Marshall Ralph Doak Chief Pharmacist's Mate United States Navy
I only had a few months to go to be discharged and at that point I was hoping to go to dental school. When the British troops came on board I was a dental technician with Dr. Callar. Callar was from Staunton, VA, and he'd taken his pre-dental at VML. He and I had become close friends. It was a case of an officer and an enlisted person leaving the ship together which was a little unusual. But we ran around together. He taught me and initiated me into shooting match rifle. I bought a model 52 Winchester target rifle and he bought a Stevens Walnut Hill and we kept the guns in the armory on board the Wakefield. Whenever we got into a port or to a place where we could shoot, we'd take our rifles and either shoot indoors or outdoors. I became a master with large bore and small bore rifles. He also showed me how to load ivory dice with mercury using the dental drill. I learned to never enter a crap game that used ivory dice, only to enter a crap game using see-through clear dice. Practicing Dentistry When British troops came aboard at Halifax, they had a Major that was going to come down to our dental office. We had two dental chairs and Dr. Callar told me, "Marshall, I'm not gonna allow the Major to come in. You take the other dental chair. I've taught you. You have all the dexterity and you take the other chair and I'll give you a tech. I'll get someone in here that can help you, but you won't need much help. You can fix your own amalgams, you can do your own mandibular blocks, you can do your own locals, you can do your own extractions, you can do you own fillings. The only thing you don't have is the anatomy and physiology and that's what you'll get at school." This is what we were gonna do, so he gave me a smock and called me Doctor. He said, "You take the British troops. I've got my hands full with our own crew." Lo and behold the first British patient I had was the Senior General. His name was Backaus Smith. He came in and sat down in my dental chair and before we even started he said, "This is great! I never realized I'd have an opportunity to have an American dentist. They are so far superior, over and above, our British dentists." Dr. Callar kind of nudged me in the back and I went ahead and did whatever I had to do even though I've forgotten now just what I did. When he got out of the chair he was so appreciative and thankful and grateful and he repeated his statement about the top quality of American dentists. He said, "I haven't seen you up in the Ward Room. I wanna buy you a drink and meet you up in the ward room." The British had their own bar. Americans didn't have their own bar, but British were allowed because it was their custom. I said, "Well, I'm so busy with your troops that I don't think I'll have an opportunity. There's about 4,000-5,000 troops I've got to maintain dental care on and I'm gonna have my hands full." He thanked me and said it did make it up there to please stop in and see him and that he'd appreciate it. So he was on his way and Dr. Callar was punchin' me in the back with his elbow. This is how it went and I had no problems whatsoever. Later on this experience helped me when I was on independent duty out in the Pacific. I always made sure I had Novocain or procaine and various instruments so that in case of emergency I could do dental work.
We kept going south and were heading toward Cape Town, South Africa. This was toward the middle of November. An unusual thing happened that was very unfortunate. We had a British soldier die in our sick bay. We did a post-mordem on him and it was tuberculosis. He had tubercles all through his body. So we had a burial at sea and this was the first time I'd ever seen this. They called the sail makers in and there were two of them. They wrapped him in this 10-12 ounce canvas and they weighted the inside of the canvas. It was real tight and they did a wonderful job of sewing. Both of them met at the nose. One came up over the head and one came from down below and they met at the nose. It was the custom for both to go through the nose at the same time with those big needles. The custom being that if one was still alive, why, you would react to the pain of the needles going through the cartilage of the nose. Five of us Pharmacist's Mates were designated as pall bearers and it was very sad. A plank was placed on a railing on board of the ship and our Captain performed the service. There was a bugler and I believe a piper. I know there were two. We had a British flag draped over the body and when the Captain made his closing, "You are hereby given unto the deep," that was our signal to raise the end of the plank. The body slipped off. We held onto the flag. It seemed like it took forever for the splash and the body to hit the ocean. It was very solemn, quiet, and depressing. I'll never forget it. As we proceeded south there were still submarine contacts and we finally were met by three British ships: the Achilles, the Ajax, and the Dorchester. We found a German sub tender off the southwest coast. The Python and the Dorchester sank it. It wasn't one of our ships that sank it, but there were four subs that were involved and we were having quite a time avoiding them. At one point we had a man fall over board from one of the troop ships and he was never picked up. I mean, we couldn't take a chance. But this was the seriousness of the sub scares. It was a big worry and we knew we weren't getting back to he states before war was declared. I mean, something had to happen.