Third AvMidn to Receive Wings
“Early Midshipman Life”
In December of 1946 while going through CQ, a fateful day arrived that would influence the rest of my life. It was on the 19th of December that I signed up for the Holloway Plan. I was hopeful that I would get to graduate that December and get my wings as a nineteen-year-old. Along came Holloway and there went my December graduation, my commission and my plans to get married. Adm. Holloway did me a big favor on the last one. A "Dear John" was received shortly after I notified my intended of the requirement to stay single for a year.
Inasmuch as I had expected to get commissioned in December, I already had my uniforms striped so I covered up the stripes and went home for Christmas. On the way home, I was queried by the Shore Patrol as to what was I and what kind of a uniform was that I was wearing. Richard Jacobi and Don Kellersberger, Midshipman #1 and #2 made it before Christmas. This was fortuitous for them as their date of rank went to the Academy class of 47. After returning from leave, there were two more CQ flights to be finished and I finally got designated on 10 January 1947. Jake and Kellersberger went to "P" boats and I never saw either of them again.
Everyone had been getting orders to VP. I didn't know the system. I think new quotas for assignment started on the first of the year and it was likely that I could have had my pick. The dread of VP was so great that I requested VO to ensure that at least I would end up in a single engine aircraft. You know that old saying, "Be careful what you ask for, you may get it.” I got it.
I received orders to VO at Jacksonville and that's when the fun began. On reporting aboard, I was greeted with, "What the Hell are you?" Or words similar. The first problem surfaced when they couldn't decide whether I should be quartered in the Chief's quarters or in the BOQ. They finally opted for the BOQ.
The next questions were that of pay, subsistence and flight pay? What about leave? What was to be the proper uniform?
I wore standard uniforms with the stripes removed and a star on the sleeve for several weeks before they came up with the First Class Midshipman uniform. They looked to the Naval Academy for guidance relating to leave. The answer they got was that Midshipmen don't have leave per se. They just got leave when someone told them they could go. The first year, what with finishing operational training, transferring to Norfolk and then to the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) followed by moving to the USS Providence (CL-82) in Newport, I managed to rack up about 40 days the first year.
The fun part was trying to explain the Wings without a commission to every other aviator I came in contact with. The final answer was to print a short explanation that I passed out to whoever had questions.
All my friends showed up at NAS Jax flying the "Beast" (SB2C). One of the missions of VO was to pick up downed aviators at sea. The (friends) were fond of telling me that if they went down and saw me flying over, they could say "At least there is someone worse off than me."
Following Operational Training, I reported in at NAS Norfolk for duty. By the time operational training was completed there were several more midshipmen at NAS Jacksonville and the base had become acclimated to us. The next move was to NAS Norfolk where several more Midshipmen had arrived. It was during that summer (‘47) during the influx of Midshipmen from the Academy that a near mutiny occurred. The Captain issued an order that Midshipmen were not allowed to drink at the Officer's Club. The order stood for about two days before someone informed the Captain that we were different and the order as related to us was rescinded. This caused a minor uproar among the Academy Middies.
I was ordered to the USS Wisconsin for their Midshipman cruise. Being a Flying Midshipman aboard the Wisconsin was a hoot with the several hundred Academy midshipmen aboard. They never could figure out why I lived in Officer's Country etc. By this time, I had the story down pat.
My next move was to the USS Providence (CL-82) as ships company. First the Chief's Quarters, next the Warrant Officer's Quarters. They finally decided that inasmuch as they had a stateroom designated as the Aviators stateroom, I could bunk there. They couldn't assign me to the watch bill being non-commissioned, however they circumvented that problem by turning their eyes the other way and noted me as "In Training".
While we were in the Med, I got a little bit even for the riding I got from my "friends" at Jax. Cruisers tied up to the pier while the carriers had to anchor way out. I had free gangway and didn't have to catch the last boat. One night I had to break out a boat crew and take some of my "friends" who had missed the boat back to their ship. They owed me big.
The papers authorizing my commissioning arrived at the ship on 31 December, 1947. The ship's clerk asked me if I wanted to get knighted that day. Of course I said "yes" figuring that if! got commissioned in 1947, I would date with class of 47 … "Wrong.” I also figured that I would get one days pay as an Ensign … "Wrong." Pay was calculated on a monthly basis not a daily basis. Subsistence was calculated on a daily basis. As a result, subsistence as a Midshipman was $1.00/day and as an officer it was $.70/day so it cost me $.30 to get my commission on the 31 st of December 1947.
A lot to celebrate that night in Leghorn (Livorno), Italy: Commissioning, New Year's Eve and my birthday after midnight. That was almost more than even a new Ensign could handle. Needless to say, I became instantly qualified for duties as Boat Officer, Safety Officer in the gun turrets, OOD in port and CIC watches while underway. I also lost my uniqueness and went from being the senior Midshipman aboard to starting at the bottom again by becoming the junior Ensign aboard.