House Call at Sea

     On January 2, 1945, the LST 794 departed Pearl Harbor for the South Pacific to train for the upcoming invasion of Okinawa.  She was accompanied by LSM's 75, 76, 77, 78, and 104 for the first leg of this trip, from Pearl Harbor to Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides.  Although the LST 794 was the largest ship in the convoy, she was a still relatively small ship by Navy standards, and did not have fully equipped and staffed medical facilties.  The LSM 75 was the flagship for this voyage, and so had a doctor on board.

That's when Carl Carlson's tooth decided to become infected:

     As we left Pearl Harbor for the NewHebrides Islands, my section had the underway watch. I was the Con talker.  Just as we cleared the last bouy, I felt a pain in my jaw. I thought to myself , "This is no time to get a toothache, especially after we've been port a full week." Next day my jaw started swelling. It swelled till I could hardly talk. Peryam, our Pharmist Mate2\c was getting information via signal flags from the doctor on LSM 75, but nothing was helping. Peryam said that we have to get the doctor over here. They rigged lines between the ships and, not having a breeches bouy,  they used a bosn's chair.

Transferring the doctor by Bosun's chair. Closeup of Bosun's chair transfer

Transferring the doctor (Lieut jg Joseph Leskin, USN) from LSM 75 to LST 794 by bosun's chair in mid-Pacific


Once the doctor arrived on board and got settled, he and Peryam got things squared away. They called me down to our sick bay. When I came in, it looked like they had every surgical tool that the sick bay had layed out on the counter. I began to wonder if they were going to do major surgery on me. I was told to sit down, Peryam stood behind me, with his hands on my shoulders. I think that he was nervous, as his hands were shaking like a leaf. The doctor gave me a shot . When the shot took effect, he did what he had to do. I left with a mouth full of guaze and was told to rinse every so often but not to swallow anything.

A couple of days later, we crossed the Equator. I lined up with the rest of the crew to go through the initiation (see Shellback Initiation), but the doctor spotted me. He yelled at the top of his lungs, "Carlson...get out of that line! If you get into that dirty pool, you'll have more infection that you had before." I guess I got my certificate the easy way by being a spectator. I was a little embarrrased but survived.

Actually, we couldn't find a Navy dentist who would work on me. At every Island we beached on Peryam would go looking for a dentist. Finally, after two months, we were on the beach at Guadalcanal.   He came running on board telling me to drop what I was doing as he had located a dentist. We ran down the beach where there was a Marine dental unit. The dentist's name was Carlson. He suggested we go to the X-ray tent, but they had already packed it up (we were all getting ready for Okinawa), so we went back to his tent. He did what he had to do.  I lost my bad tooth, and didn't feel a thing in the process.

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