S: World War II By Robert F. Whalen
FC: World War II U.S.N.R. How I, with some skill and a lot of luck, made it an experience that was good for me. By Robert F. Whalen
1: Here comes the Navy Break out the red, white & blue Here comes the Navy Fighting & sea going through Make way for Navy Navy with anchors aweigh Everybody loves the Navy of the USA The Andrews Sisters 1942 | Robert Fredrick Whalen- 1928
3: While a senior in Ravenna High School, we were advised of a special test being given in Muskegon that, if passed, would allow us to join the U.S. Air Corp. I took this test, passed, and was sent to Detroit for the physical. I did not pass the physical because the overbite in my teeth would prevent me from holding an oxygen mask. In April of 1943, my very close friend, Bill Cunningham, said he was going to enlist in the Navy so he wouldn't be drafted into the Army. Although I wasn't quite 18 yet and not in the draft, I decided to enlist in the Navy with him. When we went to enlist they told me that because I did not pass the physical for the Air Corp. because of my overbite I also could not enlist in the Navy. Bill did enlist in the Navy approximately July 1, 1943. In early July 1943 Clarence (Oscar) Schilling, who I graduated with, told me he had been drafted for the Army and was leaving for his physical. I checked with the draft board and was told that if I volunteered I could go for a physical and be with Schilling. Upon completion of this physical I was interviewed and asked if I wanted to go in the Navy or the Army. When I told them I could not be in the Navy because of the overbite in my teeth and didn't understand why now I had a choice, I was told that the Navy had made some changes and were now going to use guns instead of their teeth.
4: I said I wanted the Navy and realized that as my friend, Bill Cunningham, was still in boot camp; this would make it easier for me to be told what and what not to do. At completion of boot training I requested to be a mechanic. I was told they were sending me to Radio School and when I asked WHY? I was told, because my school records showed I had received an A in Typing and this was very important in becoming a Radio Operator. I didn't dare tell them I had received that A because my girlfriend, Doris Anderson, had typed 50 personal letters with no mistakes and no erasures that my typing teacher said I must turn in because I had missed 3 months of school while I was in Detroit working for my dad. While in boot camp I learned the Navy had changed their rules regarding your teeth, they had started special dental care that went as far as making dental replacements for enlistees as they couldn't find enough men with perfect teeth. | Bob with his friend Bill's father, Pa Cunningham | Doris Anderson, Bob's high school sweetheart. They reconnected and married in 1992
5: With his Mother, Irma Rollenhagen | With his sister, JoAnne and Bill's sister, Betty | -The Navy Motto
7: I spent four months in Indianapolis in Radio School and learned to type and operate radios that sent and received all messages in the Morse code. While there, I also learned how to get extra liberty by getting a relative to send you a wire or letter that they would be in town Saturday and would like you to spend the weekend with them. This gave you a pass good from Saturday to 7 a.m. Monday. I did this several times and hitchhiked to Muskegon and back some of the weekends.
8: From Radio School we were sent to a Navy base at Oceanside, California. While there, we were trained by the Marines at Camp Pendleton to be their Radio Operators on their initial invasions. Upon completion of the training, there were four more of us than the Marines wanted. They kept Bill Wake but Warner, Whalen, Wiley, and Zavenka were assigned to a different unit that would go in five to six weeks after the initial invasion to setup and operate a permanent Radio Station. While at Oceanside I learned to take or have liberty almost every weekend. I was able to get four, seventy-two hour passes by turning in a request for extra time so I could take my car to Los Angeles, to sell my car. On the fourth pass they wrote that I must sell my car and could not bring my car back to base with me. This was not a problem, as I never had a car in the first place.
9: The base at Oceanside was on the highway to Los Angeles and if you didn't have a liberty, which was every other weekend, you only had to cross a three-wire fence and be able to hitchhike to Los Angeles. On one of these weekends when I walked into the U.S.O. in Los Angeles the Officer in charge of giving us our pass, that I didn't have, was there and asked me if I could go with him that night to a dance as his girlfriend had a girlfriend who wanted a date for the night. Of course, I said yes, and the next week he reminded me of the favor he had done me and he didn't mean the girlfriend! | Officers
10: Our unit was then sent to San Francisco to a base on a former horse race track. We were quartered in the horse stables for the two weeks we were there waiting to be sent overseas. When checking in at the base we had to turn in our I.D. card. There were three officers, and each one looked at this I.D. card before they put it in a box. We were told while there, we would have every other day and every other weekend liberty, and our I.D. cards, which they would give us when it was our turn for liberty, would be our liberty passes. I didn't dare give them my I.D. as I had altered it to make me over 21 years old, so I told them I had lost it. They said that meant NO liberty until they were able to get me a new one, which would probably take two weeks. Really it worked out well for me because by not turning it in I had liberty every day while I was there.
12: During World War II, once you left for overseas duty you were not told where you were going, how you were going to be transported, or when you would arrive. We left San Francisco in November. There were 130 of us Navy men, and just we went to San Diego aboard a large troop transport ship. We Navy men were assigned to temporary ship's company, and in San Diego we picked up 3000 Marines. We then came back to San Francisco and joined a convoy of ships that went to Pearl Harbor. On our way out of Frisco we ran into a storm with 50 M.P.H. winds. At least 75% of the men aboard ship got seasick. They were lying on the decks, rolling in their vomit, and wishing they would die. It didn't bother my buddy Jack Warner and I , so we decided to go have chow. When I got my tray of food and put it on the table the man across from me leaned over his tray and vomited it full. I picked mine up, dumped it, but didn't get sick. Just close.
13: We reached Pearl Harbor Thanksgiving morning. They unloaded the Marines, and I heard they got K-Rations to eat for Thanksgiving. Us Navy fellows stayed aboard and had a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. But when we got ashore, we were told something had gone wrong. They had lost all our records and we would be put in temporary quarters until they could be found and then determine where we would be sent. We were put in some vacant quonset huts and told to see what furnishings, bunks, etc. we could find. I was lucky and found a single bed and mattress in an empty officer's quarters. | Bob's bed.
14: They sent us to school to take up our time, but it was all things we had already had in the States. Except, we did spend a couple of weeks learning how to drive and operate Navy LCM's. An LCM is a Twin Engine powered Landing Craft. It was over 60 days before they found our records and we got our first payday. I had all of 50 cents in my pocket, but someone started a 5 to 10 cent Black Jack game that I got in with my 50 cents. Luck was with me again, and I made enough playing 5-10 Black Jack to buy a dress uniform and go on a couple of liberties in Honolulu.
16: We were told we were going to leave Hawaii and needed to take a series of shots, 2 per day for 6 days. I had taken them for 3 days when they said I had been transferred to the permanent radio station in Hawaii. I reported that same day. It was big, nice, had a swimming pool and more than half of the personnel there were Navy Waves. My duty the next morning was operating a teletype machine, and I had a nice looking Wave on each side of me. So I thought I was in heaven 'till about 10 a.m. when an officer tapped me on the shoulder and said I had been transferred. I answered, Yes, I just got here. He said No, I was leaving and to report to the office at once. When I got back to my unit I had missed the shots for the day and had to start the series over. There went Heaven.
17: This meant I had to get my shots with a different group, and instead of being one of the last ones, as Whalen always was, I was second in line. There were two corpsmen giving the shots, one in each of your arms. One corpsman had a regular size needle. The other one had a special needle about 6 inches long. He put it in front of the man ahead of me then put it up to his arm. The guy just looked and stood there. The corpsman laid the long needle down, picked up the regular size one and said to his partner, "I guess you won." The first man didn't pass out.
18: In early May of 1945, they put us on an LST - same as the one now in Muskegon. As usual, we were not told where we were going or when we would get there. We did stop at the Island of Eniwetok and were taken ashore and had our first beer in quite a while. We also stopped for a day by the Island of Saipan but only the officers were allowed to go ashore there.
19: When we crossed the equator, anyone who had not crossed it before had to be initiated to become a Shellback. One of the ship's officers had to be initiated and was made to lead and clean up after the dog we had smuggled aboard for 2 hours.
20: When growing up, my only swimming was in Crockery Creek where the most you needed to swim was maybe 20 feet. In boot camp we were taken to a large pool and had to swim from the shallow end to the deep end and back. If you couldn't do this you had to take lessons on your free time until you could. As usual, I was one of the last ones, and I had decided someway I was going to pass because I didn't want to spend any more time in their heavily chlorinated water then I had to. My plan was that in the shallow part of the pool I would use my feet on the bottom in the beginning and the end. I didn't get caught and passed the swimming test.
21: This I almost paid for when we anchored off Saipan. They opened the bow of the LST, put the ramp down and let us take a swim. While we were swimming the wind came up making waves with a lot of force. When I decided I wanted to quit and go up the ramp, the force of the water receding took me back out about 50 feet. I did this about twice before I started calling for help and about 3 times more before I used strong enough language to get someone to catch me. Once again, I learned sometimes you pay for your sins.
22: On my 20th birthday, May 28th, we were still at sea but I had smuggled a fifth of whiskey aboard, and after treating my buddies, I finished it off. Lucky I didn't fall overboard.
23: We landed at Okinawa about June 1st. The day we landed and had unloaded all our supplies, including six man tents, cots, etc. a jeep came by where Jack Warner and I were standing. It stopped, backed up to us, and Bill Wake that we had trained with in the U.S. with the Marines got out. He couldn't believe all the equipment we had. Said he was still sleeping in a pup tent and had been with the Marines on the initial invasion of four islands. We gave him a cot, and that was the last time we saw or heard from him.
24: I am not sure, but I think the Japs had surrendered the Island to us by the time we landed, but there were still a lot of them there hiding out in caves, etc, and they were still armed. We had foxholes around our tents and had 2 men with rifles in each one for 2 shifts. First shift was from dusk until midnight and second shift midnight, until daylight. Jack Warner and I pulled a lot of that duty. The unit next to ours only had 1 man per foxhole guarding their tents. They had 5 foxholes, and when relieving the guard at midnight, would go to each foxhole and drop the relief man off and pick up the man on duty. They were armed with 45 cal. BAR's (Browning Automatic Rifle) and one night when they came to one of the fox holes, the guard had fallen asleep. When he awoke he started firing and killed 3 of his buddies. | B | Bob, Chuck, & Dean | Bob with his BAR | 45 cal. Browning Automatic Rifle
25: While in Okinawa, I was never shot at or ever saw a Jap that I needed to shoot at. One of the scariest events was one evening that Jack and I were doing duty in our foxhole. It was just getting dark and we both saw something low to the ground go into a bush that was about 50 feet in front of us. We decided we had to do something to find out who or what it was before it got dark. We came up with the idea that one of us would crawl toward the bush with his gun pointed at the bush and the other one would stay in the foxhole with his gun aimed over the one crawling and at the bush. We flipped coins to determine who would do what and I got the job of crawling. I was about 10 feet from the bush when a big pig came running out. Sure lucky it wasn't an armed Jap!
26: Our daytime duty was to get the antenna system built so we could get our radios working. Our tents were on the side of a hill across the road from where the army had set up their radio system and had a generator that supplied them the electricity to run their radios. I found some wire, and one night I spliced it into their electric wire, ran it to my tent, and was able to use my electric coffee pot. This worked for almost a week before they discovered it and cut my wire off. One of their officers followed it to my tent, but there wasn't much he could do but tell me what he would do if he found me doing it again. When we got our radio station working we had duty (copying radio messages) 6 hours on and 12 hours off 7 days a week. We were there when a large typhoon hit there. It blew the roof off the quonset hut that our transmitters were in, so all we could do was listen to all the ships asking for help.
27: Things were getting pretty routine. We hadn't been told anything officially, but word was the next U.S. invasion would be the mainland of Japan and since we were the closest to it that was where we would be next. The miracle that I believe saved my and a lot of other lives happened. The Atom Bombs were dropped on Japan and they surrendered.
28: At the end of the war, they came up with a point system that would determine when you could get discharged. I don't remember all the details of how it worked, but because I had my mother for a dependent, I got 10 extra points. This gave me a big advantage over most of my buddies as they were all in about the same amount of time that I was and single, so they had not got the 10 points. When I was getting close to the estimated time I would be discharged, our unit needed more Petty Officer 2nd Class personnel and were going to give exams for this. Because I was so close to being discharged I didn't think I would take it, but a friend of mine asked me to take it with him, so if he needed some help I might be able to help him. We went, I helped him, we didn't get caught and I also became a 2nd Class Petty officer. That is the rate I was discharged at. | My date of entry was August 6, 1943. I, and all who completed our boot training became Seaman 2nd Class and stayed at this rate through our initial training. Upon completion of initial training, depending upon your grades, you could be advanced to Seaman 1st Class or Petty Officer 3rd Class. I didn't study hard enough (lack of interest or had too much fun on liberties) and stayed Seaman 2nd Class until assigned to a permanent unit that had openings for a 1st Class Seaman. I took the test and was made Seaman 1st Class in December of 1944.
29: My discharge orders put me on a converted aircraft carrier that left Okinawa and went the shortest route to Seattle, Washington. Seattle was the hometown of the Captain of the ship and it being close to Christmas, he told us in his talks each morning that we would be in Seattle before Christmas. Fourteen days out of Okinawa he had us three days ahead of schedule but about 5 a.m. that day we ran into a storm that put waves over the top of the flight deck. It was the roughest ride I have ever had, and by the time it ended we were three days behind schedule. We did get to Seattle on the 21st of December. I had some good liberties, and left the 26th for great Lakes Navel Base for discharge. On the train ride there I lost my billfold so all the money I had was a little change. I had a Navy buddy who had already been discharged, lived with his wife, and had told me if and when I got to Great Lakes to call him. I borrowed enough to make the phone call, and he and his wife came and got me, and we celebrated New Year's Eve together. I was discharged on New Year's Day, 1946.
30: In closing, I feel and believe, being in the service was good for and to me, and many of the things I learned and experienced have helped me many times in my work and leisure times. I realize there have been many changes since I was in the service and it would not be the same now, but I do think if we still had the draft it would help more than it would hurt. Robert F. Whalen