My Father, Frank Padden Served in the Navy from 1944 to late 1946.
This is an excerpt from his journal. I'm sure that many others had similar experiences.
My Mother, my Sisters and I know that he would be willing to share this with you.
Born and raised in New England, the middle of 5 children. My parents were teetotalers and disciplinarians.
Remember when World War 2 started when I was in high school. I really didn't give it too much thought in the beginning for thought it would not affect me & be over before I graduated.
It wasn't, & I had to make a choice for I knew I would be drafted when I was 18 and I didn't want to go into the army. So, at 17 with my fathers prodding, I joined the Navy & here again the impulsive personality took over. I remember going for my physical & passing it, being sworn in, & then the group of us were told that they needed a few volunteers to go that same day in order to fill a quota. So of course without realizing what I was doing I volunteered.
Managed to get home for a few hours to say my goodbyes & it still hadn't dawned on me what I had done.
Remember taking a train to the old Penn station in N.Y. & spending the night on old wooden benches in the station trying to sleep waiting for morning & the train to take us to boot camp in Sampson NY up around lake Geneva.
Then the panic & the fear started to set in - What had I done, I was trapped & couldn’t get out of it. Found that some of the others felt the same way I did so I managed to survive it. Boot camp wasn't too bad, because everyone else was in the same boat.
After boot camp I was immediately assigned to a ship on the west coast.
Went to the west coast by train & enjoyed that, for it was something different and was seeing new places. My ship was stationed in San Francisco for a few months while it was being outfitted for sea.
Until we were ready for sea we had the option of sleeping on board or in large dormitories on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. Never slept on board during this period, for I was still afraid to mix, in with others - didn't know how to.
Finally, ready for sea & I had to move on board. Remember being assigned to a small compartment containing about 40 bunks & I would most times stay up late at night on deck looking out at the water & going to my bunk after everyone else was asleep.
Didn't get of know anyone even though they tried many times to draw me out. We went from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and had an overnite pass for out first liberty.
Remember staying on board ship for quite a while waiting for everyone else to go ashore, so I could be alone.
Didn't know how big the Navy Yard was & spent over an hour in line waiting for a bus to Honolulu & some of my shipmates, were in line & insisted that I go with them.
l was too chicken to say no, for I didn't have any excuse. I had my first cigarette on the bus because I was afraid to say no I didn't smoke. The bus ride was one of the longest rides of my life.
Of course when we arrived in Honolulu they headed for the nearest gin mill & again I was afraid to say no when they asked me to go.
Will never forget having my first beer, hating the taste, and afraid that I was going to be sick. Had a few more & something wonderful happened I started to feel good. I could talk, joke & laugh like everyone else.
I remember thinking this is great, never felt like this before - no fears just fun. I FELT LIKE A HUMAN BEING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. Wow: this is what it was all about. Of course I got drunk, don't remember getting back to the ship - but remember waking up as sick as a dog & vowing that I would never do it again. This became a regular pattern every time I had shore leave.
By now I had people I could talk to & I really liked the Navy. Whenever we could we used to ferment raisins, add medicinal alcohol & let it sit for a few days then strain it thru a piece of cloth to get rid of the impurities (we thought) didn't take much to get drunk & the blinding headaches the next day seemed to be worth it at the time.
I can't recall one time in my three years in the navy of going ashore & not getting drunk. Can't honestly recall ever once getting back to the ship sober.
Shortly before WW 2 ended I Was transferred to duty at Pearl Harbor. V-J day we cleaned out a few Gl cans & hauled them up to the roof by rope for the ships in the harbor were going to shoot off incendiary bullets that night to celebrate.
Don't remember seeing the tracers going thru the air. The same rope that we used to haul the Gl cans were used to lower myself and others down.
The barracks were two stories high & I had a top bunk on the second floor. Outside walls. were screening only & apparently I had to go to the head during the nite - I woke up the next morning sleeping on the grass for apparently I had just stepped out of my bunk & right thru the screen.
I would never have believed this only the proof was there for there was a gaping hole in the screening right alongside my bunk. Hangover or not I was forced to repair it that day.
Remember waking up quite often covered with red welts on my face, arms & legs and one day asking some of my buddies if they knew how I got them & they just laughed & said that how did I think I got back on ship - they hauled me up in a cargo net.
Remember laughing - it was funny then - The blackouts started from my first drinking & I didn't know I had a problem. I thought everyone drank that way.