Picky Eaters

We called it “The Rock” and counted the days when we would rotate back to the land of the big PX. Hawaii wasn’t exactly the paradise we expected. The Marine Corps Base at Kaneohe is on a peninsula that forms Kaneohe Bay, with the Pali mountains as a backdrop. The Air Wing enlisted barracks was a group of two story, flat-roofed, stucco buildings with open squad bays that were connected by breezeways. The 212 barracks had the MPs on one side and the helo boys from HMM-161 on the other. Next to the 161 barracks was the mess hall. I arrived with a group of replacements for the guys whose two year tour was over. The barracks had an upper and lower open squadbay arranged in cubicles marked off by green metal wall lockers, and a central corridor. Each cubicle had six single bunks (or racks), as I recall. Each rack had a mosquito net which was a necessity on that side of the island, called the “Windward Side”. The mosquito nets were needed because of the mosquitos that were bred in the swamps between the base and the mainland. Those bugs were huge. One night, I forgot to put my net down. About 0300 I felt a thump on my chest. Looking down, I saw a Kaneohe mosquito turning over my dog tag to check my blood type. Not only were they huge, they were picky eaters.

Norm Spilleth
Cpl. 1960-1964

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31 thoughts on “Picky Eaters”

  1. Ya know, with much experience sleeping in the open many years ago in a similar “paradise”, I actually believe this sea story.

  2. Thanks for the memories. HMM-161, VMF-232, VMA-212, VMA-214, H&HS-13, and MACS-2 made up MAG-13. And then we also had the 4th Marines, all of us composed the 1st MARINE BRIGADE, FMF. We used to say leave the cockroaches alone, you’re only going to trip over them and break your leg.

  3. I was stationed with HQ&HQSQ from 1957 to 59. Having come there from the 8th Marines, mosquitoes or not, it was good duty.

  4. I was there 68 to 70 at the Dispensary. Spent about two months in the barracks before moving off base. The 1st Sargent wasn’t to fond of navy and each week on Friday we came back to barracks to find our racks all torn apart, typical stuff with mattress on floor an sheets and blankets all over. Now this only happened to navy side of squad bay so one week we had our marine counterparts prepare our area for inspection. You guessed it, same result. One of my most enjoyable duty stations.

    1. I do not know why the 1st Sargent would f— with the Corpsman, other than perhaps his wife ran off with a Corpsman at some point in his military career. Never the less, my time (4 years) in the Corps as a 0351, I never saw any Marine mess with a Corpsman. We respected them and we respected their job. When the s–t hit the fan they were there for us, and we were there for them. I personally know MANY Marines that thanked GOD for the Corpsman.

  5. 2ndBn/3rd Marines (78-81) And never associated that Captain Mattis of 3/3 was the same SecDef Mattis until the ajoining story came about.

    1. HEY,i remember you! you were in H&S . I was major Steeds driver for a while. Then got kicked to Golf co,Gary McKruit 80-83.

  6. Norm, I don’t think you’re going to get much sympathy from the rest of these Marines talking about how hard it was being a Hawaii Marine. I was myself a Hawaii Marine (85-88) and when I tell other Marines that they usually say “Hawaii Marine” with much derision, the implication being not a real Marine. We had some tough places to train such as Puhakaloa Training Area on the big Island and the Kuhookoos, but other Marines don’t want to hear about that. My favorite training was at Bellows Air Force base. Doing amphibious landings during the day and getting some swim time on the beach in the evenings. Good stuff.

    1. Firstly, as everyone knows, REAL Marines come from Parris Island. Secondly, MAG 13 went up to Bellows on maneuvers in October, 1962. VMA21w, VMA 214, and VMF 232 along with HMM 161. Simulating a forward airbase, we lived in 8 man tents. The head was A piss tube at the end of the muddy street next to a row of outdoor toilet seats. The grunts supplied realistic guerrilla attacks when they busted into our tent with the weapons on full auto. Also, to add reality, they blew a hole in the active runway one afternoon. Long story short, we had to cut it short, return to base and pack our s seabags. Kennedy had just blockaded Cuba and we were going to war.

      1. Was there at this time. I was an instructor at the NBC School and was an umpire during the operation. I was also there when the Brigade left for Vietnam. Sgt Acuff.

  7. Stationed there with H&S 1/3 Eng Plt. and later A Co. 9th Eng. Jan 70 to Jan 71. Mosquitoes not too bad on our end of the base. Maybe they didn’t like blood from grunts. It was a different story in the “field” in the mountains at Huhuku up around the sugar cane mill. I think some of the guys felt like they lost a pint of blood after a week or so up there. As far as the runway, the little short runway that angles into the main runway was a SATS or Short Assault Tactical Strip, built by our platoon in the late summer and fall of 1970. It used a jet engine to power a catapult to launch aircraft and an arrestor cable to stop them upon landing. Worked as designed as best as we could tell. As for the duty there, it was fantastic for a country boy.

  8. I was stationed there with C/1/4 and F/2/4 From March 1960 to March 1962. Great weather, good training, expensive liberty. Scary cab ride down the Pally Road. Vampire Liberty through the swamp. Yea the mosquitoes were big and mean.

    1. I was a PFC plane captain on A4 Skyhawks at Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station from 1961to 1963. A PFC didn’t make enough money to buy a car back in those days, so the only way to get to Honolulu for liberty call was in a taxi cab. The taxi cabs were actually a fleet of used hearses owned and operated by a local civilian company that provided exclusive, non-stop, round-trip service over the Pali Mountains to Honolulu. Only 50 cents, the cab/hearse held nine guys and didn’t leave until it was full. It left from the ball field behind the barracks, drove through the Pali tunnel, and stopped on Beretania Street in old Honolulu. Now, Beretania Street was only a block away from Hotel Street, our first introduction to the pleasures of the South Pacific. Of course most of us didn’t go much farther. We knew it as s##t street back then. It was a street right out of “From Here to Eternity”. Old two story, wooden buildings with bars on the ground floor and dance halls or massage parlors on the second floors. Filled with Sailors and Marines on weekend liberty and patrolled by teams of HASP, Hawaiian Armed Services Police, in jackboots and Billy clubs. There was the Singapore Bar with the King ballroom upstairs. The King ballroom had a Philippine brass band providing music and girls providing fifty cent dances. I spent fifteen bucks there one night in about as many minutes before I realized that the band only played two bars of a song before going to the next one.

      And then there was the Hubba-Hubba Club where Gina the Italian volcano danced. Gina was a stripper with long red hair. She was married to a Honolulu cop who she shot one night in her dressing room. On another night, I thought I’d get my fortune told by a gypsy who had a table in a doorway on the street. I wasn’t as much interested in my fortune as I was in the gypsy, who had a low cut dress and lovely décolletage, not to mention a tattoo and a gold tooth with a silver star mounted on it that she flashed when she smiled. So, I popped in to have my palm read. Somehow she found out I was from New Jersey. She told me my girlfriend was waiting for me back home, then she told me there was a terrible snow storm in Newark and people were starving. She pointed to a can with a slot in the top on a little table and told me to put money in there for the poor people in Newark. “Wait a minute”, says I, “I might be dumb, but I’m not stupid”, and I got up and walked through the curtains, back out on the street. I didn’t know anybody in Newark, never been there. She came running after me, shaking her fist, yelling “I put a hex on you, you gonna be a big crook”. “You gonna be another Al Capone”, all because I didn’t donate to the poor people back in Newark. Well, I never had the luck to be another Al Capone, so I guess gypsy fortunes are not what they seem to be. I did get a good peek at that décolletage though, which was the whole point.

      1. rode those cabs many times over the Pali. I was at Kaneohe three years, 1959 to 1962. 1st Composite Radio Co. FMFPAC. MOS 2533/2571

  9. In HQ Sqd across from 212, Nov 64-Nov66 and yes they were big. i think thats why the little lizards hid behind the mirrors in the head.

  10. Spent three years at Kaneohe Marine Corps air station, as it was called then. Arrived in Hawaii in May 1959 before statehood in August of that year. We were forming up 1st Radio Co. and were first stationed at Camp Smith for a month or so before moving over to our barracks on Kaneohe. I was there from 1959 to May 1962 for total three years. Former Commandant Al Gray was our operations officer and he was a captain at the time. We did many TDY trips to the Philippines, Okinawa, Japan, Taiwan and once to 29 Palms. 1st radio Co. evolved into 1st Composite Radio Co. and then 1st Radio BN during Vietnam days. Speaking of which, we sent about 40 of our guys to Vietnam in January of 1962 before anyone had heard of Vietnam. Our motor pool,consisting of many 6X6 trucks with radio vans, radio jeeps, etc. was located down near the main gate (at the time) and the lagoon. My MOS was 2533 (radio telegraph operator and later obtained the MOS of 2571 (special radio operator) while at 1st Radio co.

  11. WOW Norm :… you brought back all sorts of Good Memories [ never really left ]. There is not enough space here to write it all. Will try to condense as much as possible and will fill in upon request. I probably passed Norm on his way out as I was arriving. [ the meat 1st ] Grunt Marine 62 – 66 Nam May 7th 65 -March 7th 66 Kaneohe-64-April 65..??? PFC / L/Cpl Bravo 1/4 3rd Mar Div. Kaneohe as 1st Marine Brigade. I think the Air Wing was still HMM 161. Was married and had Apt in Honolulu right below ” PunchBowl” Anybody remember the ” Suicide Cab Com.” that took you from base over the PALI to Honolulu ((-: We trained on most of the Islands besides Oaho …especially Molokai. Did we understand all the Jungle Training for ” Guess Where “…? Hell NO…! We did “Raider ” training off 2 Nuke Subs. Metragal + Halabut ..? [ Junk Now ] We did a Regimental 3 day exercise at north end of Oahu for 3 days 2 nights. Rain-Rain-Rain…Gee Where where we introduced to the ” Monsoon ” Season…!!! We had a Black Korean War Marine [ Sgt Allen ..? ]and a 1st LT we called Crazy Legs because they ran our Asses off around the Quad ALLTHE TIME. Sgt Allen could run us for Hrs and NEVER repeat the same Clean + Nasty Cadence. We would cuss the Battalion Co.s as we ran by their Buildings. BUT when we got to Nam …we never lost a Marine to Heat Exhaustion…No even close. ” G-d Bless You Sgt Allen where ever you are. You will NEVER be forgotten…!. Beginning of 65 units started to disappear. ” Oh they just going on ? Deployments…! Hmmmmm ? BS….! They finally got 1/4 on the Iwo Jima..? to Pendleton…???? Noooooooo! What the hell we doing in Okinawa..? [ Camp Schwab ] Playing Raiding villages with locals dressed up in Black PJs and straw coolie hats. Well off we go again on the Helicopter carrier USS Princeton. and to end this literary masterpiece …. below deck on May 6th we are told…. I WILL NEVER FORGET THE WORDS… ” Well Marines the land you see outside is the “RVN” TOMORROW…. May 7th ! 1965 … WE ARE GOING TO LAND THERE [B1/4 on Fat-Ugly UH34s] AND PROVIDE SECURITY FOR THE SEABEES WHILE THEY BUILD AN AIRBASE ON THIS PLACE CALLED ” CHU LAI “….WE WILL BE THERE FOR ABOUT 3 WEEKS THEN RETURN HOME..! [ we did not know they were telling families back in Hawaii that we will not be coming back for about 13 months.]…..And the rest fellow Marines…is F*****g History…! Oy Vay…!! Period…!! ((((-: Who has a couple of Tissues..?

  12. I was stationed at MCAS Kaneohe from 1976 to 1978, I was an aircraft mechanic (6028) working on T-28s that belonged to Station Operation and Maintenance Squadron (SOMS). It was very good duty, I bought myself a 67 GTO and had a lot of fun returning to base from Waikiki at night, on what was then the Pali Highway; it was my first car, I am still amazed I did not go airborne coming out of the tunnel crossing into the Windward side of the island on one of those nights. A fun place to be but you would eventually get “island fever”, Oahu is a very small island, and it keeps getting smaller the longer you are there.

    1. Was @ K-bay from 7/65-2/66 with 1/5 Comm Platoon. We used the barracks that part of 1stMarBrig occupied before deploying. I was sent to base communications which had an underground comm center. Have to admit, that was great duty.Deployed 2/66 as BLT 1/5 on USS Princeton LPH-5 & the Pickaway & Alamo. Was aboard the Princeton along with our taxis, HMM-362 & later HMM-364 until June66, then Combat base Hill54.

  13. The Kaneohe Base was known as the Kaneohe Naval Air/Sea Rescue Station during and right after WWII. I finished boot camp Nov. 1946 and was posted to the replacement battalion at Pearl Harbor. After being there for 20+ days I was assigned to Kaneohe Bay guard company, commanded by a Captain Luckel. Your description of the barrack sure sounds like the same barrack I was in until I returned to the states in Aug. 1948. It doesn’t surprise me though that when the navy gave it up to the Marine Corps they wouldn’t upgrade anything. We didn’t have mosquito nets and I don’t recall a problem with those pesky things; but we were overrun with mongooses which had been imported to get rid of snakes on the island. Our pay was so little that we had to save up 2 months pay to make one liberty to Honolulu. Otherwise it was the base slop-shoot and would always involve fights with the base sailors. I didn’t regret my time there because for an 18 yr old kid just out of hi school, it was a great time in my life. Thanks for your service, and Semper Fi, Marines.

  14. The rifle range took up the inside of the crater. I was there from 1-61 to 12-62 in Amtracs. Had an apartment in Waikiki and until we got someone in there with a car I made many rides over the Pali in the taxis. I was there at Bellows with the grunts during the mentioned field problem and after a week of landings the grunts were given the option of going back with us (Amtracs) for the hour or so trip back to Kaneohe or hump it back for hours and hours. It was decided to hump! We were given HAWAII $20’s on payday

  15. I was at K-Bay with MACS Duece then MACS 4 on Monkey Mountain after. I had an old Chevy Panel Truck that I would load up with Marines going into town on liberty. You always asked how many trips over the Pali your prospective auto purchase would make. Great duty, great weather and loved those Phantoms. Used to drink Ripple Wine and fish for Hammer Head Sharks in the Bay.

    1. K-Bay was a major breeding ground for hammerheads in the South Pacific. We had a dock that went into the bay from our flight line at VMA 212. Our tradition was to grab a new pilot after his first flight and throw him a into the bay off the dock. We told him not to worry about the hammerheads, the barracudas usually scared them away. Needless to say there was usually a fistfight involved. Tradition ended with the next CO.

  16. In the 1st months of 68 MAG 24 at Cherry Pt. was in the process of moving to Hawaii and being replaced by MCCRTG 20. I put in for orders there and was planning on driving to CA with a Cpl. who was planning to ship his car over. Instead, I became a replacement for a kid who’s dad was already in Nam and got word to his son to refuse the orders. Since the orders were already cut, I only got 9 days leave + travel instead of the usual 20. I did get to stand in formation in the Honolulu airport while we refueled on the way to Okinawa. Vietnam proved to a life changer for me so I wouldn’t change anything if I had it to do over. Thanks to John for helping the Sea Bees build Chu Lai as I spent most of my time there.

  17. I was involved with the construction of the SATS airfield. Which incidentally stands for “Short Airfield For Tactical Support.” The Catapult was powered by two J-79 jet engines. We had many successful launches as well as arrested recoveries with the M-21 Arresting Gear. I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of duty at Kaneohe and, have made many trips to Oahu over the years.

  18. One of my best Corps memories was being a 2 day short timer at KBay. 10th Marines went out on maneuvers in 73 or 74 and only sickies and short timers on the rock were left behind. Naturally a few of us shorties bought beer and wearing just our trousers and tshirts we got blasted in one of the outside stairways at night. All of a sudden a Butterbar shines his light on us and barked “On your feet” – it was a challenge just to stand up. Butterbar asks me my name and rank and unit. Quickly I came up with “Green, Tom” (not me), Lance Corporal (I was a Corporal) and 3rd Marines (we were in the 10th). He asks me why are you here if you are in the 3rd Marines who live across the parade ground? I advised him because we were drinking! He then asks my buddy for name, rank, unit. I’m praying he caught on to lying because Butterbar didn’t ask for any IDs and there were no names on our tshirts. Yup he came up with Timmy Yabonski (oh God). Butterbar asks him to spell it. Buddy looks up and states “Y, uh (looks at me) A B O N S K (looks at me I?). Third buddy pulled it off. Butterbar chews our ass and said he would see us the next day at 3rd Marines formation. We all hid at the PX, movie, anywhere he couldn’t find us. Only when the plane left Hawaii did we feel saved. To this day I can see Butterbar going up and down rows of Marines with his boss behind him. Butterbar probably learned to ask for IDs from that point on.

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