Tuesday, January 02, 2007

19 - 21 May 1956

Dear Folks

Yesterday I made the mistake of saying there was nothing new in the rumor field; actually, it was only a formative period while a new one built up. This one I rather like—it has style, color, imagination & a punch which leaves you sitting there with the look of someone standing before a firing squad.

We are supposed to be relieved by the USS Coral Sea on or about 18 June 1956. Something, it appears, has happened to the Coral Sea. This much we know pretty much for sure, several different persons claiming to have seen the dispatch. No doubt it is her steam catapults, without which she cannot launch planes & is therefore quite useless as an aircraft carrier.

I’ve given you the basic pattern—you work out the rumor from there. Here are some to get you started: 1) absolutely nothing will happen to our schedule, & they’ll send another ship to relieve us (probably the Randolph)---2) we’ll have a ten day extension after which time the Coral Sea will be here. But here is the real gem—the "coup de etat"—we have been extended until 14 August! That I like. That means they’d take me off & send me back before the ship.
Oh, well—I’ll believe it when I see it….

Meanwhile, the ship—or rather its occupants—are coming apart at the seams. Yesterday two guys strolled by my little window, singing at the tops of their lungs. A few days ago we had oyster stew for dinner. One of the cooks, Mike Santessie (who drinks the pure alcohol) stood by with his hands behind his back; whenever somebody would come by and say "Jeez, where’s the oysters?" Mike would take the little oyster he had tied on a string, plop it in the stew, pull it quickly back out, & hide it behind his back again.

And then we have Commissary Seaman Jack Eardley. Commissary Seaman is a non-existent rate, but he puts it on all his letters. He is, to put it kindly, a trifle dense. The other day the Post Office caught him putting used stamps on his letters. Not only did he put used stamps on, but he put them in the left hand corner of the envelope! God, how can anyone be so stupid & not be in an institution?

Ten o’clock Sunday night—sorry, but no mail went off today anyway. We shifted into whites this morning, which are more comfortable but get dirty too fast.

And here it is another night—I’m really sorry, but as long as the days pass so quickly I’m happy. As was said, the mail hasn’t gone off in days now & God knows when it will. We replenished today—250 tons; God, what a day.

Tomorrow we hit Rhodes again, & Thursday we’ll be in Istanbul—that is going to be a fast run. Traveling full speed, we can make about 810 miles in one day. Oh, well….

Captain spoke the other day—yes, something is wrong with the Coral Sea, & "it is possible we may be extended." Hmmmmm. Oh, well—the motto of the Ti is: "Norfolk in ’57." I wonder where they’ll be spending Christmas this year?

I get a big kick out of replenishments—long lines of men passing crates & boxes like an old fashioned bucket brigade; little yellow trucks & fork lifts dashing around the hangar deck; stacks & piles of everything from grated cheese to turkeys, from potatoes to tomato juice. And all the while the nets are swinging back & forth—to us full, back empty. Soon the deck is cluttered with splinters of wood from broken crates, here & there a little hill or puff of sugar or flour where a sack has broken open. Great walls rise, made of boxes of cereal or toilet paper. The tractors come & go, the drivers of the fork lifts driving slowly, half standing so they can see over the pile of boxes on the forks; little plane-pullers dragging sleds of wood loaded high. Chiefs trotting along beside the tractors, pleading with the drivers to come to their particular loading station (stuff comes aboard in four different places at the same time). Counters trying to keep track of everything as it comes aboard, making sure everything gets into the proper storeroom. A white trail of sugar runs from one end of the ship to the other, little piles of it here & there as the tractor or fork lift slowed down or stopped. And afterwards, when the other ship has broken away, the hangar deck looks like a deserted warehouse, smelling of onions & oranges.
Well, if I don’t get this mailed tonite, I never will. Once again, I’m sorry not to have written before. Please write soon—it’s been almost a week.



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