At day-break, Swagger Bill is back with his two trucks. He laughed, "Haw! Haw! Haw! There is not a single Jap left on this little island of Calicoan. They have all been driven back up into the jungle on the big island of Samar. You are all being taken to the "Seabee" Base, where you will be loaned out to the Seabees. (Navy Construction Battalions) There you will help build your naval supply depot!"
We soon discovered that Swagger Bill was also full of bull. We had to work with one hand and keep our rifle in the other. And this time our rifles are fully loaded. A sailor is driving a bull-dozer, suddenly, a small ping! He drops dead from a hidden Jap sniper! Another sailor is working on top of the roof of a building, suddenly, a small ping! He drops dead from a Jap sniper! They will sneak up into a tall coconut tree, and rope themselves in. They are very hard to locate, some of us have to watch for the next shot. But thank the Lord, they did not use smokeless powder. So their next shot would also be their last one! My duty station (job) is running a big buzz saw in the carpenter shop. With a buzz saw, boards can be ripped their full length, or cut into small pieces. One day, Captain Offenburger, officer in charge of the shop, came to talk with me. "Seaman First Class Owen, I want to make you a carpenter's mate third class petty officer. Men are being killed all around us, so I am short one carpenter's mate rating." "With all due respect, Sir," I replied, "I do not want to be a carpenter's mate!" "You do not realize that in peacetime, it would take two years or longer to obtain that rating? Besides, you do not really have a choice, as of twelve o'clock noon you became a petty officer carpenter's mate third class!" Then he clicked his heels and abruptly left. I sat down to do some very tall thinking. When I joined the Navy, I requested sea duty on a destroyer to fight the Japs. Now, here I am in the Navy Seabees in charge of a buzz saw. In the future, my kids and grandkids will sit on my knee and ask, "Pop, you were in the big war, World War Two, just what did you do to fight the Japs?" And I will have to answer, "Why, I sawed up lumber!"
The next day Captain Offenburger came back to see me again. "I told you I did not want this carpenter's mate rating. What would I have to do to get cut loose from it?" The captain replied, "You would have to do something very drastic: like robbing a bank, or hitting an officer!" Now, there was not a bank to be robbed within 400 miles! So I drew back my fist and knocked the Captain down on his tail-bone! He just sat there awhile, shaking his head, finally he said, "You big dummy, I did not mean me!" (It is a very serious offense in the navy for an enlisted man to hit an officer. It could mean a court- martial, several years in jail, and even a dis-honorable discharge.) But luckily for me, Captain Offenburger had been a preacher in civilian life. He did not even report that I had struck him. In fact, he did not even put it down in my record. What an unusual and understanding Navy officer. However, the next morning, guess what? I was transferred from the Seabees back into the regular Navy. My carpenter's mate rating was gone and I was knocked down to seaman second class storekeeper striker! But I considered myself very lucky indeed!
The Philippines are a beautiful and yet deadly place to live. Calicoan Island is just 11 degrees from the equator, so it is always hot. It has two seasons, wet and dry (in the rainy season we stayed wet much of the time.) We lived in tin half moon shaped huts, with both ends just screened in (that was our air conditioning.) To this very day I still have the creeping crud (jungle rot) that I caught on the island, but the people are some of the best I have ever met.
The Filipinos like to party and throw more than any other people in the world. And there are always drinks, a native booze called Tuba. But, there are no drunkards in the isles, because of Tuba. It has a kick of only 8.6 per cent and it tastes really bad. Tuba is made from a frond of coconut palm trees. First, all of the coconuts are picked off the tree. Then, the frond is trained to hang straight down for about two weeks. Then, twice a day, once in the morning and evening, a thin sliver is cut off the end. The sap drops into a small bamboo tub. Pulverized tanbark from a mangrove tree is added as a disinfectant and fermenter. At the richer parties, a fairly nice cocktail is mixed by adding eggs, chocolate, and sugar. Natives cannot say the word cocktail, so they call it coetail or cotare.
Filipino dances are always conducted in a blaze of light. The girls sit on one side of the room with their chaperons, the men on the other. When the music starts, the men rush over, and grab a girl to dance with. As soon as the dance is over, the girls must go back to their chaperon. Filipino girls have a very strict life, they cannot be handled like American girls. If you see a girl you like, you cannot touch her, talk to her,or even look at her. First, you must find a go-between man who will go talk to the girl's father. He is called big man, you must buy him a jug of Tuba booze, called a Demijohn, which holds four and one half gallons. Next, you slip him twenty pesos, which is ten bucks American money. Then, he talks with the girl's father. When everything has been arranged, the father will invite you to a big dinner. But, you have to bring at least three Demijohns full of the Tuba booze. Finally, late in the evening, the father will give you his okay, and the girl is yours! (For the Filipinos believe that a man will get sick or turn bad if he does not have a girl sometimes. Besides this, they all want "mestizo" kids. (Kids with white blood in them.) We think that anybody with a drop of black blood in them is black. That seems very funny to them. Yet, they say that anybody with a drop of white blood is white. What I could never figure out, nearly all of the men are very dark skinned, yet most of the girls are very light skinned?
I understand that today some rich dude is building a resort and large casino on Calicoan Island. What a shame to destroy its primitive beauty!
From the Memoirs of Rev. Cecil Lawrence Owen U.S. Navy WW II.