Sent to us by Frank Roche 67-69
Pennsylvania in January (cold, really cold) and I am about to leave for Hawaii. Mom is crying, dad is consoling her, sister is happy as a lark because she still has my car (1957 baby blue Chevy---loaded). She sold it while I was in WestPac which almost caused me to go AWOL. Anyway off I go. Wilkes-Barre to Chicago to Los Angeles and finally Hawaii. Getting off the plane in Honolulu (hot, really hot) in dress blues was like walking into a Pittsburgh steel mill. I catch a cab with two other sailors coming off leave and we arrive at Main Gate Pearl Harbor. I ask the gate guard for directions to the USS Wilhoite. After checking he directs me to Charlie Pier. So off I go with full seabag and extra duffle bag (you seem to accumulate a lot more stuff than they issue you in boot camp) in hand looking for the USS Wilhoite (my first ship). With sweat pouring off me like Niagara Falls I finally spot her at Charlie Pier. In my 2 ˝ years aboard the Wilhoite she never again was tied up at Charlie. Bravo Pier, always Bravo. But that day in the heat she’s over at Charlie.
As I walk down the pier and get closer the crew starts right in. “Boot arriving, boot arriving.” I’m thinking hey I just spent a year in the Great Lakes mess cooking and I’m an E-3. After saluting the flag and the Officer of the Deck (I knew that much) I was given permission to come aboard. The OOD then sent me to the personnel department to be assigned. I ended up in First Division where LTJC Huml was my Department Head. However, there were no spots available in the first division berthing compartment. I spent the next 3 months living out of my seabag (no locks available) with the Engineering Department. I will be forever grateful to FN Henry Hafer who let me share his locker for my personal belongings. Henry was the first of many, many good friends and shipmates I got to meet aboard the Wilhoite. Henry passed away a few years ago but I’ll always remember he was the first to say “WELCOME ABOARD.”