The Quonset Huts
Gorilla Warfare

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."

      "That's right."

      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!  

Both: <chuckles>

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!  
      Single file!"  

      (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?

Both: <laughter>

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 
      on report!"

      (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 
      charge!  <chuckle>
Copyright © 1996 by William G. Innanen. All rights reserved.
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