Interview of Jack Davis Transcript Number 199

WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA HISTORY

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA AT WILMINGTON

INTERVIEW OF  JACK DAVIS

JULY 24, 2002

Good morning.  I’m Paul Zarbock.  We’re at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the university’s library.   I’m a consultant to the librarian and involved in this activity of videotaping World War II veterans.  We know that approximately 1500 World War II veterans die every day.  Unless we can capture as many as possible, the memories and experiences of these military people will be lost forever.  Well it’s July 24 in the year 2002.  I’m going to turn over to our interviewee, Mr. R. Jack Davis.

INTERVIEWER:   Good morning, Mr. Davis.

DAVIS:   Good morning, sir.

INTERVIEWER:   How are you this morning?

DAVIS:   Fine.

INTERVIEWER:   Tell me, how did you go into the military, where did you go into the military and why did you go into the military?

DAVIS:   I was 16 years old on December 7, 1941.  They were all shocked, but in the months following that, and I’m running part 2.  We were, there were four of us in a car coming back from a _____ conference in eastern Pennsylvania back to my hometown in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania and we heard the announcement on the radio in the car.  The ironic part of that was that of the four of us, two of us went into the Navy, one went in the Air Corps, Army Air Corps and the other one in the Army.

Three survived.  The one in the Army Air Corps, Jack Tracy, was shot down over Romania in ’43, ’44, but from that point on, we were very enthusiastic about getting into the war.  So we formed a club.  We called ourselves the Devil Dog because at that time the movies were coming out showing the Marines were fighting and so on, the Battle of Bataan, whatever.

We formed a Devil Dog club because all four of us were destined to get into the Marines and fight the Japs in the Pacific.  I was the head of the group and our oldest member, Danny Sprowle went in in the summer of ’42.  He was later shot up quite a bit on Guam.  I was the next to go in the summer of ’43 and my friends, Cass Boyer and Bill Boyle followed me.  Boyle served in the United States Marine Corps at Barbers Point in Hawaii and Cass Boyer fought with the 4th Marines in Okinawa and here I was, I was the only guy that didn't get into the Marine Corps.

So I couldn't get in because at that time I had an overbite and the sergeants which I pestered to death – we had to go 35 miles to enlist and talk to the enlistment, recruitment man, but they wouldn't take me so I immediately joined the Navy.  As soon as I got out of school, my mother signed the papers and I went in the Navy.

The night we were getting on the train to go to Sampson, New York, which was where the boot camp was at that time for where I was sent, that Marine sergeant that I had pestered for many many weeks met me at the train.  He was kind enough to come down and he said, “Davis, if you had waited one more week, I would have gotten you in the Corps.”  But I was in the Navy by then.

So I started out that night getting on a train that night going to Sampson, New York.  The first bad thing that happened to me was someone stole my wallet before I even got to boot camp so by the time we got to boot camp and they collected all our clothing and threw Navy gear at us—and I’ll always remember the first haircut I had.  You had to pay for it and I didn't even have enough money to pay for my haircut.  Soon after that, we had our first pay and you know I had a couple of dollars.

INTERVIEWER:   Do you remember what you were being paid in those days?  Was it $21 a month or something like that?

DAVIS:   Was that what it was, $20?  I don’t remember.  I do remember that you got extra pay when you went overseas, overseas pay they called it, but I don’t recall what that was.  It wasn’t much especially at this particular time.  But boot camp was an interesting experience because you met guys from all over and you learned how to row a boat and you learned how to march.  Specifically you got shots and you got your uniform and learned how to wear it.

The main thing that you got, oh you got your serial number and your service number and then your dog tags.  A dog tag included your name, your branch of service, your serial number, your religious preference and the main thing was your blood type.  In those days, they drummed it into your head about your service number.  This is what you were classified as and to this day, I remember 8205957 and you went out for a muster and they had them all during the day and night to see if you remembered or not, you were specifically told to—they would call you out all hours of the day and night for special muster in which you had to stand forth and you would call out, “Davis, R.J., 8205957” (loudly) and you gave a rank at that time.

At that time we didn't have any because we were all seamen boot, but all through the service years, whenever you had muster, you stood forward and called out your name and serial number and your rank.  Boot camp was a great experience and they gave a lot of tests, aptitude tests and so forth.  I didn't care for any of that.  I wanted to go fight nips so I volunteered for sea duty. 

After boot camp, we went home for 10 days and then we came back and all my buddies started shipping out right and left going to various schools.  I still hadn’t heard anything so I volunteered for armed guard.  I volunteered for anything to get into the action (laughter).  I even took the test for a sonar school so I’d be in the bottom of the ship when we were looking for subs, but that didn't come forth either.

They knew what they were doing so sooner or later, I was shipped out.  The night I was shipped out, I had another great experience.  Usually the barracks were quiet preceding the hours up until lights out.  When lights were out, that’s when all hell broke loose and everybody had to talk or sing or whatever.  I was working waiting to be shipped out of boot camp.  They had me working in my favorite place, the scully, cleaning up the mess hall. 

On this particular night, I wanted to get some sleep because I knew I was leaving in the morning and I knew I was going to Staten Island, New York to receive a station there.  So these guys starting cutting up, making a lot of noise and whoever was in charge of the barracks, he called us all out and had the muster and stand forth and give your name and so forth.  He wanted to know who was making all this noise interrupting his sleep.  Well naturally nobody volunteered.  He said, “Alright, I’m going to pick out three guys.  You’re going to be punished.  You’re going to work in the bakery shop all night long”.

So this is about 9-10 o’clock at night.  He picked out one, two and three.  Of course, Davis was always in the way of that finger so I was number three.  So everybody else went back and went to sleep.  We went over and had to work in the bakery shop all night long.  Now on this particular night, they were making apricot pies and I’ll never forget that because I love apricot pie.  There’s one thing about apricot pie, the more you eat, the more it loosens you up.  So the next morning when we left after working all night and eating as many pies as I could, I had the runs all the way from Sampson, New York to Statten Island.

INTERVIEWER:   What time of the year was it? (laughter) Give me a date here?

DAVIS:   It was the summer of August, I guess of  ’43.  I had just finished high school in June.  While we were at Statten Island waiting for wherever we were going to go, there was a vast pier – Pier 11, Statten Island, Tompkinsville, New York.  We had all kind of seamen in there from Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, the United States and Russia.

If there’s anything you ever learned about foreign troops or foreign ships was that we had to clean the ship because they were the dirtiest, filthiest guys around.  But you had to learn to live with it.  It was a risky place anyway because they had thousands of people in there.  The bunks would go five, six, seven high.  Every other night, there was a murder out there because people would stab each other to get their money belt or your wallet.

That’s when I learned to use a money belt because you learned to sleep on your stomach with your money belt down because you could very easily end up with a knife in your back.  I learned then that I was to go aboard the USS Halsey Powell, a destroyer, which was out on a shakedown cruise at that time.

INTERVIEWER:   I’m sorry, the name of the ship was?

DAVIS:   Halsey Powell, yes sir.  While we I was waiting for that, you had various duties, being in scully most likely.  They came forth one day and pulled three of us out of there and he said, “I’m shipping you out to the port director’s office in New York.  We’re making you firemen instead of seamen and you will be henceforth transported over there.”

I said what about the Halsey Powell?  He said that the Halsey Powell was still on shakedown and they were going to reassign us.  Last year I talked to Captain Raymond Calhoun, Cal Calhoun who is a good friend of mine.  He’s a full captain, full stripes and he was captain of the USS Dewey in the Pacific and Cal had a lot of activity.  He’s written several books, but in one book he wrote about the typhoon of 1944 and I was in the typhoon of ’45.

He wrote about the Halsey Powell in there.  It was in his squadron.  I told him, “Cal, I was supposed to go aboard the Halsey Powell.”  He said, “Jack, you’re a very lucky man.  The Halsey Powell was lost.” 

INTERVIEWER:   In the typhoon? 

DAVIS:   No.

INTERVIEWER:   Enemy action?

DAVIS:   Yes and I said well the Lord really looks out on me.  But I went over to Pier 11 and we had sub chasers over there and small craft, 50-foot craft and we would go out and carry the pilots out to get the convoys going through New York harbor and out to the Nips.  It was good duty, but it sure wasn’t fighting the Nips.  I was an engineer, a diesel.  Each boat had an officer that they put aboard ship and a coxswain who was in charge and several seamen and one fireman, which looked after diesel engines.

So each day we’d go out and come back and finally D-Day, June 6, ’44, came around and here I was, still on small craft.  You know, I said I volunteered for sea duty and I wanted to do this and I wanted to that.  I said the only way I’m going to get out of here is to do something disastrous.  Along about that time, we were going out past the Statue of Liberty out in the narrows and I proceeded to cut off the seacock to the diesel engine.

Now the diesel engine is cooled by seawater.  So by proceeding to turn the seacock off, I blew the engine up and we had to be towed in and they told me I would probably get court-martialed.  But the old chief was a good guy.  He was Chief Tippy and he met me at the pier and he was just as red as could be.  He was as red in the face as the stripes on the flag and he said, “Davis, you get your sea bag packed and you be back here at 7 in the morning because you are shipped out.”

Well most people would have been upset, but I was very happy.  I was finally getting out of there so they sent me to Pier 92, which Pier 6 where we were stationed was on the East River right near Wall Street.   Now I’m sent to Pier 92 on the Hudson River and that was a disastrous place also because it was so bad, even Walter Winchell wrote about it and Damon Runyon who wrote for the Daily News.

It was a terrible place.  First of all, it stank.  It was right over the sewage water of the Hudson and that’s where the mess hall was.  They always put the mess hall over the messiest place anyway.  We had thousands of sailors there and again the bunks were five, six, seven, eight high.  The thing about Pier 92, they had a cruiser, an old cruiser from pre-War World I days tied up along Pier 92 and that’s where this captain who commanded Pier 92, that was his quarters.

He was very hard on anyone who went through there because he had two daughters and both of them were knocked up by sailors.  So he took it out on the sailors, but his wife was even worse.  This is what Walter Winchell wrote about – that you could be in your bunk or performing whatever duties or whatever you were doing and you would hear the shrill call of a boatswains pipe and you’d look down.  You’d have to jump out at attention when all hands was called or captain’s aboard.

You’d look out and it was his wife coming down the middle of the aisle of that pier with a boatswain’s mate beside her blowing the pipe.  You had to stand at attention for the captain’s wife, which was ridiculous.  Didn't stop it because when I left, they were still doing it. 

Another thing happened to me while I was at Pier 92 waiting to be formed into a crew.  We formed LST crew 962 there at Pier 92.  Each day they would take you outside the pier and they had a vast parking lot out there of all asphalt and they’d make you go out there and do calisthenics and so on.  Here again, we had a big boatswains mate or coxswain or somebody giving these calisthenics and if they didn't like the way you were performing, they kicked you out for special treatment again.

Here’s Davis, right in the row.  Well he didn't like the way I was doing pushups so I was made an example and he had to lay me down to do so many of this and so many of that.  Well that wasn’t too bad.  We were all laughing about it, but then he said, “Furthermore fireman whatever your name is, we have a softball team on this pier and we’re playing another ship today up in the outskirts of New York City and you are here destined to be our batboy and so your duty today starts now at 10:00 and will finish when this ballgame is over.”

Well you know, it was all right.  I went out and I was the batboy and thought I ought to be out there playing with these guys because they weren’t that good and I love softball.  But that was just something that happened to me.

Shortly thereafter, we were transferred to Little Creek, Virginia, Camp Bradford, for the formation of our crew, LST, and went through the various stages of preparing to go aboard ship. 

INTERVIEWER:   What year is this now?

DAVIS:   This is 1944 now.

INTERVIEWER:   And how old are you now?

DAVIS:   I’m 19.

INTERVIEWER:   Okay and how long had you been in the Navy at that time?

DAVIS:   I’m in a year at this point.  We went to, they transferred us to Quincy, Mass, where our ship was being built and they stationed us in the Fargo Building which was a receiving station on Sumner Street in Boston and Boston was a great city right down below South Station.  I learned to love Boston, had a good time there.  But here again, while we’re waiting to go aboard the ship, we were stationed in the Fargo Building receiving station and once again, I had my favorite occupation of working in the chow hall.

So I was serving whatever, vegetables or meat or something, and I looked down the line at the people who were coming up and lo and behold I spy that guy that made me do the calisthenics and made me the batboy.  So I spread the word.  I said, “We’ve got an SOB coming up and I don’t want to feed him, okay?”  And he’s a big guy.  He’s like Victor Mature, you know, all muscles and chest.

So when he got up to the line, he came through, I gave him like one meatball and the guy over here gave him one piece of asparagus (laughter) whatever and he started raising hell and he was yelling and going through the line.  They were pushing him and nobody was serving him, just small amounts.  He started pointed at me and so on and the chief cook who was at the bottom of the line and so on made everybody move along.

I think by the time he got up to the chief cook and he was raising so much hell that the guys passed the word that they were just trying to reciprocate for a real SOB.  So the chief understood.  So the guy goes on out and the chief tells him, “Well you know, these guys, they’re giving the standard allotment of food, but if you don’t think you’re fed right, you can go back through again” which he did.  And you know what?  We did the same thing all over again (laughter).  I really got back at him for what he did to me.

Anyway we commissioned our ship and left Quincy and went over to Boston to load up with fuel.  Then when you load up with fuel in the Navy, it’s usually done at sea with tankers and they pass the hose back and forth, but in this case, we were an LST hull, which had a large tank deck, and topside, which I’ll explain in a minute.  We were pulling into a pier to get our load of diesel fuel and we were green.  We were without a doubt, we always said, the most screwed up ship in the whole U.S. Navy.

We said many times when we ran into ships and so on in the Pacific that we were so screwed up that to win the war, the Japs really had to be screwed up worse than we were.  But to give you an example of what happened, we pulled in alongside this wooden pier and instead of tying up with buoys and so on, the sea detail drops the anchor and they dropped the anchor through a wooden pier.  Well everybody was going berserk.  They couldn’t get the anchor out.  They couldn’t load up with fuel.  They had to cut the chain and then we had to load up with fuel and go back to Quincy and get another anchor.  That was typical of what happened on our ship.

We left Quincy and we went to Jacksonville, Florida, to be converted to an ARL, which is what the Romulus was.  It was an ARL, we were number 22.  An ARL stands for amphibious repair line, had big booms put on the side of the ship and when we got into actual repair work, we could lift up the back end of an LST or a DE or LCI’s and so forth.  We had sea divers aboard because they would go down below and see how bad the shaft and screws have been and so on.

Then we would proceed to lift the aft up into the ship and do the repair work.  It was my duty at the time, I worked in the auxiliary engine room and I was in charge of the diesels.  When we put these booms to work and put these ships up and actually you lift up a big weight like that, your ship has a tendency to go over like this.  I was always scared to death that I could never keep those diesels lined up so that the power would stay fixed.  I was always afraid it would go over or the ship would tilt over, but luckily it never did.

We were converted to an ARL for this purpose and that’s what I wanted to talk a little bit about, about the ship.  The terms that we used aboard ship, you had the bow of the ship and of course you had the aft of the ship.  On the bow, you had the foc’sle, which is an old term from pre-Napoleonic War days.  Most of the terms that we still use in the Navy today came out of His Majesty’s Navy.  One of the terms that eventually was changed was as you stand midship looking forward, you have the right and the left, but you never use the word right and left in the Navy.  You use the term port or starboard. 

Prior to the Napoleonic Wars, the ships, the British ships used the word larboard for left and starboard for right, but with storms and wind and hail, the flapping of sails in those days prior to steam, starboard and larboard were very often undistinguishable so they had to change it.  Now it was a custom at that time that all officers in His Majesty’s Navy had to provide their own food and drink.  The men were paid standard fare, but if you were an officer, you had to bring your own furniture aboard if you were a captain and of course, food and drink.

The favorite drink for the men in those days was of course watered rum, which would fight scurvy.  The officers, their favorite drink was port wine and it was a standard custom in a ward room when officers were served port, that you went from right to left and so the term gradually changed around from starboard, from larboard to port and so today you still use port and starboard.

When you stand midship and look forward, you see the bow, you see the foc’sle.  If you look aft, you see the poop deck.  If you’re midship, which is where the ship would run from, you had your _____ tower, your bridge where the captain ran the ship from, the conning helmsman and in that area, you had officers’ quarters and the gyro compass, fire control apparatus and so on.

If you came down one deck, you were in officers’ country and on the same deck at the aft end of this bridge area, you had your galley, your cook’s area.  Your cook’s area was on the aft end of the island and you always proceeded from port to starboard to get your food.  Then you would come inside and pass the galley nets and proceed into what was called the mess hall.  

 You would eat your food in there.  Along with the mess hall in this area was the ship’s sickbay where they tended to injuries and so on.  Also in this area was the quartermaster’s area which he and the Navy called Jack of the Dust.  That was just a term.  It’s an old Navy term.  In the same area where the galley was, was of course, the scullery.  That’s the term that’s been long used.  Below that, immediately below that would be in the aft end of the ship is where the engineering force which was called the black gang from many years ago.

After ships used sails as their main energy force to proceed along came coal.  Then steam was introduced.  Then later on, particularly in our war, we used diesel fuel, but when the men went down below to fire the engines and to use this coal dust, they stayed black all the time so henceforth came the name the Black Gang.  So you were either in the black gang or you were a deck ape and that’s what we called the guys up on topside handling all the rigging and so forth.

In the engine room, which was down at the bottom of the ship next to the bilges, you had two main engines, which were diesels, and they of course powered the shaft.  The screws go forward.  Now the word is propeller, but in the Navy you use the word screws.  Immediately in front of the main engine was the auxiliary engine room, which is where I served.  You had three smaller diesels in here, which provided all the electricity and power to the ship.

You always kept two running at all times and only in severe cases would you ever use three which was what we were doing, repair work, lifting up ships and so forth.  Now it was always hot and especially when you got into the Pacific where the heat was intense anyway.  But once you proceeded from San Diego, which I’ll get to in a minute, and you proceeded to the South Pacific, you carried pontoons on the side of the ship.

These were huge 50’ long and maybe 25’ wide and about 8’ deep.  They were pontoons that when you dropped them for invasion purposes you proceeded to move them out of the bow doors.  Now an LST opened up like this and a ramp came down and you put these pontoons out in case you naturally didn't get to the beach and you were out in the water, say 100 yards, the LST which carried tanks and jeeps and trucks, they would proceed down the ramp and get onto the pontoons.

But before you actually got to use them, you had to carry them where you were going.  We were carrying them from San Diego to the western Pacific to Okinawa for the future invasion of Japan.  What happened is they would take these pontoons and weld them onto the side of the ship, which an LST, in our case an ARL, was only ¼ inch steel anyway and they welded it and put chains on it and carried these pontoons on the sides of the ship.

What happened though is when you’re in the engine room, you have air intakes up on topside of the deck to take fresh air down into the engine room to cool it off.  The exhaust fans were actually on the sides of the ship about 6’ above the water line so when you put pontoons on the side, the exhaust would come out in the pontoon, go up and come right back into the fresh air intake so the whole time you’re down there, you stay nauseated, sick from these fumes.

The only thing they would give you would be salt tablets.  So we’d take salt tablets.  They used to have a big jar right beside your fresh water, which you took salt tablets, but it didn't cure that smell, it didn't cure your stomach either.  Food wasn’t that good anyway because when we got into the Pacific, we were a 4th class fighting ship.  You had your carriers, your battle lines and your cruisers, your destroyers, on down the line.  They were 1st class, 2nd class.  But when you got to repair ships, we were down at the bottom.

So when our refrigerator ship, which was called a reefer, when a reefer came to re-supply you, we got generally what was left which turned out to be that famous old New Zealand mutton which was the worst food that was ever put out.  Still to this day, when I smell diesel, I get that memory right back again of days in the engine room.  But when I smell mutton, I get nauseated because it was God-awful stuff.

Before we got to San Diego and put on the pontoons to go across the pond, we were in convoy coming out of the canal and going in convoy and that’s where we picked up our famous name because generally in convoys at night as it got dark and the next morning approached, ships would spread out in convoys.  Some would even get lost.  In our case, we were like a magnet.  We didn't get lost.  We were banging into ships. 

We destroyed one ship and we used to have a saying.  After the war when we got to Japan, we said that the ARL-22 damaged more American ships than we did Japanese, but we would hit ships.  We tore the bow doors off of one.  Finally we got to San Diego, put the pontoons on.  While we were in San Diego, one of the guys in the black gang, Vic Robinson, fell in love.  This guy, he was a character anyway.  Every time we went on liberty, he drank a bottle of Aqua Velva aftershave cream.  So by the time he left ship, he was lit up.  If you put a match out in front of him, he’d blow at you.

But Robinson went into, found a bar in San Diego and fell in love and he was going to get married.  We were only there a couple of days.  The girl’s father was an old Navy vet.  Anyway they had this wedding and had this bar and they lived upstairs, had the party in the bar and proceeded upstairs and so on.  We were all 19 years of age, 20 years of age.  There weren’t any 20 year olds because what happened everybody got drunk and the shore patrol came in and arrested all of us because California had a law at that time that you couldn’t be saved drinks if you were less than 20 years of age.

So all the guys didn't get arrested, but about 10 of us did.  They took us and threw us in this brig in San Diego.  I’ll never forget that because what they did, you were behind bars, but they had wooden slats on the floor.  Just the frames were on there.  They had a hose on all the time and they ran this cold water under the slats.  You couldn’t stand up, you couldn’t lay down or you could lay down, but you couldn’t sit down so the only thing you could do is lay down on these slats.

Well by the time we were put in there and by the time they took us back to ship the next day, we were so stiff we could hardly move, inebriated too.  They took us back to the ship and I can always remember the shore patrol, this big guy.  He called the captain down.  This is an executive officer’s duty, but anyway, the captain came down with the exec and he said, “These men broke the law here in California and they’re inebriated and I want you to give them captain’s mast and some form of punishment, court martial whatever”. 

Captain told him he would do that.  Well we were in the 11th Naval District at that time which we proceeded leave port and go all the way to Hawaii.  It was at that time, never heard another word about it, but as we were approaching into Pearl Harbor, the captain told us that tomorrow we were going to have a captain’s mast and those men who were jailed in San Diego would be brought forth at that time.   So the next day, we proceeded up on the deck.  The captain was there sitting behind his desk.

Now he says, “Men, I want you to know something.  I don’t like to be told by shore patrol how to handle my crew.”  He said, “That why we didn't do anything in the 11th Naval District.  We’re in the 12th Naval District now.  Therefore I have this captain’s mast which I call to order and immediately dismiss because we’re out of the district and nothing goes on here regular so you men get back to duty.”  Well, that’s the kind of captain we had.  He was regular Navy and he was a good guy.

We proceeded on to Guam and went through the Marianas.  We had duty there transporting CB’s from Guam to Saipan.  Then we’d carry them from there, go over to Okinawa.  This is now into 1945 and as we got into Okinawa, it was there that the typhoon of ’45 came up and we were in that.  I can remember that they had 32 ships in our squadron that left to go down south and turn around and let the typhoon blow you back north towards Okinawa.

We took 32 ships out and we came back with 28 because the storm was so terrific that all the mines were tearing loose from their where they were stationed.  I remember rolling around and pitching back and forth.  You couldn’t eat for three or four days, but we had guys up on the foc’sle and midship with rifles shooting at mines because they were out loose.  I did see one troop ship go down which wasn’t actually a troop ship. 

They used to have these troop carriers.  They were like a big shoebox.  We used to have one down at UNCW on the river.  It had about four or five or six decks in there.  They were very unseaworthy, but you had to be pulled by a sea tug and the sea tug was actually pulling it out going south.  They were hit by a mine and of course were gone.

We turned around and when we ended with the typhoon, we were in South China Sea and so we had to come back east towards Okinawa.  What most people don’t understand is that those islands like Guam, Saipan, Tinian and so forth, they were huge islands.  They were beautiful islands, but if you look at a map, they’re just a dot, they’re tiny.  But Okinawa was even bigger than that, huge mountains, but they’re very, very beautiful.  As we pulled into where we were stationed to be anchored, we were right next to Ieshima, which was a little tiny speck of a place that had a knoll in it.

Ieshima became known because of the fierce battle and that’s where Ernie Pyle was killed.  We were tied up next to that.  One day I went out on deck and I looked over and I recognized a Navy tanker over there as being my uncle’s ship.  Now my Uncle Carlton was a graduate, Carlton G. Long, he was a graduate of the Naval Academy in the class of ’27 and went back into service immediately after Pearl Harbor Day and served aboard the Massachusetts, the Casablanca invasion of North Africa and then became captain of his own ship, he had four stripes.

I went to my engineering officer and told him that my Uncle Carlton’s ship was over there and could I blink a message across to him.

INTERVIEWER:   And what was your rank at that time?

DAVIS:   I was third class motor machinist mate.  And the officer said, “Davis, no, you’ve been in trouble again.”  I think I was in trouble this time for fighting which was a good pastime board ship because whenever your nerves got on each other, you took it out on each other too.  But anyway I was being punished.  Couldn’t go ashore anyway.  You couldn’t go anywhere.  He said that I couldn't do anything and I asked if I could appeal to the captain.

He said, “Yeah, we’ll go see the captain.”  So we took it up there.  He said, “Davis says his uncle is over there and could he send a message to him.”  I told him he had four stripes and the captain said, “Lieutenant Hills, I have 2-1/2 stripes and I’m not going to say no to a 4-striper, so let Davis send his message.”  So he did, he sent the message and he came back and said my uncle said I would like to have motor machinist mate Davis to come aboard my ship tonight to be served a meal with me.

So there we go.  We’d been living in dungarees.  Now you’re in the engine room, you don’t have any clean clothes.  I proceeded to find the best clothes I could find that were clean, dungarees.  My shoes were always oily, but I proceed to go down.  Here comes this boat alongside and we’re in Okinawa, okay?  The war has just ended, but these guys come over in white uniforms to pick me up.  Well they thought they were picking up a dignitary more or less.  But they pick up this kid in dirty dungarees and take him back aboard my uncle’s ship.

We proceeded down, they weren’t very happy about it either, proceeded down to his quarters where we had a nice evening meal and I still can remember the silver service set that the captain had and everything.  It was kind of a big deal for a little kid, but he was a good guy.  He said, “Jake”, and my nickname in the Navy days was Jake, “Would you like to go see, we have a new movie today, would you like to go see it?”

Well you were lucky to get a new movie anytime.  You’d try to find a ship that would swap with you, but normally you saw the same movie night after night, but we proceeded down.  The boatswain’s mate came up.  He started blowing his whistle, all hands, attention, the captain is aboard and so forth.  We proceed down through the guts of the ship down to their mess hall.  Their mess hall was huge.  It was a big ship.  They had this green curtain across the mess hall.  You couldn't see anything on the other side.  The screen was up above us.

When we got down there, the boatswain said, “Captain, are you ready?” and he said, “Yes, go ahead.”  So he blew all hands attention, henceforth, I could hear all the jeering and booing and the people standing all coming to attention.  We got the boatswain to open the curtain and my uncle pushed me out.  There up front of me was this vast array of officers all in khaki.  Then behind them hundreds of gobs.  They’re all standing at attention and here comes this kid in dirty dungarees (laughter). 

I didn't know what to do so I just snapped salute back and then my uncle came out and puts his hand around me and says, “This is motor machinist mate Davis from the Romulus so you make him welcome.”  Well that was something, I’ll tell ya, I was just, couldn't get over it.  Somebody asked me some time ago what was the movie.  I said, “Hell, I couldn't remember a movie in that case.  All I could remember was all these officers standing up saluting me.” (laughter)  How many guys in the United States Navy had that experience?  Not many.

Anyway after that, we proceeded to Japan and we were in pretty close to September.  The thing that most people seem to forget is that the war ended on September 2, 1945.  The invasion of Japan was scheduled for November 1 of that same year, less than 60 days.  Thousands and thousands of American GI’s would have been slaughtered because the invasion of Rauku and Honshu would have been disastrous and as we proceeded up to Tokyo Bay, it was nothing but a big rock.

It was all rock covered with green trees.  They had to stipulate where their gun placements were and they had these huge white banners, sheets.  I guess they were big pieces of canvas attached to the trees.  You could see where the gun placements were.  You could never see them from the air or the sea.  We proceeded up into Japan into Yokisuka into a place called Aguro Cave where we were set up to do repair work right next to a huge aircraft factory which had a lot of our planes, F4U’s, F4F’s and so on.  It was huge.  Outside they had a lot of their submarines.  The report was that the Japanese submarines were all gone.  They were all sunk, but they weren’t. 

They had 8 or 10 or 12 in this cove which was a submarine like we had never seen before because they were big and on the front end, the bow end up above the midship, the conning tower and so on, they had a huge circular container with a plank on it and what they did is they said they never had submarines like that, but we saw them.  We would go over and play on them.  You would take that front end of that container off and they had in there a plane.  The plane came out and unfolded its wings and they would catapult it off.

Later on I read in studying aspects of the war that they had planned to use these type submarines to go and bomb the Panama Canal.  They were planning to do that, but they obviously never did.  At the end of the war, though, they still had these submarines around.

Over in the aircraft factory, and this is a meatball that came out of the aircraft factory, secured that in the fall of ’45. 

INTERVIEWER:   Stretch it out.  You can see why you call it a meatball.

DAVIS:   That’s called a meatball.  Their battle flag was of course the rising sun and this is that flag which was outlawed with the end of the war.  Of course the meatball is their national flag now.  We got that out of that aircraft factory.  The first time I went ashore in Japan illegally, you weren’t supposed to go ashore, but we found a boat and rode over and went to this aircraft factory and went looking for things including geisha girls, which we found.

The first thing that I found was a sake bowl and very distinctly on it is the rising sun and the meatball which I just showed you.  That’s why that is very valuable to me at that time.  Also out of that aircraft factory came this banner that we found and I had this interpreted just a couple of years ago and what it says on there, these Japanese words were ocean and sea, type of plane, a boat, the sky and the organization.  What this person told me was very obviously, this Japanese served aboard an aircraft carrier and had some form of duty in setting off the planes into the sky.

INTERVIEWER:   What would you tell future generations?  What did you learn from wartime experience?

DAVIS:   I have another story to tell you.  I want to tell you about Christmas ’45.