Robert E. Enders: Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class
Last week, I was a guest speaker at a club meeting talking about my reward postcard collection. Prior to the actual start of the meeting I was visiting with a few of the club members when in walked an elderly gentleman wearing a World War II Veteran ball cap. I introduced myself to him and we started discussing his military service in the U. S. Navy during 1942-46.
We exchanged business cards. His said, “Robert Enders, Artist: oils, watercolor and pastels, landscapes and western scenes,” but didn’t mention his wood carving.
After the meeting, I learned that Robert, or “Bob,” 95 years-old, had served on a U.S. Navy hospital ship in the Pacific during and immediately after the war years.
Bob was quick to explain that he had not been in combat. Instead, he had worked for a heart specialist on a ward on a hospital ship, predominately the U.S.S. Bountiful. The ship had a lot of specialized medical wards. Each ward had a doctor, a nurse, and a pharmacist mate (corpsman).
Later, I asked Enders if he remembered the United States moving closer to war and if at the time he felt it was likely he’d be participating. He recalled learning about Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and then on the following day hearing President Roosevelt’s declaration of war on Japan. Roosevelt’s message was broadcast at a full assembly in the auditorium at Lyons High School (Kansas) when Bob was a senior.
Enders was able to complete one semester at Kansas State University before being drafted. Though his time in college was brief, his ROTC training helped him prepare for the military. He had hoped to study mechanical engineering; instead the military needed corpsmen. On the battle field the life-savers kept getting killed. When wounded soldiers yelled “Corpsman”, the medics, trained to respond, attracted Japanese enemy firepower.
Bob Enders was drafted in 1942 at eighteen years of age when he lived in Lyons. At the time his father, (William) Elmer Enders, was head of the draft board.
Bob Enders told me, “When you turned eighteen you were drafted. When I was drafted they took anybody, if they had a warm body.”
Enders said the Draft Board sent him to Fort Leavenworth where he was prepared to join the Army, but after sitting at the induction center all morning long he and the other men were informed that the Army quotas were full. That’s when they were told, ‘You’re going to the Navy,’ and “we were bused to Kansas City where we were sworn into the Navy.” But then, in another reversal, “we were informed the Marine Corps needed eight volunteers.” Hearing this, none of us moved or spoke. “You could have heard a pin drop,” recalled Enders. It didn’t discourage the sergeant-in-charge. He started pointing to the biggest men as he counted from one to eight. “You’re Marines,” he concluded.
In an understatement, Enders explained to me that during the war, “If they needed you somewhere, they put you somewhere.”
Enders was sent to Idaho for boot camp at the Farragut Naval Training Station. He recalled, “It was colder than a gold digger’s ass in the Klondike.” As recruits, they had boat training in Lake Pond Oreille. Enders recalled how the value of that training was questionable since they were only in rowboats. When they were rowing and took their oars out of the water, the oars iced up. He also remembered how bulldozers had to clear off the deep snow on the drill field so that the recruits could assemble and march.
At boot camp, Enders was selected to be the guidon bearer or guide, a significant position since it represented the unit and its commanding officer. Enders carried the guidon during drills and was under a giant microscope, put on the spot. He felt like he couldn’t make any mistakes.
After completing boot camp, Enders began Hospital Corps School at the same training center. Each man was promised that if he studied hard he could become a Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class. Enders studied hard and he was rewarded with that rank.
After corps school, Enders was sent to the naval hospital in Seattle, Washington. He worked on the ward as a corpsman at first and then was designated Master of Arms of Recreation and Rehabilitation. One example Enders gave to me of rehabilitation was that for the patients that shook uncontrollably, the staff had the men repairing watches so they could learn to control their nerves. Enders said the therapy worked. The men learned to stop their twitching.
Enders told me that from Seattle he was put in the Marines and left for San Diego by ship, hugging the coastline. I was puzzled about the move to another military branch, but Enders explained that the Marines didn’t have their own corpsmen so they used Navy medics.
Traveling by ship along the coast was rough due to the ground swells over the Continental Shelf. It was Bob’s first time on a ship and he was seasick all the way to San Diego. Fortunately for him, it was the last time he suffered from the motion of a ship.
From San Diego, Enders was sent to Guam. That’s where he boarded the USS Bountiful, a hospital ship. It became his military home until his tour of duty ended in 1946.
Enders kept the rank, Pharmacist’s Mate Third Class, his whole time in the Navy. Pharmacist Mate Description He explained to me that given the circumstances of his duties, making sure the injured and wounded were fed and taken care of on his ward, it wasn’t an assignment with much turnover. There were no battlefield promotions on the hospital ship.
Enders knew he had it good. “You had a nice clean bed to sleep in, food, and water. No one was shooting at you.”
To Be Concluded in Part Two: “Robert E. Enders and the USS Bountiful.” http://jimpotterauthor.com/robert-e-enders-part-2/
Until next time, happy writing and reading!
The Kansas Authors Club http://www.kansasauthors.org is a statewide organization that encourages and supports great writing. It’s divided into seven districts. In Hutchinson, Reno County, (part of District 6) we have monthly meetings at Hutchinson Community College. http://www.hutchcc.edu You’re invited. Questions? Contact Jim Potter, firstname.lastname@example.org