Sid's N T I N S Locker
Part-1 Thanksgiving Memories: A Great Thanksgiving On The High Seas BBS-003
Part-2 Thanksgiving Memories: Out To Sea - Life Aboard A Troopship BBS-003a
Part-3 On To Samar BBS-003b
Moon Over Samar
Memoirs of a WW-II Skimmer - Part 4
by Bob Harrison WWII MoMM/2c

Tommy Thompson was a young New York native, about my age, headstrong, tough, and possessed of a muscular physique. He and I hit it off from the very first time we came together aboard the USS Robin Doncaster and, though we never became bosom buddies, we pretty much gravitated towards each other when time hung heavily on our hands. On this particular day, we had just returned from one of the outlying islands where we had delivered a pontoon barge loaded with 100 octane gasoline.

It was Saturday evening and all of the other guys in our quonset hut had gone up the road to see a movie at a Seabees outdoor theater. Tommy and I were too tired to go so we elected to stay "home" and rest.

In those days of my youth, rest did not mean the complete cessation of all activities, it really meant that we were lounging on our camp cots drinking beer and talking about all of the idiotic things young sailors talk about, i.e., women, home, getting back to the "old country" (the USA), women, good food, women, etc. And women.

You may wonder why we were so obsessed with women, what with all of the available Philippino women wandering around our Quonset hut throughout the day. Two things prevented us from taking advantage of the local maidens: First, there was a Catholic Priest who had a phobia which included warning the nubile maidens about sailors and second, most of the girls had some sort of skin problem which presented itself in the form of large sores on their arms and legs and probably other parts of their anatomies. Now, I doubt that Number Two would have stopped us from carrying out our evil designs but that Priest sure had a way with the females, telling them that sex was a sin and they would go to Hell if they consorted with us. We, in our turn, tried to convince the girls that none of that was true if we really loved them and they loved us. It didnít work. The Priest had a headlock on them. Fear triumphed over lust.

Anyhow, Tommy and I were making up for the time lost while we were gone and we were busy drinking up the weekís allotment of beer, two per day for five or six days. After downing the third or fourth dayís supply, one of us suggested that we should go down to the beach and "watch the moon rise over the ocean." Or something like that.

The vehicle we chose to take was a weapons carrier or maybe it was a personnel carrier, Iím not sure. Whatever it was, there were no doors or windows. On the driverís side, there was a spare tire mounted on the running board making it extremely difficult to enter or leave the cab on that side.

On our trip to the beach, I drove while Tommy lounged back in the "shotgun" seat singing "Moonlight Bay" or some such melody. With Tommyís voice, it was difficult to tell one song from another.

We made the beach with no mishaps and spent a couple of hours lying under a full moon, swigging beer and singing duets. With me carrying the melody, it sounded much better than Tommyís solos.

Eventually, with two cans of beer remaining and the moon ceasing to be a source of entertainment, it became time for us to cease our lunar worship, so we headed for "home".

This time Tommy decided he should drive and I didnít object because I supposed he was more sober than I was. WRONG!! But I didnít find that out until later.

I should mention that all of the roads on Samar were constructed by the Seabees with a coral base. Coral is a good surface but, like gravel, it can be treacherous as we were to discover. It can also be extremely abrasive, as Tommy was soon to learn.

Tommy was wheeling along at 40 MPH or so and gradually increasing his speed as confidence in his driving ability increased in direct proportion to the amount of beer he was continuing to imbibe.

We came to a certain point and could see, down the road, an SP vehicle parked, waiting for just such miscreants as we. At about the same time that we saw the SPís, Tommy began to lose control of the truck. It started to fishtail on the coral road and I was sure we were going to flip.

We didnít flip but Tommy did. Somehow, Iíll never know how, he flipped right out of the driverís seat, over that spare tire, onto the hard coral road.

So what did I do? I tell you true, I SOBERED UP. I donít know what chemistry took place, a rush of adrenalin perhaps, but I vividly remember that suddenly I was sober. I reached over, grabbed the steering wheel and somehow managed to stop the fishtailing although the truck was still moving at a good clip, heading for some curious SPís who by now were out of their vehicle watching my approach.

Again, I donít know how, I slid over into the driverís seat and braked to a stop a few yards short of the SP vehicle. I slipped it into reverse and backed down the road, looking for Tommy, expecting to find a mangled corpse in the ditch, wondering how I was going to load him in the weapons carrier without the SPís noticing anything amiss, wondering how I was going to load a 200-pound corpse into the truck whether or not the SPís saw what I was doing, wondering how I was going to dispose of the body, or what story I could concoct when the SPís stopped me.

Suddenly I saw Tommy walking unsteadily towards me, cussing and bleeding like nothing you ever saw. Tommy, like all of us in those tropical climates, didnít wear a shirt night or day in the Philippines and he was a raw hamburger from his head down to his belt line. His jeans protected him somewhat below the waistline but he looked like a butcherís shop above it.

He didnít object to my driving and piled into the passengerís seat. I drove slowly and carefully past the SP vehicle, thinking they would stop me at any moment but they simply looked on curiously as we cruised by. Back at the Quonset hut, I helped Tommy rinse off some of the coral dust and grime he had picked up in his ignominious plunge from the truck. At first, I tried to wash it with a cloth but that was too painful so we settled for a cold rinse.

Next morning he went to sick bay where he stayed for two or three days but eventually he returned just a little the worse for wear and tear. He reported to me that the Pharmacistís Mates were not so gentle as I was in treating his wounds though they were probably more effective and certainly more sterile.

Two or three months later I acquired the necessary 85 points required for shipping back to the "auld sod" and an honorable discharge. Tommy still had a few months to go so we parted company there and I never saw him again.

Thatís probably the big difference between submariners and skimmers. I think submariners tend to keep in touch after their service ends but we skimmers hardly ever did. Or maybe it had something to do with the war years and sudden departures.

Regardless, it is the one thing that I regret most about my short Naval career.

Part-1 Thanksgiving Memories: A Great Thanksgiving On The High Seas BBS-003
Part-2 Thanksgiving Memories: Out To Sea - Life Aboard A Troopship BBS-003a
Part-3 On To Samar BBS-003b