Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos

 

p 93-1405
Forks girls basketballl 2000----.++ Sam King from notebook p.107"The first native Hawaiian to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy was Samuel Wilder King class of l909.He resigned his seat as elected Hawaiian territorial delegate to the United States Congress to return to active Naval duty during the war.He served as Military Governor of American Samoa during the war.During his absence his wife Pauline went to see Jack about a lost trunk belonging to her son in the Navy.She was pleased by the personal interest she felt Jack took.She used to say she was "Part-Hawaiian & proud of it."Jack knew her husband either in person or by reputation from his several visits to Hawaii in the l920's.Her husband also had New England ancestral roots & was a distant relative of the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes.One day Pauline paid an afternoon call on me in Waikiki.When I told Mrs. King I could not find a small lahalla straw mate for John's daily nap at school in rest period,she said that she would ask Sam to try to get one in Samoa.A few weeks later she returned,carrying a Samoan straw mat.- a little too large & pretty for school naps where the mats were stuffed into a wooden chest for storage, but since Sam had taken the trouble to ship it via a Navy ship going to Pearl Harbor, & Mrs. King had picked it up there & delivered it herself to us in her car,we used the mat for naps at Thomas Jefferson School.Frequently after that I would find wonderful bananas, pineapple, papays & lettuces on the bench on my front porch & once I found some macadamia nuts there- a nut I had never seen before- hard & most delicious.These delicacies were left for us by Mrs. King after her occasional visits to her family on the other side of Oahu.During the war Mr. & Mrs. King & their children lived in a rented home in Kahala because of the gasoline rationing & blackout.When the war ended,Sam returned to Oahu, & Mrs. King telephoned inviting the three of us to a supper party in honor of Sam's return home.Jack was no longer working on Sundays.As we were preparing to to leave the house about 5:30 Sunday evening to go to Kahala, Colonel William Winchester Paca,commander of the Marines at Camp Catlin came to call. He was an old friend from our TULSA days in North China in l93l, & his family were descendants of the William W.Paca of Annapolis Maryland who signed the Declaration of Independence in l776. Paca's home in Annapolis became Carvel Hall at th Naval Academy.Paca was one of the few Marine officers who was a graduate of West Point military academy.He was known to some of his friends as "Soldier" because of this background- he visited us several times during his Hawaii duty l944=l946.That Sunday afternoon he was cold & tired & soon after he aarrive he asked me for a cup of coffee, which I tried to make it my large Silex. i am afraid I gave him a rather poor cup of coffee because my mind was on the King party, where we were to eat at six o'clock - still I didn't like to desert Paca. Without consulting him I telephoned Pauline King to ask her if she could have the commanding officer of Camp Catlin as her guesxt for supper, and she agreed.At the supper we met Captain Edward D.Washburn, junior, who like Jack, had formerly been in charge of a Branch Hydrographic office. Washburn had the one in San Francisco at the same time Jack had the one in New York City l939-l94l.At the party were Captain Sam King, Captain & Mrs. Lewis- Jack's boss as Personnel Officer during the war,& the woman who headed the Women's Marine Corps.There were also a number of young people, including the King & Lewis families.When Mrs. King asked me to fill glasses of milk in her kitchen,I was amazed that she was handling all the cooking herself with no maid to cook or serve.The senior guests were served at numerous card tables in the living room, while the young people were served outdoors.Mrs. King had prepared an enormous pot of spaghetti & meatballs-just right for that rather chilly evening.We were seated at Captain Washburn's small table for four- he,Jack, John & I comprising that group.At first I did not sit with them as Mrs. King asked me to serve the dishes of spaghetti as she ladled them out & told me exactly whom to serve & to whom to give milk.So I rushed back & forth serving Captain Washburn,Jack, Colonel Paca, the woman Marine,Captain & Mrs. Lewis exactly as she told me to-& when I asked about the people outdoors,she said they understood that the kitchen would be theirs after the guests were served.Then she filled a plate for me,& when I realized it was the last of the spaghetti,I asked her about her own spaghetti, & she told me to forget it.So reluctantly I went to my seat, feeling I had done a good job.Suddenly I heard the guest of honor Sam King inquiring loudly, "Don't I get anything to eat?" We had forgotten to serve Sam. After dinner the young folks came into the living room, played dance records, & danced. Colonel Paca enjoyed himself very much dancing with the young people, & when we finally left, he continued at the party.While waiting for his supper, Sam King said," This informality is just Pauline. It reminds me of an incident that happened shortly before I resigned as Delegate to Congress.We ususally came home (to the windward side of the Island) when Congress closed each year to relax.I had often said to friends in Congress 'if you come to the Islands, let us show you some Hawaiian hospitality'. One afternoon when I was not home,three Congressmen did call- & a maid told them, 'Just go out back'- because that's where Pauline was. ."- so they went out back to see the perfect Washington hostess they had known impeccable in dress when in Washington-& they were amazed when she hailed them from high up in a tree.She nonchalantly climbed down & offered the Congressmen some of the mangoes she had collected.Pauline verified that the story was true.There was a parent-teacher association at the Thomas Jefferson School through which I met some of the other parents.We met Peter Perser & his mother from nearby Tuisitala Street in the first grade on the day school opened in September l942- & later the families of Robert Ho, Nicholas Vaksvik, Rose Lee on the golf course, & the Cook family who lived half a block east of us at 2465 Ala Wai. Edric Cook worked with a shipping company,& his wife Anne was from Seattle. Her father born in Europe came for an extended visit about l945. Esther Trease was an officer of the Honolulu Parent Teachers Association.We attended the ten birthday of her daughter Diane at their large house on a hill in Kaimuki.Mrs. Trease commented that nobody ever bothered to celebrate her own birthdays because they fell two days after Christmas on December 27.Dr. Paul Withington was a Navy Reserve doctor who advised Jack on ship facilities & priorities for the sick & wounded.His mother was the first woman principal in a Massachusetts school (in Brookline) The Withington family developed a sugar plantation on windward Oahu before l900,and five sons attended Harvard. Paul Withington played football & rowed on the crew in the class of l909.After medical school l9l3 he coached fotball at University of Wisconsin & became an Army doctor in World War I. In Hawaii he was interested in yachting & worked with swimmer Duke Kahanamoku improving the breathing & timing of the Australian crawl stroke. In the l930's he knew General Patton, who was stationed in Hawaii several years.One time we had dinner at Dr. Withington's home high up in a valley near Mount Round Top & saw several rabbits in cages there & met his ward Rose, whom he later married.There was a tidal wave tsunami in l946 - the most serious damage was at Hilo.In March l945 the Navy sponsored a swimming met at which wesaw the famous champion Duke Kahanamoku.Jack arranged transportation for a number of prominent athletes & entertainers mostly in the Navy who entertained troops in forward areas. He had an autrographed catchers mitt from Yankee Bill Dickey a baseball from Johnny Mize then with the New York Giants, & a photo of Gene Tunney, all of whom visited the Transportation Office, as did Bing Crosby's sons.We also saw exhbitions of prominent tennis players ++ w the dog, except I had seen her several times with her owner. I dared not go to his apartment to look for dog food, as the large dog might have attacked me.I had stocked nothing.& the military governor had ordered all stores closed to halt the hoarding that started the day after the attack.The dog went back & forth between my front & side doors & the entrance to Mr. Glockner's upstairs apartment at the back of the house.She would not let the milkman, laundry man or newspaper boy approach.When Gertrude Rice came to spend the night,she would rush in when the dog was going to his own door, & in the morning she would rush out. I called the police to remove the dog,but they refused,saying they had more to do than be concerned about the dog.Jack was on duty at Pearl Harbor day & night December 8-11.Finally I called the police to come at once for an emergency.The dog would not let them ring the doorbell - I called out that I had a small boy in the house & was out of food.Finally they did send the dog catcher.Later that month I had a postcard from Mr. Glockner asking me about his property & asking me to put mothballs in his clothes.Then it happened.When Navy women learned Jack had a wife in Waikiki,they began calling me on the telephone & came in droves to the little house,thinking I might plead their cases with Jack.Eventually Jack established priorities-the wounded-surviving widows & their children -pregnant women-women with very young children-& women with medical problems.Naval Reservist Dr. Paul Withington-who had grown up on a Windward Oahu sugar plantation & played football & rowed at Harvard l909 -& who was in charge of the Navy Dependents' Dispensary- advised Jack on medical cases needing to leave for the mainland.Mrs.Clorinda Low Lucas,one of the first native Hawaiian social workers advised about civilians who needed immediate transportation because of health or social need,& Pacific Fleet Chaplain Captain William Maguire haunted the Transportation Office,as he was familiar with the hardships of Navy women & children.Jack found it hard to refuse Chaplain Maguire's requests. because he was the Navy chaplain who in l93l found a room for me in Chefoo in l93l when the whole Asiatic fleet was in town & there was no place for me in the hotels.All sailings of ships in & out of Pearl Harbor were top secret..So when Jack got word from the Port Director, Lieutenant Commander Martin Derx, of the exact number of spaces he could have in the ships to evacuate personnel & dependents on Christmas Day l94l,his staff immediately started telephoning the hospitals to prepare the wounded for the trip to the mainland. They telephoned Navy & Marine personnel to be ready to sail,& then secretly notified the Navy dependents as all Navy women with young children were required to leave the Islands whether or not they wanted to.The order came from Admiral Bloch that ALL Navy dependents were to be evacuated as quickly as ships could be made available.When Gertrude Rice learned that Jack would be working on the dock all Christmas Day loading the evacuees aboard several ships, to be convoyed by three destroyers & a cruiser,she invited John & me to share Christmas dinner with her & Paul -risky as she lived near the Army's Fort Derussy in Waikiki, but it was within walking distance of our house.Carrying our gas masks,John & I walked to Gertrude's apartment, where she gave us a most delicious turkey dinner.When John asked for more peaches with his turkey,Gertrude hesitated, as they were brandied peaches.We had just finished eating when Jack apeared-tired & unfed at three o'clock in the afternoon.Gertrude gave him a good dinner,but he had to leave immediately because he was evacuating thousands of frightened wounded & dependent women with unruly children-with lines miles long waiting to get on the ships.Many women & children had given up their homes & were unfed. Jack saw our friend Mrs. Jean Nelson (from Panama days) standing in line with her two sons-ages about five & seven-at least a mile from the ship trying to control the two boys & watch her luggage at the same time.Jack called a couple of sailors to help her with her bags,& then he went aboard with her & gave her a lovely big room on the Matson Line's LURLINE.She was very pleased when he had an extra cot put in for Eric,the younger boy,so the family could be together in one cabin.Jack ordered her trunk taken to her cabin-a great privilege as most passengers could get nothing from their trunks during the voyage,because the trunks were in the hold.Later Gene Nelson wrote me that many of the children had no warm clothes for the cold weather of San Francisco about New Year's Day,& many had no shoes or stockings, which children generally do not use in Hawaii.One evening when the order came to "Darken Ship," some women thought they heard,"Abandon Ship," & there was temporary panic-but that soon subsided.The destroyers of the convoy occasionally dropped depth charges for suspected submarines,but the voyage was not too harrowing.GENE NELSON letter June 24,l970 "widow of Captain Paul Nelson,who had been a young boat officer on the survey ship HANNIBAL when Jack was "exec" & who was aboard the mine layer OGLALA on December 7,l94lwhen she was sunk & who died some time ago- a letter about her evacuation by Jack on the LURLINE Christmas Day l94l.Her son Paul junior was graduated from the Naval Academy & became a submariner- & her son Eric became a Naval aviator,but Eric was killed in a mountain acident recently.Gene herself passed away from a heart condition in March l97l. They were our good Navy friends,who visited at our house in West Roxbury in the l950's for Sunday dinner. In her letter Gene wrote,' Dear Sophie: Paul had (p.ll9f)the duty December 6-7 l94l aboard the OGLALA usually referred to as THAT old minelayer.I did not know he was alive until 2;30 pm The wife of the skipper 'Colonel' Speight located me at Kay Tompkins' where I had gone after I picked upthe children at Saint Andrews Episcopal Church.Kalaimaku Street was an evacuation area,so that it was senseless totry to go home. I went on home with the boys-Paul junior & Eric after spending the day getting up & down a rickety ladder with them & hiding under a reinforced concrete culvert.Later Paul & the paymaster came home-Paul trying to whistle & in khaki as the uniform was changed from whites to try to catch any possible saboteurs.I forget how I got the word,but I went downtown to have the boys evacuated wight away.Later I was informed I had to go along.A night telephone call told me to report for evacuation at a downtown pier.Somehow I had trunks,suitcases & even a toy or two with us.All our Christmas presents had sunk on the OGLALA December 7, l94l.(Paul jr was about eight & Eric about five) A cot was put in a lovely room on the LURLINE now renamed the MATSONIA.It was made up about sundown for Eric.The sheets felt odd,& next morning we found they were pure linen from the lanai suites! We had nothing to bathe in for 4 l/2 days but cold salt water. We had sailed on December 26,l94l accompaniedby two cruisers- one of them the St. LOUIS,& five destroyers.The destroyers ran around like mad that afternoon tossing over "ash cans" (depth charges).They were kept very busy tossing over depth charges p ll9g as we had all four of the Matson liners in convoy. We had aboard I believe thirty-eight of the burn cases.The boys went belting down a main staircase & almost ran into one, one day.I threatened them with everything I knew if theyt did it again. The gallant suffering burned boy (sailor) kept telling me he knew they meant no harm. I have keen hearing.One night over the loudspeaker came "Prepare to darken ship."Over a hundred people paniced,as they heard,"Prepare to abandon ship." My table mates bolted,but I grabbed an arm of each boy & told them to stay seated.Took quite a while to restore order.One evening some others were in our assigned places.We were put at a small table against the wall-I had some words,believe me with the steward- & we went back to our table for breakfast & kept on there.The stewards were quite surly. I heard later that at disembarkation at San Francisco they were marched off & sent to a recruiting office - or else...I cannot vouch for the story.They should have been,because the children were given a patented cooked cereal every day & diarrhea was rampant,you may imagine. One morning I was talking to a lovely older lady & mentioned I was worried about all the children I saw barefooted & in cotton only.Our boys had their little but too small coats & caps & were warm enough to land in San Francisco within two days. I bet it was twenty minutes later when over the loud speaker came a request that anyone who could spare clothes report to deck room- I had been talking with a General's wife.She got things done that I a Lieutenant's wife coould only worry about.We docked on a beautiful day at Pier 32 San Francisco.I managed to reach a phone & called Paul's sister-at work of course.I could hear her call over her shoulder,"My brother's wife & boys are here from Pearl Harbor-'bye,boss'".When she came to pick us up, I told ner "Open the front & back doors. We've had only cold salt water in which to wash for 4 l/2 days." On the dock were plenty of warm donations which should have been sent to Honolulu.Plenty of time for it. The Red Cross was there selling orange juice, coffee, milk for a nickel apiece. A good friend of mine had on the same slacksuit for three dazys & I asked if she had any other clothes.Everything of hers had been put in the hold & no person could go look.She came down to our room & I outfitted her with a brand new suit from Sears Roebuck & even had thread & needle for her to shorten the pants- all thanks to your Jack having given orders for all our baggage to go in our lovely big room. This is July 5 now- I get sidetracked by this lousy heart & my sixty-first birthday on July 3. As ever, Gene Nelson." THE OGLALA haD PREVIOUSLY BEEN A FALL RIVER liner But she was almost always tied up at Pearl Harbor. On December 7,l94l she lay next to the cruiser HELENA at 1010 dock & capsized. She was tied up so slong that a family of birds built a nest in her funel. End addition rest from #28:Another friend- from TULSA days in China-Commander Myron Thomas-was on Admiral Calhoun's staff,& through Jack he made arrangements for his wife & son to be evacuated on Christmas Day.He appreciated all Jack did to help & wrote to me recently that except for confusion on the dock before departure his wife & son had a good trip home on the LURLINE.Since I refused to accept my Navy quarters at Makalapa in July l941 chiefly because it was located so near the oil storage tanks,I was interested to read later in Samuel Eliot Morison's official history of the Navy in World War II that the greatest mistake the Japanese made on December 7 was their failure to bomb the huge reserve supply of oil at Pearl Harbor-& their failure to destroy the repair yards & docks & command & information facilities at the Administration Building. Commander Myron Thomas on Admiral Calhoun's Service Force staff wrote l970 about Jack: "He performed his task in a most creditable manner,& then his tact,careful planning,foresight & diplomacy with many people at this critical time satisfied the majority of naval personnel who had to remain in the (war) zone & were anxious to get their dependents to the mainland. I well remember that he booked my wife &^ son for sailing on the SS.LURLINE on Christmas Day '4l- & I didn't see them again until Christmas'43." Except for confusion on the dock at Honolulu, his wife and son had a good trip. Soon after the attack I learned a lot about it from Jack & from Captain Paul Rice,who worked for Admiral Furlong in the Navy Yard in charge of civilian workers in the repair shops.When Jack was Operations & War Plans assistant at Pearl Harbor in August l94l, he tried hard to get his superiors to work with the Army & alert the Navy to the real threat of an attack by the Japanese, but he was ignored-& transferred by Bloch to the Overseas Transportation Office,where his warnings could not disturb their golf.Paul Rice told me the civilian workmen voluntarily returned to work at the repair shops even while the attack was in progress-they worked well to prepare the ships for the trip to the mainland for permanent repairs.Early in the New Year l942 Jack was notified that several ships were en route to Honolulu to evacuate a large number of Navy dependents. Accordingly they secretly notified many women to give up their homes & be prepared to sail at a specified secret time.Not until the day of planned departure did Jack learn that all the ships had been sent elsewhere-the Navy women & children were stranded without places to live & without much ready cash.Jack was hounded day & night by displaced women & children=he was the victim of a situation which he had done nothing to create. For months no ships for dependents were made available to him, as they were all occupied in transporting troops & supplies for the crucial battle of Midway,which occured June 4. Late in May l942 my friend Lillian Arroyo visited me in Waikiki as she had learned that her husband was scheduled to leave the Islands shortly.She used her precious gasoline to drive me to a Japanese store in Honolulu where they put new covers on my chair cushions & sold me their last three Philippine teakwood bookcases & the only two unpainted pine rocking chairs in the place, which was practically empty.Lillian told me the awful secret of the preparations for Midway,& I promised to say nothing to anyone-not even to Jack.But the secret worried me,& I understood why Jack had no ships for the wounded & Navy dependents.But we won the Battle of Midway- & after that Jack could transport all the people who wanted to leave. Since Admiral Bloch put pressure on him to send us away,& since we had no home to go to on the mainland, we declared Hawaii our legal residence & remained throughout the war until June 4,l947.In the spring of l942,the Army cut some of the barbed wire at our entrance to the beach at Waikiki,& we joyfully resumed our daily swim just before dinner each evening.One late afternoon May l942 I lit the oven to bake a few very old potatoes & the last four old yellow onions.When Jack finally came home,he had with him a young man in civilian clothes-a soiled white shirt & really dirty white civilian trousers.Jack took me aside & whispered that his guest was a Lieutenant junior grade just in from a forward area of the war exhausted & afraid of the Shore Patrol because he was out of uniform-he had no time or funds to get a uniform before he left for the states to receive a Presidential citation from Franklin Roosevelt on behalf of his unit that had been in the Philippines.We took Henry Brantingham for a walk to the beach & loaned him a swim suit.The four of us walked hurriedly to the beach, swam-& in the walk home Henry was relaxed enough to laugh & talk like a normal young person.I raced into the kitchen-where my potatoes were overcooked -& my few little onions almost burned. I cut some stale cold roast beef cooked the previous Sunday.By the time they had showered & dressed it was dark,but we sat down to our simple meal.But we had a pleasant time & whe I asked Henry if he would like to join us for a swim & supper the next night,he merely replied,"That is up to the Commander."Jack walked to the Moana hotel with Henry so he wouldn't get lost & picked up by the Shore Patrol. Jack told him not to leave the hotel until he had heard from the Transportation Office.Brantingham had been skipper of a PT boat evacuating MacArthur & his family- then in mountains of Cebu-a Filipino loaned him a civilian shirt & trousers so he could have his dirty uniform washed. Before the uniform came back from the laundry,Brantingham flew out on one of the two last planes to leave the Philippines.So that is why Brantingham reached Australia in soiled civilian clothes.He figures prominently in the account "They Were Expendable" about the PT boats under Commander Bulkeley in Manila-Bataan December 1941-April, 1942. Later in the Solomons he commanded one of the four PT boats that were with Lt. John F. Kennedy & was involved iin picking up Kennedy, as described in Donovan's book "PT l09."Brantingham remembers us well in l970 & expressed appreciation in his l970 letter from La Jolla,California.
Year: 2000