The Quonset Huts
This is the story of how father (WOI), a civilian, happend to end
up with a military construction crew at one point.
As told to me (WGI) on 13 January 1996.
I have done some editing and rearranging, to improve the readability
and keep things in sequence. - WGI
WOI: There was a Navy Captain that called me [at] Shop 08.
He said, "Can you come with me for a little while? I
want to show you a construction site." We drove out to
a field on the outskirts of Pearl Harbor, away from the
industrial activity, and everything.
Here was a field, maybe 20 acres. There were a bunch
of crates strewn around there. He said, "Mr. Innanen,
I want you to build 28 quonset huts in a semicircle
around this field."
I said, "OK"
He said, "The quonset huts are all crated up here. All
the tools are crated up here. You won't even need any
I said, "That's fine, but what am I going to use for
labor? I don't have any labor that I can spare."
He said, "I'm going to give you sailor labor!"
I said, "Naah! You can't ask a sailor to work for a
civilian! I'm a civilian! You can't ask them to work
for a civilian."
"Well," he said, "try it. Try it and see if you
He sent me about 60 or 70 sailors. He said, "I'll just
turn them over to you, and you can show them what you
want to do. If you can spare a couple of men to help
you, and show them how to build these quonset hut, go
ahead and do it."
OK, we'll try and build it with sailor labor.
[It was] hot as the devil out in that... No shade in
that field, nothing! It was just hot as blazes. And
nobody wanted to work!
Pretty soon a sailor comes up to me and says, "You're a
civilian, aren't you?"
I said, "Yeah, sure am. You can tell by my dress. I
can tell you're a sailor by the way you're dressed."
He says, "And you're going to tell me what to do!"
I said, "That's right. That's my orders, to tell you
how to build these quonset huts."
He said, "You know, I don't believe I need to take
orders from a civilian."
"Well," I said, "I kind of agree with you. I wouldn't
He said, "How much money do you make?"
I told him.
He said, "Do you know how much I make? I make $32 a
I said, "They feed you and clothe you and everything."
He said, "Hell yes, but look what I have to wear!
Look what I have to eat!"
I said, "That's the way the cookie crumbles."
He said, "You know, I've got a notion to sit down on
this crate right here, and just quit."
I said, "That's what I would do if I were you, too."
First thing I kenw, I had about 60-70 sailors sitting
on crates. I went back to this Captain and said,
"Well, [it went] just about the way I figured. They
don't want to work for a civilian. Can't blame them a
hell of a lot."
He says, "Oh! They don't want to work for you."
He had a little tin whistle. I knew what it was, it
was a bo's'un's mate's whistle. He blew on that
bo's'un's mate's whistle and then he got on the
telephone. He said, "Send me Bo's'un's Mate so-and-
Here comes a fellow in there that looked like a
gorilla! All muscles!
WOI: "Reporting to the Captain!"
[The Captain says,] "Mr. Innanen has a problem. I want
you to solve it, Boats. Those sailors out there don't
want to work for a civilian. And Mr. Innanen agrees
with them, that they shouldn't have to work for a
civilian. I want you to take command! I'll get Mr.
Innanen to tell you what he wants to have done, and you
make damned sure it's done!"
Boats said, "Yes, Sir!!"
Boats and I went out to the field. "He blew that
little tin whistle again. All the sailors knew what
that was. He says, "All right you boots, line up here!
(It made quite a string of personnel, single file.)
Boats, he folded his hands behind his back, and he
walked up and back, up and back, and he didn't open his
head. Just pacing like a gorilla.
WGI: Knuckle walking?
WOI: He said, "Listen, you boots! Mr. Innanen wants some
quonset huts built here. You don't want to take orders
form a civilian, and I'm here to make damned sure you
don't have to take orders form a civilian! Now, he
said, "the first one I see sitting on a crate is going
(I found out that that was an infraction of some sort.)
"We want these huts built, and we want them built
I found me a nice shady spot in a half built quonset
hut. I was sitting there in the shade, and Boats was
pacing back and forward on that hot field.
Pretty soon this same guy, this same sailor, came to
me. He said, "Mr. Innanen, if you'll get rid of Boats,
we'll work for you."
I said, "To hell with you! I'm sitting in the shade!
That's were you were sitting before! Boats is pacing
back and forth, like I was! I'm comfortable where it
is right now." He went off kind of miffed.
Boats ruled with an iron hand for two or three days.
Finally, two or three of them came back to me.
"If you can get rid of Boats, we'll build these quonset
So I broke down a little bit. Felt a little sorry for
them. Because Boats was just ruthless, he was just
ruthless! I went back into the Captain and said,
"Captain, these boys don't seem to think they don't
need Boats any more. The huts are going up pretty
good. If you've got other work for Boats, well, I think
I can handle it from now on out."
They were the best crew I had, for a long time! They
put up those huts in jig time!
It was strange. The authority of the Navy and how they
worked around these situations. That Captain knew
exactly what to do. Just put that Bo's'un's Mate in
Copyright © 1996 by William G. Innanen. All rights reserved.
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