In Trouble


By Robert teGroen, MMC USNR-Ret.

At the time of this story, Mr. teGroen was a Machinist Mate (15 Jan. 1953 to 16 Nov. 1953), 


          It was fall 1953 and the ERNEST G. SMALL DDR 838 was doing her duty off the coast of Korea while the peace talks were taking place (so not too many folks were shooting at us).  But we did have great liberty in Japan every two or three weeks.  Sasebo, Yokosuka, Beppu, and my buddy Bill and I (both Machinist Mates) would explore the sights. The great Buddha at Kamakura was target to my camera; also the ornate temple there.  We usually left the ship early, usually by boat for in those days ships were anchored out in the harbor.  Bill and I would usually start walking in a direction that we hadnít walked before, cameras in hand; little kids in kimonos, ancient graveyards lined with carved headstones of princes or nobles all got their pictures taken.  There was also the shopping to be taken care of, a kimono, an ivory carving, and even a model airplane jet engine that I wished I still had (it didnít work but what the hell). I even bought two large wooden boxes filled with china that finally made it home to the USA without falling into the bay while we climbed the vertical ladder with the crates balanced on our shoulders.  

            But eventually we would end up at our favorite watering hole, each city having a favorite one; after all, the minute we walked in the girls yelled ďBob San, Bill SanĒ, and we were home again. 

            I think it was at Yokosuka that I got in trouble.  The fleet was in, at least one Bird Farm and her attending brood was there, so the city was busy.  Bill and I had a good time as usual and later that night we headed back to the navy docks.  Although the Japanese Occupation had been over for several months, the customs of the Occupation still existed, Occupation Script for the military was still in use, a sailor could not walk with a girl (she had to follow behind), and we could not ride in the same pedicab with her.  And most important, Cinderella Liberty still existed; we lowly enlisted men could not stay ashore after 2400 hrs without a special authorization. 

            We were feeling very good (not knee walking and ricocheting off the walls nor falling down, just feeling good), and we were both broke, busted, lacking legal tender, and fiscally deprived (I thought).  Negotiating our way back to the docks we found hundreds of white hats either waiting for boats or boarding boats, but our shipís whaleboat was not there.  The carrier had several of her great big liberty boats shuttling sailors all over the harbor and it looked like each one could carry about 35 or 40 men; fine with me, all I wanted to do is get back to the ship before the witching hour.  Finally a boat was called away announcing the boat would shuttle to SMALL so I yelled at Bill a few feet away who was talking to a little person.  I wondered what he was doing (How can he get in trouble, heís broke) so I yelled again and waved to him to come and board the boat, but all I got was a wave at me that said, GO AWAY!  I climbed down to the boat expecting Bill to follow shortly, but as I looked about in the crowd of sailors on the dock I couldnít see him anymore, nor was he in my boat.  How could he get in trouble?  Heís broke, and the SMALLís boat is due, plus there were several other big liberty boats filling with sailors, surely heíll catch one or the other and return to the ship in time.   

            After arriving on SMALL I got ready for the rack but checked Billís rack--no Bill.  Later I checked his rack again--no Bill.  I checked the engine rooms and mess decks for a coffee drinking Bill--no Bill.  Damn!   Early the next morning I joined in lighting off the AFT engine room and we got underway.  At quarters I had an ugly encounter with Huey Long the MM1 in charge of the AFT engine room; FWD engine room wanted to know where Bill was.  I told him the story about the dock and Bill disappearing as my boat chugged off into the harbor.  ďYou donít leave a Buddy on the Beach!Ē he exclaimed angrily.  As far as I was concerned Bill had done the leaving but OH BOY! I think Iím in trouble.  I didnít think Billís absence would be permanent but I did not look forward to several weeks of being on patrol with my shipmates staring me down as if I had committed a felony. 

            As SMALL headed out of the harbor she got delayed when there was a problem with the submarine net, so we lay wallowing for quite some time.  Then we spied a whaleboat heading for us, bouncing over the waves and it finally came along side and several sailors came aboard, Bill being one of them.  I was relieved, at least heís alive and not amongst the missing.  Later I cornered him (after he was written up for missing ships movement, AWOL, and who knows what else), and got the story.  The little person on the dock was a girl and he spent the night in her amorous embrace after selling his wristwatch.  Sheeit.  I promised him Iíd deck him and drag him back to the ship if he ever did that to me again. 

            After his Captainís Mast, Bill was absent from the liberty parties for a while and I had to go it alone on the beach.  Then I left the ship for home and only talked to Bill a few years later.  SMALL had gone on to Kaohsiung and Hong Kong, and Bill said there was another little person on the dock at Hong Kong too.  Seems I missed a good time by not extending my Active Duty (Another dumb thing I did.)


Home Up


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