Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Donald R. Norland
NORLAND: Being pulled up a river, tied up along with others, stripped of all the armaments, and left to rot. In some cases they were burned, I learned later. But they were kept there provisionally with the idea that they might possibly be used again.
I was taken off the PT boat and shipped off to minesweeper duty. This can be a long story; I'll shorten it by saying that we went to Guam to pick up the minesweeper—it wasn't there. I rode an aircraft carrier to Okinawa—the minesweeper (AM125) was not there. While in Okinawa in November 1945, Walt McNiff, another fellow who'd been on PTs, and I convinced the Air Force traffic controller that our ship was in Shanghai. We had no evidence on which to base this, but we said to hell with staying in Okinawa for a long period; we wanted to see another part of the world. And we got orders to fly to Shanghai.
We arrived there on the last day of November 1945. There was no pay station. We were attached to what was called the Glen Line building but were billeted at the Shanghai American School. I know a lot of our China colleagues went to school there. So we settled in to wait, broke but living an extraordinary adventure.
I became friendly with a Frenchman who had been assistant chief of police in the French quarter. He heard of my plight (and that of my friend), took pity on us and loaned us money. Can you believe it? To me it was phenomenal that a man would loan us money to live. He also took us to his home and fed us. At that point, I took a particular interest in the French language. He had a ten-year old daughter who thought Americans were great. And so I began a study of the French language in earnest.
To our shock and surprise, however, on about the 2nd of January 1946, our minesweeper arrived. I couldn't believe it. So I became an officer on a minesweeper. We went out of Shanghai, up the Huangpu River to Sasebo, Japan, which was devastated. We were assigned to conduct minesweeping operations in the Tsushima Straits, which we did during February and early March 1946. That was a miserable experience. If you know that part of the world, it's raw weather. It was not fun. But it was interesting.
Then we were asked to tow a ship back to Guam, and from Guam my ship was returned to Shanghai, in April of '46. Our orders were to turn it over to the Chinese Maritime Customs. As executive officer, my job was to literally count every object on the ship, from silverware to radar, and get a Chinese officer to sign for it. It took two or three months in Shanghai to get that job done.