Archive for June, 2007

I was digging around in the garage the other day and found some dank, and dusty old paperback books in one of the boxes that took me way back. They were all children’s editions that I had purchased at school from the Scholastic Book Club. Every once in a while the teacher would pass around a catalog, and we would mark the books that we wanted to purchase. Though the books only cost 35 or 40 cents at the time, I know oftentimes I couldn’t order all of the books I wanted to read.

I still remember one of the books that I dearly wanted, but couldn’t afford at the time. It was a story about an island native boy, and his struggle to become a man. The teacher had given it such a great build-up too, telling everybody how exciting it was and all. It was titled “Call it Courage” and I even remember the author’s name – Armstrong Sperry. I tried to get it at the library too, but of course it was always checked out. I think I would have stolen the book if I’d had the opportunity, I wanted it so bad.

To this day, I haven’t read Call it Courage. It’s probably a great story, and it won a Newbery Medal for children’s literature in 1941. And now, even though I desperately wanted to read it then, I won’t order it from Amazon.com or even borrow it from the local library. I don’t know why – perhaps my pride was hurt. Or perhaps after desiring it for so long it became a life lesson to me. You can’t always get what you want. I did read the blurb about it at Wikipedia though, and I do hope everything worked out for little Mafatu.

Call It Courage

One of the books I did find was “Of Men and War” by John Hersey. It’s a collection of five true stories of World War II by a famous combat correspondent, including the original story of John F. Kennedy and PT-109. That’s what it says on the cover. Hersey interviewed Kennedy about the PT-109 for Life Magazine immediately after his return to the US from the pacific theatre, but it eventually appeared in The New Yorker as a story about survival rather than heroism. In fact, that’s the title of it in “Of Men and War” – Survival. Kennedy and Hersey were rivals at one time, chasing the same women; and of course JFK went to Harvard and Hersey went to Yale. I don’t think that had anything to do with it though. I think after the atomic bombs exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, people really hoped that WWII would be the last war.

Hersey writes in the introduction:
“There are some who feel that “conventional” wars not only will be fought in future but even can be justified. I am not one of them. The stories in this volume may help readers to see why warfare, “conventional” or otherwise, cannot be justified as a means of settling disputes between nations, for these are stories of what common men, not necessarily leaders or heroes, feel as they wage war — and their feelings are inevitably reduced, in the end, to what men cannot help feeling about their worst crime, which is murder.”

I suppose I agree with most of that, I won’t say all. I never pulled a trigger or had a man or woman in my gunsight, but I’ve wrestled some with the guilt of having been in a war, and I have felt the overwhelming feeling of elation that comes when you’ve destroyed an enemy. In our case we extinguished a particularly elusive radar site and the soldiers operating the site, that was tracking our pilots over North Vietnam for their missiles.

My favorite book from Scholastic Books was “The Man Who Never Was” by Ewen Montagu. It’s a great story, and there was even a movie made about it in the 50s starring Clifton Webb, so I won’t ruin it by giving away the plot. The book cost me 35 cents.

I was hoping that I would find some My Weekly Reader(s) in the garage too, but sadly there were none. Every week we would receive one of these four page newspapers and I really miss the simplicity and matter-of-factness of it all. As a newspaper, the Weekly Reader did leave out some major stories, such as the Civil Rights Movement in America, but I prefer to think that they were just saving the story for a special issue, and not ignoring it altogether. I hate reading stories in newpapers – the whole concept of the inverted funnel seems like such a waste of time, and smacks of repetitiveness to me. I think the idea is that you are supposed to read it until you can’t take hearing about it any longer.

Several days ago the OJ Simpson saga, “If I Did It” was leaked to the internet. I heard about it on the View. Barbara Walters said that she had already read it, and it had disgusted her. From excerpts that I read on the web it doesn’t appear to contain anything that wasn’t in the trial transcript. Even after all these years I still feel affected by the heinous murders of Ron and Nicole. I think I met Nicole once, though I can’t really be sure it was her.

It was when I was driving a taxi-cab in Anaheim, and one afternoon just before quitting time I was sitting in my cab in the taxi-stand at the Mariott Hotel and a “Fare Waiting” came up on my computer screen. Just then the bell-man called me to pull up to the front of the hotel, and he held open the back door for a pretty young woman with a small boy. I asked her “Where to?” and she told me an address in Laguna.

I said, “I know where Laguna is,” “but not that address. If you wait a second, I’ll look it up in my map-book.”

“I’ know how to get there. I can give you directions,” she replied.

She had dark hair and very tan skin, and seemed a little sad. She sat quietly and attended to the little boy, who sat beside her. I could see him in the rear-view mirror, and he was quiet too, and very cute, with milk-chocolate colored skin and wearing a dark blue suit, the kind for babies with short pants and a matching hat of some sort. She didn’t say much the whole way, just to stay on the I-5. Somewhere in the vicinity of Leisure World, she said to exit and finally we pulled into an alley and stopped at the back of a condominium. She didn’t have any money with her, she said, but she opened the garage-door with her remote control and picked up the baby and said she’d be right back with the fare, which was 20 dollars or so.

There were two or perhaps three very nice cars in the garage, and the one in front was parked in sideways, which I thought was strange. It was a Mercedes convertible, and I had never seen one so black or so elegantly appointed before. When she came back out, I said “That’s a beautiful car.”

“It’s my husband’s,” she replied, and she handed me the amount of the fare and a generous tip. I guessed that her husband might be an athlete, and for a second I thought of OJ Simpson because I knew from seeing him on the Carson Show that he owned some expensive cars, but she seemed too young for him. As I was driving away my last thoughts about her were how sad she seemed, how pretty she was and I wondered why she was wearing a wig.

It saddens me to know that woman was murdered. When I see the photo of the crime-scene at Nicole’s condo, the one where you can just make out her pitiful body curled up at the foot of the porch, I just feel sick. What a terrible waste.

I don’t think My Weekly Reader would have had much to say about the OJ Simpson trial.

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Navy Service Record

Note to my loyal reader(s):

There’s nothing really new in this chapter about my “investigations” into my father’s military service, and I’m only adding it now because I wrote it for continuity sake for a PDF version of my Blog that I am putting together. The PDF is divided into sections that are more or less chronological in order. If you would like a copy, just send me an email at billdubiak@verizon.net and I’ll attach one in the reply. Of course you will need the latest version of Adobe Reader to view and or print it. Be sure to scan it for viruses, as you should all attachment files nowadays – I’ll scan the file before it goes out.
I looked at the documents that the Navy sent me as the first few pieces of a real-life puzzle that I felt needed to be assembled. There were ten sheets of paper, photo-copies of pages from dad’s service record that spanned a period in his life that before this time were a complete void to me. The enlistment contract, or one just like it, I had seen before when I joined the Navy in 1970. Not much in that document had changed over the years. This one was dated January 21, 1942, and it contained very little information that I didn’t already know about him. It was for a two year enlistment in the Naval Reserve, but the document had been stamped with an appendage to the oath of allegiance stating, “I further obligate myself to serve throughout the war or national emergency, if so required.”

Next came a summary sheet dated May 4, 1950 and addressed to “To whom it may concern.” It had been prepared by the Discharged Naval Personnel Records branch of the Bureau of Naval Personnel in Garden City, New York. On the page were listed 8 different stations with dates and codes for various actions such as transfer and receiving. He had reported to the Navy Recruiting Station in Philadelphia on January 21, 1942 and arrived at the Naval Training Station in Newport RI that same day. Six days later he was received (R) there, and less than a month later on February 18 he was transferred (T) to Comm Inshore Patrol in Boston, MA and quickly handed off to R/S, NYD., in Boston. On March 1 he arrived at the Boston Section Base at Lockwood Basin and finally ended up at MTBS Training Center, Newport (Melville) RI on April 17, 1942. Having been in the Navy, I assume that somewhere between all of those transfers he underwent a battery of tests and received some sort of basic training, but nowhere near the 13 weeks Seamanship training or the 18 weeks of electronics training that I had received.

I have tried to glean whatever I could from descriptions whenever they were provided for each station; for example at the Boston Section Base at Lockwood Basin, he was transferred to the C.O. BosSecBase FFT (for further transfer) Mine Assembly Unit, Hinghan(m), Capt. R.C. Grady. It’s fruitless to speculate, but at this time in the war U-boats were placing all manner of explosive mines up and down the east coast of the United States, so perhaps he was being trained to deal with them.

My dad arrived at the new Motor Torpedo Boat (MTBS) Training Center at Portsmouth RI on April 17, 1942. Contained in the documents are no indications or clues of any training provided, but there is one promotion on May 21 and a string of disciplinary actions after that, leading up to a Bad Conduct Discharge on December 9, 1942. On April 24, 1942 he went AWOL for four days and 20 minutes, and after a Captain’s Mast conducted by Lt. D.J. Walsh, was confined in the brig for 5 days on bread and water. Less than one month later, Lt. D.J. Walsh promoted him to Seaman 2nd Class. In September he went AWOL again for 8 days, and on September 18 1942 in “Deck Court” held by Lt. D.J. Walsh he plead guilty and received 10 days confinement, and loss of pay of 10 dollars for two months. Finally in November he was AWOL for 4 hours and apparently had been arrested driving a stolen car, and two days later plead that he did “unlawfully take, drive, and operate an automobile, the property of John Hogan, Usher Place, Bristol RI.” The Court-Martial was held by now Lt. Cmdr. D.J. Walsh.

One month later, on December 9, 1942 Edward Dubiak was discharged from the Navy with a Bad Conduct Discharge signed by D. J. Walsh, paid $34.28 by the disbursing officer, one Ensign G.C. Ferguson, and notified to report to his local draft board.

There was one other document in dad’s service record, a copy of a letter sent by the Bureau of Naval Personnel to the Headquarters of the Anitaircraft Artillery Training Center, at Camp Stewart GA dated September 18, 1944. It was written in reply to a request August 29 by the Army Assistant Adjutant General, Major W.A. Rugg for a report on the circumstances of discharge from the United States Navy in 1942 of Seaman Second Class Edward Dubiak. Why, I wondered, was the Army doing a background check on my father at this time? My first thought was that he had gotten into further trouble, perhaps finding himself in an Army stockade for AWOL or some other reason, but his Army transcript that he received after the war clearly states that on September 6, 1944 he qualified Expert with the M-1 rifle on the rifle range.  It didn’t make sense to me that a soldier confined in the stockade or awaiting trial, would be allowed to fire a rifle.  The only other explanation is that he was being trained for something secret, that required a background investigation.

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