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Taken from The Gorgon, Spring, 2000

Now We Know What Happened to the Beer That Disappeared

Anybody who was there will never forget that night. It was holiday time but there was nothing jovial about all of us standing there on deck in the dark listening to Executive Officer John L. De Tar growling over the public address system that whoever made off with all those cases of beer better own up, or else.

Or else what? We dared not even guess. The Navy did not permit beer aboard ship except under lock and key for use ashore, and we had been allowed, on Christmas Day in 1945, to spend an afternoon on some tiny abandoned island in Sasebo Bay, with an allotment of two cans of beer apiece. There was considerable scrambling to locate any shipmates who didn't imbibe so that the real drinkers could down more than a few.

It was a drizzly day and standing there with a couple of cans of beer did not seem like any Christmas we had known before. Some of us who had downed more than a few shed our clothes and waded into the chilly water, ready to swim to a bombed Japanese cruiser resting on the bottom in the shallow water of the bay. It was farther out than we thought. Six of us grabbed a log and kept pushing toward the ship. Giving up finally, we headed back to the little island, coming ashore over a bed of coral, our bodies a bloody mess. Christmas! Bah!

And then, at night, the shocker. Everybody up. All hands (and bloody bodies) on deck. And we line up on the decks and listen to Commander De Tar's gravelly growling. He goes on and on. There will be hell to pay if the culprits don't own up.

Some of us were facing the lifeboats. "Maybe the beer is in the lifeboats," somebody whispered. "Yeah, the lifeboats," somebody else said. "The lifeboats, the lifeboats," the word passed down the line.

But that's not the way it happened. We know now. Henry A. White of Pamplico SC, who was with ComSubDiv 131 and later transferred to ship's company, says that after nearly all of us had left Euryale at San Francisco, that beer showed up. They were readying "Euryale for decommissioning at Mare Island, and Henry, who was a radioman, and Harold Mobbs, of San Antonio TX, a carpenter's mate, were sent down below decks as far as they could go, to "clean out."

Those of us who worked above decks don't follow it all exactly, but a;, Henry explains it, there is something called a cofferdam, "a watertight chamber located below the water line for the facilitation of repairs."

Anyway, Henry says he and Harold lifted the lid of the cofferdam and whaddayaknow -- six cases of stateside beer. Just then the officer in charge of their detail hollers down the ladder: "Everything all right down there, men?" And Harold and Henry holler back "Yes sir, everything is just fine sir, just fine."

The officer comes down the ladder, spies the beer. What to do? Result: The officer, Henry and Harold each somehow managed to get two cases of beer off the ship and off the base.

Henry studied journalism a couple of years, then went back into the Navy, retiring in 1961 as a chief warrant officer. He is second chief, known as Kicking Bear, of the Chicora-Waccamaw Indian People.

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