Initially, I was designated a Specialist “Q” striker which was the letter “Q” inside a diamond. This was one of the many specialist ratings created during World War II. It was not uncommon while wearing this rating badge to create a disturbance in the local taverns. The typical question posed was, “Does that rating mean you’re a queer?” would start the problem. It was a great day in 1948 when all the ratings assigned to the Naval Security Group were changed to “CT.”
Cheltenham, Maryland – August 1948 – February 1949
I was ordered with a group of other seaman to Supplementary Radio Department, Cheltenham, Maryland to build a bunch of XFG devices. This device would convert a teletype tone signal over a RBC receiver into a 60-milliamp signal to operate a model 14/15 teletype machine. The only equipment capable of doing that was the RBP-1 which was a huge system consisting of seven bays holding a TRF/heterodyne receiver feature. I forget the name, but a Chief there had designed the XFG to accomplish the same task for just a few dollars worth of parts.
First CTs to Graduate ET school
After about six months, John Boardman, William R. Sass and I, were ordered to attend Electronic Technician School at Great Lakes. We caused just a little stir with the school since we were to retain our CT designator instead of switching to ET like all the other students. As we advanced through the course, both instructors and administration personnel would question us as why we were not to change our rating designator. We were the first CTs to graduate from ET school in December 1949.
Upon returning to Cheltenham, we helped complete the last of six XEV devices designed to accommodate a multi-channel teletype signal and build six XEV-1 units. They used plug-in relays rather than hardwiring, which made it easier to maintain. As each set of two units was completed, one of us received orders to the station to which they were shipped. Finally, my time came when the last two were done; they were shipped to NCU-35 Yokosuka, Japan and I was to follow. I arrived in Yokohama, Japan in March 1950 on the USNS GENERAL DANIEL SUTTON, a troop transport, and quickly went to work getting the first unit operational. Once that was done, we proceeded to dismantle the CXCZ unit it replaced. This was a huge electrical/mechanical monster that would draw so much power the lights would blink in unison.
Since I was a lowly third class, I was assigned to the crew that assembled an SCR-502 HFDF system at the entrance to Tokyo bay. That was an educational experience. The manual we were provided to assemble this unit was almost useless. As we began assembling the hut to house the equipment, we discovered a specific part suddenly appeared as part of the equipment assembly. This would require us to disassemble the unit to the point where we could include the (new) item. Instead of taking only a week according to the manual, it required, if my memory is correct, over a month to complete it. The material officer prepared a letter to the Army on fireproof paper listing all the mistakes in the manual.
By this time, 25 June 1950 (start of the Korean War) had come and gone and we were up to our eyeballs working. The staffing quickly jumped from about 250 men to over 1,000 in a matter of months. We were forced to employ some of the operators to assist in installing the volume of equipment that was suddenly arriving. We also received a new commander to take charge of the outfit. His name was H.A.I. Suggs and was someone I would never forget. We had a phrase for him: “DO OR DIE FOR H.A.I.” He volunteered our entire command as part of the emergency defense force for the navy base. Since we were now operating on a four-section watch, each watch section was an emergency defense command company. On the day we would start our string of watches with the eve-watch, we spent the entire day marching, drilling and firing on the rifle range. We had several Marines assigned to train us in the use of firearms.
Once we had received sufficient training, we went to half days. One day I noticed a platoon of Marines with full battle gear march out into town. Apparently, the platoon of marines were out on a “penetration” exercise to see if they could gain access to our secure facilities. That night on the eve-watch, everything hit the fan. The marine on the main gate to our facility noticed another Marine attempting to steal a bike so he unlocked the main gate to stop him. There was a group of Marines waiting in the shadows who quickly over powered him and entered the facility. At that moment, a clerical type left the administrative office and entered the combo for the cipher lock to the secure area of our facility. He too, was quickly over powered by the Marines. While this was happening, another person, far down the passageway, stepped out to go somewhere but quickly stepped back in and passed the word to others who grabbed carbines and ammo. He stepped out again and told the Marines to stop. At first, they did not so he fired one round into the ceiling. I was on the second floor when that carbine went off and it sounded like a cannon rather than a rifle. In a matter of seconds, I, along with a number of other personnel grabbed carbines in the gun rack and went to investigate.
About this time, the watch supervisor on the third floor was getting word they had problems out at the RFP and D/F facility. Ensign Rutledge had us get a bunch of M-1s and ammo from our armory and we climbed into a weapons carrier to ascertain what was happening. When we arrived, they had a few Marines under guard and I noticed one was bleeding from the cheek. It seems a round fired into a jeep windshield caused glass to cut his face. The Marine barracks commandant finally arrived and started giving Ensign Rutledge a hard time for injuring one of his Marines. I never forget the Ensign’s reply, “I agree with you Colonel that he should be punished, but for missing the Marine.” The colonel almost had a heart attack at that point. Finally, Ensign Rutledge had us take everyone under guard to the brig including the Colonel. The sergeant in charge of the brig initially refused to put the colonel in the brig until he was given the choice of doing so or joining them. We were the only unit the Marines did not theoretically destroy, and we came very close to either wounding, or killing one of them. I have been led to believe that Ensign Rutledge received praise rather than punishment for his actions.