James McE. Brown ’43

Brown '43

James McE. Brown '43

(1926–    )
Navy, Radioman Third Class

Early Warning

It’s 1946, so WWII is over. I’m in the U.S. Navy, a Radioman 3rd Class on the USS Cape Johnson AP 172, a troop ship bringing troops home from the Pacific islands of Saipan and Ulithi.

Our ship is about 1,000 miles north of Honolulu headed for Portland, Oregon.

Standing on the upper deck looking out over the ocean I see a large number of small waves headed south. These waves are several feet apart and about one foot high.

I found our Navigation Officer and asked him, “Do these waves mean anything special?” He replied, “Yes, indeed they are the beginning of a tsunami.” He then explained that a tsunami is a giant wave usually caused by an oceanic earthquake—which can cause enormous damage if it hits land.

The navigator was right. On April 6, 1946, a 50-foot tsunami hit Hawaii and killed over 20 persons.

Did my Andover education have any effect on this sighting? It did, indeed, as I was taught that if you found something interesting and did not understand it, don’t just forget it. Go find out about it.

Hence my question to the navigator.

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Filed under In Uniform, Pacific Front

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