Life’s Lessons Learned
The Chronicles of Harold
Korean Years, First Tour
Arrival at Port of Embarkation
After a long and tedious bus trip across the upper states, I arrived in Seattle, Washington five days after I left home again. We were picked up at the bus station and taken to Fort Lewis Washington Overseas Reception Station. This was in late February and while going through my records, I was pulled from shipment because orders stated that you could not be shipped out of the United States prior to your eighteenth birthday and I would not be eighteen for another two weeks on the fourteenth of March. I had to spend two miserable weeks in the replacement depot trying my best to avoid work, broke, with nothing to do and not able to stay in the barracks or get caught up for a work detail.
One enterprising old corporal told me to get a clipboard with some paper and go around drawing pictures of the barracks and counting the windows, doors, etc and no one would bother me. Strangely enough, this worked. I was only question once and that was to ask how many of the buildings I had documented and told I had forgotten to document the coal pits which I sincerely thanked the Captain for and went back to document the coal pits. It wasn’t bad except every day at around three pm, the rains came in and then again at five pm, the gulls came in and made things miserable, diving at you and crapping all over everything. The USNS Gen Edwin D. Patrick was going to depart on the thirteenth, but would not leave coastal waters until the fourteenth.
I was asked if this would be a problem with me to board early and depart then, with the understanding I would not depart until my birthday on the fourteenth. I told them that I was not the one who had protested and would have gladly went on the earlier shipment and have been there by now. They acted surprised and I told them some clerk in the RTS branch was the one who had put the hold on me since he was following regulations. This caused the Captain to mutter and then to tell me he was sorry for the delay and it was not my fault and to think nothing of it.
We boarded the ship and were assigned berthing spaces and during the night, the Patrick proceeded south to San Francisco and it was quite a sight to come in under the Golden Gate Bridge. We docked at Oakland Army Terminal to load four pieces of equipment and the Red Cross donut dollies patiently waited for us to disembark complete with their welcome home signs. Someone finally told them we were outbound to the Far East and they left. It took a couple of hours and then we left again sailing out under the Golden Gate for my last sight of the USA for sixteenth months at least.
The Patrick was a good solid, stable ship that for some reason, even though it was built during WWII as an ATP, Army Transport Ship, had wooden decks, the only such transport built back then and it was rumored it was to have been used to transport senior officers and dependants, but I never believed it. I thought it was a shortage of steel and the availability of a large quantity of timber on the West Coast.
We proceeded across the wide Pacific and talk about vast empty space! I don’t know yet today how the Navy copes with such boredom. After eleven days, we docked in Okinawa and were allowed overnight liberty after being bused to Kadena AFB. We took in the sights with a guided tour given by the Navy in lowboy trailers fitted with seats behind semi trucks. It was boring even though I had a brother-in-law involved in the invasion during WWII who had told me constant stories about it.
After the almost mandatory swim in Buckner Bay (It was named after a general killed during the invasion.) and the Army was encouraged to take advantage of the recreation facilities therein, which consisted of a couple of barges we could dive and swim from. That part was beautiful; since you could see the bottom the water was so clear. They later told us they had recovered all of the human remains out of the shallow waters that could be recovered, and had finally cut up and hauled off the last of the sunken ships, landing craft and other equipment lost overboard during the invasion since the kamikaze aircraft had been particularly vicious during the Okinawa campaign and sank many of our craft including the one my brother-in-law had been on. Another three days put us into Yokohama, Japan for another overnighter while they unloaded the stuff they put on at Oakland and then we left during the night after the Japanese longshoreman had spent the day repainting the exterior of the ship and arrived at Inchon, Korea a day and a half later.
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