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Scribbles, Snippets, and Other Doggerel

Poetry and other writing and writing about writin

Cold Seas - Sunrise in the North Pacific

Terri Reinhart

It must have been cold.

YP-151 Aleutian Islands 1945 

In its civilian life, this was the ship "Sunrise", a tuna fishing boat from Seattle. It was 88' long and 22' wide. In its military life, it was the ship YP-151 and held 2 officers and 15 crewmen. It also had 2 anti-aircraft guns in the front and a 20 mm cannon on the back. 

Navigation was by the stars, the sextant, and the lead line.

James P. Myers, age 20, second in command and Chief Executive Officer on board the YP-151 on patrol around the Aleutian Islands in 1945.  Dad talked about his time in the Navy with pride and delight. I always had the impression his war time experience was more fun than fighting because whenever we would watch McHale's Navy on TV, he would laugh and say, "That was us!" He talked about his crew with affection and described all sorts of mischief they got into together. 

They had fun, sometimes at the expense of the base on land. Dad talked about helping his cook borrow a cooking pot, "We saw it sitting there and we each grabbed a handle and started running." They also borrowed a film projector which was, for some odd reason, never returned. Once, Dad granted shore leave to a sailor who was a couple of days late coming back.  When asked why, the man responded, "You told me I could go. You didn't tell me I had to come back." Dad laughed so hard, the sailor got off without any punishment at all.

Dad turned 21 while on board ship. Before this, if he wanted to drink at the officer's club, he'd have to ask someone else to buy it for him. He was too young. Their captain was 29.

Later on, of course, I learned more of the truth behind his experiences. They didn't often get close to their military enemy, but their biggest and scariest battles were against the ocean storms. He was second in command and he took good care of his men. Food has always been important to Dad. Not happy with the rations provided for them ("how could the men work on so little food?"), he would order more food than was allowed and then justify this order on paper by describing how barrels of food had been washed overboard. They ate well. 

Even after the war was over, Dad kept in touch with some of his crew. One man had a hard time finding work after the war. Eventually he became so depressed, he was suicidal. He wrote to Dad for advice. Dad told him, in no uncertain terms, he was not to waste his life. They wrote back and forth for some time. Tubby Tripe lived and went on to start a successful recording company. 

These were stories I heard any number of times when I was an adult. Even then, it was many years before I learned how the military was segregated during WWII. Most black soldiers were assigned to driving supply trucks or cooking food. Black officers rarely served as officers. Dad's ship was part of an experiment. He and the captain were white, the entire crew was black. There were only two ships with this arrangement, one on the east coast and their ship on the west. Dad didn't say much about this... he was too busy telling us about the various personalities of his crewmen and the adventures they had. 

Dad received his officer's training at the Midshipmen School at Columbia University in New York City. It was the largest of these schools in the country. Johnny Carson was one of his classmates.  No, they didn't know each other. 

He's promised to write down more of his adventures!