The Hutchinson, Kansas, News-Herald, Friday, July 16, 1943
MAN WHO QUIT MILK ROUTE SIX MONTHS AGO HAS BEEN PLACES
Delivering goods to our fighters in the southwest Pacific isn’t much like peddling milk in Hutchinson.
At the beginning of this year, E. O. “Eddie” Humiston was working for Bob-O-Lea dairy in Hutchinson and was helping recruit men for the navy as president of a “Navy club” of former sailors. Since then he has been torpedoed, bombed and machine gunned as an able bodied seaman in the merchant marine.
He wears a scar on his side as a grim reminder of the machine gunning. In his memories are other scars. He will never forget the sight of 56 Jap warplanes flying over his ship in a southwest Pacific port. One of them, disabled, tried to fly into his ship but missed, crashing into the sea nearby with a tremendous splash. In “Torpedo Junction,” also in the southwest Pacific, a ship ahead of his and one following it were sunk. A submarine stalked his ship for seven days. For nerve wracking recollections, those seven days will always haunt him.
In constant Alarm
The “general alarm” bell is one racket “you can add to sounds I don’t like to hear.” It means something is about to happen. It was virtually “general alarm” for 24 hours a day during that sub-dodging week.
Another experience he doesn’t care to repeat—being on a ship hit by a torpedo, as his was recently in the Caribbean.
“Swoosh,” is the sound---not loud, but ship-wracking.
“I was amidships getting a drink when it hit,” Humiston relates. “It knocked me flat.”
But his ship was able to limp to port and he didn’t try out his “Mae West” life jacket, says the sailor, home on 30-day leave visiting his mother, Mrs. Sarah Humiston, 440 West Sherman.
The machine gunning--?
Out in the southwest Pacific where the war is quickly divested of all glamour for the participants, the merchant marine sailors serve as volunteer members of the navy armed guard crews.
Creased by bullet
Humiston was at a machine gun. Someone slapped an adhesive bandage across his side and he went on fighting. It was “just a scratch,” but he was back in the western hemisphere before it healed.
Yes, they say the men in the merchant marines make a lot of money—“but there were times when I would have given it back to be ashore.”
Standing watch in the crows nest, far above the deck, swinging to and fro like an upside-down pendulum, is one time.
“If the ship is hit, you’re liable to be jarred off into space, crow’s nest and all,” he explains. “It’s a bad watch.
It’s no fun when bombs are raining. The sailors put cotton in their ears. When a big bomb goes off nearby, the concussion blows the cotton out of their ears, Humiston says.
Some of Other Annoyances
Some minor annoyances--?
“Well, there’s the intense heat—big blobs of sweat stand out on your face and hands all the time out in the southwest Pacific.
“And dysentery—everybody has dystentery.
“Mosquitoes – we call them ‘twin-engine’ jobs out there.”
Humiston had a close call ashore, on an island. He went for a stroll in the jungle and became lost. His only protection was a “bolo” knife. After eight hours he came on a gang of Seabees digging wells. They took him back to a road in a truck.
“They said I was lucky -- I probably never would have found my way back alone.” Incidentally, if you want to send a present to a boy in service, make it a knife,” Humiston recommends.
Thrill of a different sort was seeing Jimmy Roosevelt, son of the President, in a marine base hospital. The fighting forces in the Pacific swear by “Jimmy,” praising his soldierly qualities, Humiston reports.
When the merchant marine seaman was paid off recently in Jersey City, his $2,775.55 came in the form of two $1,000 bills, a $500 and two 100s, and smaller money. “I had to go to a Federal Reserve bank to cash the $1,000s,” he says.
Humiston’s machine gun “crease” is his second service scar. He was in the navy from 1929 to 1927 and served in the Asiatic Fleet. Chinese war lords were fighting for supremacy. He believes it was a bullet from a gun of one of the henchmen of Chiang Kai-shek, now our ally, which hit him in the hand one night when he got in the way of rival forces.
Humiston is a brother of Howard “Hod” Humiston, aviation machinist’s mate 2-c at Hutchinson naval air station, the first man signed here for the local base. Another brother, T. Sgt. Harold Humiston, is in the army air forces at Olympia, Wash.
He joined the merchant marine last Feb. 10. He has since been sworn into the naval reserve, but believes he will not be called unless he leaves the merchant marine. He says he will “take off my hat” to all navy, army, marine and other forces fighting in the southwest Pacific. “They are doing a great job.”
Relaxation is difficult – and costly – out there. Whisky is $100 a quart. A native drink made in cocoanuts, called “Swipe,” just about does that to your innards, Humiston reports.
Phyllis Long on
October 16, 2003.