I had graduated from Lowell High School in June of 1941 and was working at fort Mason in San Francisco were we sending supplies to troops overseas. I was working on the day shift and as I was leaving I ran into an old friend of mine who was just coming to work. He told me that he was working as a welders helper and was making good money and it was more that I was making. I asked him do you think I can get a job working as a welder’s helper. He said let’s find out. We walked back in and talked to his boss and I did get a job and I was to report the next Monday.
The main work that was going on was the installing of Mounted five inch guns on the bows of all merchant ships and the installing of bunks in the cargo holes of Liberty ships. Little did I know that I would in the future be sleeping in on one of these bunks. I think I was working as a helper for about a couple of months at fort Mason and one day I heard that the government had a welding school and it was free. I was working the swing shift 4 to 12 and the school was at 10 in the morning and lasted for 2 hours so the time worked out great. It took me awhile to be able to do some welding that looked good. The instructor at the school said I could go take a test at one of the shipyards.
There were 3 shipyards in the bay area the one that was closest was the one in Sausalito so I took a ride over to take a test. They had two pieces of metal that I had to weld together. After I was finished they put the pieces in a vise and bent it over to put a lot of strain on the weld and guess what, they held together and did not break. I was given a job on the graveyard shift and was working on making Liberty ships. It was a lot of work but I enjoyed it.
The war in Europe had been going on for a couple of years and Hitler had taken over almost all of Europe, and the Japs were starting to go into China. We all thought that that as long as the war stayed in Europe and China we had nothing to worry about.
DECEMBER 7, 1941
At that time my mother ran a boarding house at 444 Columbus Ave. in San Francisco. I woke up about seven in the morning and went to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee and found a bunch of the boarders listening to the radio. I asked what is going on and they told me that the Japs had just bombed Pearl Harbor. I said were in the hell is Pearl Harbor; I would soon find out. At the same time they bombed Pearl the Japs started to invade all the islands in the pacific from the Aleutians to Guadalcanal.
It was not long when the government said there was going to be a draft and the ages would be from 21 to 45, but if you were at least 18 you could enlist in the service with your parents’ consent. My mother said no way so I just kept working at the shipyard and it was not long when the draft age was lowered to 18.
I did not want to be drafted into the Army and a friend of mine, Joe Trizuto, said let’s go join the Navy. We went down to the recruiting station and it took quite a while to go thru all of the examination. The last test was a color blind test and I passed it all. I was waiting for Joe to come out and when he did he said he flunked the color test and was put into the Navy Seabees. We wanted to stay together so we went back in and I told the guy in charge that I wanted to go into the Seabees and he said OK. We were told that it would take a couple of weeks and then we would hear from them. Andy got his notice first to report and I got mine the next day. He was to leave the day before me so I told him I would see him when I arrived in boot camp. Little did I realize that I would not see him again until the end of the war.
I reported to the Ferry Building and we were taken across the bay and put on a troop train and headed across the U.S. It was a long ride and it took 4 days. It was a Pullman train and at night the seats were converted to up and down bunks. They had a dining car and we were fed 3 times a day. I met a lot of guys all from the bay area and we would be together for a long time.
We arrived at Camp Allen in Norfolk Virginia and taken to our barracks. They got us all in line and went to the clothing area and were given a complete set of clothing and were told to ship our civilian clothes back home. We learned right away there was the right way, the wrong way, and the Navy way. What can I say about boot camp? It was a transition from civilian life to military life. We were awakened up at 5 in the morning and had one hour to shower and shave and clean up our sleeping area before we had an inspection of our barracks. After that we were taken to the galley and had our breakfast and taken to the drill field and learned the difference from our left to our right feet. Then to lunch and then back out to the drill field and then at 5 PM to dinner and then we had until 9PM when the lights went out. This went on for about 3 weeks. I learned that Andy had been shipped to Camp Perry in Williamsburg Virginia which was about 100 miles from Camp Allen.
We were in boot camp about a month when we were told that we were going to Camp Perry, I said to myself it will be great to be with Joe again. We were put on trucks and headed for camp Perry. It was a long ride and very uncomfortable and it took about 3 hours. After we arrived we were assigned to an area and taken to our Quonset Huts. It was late in the afternoon and I thought I would try and go find Joe. After a little while I found out where his unit was and what number Quonset hut he was in. After a little looking around I finally found his hut. I went in and asked some of the guys where is Joe Trizuto? The response was that he left for California yesterday. What a disappointment.