World War II

Radio School, Charleston SC 

... The Japs attack Pearl Harbor

Bob Ross

Boot Camp was finally over. Graduation day was nice. There was a parade of all the "Boots", pictures were taken and we were given a leave, 14 days I think, don't remember, and a set of orders. I was heading to Radio School in Charleston SC.

Rode the street car from the Naval Base into Norfolk, rode the ferry to Portsmouth where I took the train to Albany, GA. I mentioned earlier how much the seabags weighed. I had to walk some distance from where the street car let me off to the Ferry. I would make a couple of blocks then have to stop and rest awhile. Finally made it to the ferry and the Train Station was just across the street from the Ferry landing.

Thank goodness Daddy picked me up when I got home, didn't have to struggle carrying the seabag. My girl was sitting in the swing when I got home. We hugged and kissed a bit, then went in. I was one happy sailor.

Naturally I wore my Uniform to show off. And naturally I didnt wear my hat squared. The book definition is, "Your hat must be worn squarely on your head, bottom edge horizontal." My hat stayed on the back of my head while at home. Visited school, the theater where I had worked part-time as projectionist, and with all my old friends who were still at home. Quite a few had joined one service or the other.  

Spent a lot of time at my girl's house, and, unfortunately, her mother didn't like the idea of my being in the Navy. When we went anywhere, I had to make sure she was home by 10 pm. Man, things have changed since I was a kid.

Finally my leave was up and I departed for Charleston SC. My girl said she loved me and cried when I left.

I don't remember too much about arriving in Charleston or how I got to the Naval Base. Checked in and was taken to a big red brick building where I spent 16 weeks.

The base was undergoing big changes. New piers were being built and buildings going up. There was a couple of destroyers tied up at the old piers. To get to the mess-hall we had to go over a wooden bridge that spanned a rice paddy field.

Radio School was easy as I knew Morse code. I had failed typing in school, and although we used a pencil at first, we had to type also as the speed got faster and you could not write it down. Typing is much easier than writing it down. After awhile, once we learned to type fairly well, the lights were turned off and you had to copy code in the dark. I had a few problems at first, but eventually learned the keyboard. We also learned to read blinking light and semaphore.
I wrote my girl a couple of times a week and she wrote me. Being young and in love is wonderful. I had an 8x10 photo of her on my locker door, together with a Varga girl drawing. Man, she was beautiful! ... My girl, I mean.

For Thanksgiving I hitchhiked home. The travelers were nice, picked me up and took me as far as they were going. Today I would not think of hitchhiking, nor would anyone stop for me if I were.

Spent most of my time with my girl, asked her to marry me, but she was still in school and didn't want to get married yet. She did tell me she loved me, and I settled for that.

Hitchhiked back to Charleston and a few days later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The students gathered around the radio and listened to President Roosevelt tell the country what had happened.

Things changed then. We were really being crammed. More time was spent in classes. Christmas leaves were cancelled. We were at war.....

The letters from my girl became sparse and not lovie-dovie like before. Do not remember exactly when, but I think it was February 1942 that I got my "Dear John" letter. She just said she had met and fallen in love with someone else.

Like all the others that got "Dear Johns", I was heart broken and cried.

I had 14 days leave when we graduated. Got orders to a ship, the USS Edward Rutledge (AP52), a troop transport, in Brooklyn NY. Went home, went to see my ex-girl friend. She wasn't home but her mother told me not to come back. I didn't, either.

Spent a few days in Albany then bussed to Atlanta to visit my Grandmother, then the train to New York. The Navy had a desk at Grand Central Station, and provided transportation to Brooklyn.

Checked in, and was assigned berthing with all the others waiting for the ship. After a few days, the arriving crew was assembled and told the ship was at Tampa, Florida and undergoing reconstruction. We would be in Brooklyn until the ship was ready to take us aboard. I was a seaman then, and did my share of sweeping, swabbing and work in the mess hall. I also hung around the Radio Shack to learn what I could. At that time security was kinda lax. Today no one gets in any Secure spaces if their name isn't on a list. Visited all the sights in and around NY, had a ball.

How long I was in Brooklyn I don't remember, but one day at muster we were told the ship was ready for us to board and would be leaving soon. We were piled into a couple of buses a week later, taken to one of the train stations and we were on our way to Florida....

So, for now, I'll cut off here. Stand by for the continuing story of my Naval career.

Reported to USS Edward Rutledge AP52

September 3,1999

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