Sometimes visiting units on Hill 65 stood out. We had an Army gun battery on the hill for a few days (two 175mm guns), but they were moved shortly after blowing all the screens off the mess hall. We were in the concussion radius of an outbound round. Visitors weren’t always welcome and were carefully watched as suspicious characters.
There was a knock on the galley door before dinner (no one ever knocked), and a Navy Petty Officer wanted to speak to me. He was a baker from 1st Medical Battalion in Da Nang and wanted to meet with our baker (Reb). He had heard stories from Marines about our pastry bar and came to see it for himself.
After a short conversation, it was decided he would work with Reb during the night and return to Da Nang the next day. Compared to the hospital facility, our galley and bakery were primitive. 1st Med had commercial refrigeration and deck-style ovens. I was skeptical about the motives of this stranger.
Reb was a little chilly about this idea, but Sumo told him it was an opportunity (maybe there would be a reciprocal response). The two of them went to work after dark, making batches of sweet dough and created doughnuts, maple bars and sugar twists.
I got up at midnight to see how they were doing, and the two had become fast friends. As it turned out, “equipment” had nothing to do with the end results. Reb’s techniques (learned from Margaret in Sydney) were not in Navy/Marine Corps recipe guides. It was a craft. *
I went back to bed, knowing I was one day closer to going home.
* See previous blog, “Reb’s Story” August 18, 1968