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Journeys, Discoveries and Connections

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S: Journeys, Discoveries and Connections

BC: Dad 2008 | If history were taught in the form of stories, we'd never forget it. ---Rudyard Kipling

FC: Hume Alexander Vann USNR Journeys, Discoveries and Connections 1945-1947

1: For Dad And His Children Marc, Terry and Gail Almost four years ago, I began making numerous trips to Orlando to check on my Dad's welfare. Normally this is not a surprise to adult children whose aging parents' welfare is sometimes a cause for worry. But my sojourns to Dad's home created another longer, more meaningful journey that was not expected by either of us. For me, it was, and still is, a journey of discovery; one of my discovering who he was as a young man in trying times, as well as the man he has become, and Dad's discovering who I am as a grown woman. Because of our parents' divorce when we were young, a separation of miles between us, and the lives we all had made, my Dad, my brother Marc, my sister Gail and I found it difficult to keep close connections with one another. And time passed. This book is a tribute to journeys, discoveries and connections. Our past is important to our present and meaningful to our future and we all have an important story to tell. This is but one chapter of the story of Dad's life to be celebrated with his children, grandchildren and future generations. I am blessed to have been afforded the time to journey, discover and connect. ---Terry 2010 | Names, dates and events are not exact but as close as Dad can remember today. Pictures are not necessarily in time order. Captions and stories are told by him.

2: On My Way On July 25, 1945, Mama and I went to the Navy enlistment office in Ocala where I enlisted in the USNR for the duration of the war plus six months. (All reservists were supposed to be out of the Empire six months after the war was over.) I was only 17, but Mama let me enlist because she thought the war was over. Three days later, my step-daddy Gavin and Mama put me on a train in Ocala and I was headed for my induction in Jacksonville. From there, a whole lot of other guys and I were loaded onto another train into "cattle" cars with partially opened sides. We traveled to New Orleans and changed to another train to get to San Diego where boot camp was located. Seemed like the whole trip took only a couple of days. Boot camp lasted eight weeks. This is where I heard about the atomic bomb being dropped, and a couple of weeks later I heard news of the Japanese surrender. I got a seven day boot leave to come home before deployment to Pacific Fleet but I got real sick on the way. Mama took me right to Doc Stutts who got me five extra days at home to recuperate from whatever it was I had. Got back to camp and my unit was already gone, so I worked KP a few days until my new assignment. My good friend from Dunnellon, Bob Rogers, came to visit me here. He was a gunner/radio operator on a torpedo bomber. I was so proud to be seen with a decorated aviator. I was sent by train to Tent City, CA (near Shumaker), the debarkation area for Pacific assignments, for 7-10 days. During that time I was a mess cook, but since I was "24 on and 24 off" I got to visit Oakland and San Francisco when I wasn't working. On first liberty from boot camp, a few of us went to the zoo and later to Pacific Square, a huge dance hall that had big name bands.

3: 9-24-45. On leave before shipping out, I'm in my dress blues sitting on family's 1940 Ford. Two-story brick building in background is my old Dunnellon High School. It had a coal-burning heater in each room for winter. | Relaxing while on leave

4: At home on boot leave with my dog Rags

5: These Army guys were stationed at the Signal Corps Camp located about a mile past the Dunnellon Cemetery. The road to the cemetery was extended about a mile when the camp was set up. Aunt Baby, my sister, probably knows or remembers them as they were always at Maxie Lowe's Recreation Hall every weekend. That's where we went dancing. | Boot leave visit home. I'm at the old wooden aircraft control center at the Dunnellon Army Corp Base, a night fighter (A-26) and glider training base. Gliders were pulled by C-47s.

6: Heading To Sea In mid-October, I got on a troop ship, which happened to be a converted Presidential liner, at Treasure Island. I remember sailing out to harbor on very smooth water until we got past the Golden Gate Bridge. Right away, the water turned rough and choppy. People all around me were getting sick, but I never did. It took about four days to reach Pearl Harbor. On the way over, we were advised that we were replacements for those personnel on ship who were due to come home or had a leave. When we got there, someone in charge asked if anyone knew how to type. Another guy and I were dumb enough to raise our hands. My first assignment was in Pearl City at ComServPac (Commanding Service Forces in the Pacific) clerking for a female Yeoman 1st Class. She seemed to always give me a hard time, so I asked for a transfer. In a few weeks, I was assigned to sea duty troops and boarded a troop transport headed for Subic Bay, Philippines. At Subic Bay, I was transferred to an LST (landing ship tank) and was taken to Kerama Retto, the staging area for the invasion of Okinawa. Some nights, waves made the tail end of the ship lift way out of the water and you could hear the motors whirring until they hit the water again. Then the front end would lift way out of the water. I remember using my belt to strap myself into my bottom bunk so I could sleep without falling out. Bunks were three high and some guys actually fell out. I do have fond memories of getting ice cream while I was on this ship. Later we were put into small groups; my group was taken to an LCI(M), a flat-bottom boat that had two mortars in sand boxes on the front. I worked in the combat information center. This is where I listened on headphones and relayed information from "talkers" to a lieutenant who then had me relay information back out. We also did practice runs that trained us how to maneuver to get mortars to hit specific targets as we moved closer to shore. I was on this mortar boat for a couple of weeks.

7: On To Sasebo In late October, the LCI(M)s were being retired, so I was transferred to LCI Group 111, 686 (my boat) under Lt. Cmd. Richardson. He was a Signalman before the war, then was promoted to officer during the war and skippered the five boats in Group 111. The Navy was assigned to all ports in Japan to direct Fleet Activities and Richardson was ordered to take Group 111 to Sasebo, Japan. This port was a base for repatriation of Japanese returnees, but I saw mostly Koreans coming in while I was there. On the way over to Sasebo, I became friendly with a 1st Class Yeoman from Philadelphia. Since my group was being transported and didn't have many duties on the ship, I helped him in his office. He eventually asked Richardson if I could "strike" for Yeoman so that I could take his place in the ship's office. | Lieutenant Commander Richardson

8: In November, Richardson got orders to take the LCIs to New Orleans for decommission. The Seabees had repaired the Sasebo dry-docks damaged by Adm. Halsey's air strikes, so for about a week, our boats went into dry-dock for minor repairs and bottom cleaning. During this time, we teamed with Seabees in LDs to patrol 30-40 miles each side of Sasebo. We looked for mines the US had previously (during the war) placed in the harbor to keep enemy ships from using the port. Sometimes we would shoot the pins with our 30 caliber rifles to detonate them but called in the minesweepers when that didn't work. We also patrolled for Japanese troops from Korea and would escort or monitor them until they got to quarantine. | A small US carrier in dry-dock

9: Get Him! Get Him! When I was still on LCI, the boats went into dry-dock, and every few days I would pull caisson guard duty. This one night, I had the "dog watch", a shorter duty that lasted about four hours, and was supposed to get off around 2:00 AM. The area right next to the dry-dock was used by the Army for storage of dry supplies like coffee, sugar, and canned goods. After a while, I heard something from the supplies area but couldn't see anyone. I looked down at the ship and could see the ship's watch officer down there, so I called out to him and told him I heard something. We were looking around for a few minutes when suddenly two people jumped out and took off running. The watch officer was armed with a 45 automatic pistol and I had my 30 caliber carbine infantry rifle. The officer started shooting immediately and yelled at me to "Get him! Get him!" Like me, his heart must have been beating a million miles a second. He fired a bunch of times. I sure did not want to kill anyone, so I aimed low and shot three times and the guy went down. I felt real bad about that. I figured it was probably one of the repatriates coming to steal, but when the watch officer and I got to him, we could tell he was just a teenager. That did make me feel worse, especially since he died right there. He was shot in the foot and under the left shoulder blade. The MPs came out and an Army ambulance came and took the body away. We had to make reports for the Navy and Army who investigated the event, but I don't know whatever came of it. I never did go to bed that night.....I couldn't sleep.

10: YEOMAN!!!! When Richardson's LCI Group 111 left Sasebo, I didn't have enough points to go home. Points were assigned according to things like marriage, children, Purple Hearts, Silver Stars, etc. I was transferred to Port Director to work for communications officer Lt. White as a Yeoman Clerk. My desk sat right outside Commander Blain's office, and he soon had me running lots of errands for him, both official and personal. I think he eventually considered me "his boy." I don't know how long it took him to remember my name because he always yelled "YEOMAN!" when he wanted me. We had a formal-like relationship, but I know Commander Blain looked after me. Six months after the war was over, officials were looking for volunteers for the Bimini atomic bomb test, and when I asked Blain if I should do it, he told me "ABSOLUTELY NOT!" Later, he even wanted to recommend me for West Point or Annapolis. I turned him down because it would mean four more years. He did talk me into reenlisting for another six months. My mama was not pleased, so I hear. In a letter to me she remarked that everyone else was coming home and questioned why I wasn't. I stayed because I really had it made. I could usually sign my own leave slips and some of my friends' leave slips. I could also use a mail truck or weapons carrier whenever I wanted to.

11: USS Hooper Island supply ship could been seen from my office window. | These pictures show me hard at work and my office area.

12: That's me next to my bunk. The box at the end of the bunk was for my sea bag and other personal belongings. 26 May 1946. | My quansat hut was across the infirmary that had refrigeration for medicines. Yeager, a Pharmacist's Mate and Medic, let us keep our beer there and told us stories of the officers who would come in to get checked for STDs.

13: Chow Hall | Quansat huts on far end of base were used for storage and housing for a group of black Seabees. First building on left was Chow Hall. We paid Japanese laborers to wash our clothes in cans at base of center pole. Poles and lines were where our clothes were hung out to dry.

14: I Corps Headquarters. Kyoto, Japan. 1946 | Port Director building | Main Infirmary on base at Sasebo

15: Sasebo was a large Japanese seaplane and submarine base during the war. These are photos of the harbor taken on some of my day trips into the mountains.

16: These are some of the pictures taken during my travels around the coastal areas and the countryside. There was always a lot of dried fish in the villages.

17: Dressed in Army gear issued to us because the Navy could not get supplies in, I'm standing outside my Port Director Compound quansat hut. It was very cold, so this was probably taken December 1945 or January/February 1946. | I remember taking this picture because three of us went out to the USS Hooper Island, a supply ship that finally brought us Navy uniforms. These were our new ones. In front is Joe. I can't remember his last name or the name of the guy standing behind him.

18: I met Weidenmeyer on base and he became my best friend in Japan. We went a lot of places together.

19: Another friend I made on base was Tex Williams from Brownsville, TX. Weidenmeyer, Tex and I are at an old cemetery up in the hills back of Sasebo. This picture was taken by Joe, another friend who was with us a lot.

20: On The Pot Tex Williams was in the boat pool in Sasebo, and sometimes he would check out an LCVP (landing craft vehicle personnel) so we could explore the harbor. One day, Tex, Weidenmeyer and I went across the bay to explore an old warehouse and found a big stash of Iron City Beer there. Right away, we considered the warehouse our hideout and would go over most nights to drink or play cards or just hang out. Sometimes, Tex would bring girls and sometimes we'd spend the night. One particular night, I signed a pass for us with Blain's stamp and we headed over to the warehouse. Tex got pretty drunk and after a while, he stumbled out back of the building to use the latrine, a three-foot-high, one-foot-square pot you just sat on out in the open. Well, a Japanese LST holding quarantined Japanese soldiers just happened to be docked about three to four hundred feet down the seawall where we were. It had its searchlight on looking around the area. Unfortunately, the bright light caught Tex on the pot and just stayed on him. He yelled and waved his arms a couple of times for them to move the light and got mad when they didn't. Tex happened to have his carbine with him on the pot since we were always required to take them with us. Well, he got so mad that he fired four times at the boat. When the rest of us heard this, we knew we'd better scat. We jumped up fast, ran to the boat and headed back to Sasebo. We never said a word to anyone, and for about two days we never heard anyone else talk of the incident either. A few days later, we decided it was safe enough to go back enjoying our hideout. Tex even brought a girl along with him. We stayed awake drinking for awhile and finally fell asleep. About 2:00 AM, BAM!!! The door to our hideaway room flew open and in came five guys with flashlights yelling, "GET UP! GET UP! WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?!!!" One of the guys was our base Warrant Officer. When he saw me, he looked really surprised and wanted to know what I was doing there. In the end, Tex got caught in a bunch of lies about the situation and got confined to base for a month. I was confined to base for a week even though I still got to go into town each day to get the mail. We were very lucky to get off that lightly. We were even questioned about the shots fired a few nights before, but I told them, "It might have happened, but I didn't know anything about it." I later asked if anyone was hurt by the gunfire and was glad to know that Tex didn't hit anything. I never learned how they found out about our hideout, and I never asked, either. We never went back after that.

21: The Chief Warrant Officer and his guys took a big truck and moved all the beer into the Chief's Club, but they shared with all the enlisted men--we just had to sign out for it. About once a week, I'd sign out two boxes of beer and take them over to the Enlisted Club. Anybody could come over and drink some, but they'd have to stop by Chow Hall to pick up a bucket of ice to cool it down. I always kept 5-10 bottles in the infirmary refrigerator and would go over there a lot to have a beer and just sit and talk with Yeager, who was the medic.

22: We frequently took the mail jeep or weapons carrier and drove around Sasebo and into the mountains. These pictures were taken on some of our trips.

23: Scenes around Sasebo

24: Nara Hotel. 20 May 1946. This is where we were put up for R&R.

25: Touring Nara Japan | Nara Park. Nara, Japan. 17 May 1946

26: In Nara, Japan, Weidenmeyer, Lou and I wait for a rickshaw ride. My driver worked for Hotel Nara and knew very little English. Through an interpreter, he told us that he had been a submarine commander during the war and his homebase had been Sasebo. When we asked him if he'd sunk any ships, he would shake his head and hands and say "No! No!"

28: My buddies and me at Hotel Nara

29: A Japanese boat-making yard

30: Alfred, Del and me at railroad station | Del and Weidenmeyer. Del was Yeoman before I got to Sasebo, and I took his place. | We came across these abandoned guns on one of our day trips.

31: These are some pictures I took while visiting Nara and Fukuoka. The big bell was a tourist attraction before the war. The buildings are temples and the huge statue was in one of the temples.

32: Sasebo town area. Everyone was looking at a marching band made up of Australian soldiers. | Sasebo, Japan. 26 Nov 1945 | We would pass this Japanese hospital everyday going into town, and one day these nurses posed for a picture. Some of the girls spoke English really well. Tex would always whistle out to them when we passed by.

33: Numazu, Japan. November, 1945. Some of us were wearing the cold Army gear issued to us by the Army in Sasebo. This is Weidenmeyer, me, then the Italian kid (I can't remember his name.) and Lewis (can't remember his last name). The Italian and Lewis were from one of the other LCIs, not mine, so I never got to know them.

34: Japanese submarines ravaged by the war

35: These were Japanese LSTs (Type 101 transports) we saw around the coastal area.

36: HIBURI-class (Type A) escort vessel SAKITO | Submarine Chaser No. 28 | HIBURI-class (Type A) escort vehicle

37: Japanese aircraft carrier | Patrol boat Auxiliary Submarine Chaser No. 1-class | Japanese submarine

38: Aircraft carri9er KASAGI | Unknown vessel

39: Nagasaki One day, my friends and I decided to go check out Nagaski to see what damage had been done by the bomb. We couldn't get real close to the town because it was heavily guarded, but someone told us the best viewing area was from a hill overlooking the town. That's where I took these pictures. This is 3-4 miles from Ground Zero. Some buildings were intact while others were just leveled.

40: War Chest I was required to be armed when I made mail runs to RTO and was assigned a Colt 45 and a 30 caliber carbine during my time in the Navy at Sasebo. Most of the time, I took my carbine, a lightweight, short rifle, because the Colt was so heavy hanging on my skinny hip. Before we were shipped back to the states, we were supposed to turn in all weapons to the armory. Unfortunately, the armory burned down and nobody had any records of who had what. Many guys were sneaking their weapons back home for souvenirs, so I decided to do just that. I field-stripped my carbine and measured the highest part of it; then I had a Japanese man build me a trunk with a false bottom with just enough room for my Colt and carbine. I wrapped cloths...maybe pieces of towels...around and between everything so nothing would rattle. When I closed it all up, you really could not tell there was anything there. Then I could pack a bunch of my gear that I didn't want to carry in my sea bag into the trunk. Days before I was about to ship out, someone got a letter telling what happened to some other guys who got caught trying to sneak things back home. The letter warned that if you disembark in Seattle, don't bring anything with you. Apparently, officials got wind of what was happening and started checking trunks. Well, I chickened out. I even tried to sell my weapons to some guys on base, but no one wanted them. I think I ended up giving them to Weidenmeyer. I remember getting back to Treasure Island and walking down the gangplank with my sea bag. There was a shipping company somewhat like Fed Ex there, and they tagged bags and had them shipped wherever you wanted. No one was there to check anything, and I remember thinking "I could have gotten the USS Missouri in my bag and no one would have checked!"

41: Going Home I boarded a troop transport with several other Navy and Army guys from the Sasebo area. We sailed to Yokosuka, near Yokahama and picked up about 80 more Army and Navy guys. From there we sailed to Pearl Harbor. On the way in, we passed Ford Island and could see the Arizona still sticking up out of the water. Our ship was anchored in harbor for two days and we were not allowed to go ashore. At Pearl Harbor, more people, along with two bodies, came on board. At Treasure Island, a Navy truck took us to base and we got liberty right away. It's a wonder I ever made it home; I drank way too much. The whole process took a few days, but I finally got vouchers and got to the train station in San Francisco. I also got a 30 day leave until I was discharged. The train headed for LA on our way to Jacksonville, and I was still hurtin' so I slept as much as I could on the trip. I got off the train in Tallahassee to go see Baby and Grace, who were in school at Florida State College for Women [FSU]. Got to visit with them only a short while because they had to be in early, so I got a motel room untiI I could get the bus to Dunnellon in the morning. Unfortunately, on my way back to the motel, I stopped in a diner for a hamburger. During the night, I got really sick. I remember the next morning asking the guy selling tickets at the bus station to wake me up when my bus was ready because I was probably going to be asleep. I felt so sick, and my bus wasn't going to leave until that night. Mama had to walk on the bus to get me when it reached Dunnellon, and she and Gavin took me straight to the hospital in Ocala. I was there for five days on account of food poisoning.

42: The Future When I got home from the hospital, I went around and visited relatives and such; I saw Lois and Uncle Earl and Uncle Buddy and Aunt Ann and most of my friends at Nall's Drugstore, the hangout where I worked before joining the Navy. James "Shock" Dixon, my best friend, and I would take his 1940 Ford Coupe and go to Ocala for fun. Grace [Hopson] had been seeing Jack McDilda after he came back from the war, but he had to go back to testify in war crimes trials, so we got back together. Our romance was pretty rocky for a while until Jack decided to pull out altogether. I also signed up for the 52-20 Club. That meant for 52 weeks, I could draw $20 a week from the government until I found a job. That was a lot of money back then. One night at the dinner table, I mentioned that I had gotten my second $20 check that day and Gavin asked "For what?!" When I explained to him what it was, he got real aggravated and asked me if I was even looking for a job. He told me he had plenty of work on the farm and he would pay me like anyone else. I knew I was to get out of the program right away, but I did receive one more check that Gavin never knew about. I didn't tell him, either. I started driving one of Gavin's tractors six to nine hours a day. He paid $1.00 an hour, which was good pay back then. I always had spending money. I worked off and on as he needed me until about the first of 1947. I then went to University of Florida and stayed in old Army barracks down by the football field during my first semester. Later, Bob Rogers, RN Dixon and Jute Keys got me into Sledge Hall dorm with them. A little over a year later, Grace and I decided to get married, and that ended my college career.

43: Thinking Back When I got a job with the telephone company in Daytona, I joined the Navy Reserves and stayed in for over six years. I probably would have been smarter to stay in Reserves for 20 years to get retirement; I already had eight years. During that time, I got orders to report to Jacksonville to head to Korea, but I had Marc by then. The commanding officer told me I had to go to Jacksonville anyway with Marc's birth certificate. When I did, I was then reclassified.

45: A special thank you to Phil Eakins of Sasebo, Japan, for helping with ship identifications. Additionally, through emails and his book, Serving The Fleet, Phil gave me a vivid, more vibrant picture of "Dad's Sasebo" of the past and the area as it is today.

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  • Title: Journeys, Discoveries and Connections
  • Dad's war years
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  • Published: over 8 years ago