Out of the Blue


What started as a search for Grandpa Tom’s military records has led me in a direction I never saw coming. For the last couple of years I’ve been inquiring about the possibility of recovering Grandpa’s “Bluejackets’ Manual.”

The BJM as it is known amongst those in the Navy is the bible when it comes to the daily life of a sailor (and at times a Marine.) In this case I got my hands on a 1943 Bluejackets’ Manual, which is the year I had been told Grandpa went to war.

This is where my adventure as book-monger takes that unexpected twist. I selected this particular book to buy because it was procured by a man who had purchased an entire lot of books in Muskogee, Oklahoma around August 1980 – a month after Grandpa Tom passed away.

With my fingers crossed – but not with breath held – I waited for the BJM to make its way from Denmark, where the man was living. When it did arrive I was disappointed to see the name, “Johnston, R.J.,” stenciled on the inside cover.

I thought, “Oh, well,” and put it on my bookshelf, thinking I might get some use out of it one day.

For some reason, I decided to pick it up, dust it off and leaf through the 68-year-old manual. Why I had not seen it before, I don’t know, but on the inside page there was a list of duty stations for “Johnston, R.J.”

Reading through them I realized this sailor was stationed with another sailor I was well acquainted with – my father-in-law. Don Conklin, my bride’s father, like “Johnston R.J.” had served during World War II at both Navy 128 and Navy 10 in San Francisco and each listed Fleet Post Office as their address.

Unfortunately, Don passed away in 2006, so I cannot ask him if he knew “Johnston, R.J.” or not. But there is a chance, the original owner of this BJM could still be alive as he wrote his home address and full-name, Ray Junior Johnston, in the book too.

I have a place in which to start my search.

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