Reporting for Duty
It took me 15 hours to fly from Chicago O'Hare to Narita International Airport in Japan. I had been told to expect somebody to meet me once I arrived. I was to report to the USS Midway, homeported in Yokosuka Japan. I would find my squadron there. When I walked out of the commercial airliner and onto the concourse in Narita, I found myself in a sea of people with black hair who stood a foot shorter than myself. There were no friendly ombudsmen to greet me. I found nobody who could speak English. Every sign was in kanji. I did manage to find my seabag on the conveyor belt, so I slung it on my back and went outside.
Across the sea of glossy black hair I spotted the tell tale crew cut of a military man, and I shoved my way through the crowd towards him. Fortunately, I had found a soldier who was stationed at Camp Zama and who was returning from leave. He told me he would get me as far as Camp Zama and give me directions the rest of the way. We boarded a train.
I watched the cityscape turn to twilight as the train barreled through the exotic smells and scenes of the orient. My impromptu guide kept me with him through a couple of transfers, and in an hour or so, we arrived at his last stop near Camp Zama. Once there, he told me the surest route to Yokosuka would be by taxi, although it would be the most expensive way. After traveling for close to 24 straight hours, I elected to play it safe. I entered a cab driven by a white gloved Japanese National and finally got him to understand my destination when I pointed to it on my orders. "Ahhhh. Yokosuka!" It seems the placement of accent in the Japanese language is crucial to communication.
Once at the gates to Yokosuka Naval Station, I showed my military ID and passed by the Marine guards who were busily saluting cars. I decided to make the remainder of my trip easy. I opened the door to another taxi, and climbed inside. I said "Mid--Way" only to have an American turn around in the driver's seat and say "I understand English asshole!"
I will never forget seeing that aircraft carrier begin to appear as we rounded the curve towards the warf. She was lit by friendship lights, and her bow disappeared in the mist. I had never seen anything that damned big. I got out of the cab at her fantail, paid my fare, and looked up at the sailor standing fantail watch with a glowing ember of a cigarette in his lips. The round down of the flight deck was several stories above his head.
I followed the other sailors toward the brow to board the ship. The sailors in civilian clothes smelled of alcohol and cheap cologne. The sailors on duty in blue coveralls smelled of grease and sweat. It was a hot, sticky night. I boarded the ship, and received directions to my berthing from the Officer of the Deck. As I walked through the cavernous hangar bay towards my berthing area, I began to panic, knowing I would become hopelessly lost in this great beast of a ship.I received further directions at least twice, and finally descended into a "coup" in the fartherest forward portion of the ship, right at the waterline.
I found several sailors playing cards and watching a pro football video from home on the TV. I asked if I was in the right place. I was. The sailors returned to their endeavors. I asked where I should crash out. "We don't care where the hell you crash out Boot." One sailor in ragged boxer shorts pointed to a rack (bunk) at floor level a few aisles down. I tossed my seabag in a corner and crawled into the rack. Within ten minutes, the lights were turned out, and I began to drift into blessed sleep.
Brrrrrrrrrrr.........WHOMP! BrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR WHOMP WHOMP! I scurried out of my rack to find a 6 foot 3 inch Irish lad buffing the floors and banging his buffer into my rack. I asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. The big Irishman told me to get my boot butt back in my box before he kicked my ass into next week. I informed him that if he banged my rack again with his damned buffer I would shove it up his ass. Running. Thus, I met Mickey Findura. After a brief wrestling match, we resolved our differences, and I returned to my rack. I do not recall much else. I slept hard and heavy that night. I slept until 10:30 the next day. Findura later became a good friend, as did Strickdog, Shitty, Wicker, Killion, and a host of other characters I will never forget. Whether I want to or not.
Labels: US Navy