jerking you out of your sleep and doing a forced run or a forced march. But they do a very good job of it. I don’t think I can stress it too much: They don’t only train you physically. They train you mentally. They know if they can make you upset about something, if they can aggravate you, they’re getting you in the right frame of mind for combat. They throw something unexpected into the agenda, so that when you get on the battlefield you’re already mad. You’re ready to get out of all that you’ve been going through, all that BS you’ve been doing. You’re ready to kill someone.
Some thought it was all BS, the whole four months we spent on that island. I wasn’t on the same page with a lot of guys who downgrade Pavuvu. When you look back on it, the Marines knew what they were doing. We were glad when it was over, even though we knew we were facing death where we were going. In a way, anything would have been better than Pavuvu.
Around July 4 a few of us caught a break.
Captain Andrew Allison Haldane—we called him “Ack-Ack” on account of his initials—called nine or ten of us in. He had a special assignment for us. Besides myself, there was Hillbilly Jones, John Teskevich, Jim Day, George Sarrett, Paul R. Yarborough, P. A. Wilson and a few others.
Captain Haldane had been K/3/5’s commander the night we fought off five banzai charges on New Britain. They’d awarded him the Silver Star for that. He was as well liked as any officer I knew. I never heard him raise his voice at any man. He was firm, but he was a gentleman, and compassionate.
We were to take the boat across to Banika, he told us, and guard a storehouse for two weeks. We’d heard of Banika, but none of us had been there. Everything good came from Banika. The Navy had a supply dump on the island. If we got fresh meat, it came over from Banika. If we got fresh eggs, they were from Banika.
One of us asked what we’d be guarding. Beer and soda pop, Haldane told us. A whole warehouse. Thousands of cases. It was like sending foxes to guard the chicken coop.
I figured afterward that Captain Haldane and our first sergeant, Mo Darsey, had gone down a list and handpicked us for the assignment. I can’t speak for myself, but everyone else chosen was a top-notch Marine. I felt proud to be in their company.
It didn’t take us long to get to our warehouse on Banika, about a twenty-mile boat ride from Pavuvu. We had two six-man pyramid tents, on real wooden platforms for a change. The duty was light. Four hours on, ninety-six hours off. For chow, we went down to the wharf and climbed on board a ship that was anchored there. The first time I went aboard I almost fainted. I had never seen anything like that in the Pacific.
When we went in they sat us down and brought us menus. There were napkins and tablecloths on the tables. White linen towels to dry your face and hands. After we looked over the menu, the waiter asked, “What will you have, sir?” We could order anything—breakfast, lunch or dinner—and he’d bring it to us like we were in a restaurant. I’d never dreamed of being served like that anywhere in the Marines. On a troopship you’d just go through a line and they’d dish it out, just slop it on your tray.
We helped ourselves to a share from the warehouse. It was hot, but it was beer.
One Saturday night on Banika four of us were sitting around—Hillbilly Jones, Yarborough, myself, and somebody else. Maybe Sarrett. I can’t recall. We were pouring 190-proof alcohol in the bottom of a canteen cup and filling the rest with grapefruit juice. We were singing and telling jokes and drinking that stuff, and by ten thirty we started to run low on grapefruit juice, and so we poured in more alcohol.
Oh, my God. You talk about drunk. I had to put all three of them to bed, I mean every single one. Haul him to his feet. There was a jeep outside that had a 250-gallon water tank on the back, with a spigot on the side. I’d wrestle each
Sissy Spacek, Maryanne Vollers