MY COMPLIMENTS TO THE CAPTAIN
By: John M. Page*
On August 11, 1945, I was standing the 12 to 4 a.m. watch as an armed guard aboard the S.S. Morning Light, a Matson Line cargo ship, underway from Saipan in the northern Pacific to the United States, when the radio operator came aft to tell me that the Japanese had surrendered. The Morning Light participated in the invasion of Okinawa in April, sailed to San Francisco in May and transported supplies to the Saipan staging area for the planned invasion of Japan, returned to San Francisco on August 23 and docked at pier 37. World War II was over, but not my military service. Under the Navy's point system, I needed 44 points for a discharge. I only had 16. After a military leave to visit my parents and friends in Arkansas, I traveled to Terminal Island, California to be assigned to another ship.
On November 12, I wrote my parents that I had been assigned to a destroyer, the USS Stevens (DD-479). During the afternoon on November13, Iwas among a group of new crew members who boarded the Stevens docked in the San Pedro Navy Yard. The ship had arrived at Los Angeles Harbor from China on November 7. She was scheduled for the "mothball fleet". Half the crew had been on leave since November 9. The other half would go on leave beginning December 11. The new shipmates went to work immediately unloading the ship's ammunition. On November 14, we discharged her fuel and tied up next to another destroyer for the noght. The USS Arkansas, a battleship that looked old and tired after two world wars, sailed past. We moved the Stevens to a San Diego pier on November 15 where she would stay until ready for dry dock. Then came the bad news. The new shipmates were organized as a paint crew. On November 21 I had to climb 15 feet on a one inch line to get back aboard after painting over the side. On November 22 I got the good news that the points needed for discharge had dropped to 38 and would drop to 36 on January 1, 1946. I also aquired a locker large enough for my gear and passed captain's inspection. The best news came on December 21 when the Captain approved my request to join the communications crew as Radioman Striker. On December 25, 1945, I typed a letter to "Mr. and Mrs. John Page, Grandpa (Ladd), Nita, Dub and Wayne" from the ship's radio room where I became Radioman 3/C prior to my discharge at Terminal Island on June 7, 1946. The Captain, Commander Robert A. Schelling, granted my reqest for a leave in January to visit Grandpa Ladd who was dying of cancer in Arkansas and granted my request for another leave to attend Grandpa's funeral in April. My compliments to the Captain! Grandpa was special.
I wrote my parents as follows about my experience on the paint crew and sent them a picture of me in my paint clothes (reproduced by shipmate Bud Kopp in April 1996)
When we first came aboard, the new guys had to paint the forward peak tanks. They are in the bilges, in fact right on the keel. We had to crawl through a bunch of small holes to get in the dillerent compartments. Then there wasn't much room to paint much less breathe (breathed paint fumes). You'd paint one side and rub that off with your rear trying to paint the other side.
Anyway what I'm getting at is that the picture of myself is made in the clothes I painted with. About all you can see in the picture is white, but I also had zinc chromate and blue on them. I threw the clothes away when we finished painting those 5" 38 gun turrets.
J.M.P. January 4, 1946
* Served on board the USS Stevens as a radioman 3/C
Return to LIFE ABOARD THE STEVENS