Naval Weather Service Association (NWSA)



An association of Aerographers & Mates,
Meteorologists & Oceanographers




World War II is Over!





At the end of WW-II:  One Sailor’s comments about his personal situation on this Historical Date, and the experience of a four and a half Month saga of trying to return to States, and finally getting to his family’s home in north Mississippi. This two part series is derived from personal notes kept by: LCDR D “Deacon” Holden, USN Ret. 



When the War between Japan and the United States was declared at an end in mid August, 1945, I was an AMM1, based at NAS Agana, Guam, with NATS VR12.  Assigned duties were maintenance and flight crew in four engine transport planes (R5D-Navy) (DC6-Air Force).  A number of shipmates and I in the squadron had "shipped over" during the war and were due 10 days "shipping over leave" and at least 60 days accrued annual leave.  So our mind-set was that we would be first in our squadron to return to the states for leave and new duty assignments, and we were sure that we would fly to the west coast in one of our squadron's planes.  How wrong can one be?  As the "Old Salt" Leading Chief of the squadron always reminded; "In this man's Navy you don't assume anything, get the facts."  Just a few days down the road, we were getting the facts.  In less than two weeks an ALNAV came down that indicated all reserve personnel and draftees were to be transferred back to the States as soon as possible for processing and separation from the service.  All regular Navy personnel were to remain in their present assignments until further notice.


Within a month most of the reservists and draftees had been detached from the squadron and flown to the States.  At this point, the expectations of the squadron's regular Navy personnel were that their transfer orders would arrive soon, and they would be home in a few weeks.  We checked with the Personnel Office daily.  The standard reply was; "For God's sake stop bugging us, we'll let you know when we know."  On December 06, 1945, word was spread that transfer orders for several regular Navy personnel had been received.  Within minutes, all the regular Navy guys were double-timing to squadron personnel.  About a dozen sets of orders, including mine, were received.  The orders read that we were to be detached from the squadron on December 09, 1945, and report onboard the USNS GRAFTON, in Apra Harbor, NAVSTA GUAM that was scheduled to depart at 0800 Monday, December 10, 1945, for San Francisco.  ETA San Francisco Sunday, December 23, 1945.  As you may guess, we were one extremely happy group of Sailors.  


We departed Guam as scheduled, 0800 Monday, December 10, 1945.  After 3 or 4 days underway things settled into a routine, (i.e.) meals in the mess deck, sleeping, relaxing on the weather decks, lots of reading and card playing in bunking spaces.  After a few days we encountered rough seas and cooler weather with rain at times.  We reached higher latitudes transiting well north of Hawaii.  But, we found very little discomfort by the changing weather and choppy seas because we were assured that our course was on track for San Francisco.  Our top priorities were to make arrangements for travel to our home towns and of course, meet some girls in the City by the Bay.  We had no way of knowing what a surprising and disappointing situation we would find upon arrival in San Francisco.  


The following items from the San Francisco Chronicle Newspaper over the period December 2, 1945, through Sunday December 23, 1945, describes the conditions we would find upon arrival in San Francisco.


San Francisco Chronicle: December 02, 1945: Commandant Twelfth Naval District, Admiral Royal E. Ingersole, brought National attention to the country's acute rail crises on Saturday, with a statement that thousands of service men in the Bay Area returning from the Pacific, would not get home for Christmas unless the Nation's Rail Transportation problems are solved. Thirteen thousand more veterans arrived today on nineteen ships, with thousand more arriving daily.


San Francisco Chronicle: Sunday, December 16, 1945: Returning troop jam is becoming worse.  All Bay Area military staging facilities are filled to capacity.  Plans are to leave men onboard Troop Ships until there is adequate housing ashore.  Transcontinental Rail Lines were strained to breaking point yesterday, with the arrival of 40,000 servicemen on ships from the Pacific. The backlog of servicemen waiting in the Bay Area for transportation is expected to increase, with an average count 11,000 to 14,000 servicemen arriving daily by ship into west coast ports.


San Francisco Chronicle: Friday, December 21, 1945: Approximately 8,000 to 10,000 servicemen moving eastward daily, with an estimated 23,000 to 25,000 expected to arrive in the next five days.  Transportation Crises expected to continue well into the New Year 1946.  An estimated 80,000 servicemen in the Bay Area will be awaiting transportation eastward on Christmas day.  Other west coast ports report similar backlogs of servicemen awaiting transportation east.  Seattle WA and Portland OR reported approximately 45,000 to 50,000 and Los Angeles and Long Beach reporting over 20,000.


San Francisco Chronicle: Saturday, December 22, 1945. The pile-up of returning servicemen continues to grow.  Over 60,000 now stranded in Bay Area, with more arriving daily.


San Francisco Chronicle: Sunday, December 23, 1945. The Holiday Traffic Jam is worst in Nation�s history. Approximately 168,000 servicemen stranded on the West Coast trying to get transportation eastward.  About 55,000 stuck in Bay Area for Christmas.  Not only are there thousands of servicemen on both the east and west coast waiting for some kind of transportation to get them home, there are thousands of citizens booking holiday travel for the first time since the War commenced in 1941.  


Probably the best news of this date is "The USNS GRAFTON" arrives in San Francisco Harbor, Pier 7 at 1100 with 1580 passengers that included me and my VR-12 shipmates.  In very short order we received the bad news about the lack of housing ashore for arriving servicemen and the major transportation snafu.  We were advised that we would have to remain onboard the ship until housing ashore was available.  But, sometimes a stroke of good luck appears.


At about 1300 an order came over the ship's PA system for all Aviation Ratings to report to the Quarter Deck area.  We began to grumble that we had been assigned to a work detail.  But, surprise of surprises, we were directed to pack our bags and report back to the Quarter Deck, because we were going to be bused to NAS Alameda for quarters and processing for leave and next duty station assignments.  So, we piled aboard a partly enclosed Simi-Trailer "Cattle Car" for the ride across the Bay to NAS Alameda, arriving with time to get into our quarters and make evening chow.  On Monday, December 24, 1945, Christmas Eve, the Admin Office got everyone checked in and accounted for by 1100, but then advised that they would close at noon and remain closed until the day after Christmas.  So, they would not be able to prepare leave papers and our orders for next duty station until after Christmas.


Tuesday, December 25, 1945, Christmas day, at NAS Alameda, no liberty.  We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas day meal at the base mess hall.  


Wednesday, December 26, 1945, at NAS Alameda, we are due to get paid, pickup our leave papers and orders for next duty station today, after which we can depart the base and arrange transportation to our respective home towns.  My destination was Memphis, TN, Which is approximately 45 miles north of my folks� home in rural Mississippi.  Things went smoothly in getting paid, picking up orders for next duty stations.  We left the base about 1600.  Three of my squadron shipmates and I decided to find a hotel in downtown Oakland to enjoy our first liberty, enjoy a big steak dinner, then sweat it out on arranging transportation east.


Local newspapers report that the transportation problems have not improved.  Over 50,000 servicemen still stranded in Bay Area awaiting transportation eastward.  Over 170,000 returning servicemen were stranded in Pacific coast Ports over the Christmas holidays.  Outlook for getting a train or bus eastward was very grim, to say the least.


(Part 2, "A Taxi-Ride from Oakland, to Chicago on Route 66" continued in the February  Aerograph.)

A Taxi-ride from Oakland, CA to Chicago

via Route 66

Continued from November 2006 Aerograph.

After a tough time getting from Guam to San Francisco, AM1 Deacon Holden (who became a Mustang WX LCDR) has learned that transportation from San Francisco to Chicago at the end of WWII is virtually impossible. Then, remarkable events unfold .ed.


Wednesday, December 26, 1945. Oakland, CA - - - After our sumptuous steak dinner we returned to the hotel. The names of my three Squadron shipmates were; Jake Cormier, Dutch Shultz, and Ben Barsie. Shultz's home was in PA, Cormier and Barsie were from MI, and I was from MS. When we got back to the hotel Shultz and Barsie decided to stop in the Bar to check out the action, Cormier and I return to our room in order to check the latest information regarding the transportation situation.


The reported conditions indicated an uncertain outlook for improvement over the next 3 weeks to a month.  About 20 minutes after Jake and I returned to our room, Shultz and Barsie were knocking on the door shouting that we could arrange for a ride to Chicago via Taxi.  They had talked to an independent Cab Company owner in the bar. At first we thought they were joking, but they kept insisting that it was true. We all went back to the Bar to talk to the Cab Company owner. His name was Griffin, who was a medically discharged Marine Corp Staff Sergeant on account of wounds received during the battle of quadalcanal. Under a special program for disabled veterans, Griffin and a close friend had received a government grant to start a small business.  Also, they discovered that they were eligible to purchase New Cars, which were not available to the general public at that time. Consequently, they bought two new cars, Plymouth 4 door sedans, and started their cab company in the summer of 1945. At the end of WW-II, Griffin and his partner became aware of the critical transportation situation in the San Francisco area due to the massive number of veterans returning from the Pacific area. 

They developed a plan to transport veterans east from San Francisco to Chicago, 4 men each trip, at the same cost of the Trains or Bus Company fare, plus $5.00 per person for insurance, which was a total of $60.00 per person. The trip would be a non-stop drive, except for a couple of stops to rest and freshen up after a given distance. Two of my buddies, Shultz and Cormier were selected to assist Griffin with the driving. The trip plan was to go from Oakland to Griffin's home in Santa Clara, CA, so he could inform his wife of the trip plan and share coffee and pumpkin pie before getting underway. We left Griffin's home about 2200 that night and traveled south on highway 99 to Bakersfield were we took highway 68 east across the Tehachapi Mountains to Barstow, CA to connect with Route 66 to Chicago. We stopped in Barstow for breakfast that morning, Thursday, December 27, 1945. During the stop in Barstow, Griffin suggested that each one of us buy a fifth of good whiskey and put it in our bags. We were a bit puzzled by his suggestion, but he assured us we would understand during the trip. The first of the planned rest stops was Amarillo, TX, where we arrived in the afternoon of December 29, 1945, after driving non-stop across AZ and NM. We stopped at one of Griffin�s favorite Cafes on the highway in the outskirts of town. Griffin suggested that one of us bring our bottle of whisky into the Caf/P>


Amarillo was in a dry county at that time, so we would share a few drinks of our whisky with his friends in the Caf. Griffin was a well known friend with all the folks that owned and operated the Caf. The 4 or 5 girls that worked there were a bit awed to see 4 sailors in full dress uniform, which was very rare in Amarillo.


The service personnel they normally saw were soldiers. The girls asked a constant stream of questions wanting to know where we had come from and where we were going. After sharing a few drinks of the whisky everyone had become happy and friendly. The girls wanted to know if we liked to dance. When we replied that we loved to dance to Big Band music. They began to urge us to meet them at a local ballroom that evening where there would be a Big Band playing for the dancing.


Griffin advised that first we would check into a hotel in order to get the car serviced and have a good shower and change clothes. Next door to the hotel was a laundry and dry cleaning shop. They agreed to clean and press our uniforms while we waited behind some curtains in a corner of the shop. Within about 30 minutes we were all spiffed up and ready to join the girls at the ballroom. Griffin advised us not to get too attached to the girls, because we should leave by midnight. It was great fun, but midnight came very quickly. We said our rather long goodbyes and left after midnight. Friday, December 30, 1945, and continued of eastward trek on Route 66 for Chicago. We reached Oklahoma City late afternoon that day. Griffin advised that we would stop at one of his favorite restaurants on the highway to eat and share our whisky with his friends that owned and operated the place. This stop created a similar situation that we experienced in Amarillo. After about an hour of sharing the whiskey and getting to know the folks at the Restaurant we were being encouraged to stay and meet the girls at a hotel ballroom for Big Band music and dancing about 8:00PM. Griffin said OK we would stay, but departure time would be no later than midnight. We departed Okalahoma City after midnight Saturday, December 31, 1945. About noon we reached the small town of Bristow, Okalahoma, approximately 70 miles southwest of Tulsa. Shultz was driving and he noted that the left rear tire was going flat. We located a service station on the main street, but they were closed for the holiday. The only place we could find open for business was a pool hall with a small caf.  We entered the pool hall and asked a couple of men if the service station would be open later. They didn�t think so. We asked if it was possible to get in touch with someone that worked at the service station. They were not sure. Griffin asked me to get a bottle of whisky from the car to share with the men in the pool hall. Oklahoma was a dry state at that time.


After sharing a few drinks of our whisky, a couple of the men began to show more interest in our problem. They made a few phone calls to some of the people they knew at the service station. They located one of the mechanics that agreed to come and open the station and repair our flat tire. By this time we had a sound understanding of Griffin's advice to bring the whiskey along. After the tire was repaired we were preparing to leave standing by the taxi in front of the pool hall. A local newspaper reporter that had been contacted by the

men at the pool hall showed up and wanted to get a photo of us by the Taxi. After he took a couple of pictures and obtained some personal information about

us we continued our trip eastward. About 8:00 PM we crossed the state line into southwest MO near Joplin.  Griffin told us that his mother lived about five miles west of Joplin in Web City, and he wanted to stop and visit his mother for about an hour. Upon arrival at his mother's home we found a large group of folks enjoying a New Years Eve party. The drinks being served was fruit juice punch loaded with "Corn Whiskey." We shared our whiskey with everyone and tried a few drinks of the punch. Griffin's mother told us that we had to stay until midnight to celebrate the New Year with them. Griffin advised that we would have someone to lay off the drinks so they could drive when we were ready to leave.


Jake Cormier agreed to be the driver. Most of us had drunk too much by midnight consequently I didn't know when we left the party. About 7:30 AM, January 1, 1946, we stopped in St. Louis to have breakfast, after which we crossed over the Mississippi River into IL, and continued northward on Route 66 to Chicago. During the drive we listened to some of the college football bowl games on the car radio. Our ETA in Chicago was early evening. Griffin told us that he would arrange for rooms at the Stevens Hotel on the lakefront. We arrived at the Stevens Hotel about 2100 local time. Griffin went to the registration desk to arrange for two rooms, one for Shultz and me, and one for Cormier and Barsie. But, there was a problem with getting rooms at the hotel.  Because of the holidays the hotel was booked solid.  While lingering at the registration desk and trying to determine our next move, one of the registration clerks produced a local newspaper and pointed out a picture on the front page and asked "is this you guys."   It was a copy of the picture that the newspaper reporter in Bristow, OK had taken of us by the taxi. We asked how the Chicago newspaper got the picture. They said it was available off the wire service out of Kansas City. It appeared that the newspaper reporter in Bristow, OK was a stringer for a Kansas City newspaper that placed the picture on the wire service. The registration clerk asked us to wait and he would try to find an available hotel for us. After a few phone calls he told us that the Palmer House Hotel would provide rooms for us. We were very lucky, because the Palmer House is one of the most famous hotels in Chicago. It was built in the old stockyard area in the late 1800s to provide service to the wealthy cattle men from Texas and Kansas that drove their large herds of cattle to the stockyards in Chicago. Griffin dropped us off at the Palmer House and said that he would stay with us for a couple of hours to help put us in contact with a couple of his friends that were providing rides from Chicago to points south and east. We asked the registration clerk what were the room rates. He told us there would be no charge for the rooms and we could stay as long as we wished. We were surprised with the unexpected generosity of the hotel. Cormier and Barsi had learned that train service was available from Chicago to Detroit and points north into MI. Shultz had arranged for tickets by Greyhound Bus to Pittsburg, PA with connections to his home town Butler, PA. Griffin had arranged a ride for me to Memphis and on to Senatobia, MS, with one of his friends that provided rides for service men from Chicago to New Orleans. Two other sailors and I were scheduled to leave Chicago on January 4, 1946. We departed Chicago about 6:00 AM that morning and settled in for a very long ride. We arrived at my drop-off point, Senatobia, MS, about 2200 that evening. Senatobia is about 12 miles west of the community of South Bar, where my Dad's farm is located. As typical of small

towns everything was closed for the night. My folks didn't have a phone, so I had no way to contact them.  My best option was to find a place to get some sleep and get a ride to the farm the next day. I stopped at the railroad depot, which had wooden benches in the waiting room. In view that it was mid-winter, and no heat in the depot, I slept very little.


The next morning, January 5, 1946, I started walking along the highway toward my Dad's farm. The first vehicle I saw was a big truck coming from the opposite direction. As the truck neared me, it began to slow down and the driver was looking at me rather intensely. I thought his interest may have been because I was in my Navy Uniform. The truck went past me and then stopped and backed up along side of me. The driver stuck his head out the window and asked; "Boy what are you doing walking on this road." At first I thought I was in trouble, then the driver started laughing and I finally recognized him as an uncle, Thomas Roberson. He wasvmarried to one of my Dad's sisters. He told me to get intovthe truck and he would take me home after tending to some business in town. Later my uncle took me to my Dad's farm, arriving about 10:00 AM. My family knewvthat I was in California, but they had no idea when Ivwould finally get home. I had written to them during Christmas while I was at NAS Alameda waiting for my leave papers and next duty assignment orders. I informed them about the transportation situation in the San Francisco area and that I had no idea when I could obtain transportation in order to get home. So, it was quite a thrilling surprise when my uncle dropped me off at the farm. My Dad was outside by the driveway when we arrived, so I had the pleasure of greeting him before anyone else knew I was there. Dad said come into the house; "There's a bunch of folks that have been expecting you for days". His comments didn't prepare

me for the wonderful surprises I encountered inside the house. Of course I greeted my mother first and then my 4 sisters, which included the youngest family member, Barbara, for the first time. She was born in June 1942, so she was about 3 years old when I saw her for the first time. A highly unexpected surprise was to see my 3 brothers that were just home from Army assignments in Europe. All three of them were married and the two older brothers had a couple of children. My oldest brother, Henry "Hank" enlisted into the Army the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. My older brother, Elmer "Elmo" (about 2 years my senior) and a younger brother, Howard were married during the early part of WW-II, so they were deferred from the draft until the last couple of years in the War. Elmer served with the Army Quartermaster Cor  in Italy. Henry "Hank", served in North Africa, France and Germany. He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany. Howard served in France and Germany. He was in a couple of battles for the bridges on the Rhine River. Fortunately he was not injured.


It had been a long journey from the Western Pacific to the family home in north Mississippi. But the wonderful homecoming celebration with my family fully justified the long, uncertain travel saga.


LCDR Deacon Holden USN RET