Dad was a civilian, a construction superintendent and engineer for a big war-time construction consortium, Pacific Naval Air Base Construction (PNAB). He built a good bit of the additions to Pearl Harbor during the war. He was there from before December 7th through Christmas 1944. At that time, with the war winding down, he and my mother, Margaret Innanen, received orders to return to the mainland. My mother was very pregnant with me at the time. This is the story of their "uneventful" return.
WOI: What is that? WGI: It's a tape recorder. WOI: <heh-heh> WGI: So tell me about the trip back from Hawaii. How the hell did... Uh, before I forget, it's January 11th, 1996. Now, how the hell did you get on a troop transport with Mom? WOI: Well, I didn't get on at the same time she did. She had one set of orders and I had a different set of orders. She, of all people, got on in Pearl Harbor the night before I was to board in Honolulu. [Dad had worked nearly all of the war in Pearl Harbor whereas Mom had woked at Hickam field. -WGI] They were going to move the ship to the Honolulu docks and I'd get on the following morning. [The ship was the "General something," Dad can't recall the name. It was a leaky old tub that had to run its pumps all the time to stay afloat. -WGI] I had dinner with Dr. Liljestrand that night. He was [at] a medical meeting of some sort. [A] get together of [some of the] senior medical people on Oahu. They were discussing the "Canadian seasick remedy." They said it was just an overdose of vitamin B1. Doc says, "Here's a real guinea pig. He gets seasick in a rowboat." I was supposed to take, I think it was 9 tablets an hour before I got aboard and about, I think, 9 tablets after we were underway an hour and so on. A total of 27 pills of vitamin B1. By golly, we hit some rough seas on the way out and I didn't get a bit seasick. WGI: This was mainly a troop ship full of wounded. WOI: This was a troop ship with 4,000 walking wounded. We didn't know that until we got aboard. There were seven navy nurses aboard, and, I think, two or three doctors. Walking around the ship... There was a fellow with just one leg, maybe no legs. One arm, maybe no arms. Stuff like that. [W]e had maybe two or three hundred Japanese prisoners [aboard]. I wondered why they were advertising the fact that this ship was carrying Japanese prisoners. Come to find out that the Japanese wouldn't torpedo a ship that was carrying their own people. So here we were underway. The Navy gave us air cover for a day out of Pearl Harbor. Then we were out on our own. WGI: Zig-zagging. WOI: We were zig-zagging, and they said there was a sub stalking us. Every once in a while they'd shut off the engines and just run silent for a little while. WGI: Coast. WOI: Just sit there and wait. I don't know how many days we were coming back, but it was about three times as long as the Mairposa that took us over there. We were given officer's accommodations in our travel orders. We were assigned to the quarterdeck. I was curious and started wandering around the ship and ran into all of these walking wounded. Some blind -- Oh jeez, it was terrible mess! They were all lined up in lines. I couldn't figure out what they were doing. They were lining up for chow. They'd line up for two or three hours ahead of time, to get two meals a day. And here we were up in the quarterdeck with a row of silverware six inches wide on both sides of our plate. I got talking with Marg. I said "This is strange that they'd treat men like this." WGI: Especially wounded. WOI: Especially wounded, yes. And so severely wounded - handicapped! There was a shave tail Ensign, just beside us [in the officer's mess]. He kind of took it up, you know. "Mr. Innanen, you don't like the way we run this ship, do you?" I said, "Damn sure don't." So one thing led to another, and he said, "If you think we're wrong, why don't you go down and join the men down there?" I said, "I believe I will." WGI: And Mom was what, 7-8 months pregnant? WOI: Nine months pregnant! WGI: Nine months pregnant? I was ready to pop. WOI: Yes. The nurses were hoping you would be born at sea. WGI: That's all I'd need, to have my birthplace a latitude and longitude! Both: <laughter> WOI: So, when I decided to go down with the men, this Ensign pulled some strings and decided that I shouldn't come up to the quarterdeck to visit Marg, your mother. So I'd be going along a companionway and they'd posted marines in the different companionways so that I was wandering around ship and I wasn't supposed to go back. I wasn't supposed to go by them. They weren't supposed to let me go by. The marine would turn his face to the bulkhead and say, "I'm not supposed to let you go by, but I can't see a damn thing!" Both: <laughter> WGI: Jar-heads are OK! WOI: Yeah. So when I'd get up to the quarterdeck that Ensign would just glare at me. He didn't dare say anything. I didn't say a damn thing to him, either. So I got down there. [On the quarterdeck] we had a stateroom for accommodations and it was like the lap of luxury. And down there... I don't know how many bunks there were in a tier, but there was a bunch. You were just rubbing the springs, with your nose, of the bunk above you. Again, we were wandering around the ship, and we found a whole deck! Empty! But there was no power, no lights. I asked if anyone could find an Electrician's Mate. Sure enough, they produced an Electrician's Mate. I said, "Do you think you could find some fuses, cartridge fuses, to put in these boxes, so we can light this place up?" "Yeah," he said, "I know where there are some fuses, but I can't give 'em to you." So in a 'round about way he told me where I'd find some fuses. I found the fuses. Lit that place up like a Christmas tree. Some of the troops had decided who would come down on this new found deck, you know? So they decided they'd take every other one, and go down on the new deck. God, when the troop commander found we'd occupied that new deck, he was livid! Your mother would hear over the loud speakers, "William Innanen, report to the troop commander!" So I'd go down and visit the troop commander, by his request. He said, "You know, this is almost mutinous." I said, "Well, everyone seems to be happy." He said, "Young man," and I was a young man then, "you know, you've done a very dangerous thing. That deck you lit up and occupied was just one deck below the waterline. And that's where we'd get torpedoed if the sub decides to torpedo us." So we went down there and told the boys. I thought, well, maybe I did do something wrong. So I went back and asked the boys. [They said,] "If this ship - this tub - is hit with a torpedo nobody'd survive. We'd just sink like a rock!" So they decided to stay right where they were unless they chased us out. And they didn't. There were very few Navy personnel. All of the troops were under the command of an Army officer. And, boy, he was a tyrant! He'd just rule with an iron hand WGI: I imagine that Mom, by this time, has worried herself into a state! WOI: Oh yeah, yeah! Because every thirty minutes, over the loudspeakers was, "William Innanen, report to the troop commander." [Marg would worry,] "What's he done now? What's he done now?" I just survived the biggest part of the trip with what your mother'd bring to me in her purse. And what I could eat while I was up there visiting her. Down the the galley, where you'd eat, there was just about an inch of slop on the deck. WGI: <yuck!> WOI: It'd just sliiide to one side as the ship rolled, and then sliiide back again. WGI: Did the "Canadian cure" work? WOI: Yes, I wasn't seasick a day! WGI: That would make me sick just looking at it! WOI: Yes, you would get sick just smelling that when you'd get close to the galley. The stench was terrible! And here are these poor suckers with two meals a day! And lining up for them a couple hours each time. But we got to San Fancisco without incident. Your mother didn't think it was without incident! There were lots of other incidents, that are hard for me to recall right now. We'd gotten into San Francisco and my car was coming on another freighter. I'd shipped my car back and it was coming on another freighter so we had to wait in San Francisco for it to catch up with us. It was quite an experience. WGI: I showed up, what, a week or two later? WOI: Yeah, yeah. WGI: A month late as usual. It must have been about Christmas  that you got in then. WOI: No, it was after Christmas. You were born very shortly after we got to Los Angeles. We drove [down] to Los Angeles from San Francisco. It's hard for me to remember the chain of events from then on out. WGI: That's all right.Copyright © 1996 by William G. Innanen. All rights reserved.