Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Francis J. Tatu
TATU: Mostly restaurants. Santa Barbara was the location for what the army called “repo-depos,” that is replacement areas for the military. Troops being shifted from the European Theater to the Pacific Theater were given brief eave to stay in luxury hotels which had been taken over by the military. My sister was a personnel officer with Operations, so I was always to be able to get a job in some capacity in the hotels, mostly in the restaurants.
Q: So you did experience World War Two as it was on the home front othe West Coast?
TATU: Yes. I, heard a lot of stories from those guys and began to feel familiar with the military. The day I got out of high school, I joined the Navy “to see the world,” as they used to say.” I believe, and I made one major mistake. I have to cast modesty aside here. When I took my GCTs, “general classification tests,” the recruiters said they'd never had anybody score as high and they asked if I would I like officers' training.
Q: How old were you at this point?
TATU: I was 17, and I had been advised that enlisted men had more fun than officers, so I declined thinking that I would pick up more material to write about as an enlisted man.
Q: For writing as an enlisted man, I see.
TATU: Well, I hadn't even finished basic training, “boot camp” when I was hauled out on a “emergency draft,” and sent to the Mojave Desert. Would you believe it? They just put me on a bus in San Diego and told me that they desperately needed typists in the desert. I no more wanted to be a typist than a sailor on the desert. But when I got there and checked in to personnel, the senior yeoman (a sort of glorified clerk) gave the transfer orders I carried a cursory glance and asked “why the hell are you here?” I just played dumb. The yeoman sent me to work in the beer hall, and I never did become a typist.
Q: The Mojave Desert, what was the navy doing there?
TATU: There was a naval ordnance testing station, which actually still exists. It's called “NOTS Inyokern,” or “China Lake.” I had learned at that point that when one encounters reversals in life, the only course of action is to adjust. So I adjusted and became a desert rat. My specialty in the Navy became photography. I got a little break from the desert and had six months at a Navy photography school in Pensacola, Florida, where I qualified as an aerial photographer. I got out of the Navy after three years not having seen very much of the world at all.