Tales From West Loch


While at NAD, Westloch (1961-1964), I was an MN-2 assigned as an ambulance driver in my duty section. One Saturday afternoon, a young HMSN corpsman and I were called to the barracks to check on a Mineman who lay unconscious and bloody on the concrete deck. The poor guy, who had fallen out of the top bunk, was laying on his side with a pool of coagulated blood around his head. Apparently, he had laid there unnoticed for a while. We raised the guy's head, & blood oozed from his ear. The young corpsman panicked & quickly decided we should transport him fast to Barber's Point. So with lights flashing & siren wailing I drove the Cadillac at high speed through the nearby cane fields & through the side-gate at Barber's Point. We almost got T-boned by a station wagon at the front gate to the base. But, after only a few minutes examining the patient, a steaming-mad doctor came out & chewed us out. It seems the unconscious sailor was merely passed-out drunk & his only injuries were busted lips from his fall.    
 
The duty ambulance driver slept in a small sick-bay at the Admin Building. One night, I was disturbed by an odd sound, it wasn't very loud, but it was a rapid thumping noise that seemed to be getting closer. Curious, I pushed aside the mosquito net and saw a cup-sized cane spider, coming my way on the thin plywood wall near my bunk. The thin plywood & the air-void underneath created a sounding-board that amplified the sound. I had heard some unbelievable stories about the size of Hawaii's cane spiders, but never would have guessed that you could actually hear them walking.
 
One of our ambulance drivers became a local hero one day while responding to a car wreck near the base. When he arrived, two dazed local men were watching their car burn with an badly injured woman still inside. Bill Sellers pulled the woman from the burning car & saved her life.
 
At the absolute height of the Cuban missile crisis, several of us in the duty section were standing outside the Admin building discussing the tense military situation in Cuba and its possible dire consequences when someone suddenly pointed up in the sky and said, "What the hell is that?"
 
Several miles, high above Oahu, there was a mysterious & alarming, rapidly spreading orange-colored cloud. Alarmed, the CDO told someone to go call Lualualei and see what the hell was happening. At that point, as a group we sort of eased toward the safety of the concrete building. Boy, did we feel foolish when we found out that a long-planned, but ill-timed rocket fired by the weather-people had deployed a sodium cloud to see how the winds aloft would spread the cloud over the island.
 
It was a long-standing Navy custom, when a sailor's wife was arriving from the mainland, to take him to the airport by a slow round-about route, that included stops for beer, pee-breaks & most important of all "a late arrival." Since I didn't have a car when my wife was to arrive, my "best buddy" Fred Bartram & others generously offered to take me to the airport. Now, I hadn't seen my wife for over 27-months so I was a tad anxious as the above described scenario unfolded. When I finally arrived, 30 minutes late & a little tipsy, I couldn't find my wife. Finally, I found her over at the "Flights to the Mainland" counter. She was very upset, & was already checking on a return flight. I learned later that her 4-prop plane had lost an engine past the halfway point & the Coast Guard had sent a rescue plane out to escort them the rest of the way to Oahu. No wonder she was so upset by her tardy welcoming committee.

Don Jones, MNCM, USN (Retired)


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