We will pickup where we left off from the first episode. This second episode is about the Navy Days Life of Dad. My Dad is, Dr. L. J. Barnes, however in those days, I’m sure he had a different title and other status code(s). This episode will probably relate more to those who understand the military service terminology. However, still a fun read!
Did you miss the first episode? If so, click this link: https://lifeandbeautyafter60.com/is-life-hard-sometimes/
Navy Days Life -Sailor Experience!
After twelve grueling weeks of Boot Camp, I gained 14 pounds. How that happened on unseasoned food, I’ll never know. The only reason, that would makes sense, would be because I ate everything that was offered.
One day, a buddy and I were granted a week’s leave from the ship so, we decided to travel to his home in Akron, Ohio. I had the opportunity to drive his Daddy’s 1929 Packard Convertible while there. Then, we hitch-hiked to New York City. We caught a ride with a truck driver who was hauling new cars on the trailer. He let us sleep in one new car, all the way to New York City.
We went to the top of the Empire State Building, and looked over the city and Central Park. We met two waves (Women in the Navy) and had a great visit with them. Then, I boarded the train, with them, and was going to say goodbye, however, the doors quickly and automatically closed and locked, when it started rolling. I didn’t realize I couldn’t get off the train, until we reached the destination, which was somewhere in New Jersey. I really didn’t need to go to New Jersey.
My assignment to the VPMS4 Unit in Panama, came after returning to duty in Bainbridge, Maryland. The initials of VPMS4, made me think it was a Mine Sweeper#4. On my I was flight to Panama, in a Navy DC-4 Twin Engine Airplane. I had to pay $1 for the rental of a parachute, just in case! As soon as the plane landed, we were all marched into the infirmary, in order to receive additional vaccine injections. It was quite a change in temperature. We had tropical working hours, which was 7 A.M. to 1 P.M.
Later, I realized that VPMS4 initials, represented, “Medium Seaplane Squadron 4”, which was an Air-Sea Rescue Unit. The airplanes were PBM-5, and carried a crew of six. It had two Prat and Witney R-2800 Engines. They had a nose turret, a top deck turret, a tail turret and two waist gun positions. All had fifty caliber guns in them. My Battle Station as second radioman was the tail turret, as it took someone small to get into the turret position in the tail. Did I mention these planes were flying boats?
This video was embedded from this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0uAa1WH51U
Learning New Skills
I went to Radio School in the Squadron and as an air crewman, received on the job training. We did a lot of landing and taking off practicing with the PBM-5 air/watercraft. Every three months, we flew to Guantanamo, Cuba and stayed there for three months. We were constantly on call for any emergency.
I remember one particular open sea landing we made, to pick up a sailor that needed surgery. The water was really rough, as the waves were high and we bounced from crest to crest, until finally settling in a trough (low part of the wave).
Eventually, through testings, I made 3rd Class Petty Officer and I also made 1st Radioman of the Commanding Officer’s plane. The verbal name on the radio for that plane was “Prune Face#1”.
The word was out that a new rating was coming up and only radiomen and electricians or radar men could apply. Readily, I applied to the school training, and was accepted. As well as approved, after the completion of an investigation of my background by the FBI, (because the work was Top Secret).
To attend the primary classes, they flew me to Norfolk, VA. If you passed those classes, you could go to the next base camp, which was in Key West, Florida. Florida weather agreed with me, as being a native anyway, I enjoyed the climate.
A fenced in, well guarded school campus, would be my location for the next 3 months. After completing the class, I returned to Norfolk, VA. My assignment was then, a bunk in the Gunnery Division, on an Air-Craft Carrier, named the “USS Wright – CVL-49.
My Battle Station was Director of the Starboard 40MM Quad guns. Having never directed a 40MM Gun Tub before and I told the Chief In Charge, “I need to be qualified”. He responded, ” You will be, when we start shooting”. Hence, I became qualifed!
There are many things, I could tell you about happenings aboard ship and off board.
Marvin Bailey, my buddy, was looking through some pictures, he had on board. I saw a picture of a young, beautiful girl. I asked him, “Who’s that girl?” He said, she was his niece. In addition, I asked, if I could write to her and he said, ok, but to be careful of what I wrote.
This concludes the second episode of my Dad’s life journey.
Stay tuned for the next episode!
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