19 - 20 July 1956
The day got off to an oh-so-early start at 0352 this morning with the gentle tinkle of the General Quarters gong. All this is part of an exercise by the Sixth Fleet primarily to impress the Governor of Malta. I doubt very seriously that he was up at 0352 to join in the festivities. We can look forward to more of the same tomorrow, but that, thank God, is the very last day of flight operations for this ship. Oh frumcious day, calloo, callay, he chortled in his glee.
Around ten thirty or so, the Captain spoke to his loyal but disgruntled crew, giving us some very happy news (which is quite a unique event around here). We will arrive in Norfolk at 1300, 2 August 1956!--only two months & ten days behind our original schedule. Oh, joy—oh, ecstasy! Well, that’s the Navy for you—you’ve got to take these little alterations cheerfully.
One of the guys from the Intrepid, who is riding back with us for discharge, says they can release you in one day now. This I find rather hard to believe, but am happily gullible enough to accept anything if it sounds good enough. Now I’m wondering when I will get to leave the ship—will it be the day we get in? Or must I wait till Monday? At any rate, I know I have only 24 days to go in the Navy, so I should care?
And here I am again, one day later (as you may have gathered by the different colored ink). It has just occurred to me that this will possibly be the last letter I’ll have a chance to write before we get home—in two days (three, really) we’ll be in Gibraltar, & then there will not be a mail call, nor will any leave the ship, until we arrive in the States.
As it is we haven’t had a mail call since two days ago, & I haven’t gotten any since before we left Cannes. So evidently you haven’t been writing too regularly either.
Today started with another GQ at 0400, though I woke up of my own accord about ten minutes before. From 0500 until 0930, I held a field day in the office—me being the only one up; the rest of them had gone back to bed.
The water situation is becoming rather acute, & they’ve taken to shutting it off completely at various times to conserve. Why is it you never get thirsty until the water is turned off?
It is now seven thirty, & they’ve just called away the changing of the watch (as they do every night at this time) including "the lifeboat crew of the watch on deck to muster." Just what the lifeboat crew of the watch does I don’t know, but I do know that, unless the ship sank very evenly, our four huge liberty launches, two officers’ boats, & various smaller barges & gigs would never be able to be launched, being all tied down securely on the hanger deck. Even if they all could, they could accommodate no more than 750 men—our crew now, with passengers, being around 3,000. However, there are two life jackets to every man, if you could ever find them. Oh, well….
Tomorrow I’m going to the library & get a French-English dictionary, & copy from it a letter to Michel & Marc.
The Foreign Merchandise Store here aboard ship is almost sold out—what little they have left when we reach Gibraltar will be transferred to the Randolph. I bought five rolls of movie film at $3.65 a roll, which should last for awhile.
It is now eight o’clock, & I think I’ll go to the second movie before going to bed.