Upon returning to Sampson, I received orders to report to the Naval Aviation Technical Training Center (NATTC) in Norman, Oklahoma. My train trip was uneventful except for my meeting a young Jewish girl who was returning to Chicago, her home, from a visit to N.Y. I enjoyed speaking to her as the ride would have been extremely boring. Incidentally, throughout my stay in the Navy, I wore my wedding band; thus, my association with members of the other gender was platonic. At her leaving me, she wished me luck and thanked me for conversing with her.
The first impression I received on arriving in Oklahoma was the lack of hills; the ground was extremely level and of a reddish color. Perhaps, this was due to the presence of oil in the ground. I was assigned to an upper bunk in one of the barracks and ordered to report to a Lt. King who was a supply officer in charge of procurement of all naval supplies. As I was a storekeeper, it was logical that I would be assigned to him.
After perusing my record and qualifications, he was pleased to have a CPA in his charge. He informed me that the base was losing a very large amount of oil drums that were assigned to the various hangars and departments. My task was to develop a system whereby these losses would be minimized. After a day or two of analyzing the problem, I came up with an idea that I thought would be the answer.
I requested two seamen, stencils, white paint, a log book and a truck. It is amazing that Lt. King never inquired as to why I needed these items, but complied with my request. One seaman was to spend his time in stenciling all drums as they arrived at the base with a number using the white paint so the number is easily read against the black drum. When a requisition is received by my office for several drums, the same seaman would enter the numbers of the drums and the name of the department or hangar making the requisition in the log book. The other seaman was the truck driver, delivering and picking up the drums. When the drums were returned to us, the first seaman would enter the date and time of return next to the original entry of delivery. The mystery of missing drums ceased and practically none were missing after this procedure went into effect.
Perhaps my superior, in an off‑hand conversation with other officers, related what I had accomplished; because, after two weeks of my stay at NATTC, I was transferred to a Lt. Jerry Spann who was running the Ships Service Center at the base. The center consisted of five ships service stores where you could buy all beverages‑including a low‑alcoholic beer‑, candy, ice cream, clothing, supplies, magazines, newspapers, etc. A large dry cleaning and laundry plant, barber shop for men, beauty parlor for women and a cobbler shop were also included in this center. All personnel in this department received extra pay in addition to their regular pay
Lt. Spann was also a supply officer and an accountant and needed another accountant, especially a CPA in his department. He was an exceptionally nice human being, handsome and married to a slightly older naval officer also stationed at the base. We hit it off immediately as friends and co‑workers even though he was my superior officer.
I was given the title of Controller of the NATTC Ships Service Center and, in that position, was responsible for the preparation of monthly financial statements which were signed by me and Lt. Spann. In addition, I was required to make rounds of all 5 stores every other night for 4 hours. There were three watches of 4 hours each from 8 p.m.‑8 a.m. To go from store to store we used motorbikes; I gave the name “Betsy” to mine. In the six months that I rode my bike, I only had one slight accident. On a rainy night, when the ground was slippery, I took a turn much too quickly and was thrown off the bike to one side while the bike proceeded to go in the other direction. Fortunately, I only suffered contusions and abrasions and no bone fractures.
I developed strong friendships with three individuals; Nick Wienschel, Al Watson and Sue Halliday. Nick was a lawyer and an executive with one of the leading retail merchandise establishments, i.e. Allied Stores, Federated Department Stores. He was married and lived in N.Y. City. Al Watson was an executive at Texaco in Sacramento, Cal. and extremely gregarious. He was divorced and since he was tall, handsome and loaded with personality, women‑including the married ones‑were quite willing to enjoy his favors. He always described his conquests to me in detail. I guess I enjoyed listening to him and getting a thrill vicariously. The Protestant chaplain was a young man married to a beautiful, vivacious young lady who worked in the office of the Center. The chaplain was an introvert and not exceptionally good looking; so the match was not made in heaven.
Al swooped down on his prey and completely had the innocent wife in his clutches before she even knew what hit her. There was no doubt in my mind that she was more than willing to satisfy her sexual desires with a man who oozed machismo. I could see her lascivious glances at Al whenever he was in her presence. They would enjoy their trysts in a nearby motel once or twice a week when her husband was on watch at the base. After the war, when I spoke to Al on the phone, he informed me that she divorced her husband a short time after their affair.
Sue Halliday was a WAVE (U.S.Navy enlisted woman) from Lexington, Kentucky. She was not very pretty, did not possess a svelte figure, was not an extravert but she had a great deal of character and gave her all in friendship. Of course she was immediately told of my being married ‑she saw my ring‑ but that fact did not deter her from enjoying my company and I hers. Our friendship flourished by the evening walks we took when I was not on watch. When Hilda visited me a few months after my arrival at the NAT7C, I introduced Sue to my wife and they hit it off immediately.
Sue had a close WAVE friend named Penny who was from Arkansas. When Hilda remarked that she was Jewish, Penny couldn’t hide her amazement by saying: “You are the first Jew that I ever met. I thought all Jews had horns.” Knowing Penny, I knew that her statement was not anti Semitic but the result of living all her life in the back woods of the Ozarks.
When Hilda arrived, I set her up in the Biltmore Hotel in Oklahoma City. She would take a bus that went specifically to the base and did this daily. One night we accepted an invitation from the rabbi of a congregation in Okla. City who was Orthodox. I can’t recall whether his pulpit was in an Orthodox or Conservative synagogue. We spent a very enjoyable evening with the Rabbi and his rebbitzen who were approximately in their late thirties. You can just imagine how I felt eating kosher Jewish meat after being in the Navy for approximately six months. Since Hilda had been with me for two weeks, she, too, missed eating meat.
One Saturday night, we decided to enjoy the local atmosphere by going to a “night club” near Norman. When we entered the saloon, we were taken aback by the element that frequented these places. It was a scene out of a western movie. All the men were half drunk, dressed in cowboy outfits while the women were only slightly more sober and similarly dressed.
The band consisted of two fiddlers and a piano player, whose repertoire was limited to the square dance and other such music. After three weeks, it was time for Hilda to leave and rejoin Kenny.
On Saturday nights and Sundays, I would frequent the local USO in Okla. City, usually with my friend Nick. These recreational facilities were established for military enlisted men throughout the world. Young ladies volunteered their services to dance and converse with the service men and WAACS (women soldiers) and WAVES also congregated there. On one of my visits, I was playing ping‑pong when a young, tall and very pretty WAAC asked if she could engage me in a game. Of course, I didn’t decline her offer.
After playing a few games, we danced and I learned that her name was Loretha Pounders, who lived in Okla. City and was presently on a two week furlough. She was a dress buyer for a dept. store and was looking forward to the end of the war when she would come to N.Y. to further her career. Although she knew of my marital status, she liked me and invited me to her home to meet her family. I enjoyed her company as she had a very vibrant personality and a happy disposition. When she had to return to her base, I accompanied her to the train station and we bid each other good‑bye. I received one or two letters from her after the war as I had given her my address to contact me, if and when she came to the big city.
While I was in Oklahoma, U.S. forces were making headway in defeating the enemy; on land, sea and in the air. The American ground forces launched an offensive, which drove the Japanese out of Guadalcanal by Nov. 10, 1943. This success opened the way for an attack on Truck Island, Japan’s major naval base in the south Pacific. Truck was the Japanese equivalent of Pearl Harbor and guarded the Pacific sea lanes to the Japanese mainland. A large force of marines launched a successful invasion of Tarawa atoll in the Gilbert Islands, which neutralized the effectiveness of Truck.
In early February 1944, Task Force 58 under Admiral Mitscher attacked Truck with an enormous force of eight carriers and six battleships. Warned by radio intelligence, the Japanese had withdrawn the majority of their heavy surface units immediately from the area. However, the Americans had a field day against the few light surface ships they found. In two days of raids, American aircraft destroyed most of the ground facilities and wiped out practically everything afloat; Truck was now out of the war.
In the Navy, an enlisted man was able to apply for a commission as an officer after 6 months of service. When I advised my superior, Lieut. Spann, that I was going to apply, he replied that he needed and wanted me to stay in my present position and would promote me to S/K 1 class, a jump of two rates; also, that I could remain in the States for the duration of the war.
However, the difference in naval life between being an officer and enlisted man was so great, that there was no doubt in my mind that I preferred the life of an officer even at the risk of going to sea and placing my life in jeopardy. In February 1944, I went before a board of four senior officers on the base, ranking from Lt. Comdr. and higher. Each of them had my service record before them and they interrogated me; primarily wanting to know why I wanted a commission. After about an hour or so, I was dismissed not knowing their decision. My friend, Nick Weinschel, and two others also appeared before the board immediately after me.
I was given a leave of 14 days to go home for the Passover holidays which were in the early part of April. On chal hamoed (intermediate days), I received a telegram from Lieut. Spann advising me that I was granted a commission on March 7 and was now an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. What surprised me was the fact that he signed the telegram “Jerry”; perhaps, now that I was a fellow officer, we could address each other by our first names.
After the holidays on April 14, I returned to Oklahoma to be sworn in as an Ensign in the Supply Corps of the U.S. Navy and to gather my personal effects to ship them home. Incidentally, the shipment was either lost or stolen since it never arrived at its destination. On the first day of my return, I walked out of the base in a sailor’s uniform, went to a store selling naval officer’s uniforms and returned to the base clothed as an Ensign. I can still remember the startled look on the face of the sailor guarding the gate who saw me an hour before in sailor’s garb and now returning as an officer and having to salute me. My friend Nick and the others did not receive a commission; later on in the war, I discovered the reason for Nick’s rejection.
On the next day, I was detached From NATTC and ordered to report to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, outside of Chicago, for temporary duty. I reported there on April 16 and detached a day later to begin a leave until the 28th when I was to report to the Naval SupplyCorps School at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Mass.
Wellesley College at this time was a school for girls only: it may have become co-educational later on. One of the buildings situated in a quadrangle of 4 buildings was occupied by the Navy to house the Supply Corps students. Almost the entire Corps consisted of midshipmen who would receive their commissions as Ensigns upon their completion of the five month course. I and three or four others were already Ensigns.
Our building faced two edifices across the quadrangle occupied by the girl students. Since almost all in the Corps were not married, the girls were thrilled with the opportunity to help in the war effort by being exceptionally cooperative in their social intercourse with their new guests. I use the term “intercourse” advisedly based upon the sexual conquests that were related to me. It is quite possible that many of these incidents were exaggerated due to the usual male braggadocio: however, I was witness to many liaisons that were quite real.
Many of the girls, knowing that our windows faced theirs, would dress and undress frequently without attempting to shield their nudity; thus granting a sexual charge to their young, hungry guests. The College had a large and exceptionally beautiful lake which was the site on Friday and Saturday nights for “skinny dipping”. Being a young married man with an overactive libido, I was tempted to join these escapades. However, I was able to restrain my “evil impulse” and stayed faithful to Hilda.
We attended classes every day except on Saturday or Sunday from 8 am to 3 pm. In the afternoon, we engaged in calisthenics, football and baseball games. On Saturday mornings, inspections of dress and rooms were held followed by an outdoor Corps assembly. At 11 am we were dismissed till 4 pm Sunday when we returned to our quarters.
While Wellesley was in session till the middle of June, I was not able to bring Hilda and Kenneth to live me. On Saturday afternoons I would visit them by going by train to Carroll Street in Brooklyn – where they were residing in my in-laws’ home – and return on Saturday afternoon.
On one weekend, for some reason, I did not go home and on Saturday night I decided to visit Boston which is close to Wellesley. Aimlessly, I entered the lobby of one of the better hotels – I believe it was the Copley Plaza – and just strolled around.
After a while, I was accosted by an Ensign who asked me if I had any plans for the evening; I told him that I had nothing in mind. He asked me to do him a favor by joining his party that consisted of his fiancé and a woman in her thirties who was without an escort. If I would escort her, we would all go to a night club for dinner and dance and I would be his guest. Firstly, I would never deny a request from a fellow Ensign and secondly, I liked the offer. After a very enjoyable evening, we returned to the hotel where they were all staying. After thanking him profusely for his generosity and thanking the lady for her company, I took my leave and departed for the railroad station to return to Wellesley.
Unfortunately, the last train going to Wellesley had already left and the station was full of military personnel sleeping on benches. I could not see myself sleeping on a bench so I decided to call my lady friend at the hotel and ask her if I could visit her in her room and stating that I would sleep on a chair or couch. She had lost her husband several months previously when his ship was sunk. Being a Navy wife, she couldn’t refuse me.
Arriving at her room, I thanked her, removed my coat and jacket and proceeded to go to sleep on an upholstered chair placing my legs on an ottoman. She had been asleep when I called and I felt awful that I awakened her. Since I had trouble falling asleep on a chair and she becoming aware of my discomfort, she suggested that I come to bed where I would be more comfortable. I undressed and joined her: neither one of us made any effort to become more intimate.
She told me that I would have to leave at 8 am since she was meeting the other couple for breakfast and didn’t want them to know that I spent the night with her. I immediately fell asleep and left her room in the morning being extremely grateful to her for her kindness. I sincerely hope that she met a nice man and remarried.