|Issue 58||October 2000||Volume 5 - Number 11|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
I wish to thank those of you who have responded to my request to switch to the Web site, in lieu of getting the hard copy of the CANDOER News. My efforts are only three months old and already I am mailing only 114 copies, down from 165, even though during that three month period, 12 new members have been added. There are now over 200 members subscribed to one version or another of the CANDOER News.
A Web page is available to all members at : www.CANDOER.org. The site has the current and two previous issues of the CANDOER News available to read, or download. Two downloadable versions are available: a ENVOY 7 format and a WordPerfect 7 format. Both are accessible to those who have donated to the news fund and have received their password.
For those of you who may not be aware, I have gone back to work. I presently work, 20 hours a week, for an IT company called, PRO-telligent, LLC. Ken Loff is one of the founders of the company. I hope to be going full time, later this fall.
Why do you ask is he telling us this? If you find my response to your e-mail queries a little slower than normal, this is the reason why. I am going to continue with the Newsletter, in all formats, it is just that I will no longer be available during the day to instantly respond to your e-mails. And Ken being such a task master (grin), I may be too tired some nights to read or respond. Have patience, I will answer sooner or later.
In celebration of our 40th anniversary, on September 5, Nancy and I left for a trip around the SouthWest. We flew into Las Vegas and spent two days donating to the economy (one-arm bandits) and then rented a car for seven days. We visited Bryce Canyon, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, the Painted Desert, Roswell, New Mexico (UFO Capital of the US), El Paso, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Lake Havasu (and walked across the London Bridge), toured the Hoover Dam and then returned to Las Vegas for two more days and returned home on September 16.
Friday, February 4
Awaking to heavy overcast and slight rain, we are heading 265 degrees on a westerly track across the Pacific on roughly the 33rd parallel to reach Korea by passing just south of Japan. This is a bit longer than the preferred northerly "great circle" route, but MAERSK Line orders this to preclude cargo damage that might happen going on the rougher northern route in winter.
Dining room hours are set for: 0730 - 0830 breakfast, 1130 - 1230 lunch, and 1730 - 1830 supper. We can live with that, but would prefer the supper hour a bit later. But these times are determined for operational crew reasons, not the passenger's convenience. At sea, most of the crew works four hours on, eight hours off, around the clock.
A menu is posted for one week in advance. It sure looks good!
Mark Shiryayev, the second mate, gave us a very good briefing on ship safety and emergency procedures. We even practiced getting into the new type lifeboats which are now covered and motorized. We should have had our camera, but this was serious stuff right now. Mark said emergency drills would be held weekly throughout the voyage, but henceforth, always unannounced. "That way they are more effective", he said. Next time we'll have the camera.
The chief mate invited us to visit the navigation deck (bridge) to receive a briefing on how the ship operates. The deck and "flying bridge" is 111 feet above water level! As far as we can tell, it operates with one person on the bridge while at sea. Of course, the captain is a frequent visitor.
There no longer are a helmsman, radio operator ("sparks"), or navigator. Everything is automated and the responsibilities of those three individuals have been given to the officer on duty. Passengers can visit anytime except when there is a pilot aboard.
"Sparks" was a person with whom we could readily identify. He was always expected to be available for duty around the clock. That position disappeared from most ships by 1990 with arrival of satellite communications everywhere. Prior to then, Sparks' cabin was adjacent to the bridge, and usually doubled as the ship's radio room. Communications were by shortwave, limited in volume, yet critical. Sparks got the weather maps by facsimile, handled all messages to and from the ship, and made coordination with authorities on shore everywhere. Frequently Sparks was an amateur radio operator (ham), so on our previous voyages Jim usually took the opportunity to get to know him well and spent a lot of time in the radio room (shack).
When the International Maritime Satellite (INMARSAT) came into being, computers now do many tasks previously handled by humans. Press a button and the deck officer knows the ship's precise location within 10 meters. Maintaining voice and E-mail contact with corporate headquarters from anywhere on the globe is fast and simple. Basically, INMARSAT's geographic position system (GPS) eliminated the helmsman and navigator. Actually, there still is a helm on the bridge, but the captain said, "It is rarely used outside of a port".
After dinner this evening, the ship's "slop chest" or canteen was opened for about an hour. From it one can make limited purchases of toiletries, candy, beverages, tobacco products, etc. The prices are extremely reasonable; i.e. a case of 24 bottles of Beck's Bier is $8.00, German white/French red wines about $4.00 per bottle. Crew members have advised us the captain is highly intolerant of anyone abusing alcoholic beverages.
The ship rolled a couple times before we turned into bed. A crew member said we'll have some heavy weather tonight. Things not fastened securely went sliding across tables. That's life at sea. We both have our sea legs and are not bothered by the motion.
Saturday, February 5
At midnight we crossed a time zone, so clocks were set back one hour. We'll do this 24 times by the time we reach home and lose a day crossing the international date line in about four days.
If there was heavy weather, we slept through it all. We are like babies in our mother's arms being gently rocked. But today we do have 10-15 foot waves. A ship of this size handles them quite nicely.
Sunday, February 6
The morning sea is relatively calm, weather partly cloudy, with temperature at 50F. That's considerably warmer than what we had expected this time of the year on the north Pacific Ocean. However, late in the afternoon, it started to rain hard and blow up a lot of huge waves forcing the vessel to cut back to 19 knots (from 24) so we weren't pounding so much.
This being Sunday, work routines are limited to the necessary. As a result, we were able to spend some time chatting with Kiribati crew members. When they sign on, it is for one year. On this particular MAERSK service, they must make two complete voyages which take about 200 days, then they receive 100 days vacation. Kiribati crew members change at Hong Kong. Other crew members change at various locations.
For a Kiribati crewman to get home, he flies from Hong Kong to Sydney, then to Nauru in the Marshall Islands, and finally to Tarawa in the former Gilbert Islands. That's a trip of two days in a plane if all connections are made, or three if there has to be a stopover. To put it in a distance perspective, that's like flying from Anchorage to Miami to get home in Goose Bay, Labrador.
The German government investment, in developing a merchant marine academy in Tarawa, has been a good one for all concerned. Hard currency wages are sent back into the local economy. Shipping lines receive crewmen who are certified in many skills, and more importantly, are not likely to become problems because diplomas are denied to those with character deficiencies.
Monday, February 7
It's a beautiful day, 68F at noon, with Honolulu 800 miles due south. There are heavy swells from a storm about 1,200 miles to the north. We do our laundry today. Many of the seamen did theirs yesterday.
Read a lot on deck. It didn't seem possible we would be doing this in February in the north Pacific.
The electrician furnished us an antenna connector cable so we can connect our SONY shortwave receiver to the ship's main antenna to receive radio broadcasts in our room. Without it, the total steel frame construction of the ship blocks out all reception. Otherwise, the radio could only be used effectively out on deck. Actually, it is delightful to be completely isolated from the political news scene of the U.S.
The first quarter of the moon and a clear sky offered outstanding celestial viewing this evening.
Tuesday, February 8
The day is overcast, 65F, with fresh breezes coming straight north from the Hawaiian Islands. This morning, for the first time since departure from Oakland we encountered another vessel, heading in the opposite direction. It passed us about one mile away. This definitely was not a nice day. We had bad weather coming at us from the southeast, south and west with frequent periods of sun, hard rain, and heavy seas all day.
Wednesday, February 9
Last night really tested this ship. We sailed into gale force winds of 50 knots per hour. The bridge reported the waves to be 12 meters (39 feet) high. In the darkness they were hard to observe, but we knew they were there. The ship reduced its speed to less than half and rode out the storm nicely for 12 hours by heading directly into it. The pitching and rolling were much reduced.
This day starts off quite nice with just moderate swells. But, it's February in the north Pacific! John & Pat Blake on the Washington coast: look out! Last night's storm is heading directly at you and should be there in about five days to give your anemometer a good spin.
Friday, February 11
We lost Thursday completely by crossing the international date line close to midnight last night.
Just after breakfast this morning, we wrote a message, placed it in an empty bottle and threw it overboard. That's a tradition with us on our sea voyages. It's amazing that we actually have received answers to several of them. Some take more than a year to be found. On this voyage, we'll drop messages near mid-point in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans.
It was a gorgeous day, but swells from distant storms required the ship to sail at reduced speed.
Saturday, February 12
It's another magnificent day of 72F, but the continuing large swells from the northwest cause the captain to grouse about being "almost three days late for Korea". Most of this day was spent reading on the swimming pool deck (no water yet) watching the horizon bob up and down. The chief engineer said we can have water in the pool anytime with slight seas after the ocean temperature reaches 74F, and that is not likely to happen until Taiwan in a weeks' time. Right now it is a surprising 66F.
Sunday, February 13
Since mid-afternoon yesterday, the swells lessened to a point making it possible for "full speed ahead!"
The captain says we can now walk about the ship outside anywhere without getting doused with spray. "But not the forecastle deck", he says. "With this relatively calm weather we are going to do some repair work there on the anchor winches and don't want anyone in the way."
Drat! With binoculars and a good book, the forecastle deck is the best place to ride on a container ship. There is no vibration or noise other than the rush of air and the bow cutting through the water about 50 feet below. The movement, if any, is that of a gentle roller coaster.
It was noon and everyone else in the office had gone out for lunch, when the radio call requested a reply. I immediately recognized the post, by their unique call sign, and the voice of the caller. "I am locked in the code room with my Admin. officer who is a communist agent." These were the opening remarks for an "Eyes Only" cable to be transmitted to the President, through the Secretary, to alert them to a speech that was to be given at the United Nations, the following day.
I was assigned to the Regional Communications Office in Accra, Ghana and responded to the call from the Charge' d'affaires in Santa Isabel, Fernando Po (now known as Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.) Due to a lack of modern technology, the Embassy's only reliable communications capability was through the use of the High Frequency radio network that was provided to all African posts for emergencies and evacuation. This radio network enabled the post to conduct their routine business with the Embassy in Yaounde, and coordinate logistic support with the consulate in Douala.
When I responded to the radio call, the Charge' asked if I was ready to take a message that would then be transmitted telegraphically from the Embassy Accra communications facility. I assured the Charge' that I would be happy to transcribe his message and have it transmitted accordingly. After the opening remarks, he continued to dictate his message for another 45 minutes. During the transcription, bizarre and alarming statements were included in the text, which served to underscore the immediacy of having this information relayed to Washington at the earliest opportunity.
After he had finished dictating the message, I read it back to him to confirm that it was complete and correct. I then drove to the Embassy and since the Ambassador was away, requested that the DCM read and clear the telegram. Shortly thereafter, I returned to my office and was accompanied by the DCM, and approximately a dozen other members of executive offices. We continued to talk with the Charge' and asked for information relating to the text of the message, especially those related to the Admin. officer. At the same time, we established a separate radio link with the Consul in Douala, Len Shurtleff.
We became increasingly alarmed at the prospect of foul play and continued to request permission to speak with the Admin. officer -- all to no avail. Mr. Shurtleff was desperately trying to make arrangements for a charter aircraft to fly him the 69 miles to the island. Late in the day, he finally managed to arrive and eventually, break into the Embassy. The tragic circumstances surrounding the death of the Admin. officer, Don Leahy, would not be revealed for many months to come.
Six months later, after my transfer from Accra, I was re-assigned to Nairobi. Accompanied by my new bride, I traveled to Capetown as part of a routine 6-8 week maintenance trip to all of the Embassies and Consulates in the Southern Africa area. Shortly after we arrived, I was called into the Ambassador's office and was provided with a copy of a telegram from Washington. "You are hereby instructed to travel on the first available flight to Washington, D.C. and are instructed to contact the US attorney's office immediately." The Embassy had already made travel arrangements and I returned to my hotel to pack. I informed Maureen that I had to leave and she asked, "Why?" "Are you in some sort of trouble, is your mom sick, did you pay your taxes?" I repeatedly said. " I don't know," but I had to leave. The worst part was not only not knowing why I was going, but not being able to tell her when (and if) I'd be back.
When I arrived in Washington, I was interviewed by the defense lawyer for the Charge', Al Erdos, in the hopes that my testimony could add some positive aspects in his defense to the charges that had been brought against him. After the interview, they chose not to use me in the their defense -- much to my relief. That was very short-lived, as I was then contacted by the prosecution who stated they would indeed be calling me to testify. Countless hours were spent in the witness room of the Federal courthouse in Alexandria, waiting to be called. Other witnesses came and left, while I sat in the windowless room with instructions not to talk to anyone until I had testified. I was finally called to testify, and I can tell you, its not like a Perry Mason episode. I was exceptionally nervous and I think I even had difficulty in remembering my own name.
After my testimony, I was told that if the court did not wish to recall me as a witness, I would then be able to sit in the courtroom and watch the rest of the trial proceed. You guessed it, back to the little room. After the closing arguments, I was informed that I would not be recalled and was free to leave.
When I got back to Capetown, I wasn't sure if I'd be met by my new bride and if so, would she believe me when I told her what had happened. As luck would have it, we resumed our honeymoon and remain married to this day. Even though these events took place years ago, I'll never forget those words on the radio, and hopefully never will hear them again!
On August 28, I received a web site application from Bill and Dolly Markham. Welcome aboard!
On August 29, I received a web site application from Jim and Nancy Copeland. Welcome aboard!
On August 30, I received a web site application from Jules and Claudette Beaudoin. Welcome aboard!
On September 2, Bob Mason notified me that he is back in the land of the big PX. Bob will be working for Joe Chaddic at Main State in IRM/FASI.
On September 2, Jimmy Bevis notified me of a new e-mail address.
On September 16, I received notice from Charlie Hoffman that he has joined the ranks of CANDOERs with e-mail.
On September 16, I received notice of a new e-mail address for Sid and Eva Reeves.
On September 16, I received an e-mail application for membership from Donald and Kathryn Jennings. Welcome aboard Don and Kathy.
On September 16, I received an e-mail application for membership from David and Cathy Patterson. Welcome aboard David and Cathy.
On September 18, Marv Frishman furnished a new e-mail address.
My second Foreign Service assignment was to Dakar, Senegal. A beast I had to confront in Dakar was a Siemen's telex machine which was located in the hallway outside the communications section. That machine got quite a workout. In those days (very late '64) the Embassy in Dakar received some traffic by radio but the bulk of it, perhaps 75%, was received through the telex connection to our Embassy in Paris.
At the end of each day the final task, after locking the vault door, was to load a new reel of paper tape into the telex machine because during the night it was a good possibility that it would run out of tape. From OECD Paris we got economic traffic addressed to all former French-African capitals; from Brussels, EEC reports; The UN sent us multi section telegrams about some speech in the General Assembly; from Washington, every word the Secretary of State spoke in a speech to some audience about something somewhere. Needless to say, we got so excited about that stuff we often fell off our chairs. On those occasions when the tape had run out during the night there would be perhaps a dozen telegrams which we would have to get retransmitted; we needed the paper tape because, even tough we had a page copy, we needed a tape to relay the messages to our Embassy in Nouakchott. They got most of the traffic we got plus some traffic on which we were not an addressee. We were their relay post!
Nouakchott, basically a sand dune on which we had somehow anchored a chancery and a small compound, lies several hundred miles north of Dakar as the buzzard flies. (Mauritania is the only country I know of that once had it's capital in another country for some time during its early years of independence from France. According to what I was told while in Senegal, after independence from France, the Mauritanian capital was installed in St. Louis, a mud-hut city in the north of Senegal, apparently the closest place where there was any sort of dwelling at all. That's what I was told either by a very reliable source or someone I drank beer with. It was a long time ago.) Each morning we consolidated a bunch of telegrams for Nouakchott by running the tapes through an HW-28 teletype so that, once we dialed the Embassy in Nouakchott and started the tape running, we could leave the machine for a few minutes and do something else. We dared not neglect the telex long though because the link between the PTT in Dakar and the PTT in France or Mauritania was via radio and frequently a transmission abruptly ended because the radio signal faded. This meant, dialing Paris or Nouakchott again and coordinating with the other end what telegram needed to be restarted. Operating speed was about 45 wpm.
About a year had gone by when one day, during the transmission of an outgoing string of telegrams to Nouakchott, transmission stopped. I pulled the tape back to the start of the message that was being retransmitted but then I noted that power was still on the telex machine. Normally, when the radio link was broken, the telex machine switched off. In this instance, though transmission had stopped, power remained on. Hmmm, what was this I thought to my own self? After a few seconds I typed something, asking if anyone was at the other end. In a moment someone typed back at me, in French. I sort of expected that one of the Americans in the Nouakchott Embassy would answer but I was mightily puzzled why the machine hadn't switched off. I asked who was typing at the other end. The response was "PTT Paris". I was pretty surprised and asked how PTT Paris got involved with my transmission to Nouakchott from Dakar. The reply was to the effect that to get to Nouakchott from Dakar, or Conakry from Bamako, or any other former French African country to anywhere, the only way was via the PTT in France! Duh!!!
I sat back in disbelief. For how many years, I wondered, had Dakar been relaying telegrams to Nouakchott via Paris? All those telegrams for Nouakchott, dumping on to the floor in Dakar waiting for busy communicators to consolidate them, get retransmissions and transmit them over a link twice as long as the Paris to Nouakchott direct connection! And sitting there by the machine, twiddling thumbs so that, particularly in Nouakchott's case, their traffic would be delivered in the a.m. rather than the p.m. The extra work; the extra expense; the delay in urgent telegrams getting to Nouakchott was mind-boggling.
That very morning I notified the Department and Paris of the situation and about 15% of our total work disappeared just like that. And no, I didn't get a nickel.
I was drafted while on vacation in Canada and on my return my room-mate and my brother told me that I had received a letter from Dwight Eisenhower and that the MPs had come by, wanting to know why I had not shown up for induction. I called my draft board and received a grace period of one week, in which time I took care of such things as quitting my job, cancel my entry at Hunter College night courses and convince a girl friend I had not joined the Army to get away from her.
I don't know how/why I wound up in the US Army Signal Corps, since my background was in food sales. I was told that I did well in foreign language aptitude tests and the radio signal Morse Code awareness test. Anyway, I received training as a field Signal Supply specialist. My Army time was uneventful, since I spent most of it at the Tobyhanna, PA Signal Depot with 500 other guys doing nothing because the depot was the bread and butter for some 3,000 PA locals. So, to relieve us of the boredom and as such getting into trouble, we were given lots of TDY's and we would go on one big maneuver once a year. The first one was at Ft. Bragg, and as soon as we got there it was called off, but we had to stay there until the maneuver would have ended had we been in it. Makes sense? Sure it does! Well, one good thing came out of this mess: some of us were allowed to join the regular airborne jumpers in their 5-week jump training. Yep: jumped three times for qualification and got 50 extra bucks a month for the rest of my Army time.
I went into the Army September 14, 1959 and got out on September 14, 1961. On September 14, 1962, I joined the Foreign Service.
I was told that I would be called back into the Army for sure because of the Berlin crisis. I Wasn't! The small supermarket I managed, before I was drafted, had changed hands and there was no place for me there. I tried one thing and another, even collected unemployment for a short while (stopped going - don't like queues). I worked weekends in Delis and pizza places owned by friends. All was very boring!
One morning, going downtown by subway looking for work, I spotted an advertisement in the New York Daily News wherein they were looking for people interested in a Government career working overseas. Wow!!! There was something funny about that ad: it asked those interested to show up Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. at the NY Daily News building at 3rd Ave & 42nd St. - Hello!?!?! Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. at NY Daily News building????
I left the paper on the subway seat when I got to my stop. On my way back I bought the paper again but I couldn't find the ad. What's going on here! I went to the candy store where I had bought the paper in the morning and told the guy about the paper and the ad. Well, it seems that in the old days there were several editions of the paper per day and they were keyed to the track results. The candy store man went in the back and found the same edition of the paper I had read in the morning and there was the ad!
I took a chance at this ad not being a joke and found myself as not being the only one taking the chance. There were close to 300 young people there. They separated us in alphabetical groups and were given a battery of tests and reams of forms to fill out. I failed the typing test and was allowed to brush up on my typing and take the test a month later. (In the Army I learned how to tab across requisition forms for flashlights to mobile radar vans).
I kind of forgot about the Government work overseas because I was told that being foreign born, even though a U.S. citizen at birth [my mother was born in Manhattan] and having relatives in foreign government jobs (father was a small town police chief and oldest brother was an officer in the treasury police, both in Italy) it would take so long to clear me that the government might not go through the long process. Not long after the Sunday 7:00 a.m. experience I landed a job in a new chain of department stores called EJ Korvette, where I started as an inventory clerk and a short 7-8 months later I was managing the store's photographic supplies department, making more on commissions and salesmen's percentage profit sharing than the salary.
Wouldn't you know it, about the 1st of September of 1962 I received a telegram (remember Western Union?!) at work and in matter-of-fact fashion told me to report to Washington 9/14/62 and if I was still interested, to let them know by phone so they could send me orders and tickets. I was in shock! It took me some 48 hours to let go of the good money and undertake a job I knew exactly zilch about (maybe that's why it payed next to nothing). The afternoon of the September 13, I was in awe when I took the Metroliner to DC (most of the trip in the executive lounge - Oh! Those days!). From the Metroliner, I went to the YMCA for all of three hours and then moved across the street into a cubicle of an old-soldiers' hotel (at least I was by myself in the cubicle).
For the next three weeks, I filled out and signed forms, watched a few presentations on the area of Africa I was going (I was told that the Department omitted my posting to Leopoldville in the acceptance telegram to insure my arrival in DC), and partied all over town at night. I fell in love with a couple of the girls in my >class' (we know where those things wind up!). The only hint of what my job might be was a walk-through the basement pouch room. I was told that I was to be a Communications Clerk, whatever that was!!!
I got to go home to NY for a couple of days to pack a couple of suitcases. I got on a jet to Paris which obtained a record in transatlantic jet flight, thanks to a hefty tail wind. I got to stop in Italy to see my parents and my two youngest brothers. Unfortunately, it was the last time I got to see my mother, who passed away suddenly 10 months later. The flight down to Leopoldville from Rome, in 1st class, was one big party. I don't think there was one paying 1st class passenger on that flight and all took advantage of the nice freebie.
Next morning I reported to the CommCenter and was met by Jim Hale and Jean Elliot. Jim expressed great joy at getting some relief in what had become a nightmare of a shop. The CRO had skipped town: he just got on the next PanAm without saying good-bye. Another fellow was resigning in 10 days. Jim Prosser was not due for another 3 weeks and here's Jim Hale happy to see me but almost fainted when I told him I had had no training of any kind! The rest is history: learned how to run the pouch operation.
In those days all mail came and went by pouch and we were allowed to use local postage for our mail home. On the first pouch closing day I saw a bunch of letters in the outgoing mail slot, but these letters did not have stamps on them; the Congo stamps were in a separate stack. I asked Jean Elliot if this way of bringing mail was normal and she said: No, but that one particular Pol officer and/or his secretary often tried to get the pouch person to put the stamps (lick) on the envelopes. New and green as I was, I got my courage up and went to see the Pol Officer, who told me rather sternly not to bother him with such unimportant drivel; talked to the secretary and found out that she refused to put the stamps on 'his' letters and so she passed them on to the pouch person to do. To my surprise I found out that some of the communicators doing that job before me had gone ahead and put the stamps on, just to avoid an altercation with then omnipotent "O" type officers and secretaries, omnipotent by association! I put the letters and the stamps in a Manila envelope with a note saying (a lie) that I had been instructions to send all mail without stamps on it to the Ambassador's office for licking and/or sender. I never heard anything about it, but I did get winks from the Amb's secretary and the Admin Officer!
As sole pouch operations person I performed most of the courier runs to our three consulates in the then Congo: Elizabethville, Stanleyville and Bukavu. We use to support Brazzaville quite a bit, as a result I would ferry over 3-4 times a week.
A couple of incidents of note on this courier activity were: 'Lost' a professional courier on the Brazzaville/Leopoldville ferry. The courier stayed with his many pouches on the lower deck along with some 60 local traders, was overcome by the aroma of smoke/burnt fish and human perspiration and fainted. I couldn't find him until all the traders had jumped off the ferry. However, all the pouches were accounted for.
In couriering around the Congo, I was involved in a near-crash landing due to an overload of Heineken beer by UN types on a DC-4 flying crate.
At the office Jean Elliot taught me a lot about central files and I was able to help her out in that job. I did odds and ends when I had time, like helping with cash counts in B&F and counting the Reserve Funds every three months, I think.
The social scene was exiting and at times funny. I remember during the Cuban crisis when all of us in Commo were working practically around the clock, took a break and went to a good restaurant called La Pergola. Wanting to eat fast and get back to the Embassy, I, being the only one who knew some French, ordered 6 or 7 "Filet Americaine et Pomme Frites," thinking it would be steak and french fries. Wrong! They brought big plates of raw ground beef with a raw egg in the middle, and a side dish of french fries. We lost lots of time, but were able to persuade the chief waiter to turn the raw meat into grilled ground steak. I didn't advertise knowing French much after that. Leopoldville (later Kinshasa) was fun!!
And so were the 30 + years of my FS time!!!
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, many of the men eligible for the draft enlisted in the various services to avoid the draft. I was working for Cudahy Packing Company as a Stock Clerk at that time. I also attended the Wharton School of Finance at night with the objective of becoming an accountant. I quit Wharton School to attend the Powell School of Business, to study typing. I tried to get into the Navy as a 3rd class storekeeper (Petty Officer). To qualify, I was required to type accurately at 30 wpm. After a month of practice, I passed the test. However, the day prior to my departure for Philadelphia to be sworn in, the Navy closed the enlistment. I then took high school refresher courses in mathematics to qualify as an Aviation Cadet.
At that time, I was dating Ruth Glaser, a high school classmate. Her brother, Carl, received a commission through the Civilian Military Training program. He met my father and suggested that, if I came to Washington, DC, and enlisted in the Army, he would arrange to have me assigned to his outfit, the "Signal Company AAF" located at Bolling AFB, in Washington, DC. I came to Washington and enlisted at the Enlistment Center at 11th and New York Avenue in the Gray Hound Bus Terminal. I reported immediately to Bolling AFB and was assigned to a barracks and drew my uniforms and other materials as a "Buck" Private. I received on-the-job training on how to set up cryptographic machines, including the SIGABA, the Top Secret rotor cipher device used in WW II. I received training as a Teletype operator and learned how to operate other cryptographic devices. I also received training at the rifle range, which was located a few miles from the Air Base. We usually hiked to the range. I became a Sharp Shooter with the carbine and pistol and expert with the Thompson submachine gun. We spent many hours field stripping and cleaning the Cosmoline off crates of these weapons. I became very proficient in putting them back together, with no parts left over.
I was assigned to the Commander, USAF, General (Hap) Arnold's code room. This was located in the Munitions building, a "temporary" building built during WW I on Constitution Avenue. The code room was staffed with five officers, one secretary and one enlisted man, that was me. I lived at Bolling Field and from there, I commuted by army truck or boat across the Potomac River to work. Washington was very crowded. Lines were everywhere. Because I worked on different shifts, I was paid rations and so I ate in restaurants. From the Munitions building, our unit was moved to temporary buildings at Gravely point, near National Airport.
In the spring of 1943, the Potomac River flooded and it was difficult to cross by boat because of the floating debris. The Lincoln Memorial Bridge was partially under water, and Haines Point, which was near the river, was completely submerged. The Communications Center staff at Gravely Point was isolated and could not be relieved for over three days. Our Company Commander obtained some huge, high-wheeled trucks. We formed a convoy to attempt to cross the bridge, which we did successfully. Two men were positioned on the front fenders with large poles to push the logs out of the way so the trucks could proceed. After some detours, we finally made it to our building a Gravely Point, which was located on a slight hill and was above the flood waters. Obviously, the commcenter guys were very glad to see us (their replacements). Shortly after than, our commcenter was moved to the Pentagon, which had just been completed.
AACS Headquarters, Asheville, NC
The Army Airways Communications System (AACS) was formed in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1943. Many of the men from Headquarters Signal Company AAF, were assigned to form this unit. I was assigned with about 60 enlisted men and 60 officers. Asheville is a beautiful city set on a plateau in the Smoky Mountains. By then, I was a Staff Sergeant and a shift chief in the Teletype room and code room. There were few very young men left in Asheville because they had all been drafted, so we were very popular at dances and other social events. If you attended church services, you were frequently invited to Sunday dinner which often led to other social affairs. This was particularly welcome just before pay day. We lived in hotels with maid service and ate our meals in restaurants. We had to work shift work but all-in-all, it was wonderful duty. On Saturday mornings, we all fell out in front of our hotel for roll call formation and a marching drill through the city, which was very popular with the local people. Every one came out to see the parade. We formed softball and bowling teams and frequently went fishing in the mountain streams. We saw a lot of the Smoky Mountains.