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FLIGHT LINE
ARCHIVE: ROMANCING CINPAC's NIECE

The foibles of a JO in
Honolulu in the '50's

The First Lieutenant's office in VP-25 at NAS Kaneohe Bay was on the hangar deck level, squirreled in between the ladder up to officer's country and the enlisted men's head. It was eight feet wide (I measured it) and supported two gray, steel GI desks gray GI metal cabinet, two gray GI spit kits; and a Chief Aviation Bo'sun's Mate and myself, a fuzzy-cheeked Aviation Midshipman. And now, having recently been appointed First Lieutenant of this outfit by Joel Jacobs, it is comforting to see how far I have come in 53 years.

But let me tell you a little story about those years right after War Two when Truman appointed militarily illiterate gentlemen such as Louis Johnson SecDef and "Rowboat" Matthews SecNav. Unless we were deployed to WestPac to chase down Russian ships and submarines and the occasional typhoon, our Baker Allotment was so small we barely had sufficient petrol to get all nine PRIVATEERS airborne in one month. Every flight was so full of white hats getting time for their flight skins that the regular crew couldn't move around to do their tasks.

Once my chief got the hangar and his boss shipshape there was precious little for me to do after I got my one flight for the month. In fact, I took all the correspondence courses required for promotion to Lieutenant Commander by the time I had worn the gold bars just a few months. I volunteered for everything and anything that came our way and that's how I found myself on a PacFleet sub, the USS BERGALL, for a four day cruise-see how the other half lives. And that's why I was at the Sub Base "O" Club (the best on the island) that Friday night I met Nancy Blair. Overcoming my innate shyness, I asked her for her phone number-she was with a gaggle of blackshoes wearing Dolphins-and permission to call her "sometime," She acquiesced with a killer smile.

Nancy was pert, vivacious and so lovely she made Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner look dull as dishwater. I called at 0900 the following morning, Saturday, and the phone rang once: "Admiral Radford's Quarters. May I say who's calling?" a stern Filipino voice asked.

I damn near hung up before screwing up enough courage to say, "Ensign Welling calling for Miss Blair."

"Stand by please, Mister Welling. I will see if she is available.." and the phone was silent for at least a minute.

"Hi, Charlie. You flyboys don't waste any time, do you?" she said.

"No. Our fuel supply is limited so we make the most of the moment." I retorted, complimenting myself on my brilliant comeback, "But you didn't tell me you were staying with CinCPac, for chrissake."

"Oh, Uncle Rady is sweet as can be. You'll love him..." We agreed that I could pick her up at 1100 and she rang off with a lilting, "See you then, flyboy."

I raced out to wax my 47 Ford convertible-couldn't be seen on Admiral's row in shabby wheels- and we spent the day swimming and talking at Nanakuli and the evening dancing at the Aiea Navy Hospital "O" Club. But back to the meat of my tale.

A month or so later, Secretary Matthews, with his wife and daughter flew in for an official visit to CinCPac. Through Nancy I had joined the admiral's very unofficial JO advisory panel that answered Admiral Radford's questions with the unabashedly youthful perception of one each ENS, JG and LT. On the occasion of SecNav;s visit, the admiral asked that we entertain Miss Matthews while he and Mrs. Radford took the Matthews to Sub Base for dinner. At 1800 Jace and MJ, Nancy and I and Joe and Miss Matthews were in the bar at Makalapa ordering a drink. Miss Matthews, all of 16 (maybe) ordered an Orange Blossom "...because it sounds so neat!" and the evening was off to a flying start.

CinCPac, SecNav and their wives arrived unexpectedly about 2100 just as Miss Matthews, quite crocked, was doing her best imitation of Gwen Verdon as Joe watched, pensively from the edge of the dance floor. Watching Secretary Matthews approach his daughter, the collar on my dress whites suddenly tightened in consort with my sphincter as I saw death approaching. The Matthews left with their daughter and the admiral suggested that we might like to call it an evening. Well...there goes my Naval career I thought as I hurriedly kissed Nancy goodnight at the front door Quarters 00.

The next morning a steward's mate awakened me to say that Admiral Radford's aide was on the phone so I chop chopped down to the desk and said, "Ensign Welling."

"Good morning, Mister Welling. The admiral requests the pleasure of your company at his quarters at 1100." and the line went dead. He had hung up. Bad sign, I thought...Bad sign. Normally I would have put on a pair of slacks and an Aloha shirt for a Sunday morning visit but this sounded like dress whites to me. I debated carrying my sword-don't they always take your sword from you as part of being drummed out of the service?

Jace, Joe and I arrived at the same time and were ushered out to the lanai where the Radford's two Scotties, one black and one white, were sleeping. (The Radfords served Black&White scotch.) The house was deathly still, Like a morgue, I thought. Then the admiral strode out followed by his chief steward's mate with a tray of Bloody Marys. "Have a Bloody, gentlemen and thanks for showing Miss Matthews a nice time last night. Unfortunately, the secretary and his family have decided to return to the states this morning and as Mrs. Radford had a nice brunch all set I thought you might join us in their stead." And that was the last we heard of the secretary's visit from the admiral.

A week or so later Nancy and I were having drinks and Puu Puus at Don the Beachcomber's when the admiral's aide and his wife came in. They stopped to say hello and his aide then asked me if I knew that the secretary told the admiral to "hang" us. I replied in the negative and he went on to say that the admiral, staring Matthews directly in the eyes, said he would be pleased to take appropriate action just as soon as the secretary provided him the charges and specifications in writing. The secretary, of course, never did.

Best as Always,

Charlie

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