Fleet Headquarters was located outside of the main Navy Yard, across the Kamehameha Highway on the Makalapa Naval Reservation, about a mile and a quarter due east of the stricken USS ARIZONA. The two two-story office buildings which made up the headquarters complex were situated on a hill overlooking the Navy Yard. The westerly building, the one closest to the Navy Yard, was occupied by support staff and the easterly building was occupied by the senior staff. The senior offices were located in the basement of the east building as were the Electrical Shop and the emergency generator. Exiting the basement area was a wide tunnel that led gently downward for about a block where it intersected with a larger main tunnel We were told that if you turned left at the main tunnel it would take you to the Navy Yard, if right, up to Trippler Army Medical Center. (None of our guys ever ventured into the main tunnel.) The first hundred yards at our end of the feeder tunnel was occupied by temporary office space for overflow staff personnel.
Officer's quarters were in a residential area immediately to the south of headquarters and the enlisted barracks were down the hill and across Halawa Stream to the north, an easy two block walk. A little to the east of Headquarters was a large open air amphitheater where movies were shown every evening except during an occasional blackout.
Admiral Chester W. Nimitz was the Navy's only five star admiral. Admirals William F. Halsey and Raymond A. Spruance would take turns taking the same ships out to sea in different directions to fool the enemy into thinking that we had two large task forces instead of just one. When the fleets came in to Pearl Harbor for replenishment and to exchange senior staff, it generally was a twenty-four hour turn-around with all hands working hard to complete the job as quickly as possible.
I was assigned to COMSERFORPAC about 25 months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The location of the ARIZONA was cordoned off and the topside mess removed. I frequently visited Hickam Army Air Force Base, adjacent to the Navy Yard, and saw the bullet pock marks in the cement around the doorways to several barracks and my favorite mess hall where the Japanese had strafed the buildings. Also adjacent to the entrances were long bullet grooves in the concrete sidewalks leading up to the doorways. Apparently this damage was being left in place as a constant reminder to the troops that they had an unfinished task ahead of them.
As previously mentioned, a narrow gauge railroad ran within a hundred yards of the enlisted barracks. (I don't remember the gauge but I would guess between 2 ½ and 3 feet.) This facility was used during pineapple and sugar cane harvest time. The steam engine and cars appeared to be about half the size of standard gauge equipment. In fact, oldtimers said that when the engines looked as big as state-side engines, it was time to go home. During pineapple harvest time, as the train was struggling to get up a short grade, one sailor would climb aboard near the rear of the train and throw off about a dozen pineapples to waiting sailors hiding along the right of way. Sometimes we thought. the engineer slowed down on purpose because at other times the engine didn't seem to have any trouble with the hill.
A narrow gauge commuter train also ran from downtown Honolulu out to the Pearl Harbor Navy Yard paralleling the main highway. We heard that on December 7, 1941, Japanese planes also strafed the engine and passenger cars on the early Sunday morning run to the base and several civilian passengers were killed. Talking about civilians being killed, I visited the local newspaper's museum and saw some pretty graphic pictures and read articles about what happened downtown in the days after the December attack. Before martial law was declared, Chinese and Portugese civilians patrolled the streets in gangs looking for Japanese civilians. Not all the Japanese made it home.
In downtown Honolulu the main drag was King Street. That's the area where most sailors on a one-day liberty spent their time. Those of us that were stationed on Oahu would fan out to nicer areas and restaurants. My favorite was an Italian restaurant located a short bus ride from downtown at Kewalo Basin on the way to Waikiki, Felix' Florentine Gardens. The food was great and the restaurant reminded me of Verdi's restaurant on Oxford Avenue in Philly where Mary and I would go for a special occasion.
One weekend another Electricians Mate and I hitch-hiked out to Schofield Barracks to visit a buddy of his from back home who was in the Army Air Force. We were very conspicuous by being the only white uniforms in a sea of khaki. Monday morning we attended a briefing for a flight of Liberator Bomber crews who were leaving to go west. The briefing officer spotted us and said: "Oh, by the way, stay far away from our Navy ships, they shoot at anything that moves." When asked: "Why is that?", I replied:"Because we don't have time to look up the silhouette in our flash card file." After the laughter subsided, the briefer said the answer made sense things move fast out there.
About three quarters of a mile from Fleet Headquarters was a Navy metal dump that contained a lot of wrecked vehicles and airplanes. EM Jim Cusick and I spent many an hour there on our days off scrounging, particularly aluminum and clear plastic from the airplanes, parts of which went into handles on the Bowie knives we made from old metal files in the Electrical Shop. One day we found an abandoned Navy two-seat Cushman motor scooter in the pile. After we hauled it out we noticed that the tires were inflated and that it had a battery and gas in the tank. Jim said let's see if it starts, It did. We jumped aboard and tested the brakes. They worked. We proudly rode it back to Fleet Headquarters and parked it in one of the spots reserved for the Electrical Shop.
Eventually we got low on gas. I volunteered to drive it down the hill to the motorpool to gas up. I found the line to the gas pumps and after letting a Marine driving a big 6X6 know that I was in front of him (he said he could see my white hat), proceeded to the pumps where the attendant filled up the tank with a couple of gallons. I entered the Navy serial number stencilled on the side in the proper place on his clip board, signed my name and rank, and chugged off. Everyone used the scooter to run errands. When I left the Islands, the cushman was still an important part of the Electrical Shop resources. At inventory time, I sometimes wondered how they accounted for the presence of the mystery scooter.
Somewhere I came across the plans for a simple one-tube radio powered by a flash light battery with a jack for ear phones to listen to local commercial radio stations. Off to Honolulu to buy the tube and it's base. Back to the shop to fashion a chassis out of airplane aluminum, scrounge parts and wiring, then on to the barracks to rig up an antenna and presto, I could listen to H.James.
Many times we talked about how fortunate we all were to be stationed ashore out of harm's way. The Chief stressed that we were a service group whose main job was to keep the lights on and the Wheels happy. Supporting tasks included painting 25-watt light bulbs for black out areas, manufacturing black rubber night lights, repairing anything electrical, assisting the Pearl Harbor Electrical Shop on repairs and additions to the officer's Quarters, and other jobs as required.
PEARL HARBOR NOTES
Thursday, 6-1-44. EM 2/C effective today.
Tuesday, 6-6-44, 0600: D-Day in Normandy! I predict capitulation of Germany by 6-6-45 and Japan by 6-6-47. Liberty today. Celebrated by dinner at the Florentine Gardens.
Sunday, 6-11-44. Ammunition dump blew up killing 10.
Saturday, 6-17-44. While installing electrical receptacles in Admiral Halsey's quarters, met "Bill" and talked the electrical situation over. Swell guy.
Sunday, 6-18-44. Went swimming at Blow Hole Beach. Saw the Blow Hole in action.
Sunday, 6-25-44. Took an all-day Navy Special Services bus trip partway around the island of Oahu. From Aiea Barracks we went to Honolulu, then over the Koolau Range of mountains by way of the Pali to Kaneohe, then northwest along the coast past Kaneohe Bay, Kahama Bay, Lelani Bay and Waimea Bay. Somewhere along the way we stopped at a roadside stand for Cokes and fresh bananas and ate our lunch previously prepared by the cooks at Aiea Mess Hall. Past Halewia we turned southeast down the valley to schofield Barracks, on to Pearl City and back to Aiea Barracks. It seemed like all the cane and pineapple fields in the world were in this valley. I had no camera but did manage to buy several photos in a small drug store as a reminder of the trip.
END OF PEARL HARBOR NOTES
Sunday, October 15, 1944. I was called to the Personnel Office and a Yeoman handed me the folowing Deferred Naval Dispatch:
"FOR EDWARD BOWER EM2C 6510820 FATHER DIED 12 OCTOBER SIGNED AMERICAN RED CROSS".
My Chief said that I was eligible for Emergency Leave if I wanted to go home and I replied in the affirmative. He got me on the list for a flight back to the states with my seabag to be shipped by sea.
Thursday, October 19, 1944, 0315: Left Hickam Field for San Francisco on a C-54 hospital plane carrying a load of seriously wounded Marines back to the States for treatment. I believe they were injured in the Battle of Iwo Jima. The plane was equipped with double bunk beds and snap-down hard seats for the medical staff. I was the only outsider on board. Arrived at Hamilton Field near San Francisco that evening.
Friday, October 20, 1944. Because of bad weather I couldn't continue to hitch hike any further east by air. Not wanting to chance a long delay, I got a loan from the Red Cross ($90.00, payable $15.00 a month out of my pay) for train fare from San Francisco to Philadelphia and left that same day. I don't remember many details of that trip home but I do remember renting a pillow each night and waking up each morning with the up side of my face coal black and a white outline of my head on the pillow. I remember going around the Horseshoe Curve near Altoona, PA.
Tuesday, October 24, 1944. Thirty day Emergency Leave started.