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March 28th, 2009

Happy Birthday, Pere!

He's the one in the middle, back. 
Four score years and four today. 

I asked him once when did he first feel he was an "old man." 

His answer: On his 20th birthday. 

Why would he feel old then? 

He celebrated his 20th birthday on board USS Sea Sturgeon as it departed Iwo Jima to take him back to Hawaii. 

Some of this came up at dinner today.  Basheer asked him where he was when the war ended, and he said, On a troopship heading for Japan. 

Nothing is more black than a ship in the middle of the Pacific under blackout conditions.  Even to light a cigarette on deck was forbidden.  Unless the moon was up you could not see your hand in front of your face. 

So he's up on deck, taking in the night air, when all the ships in the convoy suddenly let loose with foghorns and all the running lights of all the ships come on.  Japan had signed the instrument of surrender. 

Let me get this straight, I say to him.  You boarded troopships and headed for Japan before Japan surrendered? 

"Obviously, they heard I was coming."

What would you have done when you got there if they hadn't surrendered?

"Load my rifle." 

+ + +

Regarding the assault.  He was in the 5th Engineers so he could blow up things or, alternatively, keep things from blowing up.  ["Sarge, how do I know if I haven't defused the mine right?"  "Kaboom," explained the sergeant.]  His lieutenant calls him and says that for the invasion of Iwo Pere is to go in with the battallion commander, learn where the major establishes his command post, then find his company and tell the company captain where the major is.  Hey, going in with the battallion commander!  Pretty cushy. 

In the marines, the commanders go in first. 

+ + +

This morning when we went to breakfast at the diner, Pere ran into one of his cousins on the Cantrel side.  "His dad was my uncle," he explained.  "John C. Cantrel.  You'll never guess what the 'C' stands for." 

Insert multiple fruitless guesses. 


Now that's French....

+ + +


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