Troop Ship from Hawaii
How I was Nearly Born at Sea

This is the first of a series of transcripts that I recorded of reminisences by my father, William O. Innanen (WOI), on his 81st birthday on January 11th, 1996.

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 

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 

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 

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 
      [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 [1944] 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.
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