They let us go swimming in the lagoons. I dove off the ship once, and I got stuck in a really strong current. There I was struggling like hell to get back and the guys in the whaleboat saw me struggling so they held out an oar and helped me back towards the ship. You get caught in one of those undertows . . . bad news. I never swam off the ship again after that. John Farkas*
They had guys up on the decks with rifles watching for sharks. I heard about that afterward. If I had known then, I might not have gone swimming off the ship. It was probably 15 or 20 feet from the deck to the water below. It took a lot of standing there looking, deciding whether to jump or not. But all the guys around you are jumping in. so you do it too. When you’re done swimming, there’s a raft at the end of a big rope ladder to get back up on board. Bob Knight*
I remember one time I was swimming near a platform at one of the lagoons and I heard a guy yell out “Barracudas. Barracudas” I looked out quick and a whole school of giant barracudas were coming in fast. I jumped up on the platform and guys were scrambling everywhere to get out of the water.
In one of the lagoons, when you were in the water, all you could see was jellyfish! Nothing but jellyfish. Depending where we were, the Marines would go out in whaleboats with rifles while we swam, looking for sharks. Or they’d stand up on the deck watching where we were swimming for dorsal fins. Swimming in the lagoons could be a little stressful! Pat Fedele*
If you didn’t have a mission to go on, they’d throw you into one of the lagoons. Depending on which lagoon you were in, they would send you ashore. They had a limit – only so many guys at a time from each of the ships. So what they’d do is give you two warm cans of beer and send you on the island. But when these guys got together, they’d carry a green tablecloth like you’d find in a gambling casino and they’d set up either a crap game or a card game. They had some real games going there too.
For the most part, I thought lagoon time was just wasting time, hanging around. But we’d get supplies. Ammunition ships would come and it seemed like we were always refueling. Every day or every other day you’d have to fuel. George Pitts*
AS THE WAR WORE ON . . .
The Boston was out there for a long time. Twenty nine months of fighting. A lot of guys came out and went back; they got some relief. We didn’t. We were vital in the Navy’s strategy. After a while, we were so homesick and so “psycho” . . . I guess “difficult to get along with” would be a good way to describe us. Admiral put out a warning to the other ships while we were in the lagoons to stay clear of the Boston’s crew when we were on an island. Really! And we had to be careful on the lagoons ’cause we were getting into fights all the time with sailors from other ships. Pat Fedele*
There came a time, at one point, where they wouldn’t let us go ashore to the same beach as all the other sailors from the other ships. Both us and the guys from the New Jersey had to go to our own beach. We were considered “Asiatic” – out there too long. Trouble.
In one of the lagoons, the Wasp was there on liberty. They had beer left over at the end of their liberty and they buried it in the sand. Some of our guys saw whet they were doing. Our guys went ashore and dug it up and drank all the beer that they hid. They knew it was us, ’cause we were the only other ship to come ashore there. We always had fights after that, the Wasp and the Boston. We drank their beer – the stuff they were saving for the next day. John Farkas*
LAGOON RECREATIONAL FACILITIES:
Of the lagoons used as anchorages, Ulithi was the largest by far. It became a “War Zone Pearl Harbor,” with massive accommodations for logistics, provisioning, repair, and recreation. The other smaller lagoons were used as “quick stop” anchorages, and usually the sailors were only allowed to swim while anchored there. In Ulithi, however, the small island MogMog was set-up as a full-blown recreation area, with sports fields, officer’s club, swimming beach, etc.
* Baked Beans: Life Aboard USS Boston CA-69