They made the port of call a few days later at Liverpool. He was still not used to the idea of those “ports” often being miles from the coast. Many of them were upriver from the coast like this one. The city was industrial to its core, grimy and gray. In spite of that it had a bustle and liveliness to it from all the activity in the dock area and the constant flow of supplies off ship and on their way to other parts of England. He didn’t know it but most of their cargo was destined for southern England and the build up for D-Day. This trip he drew shore patrol duty. It was the first time he had that. He knew it was because he was a little bigger than most and he didn’t drink. The Navy did have some regular shore patrol seaman but the bulk of them during the war were on temporary assignment from the ships in port.
He was teamed up with a Chief Petty Officer which he really liked because he was experienced and could show him the ropes. They would work with the local Bobbies when needed but mostly they were there to keep drunk sailors from making trouble. While on patrol they were approached and told of a brawl taking place a couple of blocks away and they were needed because it involved Navy personnel and Army troops. He started to jog off to the location but the Chief grabbed him by the arm and told him to slow down and walk there. Maybe it would be over when they got there he suggested. So they walked. But when they arrived it was still in progress, they could hear it from several buildings away. It was a pub naturally and when he opened the door he was met by a soldier with his mouth bleeding profusely and one of his teeth missing. Two Bobbies arrived at the same time and he was glad to see them. They went inside as a group and it was a scene from hell with men fighting for no apparent reason and no particular distinction among combatants. He followed the leads of the others as they began grabbing them one by one and taking them outside where they made them sit down. One big Army fellow told a Bobbie he was going to beat his brains out. But the Bobbie calmly took his baton and used it to rap the man on his hands. The first swipe broke fingers. But he wouldn’t stop so he hit him again on the forearm, hard. He didn’t know if that blow broke his bones but he crumpled to the floor whimpering. No one else made a challenge to them after that. They were all taken to the port stockade. He was glad to get back on board ship. He did learn that it is not how hard you hit but how effectively you do it. That Bobbie sure knew how to control an opponent with only that baton.
Months later on another ship he looked at a vast armada of other ships. There had never been any convoy like this. There were ships as far as he could see in every direction. The Normandy invasion had started the endless train of supplies was still making its way across the Channel. The main cargo they were carrying was a train engine. He wondered why they needed that. Surely there were trains in France. Anyway, that was their load and it was unloaded at Cherbourg after they spent a day waiting for clearance to the dock. Everyone was afraid of buzz bombs since they had been unleashed by the Germans recently. They rightly feared they would be used to attack the supply lines. But that never happened. They only saw a few German aircraft and they were reconnaissance flights. He didn’t know it then but his fighting was over.
There was one more voyage in the Atlantic then to the Pacific. But there is was backwater islands already secured. There were many alerts and alarms about enemy aircraft and subs but none ever attacked a convoy of his. Heat, humidity and tedium beyond description. The War for him just frittered away. There was no magic moment, no beat of the drums. He was stateside when the bomb was dropped on Japan. He had no idea what a nuclear bomb was or how it worked but he understood it was big. More importantly he meant that he would not have to be part of the force to invade Japan. The word and rumors about the suicide planes and losses were already flowing throughout the ranks in spite of censorship and the Navy’s best effort to restrict knowledge of the losses at Iwo and Okinawa. They knew that thousands of sailors had been killed in those invasion and that things would be worse off the coast of Japan. No matter where they were they would be within range of the Jap planes and subs. Relief was not the right word. It was a rebirth. He would live and at least have the chance to stumble or race to success. He could be with his beloved Jenny. They offered him a promotion to Chief but he didn’t want to sail the seas anymore. She met him at San Francisco and they arranged a ride home with another couple by offering gas money. They left the Bay into the rising sun and many more to follow. The setting sun was not going to be the cold deep but one surrounded by family.
Every day was his gift. Gratitude was engrained, he remembered that many never had the chance to be grateful. He had an ordinary experience for the “Duration”. The remarkable thing was that he always considered it ordinary to do the right, the duty required.