Back to Pavuvu

The rumors where not true!   We were not going to Hawaii instead we found out to our great disappointment that we were going to our un-favorite island of Pavuvu!

I don’t know how long it took; but we got to Pavuvu and had to go down the cargo net to get into our landing boat and in we came onto our (beautiful?) island of Pavuvu.  As we hit the beach there were about a half dozen women who were supposedly Red Cross nurses or whatever.  They were passing out lemon aide.  We were so taken aback that we couldn’t believe this.  Some of the guys took the lemon aide and others just looked with disgust because the women were chortling and flopping around.  They did look good to us but it was so ironic to come from Peleliu and to wind up with this unseemly greeting from these ‘girls’.

PICT5642.jpg Film actress Frances Langford entertains Marines on Pavuvu.
August 7, 1944 - Pavuvu, Russell Islands.
(Photo from History Link.)

We moved back into our tents, which were intact and in pretty good shape.  As we walked around the island around our area we discovered that the CeeBees were there and they had built a recreation hall and a movie down near the beach with log seats.  They were trying to do the best they could for us, I suppose.
Things went fairly well for the first couple of weeks and they let us relax and try to loosen up and enjoy ourselves.  We saw movies and got a beer ration, can’t remember how much but it was enough.
At one point I remember an incident that happened.  They had a so -called dance at the recreation hall and these ’Red Cross nurses’ were there and were dancing with the guys.  Whoever wanted to dance would ask them and they were dancing to records that were from back in the states. At one point one of the women was dancing with one of the infantry guys who got fresh with her and she panicked a bit.  Two MP’s came in and kind of roughed the guy up and were ready to arrest him.  His captain and the entire company came around and were ready to defend their friend and part of their company no matter what.  The whole matter was dropped but it was a near riot situation that was kind of sad because that was not what we had in mind in the line of entertainment.
These nurses more or less kept company with the division officers and you could see an occasional nurse with an officer riding around in a Jeep.  They had their own quarter’s that were patrolled by MP’s so it was a bitter situation, a little too, let’s say tempting, for most of the fellows there after what they had been through.
John Kurowski came over one day and spent a little time with me.  He had been in the hospital because he developed yellow jaundice and was recovering.  His eyes were still a little yellow and his skin was a little yellow however the skin part was probably from Atabrine.  We walked around, walked down to the First Regiment and were at the edge of the street and looked down the tent rows.  The entire area was almost devoid of men due to the heavy casualties they had sustained.  It was very sad.
One Sunday we got the word that Bob Hope was coming so we all went down to the movie theater.   It was built like a Roman Amphitheater with a sort  of a stage.  Sure enough here comes a Piper Cub and Bob Hope is hanging out the window and waving to us.  They buzzed the area and after waiting a while they put on their big stage show with the beautiful women, can’t remember who he had there; but there were several big name movie stars.  It was fun but it made you a little nostalgic to see all the good looking girls and being stuck where you were. We went back to our tents probably a little discontented.
There were new replacements starting to come in and they fit right in with us and were dovetailed into each crew.  Some of the old timers from Guadalcanal (their third campaign) were assigned to go home.  Among these was my friend John Hutzler and he recommended me for SGT of the gun section.  I took my test, which meant going up in front of the officers of the battalion and the battery and taking an oral exam.  I passed that and was made SGT.
John Hutzler said goodbye, packed his gear and said he’d write although I never did hear from him or see him again.  I really kind of missed him.
Pavuvu had changed considerably since we had been there last.  The CeeBee’s had come in, their camp was not too far from ours and they had every conceivable luxury such as freezers, ice cream at their meals and I believe beer so for them it was kind of a pleasure time at that point.
They had built a pier that had jutted out into the lagoon and we would stand a “shark guard” on the pier while people would be out swimming, everybody in the nude jumping and diving in the water.  The water in the lagoon was beautiful, probably the most beautiful I ever saw it was really a blue lagoon.  When you looked down into the water it seemed that the water was six feet deep because you could see all variety of fish swimming around in the water.  When you dove in and tried to touch bottom it was more like fifteen or twenty feet deep.  It was very nice for swimming and the island was rather nice in an exotic kind of a way, with a certain serenity about it, very peaceful.
The whole place looked very spic and span.  The battery streets and company streets wherever you went were clean, and the street itself was made of coral gravel that we had made during our first tour.  There were little drainage ditches around each tent.  The tents were all neatly strung up between the coconut palms all in line and we had added little painted rocks and things to make it look good.  The end of the street had a shower that we all used and it consisted of some fifty-five gallon drums that were filled by somebody as a work detail.  I forget how they heated the water but it was a nice warm shower available whenever it was free to use.
The middle of the street had a Lister bag which had an awning over it with a spigot at the bottom for drinking water. The land crabs were a lot fewer than when we first got there the first time but; occasionally a land crab would come skittling along and somebody would hit it with a shovel.  We would get coconuts falling down on the tents and they would come down with a big thud, sometime in the middle of the night but we got used to the sound.   They were pretty heavy so that if someone were hit by one it  could cause a serious injury.
If you needed a haircut there was a battery barber, sort of voluntary.  He was a little older than most of us.  For a sum he would cut your hair and do a fairly good job so everyone used him.
There were some characters in the battery.  Two of them most unforgettable were Gardner and Pierce who were from the east.  The epitome of vaudeville comedians.   They made us all laugh when they went through all kinds of antics and it seemed that they did that for their own kicks and enjoyment as well as ours just to get a laugh.  They were truly born comedians, a real blessing later in the Okinawan campaign.  
Capt. Crotinger commanded the battery at this point.  We called him “Jungle Jim” partly because of his looks.  Rather a nice looking Marine who always wore his 45 in one of those holsters that he wrapped around his leg with a rawhide thong.  He always looked rather dashing.  Some of the other officers that I can remember were Lt. Wolf and  Lt. Goff, who was a high school math teacher.  Not a very practical outdoorsman but a nice guy and generally a good officer.  Then there was Lt. Brown and a couple of others whose names I can’t recall.  They were all Forward Observation (OB) type officers whose job was to go up to the front lines, very close to the infantry and try to zero in on targets and relay the coordinates back to our Command Post.
We were now getting a lot of draftees which we had never had before, everybody before this was pretty much volunteers who had enlisted and we sort of looked down on the new men but; there were not that many of them and they dovetailed them among us so it was soon forgotten who they were because they did a pretty good job.
Since I was now the gun section chief I selected my crew and it was pretty well pre-ordained.  For instance I had trained Tony Sifuentes to be a gunner and that made him corporal.  Holiday, was the number one man who pulled the lanyard and Feeney was still the loader because he was a big guy and he was willing and eager to work.  There was a little guy from Boston, Tringalle, by name.  Sharp was gone but Smith had come in, more on him later.  Neal Vincent the big kid with the strawberry blonde hair and the freckles was from Wyoming, big cowboy type, who rode horses and chased wild horses. He was a rugged lad. Tony Sifuentes was Mexican actually, a mixture of Mexican and Indian (Mayan) from all appearances, his features were that, the high cheek bones kind of a hook nose and dark complexion with dark hair but; very efficient and a good right hand man for me.
We had our crew pretty well set up for the gun section and we did a lot of practicing.  Some of the others were the Greek who was not in my gun section.   He had come from some other division as a replacement and I forget what he did but he was not in the gun sections.  His father sent him a Turkish coffee maker with little Turkish coffee cups.  One night in the tent he made coffee for us and it was thick and rich and very delicious.  We enjoyed it immensely.  I was telling my wife, Anne, that I didn’t know and wondered what he did with the “apparatus”  when we left afterwards.
We were now in the regular schedule of training, which consisted of classes, especially if there was any bad weather we would assemble in tents and study the gun sights and have classes on military rules and regulations and that sort of thing.  We were also busy with the guns either firing or making landings around the island and really getting into the status of rigid training.
Some of my duties at this time as Sgt. were serving as Sgt. of the Guard, which meant staying up pretty much during the night and checking on all the guard posts. Roll Call in the morning and when I had the NCO of the day I would have to take the troops in for breakfast and lunch and dinner and that always meant I ate last and had to stay up at the head of the line and make sure that everybody had their Atabrine pill swallowed it in front of me and various other duties.  Some of them were just taking out working parties and at that time you would have several corporals if it was a big enough working party that would sort of be subordinate and take care of certain parts of the working party.
We had mail call every day and at one point Sue Evak, a grammar school friend of mine used to write to me regularly and it would be a little embarrassing because she would put her kiss mark on the back of her envelope and it would  say: S.W.A.K. (Sealed With A Kiss).   When the First Sgt. passed out the mail he would make some comments on the lipstick mark.
The mess hall was generally used for church and in the evenings for write letters.  The CeeBees had rigged up some electric lights with generators so it was a place to which you could retreat. That year of 1944 on Pavuvu we did have turkey and all the fixings at Thanksgiving and at Christmas time and as I said there were church services but; generally the holidays were sort of passed over as just another day because we were so far away from everything.
We always got news of invasions going on around us by other Marine divisions.  One day I got a letter from John Loban, whom I had gone to church and Sunday school with, he was a pretty good friend of mine thought I didn’t realize that he had joined the Marine Corp.  He had been at Bedio and Tarawa.  I kept the letter for a while and intended to write to him but at that time we started to get into loading and embarking for Okinawa so I never did get to write.  John was later killed at Iwo Jima where he carried a flamethrower so he was a prime target.
I’m not quite sure when we started to load for our next invasion.  We didn’t know where we were going but we were loading up on an LST.  The LST had a barge on each side of the gunnels of the ship that were about ten feet above deck they were strapped down vertically so that it was like a wall on the side of the ship.  Later I found out that these barges were used by the CEEBEE’s and would be used as loading barges strapped together to create platforms out in the water.

1 comment

Anonymous wrote 7 years 47 weeks ago

Thank You

Dear Sgt. Milt Royko - First of all I want to thank you for your service to our country and wish you and your family all the best during this Holiday Season and New Year. I wanted to tell you that my Mother (Patricia Hutzler-Wood) called me and told me about your book - which I have not had time to ready just yet - but fully intend on doing so ASAP. John (Jack) Hutzler is my Uncle whom I never had the opportunity to meet. Thank You for giving me a chance to know a little about my Uncle Jack - and Thank You for mentioning him in your book - it really made my mother (his little sister) happy.

Merry Christmas
Duane Wood