Certain items tend to linger in one’s mind like cords dangling from a parachute.
This seems to be true as one approaches the end of another year. Some of the best advice Ye OLD Columnist(YOC) ever received came the night before I reported for active duty in Uncle Sam’s Navy in the early days of 1945.
The phone call came from a local surgeon in my hometown, Marlin (Falls County). It was Dr. Howard O. Smith, who was home on leave from the U.S. Navy. A native of Hamilton, TX., Dr. Smith came to Marlin in the 1920s to practice medicine.
Dr. Smith, who brought me into the world in 1927, was stationed aboard a hospital ship that was part of Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey’s (1882-1959) Third Fleet in the Far Western Pacific. This young sailor would later have the occasion to see Admiral Halsey on Terminal Island in Southern California.
Dr. Smith's phone call primarily dealt with my reporting for active duty the next day. Someone had apparently told him I would soon be wearing the Navy Blue. He called to wish me well and offered me this advice. These were his words –
“Bradley Stuart, I’ve found, during my time in Uncle Sam's Navy, three things can help one in the Navy – “Keep your eyes and ears open, your mouth shut, and you will be all right.”
I thanked him for his call and for remembering me. Through the years, we maintained a close relationship. He had a son, Howard Lee Smith, who was in the same grade as I. Howard Lee later became a surgeon, and is now retired, living in Marlin.
We briefly talked about the war. He revealed he had recently heard a talk by Admiral Halsey. This meeting (March, 1945) came about, when Halsey came aboard the hospital ship on which Dr. Smith was stationed. Halsey would occasionally visit the ship to talk with sailors, who had been wounded.
On his latest visit, Halsey indicated the war was going well; however, it would probably take another year of hard fighting before the Japanese would surrender.
The dropping of the two Atomic Bombs in August, 1945, on Hiroshima and Nagasaki hastened the conclusion of the war. ?Yep, Dr. Smith phone call was one I have not forgotten. It was helpful and one, which this 17-year-old “took to heart.”
YOC’s seeing Admiral Halsey took place in January 1946, when the Admiral came to Terminal Island, California, where I was stationed. Halsey was the Best Man at Commodore Gene Markey’s wedding to the well-known film star, Myrna Loy.
I observed the Admiral from a distance (about 25 to 30 yards) as he exited his chauffeur-driven automobile to enter the base’s small chapel. Numerous Shore Patrol were on duty, preventing curious observers from encroaching on the wedding.
The Five Stars on the two flags, attached to the auto’s front fenders, were flying in the gentle Pacific Ocean breeze. It would be my first and only time to see an admiral -- and it was at a distance. Halsey was only the fourth individual to ever be named a “Fleet Admiral” – five stars. The other three were William D. Leahy (1875-1959), Ernest J. King (1878-1956) and Chester W. Nimitz (1885-1966), a native of Fredericksburg, TX.
Upon seeing Admiral Halsey the first thought to go through my mind was Dr. Smith’s phone call, and his meeting with Admiral Halsey. I also reflected on the advice Dr. Smith had given to me in early 1945, and I still occasionally think about the “Good Doctor’s” advice – “Keep your eyes and ears open, your mouth shut, and you will be all right.”
By the way, YOC never did get to see the bride and groom. They were apparently in the base chapel prior to Halsey’s arrival.
’TIL NEXT TIME – “The value of education is not what it does for society, but what it does for individual children.” - Anonymous
Dr. Stuart Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville.