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Chuck Hinman: Scared Spitless - a story for Veterans' Day

Chuck Hinman: Scared Spitless a story from a foxhole.A remembrance that came on Veteran's day 2004: the missing life jacket.

The next earlier Chuck Hinman Story: - IJMA 122 : Cigarettes In My Life

By Chuck Hinman

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN SCARED SPITLESS?

My answer to that question is -- "Yes, several times but one time stands out far above the others." Interesting that my remembrance of THAT time comes today on Veteran's day 2004.



If you had asked me that question when I was about six to eight years old, I would probably have said, IT was getting used to sleeping in an upstairs bedroom. I would have sworn our farmhouse was haunted, the ghosts just waiting to gobble up little boys who were too big to sleep in their parents' bedroom any longer. That was when I first learned how to shivvvverrrrrrrr BIG TIME! I'm 82 years old now and still sleep with the "bed kivvers" over my head!

Then a few years later, my answer would have been different. My brother Bob, two years older than I, and my Dad and I played a card game called Hearts nearly every evening. On the last game of the evening, the one who LOST had the dreaded chore of going down to the milk-barn in the dark and releasing the cows from their stanchions for the evening.

Sport, our dog was always under your feet, ready to chase anything that dared move! But the danged dog always stayed so close, I figured he was more scared than I was. At least I didn't feel much comfort with him yipping and barking and calling attention to our location. GET AWAY SPORT!! Go chase one of the barn cats!!!

Then fast-forward about ten years. The U.S.A. is in the middle of two wars, one in the European theater and the other in the Pacific theater.

This farm boy had in a few short years moved from being that little kid, scared to sleep away from his Dad and Mom in a spooky up-stairs bedroom, to a young man standing guard duty in one of the turrets of the U.S. Mormacport on a pitch-black night somewhere in the South Pacific. But instead of being assaulted by unseen spooks on a Nebraska farm, this grown-up version of the same person was looking for any signs of a Japanese submarine in the murky waters of the Pacific on a moonless night! Spooky? Big time spooky! And I was only armed with a carbine against an invisible enemy! My mouth was beginning to show signs of dryness. Spitting was difficult -- unlike baseball players who seem to have an endless supply of spit! Know what I mean?

Our ship was one in a convoy of ships zigzagging our way through enemy-infested waters on our way to Guam, one of the Marianas Islands just a thousand miles from Japan. It had just been taken back from the Japanese in a costly battle in 1944 and was going to be the base of our B-29 bombing of Japan and an early ending of the war. Much work lay ahead as well as much sacrifice.

After we joined our convoy at Pearl Harbor for the 3500 mile trip to Guam, (about 3 weeks), we had some training on what to do if we were engaged in a naval battle before reaching our destination. One of those exercises was how to move several thousand soldiers from the various holds on this huge ship to the deck and abandonment of the ship if necessary.

After a few drills of this nature, we were told that the next alarm would be the real thing, that we would be under attack and were to be prepared for the ultimate. Although I had been through months of rigorous physical training to toughen me for whatever lay ahead, I still recognized the characteristics of a little Nebraska farm boy masked in an Air Force trained and hardened body.

Of course, part of the training once aboard ship was to be properly dressed meaning especially to have your life jacket on at all times. No momma, it wasn't anything like being properly dressed for Sunday School back home in Liberty, Nebraska! Just funning Mom! I love you and Dad so much!

The shipboard training was soon over and we were waiting possibly for the "biggest dance," I or any one of my battle-toughened buddies had ever been to.

I had just returned from a tour of guard duty in one of the turrets of the U.S. Mormacport. I was going to catch a couple of hours of sleep before returning for more night-shift guard duty. It seems I had just drifted off to sleep when the alarm bells went off all over the ship! Per well-rehearsed plans everyone realized this was the real thing and it was time to perform as we had practiced. There was no group panic. That meant that we were, in orderly manner, to go up all the stairwells, all over the ship, and reconvene on deck for muster and further instructions. Once everyone was shipboard, all the many entries to the hold were closed, not to be re-entered no matter how important the reason!

Well, guess what? It was mid-afternoon, and awaking from some much-needed sleep by the alarm bells, I got dressed including my carbine and started working my way up the crowded stairwell! Only one thing was missing, I had left my life jacket (of all things) behind! In a sleep-weary stupor, I had pulled the biggest boner of my twenty year old life! BONER BIG TIME!!!

I was on my way to the "biggest dance of my life -- my Cinderella ball so to speak" -- and was not properly dressed! My life jacket was somewhere around my sleeping quarters and there was no way I could retreat and get it. The flow of humanity like a giant river was ONE WAY - shipboard! No turning back ... no turning back. I knew it!

Was I scared? Heck yes! I WAS SCARED SPITLESS!

* * * * *

And now for the rest of the story. Sub-chasers in our convoy ran off the unseen submarine/s.

I, like many other GIs, including my dear brother Bob, recently deceased, had legitimate "fox-hole conversations" with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in "scared spitless experiences"! Nobody is ashamed of that! Yes, and it was before cell phones!

My brother's conversation was more serious than mine, his taking on the form of a life-time commitment. He, many years after WW 2 was over, shared with me that very personal experience in tear shrouded eyes and broken-voice. He, too, had become "SCARED SPITLESS!!!"

My own similar commitment to the Lord came in a different foxhole in 1960. Stay tuned!

Written by Chuck Hinman, ImPeruvians Writing Club, Veteran's Day, 11/11/2004



This story was posted on 2012-11-11 07:05:29
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