Pavuvu Welcomes You!

Pavuvu? Pavuvu! What a name! We almost laughed when we heard it!

Pavuvu is in the Russell Islands not too far from Guadalcanal, It was owned by the British at the time and I understood that the Palmolive Company had planted all of the coconut trees which grew there. They used the coconut harvest for their products. The coconut trees were spaced about 20 feet apart all in regular rows, which made it look pretty neat. When the Island came into sight it looked like a nice tropical island. The configuration was that of a horseshoe with the inside a lagoon and the entrance to the lagoon was sort of blocked by a small island so that when you went past you could hardly see the lagoon; but you could get into the island because it was accessible for smaller ships.

When we got on the island we found no amenities whatsoever. The first thing we did was set up tents so that we could sleep that evening along with cots and temporary comforts such as they were, for the first night. We found land crabs by the hundreds. They were scurrying all over the place and one of our jobs that day was to kill them with shovels and as many of them as possible. A truck would come by and we’d throw the dead land crabs on the truck and they dumped them someplace and that turned into a continual process. The stench was really offensive, but as we stayed there longer their numbers became less and less.

In the next month or so we proceeded with the heavy building work. We were delivered truckloads of corral from the other end of the island and used it to make corral streets like the battery street that was set up in Ballart. We had drainage trenches around each of the tents so that when it rained we would not be inundated. It took on the look of a little more civilized place after a while. At the end of the street we had put up a shower and there was a mess hall put up for our eating area. We found that the CeeBee’s had come in and they were bivouacked in an area distanced from ours. They had put up a loading dock at the point where we had come into shore.

As the days grew on we got into our training procedure again and we were making landings on the opposite shore with our guns and getting ready for our next invasion. We did have leisure time off we used it primarily just going down to the dock for a swim. I suppose the only really nice thing was the memory of the water in the lagoon that looked like it had bluing in it, just beautiful!

Standing on the dock you could look down and see fish swimming around. We did have a shark watch although I never saw any sharks. When you dove into the water from the dock the water was so clear that you thought the water was maybe six feet deep, when actually it was about twenty feet deep. We were getting pretty good meals, fresh meat, eggs and powdered milk and the like so it wasn’t terrible. We were allotted a couple of cans of beer on the weekend usually. So the atmosphere was enjoyable and relaxing. I think I had Feeney and Schwarzle and Navar in my tent. They were three different types of characters and the mix was enjoyable.

Somebody in our tent went to the CeeBees and traded some stuff for the makings of liquor. They got a fivegallon can and put in apricot juice and sugar and some other ingredients. The mastermind of this thought it was supposed to be buried, I think I helped dig the hole for the can in back of the battery street. We were supposed to wait a month until it fermented and then go dig it up. One Sunday two or three weeks later somebody suggested we go try the stuff out. We got the can out got out our canteen cup and everyone got a pouring into his canteen cup. It looked milky and tasted awful. It turned out that after we each had about a half canteen cup full we relaxed.

Feeney laid down on his cot and fell asleep and his mouth was open. Now, I think it was Schwarzle, who took an Atabrine pill, went to Feeney’s cot. Feeney was lying there in the sunshine which was coming under the tent flap and we all waited and watched as the Atabrine pill melted and trickled down into his throat. I think I mentioned that Atabrine was extremely bitter and as it trickled down into his throat he awoke with a start and realized what was happening. Schwarzle was laughing so hard at him that Feeney tried to catch him. He was very angry. After about a month on the island the guys who had been on Guadalcanal were being sent home. Therefore, opening up new positions for promotions. At this time Hutzler approached me and suggested that I should start learning how to use the gun sight on the 105 Howitzer.

After I had practiced a while and knew the gun sight well I was asked to go for an interview for a corporal rank, that I passed successfully. The interview was with the battalion commander and our battery commander in person. I was quizzed about the 105 Howitzer and it proved to be a successful interview. In the meantime Hutzler made Sgt.of gun section Number One and I became the gunner. After that we started some serious training, we knew we were going to someplace that was a corral island because we were starting to train with tire wheels on DUKW”s.

The logistics were that we had to get the 105 Howitzer into the DUKW which barely managed to fit, also to get ammunition into the DUKW and we would try it out by going out into the lagoon with the howitzer. The means of unloading the 105 was another matter which was solved with the use of separate DUKW”s with A frame cranes with hooks and cables on them then we would put cables on the 105 and then the A frame DUKW would come up to our DUKW and unload the 105. Kind of a tedious process but we became pretty good at it after a lot of practice. We started to do a lot of maneuvering around the lagoon with landings on the opposite side. We knew we were not going to be there very long.

One of the memorable things that happened to me, I don’t know why I remember it so well, before I became corporal I went on a working party, I believe it was voluntary I thought it would be good to get away and out. The working party was to bring back fresh meat and supplies from an island very close to Guadualcanal, called Benika. We went in a small boat I believe there were about four of us. We went on the lagoon and as we came past that little island I had mentioned, that sort of blocked the lagoon from view, looked down into the water which was as clear as it could be, you could see the brightly colored fish and an occasional sand shark swimming around near the bottom.

Looked back and saw the island retreating from us. The view was magnificent the sun was just rising and as we got out into the open sea (a trip of about forty miles) the surroundings caused me to sing at the top of my voice and I suppose the guys thought I was coo-coo; but it was kind of fun to do that because we were so far away from anything. Just the impulse was a nice feeling. We got to Benika loaded up and brought fresh meat and supplies; but I thought I’d mention it because I think about it once in a while. I think we were on Pavuvu April, May June July, sometime in August we left and had no idea where we were going to go. The stay there was not that long. The training was once again getting more and more serious.

Another flashback: I happened to think of a couple of incidents that might be interesting: We happened to be in New Guinea previous to our New Britain landing on Thanksgiving of that year. We got in a turkey dinner at the chow hall so that everyone had turkey and dressing and everything the cooks could conjure up for Thanksgiving. It really tasted great. However, about two o’clock in the morning I awoke and felt that I had to get to the toilet. When I got up and came out of the tent there must have been two hundred people in line waiting to use the facility. It was a pretty strange affair. There were people going into the jungle and all over the place.

Yet another flashback to New Guinea: Our battery had taken our guns for a practice shoot. Trucks drove us down the road and away from the encampment. It was all jungle area where we set our guns up just off the road pointing off to the jungle we were on a rise. The jungle forest was a little lower and looked like a huge lush carpet. We proceeded to start firing and about a half hour later we looked down the road there was a native running toward us and waving his arms excitedly. He was chattering about something that we did not understand so we sent him off to our officer down the line.

It came out that we were firing pretty darned close to his village and he had run all the way to tell us about the situation. We immediately got a cease- fire and stopped firing. That was that for the day. It could have been pretty disastrous. The natives liked to come around and try to barter or sell things and get Australian money in exchange. They would come around with carved items that they crafted. One fellow had a wooden comb with insets of shells in the handle, very nicely done. Others would paddle around in their canoes and come ashore to sell fruit. Evidently there were banana trees around so they had bananas and various fruits to sell.

One of the amusing incidents was a little kid not over six or seven years old, a little tiny native kid with curly black hair, came by and stopped and asked for a cigarette and then for a light. He sat at the base of a tree on his haunches, which they all seemed to find comfortable to do, and he had the lit cigarette and seemed to enjoy it a lot. We had never seen anyone that young smoking so to see him sitting on his haunches caused us some amusement. Now, back to the Russell Islands. I can’t remember when it was but we embarked on LST’s, loaded up all our gear and sailed out of Pavuvu and did a practice landing there.

As it turned out we went to Guadalcanal and did a practice landing there coming out of the mouth of the LST onto open water with the 105’s in a DUCKW. We went down the ramp into the water and everything seemed to go well. We landed on Guadalcanal on the beach. That’s all I can remember of the landing itself. We stayed at Guadalcanal for a few days or maybe even a week; but in that time I remember John Hutzler taking me around and showing me the various battle points. There was the Lunga River and Lunga Point, there was the big battle of Bloody Nose Ridge and Savo Island right off the coast where they were. We walked down the beach a little ways and there was a huge Japanese troop ship that had been hit and sunk and had plowed into the sandy beach. There it was, a big rusty hulk when we saw it, of course it had been almost two years since that had happened.

Can’t remember a whole lot about Guadalcanal except that I was probably a little disappointed; but it had been about two years and in the jungle things grow very quickly. There was a lot of growth that destroyed a lot of points that would have been cleared during the battle of Guadalcanal. Nothing much else happened and we re-embarked on our LST, repacked everything and were off for our next invasion.