Smitty ~ Letter V

King Neptune and the Pollywogs

King Neptune and the Pollywogs

When Smitty’s ship passed the equator, as per naval tradition, the ship’s crew donned their apparel of King Neptune and his court in preparation of handing the “Pollywogs” (the soldiers) their certificates of crossing.  The Royal Barber tried to cut the hair of the crew-cut troopers and the Royal Executioner paddled a backside with an oar if the receiving line moved too closely to a snail’s pace. (which one can imagine was every G.I. derriere that went by!) Smitty was one to really enjoy this sort of tomfoolery — even if it was with the navy!  The water damage you see to Smitty’s certificate (pictured below) is one of the reasons I began to make a facsimile of his scrapbook onto the computer.  The more research I did, the more people I discovered who were out there, also looking for data on their own relatives, ergo – this blog.  I have re-typed the contents of the certificate to show the humor involved — despite a war.

equator crossing

equator crossing

To All Sailors, Marines, Whatever Ye Maybe: Greetings: and to all Mermaids, Whales, Sea Serpents, Porpoises, Sharks, Eels,Dolphins, Skates, Suckers, Crabs, Lobsters and all other Living Things of the Sea:

Know ye, that on this June 15 ’44 in Latitude 00000 and Longitude Cape Mendacia there appeared within Our Royal Domain the bound Southwestward for the Equator, the South Sea Islands, New Zealand and Australian ports BE IT REMEMBERED That the said Vessel and Officers and Crew thereof have been inspected and passed on by Ourselves and Royal Staff:

AND BE IT KNOWN By all ye Sailors, Marines, Landlubbers, Soldiers and all others who may be honored by his presence, that Pollywog Everett A. Smith 32816491  Having been found worthy to be numbered as one of our Trusty Shellbacks he has been duly initiated into the SOLEMN MYSTERIES OF THE ANCIENT ORDER OF THE DEEP  Be It Further Understood:  That by Virtue of the power invested in me I do hereby command all my subjects to show honor and respect to him wherever he may be.

Disobey the Order under Penalty of Royal Displeasure. (bottom left) Given under our band and seal this Davey Jones, His Majesty’s Scribe – (bottom right)  Neptunus Rex, His Servant – the signature appears to be Gregory Cullen

*****          *****

worldmap

World map in WWII era

*****          *****

Letter V                                                                                                       Yep!  Still at sea

Dear Mom, 

I was seriously thinking of tearing this letter up, as I couldn’t for the life of me locate an airmail stamp aboard ship.  I kept at it though until finally fortune smiled down on me and success was mine.  I have been pretty lucky so far at my card playing activities and should it hold out until we reach some civilized port, why I’ll be ahead and you will be pleasantly surprised when you receive my check for like amount.  We can cable home money from abroad so might just as well take your advice — surprised? — and send it home for that day when we shall all return.

We have a large map of the world hanging up on the wall, which supplies us with as much amusement trying to figure out just where we are.  According to figures, dates, times and patience, we should be hitting a port sometime real soon.  In fact there is a rumor being whispered about that we will hit one tomorrow.  Now this rumor comes from good authority seeing that it came from a fellow whose first sergeant is a second cousin to the uncle of the father of the first mate whose brother is third cook on this boat.  Now, can’t you see why we are so glumly overjoyed?  All kidding aside though, we should be nearing one soon.

We saw a movie last night down in the mess hall.  It was quite an old picture, but luckily for me, I hadn’t seen it before, so therefore I spent my most enjoyable hour so far on this trip.  The officers on this trip haven’t been having it quite as tough as us, but rough enough.  In order to pass away their time they have taken up the game of badminton with a zeal and I must say have really kept at it until now this regiment can boast it has not only badminton players, but experts as well.  By the way, I have also learned how to play the old card game of Cribbage.  Ever hear tell of it before? 

Well mom, that is all for today, so once again I’ll sign off, but before I do, give my regards to all and I’ll write again soon. 

Love and kisses, Everett

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

att00007-1

navyrelease

The new terrorist ‘catch and release’ program

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes –

Mary Adams – Shenandoah, PA; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

official wreath laying ceremony

official wreath laying ceremony

Frederick Brooks – Richmond, VA; US Navy, WWII

John Dane – Fairbault, MN; US Army Air Corps, WWII

Robert Emmons – Ontario, OR; US Navy, WWII, PTO

George Katzman – NYC, NY; US Army, WWII, ETO

Edmund  Leszczynski – Dearborn Hgts., MI; US Army Air Corps, WWII, P-38 pilot

Raymond Plaisted – Midland, GA;  US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO/US Army, Korea, Vietnam 187th RCT/11th Airborne Div.

Ralph Sullivan Jr. – Winston-Salem, NC; US Army, WWII

David Toms – Waikato, NZ; RNZ Navy # 3504, WWII

Richard Washburn – Denver, CO; USMC, WWII, PTO, 3 Purple Hearts

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 22, 2016, in Letters home, SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 104 Comments.

  1. Very much enjoying reading about and things by Smitty. Keep the letters coming.

    Like

  2. I am enjoying Smitty’s letters!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I still have my dad’s certificate. I treasure it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sir,

    I have finished my attempts to restore the Certificate.
    It was difficult and I know my restoration is imperfect.
    I am not a professional – have had no training in this – and my computer programs are not top of the line. I some instances I could not read the text on the certificate, so I’m sure there are errors. Advise me of any corrections you may want. Further, I unfortunately couldn’t duplicate the signatures.

    But all in all, I still hope they may find some favor.

    My email address is jcalberta@yahoo.ca.
    Send me a letter and I’ll attach the certificates in a return letter.

    Sincerely,

    jcalberta / My Favorite Westerns.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Enjoyed reading your Fathers letter gp, the story of the Crossing and day to day activities are entertaining, and must have bought relief to your family. As an old Soldier, I recall similar letters I wrote from Vietnam, obviously a different time frame and era, but what I can see in those letters is the vibrancy and youth of a young Soldier.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I so enjoy reading Smitty’s letters to home. It gives one a view of someone at war that we couldn’t get elsewhere. Thanks GP for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I remember my father’s equator crossing certificate hanging up in the house when I was growing up!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ll see if I can fix up that certificate for you and send it over to you. Might take a while.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Great post! Always love your work and your blog is one of my favorites! Thanks for presenting history in such an informative and entertaining presentation!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Lovely letter to Mom. The days of writing to loved ones, and sharing adventures and hardships. If only all those old letters were saved and share for the next generation. You’d have to text it to them, though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m still ‘old-school’, Toni – I don’t text. I am guilty of emailing more than keeping up with my written correspondence, but I still do that as well – I feel it adds the personal touch. I’m glad you enjoyed dad’s letter home.

      Like

  11. I like this lovely description of rumour source – “Now this rumor comes from good authority seeing that it came from a fellow whose first sergeant is a second cousin to the uncle of the father of the first mate whose brother is third cook on this boat.”
    Actually, to read the letters is more interesting then novels for me because it is about real people and life where you can get the real history facts.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree! I used to read novels as fast as they came out (not quite, but you get what I mean) – now i slowly read non-fiction and try to absorb every word. That generation has totally blown me out of the water!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I was transported back in time! Wonderful! Can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like. Blessings to you…hope you have a beautiful weekend💛

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I love how our American boys always keep a sense of humor: “first sergeant is a second cousin to the uncle of the father of the first mate whose brother is third cook on this boat. “

    Liked by 3 people

    • An excellent example of the old ‘rumor mill.’ If they didn’t keep their sense of humor, the rough lives they had already survived would never have made it through a war. At least in my opinion.

      Like

  14. I do hope you have his sense of humor…it is adorable 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I’m not surprised that he enjoyed cribbage. It’s an old card game with a great deal of skill to it and a need for a fair amount of mathematical knowledge and cunning. It was so popular in England after the war that there were cribbage leagues in every town, and each pub provided at least one team. I suppose that that must all be lost now.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. that letter reminds me of the passing time that must have been slow – and cribbage and badminton to nam e a few (side note – I guess badminton is one of the only three sports the USA has never medaled in in the olympics….)

    oh and tomfoolery for sure…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dad grew up being busy, I can just imagine how stir-crazy he would be on this cruise. Whether the Olympics considers badminton a sport or not, as a kid, I broke my middle toe by having a collision with my own partner playing that game! Don’t ask me how – no clue!!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. That ceremony must have been a fun interruption on this trip, along with the movie. I crossed the equator several time as a ‘land crab’ in Africa, but have no certificate to prove it, just a few faded photos with one foot on each side of the equator 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Mom laughed and laughed when she read this….brought back Navy days of Pollywogs and Shellbacks…thank you! Woof!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. A sense of humor might have been a key ingredient to survival. Your dad sounds like a delightful Pollywog from the Ancient Order of the Deep.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. It’s the old adage that ‘you take your entertainment where you can find it’ when you were on the type of journey that your dad was on. I laughed at the idea of sending the card winnings home. Peg’s father was quite adept at Bridge, but I’ve never heard of any of his winnings making it home. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • Smitty was used to helping with the finances. His father disappeared in 1914 and his mother supported him and her mother by herself, until he was old enough to get a job and help out. Maybe Peg’s father kept his in the mattress. 🙂

      Like

  21. I so enjoy Smitty’s letters. Good thing that tradition still prevails in the Navy, such as crossing the equator.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. This body of work is sensational. I think it should be made into a movie. It would be so real!!!
    Thank you for the opportunity to learn lessons in our History1!!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Smitty had a great sense of humor. I liked the description of the source of the news about the port.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Nothing ever changes … ok, the wording in places is a little different, and the nubile blonde mermaids a wee bit more superb, but it’s still the same.

    Not PC these days, I guess — and with ‘mixed crews’ I imagine still the same but totally different? How do the barbers shave a lady? How do the surgeons ‘operate’ on someone who may not be touched? How do they duck a damsel — or do they just hose her down?

    (I remember on one occasion a guy who’d been duly summonsed the day before failed to show up. The entire ship was searched, and again; until one of the Bears (don’t ask) had the bright idea of looking up and there he was, an impossible (certainly illegal) height up. By the time they finally got him the bears were well and truly into the spirit of the thing … but he survived and got his certificate)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m afraid i might not be the one to ask this, I’m not the best at being PC orientated, I call them as I see them; so if a female wishes to join the Navy and do her part, tradition is tradition. (IMO)

      Like

      • When they first floated (ouch) the idea of ladies going to sea my suggestion of ‘give them their own ships, entirely female’ went down like a lead duck.

        I added as a postscript that they could even paint them pink …

        Later I had a heated (but gentlemanly) correspondence with a female politician and in it I quoted verbatim two army warrant officers who told me that “Women are good at max for about four days in the field, after that they turn to shit”. She wasn’t impressed … and now we have ladies at sea. Time will tell.

        Liked by 1 person

  25. I enjoyed your post.I learn here so much Thank you.
    Did you know I have also another blog?
    https://natuurplekjes2.wordpress.com.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. When my father was sent to New Guinea, his ship departed from the east coast and headed south. They stopped in Brazil then hung a left near the Falklands to let the weather of the sub-antarctic push it along until they were clear of Australia, then they hung another left to head north.

    He said, “you don’t know seasick until you’ve been in southern waters.

    He also said he wasn’t sure why they chose that route. “Perhaps they were using an old map from the sailing days,” he added.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Another interesting post, GP! I’m sure the crew knew what the next port would be, and could not tell. Your Dad was clever, just divulging enough for Mom to know they were close to land. Good to know there was humor on the ship’s crossing the Equator. I’m finding more and more it’s time consuming to research old records, and there are too many dead ends! 💛 Christine

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Polliwogs and Shellbacks…been a while since I heard someone mention those mariner terms! Great post.
    🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Enjoyed the post and your Dad’s sense of humor in spite of everything they were going through at the time. Smiling at the humor section and the catch and release 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  30. Does it make sense that the same ship could have made the ocean crossing twice in a month? If the dates are right, KP Smith crossed the equator a month earlier, yet he had the same signature on the doc. I would guess that Gregory Cullen would be the skipper, but maybe he is just a member of the crew that was assigned the task of organizing the ceremony. I don’t even know the name or designation of the ship.

    Here is a list of shipmates that signed the document:
    Robert D Lepley Butler PA
    Jacquse A Fachan Gueydan LA
    M MacNaught Delhi NY
    Robert K Jordan Idaho Falls ID
    Robert F Ejem Weinart TX
    Charles Willis Brooklyn NY
    Joseph Chianese Independence NY
    J K Hurst Wilhurst KY
    Jim Torres Brooklyn NY
    Ricahrd L Musselman Easton PA
    Morrel F Langley Newfield NJ
    Sy Orenthal Brooklyn NY
    John Kuzy Washington PA
    Earl Ray Dallas TX
    Thomas A O’Connor Jr Union NJ
    Ebbs Thomas Scottsville KY
    Jim Virgilio Union NJ
    George W Garwig Butler PA
    S Weiss Bloomfield NJ
    John Gunvie Paterson NJ
    Robert K Jordan Idaho Falls ID
    Ed Jenkinson Springfield NJ
    George J Peich Los Angeles CA
    Anthony Molechefski Paterson NJ
    Walter G White San Francisco CA
    Frank L Skaggs De Leon TX
    David C Collins B?? TX
    D R Morrison Bethlehem PA
    Carl W Jacelon Long island NY
    Francis L Lavier Malone NY
    Robert J Dillon Terre Haute IN
    Walter H Meixsell ??
    Henry Kim Reedley CA
    Sam Guaspari Rome NY
    Donald Williams Willkes Barre PA
    Willian Tryon Pimenta ID
    Charles Sokel Brooklyn NY
    Kenneth P Smith Allentown PA

    Liked by 3 people

    • I had assumed Cullen was the skipper, but I reached a dead-end on his history. The documents did differ from ship to ship and service by service, so I am thinking it was the same ship?

      Like

      • My father-in-law believes the skipper of his ship was a Brit. However, I found that a
        Gregory Cullen served the USN off Britain during WW I. The same man could have been aboard a commercial ship transporting paratroopers to New Guinea in 1944.

        1921: ‘Captain Gregory Cullen. U. S. N., recently commanding officer of the U. S. S. Vixen, has been relieved by Lieutenant William W. Booth, U. S. Navy. The Vixen…

        Naval History and Heritage Command
        Results 226 – 240 of 272 – USS Constitution (1) … at the New York Navy Yard on 31 January 1919, Lt. Gregory Cullen in command.

        My FIL claimed that his voyage took 29 days, so Cullen could not have sailed back and taken another group of paratroopers across the equator one month later. He could have flown back, though, and commanded another vessel.

        Liked by 1 person

      • http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=9308

        Awarded for actions during the World War I

        The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Lieutenant Gregory Cullen, United States Navy, for distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Auk, engaged in the difficult and hazardous duty of sweeping for and removing the mines of the North Sea Barrage.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The ship my father was on let his unit off at New Guinea.

      Like

      • My wife’s recollection is that it was a commercial ship, so the Navy may not have any record of the names of the crew. It was headed for New Guinea. Ken still talks about poker games aboard the ship. I will see him tomorrow. I can ask if he recalls the name of the ship or any other details of the crossing. Maybe he would even recognize the King Neptune in your photo.

        Do you have a roster for the 187th GIR? I only have the honor roll of those killed in action. I know that Smitty was in the headquarters company and KP Smith was in Company G.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No, I do not have the roster. I’ve seen the 1943 yearbook, but only top officers were named. I did spot my father’s picture in the group photo.

          Like

        • I talked to Ken P Smith about the crossing yesterday. He said his unit smuggled a mascot on board and hid it from the ship’s crew. The mascot was a dog named Butch. Butch was later wounded in action in Leyte. They stopped at a port he recalls as Milime Bay before disembarking at Oro Bay after 29 days.

          Ken said they had Friday the 13th twice when they crossed the dateline. His memory is probably off a tiny bit, because May 13th, 1944 was a Saturday. Also, the date jumps forward when travelling west. They must have passed through the Gilbert Islands if they then crossed the Equator on the 15th of May.

          The again, there was a Friday the 13th in April and July of 1945 when he would have been heading back east across the dateline. This is probably what he remembers.

          The ship sailed solo, and they had no armaments on the vessel. He said they sailed a very crooked course to make it harder for subs or planes to predict their future position.

          He said the hazing involved having kitchen grease smeared in their hair and being forced to kiss King Neptune’s belly, which was also covered in grease. He said the officers got the a worse paddling than the enlisted men.

          He also said that the men wanted to sleep on deck to get away from the heat and stench down below, but that the skipper would not allow it.

          Liked by 1 person

    • One of the men who signed the document was apparently killed in Luzon.
      Willian Tryon of Pimenta, ID. My father-in-law said these men were all in Company G, 187th GIR.

      http://www.ww2-airborne.us/units/187/187_honor.html
      William W Tryon, Pfc, Luzon, 5/17/1945

      Liked by 1 person

  31. It’s good to see that he maintained a sense of humor during this ordeal. It couldn’t have been a pleasant trip, and I can only imaging the concern over when and where they were going to find port.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. I have a photo of the exact same document signed by Gregory Cullen in the same hand. However, it is handwritten, not typed. The date is one month earlier: May 15, 1944, the longitude is 156 degrees, and the name of the paratrooper is Kenneth P Smith. The back of the document is signed by a large number of fellow soldiers.

    I have put photos of the front and back at this link:
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZNZOs13rlC-52Wvu8Z60lUUIwwO5WJMjqwetKa8H9GI/edit?usp=sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  33. That was fun! My brother (in the Navy as a Seabee) had one of these crossings, with the hazing and certificate, and I enjoyed seeing it once he got home. I don’t know how long this has been a tradition, but it is a bit of fun.

    I’m sure others will enjoy learning and reading about it, especially since you include the text and the scanned image of your father’s certificate.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Great to still have that Equator Crossing certificate, damaged or not, GP. So many soldiers played Cribbage during the war, it carried on into civilian life, and was still being played by standby crews when I was an EMT. I never learned it though!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. This ceremony was one of the first things my dad told me about when he opened up and started talking about WWII. A little bit of hazing for the first timers, and a lot of fun for everyone else on the ship!

    Liked by 3 people

  36. Thank you very much!

    Like

  37. You did a remarkable job and I thank you from the bottom of my heart! You have become a very dear and close friend, and I do not say that often or lightly.

    Like

  1. Pingback: Certificates for Pacific Paratrooper | My Favorite Westerns

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