|Issue 63||March 2001||Volume 6 - Number 4|
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
It is with sadness and deep regret that I inform you of the death of Louise B. "Sally" Lachman, 78, of Crabapple Drive, Frederick, on Thursday, Feb. 8, at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Rockville.
She was the wife of Donald Lachman, her husband of 56 years.
Born June 5, 1922, in New Madison, Ohio, she was a daughter of the late Stanley and Hazel Bennett.
Mrs. Lachman was a member of Eastern Star in Pennsylvania, and New Market Volunteer Fire and Rescue Co.
She was a baseball enthusiast and square dancer.
Surviving in addition to her husband are three children, Sue Ann Benner and husband Charles Koszis of San Diego, Vaughn Lachman and wife Jan, residing in Beijing, China, and Gail Rauenzahn and husband Dale of Parkville; and seven grandchildren.
Memorial services were held at 2:00 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, at the mausoleum in Resthaven Memorial Gardens, Frederick. Rabbi Morris Kosman officiated.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The above information was furnished by Jim and Mary Prosser. A card has been sent to Don in the name of the CANDOERs and a donation has been sent to the American Cancer Society in Sally's memory.
It is with sadness and deep regret that I inform you of the death of a long time member of the staff in OC/T, Edgar Thomas, on Wednesday, February 21.
The funeral for Edgar Thomas was held on Tuesday, February 27th at:
St Gabriel's Catholic Church
26 Grant Circle NW
The wake was held at 10:00 AM and the funeral will follow at 12 Noon.
It is with sadness and deep regret, I inform you of the death of a long-time retiree from the Office of Communications, (OC/T), Analysis Section, Aggie Lindberg. Aggie died on Saturday, December 23, 2000.
Services were held at Pumphrey's Colonial Funeral Home, 300 West Montgomery Avenue, (Route 28 just off 1-270) in Rockville, MD on Thursday, December 28, at 11 a.m. Interment followed immediately after the services at Parklawn Memorial Park.
Aggie was preceded in death by her husband, also a long time Department employee who worked in the Training Section for many years, Eugene (Lindy) Lindberg, Sr.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Those of you on the e-mail list received this Obituary back in December. I failed to follow up and include it in the December issue of the News. Mrs. Strobell reminded me of this fact, this week. I would like to apologize to Mrs Strobell and the rest of the Lindberg family for my oversight.
The following was received from Paul Del Giudice.
In this time of excessive spending and consumption the following is something to ponder:
If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep ... you are richer than 75% of this world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace ... you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.
If you woke up this morning with more health than illness ... you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.
If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation ... you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death ... you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
If your parents are still alive and still married ... you are very rare, even in the United States.
If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful ... you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.
If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder... you are blessed because you can offer a healing touch.
I did not attend the February luncheon and no one furnished a list of attendees.
On January 22, I received a Web application from Tom Murray. Tom is now living in New Port Richey, Florida. Welcome aboard!
On January 28, Mitch Kolb furnished a new e-mail address.
On January 29, I received a Web application from Don Meskimen. Don retired in 1986 and is living in Woodinville, Washington. Welcome aboard!
On February 14, Charlie Christian furnished a new email address.
On February 15, I received a Web application from Arthur and Lynne Hermanson. Welcome aboard!
On January 29, I received a change of e-mail address for Bill Hempel.
On January 30, I received a Web application from Len Fenner. Welcome aboard!
On February 1, Allen (Jeff) Jeffries requested I change his e-mail address.
Walt Abbott informed me of a change of his snail-mail address. He has not moved, they renumbered houses in his area for the enhanced 911 emergency system.
On February 3, I received an e-mail message from Jim Newton, Earl's son. Earl is in the hospital with Pneumonia. Jim also furnished a new home address for Earl and Thelma. A get well card has been sent to Earl in the name of the CANDOERs.
On February 3, I received a Web application from Jim Thompson. Jim retired in 1999 and is now living in Centreville, VA. Welcome aboard!
On February 4, I received a Web application from John Benton. John is now assigned to the Department in ADPEM. Welcome aboard!
On February 4, I received a Web application from Charlie Wisecarver. Charlie is now assigned to Washington.
On February 6, I received a new e-mail address for Ed and Joan Wilson.
On February 6, I received a new e-mail address for Hal and Gertrude Gerwig.
On February 12, I received a new telephone number, snail-mail and e-mail address for Babe and Patti Martin.
On February 16, I received a Web application from Jim Parker. Jim retired in February. Welcome aboard!
On February 19, I received a new address and telephone number for Rob Robinson.
On February 21, I received the following card from Don Lachman:
Thank you for remembering Sally in this special way (the donation to the Cancer fund). The expressions of support and sympathy from the entire CANDOER group has been wonderful. I've heard from many I haven't seen or heard of for years.
PRISONER OF WAR TRIAL
While I was on Kwaj, the Navy attacked a small island not too far away. They captured several Japanese. The natives on that island reported that the Japanese had executed by beheading the crew members of a U.S. Aircraft which had crashed on the island several months before. The Japanese Officer in charge and others were brought to Kwaj where a trial was held. I attended several of the sessions. They were found guilty of war crimes. I believe they were sent to Hawaii where I understand they were executed. The Japanese Island commander's justification for the execution was that they had little food and were under constant attack and, therefore, could not take care of the prisoners.
THE WHISKEY RUN
Our company commander on Kwajalein was a Major (the same one who sent the booze to our detachment at Makin). He had been a Seagram's Liquor salesman before the war. He frequently arranged to have several cases of whiskey brought to Kwaj by his friends in the Material Air Transport Command. He shared these with his troops. It was a great morale booster. At that time, I was a Technical Sergeant in charge of the Teletype and cryptographic center. We each got a share according to the number of guys in our section. We also shared it with our first three graders club, which was established on the island. This helped break up the monotony. The AACS guys were very popular with the other units on the island. We were especially friendly with the island supply personnel.
Many USO shows visited Kwaj from time to time. We also went fishing in the very large lagoon. It was estimated that the atoll was large enough to anchor the combined fleets of the world. The problem was that there were only two entrances into the atoll so any fleet entering could be very easily bottled up. The Marshaleese were excellent fishermen and it was not unusual to see them many miles up the atoll or at sea towing an inflated inner tube with their outrigger anchored some distance away. They used the inner tube to fasten the fish they caught by spearing them or shooting them with a blowgun. They were also skillful outrigger canoe builders. Our native supervisor named "Jubilee" worked at our transmitter site on another island in the atoll called "Carlos". I went sailing with him frequently. One night, I attended a party to celebrate the baptism of his daughter. This was held in his hut in the native village. Later, I went with him and a friend named Guy Humphries for an overnight fishing sail up the atoll. It was very dark and the lights from Kwajalein were just a glow on the horizon. Fortunately he was very skilled at celestial navigation. We also had a sufficient supply of "American Coconuts".
We made washing machines from large gasoline drums. These consisted of a framework of two by fours. From that we hung a plunger on an axle which had an ofilet so that the plunger would move up and down as the windmill attached to the axle turned. The oil drum was filled with water and we built a fire under the drum. We shaved soap from bars into the water to complete the laundry. We had a rinse tub and a clothesline. The washing machine did a great job because the wind blew all day. However, the water was quite tepid and water softener was not available so it was difficult to develop suds. Occasionally some one would receive a package from home with laundry soap and softener in it. I can assure you it was most welcome. Later they installed a laundry on the island and we just dropped off our laundry bag there and picked it up the next day. Ah, civilization!!!!!
My family and I were stationed in Seoul, Korea from 1977 to 1980. Writing about our experiences in Seoul should be easy. There were numerous events that were burned into my brain during those three years in Korea. Unfortunately, as I sit here and ponder what to write, I'm beginning to realize that many of these tales were about people who might not appreciate reading about their exploits. Boy, if I could only tell you about the time that ... almost ... or when ... got ... so that he ... Yep, those were the days! Too bad I can't share everything but maybe I can think of a few things that won't get me strung up. Let's see, there was the time that ... Seoul received TERP-1 at the end of 1979. For those who don't know, TERP-1 was the first in a line of new Department of State hardware meant to provide an automated telegram processing system. It had a rudimentary processor, and storage was provided using cassette tapes. With today's proliferation of high speed computers and nearly infinite hard-disk storage, it's hard to visualize such a low-tech system. TERP-1 was particularly bad when you asked it to do several things at once. Waiting for it to assign Message Continuity Numbers (MCN's) to a telegram being sent to a bunch of posts starting with different letters of the alphabet gave you time to go out to dinner and find it still grinding away. Only when matched against what it replaced, did the TERP-1 look good. Compare it with the manual/mechanical HW-28 and it was a God. So it was with great expectation in 1979 that Seoul looked forward to joining ranks with other TERP-1 users. Because of priorities and emergencies, only a single technician (TECH) was sent from the regional office in Bangkok to complete our TERP-1 installation. The Christmas holidays were fast approaching and he was in a hurry to finish and get home to his family. Who could blame him? If the installation had gone exactly as planned and scheduled, he would have been home for the holidays with plenty of time to finish his shopping. New equipment installations, particularly those on tight schedules, seldom work out precisely the way they are planned. This one was no exception. Little things kept popping up that pushed the schedule back. Finally, with just a few days remaining before Christmas, the system was nearly up and running. Just two problems remained. The TECH had accidentally spilled his coke into the OCR and parts were needed before it could be repaired. These wouldn't arrive for several weeks so we would be hand typing all our outgoing telegrams. If you have ever done that on a TERP-1, you will understand how much fun we would have in the next few weeks. Finally, there was little or no time for formal training on the new system. We were forced to learn on the fly. This led to some interesting times in the Seoul Communications Center. We were extremely lucky that we were in the holiday slowdown period and that no real crisis was happening at the time. Maybe formal training would have made us TERP-1 experts. I don't know. I do know, however, that being forced to learn on our own made us aware of what not to do with the TERP-1. With training, we may never have discovered some of the system's zanier idiosyncrasies.
THE PUNCH, when it came, was loud, unexpected and scared the hell out of me.
I was sitting in the back room sending out the latest batch of after-hours telegrams that had called CPO George McKinney and me to the Embassy. Internal and external crises are a normal part of living in Seoul. They have been going on for decades.
I don't remember the exact crisis that caused George and me to be there on that occasion - it could have been just another North Korean incursion or tunnel, or an internal South Korean matter that effected GOK/U.S. relations. Whatever the cause, there had been numerous call-ins to send out situation reports and people were tense. I do remember that the subject matter and importance of these particular telegrams didn't seem to fit the usual criteria for opening the commcenter after-hours. George was in the outer room discussing this very problem with the DCM when THE PUNCH came, followed by silence. I was intent on finishing my work so that I could return home and had only vaguely noticed that their conversation had become louder and louder. Jerked out of my reverie by the sound of THE PUNCH I could only think the worst - George had snapped and punched out the DCM! Those of you who know George will understand why I might have this concern. George was and is one of my favorite characters. In fact, it would probably be correct to say that George is a legend. I know of no one who has had more happen to him in his lifetime than George. Scary things - things that would have done in most mere mortals. It would also be fair to say that George is not easily intimidated and no DCM is going to get the best of him in a discussion when he thinks he is right. These thoughts and others raced through my mind as I carefully made my way to the outer room not sure what I would find but expecting the worst. What a relief! There stood George and the DCM enjoying the moment. As it turned out, George had merely punched his hand to emphasize his point. The loud smack that had gotten my instant attention had served to break the tension of their discussion and they were now calmly discussing the matter. I'm sure the look on my face was priceless because they both stared at me with a puzzled look as I hurried into their view. Maybe it was just a coincidence but after THE PUNCH, the Embassy leadership seemed much more conscientious about assigning the correct precedence and calling-in duty communicators.
I also worked for the DCM at a later post where he was the Ambassador and noticed that he gave particular attention to high precedence telegrams and would only send them out when it was absolutely necessary. I'm not sure that THE PUNCH was responsible for his change of attitude but I couldn't help but think that maybe it helped him to reach a better understanding of when and why to call-in the duty communicator.
One of the bad things about the Foreign Service, for me, was missing American sporting events. Sure, living in Europe for several years, I got to know a lot more about soccer, but I spent many a weekend night chasing an elusive radio signal around my living quarters trying to listen to some football game. With satellite TV, things are much better today, depending of course upon where you are stationed. Twice over the years I was lucky enough to become involved with coaching football. Seoul was one of those places. In Korea, like in most overseas schools, there was no high school football program. But, with the proliferation of military people, it did have a Dependent Youth Association (DYA) that organized American sports for military dependents. One thing that DYA provided was tackle football for high school age kids. I was lucky enough to be able to coach DYA football all three years that I was in Seoul. The first two years were a lot of fun but it was the third and final year that stands out in my mind. Three of us from the Embassy coached together all three years. By the time the third year rolled around, we knew the ropes; and, most importantly, we knew the players. Every year there was a draft of players so each team started anew each season. On draft day that third year our coaching staff was well acquainted with most of the players and we were able to draft a squad that swept through the regular season undefeated. For this honor we were chosen to head an all-star team from Korea that would fly to Japan to play a high school team from one of the U.S. military bases. Unlike Korea, most GI's in Japan were there with their families. This provided a large dependent school system with a full program of normal American sports. We brought a spirited group to Japan but they weren't big. The opponents, however, were huge. They were also good. We gave them a game for a while but they soon wore us down and the rout was on. I don't remember what the final score was, but it wasn't pretty. Our biggest player was about 210 pounds. In DYA Korea, he dominated. Compared to the players from Japan he was small. In this game, he faced a player who weighed about 260 and was 6' 7". I often think back to that game and wonder if we could have done anything different to change the outcome. Maybe if I had used that crazy defensive scheme that I had in the back of my mind, it would have been different. Logic tells me it probably wouldn't have changed things much. We were simply out-manned that day. Sometimes life's like that - you work hard and do your best, but someone else is bigger or smarter and they prevail. In the end, it was a good lesson for the coaches and players. We were rewarded for our success in the regular season with a trip to Japan, and we did our best in the game. It would have been nice to win, but we just weren't good enough that day.
Living in Korea in the late 70's was just another typical Foreign Service experience. There was a unique culture to observe. There were plenty of interesting places and things to visit and explore AND, there were the North Koreans who were just a few miles up the road and were constantly massing troops on the border and rattling their sabers. There was a curfew that kept the streets clear each night beginning at midnight. Being called back to the Embassy after-hours usually involved some soldier sticking a gun in your face. There were the constant military exercises where South Korean military personnel closed down the city and played realistic war games. Ho hum - life in the Foreign Service!
Friday, February 25
The ship sailed at 0430 for Colombo, Sri Lanka, a journey of almost three days. We originally were scheduled to call at Port Kerang, Malaysia, but when we became delayed by almost three days due to rough weather crossing the north Pacific, MAERSK Lines had the Port Kerang containers brought to Singapore by train for us to pick up there.
Sleeping so soundly last night after yesterday's exhausting adventures, we almost missed breakfast. This was a beautiful day with a flat sea.
We took on a lot of heavy cargo in Singapore, for the ship is riding about 10 feet lower in the water than before. Part of it was a shipment of 170 40-foot refrigerated containers of oriental foodstuffs for discharging in Italy. Now we know there are a lot of Chinese restaurants in Italy, but these shipments must be for much of southern Europe.
We were now in the Strait of Malacca, the worst (best?) place for pirate encounters. However, this being bright daylight, we sailed at full speed without any problem. The sea was flat, again.
While there was no pirate problem for us, we heard on the shortwave news this morning the tale of a small Japanese freighter in the Bay of Bengal, to where we are heading. They reported they were being hijacked two days ago. Neither the ship nor the crew have been seen or heard from since. The worst is feared.
(On April 18, we received an E-mail from a man who had read this journal, coincidentally while he was traveling in Singapore! He copied it off the INTERNET where it is posted in a travel forum. He recommended 1 obtain a copy of the Singapore The Straits Times, April 16 issue, for the full report on this specific pirate attack. I did.
"In the Bay of Bengal just at the north end of the Malacca Straits, on February 22, pirates attacked the Japanese chemical tanker "Global Mars. It was attacked shortly after sailing from Port Kang, Malaysia. The pirates, armed with knives and many guns, overpowered and tied up the crew of 20 and transferred them into a small boat and set it adrift. The crew was rescued on March 8th, hundreds of miles away in the Indian Ocean west of Sumatra. The tanker and its cargo of palm oil products are still missing."
All's well that ends well, at least for the 20 Japanese sailors.
We believe the ship traffic between the North Sea, Straits of Dover and English Channel is greater, but this has to be the second busiest ship traffic place on earth. The strait is marked by beacons for 200 miles with the center line dividing traffic for northwest bound traffic on the north side of the line, and southwest bound traffic on the south side of the line. It works well.
We never attempted to count or estimate the number of ships we saw today. Suffice it to say, there were a lot. At one time we did count 22 vessels around us, horizon to horizon. They were of all types, from small fishing and pleasure craft, to giant super tankers, and one passenger cruise ship (which we did not see).
Passing about 60 miles off shore of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, sometimes visible in the distance, we were nevertheless able to detect the smell of burning wood. This is the continuation of an impending environmental catastrophe. Loggers are clear-cutting the forests of Sumatra, and then burning the leftover brush.
Just over a year ago, the burning was so bad the people 100 miles across the Strait of Malacca in Malaysia and Singapore were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation and burning eyes for an extended period of time. Passing ships navigated as if in fog.
Indonesians are moving on to the vacated land to attempt farming. But it is a well known fact the forest soil there cannot sustain farming but for a very short period. At the end of which, the people have to move away because nothing will grow anymore. The rains will then cause major floods and ruin whatever chance there might be to get the forest reestablished. The Indonesian government's short-sighted attitude is going to be the cause of some very severe long-term problems.
Until now, we did not see too much flotsam across the Pacific and through the East and South China Seas. We thought people at sea were starting to be concerned about how they got rid of their garbage. Of course, there are all sorts of international laws and treaties covering the subject, but observance and enforcement are something else. Here in the Strait of Malacca and out into the Indian Ocean, we seem to be sailing through one very large sea of garbage. It is terrible.
We observed sunset from the bow after supper. It was a very active evening for the officer on the bridge navigating because there appeared to be an armada of fishing vessels all over this part of the Indian Ocean. The wise ones have bright lights showing. The captain told us there are also those who unwisely do not have lights, or else are sound asleep and get smashed by the many cargo vessels moving through the area.
Tonight was one of those rare occasions where being almost on the equator we were able to view the "Southern Cross" completely, as well as part of the "Big Dipper", but not Polaris.
Saturday, February 26
The sunrise this morning was truly spectacular. The first rays hit the tops of a string of thundered clouds across the northern horizon and turned them into bright orange. What color! Peter Paul Rubens painted skies such as these.
On an almost glassy sea, the morning on the bow was occupied by observing more ships, dolphins, flying fish, and sharks. There were some biggins here. It seemed that whenever we saw dolphins very active, we noticed a shark or two lurking around or beneath them. With such clear water and looking down from such a height, it was easy to see fairly deep into the ocean.
The ship traffic definitely slackened quite a bit, with no more than four or five in view at any moment. They were all on the same east-west course as we, coming and going across the Bay of Bengal between the tips of northern Sumatra and southern Sri Lanka. Here there seemed to be more oil tankers than any other type freighter heading to and from the Arabian Sea. Our ship, enormous as it is, compared to some tankers we've seen, is just a medium size. Some of these behemoth tankers are in the 500,000 ton range when fully loaded. In comparison, our ship is an imposing 77,000 tons fully loaded.
The swimming pool, freshly scraped and painted, was reopened today. With the equatorial sun shining directly down on it this morning, it was too hot and bright to use. From mid-afternoon on, it was perfect being in the shade. But the ocean temperature was an almost uncomfortable 82F. The air was 90F.
Normally, the swimming pool is located towards the rear of a ship, and on a lower or middle deck. Picture this. The swimming pool on the Dagmar MAERSK is on "F" deck of the superstructure, just behind and below the bridge. That is 100 feet above the water, making it the equivalent of swimming in a pool on top of a ten-story building moving at 24 knots through the ocean! What a view! You can see forever. What a breeze! What a long drop, too!
This evening the Kiribati crew members made a barbecue on the "B" deck, port side. We started at 1900 with a really lovely sunset. Fortunately, there was no sea breeze at all, so the ship's 24-knot speed provided all the fresh air necessary to make it a nice event. It was the first time in the voyage the entire crew was gathered socially, except for the poor 2nd Mate, Mark Shiryayev, who had the control of the bridge the entire time. Someone had to maintain watch to stay clear of all the ships we were continually passing on both sides.
This was not your usual back yard barbecue. In typical seaman's fashion, a 55-gallon drum was cut in half vertically, covered with a large homemade grill. In Singapore, the cook obtained a jute sack full of charcoal. With a 24-knot breeze blowing over the grill, it didn't take long to get the coals going real good. Large platters of steaks, beef ribs, chicken, and Munchener weisswurst (of course) were put out. It was "cook your own" and garnish it with potato salad or coleslaw, washed down with Beck's Bier or wine. A great time was had by all, except for the 2nd Mate on duty on the bridge.
Sunday, February 27
There's nothing like a sunrise swim 100 feet above the Indian Ocean before breakfast to get the day started. The sea was absolutely calm all day. This was to be expected when sailing in "The Doldrums". That's the area at sea near the equator where there rarely is any significant movement of air. Before the age of steamships, sailors avoided them whenever possible, because they could be becalmed for days or weeks at a time, left praying for wind and rain.
Just before lunch we launched our Indian Ocean bottle message. While the ship was not too distant from the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, the northeast trade winds and north equatorial current marked on our National Geographic map indicated the bottle should be carried in a southwesterly direction for a long distance before catching the south equatorial countercurrent and start heading back towards Australia. Only a response will let us know where it eventually ends up.
Today definitely was dolphin day. Large numbers were sighted close to the ship at various times. Also, one giant sea turtle (about three feet in diameter) was on the surface less than fifty yards from the ship when we passed. Viewed from the bow, he looked up at this massive wonder passing by, but otherwise seemed to be pretty nonplused by it all.
At midnight, we reached the pilot station for Colombo where tomorrow morning, we hope to disembark to do some sightseeing and take care of errands.
Monday, February 28
The captain advised us yesterday that for the ports of Colombo, Salalah and the Suez Canal, the two Prossers would no longer be carried on the ship's manifest as passengers, but as supernumerary crew members. If questioned by any authorities, we are to say, "We are friends of the owners." The reason for this subterfuge is for MAERSK Lines to avoid paying the very high port charges for carrying passengers.
In reality, Jim should be appointed boatswain in charge of the swimming pool with dual responsibility of maintaining peace and tranquility up on the bow, where there has been a lot of racket lately chipping and painting! Mary should be put in charge of the ship's pantry, but that idea would be quickly thrown out for fear she would have had all the onions and garlic tossed overboard!
The ship docked at 0300. We awoke considerably later to find the sun rising over the city of Colombo with a marvelous view of the downtown section which, surprisingly, was quite close.
This was where fellow passenger Sheldon Wallbrown got off with all his belongings; to eventually fly over to India for his new job. He was a great companion to have with us for these four weeks.
At breakfast, we were all excited, full of anticipation to explore the wonders of Colombo in the relatively brief period we were to be here. The captain advised us to be back on board the usual two hours before sailing time of 1400, but that we still couldn't leave the vessel until Sri Lanka immigration formalities were completed. We thought they would already have been, but apparently the officials in Colombo don't start work until 0900 and weren't terribly interested in expeditious processing of the accumulated arrivals overnight.
Sadly, the vessel was not cleared to land personnel until 1030. That left us only 90 minutes for shore leave, hardly worth the effort to get off, find a taxi and be back by 1200. Not enough time for sightseeing, post cards to mail, shopping or E-mail exchange. We knew our shore time in Colombo would be relatively brief under the best of conditions, but not having any was a major disappointment for the three of us, especially due to events which were completely out of our control.
Sheldon, of course, was due to leave anyway, but he had planned on staying with us while we visited Colombo. Since he couldn't leave the ship as soon as he wanted to, he was glad to have our company, as he told us he would have gone stir crazy without us there to help him pass the time. Since we couldn't get off the ship to at least buy some post cards, we gave Sheldon money to purchase them and the stamps needed for the U.S.
A local gem merchant was allowed by MAERSK Lines to come aboard and make sales to ship personnel. Fortunately, Mary was able to fulfill a couple of her desires. But it just wasn't the same as making deals with shops on the streets.
No doubt about it, the national economy of Sri Lanka suffered greatly by not allowing us any shopping time there. But, looking at the bright side of things, our bank accounts remain solvent.
At 1400 we cast off, and Colombo slipped over the horizon as the ship headed into the Arabian Sea to our next port, Salalah in the Sheikdom of Oman, almost three days away. The ship had a lot of cargo for discharge there.
After dinner this evening, quietly watching the sunset over a serene sea from the bow, the ship came into an enormous school of dolphins. There had to be hundreds. For fully ten minutes of passing them, they cavorted for viewers. The ship was going too fast for them to keep up, so we knew the number had to be quite large. The Chief Engineer commented, "Seeing dolphins is common, but in such numbers for so long is, indeed, rare."
Preface: This story is, as all those I've sent, true so help me God. I've not given my roomie's name for obvious reasons; he's deceased but left behind a very fine reputation which was well earned. His behavior on the night in question was quite out of character. Guess the months of training and being cooped up with me in a small hotel room finally got to him.
The class of brand new communicators, all four of us, had just completed the three month course in the State Department's communications training center which was really a side room to the communications center. It was late January 1960 and just a day or two before Jack Kennedy would be inaugurated as the 35th president. We all had our orders and tickets to fly, first class, to our first post of assignment. At least two of us were leaving the day after the inauguration. Those who were in the area then will remember the snow storm that brought the region to its knees. Thousands of government employees were unable to get home the day before the inauguration. Hotels and motels were filled with people because of the storm and some restaurants were wiped out of food.
For reasons of economy, one of my classmates and I shared a room at the Allen Lee Hotel which overlooks Virginia Avenue, 23rd street and, I'm not sure ... F street perhaps. Our room looked out toward the State Department building, beyond Virginia Avenue. I don't think the round office building was there then; certainly the Kennedy Center and Watergate farther along on Virginia Avenue were not yet in existence.
My roommate and I had spent a great deal of time during the months of training at our favorite restaurant and watering hole, El Morocco, up on Pennsylvania Avenue, near 23rd Street. Other of our classmates and some students from other classes also spent a fair amount of time at El Morocco's. While I was the only teetotaler in the crowd we neither had in those days "designated drivers" or, in our case, any cars. On the day of the inauguration it was blistering cold so our plan to stand on the sidewalk outside El Morocco's and watch the parade was scrapped because we didn't want to freeze to death. We remained inside, sending a scout out now and then to keep an eye on events. Around 9 or 10 p.m., when all there was to eat was taco chips at another bar or restaurant across Pennsylvania Avenue, my roomie and I called it an evening and walked down 23rd Street to the Allen Lee. It was kind of an exciting time for me because I was scheduled to be in Bonn in a little more than a day so I wasn't sure I'd get any sleep that night.
We got into our room and my roomie switched on the TV. He'd been drinking beer almost all day and I was kind of surprised when he whipped out a fifth of something and starting taking a few pulls from it. I had drunk enough orange juice during the day to float a PT boat and never drank alcohol anyway so he didn't offer me a swig.
Unfortunately there was nothing on TV, as I recall, except inauguration stuff so my roomie sat on his bed, drank from his fifth and periodically checked one of the other half dozen channels we could get.
Just moments before my heart stopped the first time, which was around midnight, my roomie checked the other channels once again, saw there was still nothing to watch and reached out to the window, lifted it up and threw the empty bottle. In that same instant he yelled something that I didn't hear clearly because the sound of motorcycles drowned him out. He slammed the window back down and closed the shade and stood there with a distressed look on his face. There was no need to explain. I didn't know why he threw the bottle out but I knew he had thrown it amidst a cavalcade of motorcycles and limousines. We didn't know whether to turn out the lights; hide under the bed or in the closet; all the above or leave the room or just what the hell to do. We did expect to hear the rumble of boots on stairs and secret service agents storming down the hallway. But nothing happened.
All I can think about that incident is that those motorcades, in other inaugurations, are accustomed to poor loosers.
The following request for assistance comes from Tim Lawson.
My fellow RIMC colleagues here in Bangkok have asked that I query you on a subject. We are very interested in doing some research on not only IRM's past history, but that of the RIMC's as well. Certainly, your readership probably commands the best individual and collective knowledge on this front available to us. Specifically, we wanted to know when the first RIMC (or ROC), or whatever it may have been called at that time, was actually established? What were the professional titles of IRMers (including IMTS officers) before the establishment of OC in, wasn't it 1962? Any other historical information about our organization and its people would be very much appreciated. We are making this effort because of our belief that in order to visualize IRM's future it is important that we understand fully, IRM's past.
Thanks and regards,