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Pearl Harbor

The Macaw left Funafuti November 14 and arrived at Pearl Harbor November 22, the last of three days of major combat on Tarawa. There had been some talk at Funafuti of the Macaw going to Tarawa to support the invasion there. She was ordered to Hawaii instead, but she may still have had a close brush with combat en route. Word came in of a Japanese submarine in her area, whereupon, by one account, Paul Burton strapped on a .45 automatic, climbed to the crow’s nest and spent the whole day looking for it. They never found it, which, by Van Buskirk’s lights, was just as well inasmuch as he figured the submarine would have been armed with a 5-inch gun, and the biggest gun the Macaw had was 3 inches. In seeking his prey, Burton took the Macaw off her prescribed course, a fact he did not want recorded in the ship’s log because the Navy took a dim view of course deviations. This occasioned an argument with Loughman, the executive officer — “kind of straight-laced … a good Catholic boy,” in the words of Radarman Robert Gonnoud — over falsifying the log. Burton won the argument. As Gonnoud noted, “He was the captain.”

When they got to Pearl Harbor, Van Buskirk’s broken leg having failed to set properly, he was transferred — along with several of his crewmates, suffering variously from ulcers, a hernia, hemmorhoids and chronic gastritis — to the naval hospital there.


Barbecue at the Nimitz Recreation Area, Pearl Harbor, ca. Nov-Dec 1943. Standing, from left: S1/c Edward James Wade, MoMM1/c Donald Ashley Whitmarsh, S1/c Clyde Tilman Isbel, CM3/c Robert Clyde Jacobsen, unidentified, GM1/c Ralph “Shorty” Enzweiler (facing away from the camera), Charles Eugene Pierson (I think), SoM3/c Nathan Edmund Turner, Lt. Bud Loughman, unidentified; sitting (or reclining), from left: unidentified, SM1/c Frank Bernard Zuroweste (leaning on table), QM2/c Herman Harold Ehlers, S1/c Claude Winford Hannah, BM2/c Ralph Joseph Mennemeyer, Cox John Francis Cunniff, RM2/c Dwight Calvin Harvey, BM2/c Charles Arnall Scott. (Click on photo to enlarge it. Click on back arrow to return to page.)


USS Macaw barbecue, Pearl Harbor, 1943

The rest of the crew got some liberty at Pearl Harbor. There were two barbecues ashore there for the Macaw crew, half of the crew at each. They ate barbecued beef, baked beans and garlic bread and drank some of the last of the quart bottles of Lucky Lager salvaged at Funafuti. Augie Koepke passed out — alcohol tended to have that effect on him. To revive him, his shipmates placed him in a tub of ice water they’d been using to keep their beer chilled.

Koepke seems to have had a sort of protective, nurturing, mother hen streak — evinced in everything from providing fellow shipwreck survivors coconut milk on New Caledonia, to rescuing a drowning civilian in the Oakland Estuary, to sewing canvas bags for shipmates on the Macaw, to setting up an unauthorized galley with Bosun’s Mate 2/c Ralph Mennemeyer and serving a lucky few Macaw shipmates an alternative to the ship’s less than savory Friday night fish dinners.

But he had another side— he was a professional warrior, after all — and he showed it one day in Hawaii. He and Gunner’s Mate Ralph “Shorty” Enzweiler repaired one day to a bar in Honolulu, where they encountered a civilian — a pretty big guy, Enzweiler recalled — who started making disparaging remarks about the Navy. When the Macaw men left, he followed them outside and shared more of his thoughts about their employer, whereupon, according to Enzweiler, Koepke wheeled about and kicked him in the groin. That ended their conversation.

Christmas dinner at Pearl Harbor was served aboard ship — roast turkey, baked ham and all the fixings, and a container of nuts and candy the men could help themselves to on the way out. After dinner, shipmates Toby Hannah, Chuck Piersen, Jack Cunniff, Bob Jacobsen and Nathan Turner repaired to the base recreation center for beer and bowling.

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