White Hat, Gold Braid, and Marine Green — The Naval Career Of Lieutanant Commander Thomas J. Powell, Usn (Ret) 1932-1958, By Thomas Powell

by Thomas Powell (Burke Publishing, 2000; 210 pp. — ISBN 0970587007. Order from author, P.O. Box 499, Brackettville, TX 78832-0499; $14.95 + $3.50 s&h, TX residents add 8.25% sales tax).

In this narrative of the author’s reminiscences of his 26 years of U.S. Navy service, 1932-58, he provides the reader an enjoyable memoir. Of particular interest is the author’s pre-World War II enlisted service in the navy, a navy not remembered by many today. An example is during his recruit training there “were no bunks or lockers in the barracks. We slept in hammocks swung from jackstays, and kept our clothes in sea bags and our toilet articles in ditty bags. Picture living out of a suitcase for three months and you will get the idea.”

During his career the author served aboard several navy ships, among them the USS Saratoga and USS Helena, and with two Marine divisions, the Second and Third. In the pre-WWII years several names are mentioned that later became famous; W.F. Halsey, Marc Mitscher, and R.K. Turner to name a few.

Destiny, fate, or kismet placed the author within a few thousand yards of where Admiral Isaac C. Kidd was killed aboard the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor; where Admirals Daniel J. Callaghan (USS San Francisco) and Norman Smith (USS Atlanta) were killed in the Salomons; within a hundred yards of where army general Simon B. Buckner was killed on Okinawa and within twenty miles of where Admiral Henry M. Mullinnix went down with the USS Liscombe Bay near Makin Island. According to the author he knows of no one else who “served in actions where four flag officers and one general officer lost their lives.”

The author began his navy career as an enlisted “White Hat” and retired with the “Gold Braid” of an officer. His “Marine Green” experience was as a naval gunfire officer assigned to the Second Marine Division’s 8th Marines during WWII. “It was while slogging down that dusty road that I asked myself what the hell was I doing here. I thought I had joined the Navy. On Okinawa you could walk in mud with dust blowing in your face.” Later, in 1952, he once again served with the Marines, as a naval gunfire officer with the Third Marine Division.

The author ends his easy-to-read narrative with his retirement in 1958 after 26 years service, ten as a commissioned officer.