TALES OF PALAU
Allen J. Neal
In The Chow Hall, Lovers In The Jungle
Easter Sunday, 18 April 1954, I arrived at Palau Loran Station on Anguar Island
on an R5D flight from Guam. Arrival time was usually around noontime for chow.
The Loran crew called it the “noon balloon.” I was accompanied by Konstany
Kulig, DC1, and Wayne Woodman, RD3.
were greeted by a motley bunch of guys with no one in any kind of uniform—all
wore cut-off dungarees or khaki and strange footwear that looked like shower
shoes. T-shirts and Hawaiian shirts were worn, or no shirt at all.
was the new EN striker and an FN rate was to be sent in for me, I was told.
the runway was a WW II Army 6x6 full of native girls, their “bus” brought
them down to check out the new guys. Before we got off the plan, we were told
the first rules on Anguar “Don’t give the native girls money; don’t mess
around with any of the married women; don’t wear leather shoes because they
will cause a rash—wear only “gook shoes,” as they called them. I think I
was going to like this place.
evening chow the first day I noticed a Coastie wearing only his GI skivvies on
the message deck. I thought that quite odd and ask my roommate, Joe
"Dusty" Rhodes, EN2, why.
replied that when the CGC
the station, they made a one-hole outhouse by extending two long planks over the
ocean on a cliff just south of the station and this Coastie liked to sit on the
John and read—he read so long with the sun reflecting off the water that he
got 2nd degrees burns in the form of a large red bulls eye on his
but. He showed us the “end” product—his ass looked like a Japanese flag.
and Lovers in the Jungle
first morning Quarters was held at 0700 because we worked only until noon. It
was called “Tropical Routine” because of the heat in the afternoon. This was
the only time we had to look like we were military because we had to wear our
white hats. You could be naked, but you had to wear your white hat to Quarters.
we assembled into some sort of a line, a commotion arose in the jungle opposite
the road that ran in front of the base. Our CO thought it was wild dogs after
our station’s bitch. “Darn it,” he said as he whipped out his Colt
Detective Special and started shooting toward the noise in the jungle. Much to
everyone’s surprise, up popped the Radioman and his girl friend who had been
saying some last minute “goodbyes” before Quarters. He was not happy to be
shot at and yelled, “You dumb bastard, knock off that crap.”
CO said “Sorry.”
Admiral From Iowa
26 April 1954 we received word that three Admirals from the Philippines were
going to land in an R5D for an informal inspection. We lined up beside the
runway in undress whites, and we put our shoes on also. As one Admiral came down
the line looking us over, he would ask each man where he was from. When he got
to the third man from me, Joseph Duraballa, EN1, he asked where he was from.
Duraballa answered, “Albia, Iowa.”
Admiral replied, “I’m from Waterloo, Iowa.”
replied to the Admiral’s enquiry and gave his hometown as “Des Moines, Iowa,
Admiral asked me, “Where are you from, son?”
Bluffs, Iowa, sir.
Admiral got kind of red in the face and said, “What the hell, is everyone on
this island from Iowa?”
don’t know, sir.” I believe he thought we were jerking his chain.
Your Tax Dollar At Work
the wildest, craziest, devil-may-care person I have ever known, in the Coast
Guard or civilian life, was EN2 Jose “Dusty” Rhodes. The native girls
called him “Crazy Rhodes.”
was the sole owner/keeper of a 1942 Harley-Davidson WLA 45 motorcycle. It was in
sad shape but it ran good. Several spokes were missing from the wheels; the gear
shift lever was broken off next to the transmission; there was no air cleaner on
the carburetor; no working spark advance; no battery; no headlight, and, of
course, no title, registration or license plates.
the original owner of the Harley, he had first choice when to use it. Rhodes was
out one night and overslept in the village from too much “jungle juice.”
Before we were dismissed from Quarters we heard him coming down the road fast on
the Harley. The road went straight through the gate into the base, but Rhodes
turned before the gate and went right through the barbwire fence, breaking all
strands and skidding on the side of the Harley and his face. The wire cut his
chest and left imprints of the barbs across his chest. HMC Moore patched him up
and the CO restricted him to the base for a week. That was the beginning of all
every night we were invited to party at one of the native’s homes. We supplied
the beer, they the Jungle Juice, tapioca, and taro root to eat. Rhodes had a
steady girlfriend, Tootse-Ko, whom he had given a silver cigarette case.
Everyone knew Rhodes was restricted to the base, even the Japanese mining the
phosphate on Anguar. The Japanese were restricted to their compound and not
supposed to leave, or mingle with the native population. One Japanese was sweet
on Tootse-Ko and came to party one night with her.
waited until the CO and XO went to sleep and would sneak out of the base and
come to the party on a bicycle.
native homes were usually one large room with no doors or windows, only an
opening because it never got cold. The party was going smoothly until Rhodes
made his entrance. There was absolute silence. His girlfriend was sitting with
the Japanese man, who was getting nervous. He got up, bowed to Rhodes and pulled
from his pocket a silver cigarette case and offered him a cigarette. It was the
same silver case Rhodes had given to Tootse-Ko.
hit the Japanese man so hard that he fell out the window opening and hit the
ground running. Our native mess cook chased and caught him. He held him down and
made him say, “God bless America.”
in the Rec. Room
Rhodes was restricted to the base (anyway, during the day), there wasn’t much
excitement in the village If we had Liberty, some afternoons we previewed movies
to see if we wanted to stay. One day we had a jungle movie where a big python
drops out of a tree on the shoulders of the safari below. We knew the native
girls wouldn’t like it as they were really scared when they saw a snake in a
previewing the movie, Rhodes said he had a good idea, then led the way to the
storage garage. We got out the two inch hawser and sawed off a length of four
rec. room was crowded and the natives sat on the floor in front of the screen.
As the movie progressed, Rhodes got the coiled piece of hawser from under his
shirt and gave me one end to hold. When the moment arrived in the movie that the
python was supposed to appear and drop on the safari, we tossed the hawser
around four girls necks sitting together in front of us on the floor.
pandemonium broke out—the girls jumped up screaming and knocked the screen
over while the door flew open and all the natives ran out, down the sidewalk to
the drive and headed for home without stopping.
CO ordered “Lights! What happened?”
and I were also gone out the other door; we had no idea why the girls left the
movie so fast, and in a big rush!
Upmanship of Rhodes
my first few days on Anguar I observed that Joe “Dusty” Rhodes, EN2 liked to
play a game I would call “one-upmanship” on the CO, Lt. Ward. As we all ate
in the same mess hall at the same time, we would always wait until the CO came
in before we lined up with our trays. Rhodes always waited until the CO had
entered and then would bust through the door and yell, “Lets Eat.” Mr. Ward
would never say anything and just smile. Mr. Ward was average height, thin,
balding, and probably in his late 30’s. He had a good personality and was able
to put up with all the crazy and weird things and still keep a good sense of
humor while running a smooth base.
Saturday during noon chow we had the Army-Navy football game on the short wave
radio. Now you could always tell when Rhodes was going to try to get the best of
the CO as he would lean back in his chair’s rear legs: “You always hear of
the Army-Navy football games but you never hear anything about the Coast Guard
football team! Do you suppose it’s because only have short, skinny,
bald-headed guys going to the Coast Guard Academy?” Even Mr. Ward smiled at
At our movies everyone waited until the CO entered and gave the command to start. All except Rhodes were in their seats waiting when Rhodes would bust through the door like Kramer on the Seinfeld program and shout “Start the movie." The CO would just look at him, and the native guests would roar with laughter. Another one upmanship routine of Rhodes.
had two pet female monkeys on the base. One was named Bahn Geechi and the other
Little Ape. Rhodes found out that Little Ape loved beer. The monkey would drink
out of the can just like a human and then swing on the ropes and canvas over our
sidewalk. The canvas is to keep the rain off of you as you walked between
different rooms. The monkey was usually drunk and would fall but always landed
on her feet.
Ape was trained by someone to attack the nearest person if someone said “Sic
‘em.” Since I was the closest and watching the antics of the monkey, someone
said “ Sic ‘em,” and the damn monkey jumped up and bit my finger. I chased
the monkey, but that was useless as you can’t catch a one who is running away.
To this day I still carry the scar of the monkey bite on my finger. I think it
would be safe to say I’m the only ex-Coastie that has a monkey bite scar on my
finger that was acquired while in the service of the U S Coast Guard.
had it that the bike was stolen in Guam by some member on the KUKUI
and after they had built the station decided to leave it on Anguar. To be a
partner/owner of the bike you had to invest in something to keep it running.
Rhodes was the only one that showed some interest until I arrived. I ordered a
new generator from Guam and one of the aircrew on our monthly plane brought it
down to Anguar. Therefore I became a co-owner of a stolen motorcycle.
first trip on the bike was quite an experience. I almost broke my leg until I
learned where to turn the distributor for starting position. When wearing long
pants the left leg material kept getting sucked into the carburetor and killing
the engine because there was no air cleaner covering the opening. You had to
reach under the gas tank to grab the stub of a gear shift lever to shift gears.
That was OK as you usually had your hand down there anyway pulling your pants
leg out of the carburetor. After a while it become easier and you just rolled up
pant leg to keep the bike running.
night you would hold a flashlight against the handlebar on the right side so you
could shift with your left hand. It was kind of scary driving through the jungle
that was pitch black when no moon was out. You could tell where the road was on
account of the difference in darkness between the trees and the sky. The
flashlight was to warn anyone to look out and get out of the way.
Rhodes rotated back to the states I became the sole owner of a stolen motorcycle
with no title, registration or license plates.
day our CO called me to his office and said “Neal, I see your motorcycle has
no license plates on it.”
sir, it doesn’t.”
said, “I want you to put license plates on it to ride on the road off base.”
how could you get license plates for a stolen bike with no registration or
title? I went to the machine shop and got out some nice shiny sheet aluminum,
cut out a 4”X8” piece, rounded the corners, and drilled mounting holes, I
got out the stencil set and wrote across the top in large letters ANGUAR and on
the bottom motorcycle and put a large number 1 in the middle, it really looked
good. I put number 1 on it because it was the only motorcycle on Anguar. I
installed it on the rear bracket and it looked good. The CO saw me riding many
times and never mentioned it again.
No one else showed any interest in putting any money in the bike, so a native friend said he would like to buy it. I had a total of $60.00 in the hot bike, I never made a title for it. Wish I had the bike today, as they are a real collectors item.
and the Bicycle
June 1954 the Palau Loran station on Anguar Island received a new CO, LTJG
Kreisberg, who replaced our gun-toting, dog-shooting, LT. Ward. Mr. Kreisberg
was probably a good ship officer but didn’t have very good rapport with the
crew on an isolated station Loran station like Palau. He seemed aloof and
condescending toward the crew, even the natives noticed it, but in all fairness
I believed he tried but never came across as a good leader to most of the men.
after LTJG Kreisberg arrived, he announced at afternoon informal quarters that
his name was now LTJG Krain, officially changed, and we were to call him Mr.
Krain. Well, among ourselves we called him Mr. Krainberg
disrespect however, it just sounded good.
our EN1 Joseph “Big Engines” Durabala rotated back to the states we got a
new EN1 named Mace. Mace took over after we got him accustomed to starting and
operating our WW II era International Harvester UD-9 generators and switch gear.
The IH-UD 9s had many hours on them and leaked so much oil that you could just
empty the drain pans back into the engines. They were in mobile trailers and
were marked U.S. Army Signal Corps.
Anguar we had “tropical routine,” which meant we had quarters at 0700,
wearing anything you wanted, which was usually shorts and white hat. That was
the only time during the day that we looked military. We knocked off for noon
chow at 1200 and had a meeting in the rec. room to discuss problems, movies,
safety or anything that anyone wanted to bring up.
had to give a talk on safety to familiarize the newest men on safe practices on
the base. Mace called on me to explain how the fire extinguishers worked. Mace
had a habit to add “berg” to everyone’s name. I was Nealberg, the station
dog was Sadberg. I noticed Mr. Krain getting uneasy in his chair. After the
meeting Mr. Krain said, “Mace, I want to see you in my quarters."
Mace got back to the rec. hall he said “Why the hell didn’t you tell me he
had his named changed. He thought I was making fun of him.” We never gave it
any thought to tell anyone about the name change because it had happened three
or four months previous.
told Mace to never mind the chewing out as we had a big party planned in the
village that night and he was invited. I had just got a new Miyata bicycle
ordered from Japan and sent down on a Japanese ore carrier. The bike cost me
$40.00, which was a lot of money in 1954. I decided to ride my new bike to the
party after the movie was over on the base.
we sat around at our native friends house drinking “Jungle Juice,” or as we
called it, “JJ,” cut with unsweetened grapefruit juice, and eating tapioca
and taro root and listening to the only record they had, “You Are My
Sunshine.” It was a 78rpm record left there from WW II. We were all having a
good time talking and singing and a few were asleep on the bamboo mats as there
is no furniture in the homes; everyone sits, eats, and sleeps on the floor. Mace
was feeling pretty good and the JJ was starting to take hold of him when he said
he would like to go back to the base. I told him he could take my new bike back
if he knew how to ride it.
I know how to ride a bike.” He said he needed a big push to get going and
start him on his way. We gave him a big push and he coasted about 50 feet
without peddling. The bike stopped and fell over with Mace still holding on the
handlebars. He landed on his face on the coral rock road and really got cut and
skinned up. We got him cleaned up and stopped the bleeding. The Japanese
Phosphate Mining Co. had a firehouse with an ambulance and someone on duty 24
hours a day. We carried Mace down to the fire station and loaded him in the WW
II ambulance. All the Japanese driver knew in English was “Coast Guard
would always take a Coastie back to the base for a pack of cigarettes when they
were in no condition to walk or ride a bicycle. I put my bicycle in the
ambulance and jumped in to watch Mace for the three-mile trip back to the base.
The driver must have been a rejected Kamikaze pilot as we got tossed around in
back of the ambulance. Mace was rolling around and the bike came crashing down
on top of us. We finally slid up to the base gate in a cloud of dust. I got Mace
out and sent him to wake up the Corpsman to get patched up. I got the driver a
package of Lucky Strike cigarettes. He said “Arrigoto” and took off in a
cloud of dust. I don’t know if Mace had much fun that night, but I know he
never asked to ride my bicycle again.
had movies every night at 1900 in the rec. hall and invited the natives to come.
I think they liked the usual run of B movies better than we did. Most of the
natives were teenage girls and young women in their 20’s. One young woman that
came regularly was always smiling and spoke excellent English. Her name was
Peggy and she always made it a point to say “Hi” and talk to me before the
a local native’s home a party was held after the movies and a few of the women
would be there. Peggy came one night and sat by me to talk. She told me a lot of
interesting things about the island and of life growing up under Japanese rule.
The Japanese owned the islands since WW I as war repatriations from Germany. I
never learned about the island in history in school.
it was raining as usual and getting late, Peggy asked if I would like to spend
the night with her at her small store. Sounded like a good idea to me as the
store was close and I wouldn’t have to walk back to the base in the dark and
small store sold a few items like canned goods, toothpaste, and hard candy. The
back bedroom was smaller still, with a dresser, mirror and a GI type single
metal bed with wire springs and a thin mattress. It was cozy for two people
if one wanted to
turn over the other had to turn over also.
I finally got to sleep with the rain drumming on the tin roof I was suddenly
awakened by Peggy. “Quick, get under the bed, my mother is coming.” I
immediately rolled out and slid under the bed
my nose was
touching the bottom of the metal springs. I was skinny then or I could never
have gotten under the bed. Peggy kicked my shorts and shoes under the bed just
as her mother came through the open door yelling and screaming. Good thing it
was pitch black in the room so I couldn’t be seen under the bed. All I could
see were four brown legs about 12 inches from my face. I had my fingers wrapped
around the bedsprings and was trying to hold my breath so as not to be heard
breathing. Do you have any idea how defenseless you feel laying naked under a
bed with two women yelling and screaming just inches away? I couldn’t
understand their language, but I guessed I was the topic of their conversation.
her mother left, Peggy informed me that she was married and her husband had
several wives and lived on another island in the Palau chain of islands. She
seldom saw him and she was lonely and would like to have me as her boy friend.
Oh great! That was one unwritten rule that the Coasties had on Anguar: We would
not date or mess around with any married woman to cause trouble for the base or
anyone's home because we were all in the good graces with the native population
and they welcomed us into their homes with great hospitality and friendship
no one wanted to spoil that.
found out that Peggy's mother house was only about 100 feet away. She had
apparently heard my voice and was very concerned that her daughter’s husband
would find out about me being there and take away the store and Peggy's means of
support. Peggy said a man could have all the wives he wanted as long as he
immediately got dressed, which consisted of putting my shorts on and shower
shoes. Peggy said it was all right now, I could stay the rest of the night. I
said, “No thanks, I’m out of here” and went out into the black night
slogging down the road in the warm rain, thinking to myself that I was sure glad
it wasn’t her husband that came busting through the door yelling and screaming
Lizards, Radioman “W," and Munch
the coral rock roads of Anguar was somewhat of a challenge as you had to
constantly watch out for the hard shell land crabs that could puncture a tire.
Hundreds of these crabs came out of the jungle to head for the beaches to lay
eggs during the full moon. The roads, the base, and anywhere you walked you
encountered these sideways-walking crabs. They had pincers also that could make
an awful cut if they got a hold of your finger.
most shocking thing I saw while driving were the huge lizards that would
occasionally streak across the road in front of you. They were a startling sight
and looked like miniature dragons three to four feet long. We found a dead one
about 3½ ft long that had apparently had been hit by a vehicle and was fully
intact and not smashed. It was a real ugly creature and we just left it beside
station had a 2nd class Radioman that handled the radio traffic,
weather reports, and some office work. The RM2 had been in the 14th
Coast Guard District most of his enlistment and had gone “Asiatic," a
condition where a person begins to act and dress like a native and acts strange.
Our RM2 wore a native male dress that looked like a woman’s skirt, called a
“lava-lava," which was made of brightly colored cotton cloth that
extended from the waist to mid-calf. We all had lava-lava’s, but no one else
wore them except for picture taking purposes.
“W,” who shall remain nameless, was also an alcoholic and walked around the
base carrying a ditty bag with a bottle of Jungle Juice in it. He also had a pet
monkey on a string with him at all times. I think everyone except the CO knew
what he carried in the ditty bag. Quite a sight, but not too unusual for a
isolated station like Palau Loran Station.
had a ET3 named Jergen Munch who was a very good artist. He would draw
caricatures of crewmembers and post them on the bulletin board for all to see.
He drew one of Radioman “W” that showed him dressed in his lava lava
carrying a ditty bag, with a monkey on a string and X’s for eyes. It looked
just like him. Everyone liked it except Radioman “W” who didn’t think it
was funny. He drew one of me with a big bandage on my toe after I dropped a
connecting rod from an IH-UD-9 diesel and sliced off the very end of my toe. I
had the 1800-2400 fire/security watch one evening and everything was quiet as
most of the crew were in the village or asleep. About 2300 I heard the loudest
hollering, cussing, and screaming coming from Radioman “W’s” room. I went
down to see what was the matter. He charged out of his room carrying the dead 3-½
foot lizard that we had previously seen alongside the road. Someone had put it
in his bed under the covers. When he crawled into bed he had quite a shock. He
was livid and very upset, and I couldn’t blame him. I never saw anyone near
his room that evening and to this day I don’t know who put the lizard in
Radioman “W’s sack.
WW II ended the Army Air Corp left a few B-24 bombers in the jungle by the
runway as they were probably in no condition to fly. Wayne Woodman RD3 and I
would climb into them and look them over for anything worthwhile to keep as
souvenirs. The planes had been stripped of everything that could be removed
before being abandoned in the jungle. The engines had fallen off the wings as
the motor mounts rusted and couldn’t support the weight of the engines. The
tires were just a pile of rubber dust with wire rings around the wheels.
Everything made of steel was solid rust after sitting for 10 years in a rainy
jungle. The aluminum skin was in excellent shape with some surface corrosive
exploring around in the jungle we noticed several wild chickens about the size
of bantam chickens but could fly fast when spooked. We knew the natives hunted
them with blowguns and we figured we could hunt them with shotguns and have some
fresh chicken dinners for the chow hall to supplement the frozen and canned
stuff that we got everyday.
asked the CO if we could use the station shotguns to do a little hunting and he
agreed. Wayne and I had both been hunting game at home since we were teen-agers
and both very familiar with handling guns. Wayne hunted deer in Michigan and I
hunted ducks and pheasants in Iowa. We got the shotguns out of the storage
locker and oiled them up. The shotguns were Winchester Model 12 riot guns with
about 20 inch barrels. We got out the only shotgun shells on the base
00 buckshot, which
means they had 9 lead balls in each shell. The shotgun and shells were not an
ideal combination for hunting fowl.
started tramping through the jungle in search of the now elusive chickens, but
after a while we decided that we would just do some target shooting because we
hadn’t seen any chickens. We lined up some coconut husks and fired. There was
a very loud BOOM from the guns and a big puff of white smoke came out the end of
the barrels followed by the 00 buckshot that went about four feet and hit the
ground. We were so startled that all we could do was to laugh. The shells were
so old and the humidity so high on Anguar that the shells were no good. The old
style paper covered shells had absorbed too much moisture and made them useless.
We then shot up the rest of the shells seeing how far we could get them to
travel. It was not very far.
to say we never had any fresh chicken dinners after that hunting excursion.
commissaryman usually did a good job with what he had to work with, canned,
frozen and never fresh fruit and vegetables. One case of “cold
storage” eggs was stamped "Blue Star Produce,
Council Bluffs, Iowa 1945," almost 10 years old.
They could only be scrambled, as they were too runny to fry. No fresh milk, only
that powered crap that tasted like chalk water. The only way it tasted half way
good was to add some chocolate syrup, if you had it.
was almost willing to pay anything for some fresh fruit. I asked a good friend
named Antina if she could get some bananas in Koror. The native boat,
"Regina," made a couple of the 40 mile trips each week to Koror, the
capital city, where a lot more things could be bought that weren’t available
on Anguar. Antina said she would get some bananas and I should meet the boat
when it returned. I was expecting a dozen or so bananas
when the boat arrived I was shocked because Antina had
brought a whole stalk of green bananas. They were small, about five or six
inches long. The whole stalk weighed about 40 pounds. Antina would not tell me
what they cost and said they were a gift.
had ridden my bicycle down to pick the bananas; now this posed a slight problem
as how to get the bananas back to the base without dropping and bruising them or
smashing them. I had Antina and a friend load them up on my right shoulder and
then give a push to get rolling. I made it back to the base with a sore shoulder
and arm but never dropped the bananas.
some of the crew saw me ride through the main gate with a stalk of bananas, I
was greeted with a lot of laughter and derision. I hung the stalk in the machine
shop. When they ripened those that were laughing at me the most were down to the
machine shop asking if they could have a banana. I shared with those who asked
but never put them out for chow in the chow hall. Those were the best tasting
bananas I ever ate.
We had an allotment of one case of beer a month that we purchased through our canteen. It was usually Lucky Lager beer that tasted terrible because of the preservatives to keep from spoiling in our hot climate. I was told it had formaldehyde in it to keep it for spoiling. It tasted spoiled to me and I wouldn’t drink it. I never really cared for the taste of beer except when we could buy some from the Japanese at the Phosphate Mining Co. They would get Nippon and Asahi from Japan and would sell us some. The beer came in quart bottles packed in a wooden case in straw to keep them from breaking. It was very good and fresh.
would have loved to have a cold root beer but it wasn’t available on the base.
I asked Antina if she could get root beer. She said she would find out and buy
some on her next trip over to Koror if they had it. When the "Regina"
arrived from the next trip, Antina had bought a case of 24 cans of Shasta Root
Beer. It cost 25 cents a can at a time when pop sold for 5 cents a can. I gladly
paid for it and had a cold root beer in the cooler for quite a while. Nothing
tasted better than root beer with a scoop of ice cream in a tall glass. I guess
small things in life mean a lot when you don’t have them for a while.
in the Cistern
cleaning one of our 10,000 gallon fresh water tanks, I removed one of the planks
covering the cistern to inspect the condition of the water and to make sure
nothing was in the cistern to contaminate the water. On the bottom was a big,
dead, and bloated toad. Although the cistern water went through a chlorinator
before being pumped up to one of the storage tanks I didn’t think the toad
would be good for the water.
cistern was about 20 feet square and four feet deep. It was covered with long
bridge planks of 2x12s to keep foreign matter out. The water was collected from
the gutters of the buildings with an auxiliary pump at a well about a mile away.
reported the dead toad to HMC Moore and the CO and they agreed it should be
removed from the cistern. The CO, Mr. Krain, asked if I would volunteer to dive
in the cistern to get the toad out. I quickly agreed as I had not been swimming
in fresh water for over 15 months. The CO said to take a shower and put on my
swimming trunks and recruit help to remove some more planks to allow entry to
the cistern. I got Wayne Woodman RD3 to help remove the planks. I got a new
dustpan to scoop up the toad. I swam over the toad and dove down with the
dustpan hoping to scoop it right up. As I approached slowly with the dustpan, it
just exploded in a big cloud of rotten toad gunk
CO said we had better pump out the cistern and put fresh water in it. I
suggested we have swim call if anyone wanted to swim in fresh water before we
pumped it out. The CO and HMC Moore said that would be all right. Wayne Woodman
just baled in with the clothes he was wearing, we had a good time swimming in
the only private fresh water swimming pool on Anguar. It was great on a hot
afternoon; the water was cool and refreshing.
took Wayne and me six hours to pump the cistern out and clean it, but it was
well worth it to be able to swim in cool fresh water
had two 1951 Dodge Power Wagon ¾ ton pickups with a four speed un-synchro-meshed
transmission with a “grandma” low gear. The trucks had to be double-clutched
to shift. For the uninformed, it is a procedure of shifting out of each gear
into neutral and letting the clutch out before putting the clutch back in and
shifting to the next gear. If you didn’t shift without double-clutching, the
transmission sounded like you were ripping the gears out.
new CO, Mr Kreisberg, AKA Mr Krain, LTJG, came into the machine shop and was
disturbed. He asked Joe “Big Engines” Durabala, EN1, “What have you guys
done to the truck? Have you been working on them?”
there is something wrong with the transmissions,
shift, and I was about stranded and had to drive back to the base in low
gear.” Big Engines told me to take a truck out for a test run and see what was
wrong with it.
started out in “grandma,” which you never use, and floor-boarded it. The
engine was just screaming, and I flicked it up in neutral, double-clutched, and
it went into second, and then I went through all the gears with the transmission
working perfectly. Being on duty and very conscientious of doing a good job, I
decided to tour the island. An island only three miles long and two miles wide
doesn’t have a lot of roads. I tried them all and shifted many times, trying
to find something wrong with the transmission. Nothing was apparently wrong, so
back to the base.
Engines asked for my report. “There is nothing wrong with the truck; I’ll
bet the CO does not know how to double-clutch.”
Engines was very upset, thinking we were accused of doing something wrong to the
truck’s transmissions. He stormed into the office and said, “Do you know how
to double-clutch a truck transmission?”
Maiden Voyage of Rocket 69
Anguar our Damage Controlman, Konstanty Kulig, was always making cabinets and
repairing storage shelves and accumulated a large pile of long thin pieces of
wood about the size of small lathes that were mostly scrap. He asked if I would
help him build a kayak. We made the ribs out of plywood and used the lathes as
stringers along the sides, bottom, and top. We stretched canvas and nailed and
glued it to the stringers; we painted it red and put one seat in it. It really
looked good and was very light. Kulig said we would call it “Rocket 69”
after a song.
carried it down to the beach where the WWII invasion landed, past the rusting
hulks of amphibian landing craft called “Alligators.” The surf was high and
some large breakers were rolling in. We decided to christen the kayak by pouring
a can of Lucky Lager beer over the stern. Kulig said, “I christen you Rocket
69,” then got in. I pushed him out into the surf. He started paddling like a
real Surfman. About 50 feet from the beach a huge wave appeared and upended
Rocket 69 and did a perfect 180-degree turn upside down. Kulig came up from
under the kayak a-sputtering and a-cussing.
We took the kayak back to the base and put it up on a shelf. The maiden voyage was the final voyage of our beautiful kayak, Rocket 69.
Could Have Been King!
Regina made a couple of runs a week on the 40-mile trip. Many times different
girls would come over to Anguar to visit and meet some Coasties.
one trip a very beautiful girl named Maria came over and we talked quite a bit
at a party. She left soon afterward; I think she returned to Koror. Due for some
R&R, I went to Koror for a few days on the government “M-boat.” We
stayed at the Royal Paluian Hotel, which was like a cheap motel. I walked around
and visited with some natives I knew from Anguar. The first evening I was
surprised when in walked Maria. We had a nice talk, then she asked if she could
spend the night with me at the motel.
to be nice, I agreed. Maria was very nice but naïve. She told me her father was
King of Peleliu, and I said my father is President of the U.S.
asked if I would marry her and take her back to the states. I said no because it
was too cold in Iowa in the winter and she probably would not like the weather.
She said we could live on Peleliu with her father. Again I said “No,
thanks,” and never saw her again.
I returned to Anguar I asked about Maria. Everyone confirmed that her father was
King of Peleliu!
Day the Air Force Bombed our Loran Station
all started on July 19, 1954 when we received a "Mayday" from a
weather recon B-29 out of Guam with one engine out and requesting permission to
landed on Anquar's 6,900 foot runway with no trouble. The Coast Guard sent a
plane the next day from Guam with aircraft mechanics and the plane was fixed and
gone the same day.
crew spent the evening at one of the native's homes drinking "jungle
juice" and enjoying the company of some of the native girls, which we
introduced to them. After Guam, the Air Force thought they were in heaven and
some wanted to take leave and spend time on Anguar.
B-29 crew flew over on July 24th and parachuted a bunch of magazines for us as a
"thank you" for their good time on Anguar.
July 27th, another B-29 requested landing with their #2 engine out and #4 rough.
They were from the 54th Weather Recon Service and out of Guam. I think word got
around the Air Force what a great place we had and they just wanted to stop for
a few days.
B-29 spent a few days on the runway as an Air Force C-47 had brought down
mechanics and spare parts. The crew had a great time. I think some of the girls
adopted them. Anyway, the Aircraft Commander said if we didn't have any planes
due at Christmas, time they would bring all of our Christmas mail and packages
down on their run and parachute them to us. Fine! We all agreed. As no monthly
Coast Guard "Noon Balloon" was due we thought that would be great.
On Christmas the B-29 informed the Radioman they were coming and would be over
the runway at noon. Everyone except the watchstanders on the scopes jumped into
our two Dodge Power Wagons and beat it on down to the runway, about a mile away.
came the Air Force only about 150 feet above the runway, just screaming along at
low altitude. They started kicking the mail and magazines out the door. The
chutes never opened and they dropped like rocks. The mailbag broke open as it
bounced off the runway and blew letters into the jungle. The packages also split
open—everyone was running down the runway trying to catch whatever they could.
plane did a quick 360 and here they came again. I swear the B-29 was going wide
open. Another batch of mail and magazines were kicked out the door like
streamers, came down like rocks, busted up all over the runway. Thank god they
didn't have more.
were all hollering and cussing and, of course, no radio to ask why they were
doing this. The Radioman jumped into one of the trucks to get back to the
station radio, but it was too late. We spent a lot of time picking up our mail,
busted presents, and crappy magazines. We found that most of the magazines were Better
Homes and Gardens,
etc. The Air Force had apparently gone through the magazines and taken all of
the good ones for themselves. We had a full pickup load of magazines, which we
promptly took to the dump. Most of the mail was saved. Almost every Christmas
present, including cameras, were smashed. The only thing to survive was a glass
jar of hard candy my aunt sent me. We put it on a shelf in the rec. room with a
sign reading, "Too tough for the Air Force to break." It was a nice
gesture of the Air Force to bring our Christmas gifts out, but
bombing us with them was a different matter.
Note: There seems no logical explanation for the conduct of the Air Force
personnel in this incident unless one of the pretty little island maidens gave
the Aircraft Commander a present during their visit in July, which he took home
to his wife.
rain and more rain. Anguar, Palau reportedly has an annual rainfall of over 300
inches. It rains about every day, in the fall during the monsoon season it will
rain continuously for a couple weeks. The rain would let up occasionally and the
sun would come out and it would get humid.
Most of the crew just got used to it and just went out in the rain if they wanted to go somewhere. A raincoat was useless as it would be so hot and you sweated so much you might as well let the rain make you wet.
you wore a shirt, you could take it off and wring it out after the rain stopped
and it would be dry in a short while. Since all we wore on our feet were the
Japanese rubber shower shoes, there were no shoes or socks to get wet. A pair of
the shower shoes lasted about 1 month until the bottom toe strap that goes
through the sole would wear out due to walking on the coral rock roads. The
shower shoes cost 50 cents a pair in our canteen.
November 4th 1954 we received a storm warning to be braced for
typhoon “RUBY” that was heading our way with winds up to 90 knots .We had
about 1 days to get the base secured before the storm was due to hit us.
station had pad eyes imbedded in the coral rock at the front and back of the
metal buildings to tie the long cables to that were thrown over the buildings to
keep them from blowing away. Turnbuckles tighten them down at the pad eyes.
surf was pounding and huge breakers were coming into the beach area. Joe Rhodes
EN2 and I walked down to the beach to look at the crashing surf when we saw a
huge projectile rolling up the steep beach and then roll out again, it looked
like an unexploded 14-inch naval projectile. We gave it plenty of room and the
last we saw of it, it was rolling back down the beach out to sea.
mobile generators and loran trailers got cabled down to keep from getting blown
over. All loose gear was stored in the garage.
CO Mr. Krain called me to his quarters and said “Neal, I want you to take the
two station trucks to the edge of the base by the jungle and cable them to a
drove both truck to the east side of the base next to the jungle and looked for
the biggest trees I could find, the biggest trees were about 4 inches in
diameter with the roots on top of the ground growing in the top soil. These
trees were only 10 years old as the WW 2 bombardment of the island had cleared
the area of any standing trees.
¾ ton Dodge “Power Wagons” were very heavy and no 4 inch tree was going to
hold them if the wind was strong enough to blow them away, but orders are orders.
wind picked up and the rain came down so hard you could hardly see .The bottom
dropped out of the barometer and I thought about looking for a place to hold on.
The typhoon turned suddenly and headed north between Yap and Ulithie. It keep on
raining for three more days and finally the sun came out and you couldn’t even
tell it had rained as the porous coral rock had soaked it up.
typical week on Anguar.
On Anguar we had 2 -10,000 gallon capacity diesel fuel oil tanks. When we needed to be refueled, a buoy tender from Guam would tow down a fuel barge with about 8,000 gallons and the rest in 55 gal. barrels.
September 23, 1954, the 180 ft. buoy tender “PLANETREE” arrived from Guam
towing a fuel barge and an additional 231 barrels on the buoy deck. The barge
was pumped into one of the fuel tanks and the Anguar engineers started pumping
each barrel into the other fuel storage tank. We could pump about eight barrels
an hour with the electric pump. We only worked till noon as it was 120 degrees
in the sun and too hot to work unless it was an emergency. On the 4th day,
we had 50 barrels left to pump. We didn’t get them done by noon and the CO,
Mr. Krain wanted me to continue pumping in the afternoon sun. When HMC Moore
found out about it he said “ No Way”, it is too hot standing in the sun
pumping fuel oil in silver colored tanks, standing on white coral rock and
getting reflections from all sides. I don’t think he wanted a heat stroke case
for no good reason. I really appreciated a good decision like that.
days later we checked the tanks and one was EMPTY, about 7,000 gals. of fuel oil
that we pumped in had leaked out and the tank was dry. Apparently the rubber
seals on the seams of the tank had dried out and let the fuel oil leak out. I
had to go down into the tank with breathing gear on to check for any holes. I
had to go as I was the lowest engineer on the “ Food Chain.” As there were
no holes to be seen we pumped the tank full of water and not a drop of water
leaked out. We knew that diesel fuel oil would leak out where water will not if
the opening is small.
The CO radioed 14th CG District and reported the
loss of the fuel
next solution was to dig down around the tank to see how far the oil had seeped
into the ground. The CO told me to get some help and dig a hole to see how far
the oil went. I think they still didn’t believe the oil had leaked out.
got SN Alan “Smokey” Stover to help me. We got a pick and a couple shovels.
As I swung the pick against the coral rock it just bounced back at me, there was
no way you can dig in hard coral rock. Coral is very porous and very hard. I
told the CO if HQ wanted to dig around the tanks they would have to send a
demolition team to blast a hole as picks and shovels wouldn’t do it. HQ then
sent two officers down to investigate the lost fuel oil and they agreed that the
oil had leaked out through the dried out seals and disappeared in the porous
coral rock just as we told them it did.
The first executive officer or known as the XO on Anguar was ETC Flowers, one of the finest, most helpful, likeable persons I ever had the pleasure of meeting. Chief Flowers never looked down on anyone and treated every Coastie and the natives with respect.
our evening movie was over Chief Flowers would act as bus driver and load up the
crew that was going on liberty in one of the stations Dodge “Power Wagons”
and drive around the island to any place you wanted to go, if you wanted to stop
at a particular house you just pounded on the cab roof and the Chief would stop
and let you off. He would also let you take your case of beer on the truck if
you had any to take, he would even help you carry the beer from the cooler to
load in the truck.
for us at the station Chief Flowers had his time in for rotation back to the
states after I had been on Anguar a couple months.
replacement was a ETC that I will call “ S.”
Chief “S” was an older man and a WW2 veteran that had spent WW2 at
Folly Beach, South Carolina we were told. My first talk with Chief “S” I
discovered that he was a bigot, he seemed to hate anyone that wasn’t white and
called the natives Nig-gars. It was a new experience for me as I hadn’t
experienced any bigotry in the Coast Guard. I was raised in a family where my
dad, his two brothers and two sisters had moved north from Mississippi and they
never had any hate for other races. I never wanted to be around anyone like
Chief “S” except in the line of duty. He never went on liberty or left the
base that I know of the rest of the time I was there. The natives knew about him
right away and named him Chief ”S**T, very aptly named.
Chief “S” liked to call little weekly XO inspections. He would look a room over for dust, loose gear, etc. He gigged me once for having a pair of ragged cut-off dungarees. We mostly ignored him and just went along with his silly inspections.
When our quarters were being painted we had to move our bunks to the garage for a couple days. As there were only three of us in our room we had to stand the XO inspection in the garage. The three of us lined up, Woodman, Neal and Rhodes. As Chief “S” came down the line he was followed by the CO taking notes like a Yeoman, he looked at Woodman and then me and at the end standing ramrod straight at attention was Rhodes wearing a BIG STRAW HAT. Chief “S” did a double take and looked at Rhodes and said “what do you think this is” Rhodes looked him right straight in eye and said ‘They call it the Coast Guard but I don’t know what the Hell it is!”
• • • —
Al Neal's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Go To More Tales of Palau
Return To Coast Guard Stories