I had spent the war in the Aleutians, South Pacific and now I was my on way to Europe. We took a troop ship. We marched down the highway in New York with crowds gathered around, cheering us off. People rushed up to me to hand me things, mostly beer which I did not drink. But we were treated like heroes already. Getting on the ship was another matter. Hundreds of us packed into what looked like beds but were jut light cots. This was not a three star voyage and our comfort was of no concern to anyone. Many got seasick, which was highly unpleasant because no one planned for that. Just like when I got to the Aleutians there was no foul weather gear. In 40 degrees below we were wearing towels. An officer stopped by to give us all nose clips. I asked what it was for? He said, “You’ll see.” And I did as everything in my nose froze into solid ice and I could not breathe.
Back on the troopship to Europe began the chase: submarines everywhere. It was obvious we were a troopship and so a grand prize for the Germans. If they could wipe out a few thousand troops how happy they would be. They chased us across the Atlantic until we got to England. Because I had been a Commando, they transferred us to South England to a base. We were getting ready for crossing the Thames to land just before D-Day to capture the submarine base in Brest, which even to me was a suicide mission. Their base was half underground and built with steel and cement. A guy who wanted to see Paris offered to trade with me. We got the papers and the deed was done. I don’t know if he made it.
Speaking of being chased by submarines, we had a hard time leaving the steel enclosure near Kodiak because we were told that Japanese subs were waiting for us to come out. We finally did to fight in the islands of Kiska and Attu with fog so thick we could only hear the shells coming overhead but could see nothing. We then chased Japanese ships all the way back to their homeland. Remember I was on a 365,000 ton battleship. It was in Tarawa that they sent over a massive fleet of Mavis bombers to put us out of action. They were right above my head; they never saw us. It was so dark.
Meanwhile I traveled all over England in a band, which was wonderful. They had Tea Dances everywhere and we played their favorite songs, ending with, Good Night Ladies, Til We Meet Tomorrow. On leave, I went to see my pal Larry Allred from Chicago who wrote to me years later. He drove for the Admiral in London and there were bombs just before I got there, which left Piccadilly Circus in complete rubble. Hard to believe the blocks had been wiped out by the Germans with their buzz bombs. The Brits got to work right away to rebuild; brave souls. I stood amid the rubble in the area for a long time, seeing what people can do to each other; and for what?
And then I was ordered to go kill. I would not kill in anger; I didn't even know who I was killing. It was my “job.” Imagine, I was convinced to kill as a job. And I did in the Pacific. I was a machine-gunner, don’t forget. It left me with an antipathy for war til this day. We invaded an island and the women and children natives ran into the sea to escape our big guns. We shot our 20MM shells into the sea where they were. A guilt I never got over.
By the way, I was transferred to many battle areas because I was marked low down on priority due to my color blindness. The commander who gave me the test took me to the street and asked me the colors of various signs and I got them right. But still I was marked “failure” and shipped out. I got help to pass the test later on and went on to become a fighter pilot trainee on a carrier. I never got there because the war ended. I was discharged at Tacoma, Washington, where I was at the day the war ended and some of the women in the street danced naked. What a jubilant scene. I went straight to UCLA and signed in. More than 12 years and 4 universities later, I got my doctors degree and became staff at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital, Psychiatric Dept. After a few years, I could no longer take sick and wounded children so I left, but some of the kids stayed in touch for years. I wish I could say that I learned about human life and the human condition but that would be a lie. It was all statistical and numbers and graphs.
Back to Europe. I traveled Europe with my band the same time as bandleader Glen Miller, one of my idols. He disappeared in an air crash and was never found. I danced to his music for years. Such a loss.
I already wrote about my return to the south Pacific and more battles including the most beautiful island I ever saw: Majuro. When you see photos of WW2 there is a picture of Kwajalein with a giant plume of smoke rising over the island. That was us. We saturated that island and blew down every house and building and then we decided they were hiding under the trees so we destroyed every tree there. Thank the Japanese for that. Why on earth would they attack a country as well armed as the USA is beyond me? But they did. Not “they” but those crazy leaders far removed from battle decided it might be a good idea. And millions died, some horrendously, burned alive by the Hydrogen bomb. These were thousands of children, mind you. President Truman believed it was the only way to end the war. It helped but there might have been a more human way. We bombed citizens near Japan, not the fleet of ships in the harbor, but people going to work. The US helped keep their fleet intact. But hang on, mine not to question why, mine only to do or die. And we did. I was in the bloodiest of pacific battles: Tarawa. They knew we were coming and put out false reefs and slaughtered thousands of us; bodies floating in the water everywhere. We were the first ship in and bombed them non-stop and used gasoline spray to burn them out of the caves where they hid. After all, they were the “enemy.” And then I learned an important lesson: if you make someone an enemy, even in politics, you can do anything you want to them with impunity. We burned the “enemy.”
I have written how out at sea en route to another battle the captain called me in to say that I was being picked up by a destroyer and taken back to the States to go to the university. The shock of my life; I was sure they made a mistake but my intelligence test said I was smart so I went on the destroyer whose screws had been shot off, making it list heavily to the right. And we entered San Francisco and I traveled to Oregon, a most beautiful town. Soon I organized a 26 piece band with two gorgeous singers, one of whom was my girlfriend and we traveled and broadcast over KOA Portland. Is it still there? More than 50 years later?
I never would have considered university without the Navy sending me, even without my asking. They even chose the University for me: Oregon State, and then I chose UCLA, USC, and then Claremont Graduate School… But I never realized that my father had to make me stupid over and over again until we were driving East on Melrose when I was in my twenties, and he stopped at a signal where all alone, to no one, he blurted out, "I’m a failure." He never looked at me or addressed me. It was so importuning that he could not hold it back; he was an utter failure. I mean, driving a meat truck is not the summum bonum of success. And in trying to be smart, he was obsessed with making me dumb. And he did. That is why I never considered university. My grades were terrible. I felt it was way above me. When I started Oregon State, I studied Portuguese for no rational reason and got A’s. For the first time in my life, my teacher asked me to stay because I was such a good student. That was a major epiphany of my life and a turning point. I felt I could do things and I began to study voraciously. I became a top student and an academic hall of fame. I received a lifetime achievement award from Los Angeles High School. All because I needed to hear just two words of praise. That is all it took. Parents remember that: PRAISE. You never build character through criticism. NEVER. Just “you are good and you can do it." That is what we all need and it is what I see in patients screaming out their need. HOLD ME,TOUCH ME, SEE ME, LOOK AT ME, WANT ME, CHERISH ME. How how hard is that? My neurosis made me well prepared for a therapy of pain.
End of part A