TALES OF PALAU

By Allen J. Neal

   

Skivvies In The Chow Hall, Lovers In The Jungle

On 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.

We 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.

I was the new EN striker and an FN rate was to be sent in for me, I was told.

On 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.

At 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.

Dusty replied that when the CGC KUKUI built 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.

 

Quarters, and Lovers in the Jungle

My 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.

As 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.”

The CO said “Sorry.”

 

The Admiral From Iowa

On 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.”

The Admiral replied, “I’m from Waterloo, Iowa.”

Webb replied to the Admiral’s enquiry and gave his hometown as “Des Moines, Iowa, sir.”

The Admiral asked me, “Where are you from, son?”

“Council Bluffs, Iowa, sir.

The Admiral got kind of red in the face and said, “What the hell, is everyone on this island from Iowa?”

“I don’t know, sir.” I believe he thought we were jerking his chain.

Your Tax Dollar At Work

 

Crazy Rhodes

Undoubtedly 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.”

Dusty 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.

As 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 the trouble.

Almost 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.

Rhodes waited until the CO and XO went to sleep and would sneak out of the base and come to the party on a bicycle.

The 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.

Rhodes 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.”

 

Python in the Rec. Room 

Since 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 movie.

After 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 feet.

The 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.

Pure 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.

The CO ordered “Lights! What happened?”

Rhodes 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!

One Upmanship of Rhodes

On 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.

One 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 that.

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.

The Purple Heart

We 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.

Little 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.

 

The Purloined Motorcycle 

Rumors 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.

My 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.

At 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.

When Rhodes rotated back to the states I became the sole owner of a stolen motorcycle with no title, registration or license plates.

One day our CO called me to his office and said “Neal, I see your motorcycle has no license plates on it.”

“No sir, it doesn’t.”

He said, “I want you to put license plates on it to ride on the road off base.”

Now 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.

Maceberg and the Bicycle

In 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.

Shortly 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 meaning no disrespect however, it just sounded good.

After 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.

On 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.

Mace 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."

When 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.

I 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.

As 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.

“Sure, 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 Base.”

They 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.

 

Four Brown Legs

We 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 movie.

At 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.

As 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 rain.

The 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.

When 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.

After 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.

I 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 supported them.

I 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 that night.

 

Leaping Lizards, Radioman “W," and Munch 

Driving 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.

The 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 the road.

The 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.

Radioman “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.

We 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 liked it.

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.

 

Great White Hunters

When 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 dust.

While 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.

We 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.

We 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.

Needless to say we never had any fresh chicken dinners after that hunting excursion.

 

Green Bananas

Our 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.

I 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.

I 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.

When 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.

 

Beer and Root Beer

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.

I 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.

 

Toad in the Cistern

After 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.

The 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.

I 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

The 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.

It 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

 

Double-clutching

We 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.

Our 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?”

“No, why?”

“Well, there is something wrong with the transmissions, they won’t 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.

I 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.

Big Engines asked for my report. “There is nothing wrong with the truck; I’ll bet the CO does not know how to double-clutch.”

Big 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?”

“Double-clutch? What’s that?”

 

The Maiden Voyage of Rocket 69

On 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.

We 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.

I Could Have Been King!

The 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.

On 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.

Well, 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.

She 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.

When I returned to Anguar I asked about Maria. Everyone confirmed that her father was King of Peleliu!

 

The Day the Air Force Bombed our Loran Station 

It 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 land.

They 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.

The 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.

The 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.

On 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.

The 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.

WRONG! 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.

Here 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.

The 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.

We 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, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, 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.

Editor's 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.

 

TYPHOON RUBY

Rain, 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.

If 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.

On 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The mobile generators and loran trailers got cabled down to keep from getting blown over. All loose gear was stored in the garage.

The 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 tree”

I 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Another typical week on Anguar.  

DISAPPEARING DIESEL OIL

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.

On 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.           

Four 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 oil and their concern was that someone had stolen the fuel oil. That was impossible as the Japanese were restricted to their compound and the natives had nothing that used diesel oil. We told them it had leaked out from the seals drying out when the tanks were about empty.

HQs 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.                  

I 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.

Case closed.  

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND BIGOTED

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. 

After 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.

Unfortunately 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.  

His 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!”

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Al Neal's email address is campinginusa@aol.com  

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