When I got out of engine and airframe school at Chanute field Ill. The sqdn had already moved from Portland airbase to Paine Field, Everett, Washington.
I must tell you a story about the WINDMILL nightclub just outside of Everett. It was a dinning and dancing and bar place. We of the 54th spent so much time and money there that we began to call it the 54th NIGHT room. We were sort of proud of our position at the Windmill. One night another outfit moved in which to our consternation was very up setting. Tempers flared, threats were laid down, and accusations were mumbled. So out doors we all went. I happened be standing shoulder to shoulder with friend FREDDY HALL. Out of the blue comes the M.P’s on a weapons carrier, of course it had a mounted 30-caliber machine gun and a GI with hand on trigger. Next to pull-up was a jeep with about 6 mp’s to come charging out. The first mistake was when the OD. Barked an order “fix BAYONETS”. Which the 6 mp’s started to do. Notice I said STARTED. They were young like us, probably a little frightened (like us). To make a long story short, one young man was right in front of FREDDY and I, fumbling with his bayonet, it wouldn’t go on. So FREDDY and I both grabbed it at the same time, snapped it on his rifle and said “NOW WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH IT” By that time the OD. Saw that he had a situation, so he called his men back to the jeep. I have often thought of that situation and what could have happened, both with bayonets and machine gun. WHEW. That cooled every one off and back into the WINDMILL we went for another beer.
Fred Hall was a good friend, and tent mate all through the Alaskan campaigns, As I write this story Fred has been deceased for a month or so (I don’t have the exact date) but I must say Fred had a way of making every one feel good. Freddie had a nickname that stayed with him as long as we (54th) knew him. We hardly ever called him FREDDY it was always THREE BALL. I won’t go into much detail as to why we called him that, but that was his handle all the way from Anchorage to Attu. Tentmates were Three ball Hall, Shorty Hufford, Heddy Lamar, Dillahunty, Simpson, and myself (McGalliard).
While we are here into tentmates I got another story. Simpson always had one ear open for the 55 caliber cannon that was supposed to warn us if we were under attack or the JAPS were in the area or just to warn us of maybe an impending ATTACK alert. Well one night the cannon went off ONCE. Simpson raised his head, (he always kept his sheep lined pants and jacket handy by his cot) the SECOND shot sounded, Simpson rolled out of his sleeping bag and started putting on his clothes. The rest of us were not as swift as Simpson when it came to hitting the door and heading for the FOXHOLE.By the time the THIRD shot sounded, ( which meant we were going to be BOMBED) was dressed and heading for the door, but all this time every one else had been hitting the floor also and as it came out we were not that far behind Simpson. In fact as he hit the tent flap and got almost out, he tripped on the bottom rope. (the tent flap door was fastened with ROPE TIES) First Dilihunty, then Heddy, Three Ball, Shorty, and me last (I got to see it all) each one going out put their foot smack dab in the middle of his back and pushed him back into the MUD in front of the door. He was furious as we all got a big chuckle and were already in the foxhole. Boy did he fuss at us. I guess you might say that is the “riggers of war?
About here I want to tell you about our BATHING FACILITIES, in the Aleutian Islands. In 1942 to 1944. We lived in a 4 sided tent. With a tiny coal stove putting out heat into the tent. (You could almost feel the heat if you touched the stove) The said stove had a small hole in the top to put in coal or whatever, when we took our baths we would go out side and scoop up some snow in our helmet and set the helmet in the hole in the stove, and wait until water was warm enough to wash our ARM PIT’S and CROTCH and then shave in the same water. A wonderful way to live. This we did for about 2 years, regardless of TEMPERTURE OUTSIDE. Which usually ran from 32 DEG.? To minus 60 DEG.
While at Paine Field (just outside of Seattle) we still had the P-43’s, some one decided to have a MOCK air battle. As it came out it took place right over the air base. L-O-W, I mean LOW, right on the deck. Let’s call them BLUE and RED teams. They flew around for awhile having fun, then two opposing members decided to play CHICKEN (or some such game) Here they come from opposite sides of the landscape, red here and blue there. Instead of one turning left and the other right, they both pulled straight upright over the center of the tarmac where we were standing. Their belly’s came closer and closer and closer, I don’t think either man knew where his opponent was, but each ship was like a shadow of the other one belly to belly about three feet apart. Full throttle, props churning the air and then they fell off on opposite wings to pull out level. Those two young men if alive today don’t know how lucky they were.
Our orders were cut and down to the dock we went (hurry up and wait) Got on board a banana boat. Only a handful of staterooms. Me??? I slept on the deck (steel). No comfort there, the steel deck was put down with round-headed rivets EVERY 12 INCHES.North south east and west. You try sleeping on a rivet head while the ship rolls side to side never got seasick, so I proceeded to the gally and got a fist full of fatty meat to show to the guys who were seasick. Well it kept their stomachs empty. They should have THANKED me !!!!!!!!!
We pulled into Dutch Harbor on the 2nd of June 1942. They loaded us on to another ship and we left out approximately 3 hours before the Japs ATTACKED Dutch Harbor next morning. Another WHEW. Several hours later we pulled into Anchorage Alaska and Elmendorf Field. As I recollect the P-38’s were already there, ready for us to kick tires, spit and polish, run them up and say “READY SIR”
Let’s leave it there for now.
54th Interceptor sqdn
343rd fighter group
Alaskan Defense Command.