USS SLC...USN...Howard M. Grounds, RM3c
April 3rd, 2009
Remember World War II
by Howard M. Grounds
At 15 my twin brother and I joined the National Guard. We were tall and they were short of men, so they let us join the 36th Tank Division. What a thrill to ride in a tank and fire a machine gun! Believe it or not I qualified on the machine gun and made two summer maneuvers with them. When WWII started, the sergeant made us tell the Captain how old we were so we wouldn't get shipped out. We hadn't finished school yet. The Captain gave us an honorable discharge so we could finish school. As soon as we finished high school I joined the Navy with my twin, Homer and our best friend. We trained in San Diego, CA. and I was sent to Colorado to radio school and Homer and our friend went straight on the battleship USS PENNSYLVANIA. My older brother had joined the Coast Guard.
When I finished radio school I was assigned to the Flag ship and was told I would be picked up on the fleet landing in San Francisco. What a surprise to be picked up by the China Clipper. Gosh, it had upper and lower berths and I had breakfast served to me in bed the next morning. I thought to myself, this Navy is sure great. After the 11 hour flight we were over Honolulu and I saw all the sad destruction at Pearl Harbor as we flew over. The next day I was digging graves at the Punch Bowl and I realized I was in the war.
I finally met up with Admiral Small and the USS MINNEAPOLIS. I was the Flag radio man. We made the raid on Wake Island and came back to Pearl Harbor. Admiral Small was in bad health so the Flag was moved to the CHESTER with Admiral Allen E. Smith. We went from Tarawa to Kwajalein and I noticed the PENNSYLVANIA close by and I mentioned to my communications officer I had a twin brother on the "Pennsy" that I sure would like to see. To my surprise he told the Admiral and he gave me permission to go the PENNSYLVANIA for 24 hours to visit my brother. It sure surprised everyone that I could go for visit in the middle of the war. It was so great to see my twin brother as we had never been apart for so long.
We made all the raids, Saipan, Palau, Yap, Marshall, Iwo Jima, the Philippines, Okinawa and finally to Japan for the surrender. It was so terrible to see more than a thousand marines killed in the first hour at Iwo Jima. I served on the heavy cruisers "MINNEAPOLIS, CHESTER & SALT LAKE CITY" with the Flag and the destroyer PUTMAN 757 while the CHESTER was being repaired. I came home on the sea plane tender CHANDELIER. My twin brother's ship was torpedoed and my older brother's ship was sunk at the mouth of the Mississippi. The CHESTER had been hit at Iwo Jima and had a collision with another ship. How fortunate we all served and came home without a scratch.
As the CHANDELIER came under the Golden Gate there was a sign on the mountain side "WELCOME HOME", an airship dragging banners and a fire boat shooting water and a boat full of pretty girls waving the RED, WHITE and BLUE. We all had tears in our eyes. Old San Francisco gave us the best welcome and did all they could to make us happy.
The USO sold us hamburgers and hot dogs for 5 cents or free if we didn't have any money. All the Pepsi we wanted at market St. My two buddies and I went to the Stagedoor Canteen. Hedy Lamar was serving cake and ice creams. A twenty five dollar bond was raffled off. A soldier won it. They told him he could have the blond or kiss Hedy Lamar. He chose to kiss Hedy, so she puckered up and he kissed her on the forehead. I thought the roof would fall down. Ruth Hussey and Helen Hayes were also there. What a thrill!
Then we went to the Florentine Gardens for a floor show. Bert Parks was master of ceremony. He sent a cute little cigarette girl to bring a sailor, marine and soldier up on the stage. As you might have guessed, they chose us. He made me sing Anchors Away, the Marine sang the Marine Hymn and the soldier sang the Caisson song. Then he told us to get in line with the show girls and kick when they kicked. We got in line and he whispered to me and said to pat the girl next to me on the fanny, which I reluctantly did. He stopped the music and said "Fall out sailor. Where are you from?".... I said Houston, Texas. Then Bert said get back in line and behave yourself and as I did he said "now pat her again on the fanny". I did... and he yelled, "Fall out sailor, marine and soldier. This sailor won't behave himself. We don't do things like that in CA." He gave us each a carton of cigarettes and I don't smoke. I could have killed him if I had a gun. Looking back it was wonderful, but at the time I didn't think so.
That night we went to the St. Francis Drake Hotel. We wanted a room for the three of us. The clerk said we only have rooms for two, but we do have a king size bed. We didn't know what a king size bed was. He explained and we took it. We went out looking for gifts to take home, had a great dinner, went to the picture show and then back to the hotel. We all got in that big bed. I went to sleep but some time later something touched me. I rose up and rolled over on my stomach. Something got between my legs so I jerked the covers back and there was a beautiful blond gal in bed with me....naked. My shipmates were in the bathroom laughing and saying "she's all yours". Here's the part no one believes. I said, "Thanks, but no thanks, I don't need anything you've got". We all had a big laugh including the girl. What an experience. I was ready to go home to Houston.
I've gone to lots of ship reunions always hoping to find one of those guys. Don't think I wouldn't get even. I would tell their wives what they did and if it cost me a small fortune I would get even. She charged them $20 but they said it was worth $1,000 for that show.
Radio Gang List
Attended the following SLC Reunions: