).

We only have five more ports to hit—excluding the NATO cruise—before heading home—Rhodes, Beirut, San Remo, Valencia, & Barcelona.

I asked Andy to steal me something this time. He was highly indignant. Last time he woke everyone in the cook’s compartment one by one & ceremoniously presented each of them a peanut. Coutre will be hell in the morning, & I don’t expect to see Nick much before noon.

Oh, well….

Till next time



Thursday, November 09, 2006

Snowy arrival, Naples, Italy, February 1956. Photo courtesy U.S.S. Ticonderoga Vets Ass'n Posted by Picasa
14 February 1956

Dear Folks

Today, as I walked down the passageway on my way from the Photo Lab, I glanced at the tour ticket in my hand & saw, really saw, for the first time, the words "Rome, Italy." For a moment then I regained the thrill of the new, the exciting, & the unknown. But pleasure is so dampened by reality that very little can be really enjoyed in the present—it must wait until it becomes the past, when it can retain some of its magic.

I suppose this is partly coupled by the fact that the view changes, but the house doesn’t. It’s as though you were to get up one morning & step out the door into a completely different city. But when you come back home, everything is the same.

Our brief run from Sardinia to Italy was one of the roughest we’ve ever been through—water rolled back & forth across the hangar deck in tidal waves with the ship’s rolls. It washed into the mail room to a depth of about a foot. One jolt during the noon meal broke half the plates in the Chiefs’ quarters, spilling tables all over the deck.

When I returned to the office after the movie, it had been secured for heavy weather, so I had no chance to write.

This morning service-wide examinations for Petty Officer Third Class were held in Hangar Bay #1. I took the test for AK (Aviation Storekeeper), but I might as well have stayed in the office—having spent only five days in the Aviation Supply Office when I first came aboard, I didn’t know beans.

Tomorrow is payday, thank God! I spent my very last dollar for the tour ticket ($28.00). I haven’t been paid in six weeks.

A batch of new men came aboard tonight, fresh from the States—most of them fresh from Boot Camp. It only took them a month to get here—flying—via Scotland, Heidelberg (Germany), Frankfort (Germany), & Port Leyute (N. Africa).

One of the first purchases I make when getting home will be a tape recorder (Webcor). It will come in very handy for college. Some of the guys have been tormenting me with the thought that they may release me as much as two weeks early. But that would be too much to hope for—they can also hold you 30 days over your discharge date, which is more likely.

Vesuvius, which I hope may someday destroy Naples as completely & more irrevocably than it did Pompeii, is coated in a somber cloak of snow, which makes it look very impressive—sort of like an English judge.

The snows here must have been very bad, as the mountain is white to its very base.
Unless we can buy bread & flour ashore, the USS Ticonderoga is going to be in very poor straights, having only eleven days’ supply of flour left—& our next replenishment is not scheduled until March.

Just finished Milton in the book of Poetry—the poets are in more or less chronological order—I still have three hundred years or so to go. So, "con su permiso"….