While I was in Boston my old friends from high school, Bill Kliene and Robert Holzschuher, came up to see me and we had a great weekend reunion. Robert was a line officer on a ship that had docked in New London, Connecticut and Bill was flying Corsairs in New Jersey with the Army Air Corp. Of our gang of four, the only one missing was Paul Silber. He had just been badly wounded in battle, but we did not know it at the time.
All four of us wound up as commissioned officers in WW II and Paul, Robert and I served overseas. Bill went in at the same time as the rest of us but was assigned as a flight instructor stateside. Paul was the only one of the four who was wounded. He was leading a platoon at Subic Bay on the island of Luzon in the Philippines when he was hit by a mortar shell and badly wounded in the chest . Robert was a line officer aboard ship in the Atlantic and later in the Pacific.
In March 1945 I graduated and was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy. Boy was I important. I had written Charlotte to let her know I was headed her way, and as soon as I could, I caught a train for San Antonio and my Charlotte. I cannot describe how wonderful it was to hold her again. The first day back I went down to Hertzberg Jewelry and picked out a ring. That night we went out, of course, and I drove to a quiet place where we could talk and asked her to marry me. We had a secret little tree-covered lane out north of town off Vance Jackson road that we would go to when we were in High School. My heart was so full of joy when she said yes.
Our time together was too short, because on the first of April, 1945 I had to board the train for San Francisco. I shipped out to find my new outfit, the 118th Naval Construction Battalion. One officer said he thought they were in Alaska and another said Australia. There were no seats on the train. At first I tried to sleep on all the baggage stacked between the cars, but it was too noisy. I finally rigged up a net that was hung between the seats near the overhead, sort of like a hammock, and this worked okay.
After three days, we arrived in San Francisco and I reported to the Navy office down by the docks where we were to ship out. I was put up in the St Francis Hotel. Three floors of the hotel were set aside for Bachelor Officers Quarters. A couple of my buddies from Harvard, including Jim Hibbard, were already there, and I bunked with them. Each morning, one of us would go down to the Navy office to see who had orders to ship out the next day. Then, that evening we would have a going away party for whoever was leaving next.
One night, we decided to go to the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. It was a famous nightspot with a beautiful view of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. Would you believe they would not let me in because I was not 21 years old? Here I was an “important” officer in the United States Navy on my way to war and they would not allow me to go in because liquor was sold there!
Photo of the Mark Hopkins Hotel found here.