"The early ' 60s saw many of us return to active duty. The receiving station at Anacostia, across the river from Washington, D.C., was the place many of us were assigned to while waiting for permanent duty assignment. Orders to our future Navy homes. It was here in 1961 that I encountered my first "CT". As a seagoing storekeeper, I had never seen one that I knew of.
Life at the Receiving Station, after morning muster, was full of "kill time" assignments that sent you about the station and out of the Master-at-Arms hair. Since we were almost all third, second or first class petty officers, we did our share of supervising this leaf brigade, or other cleanup details.
Like a proper sailor, I was prepared to await the roll of the dice and accept whatever the future held for me in the way of orders. Not so these "CT's". They were on the telephone every day to "their detailer", arguing, cussing and a fussin'. About half would get what they wanted, or, at least they were prepared for the phrase on the orders that said, "Transfer to."
About that time Anacostia was swamped with CT's, so a storekeeper was really out of place. These guys didn't even know how to spell ship, and did not expect orders to any type of seagoing duty. Honest! Well, one evening, while lounging around the recreation room, one of them asked me if I had called the detailer? "What?", I asked. "How do you do that?" "You don't know the phone number for your detailer?" "Here, call mine, he might have something for you!" The next morning I placed my first telephone call to the BUPERS detailer, as it turned out, the Naval Security Group detailer.
"Detailer, Chief Novak, how can I help you?" "Chief, this is Storekeeper Second Class Novak. I was told you could help me with a duty assignment." Chief Novak responded in a friendly manner. "Where do you want to go?" "Well, Chief, I like the West Coast!" After what seemed a truly short pause, he came back at me. "You're in luck, I just happen to have a set of West Coast orders for a Storekeeper on my desk. Do you want them?" "Wow, sure and thanks." "We'll cut the orders today. They will be at Anacostia by day after tomorrow."
True to his word, the PN from the Receiving Station called the Galley and asked me to report to fill out some paper work. The Galley was a temporary assignment, where, it seems that the Chief Cook who ran the galley office had been hospitalized. They needed an office manager ASAP and I was available. So, I had been working in that position for about four weeks. In fact, that morning the Supply Officer, a Lieutenant Commander, who was in charge of the Galley, had just told me the job was mine if I wanted it for a permanent assignment.
Off to Personnel I went. At that office, a person named Carolyn, flopped a bundle of papers on the counter when I came in. "Here, start filling these out. You have to have a Security Clearance for these orders." "Wait a minute, what's a clearance?" "This unit gets a security clearance for all their troops. Start writing!"
"What ship is it and which homeport? San Diego or Long Beach?" "Neither one, you're going to Bremerhaven, Germany." "Germany! No, there must be some mistake. That Chief at BUPERS told me I was going to the West Coast!" Well, one of the CT's quickly came to the rescue. Taking me over to the large world map on the wall, he explained it to me that, "Bremerhaven, is indeed on the west coast of Germany!"
THE DARK NIGHT
EUROPE - The early 1960's... Germany, in a seaport city, in late January, the hour is late! As most stories of this sort begin.
It was a dark and windy night, as the cold winds pressed in off of the North Sea, carrying the smell of sea and a light taste of salt. The dampness eased itself into your clothing, chilling deep within the lungs. The evening's festivities had just about wound down as I stepped out of the Rio Rita, onto the sidewalk, slick with an accumulation of mist. Walking cautiously to the corner, past the empty lot that served as a parking lot for the Rio Rita and the two Angels, past the Angels to the corner. I turned down the narrow street that led toward Rieckmastrasse. As I approached the intersection, the lights grew brighter with huge yellow-white halos casting a glow up onto the darkened windows of the second and third floors of the gray stucco buildings on the far side of the street.
I waited at the curb as the wet smack of tires accompanied by a rumbling sound as each tire passed rapidly from one large cobble stone to the next announcing the swift passing of an automobile. I recognized immediately the headlights of a Mercedes as it sped buy me, with a tapping click like a clock, and whizzed on, leaving for just a second an empty space in the mist and an odor that let me know it had been a diesel engine. Following closely behind was the dark yet distinct outline of a huge BMW sedan, gleaming black almost frightening as it passed with its engine so quiet that only the movement of air and the thump of the tires on the street made you aware of it. I crossed the street angling to the left. The lights of the theater marquee spread an eerie glow in middle of the block. In that haze of pale yellow light stood a cluster of folks huddled with their backs to the wind, standing close to each other at the bus stop. A light behind the crowd, identified the tiny "Wurst Stand" next door to the theater it drew me like a moth. The smell of the various fried meets wafted out in to the night air as a customer exited the shop, his collar turned up against the chill of the breeze, with a "bratwurst" firmly clutched by its handle of bread wrapped around the middle of the wurst. A brownish yellow stripe of mustard down its length shone against the shine of the meat casing. Entering, the narrow shop, little more than a corridor between two tall buildings that had been closed in, I edged toward the back of the shop, my left shoulder brushing the slot machine. That ever present glow of pale yellow light from the night outside seemed to follow me inside, just slightly brighter as it reflected grease and smoke stained walls that once might have been white. The heat from the grill and the huddled diners made the niche at the counter a welcome place to stop. Just one bratwurst and a small plate of potato salad and then it would be time to continue on this solitary journey. The hiss of the air brakes from the brownish green bus announced its arrival. It had it stopped to pick up passengers from the curb outside serving to remind me of my mission for it was late and only one more bus remained for the evening. Inside the bus gloved hands wiped the fog from the windows exposing dark eyes in expressionless faces, passengers huddled together, hardly speaking, friends, acquaintances maybe, but all were going toward that one destination across the flat land hidden behind the dikes.
The hot spicy mustard combined with the freshly grilled bratwurst begun to warm my insides. Turning to leave I dropped a 5 phennig piece in the coin opening of the slot machine mounted on the wall, giving the little red know a turn. The two clock like dials spun in opposite directions, stopping with a shudder the arrows were just one notch off, nothing. What the heck, a second 5 phennig piece followed the first, the second coin resulted in the clatter of change into the metal box at the bottom of the machine as the spinning dials came to rest on the 5 mark spot. Refreshed, warm and aglow with this new prosperity, I returned to the street. The wind was still there-not blowing, not pressing, just there. The damp made everything look as though it was covered with a glaze of ice. Each step toward the bus stop reminded me of my winnings as the change now in the form of 1 mark coins clanked together and rubbed against my leg thru the pocket.
At that moment, the deep roar of a powerful car burst through the night followed by the headlights and the shadowy outline of a large OPEL, Capatain. The outline was broken by the orangish glow in the right front window, indicating that it was a Taxi available for hire. "Why not?" Suddenly, I was anxious to have this evening over with, besides I had won enough to pay the fare to my destination. Flagging the Taxi to a stop, I climbed into the back seat. Oh, the leather was so soft, not the stretched canvas of the military bus that would have carried me. In my now improved German I gave him directions to the airport, since the locals still referred to it by its now minor occupation. Inside the warmth and softness begun to lull me to drowsiness, as the driver negotiated the streets. The tires bouncing off of the trolley rails could hardly be felt. The driver sped around the corner and down the narrow windy street that led to the main thoroughfare. I had just about given into closing my eyes, when all of sudden the blast of police whistles and shouts of "HALT!"" roused me slightly-enough so that I was able to catch myself to keep from being hurdled over the huge bucket seat that was in front of me. All of a sudden there were two Police Officers. One stood on each side of the Taxi, yelling and gesturing wildly to the driver. My childhood German had begun to return as I had mentioned, but I could not make out all of the meaning. From the jesters and the jabber I was certain that a criminal, possibly a major villain had gone down the street in front of us and that this taxi, my taxi was being commandeered for a chase. Suddenly I was wide-awake, my hands still continued to grip the thick leather upholstery of the front seat. The officers in their long black leather overcoats were frightening. The dull glow of the beam of light coming from small flashlights clipped to the left shoulder of those coats seemed surreal. Just as suddenly as they stopped the car they were now inside, one in the with the driver and the second joining me in the back seat. His coat damp with an evening's accumulation of mist looked like it was made of patent leather or shiny plastic. As he set down on the edge of the seat next to me he only nodded. He didn't speak; just nodded and then curtly said to the driver, "rous mit die" and slapped the back of the driver's seat with a nightstick that I had not noticed before.
Oh, the OPEL Capatain (what a car-it seemed larger than the Mercedes) truly leapt to the call, throwing all of us back with a jolt as the Taxi lunged forward. The driver had waited many years to be called into action like this. I had seen the movies and TV shows (Black and White) of foreign intrigue, the chases of Brian Keith. They all came rushing to my mind, the screech and hiss of steam from the Budapest Express, it was all here tonight in this Taxi. James Bond was still being read by President Kennedy, and thus had not been translated to the movies. Onward charged this dynamo of a car rounding the turns at high speed while keeping all four tires firmly on the knobby cobble stones sliding only slightly as we crossed the damp trolley rails. "HALT!"
Just as suddenly as they had appeared the officer brought the taxi to a stop. Leaping out as the car continued to rock, they raced forward, running and once again blowing their whistles, and yelling "HALT!"
In front of us appeared in the mist, the object of their chase, was a nearly out of control vehicle with its wheels careening from the curb, their quarry a "Drunken Bicycle Rider!"
My taxi and I continued on to the Army Base and my cot in the barracks to dream of the adventure that might have been that night in Bremerhaven, Germany.
"Tales from Tony" by Tony Novak, reprinted with his permission.
"Had three wonderful years at that station [Bremerhaven], both in Military and community affairs. One funny, but also sad Duty I had was forming the "Bremerhaven Choir" to sing the Navy Hymn at a service for President Kennedy. I was the Duty Officer two days after he was shot, and a call came in requesting the "Choir" to sing. When CDR Coperthwait(XO) told me to get the choir, I replyed "We don't have one." He replied "We will.".
"To make a long story short, we secured the barracks, got volunteers(?), the choir was formed, took them to the chapel to learn the song, sent them to Bremen. The Mayor of Bremen called Capt Hitz (CO) on Monday and said how great the choir was, to which the CO replied "What choir?". They never sang again.
OFF TO A GOOD START
When my orders to Germany were transmitted, an administrative error was made and they thought I was a CTTC. Accordingly, they assigned a CPO to be my "guide". It didn't take long to reassign a CT2 as the person to help get me and my family settled.
Back in those days, we were separate from the Air Force who had one side of the building while we had the other. We also had the monthly "military drill" where we had to participate in war games (we were a security forcewho were supposed to defend against the enemy taking over the building. I believe that evolution stopped about 5 months after I arrived.
Watchstanding was exciting when some classified developments had us scrambling to generate the multiple reports on a very short deadline. However, there was always a lot of slack time during the mid-watch. Our spaces, as well as the R branchers across the hall, had electronic equipment positioned on a false floor. The space between the false floor and the real floor was where all the electrical cables ran. The false floor was made up of 2x2 foot tiles that were fairly heavy and we had a 'suction cup tool' to lift them up so that the Matmen could snake some electrical cord to the appropriate equipment.
What makes the false floor interesting was that the mid watch sections cooperated in designing an entire 'city' in the area between the false and real floor. They had little people, buildings and even cars.....a sort of mindless playground that was literally under the feet of dayworkers who (apparently) never knew about it.
SET ME FREE
When I arrived, the T branchers were 'chained' to their positions. That meant that working during the day watch, someone had to go to the Army chow hall and bring back food. Upon being relieved one at a time, the day watch would unplug their headsets, go and get chow and come back, usually eating it at their position. Not wanting to be 'chained' to my position, I volunteered to go to the Chow hall and get the food and transport it back to our spaces. I viewed being a "Gofo" as a wonderful opportunity to get away from the position for about an hour during the day.
SHOCKING ELECTRICAL STORY
The electrician (German national) who helped wire up the operations building and I became friends. He was a radioman (Funker) on German U-boats. I worked with him a lot during the construction. We helped each other with the language. "How do you say.....in (English/German)? " I find it hard to believe that Fritz didn't know what we were doing there. In the summer, when windows were open, I could hear the 'ditties' loud and clear out in the parking area.
Wish I could remember the name of the kid that was almost electrocuted while we were building the antennas. We were dragging the heavy copper wire that made up the sides of the rhombic (diamond shaped) antennas, across some insulated power lines that ran alongside the road toward the Air Force storage compound. The power was turned off up by the gate house. There was a splice in the line that was bare and when the wire hit that, the kid who was feeding the wire over with his hands above his head, just froze and toppled over backwards. When he hit the ground, it jarred him loose from the wire and Chief Posey yelled for him to lie still and pulled the wire off him with a rope. He then told me to put on my 'spurs' and climb the small pole next to the building and cut the power lines. Seems the switch was in only one side of the line. The German power, in some places, was two phase anyway; both sides hot. Anyway, the kid never came out in the antenna field again!! It is a wonder it didn't kill him; the ground around there was wet and marshy anyway.
USING THE REGS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Well into my tour at Bremerhaven, I needed one day off, to go to the Photokena in Koln.
I knew that the day you sign out to leave doesn't count as a day of leave. Also, if you sign back in before 0800, that day doesn't count either. We were working eve-day-mid-off type shifts.
I requested one day leave, the day of my day watch. I signed out just before my eve watch, took the day watch off and signed in just after my midwatch. I went to Koln on my day watch, had good time, and had couple days off to boot. That came to a total of 5 days to myself at a cost of one day of leave.
This worked so well I did it a couple more times. But after that, our Mat Chief, Senior (at that time) Chief Nelson called me into the office, tried to screw my ass into the overhead for this. After I reminded him that he approved all of my requests, he made up a new Navy regulation and said that I must request at least 3 days of leave at one time.
A few weeks later, I requested 3 days of leave, which the good Chief approved. After one day of leave, I signed back in (per Nav Regs), again having 5 days off for one day of leave. This gave him a mild case of agida, but we were both so short that was the last I heard of it.
Someday I will surely burn for doing this to such a great gentleman as Chief Nelson.
PICTURE OF THE MONTH
One time I entered what I thought was a pretty good foto into the "Picture of the Month Contest". It was a picture I had printed in the foto lab at Radio City of an elderly German gentleman with his grandson which I had cropped from a larger picture.
Much to my surprise the picture won! I received $5.00 in supplies at the photo lab and thought I was a pretty great photographer and surely had a great career awaiting me in the field. Then I found out why my photo won - It was the only picture entered that month!
A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES
One day in late '66 or early '67, my wife, Ann and I invited our good German friend Reinholt Moeves, (DJ7ET) and his wife to go to the movies on the base and get some ice cream after the show. I told him I didn't know what was playing, but Reinholt was looking forward to seeing an American movie (and eating a ton of ice cream).
Well, my heart sank when we left the car and walked up to the movie theater and we saw the marquee which clearly stated the name of the movie for that evening, "THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE"! To our surprise, Reinholdt loved the movie, and every time the Germans got blown up, he roared with laughter. I think he was just being a good sport.