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My Memories of the Service

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Title

My Memories of the Service

Subject

Gass, William H., 1924---Essays.

Description

Recollections by William Gass about his time in the United States Navy during and immediately following World War II. Gass wrote the piece specifically for the "William Gass: The Soul Inside the Sentence" digital exhibit.

Creator

Gass, William H.

Source

Courtesy of William H. Gass

Date

2013

Rights

This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. For information on procedures and policies governing the use of materials, see http://library.wustl.edu/spec/access/forms/.

Format

Text; 1 pdf file

Language

English

Type

Narratives

Identifier

My Memories of the Service.pdf

PDF Search

Text

1
My Memories of the Service
By William H. Gass
1
A warship when first underway will shiver nervously. Everywhere its skin
trembles; and the crew, from canvas shoe to chalky cap, will shiver too, as their bodies
get used to the deck’s continuous rocking, the slow swell of the sea, the shake of laboring
engines, and the sway of the horizon in the bowl of the eye. The day I reached my ship
the sea was like slate, its surface thinly ridged, little wind. It had been a long tedious
journey from the Naval Station Great Lakes where I was presumed to be learning about
codes, ciphers, and other secrets, to my ultimate goal, an unmarked X in the middle of the
Pacific where the Third/Fifth Fleet refueled engines and supplied its men. Rail cars were
stuffed with sleeping soldiers and their gear. They carried us through the Rocky
Mountains to the Golden Gate where we were to wait our turn to go to war.
I left San Francisco on an oiler for Hawaii in late May. I was nearly the only
passenger aboard, wandering about, dining with the officers, reading The Golden Bough,
a book I had bought in Frisco; and, left pretty much to myself, sinfully enjoying the
journey, especially the great storm that struck us halfway, and which was drama without
too much danger. Oilers are floating tanks and we were full, sitting deep in the water and
low to the wind, so the blow of the waves covered most of the ship’s stomach, a strange
severing that was finally fun. The stern was like a submarine’s conning tower thrust up
into waves that broke over its belly. But I didn’t know prows looked like that then. I had
never seen one.
In Pearl I was transferred to a freighter filled with fresh troops, ammo, and
apprehension, and nourished by meals made of left over sausage and canned beans
covered with catsup. Youths sleeping in racks of four were stacked in the hold. This
creaking slow boat brought its cargo to Eniwetok, one of the Marshall chain, an atoll
whose future was to be famously blown into subatomic pieces. To my surprise, over my
head was a shed made of maybe shredded palm trees that officers used as a drink and
gamble club, and where they sought shade from a untiring sun. The amount of wagering
among the crews surprised and even shocked me. I was just a kid and had no right to an
opinion, but about the wager I retained a puritanical attitude. Some of us enjoyed a coral
swim in water so clear that one of my arms became badly sun burned even though it had
been submerged in the ocean for a splashy half an hour. I received a reprimand for
allowing this to happen.
2
The above recounts the third collision I was to have with naval authority. The
second occurred nearly a year earlier when, as a fresh enlistee still in civilian clothes, I
was made to stand in a line, sheepish and silly, and then told in an unpleasant tone to face
right. This command could not be meant for me. However, to my amazement obedience
was expected. My father often berated me, but I do not remember him so bossy as to
provoke instantaneous resistance. He was an evaluator not a demander. He would
suggest I mow the lawn, and then describe how badly I had done it. Even now, old and
occasionally obedient, any hint of criticism reddens my cheeks. Did that include the
editors who advised alterations?

2
3
My initial encounter? I was a first quarter freshman at Kenyon College. In a
building nearby were housed a group of new students studying the weather. We called
them “the weather or nots.” We thought that funny. At every five a.m. this group,
loudly chanting their cadence, would march along a road below the genuine student
dorms. Our request that the weather-or-nots shut up and let us sleep, our suggestion that
they march elsewhere such as into the inferno, did not receive a response. So one night I
removed the fuse box in their building. It was poorly protected. Oh joyous giggle! They
did not know where the thing was supposed to be mounted. After some patriot tattled on
me I was suspended from all socializing for a month by a personage called Dean; but my
pleasure was real to this very moment of writing. Such mischief had made me a hero on
the campus although the weather-or-nots continued to chant while on the same road at the
same hour and with a louder noise. They also posted more alert guards.
4
Nor had I seen the breaches buoy that was going to carry me from one ship to
another: a basket of rope built for big birds, hung from a pulley, and pulled by numerous
young men would carry me across what at that moment seemed a vast and angry stretch
of water. The sea was, of course, calm, the two ships barely making headway. The trade
of me and my fellow passenger – a big balding guy who appeared from nowhere - for a
few fresh vegetables and a movie - would be safely made, although the crew ordered to
make the exchange looked skeptical and in every direction except ours. We managed a
salute. A voice somewhere said, “Jesus, we just netted the oldest and the youngest
ensigns in the navy.”
5
The Pasadena was the flagship of its group. This meant that, in addition to a
captain, we carried an admiral and his staff of toadies. What we didn’t have was
experience. Our boat was brand new (like me), on its first fight (like me), an amateur at
every thing (like me). Although my record aboard was – one ranking officer said – the
worst he had ever seen; nevertheless during my sixteen continuous months at sea I
gradually received more significant tasks. I was the movie officer for a couple of weeks.
It was an impossible job because the movies the men wanted to see were westerns and
noirs not musicals. Ships that had Hoot Gibson squirreled him away and looked for
bargains in Randolph Scott. If you got stuck with something girlish, for instance an
Esther Williams, you were stuck indeed. Sailors did not long for swimming pools and
lots of splashing, or even well filled swimsuits, they wanted horses, gunplay and dust.
I was the newscaster for a few weeks or a bit more. The Broadcaster was to
announce via the ship’s audio system baseball scores as well as military triumphs. I
decided to spice up the news, supply some jokes and describe a number of reported
oddities. Not every item I used was pro war, not every thought was a happy one, not
every move of our marvelous nation wise. I would fix our location as “GRABLE 36-2435” or RITA HAYWORTH 36C.” The nightly newscast was an immediate hit. One
heard laughter from stem to stern, as well as wisecracks and argument. In three weeks, in
the company of a fierce silence I was relieved of this task just when I was beginning to
enjoy it.
I was also the secrets officer. This might sound scary, important even, but it
wasn’t. I was the garbles officer. When a transmission was too tangled to crack, or
jumbled in reception to understand, I tried to straighten it out. I mostly worked on

3
typewriter or a codifier. When a message came or went labeled for Eyes-Only or Top
Secret, I would be sent for and it was I who bore the clip board, like room service,
carrying a message to its recipient, hoping for a tip. There were officers on the
Admiral’s staff who tried to peek at my message tray because to know things made them
feel important. Had they looked they would have learned little because these messages
were often not important at all. They could even be frivolous. After the Admiral had
taken note of its contents, he might make remarks in a red pencil and instruct me to show
the secret to another officer. One morning, the Admiral in a feisty mood, tried to drive
the pencil through the paper that I brought him; the point broke; he threw the pencil
against the cabin’s furthest wall; he held out an empty hand toward me for another; and
he rejected the choices I offered him because none of them was red. This oversight was
to be remedied immediately.
But years off, wasn’t I to be the stabber of an mss rejected by a publisher?
When it wasn’t my watch I would hide in the top secret vault where the ship
carried its medical brandy and read Erskine Caldwell and Hemingway. I actually didn’t
drink a lot of the brandy but I read the same Hemingway and Caldwell over and over. In
the vault no one could find me, hidden in Hemingway, engrossed in Caldwell – I
remember “I mistrust all frank and simple people…” Tastes change, even for brandy,
memory fails, even for men and woman; nowadays I get lost in Jeremy Taylor but I have
to consult the text: “It is certainly a sad thing in nature to see a friend trembling with a
palsie, or scorched with feavers, or dried up like a potsheard with immoderate heats, and
rowling upon his uneasie bed without sleep which cannot be invited with musick, or
pleasant murmurs, or a decent stillnesse…”
and I wonder whether I will be such a case and whether I shall be such a friend to myself.
6

7
In the top secret vault were kept the keys to codes and ciphers in leaden covers.
So they might sink to the bottom of the sea with alacrity. One of my tasks was to keep
the various readings of signals up to date, for instance when a plane approached the fleet
it gave out coded radar signals that identified it as a friend not a foe. Unlike most of the
things on the ship I did, this task was clearly important.
I discovered to my dismay that whoever had this job before me had not registered the fact
that these changes in codes had been made. I supposed that it had because we hadn’t shot
down any friendly planes but I made the omissions known. This caused a fire in the
paper mill. Entering out of date symbols in a clerky book was tedious work; there were a
lot of codes that were rarely used; and some that automatically altered themselves
according to still more secret designs.
I simply told my superiors that there was no longer any need to correct an out of
date symbol system. We needed to keep up with what was presently in use.
This time it was the ship’s captain who threatened me with insubordination. I realize
now that I was to cover up someone else’s mistake, that the ship had always been safe,
and its past must be seamless and without a scratch.
Sometimes when I presented the boss with a badly written top secret message –
incoming or outgoing - the admiral would grump at me for someone else’s poor
grammar. My offer of assistance in their future compositions was rejected with further
curses. I was young, stupid; I smirked. I was confined to my quarters where I made

4
chess moves with another Bad Attitude. He played the game far better than I did.
Neither of us felt the dishonor we were supposed to suffer when under hack.
8
I learned how to decode messages meant for other admirals because our guy liked
to spy on more than the enemy. Officers desired to look at communications that were
temptingly labeled Eyes Only . What were the other big shots saying to one another?
why was Halsey whispering to King and not to him? I sometimes enabled our Captain to
overhear confidences, but he did not like me for this. I was a partner in his crimes.
9
Strictly speaking I was not a member of the Admiral’s staff. I belonged to the
boat. Nevertheless, I was so treated. It was actually a useful mistake. When the Captain
of the ship could not find me, he assumed I was off on an Admiral’s errand; when I was
not available to the Admiral, I must be busy about the Captain’s business. Reading The
Sun Also Rises. In the officers’ wardroom listening to Giuseppe De Luca sing Eri Tu on
the phonograph. I guess I have the Navy to thank for my passion about opera. It was
the only real music on board, and I played the circles off of it. Something like that must
have happened because one morning I found shattered bits of vinyl at my place at table.
10
The Pasadena passed through the horrors of Iwo Jima and Okinawa unscathed.
We must have had a secret pact with our enemy: “if we have orders to bomb you, we
promise to use only duds; and if you have to shoot at our planes, miss.”
The typhoon that I enjoyed on the oiler was probably the edge or subsidence of
the famous storm later called Cobra that did the fleet more damage than the attacks of the
Japanese. Too many destroyers were allowed to run low on fuel. So they would
threaten to roll over with the waves. Too little attention was paid to the sea itself. For
what had they trained entire dorms about weather? Steering became difficult as water
rose and air speed accelerated. When attempts were made to refuel, speeds were set at
ten knots, but then fuel lines tore, phone lines broke, mooring ropes, trying to be helpful,
snapped with horrid howls. Misinformed, angry, mad, Halsey turned the fleet into the
storm whose winds were now over a hundred. Ships threatened to run into one another.
Gun barrels were bent. Planes were swept from the decks of carriers. Sharks began to
show up. Nearly a thousand sailors were lost and several ships. Halsey was court
marshaled. And given a medal.
Six months later the fleet was attacked (I was now aboard, the world watched) by
Viper, a twin of Cobra. The only difference was the ships were well
weighed down by fuel and provision this time. Halsey reacted as if he were personally
assaulted. Not so many died, but Essex had its flight path rolled up.
The bow of Pittsburgh, a ship identical with mine, had its bow torn off. Communication
equipment was blown away and the fleet silent. I read the unscripted message Halsey
sent to his squadrons when he was able: WHEN LAST SEEN THE JAPANESE
TYPHOON WAS FLEEING TO THE EAST. Halsey was court marshaled. And given
another medal.

11
After August 6 (1945) there was a scramble between naval authorities to find out
what had happened at a target some messages had warned all planes away from; and

5
plenty of bent noses because they had been left out of the “must know” society. A few
captains – if the messages that flew everywhere like gulls can be relied upon – catapulted
their ship’s plane in the direction of Hiroshima.
There was nothing to be seen but death and oblivion.
12
Right after the surrender, since the fleet was in Tokyo, I was given a little leave,
several days during which I could visit some temples, enjoy some hot springs, take a few
fine pictures of Fuji, and get a feel for the country General MacArthur was going to be
ruling. Piles of weapons were looted at the encouragement of higher powers: I took
away one sword, one rifle, and one revolver. It was German, a Luger, as heavy as a
hardened heart. They were a great pain to carry about. Ultimately I gave them away.
The Japanese were… they were obedient.
13
Then the ships one by one returned to the United States. As a punishment for a
poor performance, I was remaindered to a LST (LandingShipTank) but I had scarcely
delivered a salute to this new commander when a message arrived altering my
destination. I had been rerouted to the USS Estes, an amphibious command ship for the
seventh fleet. This ship had fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa but it was a new kind of
vessel - directing preinvasion underwater attacks, special land bombardments, and aerial
assaults. The ship did a kind of police patrol up and down the Chinese coast and for a
while made Tsingtao its home. Finally it shifted its provenance to Shanghai where I was
posted as the on-shore representative of the Seventh Fleet.
I was 21 and incapable of representing anything. To do nothing exceptionally
well I was given a driver who didn’t have anything to do either. So we drove into the
country. We had picnics. He had never really experienced crows in crowds or bats
either. We saw the movie, Henry V, surrounded by civil war, poverty, and disease; and
there experienced clacking (two wooden squares whacked together to disturb the
audiences’ enjoyment). An old hand said it was to convey enthusiasm. I didn’t believe
him.
Shanghai was a dangerous city - small pox, cholera, typhus were epidemic.
American officers hung out at a mess in the International section of the city. It was from
this place drunken sailors staged Rickshaw races, and gave me another moment of shame
for the United States. I was glad to go home anyway.

1
My Memories of the Service
By William H. Gass
1
A warship when first underway will shiver nervously. Everywhere its skin
trembles; and the crew, from canvas shoe to chalky cap, will shiver too, as their bodies
get used to the deck’s continuous rocking, the slow swell of the sea, the shake of laboring
engines, and the sway of the horizon in the bowl of the eye. The day I reached my ship
the sea was like slate, its surface thinly ridged, little wind. It had been a long tedious
journey from the Naval Station Great Lakes where I was presumed to be learning about
codes, ciphers, and other secrets, to my ultimate goal, an unmarked X in the middle of the
Pacific where the Third/Fifth Fleet refueled engines and supplied its men. Rail cars were
stuffed with sleeping soldiers and their gear. They carried us through the Rocky
Mountains to the Golden Gate where we were to wait our turn to go to war.
I left San Francisco on an oiler for Hawaii in late May. I was nearly the only
passenger aboard, wandering about, dining with the officers, reading The Golden Bough,
a book I had bought in Frisco; and, left pretty much to myself, sinfully enjoying the
journey, especially the great storm that struck us halfway, and which was drama without
too much danger. Oilers are floating tanks and we were full, sitting deep in the water and
low to the wind, so the blow of the waves covered most of the ship’s stomach, a strange
severing that was finally fun. The stern was like a submarine’s conning tower thrust up
into waves that broke over its belly. But I didn’t know prows looked like that then. I had
never seen one.
In Pearl I was transferred to a freighter filled with fresh troops, ammo, and
apprehension, and nourished by meals made of left over sausage and canned beans
covered with catsup. Youths sleeping in racks of four were stacked in the hold. This
creaking slow boat brought its cargo to Eniwetok, one of the Marshall chain, an atoll
whose future was to be famously blown into subatomic pieces. To my surprise, over my
head was a shed made of maybe shredded palm trees that officers used as a drink and
gamble club, and where they sought shade from a untiring sun. The amount of wagering
among the crews surprised and even shocked me. I was just a kid and had no right to an
opinion, but about the wager I retained a puritanical attitude. Some of us enjoyed a coral
swim in water so clear that one of my arms became badly sun burned even though it had
been submerged in the ocean for a splashy half an hour. I received a reprimand for
allowing this to happen.
2
The above recounts the third collision I was to have with naval authority. The
second occurred nearly a year earlier when, as a fresh enlistee still in civilian clothes, I
was made to stand in a line, sheepish and silly, and then told in an unpleasant tone to face
right. This command could not be meant for me. However, to my amazement obedience
was expected. My father often berated me, but I do not remember him so bossy as to
provoke instantaneous resistance. He was an evaluator not a demander. He would
suggest I mow the lawn, and then describe how badly I had done it. Even now, old and
occasionally obedient, any hint of criticism reddens my cheeks. Did that include the
editors who advised alterations?

2
3
My initial encounter? I was a first quarter freshman at Kenyon College. In a
building nearby were housed a group of new students studying the weather. We called
them “the weather or nots.” We thought that funny. At every five a.m. this group,
loudly chanting their cadence, would march along a road below the genuine student
dorms. Our request that the weather-or-nots shut up and let us sleep, our suggestion that
they march elsewhere such as into the inferno, did not receive a response. So one night I
removed the fuse box in their building. It was poorly protected. Oh joyous giggle! They
did not know where the thing was supposed to be mounted. After some patriot tattled on
me I was suspended from all socializing for a month by a personage called Dean; but my
pleasure was real to this very moment of writing. Such mischief had made me a hero on
the campus although the weather-or-nots continued to chant while on the same road at the
same hour and with a louder noise. They also posted more alert guards.
4
Nor had I seen the breaches buoy that was going to carry me from one ship to
another: a basket of rope built for big birds, hung from a pulley, and pulled by numerous
young men would carry me across what at that moment seemed a vast and angry stretch
of water. The sea was, of course, calm, the two ships barely making headway. The trade
of me and my fellow passenger – a big balding guy who appeared from nowhere - for a
few fresh vegetables and a movie - would be safely made, although the crew ordered to
make the exchange looked skeptical and in every direction except ours. We managed a
salute. A voice somewhere said, “Jesus, we just netted the oldest and the youngest
ensigns in the navy.”
5
The Pasadena was the flagship of its group. This meant that, in addition to a
captain, we carried an admiral and his staff of toadies. What we didn’t have was
experience. Our boat was brand new (like me), on its first fight (like me), an amateur at
every thing (like me). Although my record aboard was – one ranking officer said – the
worst he had ever seen; nevertheless during my sixteen continuous months at sea I
gradually received more significant tasks. I was the movie officer for a couple of weeks.
It was an impossible job because the movies the men wanted to see were westerns and
noirs not musicals. Ships that had Hoot Gibson squirreled him away and looked for
bargains in Randolph Scott. If you got stuck with something girlish, for instance an
Esther Williams, you were stuck indeed. Sailors did not long for swimming pools and
lots of splashing, or even well filled swimsuits, they wanted horses, gunplay and dust.
I was the newscaster for a few weeks or a bit more. The Broadcaster was to
announce via the ship’s audio system baseball scores as well as military triumphs. I
decided to spice up the news, supply some jokes and describe a number of reported
oddities. Not every item I used was pro war, not every thought was a happy one, not
every move of our marvelous nation wise. I would fix our location as “GRABLE 36-2435” or RITA HAYWORTH 36C.” The nightly newscast was an immediate hit. One
heard laughter from stem to stern, as well as wisecracks and argument. In three weeks, in
the company of a fierce silence I was relieved of this task just when I was beginning to
enjoy it.
I was also the secrets officer. This might sound scary, important even, but it
wasn’t. I was the garbles officer. When a transmission was too tangled to crack, or
jumbled in reception to understand, I tried to straighten it out. I mostly worked on

3
typewriter or a codifier. When a message came or went labeled for Eyes-Only or Top
Secret, I would be sent for and it was I who bore the clip board, like room service,
carrying a message to its recipient, hoping for a tip. There were officers on the
Admiral’s staff who tried to peek at my message tray because to know things made them
feel important. Had they looked they would have learned little because these messages
were often not important at all. They could even be frivolous. After the Admiral had
taken note of its contents, he might make remarks in a red pencil and instruct me to show
the secret to another officer. One morning, the Admiral in a feisty mood, tried to drive
the pencil through the paper that I brought him; the point broke; he threw the pencil
against the cabin’s furthest wall; he held out an empty hand toward me for another; and
he rejected the choices I offered him because none of them was red. This oversight was
to be remedied immediately.
But years off, wasn’t I to be the stabber of an mss rejected by a publisher?
When it wasn’t my watch I would hide in the top secret vault where the ship
carried its medical brandy and read Erskine Caldwell and Hemingway. I actually didn’t
drink a lot of the brandy but I read the same Hemingway and Caldwell over and over. In
the vault no one could find me, hidden in Hemingway, engrossed in Caldwell – I
remember “I mistrust all frank and simple people…” Tastes change, even for brandy,
memory fails, even for men and woman; nowadays I get lost in Jeremy Taylor but I have
to consult the text: “It is certainly a sad thing in nature to see a friend trembling with a
palsie, or scorched with feavers, or dried up like a potsheard with immoderate heats, and
rowling upon his uneasie bed without sleep which cannot be invited with musick, or
pleasant murmurs, or a decent stillnesse…”
and I wonder whether I will be such a case and whether I shall be such a friend to myself.
6

7
In the top secret vault were kept the keys to codes and ciphers in leaden covers.
So they might sink to the bottom of the sea with alacrity. One of my tasks was to keep
the various readings of signals up to date, for instance when a plane approached the fleet
it gave out coded radar signals that identified it as a friend not a foe. Unlike most of the
things on the ship I did, this task was clearly important.
I discovered to my dismay that whoever had this job before me had not registered the fact
that these changes in codes had been made. I supposed that it had because we hadn’t shot
down any friendly planes but I made the omissions known. This caused a fire in the
paper mill. Entering out of date symbols in a clerky book was tedious work; there were a
lot of codes that were rarely used; and some that automatically altered themselves
according to still more secret designs.
I simply told my superiors that there was no longer any need to correct an out of
date symbol system. We needed to keep up with what was presently in use.
This time it was the ship’s captain who threatened me with insubordination. I realize
now that I was to cover up someone else’s mistake, that the ship had always been safe,
and its past must be seamless and without a scratch.
Sometimes when I presented the boss with a badly written top secret message –
incoming or outgoing - the admiral would grump at me for someone else’s poor
grammar. My offer of assistance in their future compositions was rejected with further
curses. I was young, stupid; I smirked. I was confined to my quarters where I made

4
chess moves with another Bad Attitude. He played the game far better than I did.
Neither of us felt the dishonor we were supposed to suffer when under hack.
8
I learned how to decode messages meant for other admirals because our guy liked
to spy on more than the enemy. Officers desired to look at communications that were
temptingly labeled Eyes Only . What were the other big shots saying to one another?
why was Halsey whispering to King and not to him? I sometimes enabled our Captain to
overhear confidences, but he did not like me for this. I was a partner in his crimes.
9
Strictly speaking I was not a member of the Admiral’s staff. I belonged to the
boat. Nevertheless, I was so treated. It was actually a useful mistake. When the Captain
of the ship could not find me, he assumed I was off on an Admiral’s errand; when I was
not available to the Admiral, I must be busy about the Captain’s business. Reading The
Sun Also Rises. In the officers’ wardroom listening to Giuseppe De Luca sing Eri Tu on
the phonograph. I guess I have the Navy to thank for my passion about opera. It was
the only real music on board, and I played the circles off of it. Something like that must
have happened because one morning I found shattered bits of vinyl at my place at table.
10
The Pasadena passed through the horrors of Iwo Jima and Okinawa unscathed.
We must have had a secret pact with our enemy: “if we have orders to bomb you, we
promise to use only duds; and if you have to shoot at our planes, miss.”
The typhoon that I enjoyed on the oiler was probably the edge or subsidence of
the famous storm later called Cobra that did the fleet more damage than the attacks of the
Japanese. Too many destroyers were allowed to run low on fuel. So they would
threaten to roll over with the waves. Too little attention was paid to the sea itself. For
what had they trained entire dorms about weather? Steering became difficult as water
rose and air speed accelerated. When attempts were made to refuel, speeds were set at
ten knots, but then fuel lines tore, phone lines broke, mooring ropes, trying to be helpful,
snapped with horrid howls. Misinformed, angry, mad, Halsey turned the fleet into the
storm whose winds were now over a hundred. Ships threatened to run into one another.
Gun barrels were bent. Planes were swept from the decks of carriers. Sharks began to
show up. Nearly a thousand sailors were lost and several ships. Halsey was court
marshaled. And given a medal.
Six months later the fleet was attacked (I was now aboard, the world watched) by
Viper, a twin of Cobra. The only difference was the ships were well
weighed down by fuel and provision this time. Halsey reacted as if he were personally
assaulted. Not so many died, but Essex had its flight path rolled up.
The bow of Pittsburgh, a ship identical with mine, had its bow torn off. Communication
equipment was blown away and the fleet silent. I read the unscripted message Halsey
sent to his squadrons when he was able: WHEN LAST SEEN THE JAPANESE
TYPHOON WAS FLEEING TO THE EAST. Halsey was court marshaled. And given
another medal.

11
After August 6 (1945) there was a scramble between naval authorities to find out
what had happened at a target some messages had warned all planes away from; and

5
plenty of bent noses because they had been left out of the “must know” society. A few
captains – if the messages that flew everywhere like gulls can be relied upon – catapulted
their ship’s plane in the direction of Hiroshima.
There was nothing to be seen but death and oblivion.
12
Right after the surrender, since the fleet was in Tokyo, I was given a little leave,
several days during which I could visit some temples, enjoy some hot springs, take a few
fine pictures of Fuji, and get a feel for the country General MacArthur was going to be
ruling. Piles of weapons were looted at the encouragement of higher powers: I took
away one sword, one rifle, and one revolver. It was German, a Luger, as heavy as a
hardened heart. They were a great pain to carry about. Ultimately I gave them away.
The Japanese were… they were obedient.
13
Then the ships one by one returned to the United States. As a punishment for a
poor performance, I was remaindered to a LST (LandingShipTank) but I had scarcely
delivered a salute to this new commander when a message arrived altering my
destination. I had been rerouted to the USS Estes, an amphibious command ship for the
seventh fleet. This ship had fought at Iwo Jima and Okinawa but it was a new kind of
vessel - directing preinvasion underwater attacks, special land bombardments, and aerial
assaults. The ship did a kind of police patrol up and down the Chinese coast and for a
while made Tsingtao its home. Finally it shifted its provenance to Shanghai where I was
posted as the on-shore representative of the Seventh Fleet.
I was 21 and incapable of representing anything. To do nothing exceptionally
well I was given a driver who didn’t have anything to do either. So we drove into the
country. We had picnics. He had never really experienced crows in crowds or bats
either. We saw the movie, Henry V, surrounded by civil war, poverty, and disease; and
there experienced clacking (two wooden squares whacked together to disturb the
audiences’ enjoyment). An old hand said it was to convey enthusiasm. I didn’t believe
him.
Shanghai was a dangerous city - small pox, cholera, typhus were epidemic.
American officers hung out at a mess in the International section of the city. It was from
this place drunken sailors staged Rickshaw races, and gave me another moment of shame
for the United States. I was glad to go home anyway.

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Citation

Gass, William H., “My Memories of the Service,” WUSTL Digital Gateway Image Collections & Exhibitions, accessed February 22, 2019, http://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/items/show/3842.

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