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Ensign William Jarvis discussing matters with Paymaster Day’s wounded but now recovered caddy. Tsingtao, China. November 1947.



Paymaster Day

Paymaster Day was a blond, athletic, clean-cut young man, an Ensign in the Supply Corps, one of the more or less “normal” people aboard ship. He was consigned to the Supply Corps because he had a really bad stuttering problem; that wouldn’t do for a Line Officer. He was responsible for payday, (which according to tradition, was always done in cash) and for supplying provisions, and administration of the Ships Office where he supervised two or three Yeomen (a Navy term for “secretaries”).

“Pay Day,” as we called him, was a good golfer, sporting a negative handicap; so when we put into port in Tsingtao, China, he had to go golfing even though it was a cold November day with strictly winter conditions on the course. I joined him, and at the Club House we engaged a couple of Chinese kids as caddies. The caddies ranged far ahead of us to better spot the balls in the winter turf.

On about the third hole, Pay Day hit a long drive which happened to land on a frozen lake. The ball bounced from the surface far forward where it hit his caddy in the chest. The caddy fell forward screaming, clutching his chest.

Pay Day panicked; he ran the 200 yards to the caddy, found him lying there moaning. He examined him a bit; of course the boy couldn’t speak English. So he scooped him up and ran him all the way back to the Club House. When we arrived, Pay Day was so out of breath he couldn’t even stutter. The club foreman told me he thought the boy would appreciate a nice tip and then he would probably be all right. Pay Day fished out a $20 bill which really lit up that kid’s eyes. That $20 was the equivalent of four months earnings for him.

The incident reminded me of the pact the U.S. had at that time with the Kuomingtang (the government of nationalist China). Each time a Chinese was accidentally killed, such as being run over by a jeep, the military had to pay the family $20,000, a princely sum for a Chinese family. It was said that the only reason more Chinese did not throw their children in front of moving vehicles was that few of them knew about the arrangement.

That same morning I got another indication of how little life was worth. Walking down the pier toward the city, I passed several little houseboats where the Chinese were living and noticed, floating face up in the foam, a human baby, abandoned or lost by someone.


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