Grampa Abbey was one of the first SeaBees. His rate was EM or Electricians Mate. Now the SeaBees have a rate called Construction Electrician. The SeaBees were formed from experienced tradesmen trained to build and fight. Grampa Abbey said it would be better to fight them over there than fight them here, so that is why he went. He was deployed to the South Pacific, Manus and Los Negros Islands. He survived the war but died the year before I was born. The above portrait hung on the wall in the house I grew up in.
In those days tailors would make a boy size uniform that was exactly like the real thing. Of course Richard wanted to be just like his Dad.
And of course David, wanted to be just like Dad, and Grampa Abbey…
Master Chief Harris was promoted to Senior Chief with the first group of Senior Chiefs ever. He tested for Senior Chief. He started in the reserve and then enlisted in the active Navy before his reserve time was up. The reserve Navy sent him threatening letters because he was not showing up for drills. He wrote them and explained he was in the active Navy. They insisted he return his seabag full of uniforms since he had not finished his entire reserve time. He mailed them a bag of stuff from the lucky bag, they were satisfied with that. He always started his sea stories with “This is no sh!t…” His awards included Navy Unit Comm, Expert Pistol, Meritorious Unit, Vietnam Service (2 awards), National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct (7 awards).
Dad was in boot camp the year before I was born. He was a SeaBee “Engineer Aid” (a surveyor) in the Navy reserve. His Navy skills translated to civilian skills for the Michigan Highway Department as a draftsman. SeaBees trained at Marine boot camp in those days and Dad had to do the live fire course where they fire live ammo and tracers over your head while you crawl around under a chicken wire net. During boot camp in preparing for an inspection they cleaned the heads perfectly and then strategically placed some peanut butter on the seat of one of the commodes. When the inspecting officer asked “WTF is that? pointing to the peanut butter there on the seat”, one of the Sailors ran over and tasted it and anounced, “it is sh!t sir”.
Dixon was commissioned in 1971. Originally she had a 5 inch gun. At some point it was removed (long before 1987 when I first met her).
Not a gun, not a shoot’n iron, no, it is your piece… And don’t EVER leave it unattended. They are very heavy to carry and Chief thought it was fun to have us exercise with them and see how long we could hold it straight out. Years later, my arms still remembered how to come to present arms and drill with the rifle. The group after us were issued white spats (oh crap, white spats inspection?). The boot camp experience was always being adjusted.
Great Lakes changed little over the years until recently. Have not been there since 2008, but on You-tube there are videos of all new buildings they call ships that are self contained with school, chow and barracks all in one building. We always had to march to school and chow, in the rain and snow, carry raincoats on the belt all folded up. Running late, still have to pick up chow, goes right in the trash as we run back out the door and form up again. The first few weeks we wore watch caps, they called us raisins. The white hat was something that was earned over the first few weeks. Getting to wear the white hat was a huge deal. I hated that watch cap after that. Never wore it. Would not wear the black garrison cap either…