The flight from Travis Air Force Base, north of San Francisco, Ca, to Guam followed the great circle route which took us near Alaska to Hawaii where we refueled then on to Guam. I believe we may also have touched down at Wake Island. The total flight time was 27 hours leaving in winter conditions in San Francisco and arriving at Guam in tropical conditions! We were in Dress Blues which were not appropriate on Guam at any time of the year.
Box lunches were provided several times during the flight. The seats on the plane were fold down stretchers along the sides of the compartment with web backs to lean back against. It was a long and uncomfortable ride ending with stepping out of the plane into the sweltering heat of Guam dressed for winter.
Naval Communications Station, Guam was a major hub for communications throughout the Pacific. The war in Korea had ended not long before so the communications links were concerned with maintaining readiness in the Pacific instead of fighting a war. The base consisted of the operations buildings, barracks, mess hall, Navy Exchange, commissary, officer housing and enlisted housing as well as misc. buildings for clubs and recreation. The majority of the acreage of the base was devoted to powerful antennas. Most of the antenna were rhombic antenna which had a phenomenal signal to noise ratio. These were huge diamond shaped antenna oriented to the specific station with which they were to communicate.
Naval Communications Station Guam, Mariana Islands
January 1957 to January 1959
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During the time I was waiting for Carolyn to arrive one of the main recreations available was swimming at the NavComSta beach. The beaches were shallow out to the reef which encircled the Island. The water could be no deeper than about waist high and the distance out to the reef possibly 200 to 300 yards or more at some beaches. From the reef on out the bottom dropped very sharply into the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of any ocean on earth.
Favorite among the activities available was snorkeling among the coral in the shallows looking for collectable shells. It was possible to just reach down and pick them up without leaving the surface. Several times I found myself boxed in by coral and would begin to feel the beginnings of panic when it would dawn on me, all I had to do was stand up and step over the coral boxing me in!
The watch schedule was called "three, three and three" but probably should have been called, "three, three, three and three". It was a strange arrangement which began with three "Eve" watches of 1600 to 2400 followed by 24 hours off. Then there were three "Mid" watches from 2400 to 0800 watches followed by 24 hours off. Then three "Day" watches from 0800 to 1600 followed by 72 hours off. It seemed like I was almost always off duty! I would not sleep going into my first Mid watch or coming off my last Mid watch. That meant I worked 9 eight hour watches out of 14 days! Since I was off all day before Eve and Mid watches meant I only worked during the day three days out of every 14. It was a very family life and recreational activity friendly routine. Of course, the three Mid watches were rough, especially the last of the three. There were times I would trudge up the steps to the penthouse to record readings of the microwave equipment and barely make it up to the penthouse. It was all I could do to keep from sitting on the steps and falling asleep!
With that watch setup we made good use of the beaches. One in particular that we frequented was Jones Beach. Nice of them to name the beach for me doncha think. We often spent much of a day at the beach. It was very much an exotic life on a south sea island. Guam is north of the equator so it isn't really a "South Sea" island but very much a tropical island. We enjoyed it so much that I extended my tour on Guam.
One truly enjoyable experience was a trip to "Shells of Micronesia" in Agana late in the day to experience the local flavor of the net fishermen in the shallows with the setting sun behind them and listening to the island music. I can never hear "Red Sails in the Sunset" without experiencing a little of that feeling.
Another strange experience was movies on the base. The "theater" was benches in the open in front of the screen with the projector in a small booth in the back. Uniform of the day for the movie was swim suit and flip flops with a raincoat. It was not at all unusual to end up sitting in the rain watching the movie.
Our first daughter was born on Guam. Carolyn went into labor while we were watching a movie. We were sitting in the first row for easy departure if necessary. It was necessary and we made the long trip to Agana and the Naval Hospital in the trusty old car. On arrival they checked her and informed us that she was not dilated enough. They advised us to walk around the parking lot until the contractions were closer. We got plenty of exercise and she was finally checked into the hospital. I joined the room of waiting fathers. Eventually Vickie made her appearance and joined the room full of babies in the nursery. That same night there was another baby born to a young mother who had gone over a month overdue! They finally forced the issue and the result was a baby boy who was over 15 pounds! All the babies in the nursery looked red and wrinkled except for this big boy who looked like he should be in school!
I never took Vickie out into the bays of the beaches but we would go to the Navy Recreation Facility at the main base facility in Agana. There was a pontoon anchored off the beach and a Life Guard on duty there.
Carolyn would swim out to the pontoon then I would swim to the pontoon with Vickie on my shoulder while using the side stroke. While doing that one time Vickie wiggled enough for me to lose my grip on her and she fell off my shoulder. I immediately dove to get her and with the clear water could see clearly all around and to the bottom but couldn't find her. I surfaced to get some air and dive again and found her bobbing along on the top of the water! The Life Guard on the float had reacted to the incident and was ready to dive in and rescue Vickie when he saw her floating merrily along and didn't dive. I gathered her up and continued to the float.
We were told that, at her age, "swimming" is often a natural reflex and it is a good time to teach them to swim. She was less than six months old at the time! We considered entering her into a swim class for babies but I was transferred before we could do it.
Typhoons are a fact of life for Pacific islands. We experienced a few during my tour on Guam. The routine was that Public Works would go through the housing areas and board up the windows. The windows were inset with deep protection all around them. The windows were screens with louvers. With the louvers closed moderate winds and rain were kept out but a typhoon was something else. Then, during the actual danger period all military personnel were at General Quarters (at their duty stations) and the families were confined to their quarters, shuttered and shut down... for the duration. Several required three days of such conditions.
With everyone in their duty stations things were kinda crowded. We ate C Rations from WWII and slept wherever we could find a spot of deck or work bench free for the taking. Chess boards and pieces were fabricated from paper and such things as nuts and bolts etc. Card games were going all the time. We were inside of a building without windows and time of day soon came to hold no meaning. I preferred to work in the main area of the switch board and with the crypto machines just for something to do and would work on and on. Of course, there were more than enough hands available so work for long hours was not onerous and having something to do made the time pass more quickly.
Amusing incidents did happen from time to time. Now and again a wife would call her husband complaining that a shrew was in the house and he had to come home right away and get rid of it. Of course, nobody was allowed to go home until the All Clear was given.
During one typhoon I went to the penthouse and out onto the roof during the worst of the storm. I stood in the lee of the penthouse and watched as large things were blown all over the place like pieces of paper.
After the storm was over most of the car ignitions were soaked and the cars wouldn't start. My old clunker was one of the few that started up right away.
I worked on an electronic crypto system and when I was on watch was able to troubleshoot and repair the equipment without help. The other watchstanders who worked on the same equipment were Chief Radiomen who had been to the school for the equipment. However, they frequently called someone in to help them when they had a problem. They had been crypto repairmen, working on the mechanical crypto equipment. I requested the school and was turned down because I had not been to school on crypto equipment and that was prerequisite for the school.
I still have a ton of messages and letters sent by my Division Officer and Department Head trying to get me the school. The reason I wanted the school so badly was that it would lock me into shore duty and I was just starting a young family. In spite of the flurry of correspondence I did not get orders to the school regardless of the fact that I was already able to repair it without the school.
After transfer to my next duty station at Hunter's Point, CA I ran across a Radioman I served with on Guam and he asked me about the school. I told him I never got orders to the school. He said that after I left Guam orders finally came for me to go to the school. I'm glad I didn't get them since that would have set me on an entirely different track in my career and I would not have been as likely to apply for or been accepted into the LDO program which led to my career as an Officer.
Guam was a good experience for us. When I was transferred we returned to San Francisco on a Navy Transport. I was an ET2 at the time and rated the smallest possible stateroom. Vickie was six months old and in a crib. Once the crib was wedged into the stateroom there was virtually no room left to move around. There were bunk beds and the crib. The bath was barely big enough to get into. Later, I would have a cramped bunk on the USS Teaberry AN-34 and like on the Transport, if I wanted to change expression I had to step out into the passageway!
Carolyn traveled to Guam aboard the USNS Barrett T-AP-196 and we returned to the States aboard the very same vessel. On the trip home from Guam we not only were now two... we were three! Vickie was about six months old at the time. Being a Second Class ET (E-4) and did not rate a very posh cabin. we were provided a crib for Vickie but once it was wedged in between the bunks and the bulkhead there was literally no room left over. There was a extremely small bathroom and baely enough room to just stand up by the foot of the bunks. We had to step out into the passageway to change expressions!
Of course, we used the nursery aboard ship which was run by a Navy Chaplain, Chaplain Bott. I would later serve with Chaplain Bott aboard the USS Everglades AD-24 and run into him in the Philippines where he christened both my boys from my second marriage. Small world, the Navy Community!
All vehicles had to have special filtering circuits installed on the engin to reduce interference noise' being generated by the ignition circuits. Anyone desiring a vehicle would buy one from someone leaving. Very few vehicles were brought to Guam by service members. The car I had on Guam was one such vehicle handed down from an endless succession of owners and as might be expected, had many problems. It had such low power that to go up one hill on the island it was necessary to back up it as it was more powerful backing than going ahead. In general, though, low power was not a problem since the speed limit was 15 MPH over much of the island and only 25 MPH along Marine Drive, the main highway on the island. A couple of years driving at those speeds with light traffic would prove problematic when I returned to San Francisco and Freeway traffic at 70 MPH or more and extremely heavy traffic.
When I first arrived on Guam I applied for base housing and was informed it would be about 6 months before my name would come up for housing. I went to Agana, the capital of Guam, and rented a Quonset hut for us to live in. I had to have housing available before Carolyn could be cleared to travel to Guam. She began her trip to join me and arrived by ship some time later. But, before she got to Guam my name rose to the top of the housing list and I had base housing by the time she arrived. When I picked her up I told her I needed to go by the base first before taking her to the Quonset hut I had rented. Then, I parked in front of our base housing unit and told her we were "Home"! She got so excited that she fell and skinned her knee.
My work was behind the "Green" door in the Operations Building. That was the hub of all circuits coming in or going out of the building. It consisted of a room full of switch boards, crypto equipment and connection boards which provided the means of connecting circuits and equipment. There was a cipher lock, one of the early uses of that kind of access control, guarding the "Green" door. Many years later one of my men and I designed and built a cipher lock for use on the door to the Radio Shack on the USS Everglades AD-24.
There was UHF equipment in a penthouse on top of the Operations Building which fell under our care. The Mid Watch was responsible for the long trip up the stairs to the penthouse and recording the meter readings on all of the UHF equipment.
Weather on Guam was strange indeed! The Base Exchange was a reasonable walk from the main collection of base facilities. There were times one could begin the walk to the Exchange and part way there be soaked by a downpour of water from perfectly clear skies and arrive at the Exchange completely dry again. The rain was precipitation which started from extremely high clouds as sleet or snow but by the time if fell on the luckless walker the clouds had dissipated or moved on.
Returning to CONUS aboard the USNS Barrett and leave in Columbus, GA we traveled back across the country to report to my duty station for the next nine months...