RBT's Personal Journal

1941-1943 - Pearl Harbor to the USS Nashville

December 1941

After returning to Cincinnati and not wanting to live in a hotel as I had been doing before I took leave, I rented a room in private home in Clifton. The home was nice and I had a big room but had to eat all my meals out. It didn’t compare to the home I stayed in Richmond, Va. where I had room and board. It was less than two blocks to the street car stop for me to ride to work.

Our hours at work were increased significantly in recruiting new Marines. Some days when we had a large group of enlistees it would be near midnight before I’d complete all of the paper work. Additionally, Captain Guy B. Beatty. 1st Sgt Mike Sherlock or I would have to attend USO, VFW, American Legion, Bond drives and other functions, where, in most cases, it involved a speaking engagement. Mike was married with children and usually delegated the job to me. Most of the USO and Bond drives were fun to attend and I saw and met many of celebrities. I didn’t enjoy attending the Veteran’s organization functions because most of the attendees were too well in their cups and loud and boisterous. Think that had a lasting effect on me as I have attended few veterans’ functions even though I belong to several organizations.


Betty, with her knitting bag
[click to enlarge]

Close Image


It was in early January, 1942, when I’d go to work that I'd see this good-looking gal get on the street car at the same stop. After a few times, we exchanged a few courteous pleasantries and started sharing the ride to work. This is how Betty and I met. She impressed me as a very domestic type as she was always knitting. After several meetings on the street car she invited me to a concert with three of her girlfriends. That was our first date. Later she asked me to attend their Young Fellows Group get-togethers at her church on Sunday evenings.

We dated pretty regularly going to movies, playing tennis and going to dances. The most fun was when we would take the Island Queen, a side-wheeler riverboat, on the Ohio River up to Coney Island. There was a dance band on the boat and one of the top bands like Duke Ellington, Harry James, etc. always at Coney Island. We’d dance going up and at Coney Island then on the last boat back to Cincinnati. We’d catch the streetcar back to our neighborhood. Betty’s home was about three blocks from where I was staying.

We’d go down to Ryland Lakes in Kentucky on some weekends with her folks where they had a cabin on the lake. Even though I really couldn’t swim I’d dive in the water and dog paddle back to the dock.

Must mention one interesting thing in riding the street car to work early in the morning. Going down Vine Street through a rather depressed housing area, I couldn’t believe seeing little kids coming out of some of the bars carrying open buckets of beer home to their folks.

In early 1942 I had been recommended for Officers training and was studying for the exams. An older lady, a teacher, who was renting a room in the same home as I, tutored me in several subjects for the exams. Without her help, it’s questionable that I would have successfully passed the exams. I feel badly that I can’t even remember her name.

Betty and I were engaged on 1 September, 1942. We had selected her engagement ring at Neusted’s Jewelry Store.

In August I took the exams and passed. I was transferred to Quantico, VA on 4 Sept,1942 and started basic training in the 12th Candidates Class (Officer Candidate School) on 9 September, 1942. OCS was a second “boot-camp” for those of us who were enlisted. Even though I had the rank of Platoon Sergeant I was a Private during OCS with a Sgt and a Corporal as our DI’s. Training was tough and geared to weed out those who weren’t fit for a commission. They did a good job in making it tougher than “boot camp” had been in San Diego.

We finished OCS on November 14th, 1942 and I received a regular commission (Temporary Warrant) as a 2d Lt. USMC. Living in the same barracks we entered officer training, assigned to the 15th Reserve Officer’s Class (ROC).

Betty visited me for a weekend in early December. I met her at the train station in Washington, D. C. then we took the train to Quantico where I had made reservations for her at the Hostess House.

In late December, one of the final parts of our training was to conduct an amphibious landing from the Potomac River and continue a two-day problem. When we landed, we had to jump over the side of the boats into 4 to 6 feet of icy water. We continued the problem letting our boots and uniforms dry on us.

The final thing was a parade. Our graduating class along with other following classes were assembled on the parade ground with the band. Altogether it was close to a thousand troops assembled. The band was on the left, next was my class, then each of the other follow on classes were lined up. I was designated as Adjutant for the parade and was out in front with the reviewing staff. The Adjutants job was to give all the orders for the Parade. I took six paces forward and published (called out) the orders of the day. Next I called for reports. Each unit commander reported all present or accounted for. My next command should have been “Officers and guidons front and Center--MARCH”. I erred in not giving the command MARCH but took my position with the staff. When I about faced I realized my mistake. I took six paces forward and gave the command MARCH. The band struck into song and the officers and guidons all stepped off in unison. After the parade was over the Colonel in charge said either I had read a different manual or had almost “goofed up”. It didn’t seem to hurt my standing in the class and it is funny how an incident like that remains very vivid in my memory. Guess it was because it was close to a big “goof”.


On 20 January, 1943, we completed ROC (Reserve Officer’s Class) and I received my regular (permanent) commission in Marine Corps. Only five of us in our class of 252 received regular commissions. Although I failed to pass the entrance exam to the U. S. Naval Academy in 1938 I was honored to be selected as the top man in my graduating class.


Wedding Day [click to enlarge]

Close Image

I received orders for Sea Duty and given ten days leave before reporting to Sea School in Portsmouth, Va. I took the train to Cincinnati. There were some hurry up arrangements in getting our license but we made it and Betty and I were married on Jan 23, 1943, in her home on Whitfield Ave by Dr. Hjerpe, minister of her Presbyterian Church. Betty’s mother and dad had a nice wedding dinner for us at a hotel with Betty’s grandmother and several of their family friends in attendance. After a couple of days we took the train to Portsmouth staying one night in Richmond. I knew the hotels would be over crowded so I called from the train station for reservations. When we arrived at the hotel people in line were being turned away and fortunately they honored my reservation.

When we arrived in Portsmouth, Va., it was impossible get a room in a hotel for a couple of nights while looking for more permanent accommodations. A taxi driver drove us all around Portsmouth with no success and finally called his aunt and persuaded her to let us stay in her home. We stayed with her for about a week until we found another place.

We rented rooms in various homes and ate most of our meals out. At one home the lady, a recent widow insisted on getting our breakfast and dotting over us. Her home was lovely and she was a very gracious person. She was just too overpowering I guess for a newly married couple. We moved to another home. Mrs. Leibrick was her name. She had commissary privileges and she showed us her basement that was just loaded with Smithfield hams, bags of sugar, flour and other food which she had hoarded before rationing was fully in force. Betty had cooking privileges but had to be out of the kitchen by a certain time. If Betty would make something special Mrs. L would make the same thing and insist that I try hers. It wasn’t a very pleasant arrangement but we were fortunate to find a room in a private home.

The basic training we received at Sea School wasn’t new for me because of my previous sea duty aboard the USS Portland. The most interesting part of Sea School was the Anti-aircraft weapons training at Dam Neck Naval Training Station near Virginia Beach.

Betty and I, and the other married couples, stayed at the Virginia Beach hotel right on the beach. It was a lovely old hotel but because of wartime conditions everything was blacked out at night and the hotel was not up to its former peacetime conditions. The hotels and restaurants windows were covered and doorways had double panels to prevent light from showing. In the darkness it was difficult to find our way for even a short distance. Often we were stopped by Coast Watchers for identification.

At night we could see ships burning that had been torpedoed by German U-boats. It was almost a nightly affair. The beaches were strewn with debris from the sunken ships. Nothing about the burning ships appeared in the papers because of censorship. Didn’t want to let the Germans know how effective their U-boats were.

In June I received orders to San Francisco (Mare Island Naval Base) to join the Marine Detachment on the USS Nashville.

Betty and I went by troop train stopping in Cincinnati for a short visit with her mother and dad. My military ticket was for an upper berth. I was able to talk a Navy officer into swapping his lower berth for my upper so my wife and I could be together. It took a bit of persuading but I finally won out after the first night!! Needless to say, the single upper birth was a bit snug the first night.