|Issue 61||January 2001||Volume 6 - Number 2|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
As I reflect upon my experiences during my time in the Central Pacific, I realized that the following stories are musings and memories of events that happened over 50 years ago. At that time, I was not concerned about many of the philosophical and esoteric political issues that may interest me today. I often regret that I did not spend more time reflecting about the political problems of the area. The Japanese had occupied these islands for several years. Such questions as, "How did the Japanese treat you when they were here?" "Were you forced to work for them?" "Did they pay you money for working?" "Did they molest you or your children?" "What restrictions were placed upon you?", etc.
Reflecting on this now, I realize that the natives, particularly in the Marshall Islands, really did not care one way or another whether the Japanese occupied the islands or the Americans, as long as they were able to conduct their daily lives with a minimum of interference. They did not understand nor care about international strife and "Democracy" was just a word to them. The conflict between the Japanese and the U.S. was confusing to them. I got the impression, as I reflect on those times that they were not at all concerned.
My document is written without benefit of a journal but rather from memory of certain events, which remain with me. I have often desired to Makin and Kwajalein. I have since learned that Kwajalein is no longer a pristine South Sea Island Paradise it once was but is heavily populated with U.S. Government personnel who have constructed high rise apartments with a shopping center and other administrative buildings to support the "Down Range" missile site for AEC. What a Pity!!!!
Makin Island in the Gilberts
Shortly after we arrived in Hawaii, we boarded a C54 cargo plane for the Central Pacific islands to replace the men who were sent to the Task Force. We first landed at Johnson Island, about 500 miles south of Honolulu, for refueling. I was told that this Island was owned by a citizen of Honolulu and was part of that city. The island was just a sand bar. It was said that, if you stood in the middle of the runway, you could pee in the ocean on either side. I tried it and I found the statement to be an exaggeration. We landed on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands that night. When we got off the plane we saw a sign in Base Operations which read "If some one was to give the world an enema, Kwajalein would be where they would put the hose." I was assigned to a detachment on Makin Island in the Gilbert Islands. I soon departed Kwajalein and arrived on Makin, a few days later. I remained there for three months.
A Marine fighter squadron was stationed on Makin. They flew Corsair fighters and Torpedo Bombers. Their mission was to frequently attack the nearby Jap occupied islands to prevent them from receiving supplies. I was told that one of the Pilots was Col. Charles Lindbergh, who was allegedly, a consultant.
On one occasion, at the end of a mission, while I was taking a shower, the siren on the control tower went off announcing the presence of enemy aircraft. It seems that a Jap zero had joined the back end of one of the squadrons and, when our planes landed out of fuel, he strafed the strip and part of the island. We all hit the trenches, which were filled with dirty water from the shower, run off. Our showers were made of airplane fuel tanks set on stilts. The tepid water was hand pumped from a well into these tanks that were fitted with showerheads. No one knew where the Jap came from or where he went. We suspected that he just flew until he ran out of gas.
The operational plan for the Central Pacific area was to establish bases on several large islands and then "by-pass" the other islands, neutralizing them with frequent air attacks and preventing resupply. Tarawa, in the Gilberts was one of the first island bases from which the flights to neutralize the Japanese held islands were launched. Subsequently, Makin became an alternate base. The attempts by the Japanese to resupply the bypassed islands were unsuccessful because of the vigilance of the U.S. anti submarine dive-bombers and other aircraft from Tarawa, Makin, Majuro and Enewitok.
Makin was a beautiful, unspoiled, South Sea Island covered with coconut palms and other foliage of the type you expect to see in the movies. The weather was balmy with cool breezes. We had plenty of time for fishing and hunting shells. I still have a box of them in my dresser drawer. Some day I will make some jewelry out of them. Perhaps Katie or Allie might want to do that some day.
Our job was to keep communications circuits open and to receive any planes coming through while certain items were dismantled and shipped out. I lived in a tent with three other men. The tents were set on a platform on the (reef) ocean side of the island. The night I arrived on board the C-47 cargo plane from Kwajalein, after I was asleep in my tent, there was a loud commotion caused by a soldier from another outfit on the island that went berserk. He was trying to swim home. It seems that the surf was too strong and kept pushing him back onto the shore. We called the MP's and he was subdued and sent home on a "Section 8" (battle fatigue) discharge caused by the heat and boredom.
A few days later, a patrol flight discovered a small landing craft several hours at sea. Also, one of the island landing craft was missing. It appeared that two sailors had cached supplies and navigation equipment and fuel on board to perhaps reach another island and decided they would try to go AWOL. A patrol boat was sent out to intercept them. This was my introduction to the paradise islands of the Pacific.
I vividly recalled that, before I left Oahu, during a physical examination the dentist set up an appointment for me six month later because the medics had said that they recommended against anyone being left on those islands for more than six months. Later, on Kwajalein, I had five men from my section sent home for battle fatigue and they never heard a shot fired in anger!! I remained on those islands for 23 months! It seemed that those guys had no outlets, never went to the chapel and did not have any hobbies and were pretty much loners.
After WW I, the Gilbert Islands were mandated to the British. Makin Island is also shown on some maps as "Butaritari". The natives lived in thatched huts, wore the typical grass skirt and the women went bare breasted. It was amazing how quickly we became used to this. They did their laundry by smashing it with small stones and rubbing it in the sand. The women gathered in small groups as sort of a social event and all of them were bare breasted of various shapes and sizes. Obviously this was of some interest to the men and they gathered to watch the event. After a while, the Native Chief asked for a meeting with the Island Commander to complain about the soldiers who would stand near by and laugh. The Island Commander soon issued orders that the lake was out of bounds. The Chief said the Commander misunderstood him. He said it was all right for the soldiers to watch but not to laugh. We became used to this. On one occasion some one, who will remain nameless, offered to buy a grass skirt from one of the natives for a pack of cigarettes. She immediately took off the grass skirt and accepted the cigarettes. When the guy offered her a large bandanna to cover herself she wrapped it around her head. I wonder whatever became of that skirt?
Surprisingly, the natives on Makin were Catholic, even though it was mandated to the British from the Germans after World War I. The Catholic church was more inclined to accept the mores of the natives as long as they accepted Christianity. For example, a native could have a mistress as long as his "wife" did not complain of neglect. On Makin, a native who worked for us had a mistress who we called "Butaritari Mary." She was attractive as far as Polynesian natives go, full breasted and built very much in proportion. The man spent more time with her than he did with his wife. After a while, his wife complained and "Mary" was sent to another island in the atoll until he cooled off. The native chief ruled the island and native justice prevailed as long as the British Island Commander had no objections and the priest was satisfied.
Our Communications Center was underground, covered with a heavy, thickly thatched roof covering the large room, to keep the rain off the equipment. We had to walk down steps to get to the center. This was located about two blocks from our tent area, down a path, through a stand of coconut palms. One night, my relief did not show up on time. I waited until 11:30 and called on the field phone to the tent area. They told me my relief had left the area about 10:45. So they sent out a search party. They found him on the side of the path unconscious from a large coconut, which fell and hit him on the head. From then on, we all had to wear helmets on our way to and from work.
It is with sadness and deep regret that I inform you of the death of a retired communicator, Polly Holman Pandjaitan. Polly passed away, due to heart failure, Monday, December 4th, at 11:23 a.m., in California.
Thanks to Nsamuel Carden for furnishing this information.
It is sadness and deep regret, I inform you of the death of Ned Paes last night. Ned broke his hip earlier this week and the decision was made to operate on him to repair the break. Shortly after the surgery, Ned suffered a massive blood clot and died.
The Paes family asks me to thank you for all of your prayers, we know that God has heard and answered each and every prayer. God bless you all.
/s/The Paes family
The above information received from Bill and Dolly Markham.
A donation has been made from the CANDOER Memorial fund to the American Cancer Society in Ned's name.
It is with sadness and deep regret that I inform you of the death of Sue Bevacqua.
The following was received from Carmen:
Sue passed away on Monday, Dec. 18, 2000 at Potomac Hospital. We are having the Funeral Mass on Friday, January 5, 2001 at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Lake Ridge, VA, at 11 a.m. The burial will be private.
Sue's tumor of 17 years ago raised its ugly head and came back with a vengeance. She went quickly, peacefully and without pain. She is now in God's hands and at peace. Wishing you and yours a Blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year.
A donation has been made to a charity of Carmen's choice from the CANDOER Memorial Fund, in Sue's name.
If anyone has any information on how to contact Audrey Anderson, (FYI: Sh