- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Robert H Allison
- Location of story:
- Transportation to Pitilu, Manus, Admirality Islands
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 09 August 2005
This story appears courtesy of and with thanks to Robert H Allison.
The USS Long Island had been an oil tanker. But at the request of the Navy, it was converted into an escort carrier for antisubmarine duty. There was also an order for the construction of several more escort carriers for submarine duty and for the direct support of Army and Marine landing forces. The main contract for these ships was a guy named Henry J. Kaiser. The CVE's were to be nick-named "Kaiser Coffins". The main reason for this was the one quarter inch steel plate that was the skin of the ship. This skin sprung back and forth in heavy seas making eerie, booming noises. The name also came from the fact that if hit by a torpedo you couldn't get off fast enough.
The Long Island had become a transport ship and the accommodations for the "transportees" were what had once been bulk oil tanks. They were now our living quarters with a mob of bunks stacked five high. You can well imagine the heat and the smell as we traveled across the equator. More men slept on the flight deck than those who slept in bunks.
The high light of this cruise was the "ordeal" of the "Royal Order of the Deep". This initiation was the process of a "Pollywog" becoming a "Shellback". In the case of this ferry, there were so many Pollywogs that we had to line up and run through the process as quickly as possible. It might have been quick but it didn't lose any of the brutality that had been it's reputation.
First you were forced to lie down on your stomach in a gutter of salt water and endure a bunch of sadistic A-holes strapping you across the butt with strips of canvas about two feet long soaked in salt water. From there, you were herded into the royal court where you were obligated to kneel before the "Royal Bar", a metal rod that you had to grip with both hands and received a jolt of electricity that shook our eye teeth. Next, we had bow to King Neptune and his queen and then kiss the big fat belly of a big fat chief dressed in a diaper. This slob was the "Royal Baby".
Crossing the equator initiation From there you were forced to sit on a straight backed chair with it's back to the "Royal" swimming pool. While you were sitting there your mouth was stuffed with water, soap suds and turpentine and then you were pushed over backward into the pool. The pool was about 20 feet square with at least ten "Royal" polar bears in it. It was their job to keep you under the water until you reached the other side. I went under on the first shove and didn't come up until I was crawling up the other side on my way out. Once over the side and on the deck you were forced to run about fifty feet through a gauntlet of sailors with these canvas straps whacking you across your posterior until you could climb over a ten foot cargo net.
Once you were over, you were a Shellback, never to suffer this "bullshit" again. But it gave you the authority to inflict these indignities on other Pollywogs crossing the equator. This I was able to do many years later, but not so violently, on my wife and others on a cruise ship out of Rio. If you think I was kidding about the extent of energy expended by these sailors, let me assure you my behind and every other Pollywog's butt was black and blue for days. One Pollywog trying to be cute, put a couple of oranges in his tee shirt before starting this initiation. His cuteness invited considerably more attention from the sadists than was imposed on the rest of us. He wound up in sick bay.
The most interesting thing that occurred on this "cruise" was that we went to bed on December 31, 1944 and woke up the next morning, January 2, 1945. We had crossed the International date line during the night. We missed the whole day of January 1st. But, we were to regain the lost day when we recrossed the international date line on the way back in July, living the same day twice as we returned to Hawaii and home. Unfortunately, these two days were spent at sea with nothing to see but the horizon.
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