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.



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