Memorial Day 2015


Good morning, I’m glad to be here and I’m glad that you are here also, for today continues something of a tradition that originated during the Civil War.

I pray to God that the words of my lips and the thoughts from my heart are acceptible to thee O’ Lord. This address of mine is not intended as an Invocation, asking God to do something. It is rather a Homily to suggest to you a God-like thing each of us might do.

Now, there is an ambivalence about our coming here today. We gather on this designated day and in this place to mourn the dead; and simultaneously we celebrate their lives. Yes, here and now we both mourn and we celebrate. On other designated days. we often gather divided and then we depart still divided as on some town meetings, election days, sports contests and even sometimes after a sermon in church that strikes a discordant note, but today, I believe we can all be of one mind. For those who come here to mourn, there is plenty to mourn about, lives cut short, lovers separated, children orphaned, tragic accidents, diseases, fires, lost at sea, killed in a war. And for those who come here to celebrate, there is plenty to celebrate. We honor genuine public servants, judges, soldiers and sailors who offered and sometimes gave up their very lives. They volunteered their service to defend our liberties. Also we celebrate firefighters, authors, poets, police, ambulance, nurses, doctors, athletic coaches, clergy, artists, and teachers buried here who helped us find beauty and purpose in life. And as an afterthough please don’t forget fire department chaplains!

They are all here, or on their way, with name and date and perhaps some inscription to inspire the passerby.

In the baker’s dozen cemeteries of Old Lyme, over the course of more than 300 years, are the remains of towns-people. People we read about, heard about, knew about, knew personally, loved, honored, admired, revered, esteemed. They are here, ever reminding us that they’ve lived here, and that they contributed something to make our nation, our culture and our Town something special. Something upon which we can build. Something for which we can be proud.

I’m glad to have been part of that something. I’m grateful for those who paved the way. I hope that those of you, younger that I, can find joy and inspiration from memories stirred up by this Memorial Day. So, enjoy this designated day, the parade, the hot dogs, the music, the ceremony. And what might you do? Continue the tradition, keep coming back and do remember that you, each and every one of you here, are actually the most important part of what’s going on. So ends my homily.

Old Lyme Wastewater

Years ago homes here discharged their wastewater into cesspools. A cesspool is a very primitive digester of septic waste. Cesspools work, but now as we use much more water for bathing, laundry, garbage disposal, dishwashing and flushing toilets, we had to improve the cesspool. Today it has morphed for most residences into a septic tank, compartmented, and connected to a leach field of perforated pipe that permits the water portion to re-enter the earth where digestion continues naturally. Solids that float in the septic tank (called scum) and those that sink (called sludge) accumulate in the septic tank and periodically they are pumped out for further treatment elsewhere. In Old Lyme, pump-outs are ordained to be performed not less frequently than once in seven years. My home system accumulated two inches of scum and thirteen inches of sludge in about twenty years with an average of five people in residence. Other septic systems in Old Lyme are pumped much more frequently.

The pumped out wastewater and solids were then taken to a municipal lagoon facility where aerobic decomposition and evaporation and slow seepage into the soil further reduced pathogens, nutrients and volume. The end product of these septic lagoons was then buried in landfills or incinerated. It is virtually harmless.

Over the course of this last half-century, the process was modified by technology so that by 2000 the pump out material was rendered inert and compacted in Old Lyme in a filter press resulting in a dry product that was mostly cellulose. The liquid that was extracted was then treated further in a municipal sewage plant. Outside of Connecticut, in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for instance, this liquid is often used to irrigate forest land, but in Connecticut the DEP insists on still more treatment before they discharge it into streams that flow eventually into Long Island Sound.

One might wonder why the DEP would insist on this wastewater treatment process in a sewage treatment plant and then dump the water in Long Island Sound, instead of injecting it back into upland forest soils or spray on forests to replenish our groundwater. I think it is because they know that their treatment often leaves a product still not clean. Amazing, because my septic tank and leach field are only about 100 feet from my dug well. Generations of people have been drinking this well water for at least 150 years, and all of us have been healthy. The sanitarians, registered and licensed by the Connecticut State Health Department, have never faulted my waste water treatment or my well water.

So one might ask why the DEP (or DEEP) wants studies to justify sewering of Old Lyme Septic Wastewater to New London for treatment, and then why would they dump that treated water into the Thames River and eventually to Long Island Sound?

I think I know. First thing for the reader to know is that in my college years I took courses in sewage and sewerage at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. These are the very same courses taken by Registered Sanitarians here in Connecticut. Here in Connecticut, I served as a Councilor to the Governor for Marine Resources, and in Old Lyme variously as Conservation Commissioner, WPCA Commissioner, Shellfish Commissioner and for ten years as a Selectman. I first moved to Old Lyme in 1960. At that time there was no DEP (now the DEEP). Parks and Forests, Fish and Game, and others were consolidated sometime around 1970 and septic waste management was split up. Discharges of more than 5000 gallons a day were assigned to the DEP and small residential units remained with the State Health Department, where the State Health Code governed.

The Health Code was, and still is, enforced by appointed Health Directors who usually were local medical doctors. Towns hired sanitarians who were formally educated in best practice before they were licensed as Registered Sanitarians (RS). Some of these people were employed by the DEP, with the very same education and the very same license (RS).

Town-employed Registered Sanitarians working through local town medical doctors use the State Health Code as their authority. They inspect restaurants, wells, and small septic systems as they were built and as they are operated. They monitor failures and supervise repairs and modifications. The system works. The Health Code works for small residences and it depends on strict zoning enforcement. The DEP was given statuary control over large discharges. They have another set of rules and these seem to change from time to time. There is, to my knowledge, no DEP equivalent to the State Health Code in print. All I can rely on to evaluate their goals is what filtered down to me in these past thirty or so years. Their primary initial task was with urban and industrial discharges, and sewers and treatment plants.

The first time I ran up against the DEP was when they told Old Saybrook that it was polluting the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound with improperly treated septic wastes. They would build a sewage treatment plant in Old Saybrook and eventually discharge treated wastes into the Connecticut River somewhere near the railroad bridge. This plant would also handle waste from Westbrook and perhaps Clinton. I was at that time the Old Lyme Shellfish Commission Chairman and by State law we had collected revenues from Connecticut River Oyster Harvesting Licenses amounting to several thousand dollars. By law, this money did not go into the General Fund of the Town of Old Lyme, but was to be used by our Commission for the improvement and protection of the resource and for education.

I went to see the point man for the DEP to learn about the planned discharge, since our oysters might be contaminated by their discharge. I learned that the effluent would go into the river “through a diffuser, so it wouldn’t all come up in the same place.” His exact words.

The Old Lyme Shellfish Commission paid the WLIS radio station in Old Saybrook several thousand dollars to broadcast messages urging the voters of Old Saybrook to reject this proposal at their referendum. And they did reject it. Then I heard from the State Election Board that I had violated a law, one that I didn’t know about, by spending municipal money to influence an election. Fortunately, someone else discovered that another law exempted me because that law was only effective after the date of the referendum was published, and someone else had neglected to publish that date.

Later it turned out that they really didn’t need a treatment plant, and now they are doing something else. But I learned how this State plan came into being. Old Saybrook town fathers heard that there was State grant money available for studies of ground-water pollution. Old Saybrook applied for the grant (and bear in mind this was for a study). Old Saybrook got the money and then they were told they were polluting. “But we haven’t even started the study,” they said. Not necessary, you accepted the grant so you have acknowledged you are polluting and we are here from the government to help you.

Here in Old Lyme there are State Chartered Beach Associations and some of the charters clearly state that they may, at their expense, install sewer service. As summer occupancy morphs into year round, and what was ten weeks of summer use becomes fifty two weeks, many of the systems, especially those buried in water and lacking leach fields, were getting help through the agency of “midnight plumbing” into streams like Sheffield Brook. Many of these houses had their property cards marked for “Summer Occupancy Only”, but somehow that provision has been overturned. Old Lyme Sanitarians have found and corrected nearly all these offending systems. As the owners continue to use or rent their summer cottages all year, the small lots on high water tables cannot accommodate these loads.

There are now several ways to correct this problem. They could sewerize their chartered beach associations land at their expense. The law permits this – at their expense. Or individuals could buy up nearby house lots to accommodate adequate septic systems at their expense. Or they might use modern technology at their expense, except that the Connecticut State DEP does not permit modern technology for these residential applications.

On an occasion when the Old Lyme Registered Sanitarian used such modern technology in full accordance with the State Health Department Health Code, “his Bible”, he was threatened by the DEP with revocation of his license to practice – which license was awarded to him by the State Health Department. Perhaps you want to that paragraph again?

Or they could get the Town of Old Lyme to foot the bill for their decision to build small inexpensive summer cottages sixty or seventy years ago on high water table, often on filled tide-marsh land, often on postage stamp sized lots inadequate in area for proper septic systems including adequate leach fields and leach field reserve areas. All at their own expense – unless the Town picks up the tab. Incidentally many of these summer cottages have gotten larger over the decades with porches closed in to form bedrooms and other modifications.

Or they could get the DEP to force the Town to sewerize at Town expense even though ground water tests by recognized engineering firms show that there is no general pollution and that with application of the State Health Code, individual problems can be corrected at the owner’s expense.

It should be noted that the Town of Old Lyme adopted by unanimous vote a policy of sewer avoidance several decades ago. This policy guided the Old Lyme WPCA for many years. It was crafted by the world class engineering firm, Dames and Moore and monitored by Nathan Jacobson Associates of Chester, Connecticut. The framework of this policy was established by none other than engineers and Registered Sanitarians of both the Connecticut DEP and the Connecticut Health Department.

Years later the DEP reversed itself and their representatives told us that what we were doing was all wrong and that we were polluting ourselves and also Long Island Sound.

In one written communication they said human waste was found in Long Island Sound off Point O’Woods about four miles east of the mouth of the Connecticut River. They blamed failing septic systems in Point O’Woods. They neglected to note that our Sanitarian found no such systems or discharges into Long Island Sound waters. Our investigation confirmed the waste and established that it came after heavy rains near Middletown on the Connecticut River caused a combined storm water – sanitary sewer to clog the screens on their treatment plant and that in turn forced the plant operators to open their valves and screens and discharge storm debris and human waste directly into the river. About two days later some of it got to Point O’Woods.

On another occasion, we were told that proof we were polluting was shown by the absence of migrating river herring in the Four Mile River. What they neglected to note, although it is shown on the topographical maps, is that this river has dams on it too high for these fish to jump and there are no fish ladders.

Also, they stated that the coliform counts of Four Mile River water were high and this was proof positive of pollution. Again they neglected to note that just upstream of Point O’Woods there was an active cow farm and wastes from these animals were generated and deposited nearby, constantly. Coliforms are found in the guts of both cows and people.

These lies from our State Government officials are but a small sample; but they were more than I could stomach and I quit my membership in the WPCA.

I conclude after fifty years of closely observing this Town, that consultants can be paid to opine whatever the client pays them to opine.


What Goes Around, Comes Around

During 1986, or so, a Roman Catholic Bishop from India came to Bar Harbor Maine to raise money for destitute members of his various parishes.  His domain was Alleppey (also spelled Allaphuzza) in Kerala, a state in Southwest India.  His seat was in the fabled Malabar forest on the shore of the Arabian Sea.

This is what Bishops do.  They raise money in order to spread the Gospel and to alleviate poverty.  Sometimes what they propose is truly based on real poverty, but is not practical.

The Bishop spoke in Mt. Desert Island, Maine, Catholic Church where a longtime friend of mine, Douglas Chapman, heard him.  Now, Chapman, an attorney, maintains in his office a non-profit benevolent organization in order to distribute money from some of his wealthy clients who want to be benevolent but remain anonymous throughout the entire process.  Their very private lives are not to be interrupted.  Atty. Chapman sees to that.

He accepts the responsibility for the program feasibility and the strict accountability of the sometimes large sums of money involved.  He enlists experts in public health, animal husbandry or whatever to advise him.  This would include site visits, interviews, feasibility studies, and even cost-benefit analysis to assure that there is a true need, and that money can be expended with a strong fact-based opinion by experts that it will help the parties in need.  His goal is to help people help themselves.  These are not ongoing support charities or doles or subsidies but jump-start initiatives.  Every challenge is a special case.  No two are alike.

On one such occasion, I helped in Alleppey starting in 1986.  This project took 13 years to “debug” and it helped nearly 1000 women.  Each raised fish in her own home pond for her own family.  Extra production was traded over the backyard fence with neighbors for eggs or vegetables or whatever.  The reason we remained involved for so long was not animal husbandry, but rather it was to adjust to the culture of people who needed help.  The farming of fishes is all well-known and has been published worldwide.  In this instance, the men in the community didn’t like the idea of having women independently accomplish something without involving the men’s domain of the marketplace with its drugs, alcohol and walkman radios.

Now, fast forward from 1986 to about 2010 and another Catholic Bishop in another nearby Catholic Indian Diocese.  This one was located not on the seacoast, but in the foothills of the Western Ghat, a mountain range forming a spine through southern India.  Again, I was involved.  Here there was no standing water, no lakes, no ponds; just small fast-moving streams tumbling down over rocks on their way to the sea.

Now, to culture pond fish you need ponds, and the geology there didn’t permit ponds.  Incidentally, the Bishop was assuredly Catholic, but most assuredly not Roman Catholic.  He was Syrian Orthodox, ordained by the Pope in Rome but permitted to marry.  In fact, he told me that the came from a long line of Bishops.

As was the case in Alleppey, so also in this Orthodox Diocese of Pathanamthitta, most of the Christians came out of the untouchable or unscheduled class of Indians.  These people broke away from the Hindu religion in order to gain humanity.  In that part of the world, an untouchable, even today, is considered by a high caste Hindu to be somewhat less than human.  Don’t fall for that myth that Gandhi eliminated untouchability.  He was himself a Hindu and he simply changed their name.  He called them the “unscheduled” class.  In Pathanamthitta there was, as I mentioned previously, a lack of standing water.  There were many fast-moving mountain streams down steep hillsides, but there were no ponds.  There were however, plenty of dense mountain forests with bushes and shrubs that goats naturally choose to eat.

Of course, goats became my preferred animal to help these people pull themselves out of poverty.  The program, now in its fourth year, seems to be working, but there are some parallels with Alleppey to observe and ponder.  In Alleppey, poverty was largely due to a gradual failure of the domestic rice crop.  This was caused by the gradual Indian neglect of the tidal gates which the British built and maintained for the Indians until they were kicked out in 1949.  These tide gates restricted the incoming salty water but opened on the outgoing tide to drain out the marshes, until gradually the salinity went down enough to support a good rice paddy crop.  The Indians neglected to pick up the job of maintaining those British built tidal gates and eventually the productivity of the paddy, an Indian food staple ceased.  Indians told me that rice farming was “too labor intensive.”

However all was not lost, because in nearby Thailand (Siam) there was plenty of farmed rice and even more coming because the Thai Prime Minister was getting farmers’ votes by supporting the price of rice.  To maintain or raise the price of rice, he simply had his government buy it.  Then he sold some to the Indians who bought it gladly with money loaned from the World Bank that likely will never get repaid.  Soon Thailand was rice rich but the price support subsidy left the government broke.  Eventually the King winked at an Army General and the Thai Prime Minister got booted out.  Good riddance, he was also a crook.  Then, he, the deposed Prime Minister, was succeeded by his younger sister, who also “supported” the price of rice to get the farmers continuing vote.  So again the King winked and she also got booted out.

In the meantime, the World Bank slowed the flow of money the Indians used to buy Thai rice.  Remember, prior to 1949 India had enough rice – locally grown.

So, what has this got to do with Pathanamthitta, Kerala in southwest India? Plenty, but it’s not simple.  Those forested hillsides, where the goats love to browse on undergrowth, are critical to the economy of the Indians in that area.  It seems that these forests are also home to great numbers of wild rubber trees.  It is really rubber that drives their economy.

Unfortunately, as the rice boom declines in Thailand the Thai rubber plantations are now being stimulated by subsidies from the government.  This is being done to encourage Thai rubber growers to vote for their Prime Minister, since the rice market is now swamped with plenty of rice but no customers.

Rubber incidentally suffers from boom and bust because, in part, rubber trees are also grown in many other tropical places besides Thailand and India.

I think dear reader, you can see where this may be heading.  What goes around – comes around.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s the price subsidy of rice or rubber in Thailand or India.  When politicians buy votes with subsidies of government money – the people lose.  I plan to wait and see.  In the meantime the goat and fish projects do help keep food on the table, without a doubt or a subsidy.

Sewers in Old Lyme are NOT Needed

Today, 10 October 2014 at about 11:50 AM I write now what I remember of what I said without notes at a Selectman’s meeting on 6 October 2014 held at 3:30 in the afternoon.

I was the third of four men who spoke during the Public Comment part of the Agenda. The other three were Todd Machnik, Gary Yuknat and Harold Thompson.

I stated that I have been a resident of Old Lyme for over 40 years, and a public servant to the Town for many of those years. I was even a Selectman for about 10 years. I do not support the proposed sewer project at the beaches.

I stated that too many of the people who are involved in this sewer project are involved because someone recruited them. I spoke to the responsibilities of the Sanitarians, who all receive the same education, have to pass the same exam, and the fact that they disagree on how to apply what they learned, depending if they are employed by the CT Department of Health or by the CT DEEP. What I said, in essence was that dealing with the DEP over the past forty years was frustrating because their employees with whom I tried to work were dishonest. I said “they lied”, and those were my exact words. I gave two examples of their lies; the first example was that after a failure at the treatment plant near Middletown, human waste was traced as it moved down the Connecticut River and east on our shore until it reached Stanhope Beach and the mouth of the Four Mile River where it polluted the area around Point O’Woods.

The DEP spokesman and the DEP Commissioner used this human waste to claim that POW was polluting and POW required sewerizing. The second example I gave was that the DEP went on to say that the absence of migratory fishes in the Four Mile River confirmed their charge. I responded that there are no migratory fishes going up the Four Mile River because there were several impoundments on that river that these fish could not get over or around. I pointed out that there were dams, shown on official maps to prove what I stated.

I concluded with a statement that I could fill a book with more of their lies.

Unintended Consequences

Once was, in the dear dead days beyond recall, periodic forest fires swept areas of Connecticut and the forest litter turned into alkaline ash and smoke.  This is, was, and will be, perfectly natural.

Today most forest fires are extinguished promptly and so leaf litter and dead wood accumulates.  Rain and melting snows move much of this litter, mostly acidic maple and oak fallen leaves to paved streets, and eventually to storm sewers.  Much ends up in lakes, streams, rivers and estuaries, but dams and impoundments are in the way.  They slow the flow.

Additionally, loads of fallen leaves which, traditionally, had been burned in autumn are not now burned, but too often they are dumped  (perhaps by the light of the moon) into moving water.  The people who do this are doing it to save money, avoiding air pollution, and saving us from global warming, and so they can feel good all over.

Concurrently, waterfront and waterview real estate brings a premium, and the long sloping lawn down to the water makes a property even more valuable.  Nothing now catches the leaf litter and extra fertilizer.

Also,  impounded water for recreation, power, and waterfront real estate encourages dams that then slow stream velocity and give suspended leaves more time to get water logged and to sink and pile up behind the impoundments.  Still another nail in the coffin.  Freshets no longer flush stream beds.  There is a cumulative effect on our environment.  Rivers, lakes, bays, estuaries and tidal ponds are overloaded with nutrients.  There is now too much for Mother Nature to digest.  There is now not enough oxygen to perform natural anaerobic digestion.

Mother Nature responds by natural anaerobic (without oxygen) digestion, a slow, smelly and poisonous process.  Most aquatic plants and animals are functional only in an oxygen system.  So they die or swim away if they can.  Tim Visel at the Sound School explains this in great detail.  What the passerby sees is commonly know as “black mayonnaise.”  This is a soft stinking accumulation on the bottoms of slow moving water of things that fire or oxygen-rich water would have mitigated.  “Dead” areas in Long Island Sound are also a result of anaeroebic conditions.

Yes, we know how to get rid of it but to make that happen, someone’s ox will get gored.  Will it by yours?


Crossing the Equator with King Neptune – A Wartime Blog

There was a saloon in San Francisco, our home port, frequented by sailors.  the ladies there were charming and knowledgeable.  They liked us and we liked them.

On one occasion as we were slated soon to depart, the men in my division reported to me that they had, from their lady friends at the hangout, some requests for Philippine souvenir trinkets.  As if to say the ladies already knew something about our strictly sealed secret orders.

After we got underway, the Captain unsealed his orders and then called me to his cabin .  A Marine guard was stationed at his door, and the Captain shut the door and told me that he wanted a hatch cover converted into a temporary pond, perhaps two feet deep and about 18 feet by 20 feet in dimension.  Did I have enough wood and waterproof canvas liner for such a job?  I assured him that I did and he then said, “Make it so.”

An on-deck shallow pond?  Recreation? Communal bathing? A ceremony?  Were we about to cross the Equator?  For this there is a Naval Traditional Ceremony.  King Neptune would reign.

However we also had that hint from the bar ladies that they hoped for some trinkets from the Philippines. Please take note, all of those islands are north of the Equator and the Captain plans to have us meet King Neptune somewhere south of the Equator.  Should I say something?  I decided to be prudent.  Let it come from someone else.

Now in the course of the war in the Pacific there were two islands, both prominent in the news.  One, in the Philippine Archipelago, is Samar – somewhat north of the Equator.  Another, this one south of the Equator, but equally well-known, is Samoa.

I got a campaign ribbon with combat star on my uniform for service in the Philippines, but I never did cross the Equator during that war, and the barmaids did get their trinkets.

Battle Stations – A Wartime Blog

Of the four years I spent in the U.S. Navy, only a few hours were actually spent in situations where I was involved directly with killing people or in avoiding being killed.  The remainder of all that time was spent eating, sleeping, dreaming, training sailors, taking liberty, being trained, standing watch, reading, writing, sailoring, romancing, visiting exotic places or watching the same movies over and over again until we could trade them with another ship.

The incidents I recount in my wartime blog entries are but the punctuation marks in about 1500 days of relative inactivity seventy or so years ago.

Now as I write this in my 93rd year, now and then I’m beset by doubts about the accuracy of my reporting.  So, I applied a test by comparing my account with the official records of the Navy Department.  I reviewed for example; official U.S. Marine Corps account of activities in China on the Shantung Peninsula with what I wrote and they are in accord.  Also, the U.S. Army officers on my ship wrote in April 1945 about the Kamikaze attacks at Okinawa.  Again, they agreed with mine.  Thus I feel confident that I am still telling it “like it was”.

After that long preamble I’ll here and now recount what stuck with me since one day in April 1945.  I was in charge of the midships starboard twin Bofors 40 millimeter anti-aircraft gun.  The diameter of a projectile from this weapon is about an one and one-half inches.  This gun was served by a crew of about a dozen sailors. Some from the deck divisions, and some were stewards who rarely came on deck except to train on the gun or to reach the ladder for liberty.

Radio and radar confirmed an imminent air attack.  “General Quarters” was sounded and all guns were manned.  Nearby, destroyers began a barrage of anti-aircraft fire.  Soon we could see Japanese planes evading that gunfire and coming at us.  Most sailors who have experienced this have remarked, “That plane was flying directly at me.”  I’m sure it was.

My gun was firing; actually it was a twin gun – two barrels firing alternately.  We were shooting clips of H.E.I.T. from one barrel.  Those letters stood for High Explosive Incendiary Tracer.  From the other barrel the projectiles were armor-piercing.  The tracer shells permitted us to confirm that we were on target.

On this occasion, an ammunition passer, a big man in that crowded iron tub surrounding the gun moat, saw the oncoming plane, aimed, I’m sure, at him and he froze, immobile at his station.  Not only was he not passing the clips of ammunition, but in the crowded tub no one else could get around him to do his job.

As the officer in charge, I reached over the edge of the tub, it was about three or four feet high, and with the flat of my hand I slapped the side of his head hard.  He came out of his trance immediately and resumed the passing of ammunition.

The action was concluded when our shells hit the Japanese plane and it crashed into the sea only a few hundred feet from where we were standing.

A few Japanese airmen were dead, a shipboard of American seamen were elated, and I reported immediately to the Captain.  “Sir, I struck an enlisted man.”  I said nothing about us shooting down a plane, nothing.  What I was telling him was that I had committed a court martial offense which could be punishable by a term in a Naval prison.  The Captain promptly responded “Did the sailor say anything?”  I said, “No.”  He then said, “Forget it.”  But I didn’t.


Wartime Plumbing – A Wartime Blog

I began my career in the Navy as an eager young officer ready to serve my nation and the stars and stripes with competence, and fervor, and loyalty.  Soon the bloom faded from the rose and a full blown hatred evolved.

First to go was the Captain of our ship.  Apparently he suffered from bleeding piles and he persisted in flushing large bloodied cotton wads into his toilet.  I should mention that my duties were as an assistant to the First Lieutenant.  I was the Construction and Repair Division Officer.  As such, I commanded the deck forces not involved with gunnery or navigation.  We were the electricians, mechanics, carpenters, welders, masters-of-arms, and the plumbers. Ah yes, the plumbers.

There were frequent calls from the navigation bridge with the boatswain blowing loudly in his pipe over the Public Address System.  He would announce to the entire crew that “The presence of Mr. Roberts was requested in the Captain’s head.”  For those readers who don’t know, a head is a room with a toilet.

Of course I would show up with a plumber and his paraphernalia to clear the mess.  A discreet telephone call would have gotten the same response, but no, it had to be heard shipboard over the P.A. complete with the  shrill boatswain’s piping whistle – almost like “all hands to general quarters” or “battle stations”.

Eventually,  by the proverbial light of the moon, I modified the ship without notifying the Bureau of Ships in Washington.  I enlarged the discharge overboard from the Captain’s head.  A court martial offense if I was found out. Fortunate for me, the ship was scrapped some twenty years later with its violation intact.

Ichthyology – A Wartime Blog

The war had barely ended when my ship was ordered to the Port of Hakodate on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.  I guess we went there mostly to convince the Japanese that their war was over and that they had lost.  Apparently the populace had already gotten the word, and we had no trouble coming ashore.  So we did.

My first visit was, naturally, to the local museum.  It was open, but there was no one about – not a soul.  So I wandered through the corridor and halls. I came upon their collection of preserved local fishes.  Sealed bottles and jars contained sea creatures preserved in alcohol along with labels written in Japanese, except for their Latin names.  I was intrigued because I already knew that their revered God-Emperor Hirohito was an amateur Ichthyologist.  Sure enough, I soon found a shelf of small, pocket-size bottles and no one was in the museum.  I left all of them on the shelf.  I’m still kicking myself, still, seventy years later.

How I Learned to Drive – A Wartime Blog

My ship was off Okinawa with troops to put ashore.  We were on high alert.  There was a real war going on about a mile or two inland from those very beaches.

My little flotilla of a half dozen LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) were busy doing what we did best.  We were putting troops on the beach.  A boat would sidle up alongside the ship and soldiers would climb down the landing nets from the ship and into our boats.  The army company commander was assigned to my boat along with his staff and his jeep.  This was a dicey business.  On one hand we wanted the boat to be close to the boarding net.  On the other hand, with the boat and the ship both rocking, we didn’t want to crush a soldier between boat and ship.

Millions of men managed.  Rarely was one killed or even hurt.  So it was on this occasion.   Then the Army officer said to me on his arrival in my boat, “I’ve shot myself in the foot while climbing down off the ship, take me back on shipboard.”  I said, “No, the Army will care for you ashore.”

Since I was in command, I had my way and off we went to Okinawa.  Having got there, all his soldiers scrambled ashore. He limped but made it.  I suddenly realized that I was stuck with his jeep in my boat.  My crew were all busy and there was no one but me available to get the jeep off the boat.  I forgot to mention earlier – I didn’t know how to drive. I could drive a horse and buggy.  I could navigate a ship across a vast ocean, but I never learned to drive a car.  My crew members instructed me, and so on a beach at Okinawa I first learned to drive.  It was easy!