Left to right, PFC Phil Liguori, PFC Norm Spilleth, PFC Bill Jones, in the second deck squad bay of the VMA-212 barracks wearing our 782 gear after returning from our physical readiness test, sometime in 1963. photo from Norm Spilleth
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 were a group of two story flat roofed, stucco buildings with open squad bays that were connected by breezeways. The VMA-212 barracks had the MPs on one side and the helo boys from HMM161 on the other. Next to the HMM-161 barracks was the mess hall. The front of the buildings faced a grassy drill field ringed with banyan trees. On the other side was the MAG-13 headquarters and to the right was Kansas Tower on top of a hill. The barracks had an upper and lower open squad bays divided into six bunks (or racks) that formed cubicles by standard green wall lockers and a central corridor.
Mosquitoes were picky eaters
Each rack in the barracks had a mosquito net which was a necessity on the “Windward Side” side of the Island. The mosquito nets were needed because of the mosquitoes 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.
VMA-212 barracks in the background and three of our guys out tanning, photo from Norm Spilleth
Our barracks were two stories tall with open squad bays and roll open windows all around. There was also a wide ledge outside between the first and second stories. On the first floor (deck) there was the duty NCO office and a recreation room with TV and stereo. The roof was accessible by ladder from inside and the surface was covered with crushed rock which we called pebble beach and used for sunbathing. The problem was that it was off limits. Nobody was allowed up there. We would get warned by the duty NCO from time to time that we were observed on the roof by guards in Kansas tower who scanned the base with binoculars looking for trouble. Then we would move to the walkway above the breezeway that connected the barracks. Getting a deep Hawaiian suntan was a major preoccupation. We came up with our own mixture of baby oil and coconut oil that gave a really dark tan. After two years, we were all bronze Gods waiting to wow the ladies when we got back to the land of the big PX.
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