No harbor is safe.
|From the wire mesh encased windows of the fifth-floor, on a clear day, you could see the Golden-Gate bridge. Off to the left, in the middle of the bay, Alcatraz was visible. The windows of Alcatraz were also encased with metal, some facing San Francisco, the others facing Oakland, and the Oak Knoll Hospital.
The floors above the fifth were not used, and the lower floors were occupied by men in wheel chairs or confined to their beds by their wounds. The people confined on the fifth floor were also wounded, but their wounds were not so readily visible.
Men and women were kept there, awaiting discharge from the Navy or Marine Corps. They were no longer fit for active duty, nor were they safe to allow free in the civilian population. But soon they would be released, if they survived to that day.
It was after dark when I arrived there, transported from the Air-Force base up near Sacremento strapped to a litter, sedated and manacled hand and foot. I was one of seven in the grey painted school bus, modified to accept men on litters. We could see out the windows at the front of the bus if we lifted our heads and peered between the hanging plasma bags. No one looked. Fog shrouded the Oakland hills, and there was also a chemical fog in my brain, complements of Uncle Sam. It is all a blur, the corpsmen placed my litter on a gurney on the loading dock at the rear of the hospital. There was a hearse there also, waiting the remains of one who didn’t survive. The two uniformed men wheeled me into a large freight elevator and one of them punched the button for the fifth floor.
Up on the ward, they wheeled me from the rear of the hospital building, down the green tiled corridor to the nurses station, which was enclosed with wire reinforced glass panes. There were four corpsmen and a nurse there, all dressed in white. The nurse had a name tag which said Lt. Haas. The corpsmen had no name tags.
I was in the fog, and a little surprised that the mist from outside had followed me indoors. The transport corpsmen had a key and took off the cuffs. They had the corpsmen at the nurse’s station sign for me, then they wheeled me to a bed in the men’s ward and the four of them transferred me to a hospital bed. I went to sleep in the antiseptic smelling room.
The next day there was a tray brought to me from the cart that they wheeled onto the ward. I was no longer restrained, but the ward doors were locked, so there was nowhere I could go but the ward, Across from the nurse’s station were five or six heavy steel framed arm chairs, bolted to the floor, and a couch made of the same tubular steel construction, also bolted down. No one would be re-arranging the furniture. A television was mounted in a pipe frame suspended out of reach high up on one wall, facing the chairs.