Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

Copyright, all rights reserved


Upon the completion of my four years tour of duty with the General Staff, on June 30th, 1932, I was ordered to Hawaii, via the Transport Republic, to sail from San Francisco in October, upon the expiration of three months leave which was granted me. We drove from Ft. Sam Houston to Summerville, via New Orleans, which we found to be quite interesting, especially the food at Antoine's (I did not especially care for "Oysters Rockefeller".)

Shortly after arriving in Summerville, due to the failure of Congress to enact an Army Appropriation Bill, a system of "payless furloughs" was instituted and all leaves of absence were cancelled, the officers concerned being directed to report for temporary duty at a suitable location. I reported for duty with the North Atlantic Coast Artillery District in New York City. Shortly afterwards I requested that I be authorized to embark on the Republic from New York instead of from San Francisco, but for some reason that I could never understand this request was disapproved and it became necessary for me to transport my family (including myself) across the continent in order to embark on the Republic at San Francisco.

We decided that we might as well make the trip as enjoyable as possible, so we took passage on the Grace Line from New York to San Francisco, touching at many cities on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central America. The trip was a most enjoyable one (especially as I was not this time in command of troops), although about all that I now remember about it is that we bought some big straw Mexican hats at some place in Mexico.

Upon arriving in Honolulu, in October, 1932, I was assigned (by Brig. Gen. Abernethy, Commanding the Hawaiian Separate Coast Artillery Brigade) to the Harbor Defenses of Pearl Harbor, Fort Kamehameha, where I became Harbor Defense Executive Officer.

I recall one incident that occurred while I was on this duty.

Major General B. H. Wells, a very able and competent officer, was in command of the Hawaiian Department. He was very much interested in the War Plan and he arranged with the Navy for a Combined Navy--Coast Artillery Exercise to involve a naval attack on Pearl Harbor. I was in charge of the Coast Artillery defense. Realizing that the Navy attack on Pearl Harbor would probably include an attempt by a submarine to enter the dredged channel into Pearl Harbor, I kept two Barrier Searchlights in position across the entrance constantly all night, with an observer on a DPF instrument maintaining constant observation of the two intersecting beams, and I personally kept them under observation practically continuously. About 2:30 in the morning General Abernethy called me on the phone and said that General Wells had called him and stated that a submarine had just entered Pearl Harbor. He was much exercised that it had not been detected and fired upon. I informed General Abernethy that the entrance had been under constant observation all night and that no submarine had entered it. In a few minutes General Abernethy called me again and stated that General Wells had again stated positively that a submarine had entered, that the Coast Artillery had fallen down on their job and that he wanted prompt and effective steps taken to prevent a recurrence of such manifest inefficiency. I told General Abernethy to tell General Wells that I would be personally responsible for the report that no submarine had entered during the Exercise.

The official relations were quite strained during the remainder of the Exercise, and I was by no means personally unconcerned.

General Wells called General Abernethy next morning, stating that he had personally arranged with the Admiral for a submarine to try to run through the entrance at 2:30 a.m. but that he had just been advised by the Admiral that, for some reason, it had been necessary to change the plans at the last

minute and to cancel the attempted run by of the submarine, although General Wells had not been notified of the change in plan. General Wells apologized fully for his uncomplimentary and unfair remarks the night before, and at the critique he complimented the Coast Artillery on its efficiency during the Exercise.

Due to the expiration of the tour of duty of Colonel A. L. Fuller as Chief of Staff, HSCAB, General Abernethy relieved me from duty with the Harbor Defenses of Pearl Harbor and assigned me as Chief of Staff at his Headquarters, with station at Fort DeRussy, effective August 21st, 1933. I enjoyed this duty, particularly in view of the fact that during the period of several months that General Abernethy was on sick report I carried on the work of the Headquarters.

During this period I was invited by Lt. Cmdr. Bayless, Commander of the Coast Guard Cutter "Itasca" to accompany him on an inspection trip to all the islands of the Hawaiian Islands west of Hawaii, including French Frigate Shoal, Gardner Island, Laysan Island, Midway Island and Kure (Ocean) Island (about 1200 miles from Japan). This was an interesting trip (June 18-28, 1934).

At that time Midway Island was used only as a submarine cable station, the personnel of the station being quartered in a building very similar to an Army barracks. These men had much free time, and they spent much of it in studying the abundant bird and fish life at hand. All these islands were uninhabited, except Midway. They are all bird refuges. On Midway, French Frigate Shoals and Laysan, thousands and thousands of the North Atlantic Albatross, or "gonies", arrive from Alaska and the Arctic region with the first high winds in October and nest together on the open sand. They arrive, to breed, almost on schedule time; so much so, in fact, that every year sweepstakes are made up among the cable operators in connection with this event -- which occurs about the 20th of October. They build their nests on the sand, and the female lays only one egg.

One of the cable operators told me about a little incident that I thought rather amusing. He was out one day on the beach, which was covered with goney nests, the females all setting on their single eggs. A female Frigate bird (the hawks of the sea) landed, looking for a place to nest. After carefully surveying the situation, and after having noted the advantages and disadvantages of the thousands of nests she could see, she decided upon one which apparently had just the exposure, construction and coloring that she considered most suitable to her needs, and, waddling over to that nest, she drove off the mother goney bird and took possession of the nest. This was quite a normal procedure and the interest lay in what followed. The Frigate bird rolled the goney bird's egg out of the nest, then settled down on the nest and layed her own egg. Shortly afterwards she flew away and the poor goney mother climbed back on the nest and draped herself over the Frigate bird's egg, presumably hatching it in about two weeks. The cable man regretted that he did not have time to remain in observation until the coming out party as he would have been much interested in observing the presumably mixed emotions of the goney mother on hatching a Frigate bird.

I recall one other incident during this period, which may be of interest to you. Our three year tour of duty was drawing to a close. Shirley (who, incidentally, had become an accomplished surf boarder) came to her mother one day and said she thought she ought to learn to dance at least one Hula before coming home. So they went to a well known Hula teacher near the Post and she gave Shirley the music for one Hula (on a record) together with a sheet of instructions as to the gestures that accompanied the music. Shirley brought them home and spent the entire afternoon practicing the Hula. Next day she danced the Hula for the teacher, who then gave her another record with its accompanying script. Shirley practiced that Hula all afternoon and mastered it. This process was repeated for some 15 days, Shirley learning a new Hula each day.

The teacher gave an Exhibition of Hula dancing each year at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. She came to us and begged that Shirley be allowed to participate in this Exhibition -- which was a very important one to the teacher. After much discussion we agreed. When the night came the teacher said to the large and strange audience: "I have been teaching the Hula for many years. During the course of 15 lessons most students learn to dance perhaps two or three Hulas. I have just had a pupil, Miss Shirley Gardner, who, in 15 lessons has learned to dance 15 Hulas. I would not have believed this possible. She will dance 12 of these Hulas for you tonight, 9 in a group and 3 as solos. I think you will be as enthusiastic about her as I am." As a matter of fact Shirley stole the show and was given much enthusiastic applause, being called upon for many encores. Personally I agreed with the audience. I have never seen anyone dance a Hula as gracefully as Shirley did on this occasion, and I shall always remember it with pleasure.

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