It had been three months since I was assigned to Potshot, a U.S. Navy term for its base on the Exmouth Gulf, 800 miles north of Perth, Australia, in World War II. I was dumped there unceremoniously with numerous other Sailors, and the commanding officer's disquieting words bit at our heels: "Keep your noses clean. Stay out of trouble."
Dismissed, I hurried along, hearing calm licks of gentle waves softly lapping like a thirsty puppy and ignoring, too, the emanating peace and quiet I'd learned to distrust. You see, I was a Navy misfit, a clog in the wheels of man's desperate attempt to annihilate man. There were thousands of us, of course, because we were mass-produced warriors. We were the mistakes, the barbers wearing cooks' clothing and the gardeners in engine rooms, the square pegs, in actuality, jammed into round holes.
Lieutenant Joseph Quesada commanded Potshot. Pointed out to me affectionately as "Uncle Joe," he was a portly gentleman who roamed the camp in khaki shorts. At headquarters the following day I heard an officer ordering a jeep to be sent around. "It's for Uncle Joe. Speed 'er up," he growled.