Woodrow Morrison The Flat Tire Defense - P.O.W. Report

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Woodrow Morrison The Flat Tire Defense

Woodrow makes regular posts on the Tlingit and Haida people of Alaska Facebook page, you are encouraged to follow it!

byDr. Woodrow Ḵáawan Sangáa, BA, JD.

Hydaburg has always produced a good crop or Characters. One of my favorites was Lee (Skunboy or Skunner) Charles. There were a lot of stories about Skunner going A.W.O.L. (Absent Without Leave) but he never seemed to get into trouble. 

After completing Boot Camp in San Diego, Ca. I was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center at Waukegan, Illinois to attend Electronics Technician School – 38wk. Training – that began in July 1963.

The first time I went A.W.O.L. was in October..., went back to Haskell Institute (Indian Boarding School), in Lawrence, Kansas for Halloween. I was gone for the weekend but managed to get back in time for Monday classes, buddies covered for me.

I had spent Christmas at home only once after I left in 1955 to start high school, so requested 30 days leave but was granted only 10 days. At that time all Service Personnel who traveled (by air) traveled on Stand-by. It took me a couple of days to get home and when I got home I told my mom I had 3 weeks. Thus when I started back I was already 3 days A.W.O.L. and, because of bad weather, I had to over-night in Ketchikan.

While in Seattle I decided to visit some relatives and went to the home of one of my cousins, Herb, and, he told me my older sister was in the hospital with some kind of virus infection. So the next day I went to visit her. She was pretty sick so I stayed for an extra day... now I was 11 days A.W.O.L.

We were told that if we had trouble getting back to our Command to contact the nearest military command and report in to them. So I called a Naval Air Station in the Seattle Area and reported in to them and when I expected to arrive at my duty station. After spending another day with my sister, I decided I had better get back before I started missing classes.

We left Herb's house at about 4:30am, headed for the Sea-Tac Airport – nasty weather, raining an storming. I was able to catch a flight to Chicago. And, as soon as I arrived at the base, applying the “Skunner Principle”, I went to the Chief Master at Arms Office and turned myself in.
There was another Seaman ahead of me. I think a First Class Petty Officer had the duty and, after he got the guy's particulars he asked him, “How long Sailor?” The Seaman answered, “Two years.” The 1st Class clarified his question, “I mean, not how long have you been in the Navy. How long were you gone?” The Seaman again answered, “Two Years.”

“You've been gone for TWO YEARS?” He asked with disbelief. The Seaman nodded, “Yes, sir.” The 1st looked around and said, “Off the record, how did you do it?”

The Seaman shrugged his shoulders, “I packed my Seabag and went home and got a job in a factory. Then one day my dad told me that maybe I should go back because if I get charged with desertion, you would never stop looking for me. So I dug out my seabag, put my uniform back on and... here I am.” I don't know what happened to him.

It was my turn. I was Ordered to appear for Captain's Mast (Navy's version of a minor Courts Marshall). I was pretty scared... I might get pulled out of Electronics school, maybe some Brig (Jail) time. I crossed my fingers, I just might have an “ace in the hole”... to explain.
When cousin Loren Sanderson was in the US Air Force, he went AWOL, returned, turned himself in and told one of the best BS stories I ever heard, explaining his Absence.

I reported for Captain's Mast and had to wait my turn... finally, my name was called. I moved smartly up to stand in front of the podium and stood at attention. I had to crane my neck to see the Officer standing behind it: he was about 3 feet higher than me. He stared down at me for (seemed like for hours) a couple of minutes then,

“My name is Cutter, Captain Slade Cutter; you are the grass and I am the cutter.” He peered down his nose at me then asked, “Absent Without Leave from a Duty Station, is a serious offense. What have you to to say for yourself?”

I launched into Airman Sanderson's story, some of it was mine; “Sir! I went home to Alaska for Christmas, the first time in 6 years, and because of bad weather, instead of making it home in one day, I did not arrive until day 3. The weather there was cold and clear, that is, until the day before I was to depart to return here to my Duty Station. A Blizzard. By the 3rd day it was blowing itself out but the snow was too deep for planes to land.

My dad asked one of his nephews to hitch up his dogs and take me to where there was a larger airfield... (I was praying that the Captain did not know anything about Alaska, specifically, where Hydaburg is located – SOUTHeastern Alaska). I continued.


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