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Baptiste went to the Customs House [AnnotatorÂ’s Note: in New Orleans] on 5 February 1938 where he was selected with 6 other men to go to Norfolk, Virginia for service in the navy. The 7 men were put in the back of a car. He doesn't think the passengers even knew they were aboard. He was carrying all of the tickets for when the men got to Norfolk.At the time Baptiste entered the navy he was relegated to being a steward or mess man. The men had no bunks and had to sleep in hammocks. They were placed in a segregated unit under Lt. Curley. Their drill master was a Chief Bosun's Mate [Annotator's Note: Chief Boatswain's Mate].Training was done with World War I rifles. Some of the recruits had been in the ROTC unit at Tuskegee [Annotator's Note: Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama].February on the Chesapeake Bay is very cold. The men were sleeping in hammocks and had to and had to roll their clothes and scrub their leggings in the cold to get ready for inspection.When they were finished drilling they were put on the rock pile braking up concrete to keep them busy. They were then sent to mess school where they learned how to set the table and how to serve officers.After 3 months training at Norfolk they took a train across the country to Los Angeles. It was a beautiful ride. From there they were sent to San Diego which became BaptisteÂ’s home base.At the time San Diego had only 148,000 people. There were few industries and in the depression the navy was the largest employer. During Christmas of 1938 he went ashore in Oceanside, California.Baptiste served aboard the Rigal [Annotator's Note: US Navy destroyer tender USS Rigel (AD-13)], the Altair [Annotator's Note: US Navy destroyer tender USS Altair (AD-11)], then the Chandler 206 [Annotator's Note: US Navy destroyer USS Chandler (DD-206)]. The Chandler, Southard [Annotator's Note: USS Southard (DD-207)], Hovey [Annotator's Note: USS Hovey (DD-208)] and Long [Annotator's Note: USS Long (DD-209)] made up their division. Baptiste was a mess attendant aboard that ship.
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