USS Fall River (CA-131), Port of Los Angeles, 16 Feb 1946 – The eight days at sea from the Panama Canal Zone to the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro Bay, California, were drills, drills, drills. Everyone was looking forward to liberty with Hollywood a cab ride away.
For guys who had never been to California, San Pedro was a major port. Liberty options were plentiful — Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard with the hand and footprints of movie stars on the sidewalk, the Hollywood Palladium on Sunset Boulevard for dancing, bicycle tours of Beverly Hills with a map of where the movie stars lived, and the beach.
On one liberty, the actor James Gleason opened his house and swimming pool to we Sixth Division Gunner’s Mates. On another, “Guns” Bernard, R. C. Morgan, and I met six school teachers in a bar. They had all attended the same small college in the Midwest before the war. We partied until the bar closed, went skinny dipping at the beach, and… I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination.
Not every moment on liberty was upbeat. David Shafer recalled a sad moment at the Brown Derby:
“I went with a group of shipmates to ride horses in the San Fernando Valley. Afterwards, we went to the famous Brown Derby to quench our thirst. An older woman seated at the next table sent us a bottle of champagne. She asked if she could join us and she sat down next to me. She said I looked like her son, who was killed in action. I think she got some comfort in talking to me. My brother was killed a year earlier at the Battle of the Bulge, so I understood her feelings.”
– David Shafer, S1/c, Third Division, Gunnery Department
Excerpted from Operation Crossroads, Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests 1946 by William L. McGee with Sandra V. McGee.