My Story -- The Quonset Hutcomments (1) March 8th, 2011 in Blogs
“I want to do with you what the spring does to the cherry tree.”
Does anyone still remember the Korean War? Or is it just another forgotten war that happened elsewhere some 60 years ago? Even a causal reading of history shows that the list of our forgotten wars is long, long. To my surprise, this deadly war opened me somewhat like a cherry blossom.
The Quonset hut was born in one of our many wars. In many ways this hut is an icon of WWII especially in the Pacific war theater. Yes, that’s what they call it--theater. The problem of housing the huge number of military personal along with storing materials needed to wage a massive war was vast. Inventive minds quickly found a solution and started producing this oval, metal building near Quonset, Rhode Island, from whence comes its name.
Sometimes we get things right and build like nature does. There is a natural way of being that seems to be unknown or simply ignored by us. We build our houses in straight and square lines. Where do we see this in nature? The Quonset hut is an exception. This strong, stable, half-round structure is shaped like a clam shell, the long-house of the Iroquois People, or the curved home a turtle carries around on its back.
The Korean War that left at least 35,000 young, vital Americans dead, began in June, 1950, when I was of prime draft age, and lasted until July 1953. At the time, I wanted to continue my studies at UCLA. I was also working and didn’t want to go fight in any war any where. I admit to being shy of all wars. I remember what Gandhi once said: “I know many causes I would die for. I know none I would kill for.” Some of us feel that way. I know the death and destruction wars cause not only to our physical well being, but also to our mental health.
I knew I was going to be drafted. No student deferments were offered like during the Vietnam War. Having seen what trench warfare had done to my own father and many others, I really didn’t want to go.
The fringe benefits of being a carpenter. A friend helped me to find a solution of sorts. I was a journeyman carpenter so I joined a reserve unit of Navy Seabees, a construction battalion. It wasn’t long after that, in Oct. 1951, that I was called up for two years of active duty. I was sent to boot camp at the large naval base in San Diego and trained in the art of war.
From San Diego, I went to Port Hueneme, north of Los Angeles, for further training in construction. It was at this base that I encountered rows of the versatile Quonset hut set up for hundreds of different uses. I lived there in a hut for three months. This base is a training and staging area for military construction workers being prepared to build and fight in a war zone. I was there with a battalion of young men, more than seven hundred of us, all scheduled to be sent to Korea.
Maybe someone can help me understand what came next. It happened near the end of our training. We were preparing our gear to ship out to the Korean Peninsula when I was approached by an officer I had never seen and did not know. He came up to me with one question: “Do you want to go to Korea?” I answered---well, no, not really. He turned and left. I and one other recruit from Indiana, received orders to report to the Seabee base in Quonset Point, Rhode Island! Everyone else was headed for the war zone. I’m serious, what was going on here?
Quonset Point, the home of the Quonset hut. There I was placed in another battalion and we were soon on our way to Newfoundland, an island province off the coast of eastern Canada, to build landing strips and a new base post office.
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