Seabees Say Work Does It, Milwaukee Journal 7/16/45

Seabees Say Work Does it - Pacific Jobs No Miracle:

Milwaukee Jounal - July 16, 1945


By Robert J. Doyle


GUAM- If you ask the Seabee Stevedores, they will tell you that the miracles worked in supplying our increasing forces in the Pacific are about 90% perspiration. Jake Haffner, Milwaukee Wisconsin, former chief clerk in the Milwaukee office of the FBI, is Chief Yeoman of a stevedore battalion which arrived on Guam nearly a year ago with the invasion forces. He tells how the men began unloading ships even before they came ashore and have been unloading cargo ever since, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The stevedores live in tents near the harbor. Five or six men sleep in each of the 14 foot square, screened tents. The climate is so warm that they sleep in their shorts and need neither blankets nor sheets. Their working hours compare to those in steel mills in America 50 years ago. The men are divided into day and night shifts. They reverse shifts every two weeks. Even figuring time off for meals, the men put in 60 to 70 hours a week, and no time and a half for overtime.




The stevedores draw the regular pay of Navy enlisted men, depending on their ratings. The base pay of the majority is less than $100 a month. Many Seabee construction outfits here now work eight hour shifts, six days a week, but the stevedores are so hard pressed to keep up with the ships constantly arriving that they have been unable to shorten their hours . The men seldom find relief from the heat. They work on the docks and on the decks and in the holds of ships, piling boxes into cargo nets and loading them on trucks. In the daytime their tents approach Turkish bath conditions. Haffner works in one of the Heaquarters office tents. He handles correspondence, reports and service records of the men. He worked in the Milwaukee FBI office from 1935-40 and then worked for Ford Motor Co. before entering the Navy in July 1943. He has been overseas for 19 months.




If any of the stevedores were downhearted, as the outfit waited in Hawaii for orders to move west, about the prospect of being service troops with nothing exciting to tell their grandchildren, that worry was thoroughly dispelled when Guam was invaded. After 59 days on the same crowded LST's caused by the neceassity of turning back a couple of times while our battle fleet slugged it out with Japanese forces, the invasion convoy arrived at Guam. The stevedores lined the decks to watch the dive bombers and shelling of the enemy positions and saw the assault troops go ashore. On D-plus-4 the LST on which Haffner was riding moved in and dropped it's ramp. The Japs had been waiting and they began peppering the LST with mortar shells, wounding some of the men. The ship backed away until the Jap mortar crew in an old concrete water tank was wiped out by dive bombers. Haffner and his comrades came ashore the next day and set up pup tents in a swampy area near the shore. The first night ashore included a mortar barrage and a suicide charge toward the camp area.




A few days later, Haffner and another man from the stevedore outfit were ordered to deliver a message to the Marine Headquaters. After delivering the message they took the wrong trail back and had run the gauntlet past many cave openings. Several enemy soldiers were killed in the caves by Marines the following day. About two weeks after the Marines and Soldiers landed on Guam, the stevedores in Haffner's outfit unloaded the first American ship to drop anchor in Apra harbor. Now, as they look at the harbor and other parts of the island, it is hard for the stevedores to realize that such great changes have taken place and such mountains of equipment and supplies have been unloaded in less than a year. It's a miracle - 90% perspiration.


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