|Carving done by Claire Sahlman from a piece of Philippine mahogany. Shows the infamous dice which was later removed.|
Claire Sahlman's Recollections:
|1957: Let's go back a few months to the beginning at Boot Camp in San Diego, boot camp then was 16 weeks - later reduced to 12 and again to 8 weeks. The days before the massive build-up of the battalions during Vietnam with Direct Procurement Petty Officers and "Youth Opportunity Program" for rapid advancement of Officers. I went to BU "A" school in Port Hueneme. A fellow classmate was a Fleet Transfer Bo'sunmate 1st Class to Builder. He must have had a real hard time of it trying to be a BU1 with No prior training.|
1957-58 Philippines Deployment
| After school,
I joined MCB 11, my recollection was the deployment was 9 months. We went aboard USNS Barrett, coincidently the same ship that took Eleven on its maiden voyage
when commissioned in 1953, to the Philippines. I made BUCN out of BU "A" School,
was assigned to Bravo Co. I worked on Admin Road Guard Rails and Posts until
overcome with prickly heat rash. To this day, if out in the direct sun with
temps over 95, that rash gets re-stimulated!! I was assigned to the Central
Shops. One day SWC Nelson (once said he would never throw rocks at any kind
Olangopo for fear he might hit one of his "kids") came storming in, cussing and
damning, with a roll of wire in his hand. Said "if this is what I think it is,
I'm going to kill a Supply Clerk." Tested it out and his suppositions were
confirmed: it was silver solder. Supply had been using it for BAILING WIRE!!
One day in a frivolous mood, I made a standard requisition for "holes, post 8
inch diameter x 24 inches deep, 3000 each, delivered to Admin Road Project
site". BUC Smodgy fortunately appreciated the humor in it.
I went on a week R & R to Baguio, swear-to-God if you had closed your eyes during the trip and opened them only upon arrival, you would have thought you were in the High Sierras of California! No sign of jungle foliage, just cool breezes amidst pine trees. Also went on R & R to Hong Kong for about 5 days, I think. Worst part about it was we had to stand watches aboard ship during the trip and then after getting in Dress Whites, off-load the dependant luggage from ship to landing craft. Just before that I played Hearts with our group of about 12 from Eleven, for who would buy the first beer ashore. "Shot the Moon" on them, but never saw anyone ashore for those free beers!!
We lived in SEAHUTS - wood framed, sides and flooring. What with the heat, humidity and nearly constant rain, couldn't tell if you had dried off or not after a shower. About mid deployment I got a "cake" from home. Couldn't figure why it was green (as for St. Patrick's Day), but shaped like a h eart (as for Valentine's Day). The green turned out to be just mold from the long ship ride, probably below decks, too. One time on mid-watch - we had a dozer somewhere out in the jungle, no lights, except for the pleasure of the moon (fortunate to have at least a half moon that night). Upon arrival, I put my "Night Rats" on the the dozer tracks and made a trip around the perimeter. When I got back to the dozer, my "night Rats" were GONE!!! I didn't see or hear anything, needless to say I didn't have any trouble keeping awake that night. I am sure the whole country knew we didn't have ammo for the weapon we carried. Speaking of Watches - for the first 3 months when I had the Duty, it wasn't a matter of "did I have a Watch" it was "what Watch did I have". And it never was the first watch - mostly the mid watch. So one night I figured they really must have made a horrendous mistake - NO WATCH AT ALL!! I was so shocked, asked two buddies to check it out, both confirmed "no watch". AAHHHAH, but after days work was done, "this man Sahlman reports to MAA Shack". CMAA BUC Shuman, a man whose "hard-as-nails - SOB" reputation proceeded him, wanted to know why such a "squared-away Bluejacket" didn't stand his watch. Was dumb-founded. Told him the foregoing tale. But he showed me the watch list and of course, there was my name in the Mid-Watch section. Said he believed me and that he thought I deserved another chance. He handled the situation then and there, no referral to Co. discipline nor write-up. No one ever bad-mouthed the Chief in my presence after that. So ends the adventures of a young Seabee in the Philippines.
1958-59 Guam Deployment
| I was still assigned to
Bravo Co. Worked as cut-out crew leader in the Central Shops. We made
kitchen cabinets for 600 family housing units. BUC Smogy set up an efficient
bunch of cut-out, assembly and finishing crews for the cabinetry. The Cruise
Book shows a display of a typical completed kitchen layout. I learned later
when the Island was hit by Typhoon that the Family Housing (built by the
SEABEES, of course) was one of the few structures not seriously damaged.
I went with ENS Paradies and 21 other enlisted on Detachment CHICHI JIMA, part of the Bonin Island chain, including HAHA and IOWA JIMA. The island is actually the tip of a volcano, leaving a ring of land with a small section missing where small ships and seaplanes can pass. We went there aboard an LST from Guam with stops at Inian and Saipan. I will never forget that constant four-point roll of the "pit". It really wasn't a roll as much as it was a four-cornered jerky stop. Continuously---day and night. We took a 40D crane, pile-driving equipment and a 16S concrete mixer from the Battalion "Tinker Toy" AKA: Airlift Eqpt. assets. The ship's Bos'n nearly dropped the crane over the side at Saipan when he tried to off-load supplies. Boomed down way to far for the size of the load. That's when our EO1 took charge in a hurry!!
At CHICHI JIMA, we made pre-cast concrete panels and placed them on steel piles under water to extend the seaplane ramp, placed timber piling to make a quaywall and capped it with concrete and placed fender piling. Where did we get the concrete, you ask?? From the "Det Ready Mix Company", of course. That's right the 16S mixer. Worked three crew in continuous shifts to make a monolithic pour! That was the last of our work and we were ready to go home. The Island station personnel gave us a nice farewell party. We departed by seaplane, the water area within the island circle wasn't large enough for our first attempt at take-off. The pilot said "you Seabees carry too much SCHTUFF" - or words to that effect. We circled back and put off JATOs. When those babies kicked in we knew we were heading home.
CHICHI JIMA was a nice, quiet little Island paradise. The food was fantastic and the families of the permanent personnel threw a "Theme" dinner once a week: Spanish, Italian, Hawaiian, etc. BU1 Moa from Samoa really was in his element.
Whilst in Guam, I proposed to my One-and-Only Phoebie.
1959-60 Okinawa Deployment
| Tests for BU2 were scheduled
during homeport, the time I was to be at home for our wedding. I made
arrangements to have the test forwarded to Treasure Island, but got there an
hour and half late for a three hour exam. I convinced the proctor He had
nothing to loose by letting me take the exam. I made BUL2 during deployment
The Friday I left to get married, the OPs Chief casually informed me I was going to BU "C" school starting Monday! Only BUL3 in a group of Chiefs. So much for the honeymoon plans!!!!! At the end of BU "C" Planning & Estimating School I went on the Advanced Party to Okinawa. The Phoebie and I are trying to make-up for that first missed honeymoon--maybe it was a blessing in disguise.
I tried to pull a prank on the Safety Officer by including a bogus "award" in with a sack of Safety Letters of Commendation. Substituted a negative/derogatory word for every positive/commendable adjective. The sentencing structure, paragraph sizes, format etc. all was exactly the same. BUT NO!! Ltjg Russell P. Nystedt wasn't fooled at all - but fortunately had a good sense of humor about it. Sometime later he casually asked a few personal questions about my thoughts on the military service and what were my plans for the future - which just coincidentally happened to be the same questions asked by my OSC Section Review Board. Bet thing I ever did on that application was indicate "CEC or nothing". With the action response time on that application unknown, volunteered for a Classified Assignment before Deployment completion.
Eagle carved by Claire