A change of plans in Hawaii

After Dave’s training was completed, he went to Alameda, California to join the crew of the USS Devastator, a minesweeper. Visions of imminent naval heroism in his head, Garroway reported as ordered…only to see his ship was still under construction. With not much else to do until the ship was ready for sea, the newly-minted officer and tireless tinkerer signed on with the shipfitters’ union and helped shipyard workers build the Devastator.

Garroway’s Navy photo

But wartime heroics were not in the cards. The moment Dave stepped aboard the ship once it was afloat, he found he suffered from debilitating seasickness, and it didn’t go away. Although experienced hands told him he’d get over it, he never did. When the ship received orders to Pearl Harbor, Garroway spent the entire voyage miserably sick, struggling to remain upright while on watch. Too seasick to function and relieved from his duties, he spent much of the voyage in his bunk, counting the hours until the ship would arrive at Pearl Harbor and he’d again be on solid land. After three weeks recuperating in the hospital, Garroway was reassigned to the officers’ pool, and ended up in charge of the Pacific Fleet Yeoman and Stenography School at Camp Catlin.

Not finding evening life in the officers’ clubs engaging, Dave began to look around for something else to do. One day, he walked into KGU, the NBC affiliate in Honolulu, and asked if they needed help announcing. The program manager, desperate for personnel, hired him on the spot.

Dave was given the 9 p.m-to-midnight slot on KGU, and no direction on what the content had to be. After spending some time looking through the station’s library, he decided to focus on jazz, with a little symphony music thrown in.

And it was also during that nightly show that Garroway developed the style he’d soon take nationwide. He would imagine that he was talking to “one and a half people…you know there’s a plus in there, but you can concentrate on one person, and talk to one person. That’s what I did, and it seemed to work.” Drawing on his memories from living in so many places, Garroway took his audiences on radio tours of cities. Military personnel and workers, remembering the lives they’d left behind on the mainland, flooded him with phone calls and letters.

Next: “Hello, old tiger”