My Life in Review: Have I been Lucky or What?

Golden Anniversaries Relished in Wake of WWII Generation

In May 1995, shortly before Dr. Crandall went into the hospital, he sent this article to the Jamestown Post Journal where it was published after his death on July 3. This story appears is a somewhat different form in Dr. Crandall's memoirs and is included here because it emphasizes the pride he felt in his role as a U.S. Naval Officer in World War II and the strength of his marriage to Jill Crandall with whom he would have celebrated fifty-five years of marriage in November, 1995.

This summer—from May through August—has become a season of golden anniversaries for the World War II generation. They have triggered vivid reminiscences of those climactic events—V.E. Day, V. J. Day, the signing of the treaty—which marked the successful conclusion of the war 50 years ago and have evoked a nostalgia, even celebratory mood.

Just as those events which have been shared by millions provide us with collective memories so were individuals the beneficiaries of personal experiences which form the basis of each person's own golden anniversary. In my case, I was the beneficiary of an amazing concentration of circumstances which, 50 years later, constitute a special golden anniversary and has become one of those true Stories People (like to) Tell.

In February 1945, after serving 18 months in the Southwest Pacific, I became eligible for stateside leave if I were properly relieved of my command of the LCI(L) 430 and if I could obtain transportation back to the United States. As you can imagine, I was inclined to take advantage of that opportunity of getting to the "Golden Gate" before '48 and seeing my wife, Jill, at the earliest possible moment.

In fact, I was so eager that I impulsively wrote Jill, who was teaching at Jamestown High School, urging her to resign her position and prepare to meet me in San Francisco. Because of the multiple uncertainties vis-a-vis the availability of a replacement, the impact of operation plans, the censorship restrictions on personnel movements and transportation arrangements there was no way a date for the rendezvous could be determined.

Moreover, the transmission of such information was strictly forbidden even if it had been available. Yet, in a fit of intuition, or impetuosity, I did designate a specific time for her to come to the Golden Gate. The designated date? "My father's birthday." No further disclosure was necessary and my communique was not subject to censorship.

The projected date, my father's natal day, was May 13. I had no rational basis for selecting that day other than it was known to Jill and non-censorable and that it was three months away, providing time for hoped-for developments. Actually it was simply an arbitrary item on my wish-list.

Jill responded to my arbitrary request with the traditional Navy "wilco" (will comply). Thus, the die had been cast marking the beginning of a painful period for watchful waiting while days turned into weeks. The first break came a month later when my replacement was approved by the flotilla commander.

Now I was transferred to a floating dormitory filled with other officers awaiting transportation. The days dragged on: March evolved into April. Finally as "the cruelest month," neared its demise, a returning convoy was assembled. A colleague, Dick Hughes and I were assigned berths on the USS Octans, a pre-war "banana boat." At long last the ships weighed anchors and struck out in an easterly direction through Pacific waters. As April metamorphosed into May the convoy slowly but inexorably traversed the broad Pacific, bypassed Pearl Harbor and headed for the mainland. For another feverish fortnight we continued to plow the waves.

At first light on May 15, we spied the headlands of the California coast. Minutes later, the sunrise illuminated the girders and cables of the Golden Gate Bridge, a sparkling jewel on the eastern horizon. Two hours later, the USS Octans glided under the magnificent structure, moved up the bay and docked at 10 a.m.

We boarded a Navy bus full of exuberant returnees and proceeded into Union Square, site of the St. Francis Hotel, our designated message center. Rushing up to the information desk, we breathlessly blurted , "Any messages for Lt. Hughes or Lt. Crandall?" The receptionist's answer was almost indifferent, "Yes, they were here about half an hour ago. Said they'd be back about noon." That news so casually delivered struck us like a thunderbolt. It was 10:30 a.m., an hour and a half to wait. Twenty-one months and 90 minutes. Now that 90 minutes stretched before us like 21 months.

How could we fill that yawning gap? We entered the main dining room, ordered but couldn't eat the extravagant breakfast and paid the bloated bill. We wandered around the main floor corridors of that luxury hotel painfully aware of how shabby we looked in our hand-pressed khakis alongside a group of senior army and navy officers in their resplendent dress uniforms acting as aides to the delegates to the conference organizing the United Nations. We continued to pace the lobby floor like the restless expectant fathers.

Then at 11:45 a.m., our wives came through the revolving doors of the lobby entrance. We rushed up to meet them, embraced, but spoke not a word.

Jill and I walked out of the St. Francis, started up the street to Nob Hill, climbed the sidewalk leading to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, rode the elevator to The Top of the Mark and went into the elegant restaurant with its grand view of the city by the bay. Not until we were seated did we speak. Even then I have no idea of what was said. I was in a trance, enveloped in euphoria.

Finally we commenced a coherent conversation. I learned that she had just arrived that morning, that she had crossed the Oakland Bridge on the Union Pacific's City of San Francisco at the same time the USS Octans had moved under the Golden Gate Bridge.

It appears that the remarkable developments which reached their culmination that morning were rooted in my impulsive and cryptic identification of a designated date. Despite an intervening time span of three months, and over 10,000 mile space dimension and countless uncontrolled variables of wartime conditions, we had achieved simultaneous arrival at the point of rendezvous.

Uncanny intuition? Romantic coincidence? Deus ex machine? Whatever it was, its culmination consisted of golden moments not far from the Golden Gate, leaving golden memories behind. This summer has provided us with a special golden anniversary as it has for many others.

Click here to see a photo of Jack and Jill Crandall at the Top of the Mark in the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Fransisco after Jack's return to the United States in 1945.

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