Mediterranean Cruise

1947 - 1948, page 5

Christmas 1947

We were anchored at Naples, Italy, for the Christmas holidays.  Christmas Day was cloudy and cold.  A special event began to unfold in the afternoon.  Our launches headed for the pier where a large group of boys and girls (mostly 7 or 8 years old) along with their caretaker nuns waited patiently.  There were about 200 of the children from an orphanage in Naples. They were part of the more than 10 million left homeless by the war.  They cautiously boarded the launches and headed out to the Midway.  As they came on board their eyes were as big as saucers; the Midway was huge to them.  They were all immaculately clean, wore identical outfits and kept looking around the hangar deck where all sorts of Christmas lights and decorations fascinated them.  We even had a Santa Claus, who amazingly enough, spoke Italian as he sat each child on his knee.  Each had a turn to talk with Santa and was given a present by him.  Rows of tables had been set up for the children and nuns to have their special dinner.  All said their blessing in unison.

After dinner, goodbyes were said and they all headed back to their orphanage, for most, the only home they knew.  We turned on a small light for a very short period of time for them and I remember thinking as they left – we have so much and they have so little and not much of a chance to do better.  There were a lot of moist eyes as we waved goodbyes to them as they left the ship (for a more detailed write-up see page 55 in “Midway Magic” by Scott McGaugh.  On page 96, three photos in, is a photo of part of the group in a launch).

           The Marines Have Landed

There was a lot of world attention at this time concerning a new country called Israel that the United Nations was involved in, and a Palestinian one as well. Tension was growing and we (the USA) were sponsoring Israel and the official incorporation date was fast approaching.

Two thousand Marines were brought on board the ships in our division (we had three light cruisers and six destroyers with the Midway in charge, as we had the Admiral who was division commander).

We got one thousand with the rest spread among the other ships.  They boarded on Jan. 19, 1948 (see photo, right).  With the two squadron wings, our complement was roughly 3,500 men. Packing the Marines in was “fun”, and raised our total to 4,500 for a short period.   

Our three-stack beds went to four.  Many areas non-essential were converted to bunks.  The band lost its practice room, as an example.

Within a week we began to run short of food.  The supply ship was late, partly due to rough seas and partly due to their radio going down.  I went over on one of the first launches and fixed the radio and then stayed as a “talker”.  Watched the supplies coming out of the hold.

One pallet was loaded with frozen chicken, all stamped 1943 – five years old.  We began to do a lot of flight ops in the far Eastern Mediterranean at this time.

Note:  I’ve had trouble getting the total number of Marines accurate due partly to my recall and partly because the total was supposed to be kept quiet. In the event that Israel and Palestine went to war, we were to land the Marines in Israel.  They were to protect "American Interests".

Above, left and right: The entire crew received the "Victory Medal European Occupation" for the Mediterranean Cruise effort. Click photos to enlarge.
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