By: Garland Davis
All the Chief could say was that shore duty in Hawaii sucked the big one. It was only his second tour of shore duty. He had enlisted during the wind down of the Korean War and spent most of the next twenty-three years at sea, mostly in the Orient. His only previous shore tour had been as a station ditto at Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. He had tried to stay in the Far East, even volunteering for a tour on the carrier in Yokosuka. His detailer told him that because of another anti-homesteading push his only choice was to go stateside for duty. The closest to Asia that he could get was Pearl Harbor.
After reporting to Pearl, he was assigned to the Special Services Department, where they placed him in charge of the Base Theater. He complained to the Chain of Command, stating that he had spent over twenty-three years as a pipe fitter and welder. Surely there was a billet at the shipyard where he could use his skills. He didn’t know anything about running a theater or managing civilian personnel. He was adamant on insisting that he be placed some place other than Special Services. This evoked the ire of the Special Services Officer, a bitter, passed over Commander. The Commander called him into his office and told him that the subject was closed, he was assigned to Special Services and that was final. He told him that he would be assigned to the Auto Hobby Shop where he could possibly use his mechanical skills advising the patrons of the shop. It was either that or the theater.
The Chief figured that it was time to shut up and carry on. He decided to transfer to the Fleet Reserve. He figured that he could get a civilian position at SRF Yokosuka or back in Subic Bay. Loaning crescent wrenches and explaining “righty tighty and lefty loosey” to neophyte mechanics was not his idea of good duty. He ran a chit to retire to the Fleet Reserve, which was disapproved. It seems he had to complete a three-year area tour in Hawaii before he could retire. It was going to be a long two and a half years.
He reluctantly settled into the Hobby Shop. He had an MM2 and an MM3 to work for him and Special Service personnel stood the duty in the evening until the Hobby Shop closed at 2100. The MM2 had been there about a year and had a handle on the operation. He told him the previous Chief had been waiting to retire and spent most every afternoon at the Chief’s Club. The Chief could understand this. There wasn’t a challenge in the job, but following his nature, he started looking for a challenge.
Looking the place over, he noted that the field behind the shop was covered by numerous junked and rusting cars. Taking a walk through the field, he saw car hulks dating from the mid-forties. There were, at least, three hundred complete and partial car bodies, engines and chassis covering almost every inch of the field. After doing some research, he found that there was a metal recycling company in Honolulu at the piers where they chipped metal into small bits and loaded it on ships for Taiwan.
The Chief went to the Assistant Special Services Officer and proposed clearing the field out. The LT agreed that it was an eyesore and should be cleaned out. He arranged to make a stake bed truck and a three-man working party available to the Chief to clear the cars and metal out.
Over the next two years, with Chief operating a cutting rig and the working party loading and transporting the scrap to the recycling yard, the field was cleared of all scrap. Each load of scrap was weighed at the recyclers and the weight slips returned to the Chief.
Final cleaning of the field and carrying vegetation and other organic refuse to the dump coincided with the Chiefs retirement. He was presented with a Navy Achievement Medal for his efforts in cleaning up the eyesore by the Hobby Shop. After a retirement ceremony and a reception at the CPO Club. The Chief planned a visit to relatives on the mainland and then a return to the Far East.
The field the Chief cleared is where the present day Arizona Memorial Visitor Center and parking lot are located.
The Chief made one more stop before leaving Hawaii. He went by the offices of Dillingham Recycling and Scrap Metal to pick up a check for over $8,000. The value of all the scrap delivered during the two and a half years.
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.