THE LULL BETWEEN TESTS, Bikini, 19 July 1946 — The days between Tests Able (1 July) and Baker (25 July) seemed to drag on for my Fall River shipmates and me. There wasn’t much to do. If we had a liberty, the only place to go was ashore on Bikini for some softball, a swim in the (contaminated?) Lagoon, and two warm bottles of 5-cent beer at the beer shack. (There was a two-beer limit on liberty.)
One of my buddies was Dave Morris, Yeoman for our Sixth Division Gunnery Officer. In Navy jargon, Dave was a “feather merchant,” aka a secretary. Dave was a prankster. One afternoon, a bunch of us got fed up with a certain coxswain who was always mooching beer from us when we went ashore. “I decided we play a trick on him,” said Dave years later. “The beer was always warm, so a bunch of us took a few empty beer bottles and—let me put it this way—we skipped going to the head. We lined up the bottles and waited for this coxswain to show up. He comes along, grabs a ‘free’ bottle of beer, and starts to take a swig. We caught him just in time, I think (Dave laughs). Boy, was he mad, but we cured him of mooching beers from us.”
Forty-eight years later, I met up with Dave Morris at the U.S. Navy Cruiser Sailors Association National Reunion in San Diego, California. We remembered each other, if not by looks, by the names on our name tags. Our conversation picked up where it had left off.
“McGee, you still owe me a sawbuck,” said Dave.
“Morris, it’s the other way around,” I said. We laughed and I bought him a drink, anyway.
Dave and I, along with another Fall River shipmate we met at the reunion, Larry Trueax, decided to start the USS Fall River Shipmates Association. According to Dave, we located 322 Fall River shipmates. Ever the comedian, Dave loved telling everyone that I told him to go out and buy a computer so he could do a proper job of being the president, and then I sent him a continuous stream of press releases with elaborate instructions on what to do with them. The Fall River Shipmates Association had a good run for about eight years until the membership had dwindled so much, it was decided to disband the group.
(Excerpted in part from Operation Crossroads – Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account by William L. McGee. Available on Amazon.)