RBT's Personal Journal

1952 - After Kwajalein


September 5

Relieved of command by Major George G. (Gus) Labadie, USMC, and departed Kwajalein with my family, on MATS aircraft. Landed at Johnston Island for refueling. We spent five days sightseeing in Honolulu awaiting transportation by ship to San Francisco. We stayed at the old Ft. DeRussy that was located on Waikiki Beach.

Rufus B. Thompson, Jr. - Manila 1945

Halemaumau volcano [click to enlarge]

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The Navy was operating recreational flights to the big island to see the erupting Halemaumau volcano. Tom White, the CB officer on Kwajalein, arranged for me to get on the flight. Leaving Betty and the children at Ft. DeRussy, I took off early in the morning on a two engine DC-3 transport to Hilo. After landing and doing a little sightseeing and shopping we took off for the volcano. It was a very cloudy day so we never did get a good view of the volcano, even though the pilot kept circling around the mountain trying to get a view. We did get close enough to smell the acrid fumes.

We returned to Hilo for a short stop, then took off for Honolulu. About fifteen minutes into the flight we were told the pilot was having trouble with the port engine and it would be best for us to put on our parachutes. About two minutes later the crew chief told us to line up at the door. To further complicate things, one of the sailors accidentally pulled the rip cord on his chute, which spread out in the plane. After gathering up the chute, we were told the pilot was going to try to return to Hilo but we should remain ready to jump. Fortunately, we landed safely but had to wait several hours for the Navy to send another plane for us.

I might mention how I reacted with the possibility that we might have to jump. When we got back to our seats for the landing, I noticed that I had left my cameras on the seat but had taken several leis I had bought for Betty, and was going to jump with them. Needless to say it was a wasted but exciting day.3

We sailed from Honolulu on 11 September aboard the navy transport USS President Jackson, APA 18, arriving in San Francisco on 18 September, 1952.

We picked up our little Nash from Ray Luckle that he had stored for us and left for Camp Pendleton, where I reported for duty with the 3rd Marine Division on 3 October.

3) Not so wasted, actually. Many interesting photos taken on this trip.