+10-7 Fullam Newsletter Autum 2003

Northern Solomons - Bougainville - Bismarck Archipelago
Marianas - Western Caroline Islands - two Jima - Okinawa

October 2003

Autumn, 2003 Oct 6, 03

Ahoy Shipmates!

Once again, Bill DeMarco is arranging a mini-reunion of all FULLAM shipmates and their guests on Cape Cod for October 31 - November 2. You can contact Bill via phone at (781)-289-1596 or E-mail at billdem99@aol.com for all the details. Sure would be great if a good number of could get together and relive those glory days aboard the "Mighty F".

I am sorry to report the loss of another fine shipmate - Eddie Johnson - who passed away on May 30 after a lengthy two-year illness. You recall that Ed was a plankowner and Gunner's Mate aboard the ship. Our deepest sympathy to his family.

Recently, the History Channel ran an hour-long feature of the Fletcher-class destroyers. A substantial portion of it was filmed aboard the USS KIDD in Baton Rouge, and, one of our shipmates, Garrett Lynch, was interviewed during the program. Suggest you watch for it as it will surely be shown again; it's part of the channel's "Modern Marvels" series. This production had some great action wartime scenes of the Fletchers; every time I noted a "round bridge "Fletcher, just assumed it was us.

A few weeks ago I noticed thiS article in our local paper; By the way, Honiara is located on Guadalcanal. Did you ever wonder how much junk must be on the bottom of good ol' Purvis Bay; I'll bet some of that lunch meat hasn't deterioated yet!

Troops sent to Islands

HONIARA, Solomon Islands
An Australian-led international force began arriving in this South Pacific Island nation today to help restore order.

The government had said it could not control amned militants and criminals. The deployment of the 2,000 troops and 300 police is the largest military operation in the tropical region since World War II.

In my last letter I requested you to send me any thoughts you may have about certain "characters: aboard ship. Also, what was your favorite, or, unfavorite GQ station. Here's one from Mike Plessl:

"I remember Ben Barret, RM3c, on the Flag - I don't think he ever took a shower when we were underway during an operation - and he would take all his pay in cash and walk around with it - I recall on one watch he laid out all his money on the small desk in the radio shack - had over $2,400 in $20 dollar bills - I told him he was nuts - I'd be afraid to walk aft after a late watch with all that cash on me - he and his father (only relative) didn't get along he told me - I told him to leave it on the books and take only what he needed each payday - don't know if he ever did it -he sure was a weird one!"

Price King sent me the following and have a hunch that many of you can relate to this:
"Ah, your least favorite GQ station! Mine was the magazine for the #1 5-inch gun. It was located at the lowest extremity of the ship, practically on the keel up forward. To enter this station one would open a hatch on the deck of the 1st Division compartment and climb down llke rats going into a hole. Once there the station consisted of two small compartments - one for the projectiles and the other for powder. Three of us manned the station. One in the powder compartment and two in the primary room. 'The lead person operated the hoist that lifted the ammo up to the upper handling room located under the #1 5-inch gun mount.

I didn't think I'd ever get out of there but eventually was moved up to the upper room then later into the mount as the hot caseman. "Red" Malette, Chief Storekeeper, was the charge person in the upper handling room as it was located in the Chief's quarters. During Condition 1 Easy, we could sack out in the bunks there. I used Chief Modrell's as it was close by.

Eventually, I, too, wound-up on the bridge but prior to that there was Secondary Conn located on the #2 Stack. While there my duties included that of range setter on the port side 40 mm director of the mid-ship 40's."

After my remarks regarding Nick Angotti, Jerry Ciancia added the following:
"The piece on Nick Angotti was interesting and brought back memories.

Being from New Jersey, Nick from Paterson, and me from Cliffside Park, just 10 miles away, gave, us a common bond so we gravitated toward each other and became friends. Looking through memories haze, I remember as a fine young man with especially white teeth! Strange how some trivial details stick in the psyche!

In any event, he was 'privileged' to share my anchovies which I received from home on occasion. Anchovies? After some of the less than gourmet food served on the "Mighty F", Anchovies were an answer to a prayer and were served in secret up in Angotti's hideaway - the flag bags. Seems so very long ago."

Please add after "served" above, "with saltine crackers". Where did these guys find the saltine crackers?

On the following pages I have included an article from a recent Naval Proceedings magazine titled; "Crossing the Line is as eternal as the Sea". At first, I thought the Navy is really getting soft compared to all we went through to become "Shellbacks". Then, I checked the name of the author which pretty well explained it all!

Note: This was interested reading but part of the article was missing from the News Letter.
I have included what I got.

Even though we met several women, both commissioned and enlisted, aboard our visits to the USS BRISCOE at our '98 reunion in Norfolk, it's still hard to imagine women on warships. Why should I change as I approach four score years?

Crossing the Line Is as Eternal as the Sea
By Ensign Danielle Leppo, U.S. Naval Reserve

Crossing the equator for the first time used to be a harrowing experience for those who endured the Royal Baby and the rest of the.' Royal Court. Today, shellbacks still initiate pollywogs with many of the old traditions-but with a little less mess.

Crawling through a 50-foot-Iong canvas tube fIlled with three-day-old garbage while suffering blows from a wet, rice-filled canvas bags might be considered punishment befitting only criminals in a prison camp. Regtions on prisoners rights, however, would eliminate even the most unruly convicts from such practices. Who then would subject themselves to such an outrageous indignity? Only an inferior "pollywog" determined to become a distinguished "shellback" during a "crossing: the line" ceremony.

Over the years, many sailors have documented these kinds of stories about their crossing-the-line experiences. The ceremonial aspects of crossing the line are similar across time and region, but every ship's crew developed its own unique rituals. As time progressed and the Navy revolutionized its standards and policies, the ceremony changed.

The shellback indoctrination I experienced on board the Essex (LHD-2) in the summer of 2001 varied greatly from the indoctrinations experienced by pollywogs four decades ago.

Today, the purpose of the crossing-the-line ceremony is for sailors to pay their respects to the mythological god of the seas, King Neptune: Sailors of old used to fear the seas, so they wanted to prove to Neptune they were worthy to pass through his domain, and this time-honored tradition remains. Pollywogs, those sailors who have not yet crossed the equator, become Sons of Neptune, or shellbacks, once the indoctrination is over. The shell backs then become responsible for initiating the next crop of pollywogs into the Royal Kingdom of King Neptune.

Caption under the photo
During the period between Pearl Harbor and the 1960s, pollywogs endured initiations that were physically and psychologically severe. For the shellbacks; the ceremony often was a high light of their careers. All of the shellbacks in a ship's crew held a position on the Royal Court of Neptunes Rex, the eldest and most distinguished person on the ship. Two of the most popular positions were the Royal Baby and the Royal Barber. The Royal-Baby was the chubbiest and most unattractive sailor on the ship. According to Henley E. Coombs, author of Shellbacks: Sons of Neptune (New York: Pageant, 1951), the shellbacks would coat the Royal Baby's stomach with three inches of mineral grease and eggshells and then order each pollywog to kiss the revolting mess. Just as the pollywog would place his lips near enough to the Royal Baby's protruding gut for a slight peck, one of the shellbacks would push his face in the grease.

The crossing-the-line ceremony is a naval tradition that occurs when a ship crosses the equator. Ancient mariners chose the equator as the site for the ceremony because they did not think the waters in the Southern Hemisphere were navigable. Though its true origin is unknown, reports date the ceremony back to the time of the VIkings from 800 to 1050 A.D. These earliest indoctrinations were held to determine whether the novices among the crew could handle the challenging life at sea, so they were serious in purpose and very likely the most harsh and ruthless on record. Once the new sailors proved their seafaring abilities to the satisfaction of the crew, they celebrated with a party on board the ship (the foundation of the "steel beach picnic"). Historians believe the VIkings then passed the tradition onto the Anglo-Saxons and Normans, both of whom shaped the ceremony into its modem form.

Male midshipmen and I sang "Tweedledee and Tweedledum," and we wore t-shirts designating use as Tweedledumb, Tweedledumber, and Tweedledumbest. It was fun for entertainers and those being entertained alike.

The Essex also had a gauntlet for the ceremony. The shellbacks spread a greased black tarp on the flight deck and placed hoses, which provided steady streams of seawater, at one end of the tarp. We pollywogs had to crawl on our elbows and knees through the streams of water, and at the other end of the tarp shellbacks attempted to drive us back with hoses. We had it easy compared to pollywogs of the past, who had to crawl underneath a cargo net strung a foot above the tarp. In addition, they had shellbacks paddling them during their entire struggle.

The only indoctrination ritual that has remained constant is the pollywog breakfast. The breakfast traditionally consisted of fried sea horse roe; sliced jellyfish, fish eye soup, and grouper sauteed in kelp Juice. In actuality, the meal was simply fried potatoes, sliced bread or'pancakes, runny scrambled eggs, and greasy bacon or sausage. Everything was doused with green food coloring and Tabasco sauce. While the pollywogs of 40 years ago had to finish their "wog" breakfast, we only had to taste everything on our plates. Of course, the leftovers offered the perfect fodder for numerous food fights between pollywogs and shellbacks.

The physical and psychological stress shellbacks inflicted on pollywogs several decades ago would be illegal today. In 1997, after NBC's Dateline documentary on the Marine Corps' blood pinning ceremony for jump-qualified Marines, Defense Secretary William Cohen requested that each service secretary institute a zero-tolerance policy for hazing. On 1 October of that year, Secretary of the Navy John Dalton introduced SecNav instruction 1610.2. With regard to shellback initiations, it stated, "'crossing-the-line ceremonies' . . . are only meant to celebrate and recognize the achievements of individual Sailors or Marines or those of entire units." The instruction stated further that service members must support their shipmates, and it declared any type of degrading or humiliating behavior to be illegal. It defined different forms of hazing, such as shaving, greasing, forcing the consumption of food, playing tricks, or inflicting bodily harm on another service member, all of which were part of the shellback initiation ceremonies of the past.

Since then, ship commanders have made strides in removing involuntary forms of hazing from crossing-the-line ceremonies. In addition, participation in the ceremony now is completely voluntary. Despite the restrictions, several of the crossing-the-line rituals from decades ago still persist. They include the Royal Bath, singing and dancing for the Royal Court, the gauntlet, and the pollywog breakfast.

On board the Essex, the making of the Royal Bath was transformed from the 1940s' four-foot-deep pool full of sea water and diesel oil to two-foot-deep pans filled with seawater, but the concept behind the event remained the same. Pollywogs are supposed to shout "shellback" three times while being immersed in the water. In the 1940s, shellbacks dunked pollywogs in the pool, so wrestling to the surface to say "shellback" was quite a challenge. On the Essex, the pollywogs dunked themselves, then rose to the surface and screamed "shellback" three times in quick succession.

The tradition of singing and dancing for the Royal Court is . a harmless, entertaining event that gives pollywogs an opportunity to dress in costumes and make fools of themselves. When I went through the shellback initiation ceremony, two other fe

***************** Text missing here from Newsletter ***************

Crossing-the-line ceremonies have become less strenuous and violent and more entertaining and rewarding as a result of the Navy's antihazing policy. On board the New Jersey (BB-62), shellbacks used to hold a boxing smoker for the pollywogs on the night before crossing the equator. Today, a talent show commences the night before the crossing that includes such acts as karaoke, stand-up comedy, singing, and dancing." The Juneau (LPD-IO) has used the ceremony as an opportunity to run a Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society fundraiser. In January 1998, shellbacks on board the Juneau hosted a bingo game for pollywogs, raising more than $5,000 for the relief fund.

Even though the crossing-the-line ceremony has changed greatly since its creation, it has changed for the better; No longer is it a test of a sea apprentice to determine whether he has what it takes to endure the hardships on the high seas. Today, it is a fun celebration that enhances camaraderie. It is a tradition that will remain as eternal as the sea.

'Destroyer Escort Sailors Association, "Life Aboard a DE: Pollywog to Shellback-A Tradition," www.desausa.org/pollywoli-to.-shellback.htm/.

Henley E. Coombs, Shellbacks: Sons of Neptune (New York: Pageant, 1951), p.12.

Bluejackets.com, "Sea Service Traditions, Terms and customs: Crossing the Line," www.bluejackets.com/tradition.htm#crossing/.

Joseph J. Pessato, "Shellback Tradition Is Alive and Well on USS Juneau," www.c7f.navy.mil/newsnfreI097.html/.

Coombs, Shellbacks, p. 19.

SecNavInst 1610.2, neds.nebt.daps.mil/directives/sI61O%5F2.pdf/.

SecNavInst 1610.2.

Life Aboard a DE. "Life Aboard a DE."

Pezzato, "Shellback Tradition Is Alive and Well on USS Juneau."

Equator '68IU"SS New Jersey (BB-62), Firepower for Freedom (San Francisco: USS New Jersey, 1968), D-II-A-!.

Pezzato, "Shellback Tradition Is Alive and Well on USS Juneau."

Pezzato, "Shellback Tradition Is Alive and Well on USS Juneau."

Ensign Leppo will be the assistant first lieutenant on board the USS Hue City (CG-66).

Now for the good news and the bad news. The good news is that so long as I am able I will continue to publish this letter as I must admit that I enjoy it. The bad news is that although I would like to do so I am unable to subsidize its cost, and, the fund is down to the point where there is just enough to cover this and one more letter; each letter has averaged $96.07 since the last postal increase. I really appreciate the support I have received from a number of you and hope you can continue; needless to say, death has taken some of our givers. Anyway, any. amount will be appreciated so thank you in advance!

Since the next letter will arrive in 2004, here's wishing each of you and your family a Great Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, and a most Prosperous New Year!

Your old shipmate,
Paul "P.T." Beyer

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