It was a balmy summer evening. The mighty US Navy Pacific Fleet consisting
of Aircraft carriers, battleships, cruisers and destroyers, a huge armada
of about forty ships was anchored in Los Angeles harbor.
Following the usual procedure, various duties were assigned to the larger
ships. On that day, my ship, the USS Salt Lake City, a heavy cruiser, was
assigned the Medical Guard. That duty required all medical cases be sent
to my ship. I was a hospital Corpsman, 1st Class. the year was 1933 and
despite being a low rated corpsman, we performed medical procedures that
only qualified medical officers are required to perform today.
On that evening, I received an order to report to the quarter deck. I
responded immediately and reported to the Officer of the Deck. He pointed
to a sailor standing to one side and said, "This man was sent over from
the Beach to be examined for intoxication. Check him out and report the
result to me." "Yes sir, " I saluted and then took the sailor aside for
The sailor was a first class petty officer, wearing shore patrol brass and
quite obviously drunk. In those days, being drunk on shore patrol was an
extremely serious offense resulting in court martial, demotion and Marine
prison time. The thought that I could activate that severe punishment was
unacceptable to me. So after some phony tests and interrogation, I
reported to the Officer of the Deck that the man was suffering from lack
of sleep and exhaustion and recommended he be relieved of all duties for
Some six months later the ship was in the Bremerton Navy Yard for overhaul.
As a member of the wrestling team, we had been in very severe training.
Then having won our matches and a respite from training until the
forthcoming All navy matches in 3 months, we decided to get out and
In that region there were no girls or entertainment, so our recreation was
drinking and fighting. Despite prohibition, we had alcohol and all
gathered in a large restaurant outside the main gate. Hilarity and liquor
flowed freely and then the fights started and it was a beaut. I don't
know what happened as I was either knocked out or passed out.
I came to lying on a cot with my face towards the wall. As I opened my
eyes I saw the shadow of bars on the wall. Turning, I saw I was in jail.
I was terrified, wondering if I had committed a serious crime. Later, the
jailer appeared accompanied by two shore patrolmen. "Get up sailor", he
curtly ordered. I left the cell in custody of the two SP's who put me in
the back seat of a sedan, one on each side.
As the car moved out, frightened, I asked of the two SPs in the front seat.
"Where are you taking me?" "What am I charged with?" The SP in the
front seat turned asked if I remembered him. "No," I replied. He said,
"I was the guy you wouldn't declare drunk". You could have killed an
admiral and there wouldn't be any charge.
I was returned to my ship.