"Now the RELIEF draft lay on the port side of the quarterdeck!" At those words I said a
hasty goodbye to the boys in the office, shouldered my sea bag and hammock, and carried out
the boatswain's mate's verbal order. After a muster had been taken by the OOD and among
shouted descriptions by various well-wishers of the terrors of the operation we were about to
undergo, we got in the boat---a motor-whaleboat at that.
We were thirteen in number, together with one officer passenger (the gunner). We and our
gear made an over-capacity load for the little boat. The trip to the RELIEF was uneventful
except for the passage close aboard the PENSY'S number two motorboat which nearly swamped us
and we Sam and I to the skin. After stowing our gear in the "bag room" we all sat down on an
extremely hard bench in front of the eye, ear, nose and throat clinic and began to wait.
After something like three hours, a hospital corpsman came by and said "Follow me". We thus
made our way to what was to be our home for the next few days: The "E" Ward.
The "E" Ward consisted of a compartment much the same as an ordinary living compartment of
the SLC with the exception that the bunks were only two high instead of four high and the
mattresses were much thicker. Also they had sheets, clean ones too. Seated primly at a desk
was a rather pretty little brunette nurse who, after glancing at the sheet the PhM had handed
her exploded with "What's the SALT LAKE CITY doing, abandoning ship?" At this point she
turned and regarded us with what might be termed the "fish-eye". I, however, having heard
dire tales of what happens to sailors who monkey with Navy nurses, kept my gaze carefully
averted from her lovely countenance.
After being "admitted", and told briefly what our duties and responsibilities while members
of "E" Ward consisted of we were allowed our freedom. Sam and I soon found the "gyp-joint"
and proceeded to partake of two extra special ge-dunks on the ground that we soon would not be
swallowing much of anything. Presently mess gear was sounded and we proceeded to locate the
chow line, still feeling that we could gain all possible nutrition prior to our anticipated
fast. After ten minutes or so (and just when we were coming within smelling distance of the
food) we learned that we had made a grievous mistake and were in the "Pharmacist's mate's"
chow line. It seems that they have an odd custom on the RELIEF which consists primarily of
feeding all the PhM's before allowing any of the patients which are subsisting on the
"general mess" to dine. We soon rectified that error however, and ate our evening meal.
After chow we drifted back to the ward and spent the hours before bedtime listening to very
vivid descriptions by those inmates of the ward who had already been parted from their
tonsils of the terrors, agonies, trials and tribulations of that which was to come upon us in
the morning. Those persons, incidentally were regarded with open-mouthed awe as were they
not indeed veterans who had gone down into the valley of the shadow of death, so to speak?
For some reason I went right to sleep and woke up just in time to have a thermometer thrust
between my teeth. Those people surely believe in frequently determining the heat of one's
body! We dressed, in pajamas and bathrobes, and I shaved and combed my hair neatly,
believing that it wouldn't hurt to look my best. We were cautioned not to take anything by
mouth and, although I became extremely thirsty before ten-thirty which was when "IT"
happened, I adhered strictly to instructions. Something for which I later had reason to be
thankful. After what seemed an endless wait we were told that we might again return to our
bench and so we went there and continued our wait.
Every now and then the end man on the bench would be beckoned to by a leering PhM and he
would enter and disappear. Soon Sam and I discovered that the actual scene of operations was
directly in front of us and that the sight was obscured only by a screen which could easily
be looked over. We proceeded to look. I saw a shipmate seated in the operating chair. He
was bleeding profusely from the mouth and nose. I quit looking. I don't think this helped
my state of mind much. Before going to our present station we had each been given a capsule,
which in my case had approximately the same effect as four or five healthy high-balls. At
this point however, this feeling of gayety seemed to desert me. I noted with concern that
there remained only one victim between me and the door. Soon I noted with alarm that I was
between me and the door. Then I noted with panic that I was being beckoned at. I went in on
rubber legs. The beckoner immediately sprayed my throat with an evil tasting mixture. A
test swallow informed me that I seemed to have about three ounces of un-masticated peanut
butter stuck in my throat. Next, the door to "THE" room opened and a very sick looking
sailor holding a pan into which his life blood was pouring staggered out. I was told to go
in. Somehow I made it.
As soon as I was seated the doctor thrust a needle which I swear was six inches long into
each of my tonsils. I had heard that I could expect to be stuck about four times in each
tonsil with this procaine needle. I heard wrong. This doctor had a new system. In order to
inject this alleged pain-killer into the various portions of each tonsil he would, after the
initial thrust, simply train right or left as necessary in order to reach all parts of the
member. This process was accompanied by a distinct feeling of rending flesh. Upon
completion I was told to again go to the waiting room. On my way out the sailor that I had
thought to be deaf and dumb that had been sitting in the other chair of the ante-room passed
me going in. I hadn't sat long before I realized the cause of his silence. I couldn't talk
either. Furthermore I felt terrible. I wondered how they could expect a man, however brave,
to walk into that place twice in the same morning. I bemoaned the fact that they hadn't done
the job when they had the chance. Then I realized that I was part of a very ingenious
"assembly-belt" system being employed by this nautical MD in order to facilitate the rapid
completion of his morning's work. In this manner he avoided having to wait with a patient in
the chair while the procaine was taking effect. Anyway I got back in and things began in
earnest. This part would be better omitted, but roughly the process employed is this: The
MD cut away all the main connecting link of the tonsil and used a device resembling a pair of
wire cutters on the remainder. This last is accompanied by a loud "snip". I had difficulty
breathing, gagged a couple of times and got a little blood down the wrong way which caused a
minor attack of strangulation. Other than that things went smoothly. I was enraged by the
fact that my right leg, which rested against the doctor's leg shook something awful and no
power of muscular constriction, contraction or mental concentration would enable me to stop
the damn thing.
Anyway, after it was over, I retired, unaided I'll have you know, to the "E" Ward. Upon my
arrival I found that I felt fine. I still couldn't talk, but that seemed a very minor
ailment. "IT" was over, and such an over-whelming sense of relief I had never felt before.
I saw others of my "ilk" lying moaning in their bunks, bleeding into their little pans, but
looked upon them with disdain. I decided I would wait until dear old Sam came down and see
how he was making out. I still felt fine. I congratulated myself. This was a cinch, I
could plainly see. "No strain, no pain" as the old Navy expression goes.
However, the ward PhM reiterated with me. I was a "bed patient" for twenty-four hours,
insisted he, and I must not leave my bunk for any other purpose than a call of nature.
Merely to be obliging I got in my bunk. After about two minutes I discovered the error of my
ways. The procaine wore off and I began to bleed and hurt. This kept up for some time.
That evening the mess-cook placed before me a very delectable looking plate of vanilla ice
cream. At that point I couldn't have swallowed the remnant of an exploded atom. This game
kept up during the entire three days that I was on the "soft mess". At each meal I was
confronted with a plate of food of a consistency (or should I say viscosity_ just beyond that
which I felt that I might be able to force past the flaming wound in my throat. Luckily the
gyp-joint was situated at a point directly above the ward and we managed occasionally to
sneak past the PhM and thus escaped starvation with a dish of ice cream. Each morning the
Chaplain, a very young chaplain incidentally, called and told us to have faith. The ward
motto, which was in my opinion very appropriate, was a saying said by someone whose name is
at this point to the relater unknown, which went something like this: "I am wounded but I am
not slain. I will lay me down and bleed awhile and I will rise to fight again."
One of our number, Stanley Joseph Narewski, WT1c, USN, by name, was singularly unaffected by
the ills which plagued the rest of us. In a word he felt fine. In his efforts to give to
the rest of us the same high spirits which were his he would place himself in a position
where all could hear and make wise-cracks. Believe me, he "had a million of them".
We would try manfully to suppress our mirth, but sooner or later we had to laugh. This
usually caused numerous minor hemorrhages and gave Narewski no end of fun. He should have been
shot. After four days we felt pretty good again and managed to occupy our time during the
remaining three days that they kept us on their sun-bathing, reading, eating ge-dunks,
dodging work, and relating repeatedly to any new arrival that would listen, all about our
Note from "George"
Please do not judge the above on any basis of literary construction or English usage. You
asked about my operation and that's the way I remember it. [Signed: George]
NOTE FROM SANDY E.
If you know who this George is, please let me know so I can link him up to the roster.