Why yes, I ve been to Hawaii ...


Last updated 7/31/2019 at 10:11am

Some friends stopped by the house last Sunday. They had been in Hawaii for a couple weeks and shared their impressions with me. I was in Hawaii once, but my experience was far different from theirs.

The military sent us to Okinawa for war games. I was a radio operator on one of the teams. There were sixty of us, I think.

We left Okinawa after the exercise and made a stop on Wake Island for a day so the pilots could rest. We took off that evening and flew all night in an old C-97 prop plane that didn't cover the 2,300 miles very quickly.

We landed in Hawaii at dawn. They gave us the day off with orders to be at the airplane at four that afternoon. Missing a troop movement meant an automatic court-martial.

Five of us rented a car. One of our group had been on the island before, so he was the guide. Our first stop was to buy two cases of beer. We knew that wasn't enough to see us through the day, but we would buy more when the need arose.

We sped from majestic cliffs to scenic beaches, seeing most of them through cigarette smoke and beer-spattered windows. The beer cans were soon ankle deep in the little car and we stopped to pick up another case.

We arrived at a large beach with a lot of people enjoying the sun and surf. I and two others wanted to stop and watch the waves and bikinis, but the other two had someplace else they wanted to go. They promised they would be back by 3:30. Our uniforms were in the car trunk, which proved to be a big problem later.

The three of us enjoyed the beach and let the beer wear off, but 3:30 passed and the car hadn't shown up. Panicked, we grabbed a taxi to take us to the airplane. We weren't too sure where it was, but the cabby knew.

There was a half-bottle of whiskey rolling around on the floor of the taxi, and the driver offered us a drink. The whiskey was hot, but it was strong.

We got to the airfield expecting to see the car that held our uniforms. It wasn't there. All the other 200 troops were sober, in perfect dress, and standing in rank by the plane which was parked 300 yards out on the tarmac.

But we were barefoot, and wearing only swimming trunks and tee shirts. The tarmac was boiling hot as we trotted to the formation and fell into ranks.

That's when the trouble started. We were very much out of uniform,so we stood on boiling tar - conspicuous and chagrined. They put all the others at ease but made us stay at attention. The tarmac was scalding, so I put my weight on the balls of my feet for a few moments, and when that became unbearable, shifted back onto my heels. Once I raised all of my bare toes and pretended that they were standing at attention, too.

The NCO's took turns berating us. The pilot hung his arm out the window and drummed on the fuselage with his fingers, much like a nervous driver at a slow intersection.

Every few minutes the colonel would look at his watch, then the major would look at his watch, then the captains would look at their watches, and the lieutenants would follow suit. One of them would say something to an NCO who trotted over and yelled at us for a while. The pilot kept drumming while we cowered.

Finally, the car came screaming in and slid to a stop in the gravel. The NCO's released us with orders to be back in formation in five minutes.

We ran across the huge tarmac and grabbed our uniforms which we put on over our trunks and tee shirts. We tore back to the formation where they were beginning to file onto the airplane.

And the colonel looked at his watch, and the major looked at his watch, then the captains looked at their watches, and the lieutenants followed suit. The NCO's yelled while we cowered.

The two miscreants who had abandoned us at the beach were rolling drunk and came over slowly. In their rush, the tall one, who wore size 13, had put on his buddie's boots which were size 9½. The tall one couldn't run because his toes were doubled back under his feet, and the short one couldn't run because his too-big boots would fall off. An NCO was behind each of them, cursing. They didn't see the humor.

It was a long, quiet flight from Hawaii to Salt Lake City. The other troops shunned us for fear of being tainted by association.

But I have been to Hawaii. Envy me.


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