I am 25 years old today, and another blow fell bright and early. We went to operations to find out our status. Lt. Fincham, Lt. Tolhurst and Sgt. Seehorn were assigned to crews. Russell and I await another transfer. Too many radio operators and gunners in the 75th Squadron. So we’ll probably sweat it out here for a length of time. The 75th goes up on the 19th. Tomorrow is a Squadron Beer Party, and I’m going to get as drunk as the proverbial skunk.
Damn it, our crew had gotten pretty close together and think we’re all sorry to be broken up.1 At least we are self respecting, having kept our noses to ourselves. We can name several who certainly used theirs, but they’re not worth worrying about!
Went to the coral beach and hunted shells. Noticed a chapel on the way down, and as I can’t hurt a fly could not see myself killing the crabs that inhabit the shells. Soon tired of the sport and stopped by the chapel on the way back.It was a veritable work of art and was erected by natives for the Navy. It’s really a gem. It sits back in a grove of coconut trees. These form a lane to the doorway. Five beautifully formed palms lending an air of dignity and beauty. The building is long and rectangular. The roof is triangular and slopes steeply toward the ground. The top and part of the sides that are closed in was done by plaited fronds, which have turned brown with age. They fold them over a long stick and stitch it with heavy cord. As you walk toward the entrance, one sees the bell house on top of the roof. Above this is a large white cross, which seems inspiring and restful to a tired man’s eye, a symbol of peace and devotion. Over the front of the chapel are lighter colored fronds that form a decorative design. It’s very lovely, a gem lost and found in a beautiful grove.
The front is blank, but the path widens and one enters a doorway on the side of a small porch, turns either left or right in respect to the door entered, and there is the church interior. An aisle leads straight to the altar. Along it and to either side are fifteen rows of pews. The floor is covered deeply and softly by fine sawdust residue. From crossbeams, which extend the width and length of the roof, hang homemade chandeliers. There are five on each side of the church. These consist of a vertical length of bamboo, which is hollow and through which the wiring runs. Horizontal to and attached to the bottoms are more hollow pieces placed crosswise. One lamp hangs to the end of each of the four sections.2
The altar of the church is on a platform, three steps above the ground level of the floor. It’s a square stand and above it is a large oblong panel of white cloth. Above this cloth is an opening in the building in the shape of a cross which is so placed that when the sunrays strike the open cross a cross of light reflects inward. A very beautiful picture. On either side of the altar are two white cloth covered five gallon tin cans, in which repose growing plants. On the mantel affected over the altar are two brass, shined 105 millimeter empty shell cases used as vases and containing huge fronds or ferns, so placed as to entwined over the mantel from both sides of the altar. This gives a wreath effect.
The pulpit of the church, or rather the reverend’s rostrum, is placed on the left side of the church on a slightly raised dais. The church is lovely and beautifully rustic.
Yes, It’s a grand church; but a more wonderful place to worship. A deep significant peace encompasses this building, truly the home of our Lord, in which we trust our all. The air of the place, instead of being intangible approaches a divinity that can be felt. Not suffocating but wondrous air soaked and saturated with the prayers of people and the divinity of the Lord. Its quiet is impressive and soul satisfying. Its peace is tender and impresses the heart. Its whole life is borne on the shoulders of men who pray to the Lord! Its spirit is the castle of God. Truly this is the home of the heavenly Father. Amen!
Sgt. Seehorn and I went to the Navy store this afternoon where we purchased a new khaki shirt, toothpaste, March 3rd issue of Newsweek, a bottle of ink and some stationery. Cost me $3.00, but heck, that’s all we have to spend our money for. Left for this store in bright sunshine, came back in the rain a very few minutes later. Queer weather here. Rained three times this afternoon. The devil was whipping his wife, as we used to say.
Now dusk falls and the crickets sing their chirping song. The palms still stand straight to the sky in welcome stateliness; the ocean beats a tom-tom crashing crescendo against the wicked coral rock, its spires and castle like battlements. Small pools form in these formations, and brilliant hued fish, small, but spectacular dart in the clear water. Fish of sky blue, coal black and transparent fish with a thin black stripe, the only view under ruffled conditions. Truly these islands are gems, myriads of colors in pure tone. But as all lovely places must have their bit of ugliness, the Russell Isles are no exception. Here are darting lizards, swarms of gray rats, malarial mosquitoes, dank rot of the jungled areas and the steaming heat of the day, the sticky interludes of the evenings.
Ah yes, dusk falls and night approaches on the winged sound of a cricket song, so we bid you adieu for the evening. May peace be with you until we meet again.
Notes & Commentary
1 The breakup of the aircrew was especially painful to Wayne since he had trained with its members since Columbia Army Air Base in Columbia, South Carolina. While he blames the breakup on favoritism, it may have been that there were simply too many radio operators and armorers available in the replacement pool.
2 There were seven Navy chapels on Banika Island, and this one most nearly resembles Wayne’s description. Drury, Clifford Merrill, Captain, Chaplain Corps, USNR. The History of the Chaplain Corps, United States Navy. vol. 2, 1939 – 1949. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1950. digital image. (http://www.mocavo.com/The-History-of-the-Chaplain-Corps-United-States-Navy-Volume-2/279866/9?browse=true#170 : accessed 07 July 2014) p. 149